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from Bishop Fellay
Given in February 2011
Vatican Doctrinal Discussions: Part 1

1. Your Excellency, you have decided to attempt doctrinal discussions with Rome. Could you remind us of the purpose?

You have to distinguish between Rome’s purpose and ours. Rome indicated that there were doctrinal problems with the Society [of St. Pius X] and that these problems would have to be cleared up before any canonical recognition, problems which obviously would be up to us to resolve, concerning our acceptance of the [Second Vatican] Council. But for us it is about something else: we hope to tell Rome what the Church has always taught and thereby to show the contradictions between this centuries-old teaching and what has been done in the Church since the Council. As we look at it, this is the only goal that we are pursuing.

2. What sort of talks are these: negotiations, discussions, or doctrinal explanation?

You can’t call them negotiations. That’s not what they’re about at all. There is on the one hand an explanation of doctrine, and on the other hand a discussion, because we have in fact a Roman interlocutor with whom we are discussing the documents and how to understand them. But you can’t call them negotiations, nor a search for a compromise, for it is a question of Faith.

3. Could you recall the method that is used in the work? What topics have already been addressed?

The working method is the written method; texts are composed which then become the basis for further theological discussion. Several topics have been addressed already. But for the moment I will leave that question up in the air. I can simply tell you that we are coming to the conclusion, because we have made the tour of the major questions raised by the Council.

4. Can you describe the Roman panelists?

They are experts, in other words, theology professors who are also consulting members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. One can say that they are “professionals” in theology. One is Swiss, the Rector of the Angelicum, Fr. Morerod, O.P., another is a Jesuit who is somewhat older, Fr. Becker; another is a member of Opus Dei, the Vicar General, Msgr. Ocariz Braña; then Archbishop Ladaria Ferrer, Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and finally the moderator, Msgr. Guido Pozzo, Secretary of the Ecclesia Dei Commission.

5. Has there been a development in the thinking of our dialogue partners since they read the presentations by the SSPX theologians?

I don’t think that you can say that.

Fr. Charles Morerod, OP
Fr. Charles
Morerod, OP
Msgr. Ocariz Braña
Msgr. Ocariz Braña
Msgr. Guido Pozzo
Msgr. Guido Pozzo
Bishop Alfonso de Galarreta

Bishop Alfonso de Galarreta

6. Bishop de Galarreta, sermon during the ordinations in La Reja in December 2009, said that Rome had agreed that the Magisterium prior to Vatican II would be taken as “the only possible common standard” in these talks. Is there some hope that our counterparts will reconsider Vatican II, or is that impossible for them? Is Vatican II really a stumbling-block?

I think that you have to pose the question another way. Pope Benedict XVI made distinctions during his speech in December 2005, by which we see very clearly that one particular understanding of the Council is no longer permitted and therefore, without speaking directly about a re-examination of the Council, there is despite everything a certain intention to revise the way in which the Council is presented.

The distinction may seem rather subtle, but it is precisely the distinction relied on by those who do not want to alter the Council and nevertheless recognize that, because of a certain number of ambiguities there has been an opening leading to forbidden paths, and that we must remember that they are forbidden. Is Vatican II really a stumbling-block? For us, no doubt whatsoever: yes!

7. Why is it so difficult for them to admit a contradiction between Vatican II and the previous Magisterium?

The answer is rather simple. The moment you recognize the principle that the Church cannot change, if you want to have Vatican II accepted, you are obliged to say that Vatican II did not change anything either. That is why they do not admit that they find any contradiction between Vatican II and the previous Magisterium, but they are nevertheless at a loss to explain the nature of the change which quite evidently has taken place.

8. Besides witnessing to the Faith, is it important and advantageous for the Society of St. Pius X to go to Rome? Is it dangerous, and do you think that it might last a long time?

It is very important that the Society give this witness; that is the reason for these doctrinal talks. It is really a matter of making the Catholic faith understood in Rome and trying, why not, to make it understood even more throughout the Church.

There is one danger: the danger of keeping up illusions. We see that some Catholics have managed to lull themselves to sleep with illusions. But recent events have managed to dispel them. I am thinking about the announcement of the beatification of John Paul II or the announcement of a new Assisi event along the lines of the interreligious gatherings in 1986 and 2002.

9. Has the Pope been following these talks closely? Has he commented yet on these talks?

I think so, but have no specific details. Has he commented on these talks? During the meeting last summer with his former students at Castel Gandolfo he said that he was pleased with them. That is all.

10. Can we say that the Holy Father, who has been dealing with the Society of St. Pius X for more than 25 years, is proving to be more benevolent toward it today than in the past?

I am not sure. Yes and no. I think that as pope, he has responsibility for the whole Church, a concern about its unity, a fear of seeing a schism declared. He himself said that these were the motives that impelled him to act. He is now the visible head of the Church, which may explain why he acts like that. Does that mean that he is showing more understanding toward the Society? I think that he has a certain sympathy for us, but within limits.

11. To sum up, what would you say about these talks today?

If we had to do them over again, we would redo them. They are very important. Of capital importance. If you hope to correct a whole movement of thought, you cannot do without these talks.

Msgr. Brunero Gerardhini
Msgr. Brunero Gherardini
Bishop Athanasius Schneider
Bishop Athanasius Schneider

12. For some time now we have been hearing voices of ecclesiastics, for example Msgr. Gherardini or Bishop Schneider, who even in Rome are producing genuine critiques of the documents of Vatican II and not just of their interpretation. Can we hope that this movement will grow and make its way into the Vatican?

I do not say that we can hope for it, but that we must hope for it. We must really hope that these initial critiques—let us call them serene, objective critiques—will develop. Until now Vatican II was always considered as a taboo [as something unquestionable], which makes the cure of this sickness, which is the crisis in the Church, almost impossible. We have to be able to talk about the problems and to go in-depth into these matters, or else we will never get to apply the right remedies.

13. Can the Society of St. Pius X plan an important role in making Rome aware of this? How? What is the role of the lay faithful in this momentous matter?

As for the Society, yes, we can play a role, precisely by presenting what the Church has always taught and by raising objections to the conciliar novelties. The role of the lay faithful is to provide proof in action, for they are the proof that Tradition can be lived today. What the Church has always demanded—traditional discipline—is not only relevant but really viable even today.

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