Saturday, 10 September 2011

Bishop Fellay on the eve of the big match Part 1

His "Fiskness" Fr John Zuhlsdorf, over at WDTPRS, links to a precis of an interview which Bishop Fellay gave to Fr Alain Lorans, the SSPX's top PR honcho, during a summer school in France. The translation of the interview is lamentable and the precis leaves it sounding more garbled than ever. Moreover, some of the remarks are so questionable that one really has to go back to the original.

Now, I'm not going to offer a full translation here of the original French. Life is simply too short, even if my wife and I are being made to wait by the sluggard Ches Jr. who is currently five days behind his ETA. But, rather in the old style of indirect speech in Hansard, I will offer here a precis of Bishop Fellay's replies to Fr Lorans (promoted to Abbot Lorans by the aforementioned translation) and offer my own comments thereon. I warn you the original interview is quite long (over 7000 words) but let us be patient. We're trying to understand. I'll cover the first parts now and the rest later on. I DO have a life you know!

Part 1: is the line separating the SSPX and Rome moving?

Bishop Fellay (hereafter BF) says that lots of interesting things are happening and have happened since Cardinal Hoyos and he began talking in 2001. Things moved forward notably with the pontificate of Benedict XVI and Summorum Pontificum was a milestone, especially since BXVI said the Extraordinary Form had never been abrogated. The new generation of clerics coming through is not as viscerally attached to the Council, and seminary professors tell BF their seminarians are demanding much more conservative theology in class. The progressives are wondering whether the future will be conservative or progressive. Gherardini has made the first open attacks on the Council, which he felt in conscience he had to do before he died.

However, while the pope has condemend the hermeneutic of rupture, he spoke not of a 'hermeneutic of continuity' but of a 'hermeneutic of reform'. Mgr Pozzo of Ecclesia Dei told the FSSP priests during a talk at Wigratzbad that it is a conciliar ideology rather than the Council itself which is to blame for the post-conciliar problems. If this is true, says BF, of course Rome is responsible for letting this ideology dominate for forty years. Thus, the views of Gherardini and Bishop Schneider (who has proposed a Syllabus to clarify the Council) are positive signs that the situation is hotting up, though they do not go as far as the SSPX yet.

Ches comments: BF is being a little anachronistic here. The idea that one must attack the conciliar ideology - a meta-Council, to use the expression of de Lubac - has been around since the mid-1960s. Paul VI's Credo of the People of God was indeed one of the first major signs of Rome trying to deal with it. This is a battle which has been going on for a very long time. That said, BF is perfectly correct that Rome must share the blame for the dominance of this conciliar ideology and the damage it has wrought in the Church.

Part 2: What about the SSPX's relations with Rome now?

BF finds dealing with Rome like walking on a tightrope. He says that he is facing contradictory forces. After the lifting of the excommunications, for example, the SSPX found themselves the victims of a plot in Germany to try to get them condemned again for disobeying the local bishop's orders not to perform ordinations at their seminary at Zaitkofen. At times there has been talk of an imminent reconciliation for the SSPX, followed shortly by rumours that they would have to accept the Council. The pope tacitly seemed to accept the need for the SSPX by saying in an allocution at Castel Gandolfo on 29 August 2005 that perhaps a state of necessity existed in France and Germany. An Augustinian priest who joined the SSPX was sent a letter approved by the Congregation for Religious saying that he was excommunicated for being schismatic and losing the faith. Mgr Pozzo of Ecclesia Dei told BF that such a letter should be ripped up. At the same time, the SSPX priests who went to Rome for the talks were allowed to stay in the St Martha House where cardinals lodge during conclaves and could say their daily Mass at St Peter's. The other contradiction BF underlines is the fact that Universae Ecclesiae approves all parts of the old rite (Missal, Ritual, Breviary, Pontifical) for use by everyone but forbids its use in ordinations except for those under the umbrella of Ecclesia Dei. Mgr Pozzo told BF to tell his people that not everything coming from Rome comes from the Pope. So there is clearly a mess in Rome and it is hard to know how to deal with it.

Ches comments: On the surface of it, this seems calamitous, but on second thoughts is it really that surprising that there are forces battling it out in Rome? Things are changing in some parts of the Curia but other parts have their own agendas. The culture of the mandarin is well entrenched. On the one hand, one can understand BF's caution at not wishing the SSPX to fall victim to the vagaries of this battle. On the other hand, people who sit battles out until they are finished have generally little say about the terms of the peace.

One side of me also finds this criticism of the disorder of the pope's house a bit rich. The SSPX itself is a mass of tendencies. We all know full well that Bishop Williamson said what he liked whever he liked until 2009 when only the gravest of scandals led to his being put out to grass in Wimbledon. I also know from my many years in the SSPX milieu that one priest's position on modesty was different from another's and was applied differently to the faithful; that some colleagues could barely speak to each other; that some were close to sedevacantism while others were close to the mainstream; that some priests refused their new appointments and got away with it. Multiply this to the scale of the Vatican or the global Church, add in Pope Benedict's age, and you have to ask whether Bishop Fellay is being quite fair. He has been dealt with incompetently but surely he can understand the situation better than this.

One last remark to make here. BF portrays the terms of Universae Ecclesiae as contradictory, especially given the restriction of the use of the ordination rite. This provision, so I heard, was the fruit of pressure, but at the same time, given that use of the Extraordinary Form is often (not always) associated with a theology which questions the validity or the legitimacy of the newer rites, one could see why allowing this restriction ensures that mainstream ordinands accept the new rites fundamentally. That is not what the SSPX wants, but it is entirely consistant with Pope Benedict's agenda!

More later. Unless labour begins...!


Richard Collins said...

Good paraphrasing, thanks. I would not have read the Franglish version.

Romanitas Press said...

FYI "Abbot" should simply be "Father". That's how "l'abbe" translates from French to English.

Ches said...

Thank you. My remark about promotion was in fact ironic. Or did you think I based this precis on the awful translation linked to on wdtprs?