So, we'll carry on here with the precis of his lengthy interview. The first part is to be found here.
Part 3: so what now for the 14th September?
Bishop Fellay (BF) recalls the last time things came to a head in Rome. There was talk of the SSPX having to submit to certain conditions. In the end, he simply wrote a letter to the Holy Father and talk of the conditions passed. Then there was the big SSPX pilgrimage to Lourdes. They were told that they could have the basilica at Lourdes but none of the SSPX's bishops could celebrate Mass. BF sent to Cardinal Hoyos some official Lourdes literature which showed the Lourdes sanctuary being used for Anglican services in which seven Anglican 'bishops' took part in the presence of Cardinal Kasper. The Bishop of Tarbes finally said that the SSPX could use the churches of Lourdes as long as they said they were not Catholic, a remark which spurred BF into making some caustic remarks in his next letter to Cardinal Hoyos. Yet again there was talk of condemning the SSPX but a month later after BF's letter to Hoyos there was no more talk of it.
The meeting itself on 14 September is to evaluate the doctrinal talks. Others are suggesting that practical offers will be on the table (Aulagnier and Williamson) but BF knows nothing about that. He begs people not to listen to the rumours. The doctrinal talks will bring no benefits in the short term and they have revealed the clash of two mentalities completely opposed, like knights jousting who pass by each other.
From here I want to give you BF's direct words and my translation:
La seule chose que je dis, c’est : “on continue”. Nous avons nos principes, et le premier d’entre eux, c'est la Foi. A quoi servirait-il de recevoir un quelconque avantage ici-bas si on doit mettre en jeu la Foi ? c'est impossible. Et sans la Foi il est impossible de plaire à Dieu, donc notre choix est fait. D'abord la Foi, et à tout prix, elle passe même avant une reconnaissance par l'Eglise.
The only thing I say is: 'we are carrying on'. We have principles and the first of them is the Faith. What good would it do to earn any earthly advantage if one must put the Faith at risk? It's impossible. And without the Faith it is impossible to please God, so our choice is made. First, the Faith, and at any cost. The Faith comes even before recognition by the Church (emphasis in the original).
He finishes off by saying that the SSPX must open its arms wide to welcome people, even if they are very imperfect from the traditionalist point of view. The SSPX must even go on the offensive and bring people in. All is down to grace and supernatural help and this is why BF thinks their Rosary Crusade is of such importance.
Ches's comments: I'm not the least surprised at the attitudes of the Bishop of Tarbes or the shoddy running of Lourdes. The story only goes to show once again that expecting the Vatican to micro-manage everything is absurd. Half the time, nobody knows what is going on. At the same time it demonstrates that episcopal appointments have to be a thousand times better if this kind of nonsense is to be avoided.
I applaud BF's caution. Someone opined on this blog last week that there would almost certainly be an agreement after 14 September. Personally, I think it is years away, at least on the tack that the SSPX is on.
But I do think it is worth reflecting on BF's remark about the Faith:
And without the Faith it is impossible to please God, so our choice is made. First, the Faith, and at any cost. The Faith comes even before recognition by the Church.
I was amazed to read that line. I was further amazed that it appeared in bold in the original interview. It provokes such massive questions that one hardly knows where to begin, but let us begin with the simple ones.
The Faith is not a private principle but a public rule which we believe comes to us through Jesus Christ. Now what BF is saying is that insofar as they are 'carrying on' doing what they have been doing, they are obeying this principle of the Faith. Does it not follow logically, therefore, that it is IMPOSSIBLE to keep the Faith without taking the steps the SSPX are taking? Objectively, is it not the case that those who do not live by this rule are not being obedient to the Faith? Objectively, then, how can anyone else please God except those who live by the SSPX's rule? By this measure, even the Ecclesia Dei groups are unfaithful to the Faith since they have refused to take such steps.
I hardly expected this principle to come from the mouth of Bishop Fellay but he has enuciated it loud and clear for all to see. If the sufficient reason for the SSPX's action is the maintenance of the Faith, then we cannot escape the implications. But then, not content with enunciating such a principle, he goes further still:
First, the Faith, and at any cost. The Faith comes even before recognition by the Church.
These remarks were made at an apologetics summer school. But the implications of such a principle for apologetics are extraordinary. We know what the Faith is because we believe in a Church which is indefectible and visible. If what that Church now says is not the Faith - and that for over forty years now - how can the Church be indefectible and visible?
Furthermore, how can any man alive in the world today know the Faith? Surely, the logic of BF's statement is that only through the SSPX can he know the Faith. Is this what Bishop Fellay means? Is this what he really believes? And just how much in line with the Tradition of the Church does he really think that principle is?
I have been hammering this line of analysis for the last three years but to little avail. Surely, it is plain to see here that while the provocation which the SSPX has been subjected to is massive - and I have no time for the lunacy seen in Lourdes - the logical outcome of BF's position is that the Church no longer has any charism-given competence to guarantee the Faith. The SSPX claim their position is based on the Faith; what they forget is that nobody in the Church self-authenticates their own Faith. Who guarantees that the SSPX's analysis of the New Mass is in conformity with the Faith, for example?
It is about time the SSPX woke up to their own methodology. It is going to destroy any good they might do. It is compromising massively the Faith of those who depend on them in this grim and dark night in the Church. The problems of the Church are currently deep and grievious. But this response is a dead end.
In sundering the recognition of the Church from the principle of keeping the Faith, BF has explicitly turned a corner. Only time will tell whether he maintains this disastrous course.