Bishop Fellay SSPX Update Part I
This is the first part of the conference given by Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X, at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, Kansas City, Missouri (Dec. 19, 2002) which discusses the current rapport between the Society and Rome. The concluding part will appear next month, a review of the Society's missionary apostolate.
My dear faithful, and Franciscan Sisters,
I will try to divide this talk tonight into two parts. Let us call the first part an update on the Society of Saint Pius X's relations with Rome. The second part will be a report on the development of the Society in mission countries.
The SSPX Acts
Since the last time I came here and spoke [March 5, 2002], there's not that much development at the official level, such as, for instance, the public exchange of letters. I am about to answer a letter of Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos which he sent in April 2002. You may say that a long time has elapsed, but, you know, Rome is eternal! I think that this time of waiting was necessary. It is true, on one hand, that it is a race against time, a race to save souls, a race to try to–it sounds presumptuous to say it–to suppress the crisis, to overcome this crisis. The Society of Saint Pius X is not the actor: we are not the cause of this crisis, and, as we are not the cause we cannot be the remedy either. The Society offers the remedy, but it is not directly the remedy. The remedy has to come from Rome. It is there that they launched–or allowed to be launched–this terrible crisis, and it is there that they have to correct things. It is really in the hands of the Pope, to correctly and adequately to administer the remedy to such a crisis. We have to do our duty as Catholics, and by doing so we certainly collaborate in that remedy, but we definitely cannot say that the Society is going to save the Church. We are not the ones: it is God who will save her. By our work, it is our duty and glory to collaborate with God in these times.
Why the standstill? Clearly, because there have been some maneuvers. I don't think the crisis in the Church will be solved by maneuvers. This is why I haven't participated in these maneuvers, not even to retaliate.
Two levels have developed. Interesting! On one hand, Cardinal Ratzinger invited us to theological discussions in which we are certainly eager to participate. On the other hand, Cardinal Castrillon took nine months (So, you see, I am not any slower in writing!) to respond to my letter of June 2001 to advise me that things are so serious that everything should be kept in greatest discretion and reproached us for speaking. Fair enough, but ten days later he gave an interview about the letter and even gave it to the newspapers! His perspective shows we are not on the same page. He said the great majority of the Society's people are eager for a reconciliation in order to alleviate their conscience. That's the way he feels. That because of the "excommunication" or the feeling of "being outside the Church" is hurting us, we are anticipating to make an agreement with Rome so that we can breathe again!
Well, we absolutely don't have the impression of "being outside of the Church." I must say that very clearly. When Rome says, "Please come in!" we say, "We are sorry; we can't." Why? Because we are already in! We exist because of our problems of conscience. It is because we have had to face scandals–things that were impossible to accept without damaging our conscience–that we have had to say "No!" This is why the Society of Saint Pius X has been ready to receive the punishments and sanctions from Rome at several levels, first in 1975 and 1976, then 1988. Every time it has been made clear to us that if we would give in to the injunctions of Rome we would commit suicide, that no proposal would solve our problems of conscience, that is, to avoid any and all sacrilege. Sacrilege exists!
For instance, in England, 250 priests celebrate the Mass dressed as clowns–"clown Masses." They also exist here in the United States. We can't! We can't accept the new catechisms or the reorientation of the whole discipline of the Church. In conscience, we've had to say "No" to the authorities. We are not pleased to be where we are but we are alive, and our worst feelings are not for our own Society's status, but for the Church herself. So you see, Cardinal Castrillon has a wrong perception of us.
This famous "excommunication" which was supposed to be the final blow from the Roman authorities against the Archbishop has been, thanks to God, our protection. They built up a wall around us which was supposed to exclude us from the Church, but this wall has been our protection, at several levels. Firstly, as it was the final blow, they have no spare bullets to use against us. Secondly, by their own action, they have terminated any ways to influence us, to command us, or to oblige us to accept the unacceptable and this, thirdly, has given us a tremendous latitude at several levels.
At the level of saving poor souls drowning everywhere, we are free of the power of local bishops over us by virtue of the "excommunication." If you are considered "outside the Church" a bishop cannot say at the same time, "I command you to get out!"
At another level–which is also amazing–this has allowed us to speak to Rome, to give arguments, to reproach the Roman authorities in such a way that would have been absolutely impossible if we had had normal relations with these authorities. In normal circumstances, it is always very difficult for a subordinate to make a remark to a superior, but especially about the pope, about cardinals, about Rome herself. The usual attitude of Rome is "be quiet," or "obey." It is still much like that, but now Rome is receptive to the fact that the Second Vatican Council can be discussed). This gives us some leverage.
The Ecclesia Dei Commission (in 2000) tried to impose on the different congregations under its jurisdiction a reform of the Old Mass to more align it with the New Mass. It wanted to impose the rubrics of 1964 or '65, which include a suppression of the Prayers at the foot of the altar, the Last Gospel, the Lessons, the Epistle... etc. Cardinal Castrillon, and especially Bishop Perl, tried to impose this on all the Old Mass groups....The laymen of Una Voce attempted to give some arguments in defense of the Old Mass, such as, "We are following the rite, the law..." and so on. The reply they received from Rome was "I am the boss....I am the representative of the pope. I have all powers to decide this question." Period. The final argument for Una Voce became, "If you do this, our faithful will go to the Society of Saint Pius X." That was the big argument. Cardinal Castrillon accused Una Voce of blackmailing him. The faithful said, "No, it's the fact." Thus, they were able to stop that reform.
The Fraternity of St. Peter thought its Statutes and Constitution were strong enough to secure their position of celebrating only the Old Mass, but all they did was offer a haven for priests who wanted to celebrate the Old Mass. Constitutions, in any case, can be changed by Rome any time it wishes. The Fraternity of St. Peter learned it was necessary for it to establish an Act of Foundation, which is forever unchangeable by Rome, specifically stating that it was erected solely for the Old Mass. They tried to do this, but in 1999, with the infamous Protocol 1411, Cardinal Medina concluded that some priests of the Fraternity had mellowed away from desiring or celebrating exclusively the Old Mass, even while their Superior, Fr. Bisig, was always opposed to the New Mass and even punished those in the Fraternity that did. The revolutionary priests appealed unilaterally to Rome. What was Rome's solution? Well, easy. It said that the general law in the Church is the New Mass, so every priest in the Catholic Church has the strict right to celebrate it. If this is true, of course, absolutely no superior of any society or congregation in the Catholic Church can prohibit its subordinates from saying that Mass. This solution was declared in Protocol 1411, which prohibited the superiors in the Fraternity of St. Peter from prohibiting the celebration of the New Mass. As did members of Una Voce, the conservative element in the Fraternity tried to argue at the level of the law, or the rite, but received the same answer: "I am the boss." Rome is the boss, and Rome has all powers to change the laws. Rome is the lawmaker. And if you stay just at that positive level you have absolutely no means to defend yourself.
Thank God Archbishop Lefebvre went beyond this level to the highest principles of the law, that is, the Faith and the salvation of souls. You find in the 1983 Code of Canon Law an interesting canon: the last and highest law is the salvation of souls. By this is meant that this law commands all the other laws. It happens in human laws that the lawmaker cannot foresee all possible circumstances in which the law will be applied, and so it happens that due to certain circumstances a certain law will, if applied, do exactly the contrary of what it is supposed to do! Laws in the Church and also in the State are theoretically there to help the faithful, the citizens, to their perfection. For the Church, its laws are meant to aid the souls under her charge to go to heaven. If due to certain circumstances a law in the Church is preventing a soul from going to heaven, something is wrong. What does the Church say in these cases? In such a case as this, such a law, for the time of these circumstances, is suspended.
I will give you an example. Someone is hit by a car and is dying in the street. The law of the Church says that an excommunicated priest cannot give the sacraments; he does not have the power to hear confessions; he cannot give the last rites. That is the general law of the Church. But, precisely, in the case of danger of death, the Church wipes out all these prohibitions and limitations, and says, even an excommunicated priest can hear confession and give the last rites, because the highest law is the salvation of souls. When you have somebody who is about to come before the Supreme Judge to give answer for his life and for whom this last absolution will be absolutely decisive for eternity, the Catholic Church says forget about any kind of excommunication. If you find only an Orthodox priest, you can ask him to hear this confession; remember that! You see how strong the law is! Any valid priest, even an Orthodox priest, has the power at the time of danger of death to wipe out all the sins on the soul, validly and lawfully.
In the name of this principle, we priests who do not have an ordinary jurisdiction administer to you, validly and lawfully, the sacrament of penance and the other sacraments. The circumstances of the crisis have put you in danger of spiritual death. To whom are you going to go? To the priest who has just offended you by his perverse behavior?...whom you cannot trust? No, you will not go to him, but you can find the priests of the Society of Saint Pius X and receive from them the sacraments lawfully. The Society has given these arguments to Rome, and Rome has had nothing to argue.
On this point, let me tell you about the bishops from Gabon (Africa) going to Rome to ask about the validity and lawfulness of the sacraments administered by our mission priests there and whether they should record them in the sacramental registers of that country's local churches. Rome answered that the sacraments of the Society must be recorded in the local registers. "Also the marriages?" the bishops asked. "Yes," said Rome. That was the statement from Rome. With these words–despite all the things you may have heard!–Rome says our sacraments are to be considered valid. This is the policy in official Rome about sacraments administered by priests of the Society of Saint Pius X.
If you examine the decree of Rome's acknowledgment of the official existence of the Priestly Union of St. John Baptist Mary Vianney [Campos, Brazil], there is no mention regarding the years of marriages officiated by the Latin Mass priests of Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer. This means Rome considers these marriages valid. If they aren't valid, Rome would have to say so and do something about it. The priests of the Society of Saint Pius X officiate at the sacrament of Matrimony no differently than did Bishop de Castro Mayer's priests, so this shows what official Rome thinks of our work. This is interesting because it settles the confusion around this important question. So many opinions; even in Rome, you get different answers.
The Decision Explained
The crisis in the Church is so profound that we will not find an easy solution just by looking into the books, into the books of canon law. No, we have to look at the highest principles because this crisis is striking the Church at it deepest level, or highest level, we may say. And the solution will be found at the level of highest principles, too. Why did God found a Church? Why is there the Catholic Church? It is not to play baseball, it is not to have fun, it is not to play the clown, it is really to save souls, it is to continue the mission of Our Lord, who came into the world, who was made flesh, became man, died on the cross, and through this saved us. That is the purpose of the Church. And we know that there is only One by Whom we are saved, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Catholic Church He founded. That is why Our Lord sent His disciples and apostles to the whole world. The very, very clear words we have are that the ones who believe and are baptized will be saved, and the others condemned. You have here the mission of the Church. Why is it there?-To continue the salvation mission of the Lord, to save souls.
Now all the laws which are necessary in the Church (as in any kind of society to keep order) are there for that purpose of saving souls. The moment one of these laws opposes that purpose, there's something wrong, and in that case you cannot follow that law. You cannot say, "Okay, I will shut my eyes and obey!" No, you are not allowed to do so. It would be as silly as to say, "Here come's a red light. I will shut my eyes and drive through the intersection," well knowing that the others have a green light! You don't do so.
It's very important that our understanding of "obedience" is kept at the right level by correct distinctions between the laws of God and those of men. God's wisdom foresees all circumstances. That is why none of us can say, "Well, God did not anticipate that." Men, however, cannot foresee all possible circumstances. We are limited. This is the limitation of human law, and, to a certain extent, even of Church law, which allows certain exceptions. We are really living in a time of exception. We call it a time or a state of "necessity." It is an important notion, this time of "necessity." What is in the balance is eternal life and death!
We can illustrate this notion by the following example. It is forbidden to steal, to take your neighbors' goods. But if you are almost dying of starvation, you can be allowed to take a portion of your neighbors' food (under certain conditions), for this food is necessary to preserve your life. To do so is no sin, but only for the time when, with all other recourse exhausted, you are almost dying.
Something of this argument has been used by Bishop Rifan [of the Priestly Union of St. John Baptist Mary Vianney, Campos, Brazil] who says, "Okay, it is true you are allowed to take things when you are almost dying. But if you are in a supermarket, and the manager, seeing you stealing, says, 'Don't steal. I will give you the things,' then, of course, you cannot continue stealing." His meaning is this. "Now that the Pope has granted a bishop to traditional Catholics in Campos, he is granting everything that is necessary for them. So, we can no longer continue this life in which we were as kind of outlaws."
Now, is this argument valid or not? When one of our priests heard Bishop Rifan speak like this, he asked, "What if the supermarket manager gives you rotten food, poisoned food?" And that is the problem. If the food that would be given to us were good food, Bishop Rifan's argument would be worth examining. But, the food is not so good....With this understood, I have begun to answer the question: "Why didn't the Society of Saint Pius X follow Campos? It seems to be working in Campos!"
Campos accepted Rome's proposal and has received its "apostolic administration." They got even their bishop, Bishop Rifan. If you look at the blueprint on paper, the apostolic administration is gorgeous–a Rolls Royce. It is wonderful; it is tremendous; on paper it is perfect! When you buy a house you look at the pictures; you look at the blueprint plans. But you also look at the ground upon which the house will be built. If this wonderful house will be built on quicksand, you're not going to buy it. The problem is not the blueprint; it is the ground! And this ground is not yet safe enough for us to build anything with Rome.
There is in Rome, however, a certain movement which is finally realizing that things are not well in the Church. Remember that just a year ago, when we said to Cardinal Castrillon that there was a crisis in the Catholic Church, he said that 4,000 bishops are traditional and in favor of tradition! In other words, he has not recognized that there is a crisis in the Church. Perhaps his understanding of "traditional" and "tradition" has another meaning? In any case, it is either/or. There are certain persons who genuinely realize there is a severe crisis in the Church. I'd like to give you an example.
Vittorio Messori met with me recently. He is the author who interviewed the Holy Father to write Crossing the Threshold of Hope. He's also the author of The Ratzinger Report. He told us he tried to elicit from the Pope an admission that, yes, there was something wrong in all this process from the Council and its reforms. But he told us that he was not able to get such an admission from the Holy Father. (From Cardinal Ratzinger, yes, he did get an admission that there are things that went wild or wrong.) But the Pope struck his fist on the table and said, "No, everything is fine."
The Liturgical Zoo
It sounds laughable at first when I say that some in Rome are starting to recognize something has gone wrong in the Church, but that's really where we are. It seems unbelievable to hear it, but we are there. A certain number recognize that the Church is in a disaster, in a catastrophe, but you won't find much when it comes to solutions being offered. The authorities are helpless. They are stuck in a system. For decades they have convinced themselves that "Whatever we do is good." Now they see that it is not good, but they don't know how to get out of this system, to say how it can be repaired. It is a gridlock, as if they were saying to themselves, "It is not good, but is good." They don't want to put themselves in question so they avoid addressing possible solutions. I can give you one example.
Cardinal Ratzinger speaks about the altar, the Mass. He agrees that the table, the priest facing the faithful, is not good, that it has never been so in the Church. Liturgically, it is nonsense, he believes. These are very, very good, strong statements. The solution seems very simple, doesn't it? If the table is wrong, let us return to the altar as before. But is that what Cardinal Ratzinger will advise? He responds, "No! It would be too much trouble! It would cost too much! So let's put a cross in the middle of the table and that will stand for the mystical East!" That's his solution. That's typical of the reasoning in Rome to address its problems, to solve the crisis which is becoming more evident to it. The authorities see there is a crisis, but they don't want to use the right means to solve it. We are still here. I might say, we are stuck here! Currently, there is no conviction that tradition is the right way. They see the fruits; they even say the fruits are good! They say the Holy Ghost is there! (Not too bad!) But, they don't say, "That's the way to go." Instead, they say, "Tradition is a way amongst other ways."
Their perspective is pluralism. Their thinking goes something like this: "Oh, look, if we have progressive people who do silly things as members of the Church, then we should also have a place for those who like tradition–a place in the middle of this circus, of this zoo, a place for dinosaurs and the prehistoric animals"–that's our place (!). "But just stay in your zoo cage," they will train us, "You can get your food–the Old Mass; that's for the dinosaurs, but only for the dinosaurs. Don't give that food to the other zoo animals; they would be killed!"
That is why we cannot reconcile where this mentality is prevalent. The availability of the Old Mass extends beyond us; our concern regarding it is not exclusive to only the Society of Saint Pius X. In any case, we have the Old Mass, don't we? If we make an agreement by which Rome permits the Old Mass to us, it is not even an agreement because we already have it. What the Society wants is that this Mass, a common good of the Church, become again a common good for all Catholics, and not just a particular good of any particular group. No, it belongs to all Catholics; all Catholics have a right to it, not only us.
In 1986, Pope John Paul II appointed a commission of nine cardinals to answer two questions: 1) Did the New Mass abrogate the Old Mass? 2) Can a bishop prohibit his priests from celebrating the Old Mass?
To the first question, eight of nine cardinals answered that the New Mass had not abrogated the Old Mass. This meant the Old Mass was still the Mass of the Catholic Church. If you examine the Second Vatican Council's Decree on Liturgy, you will find in black and white that this Mass was to be kept; there is no word about a new Mass. There is mention that some vernacular was to be introduced and repetition removed, that a commission was to be named for "cleaning and polishing," of the Old Mass, that the Latin has to be preserved! We have this Mass! The Old Mass is the Mass of the Church.
To the second question the nine cardinals unanimously agreed that a bishop cannot prohibit his priests from celebrating the Old Mass. Period. Look at the reality; just the opposite.
The situation reminds me of Rome's instructions regarding what was necessary for candidates to be ordained to the priesthood. Four years ago, Cardinal Medina sent guidelines to the bishops of the entire world. They included that to become a priest one must have a devotion to the rosary and pray his rosary every day, have a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, live chastely, not have ideas of marriage, and so on. Look at the reality! The reality is if a seminarian prays his rosary, he is in danger of not being ordained! In Los Angeles recently, two seminarians were reprimanded for praying the rosary. In Freiburg, in Germany, it is so dangerous to pray the rosary that some seminarians pray their rosary in hiding! You see with these little examples the enormous disparity between certain things coming from Rome and the reality.
We cannot live by floating decrees; we have to see how they are applied and enforced. The Society of Saint Pius X asked Rome that the Tridentine Mass be reinstated in the whole Church, that is, every priest would have the right to celebrate it without being threatened by his bishop. I think that's fair enough. It is not something absolutely impossible. Some have reproached me for asking the impossible from Rome. "Why have you asked for this?" they say, "By doing so, you'll never get an agreement with Rome," they advise me. Well, what do we want? Do we want an easy life for ourselves with an easy agreement, or do we want to fight for the good of the whole Church? Just to ask the question is to answer it.
The fight is universal. It goes down to the greatest principles. No easy agreement where you make some concessions with Rome will solve such deep problems. Never! We say to Rome, "We are not the problem, you are the problem." Well, they don't like that! They try to say, "Listen, you have a problem and we want to help, so let's have an agreement." I say, "But we are fine; we are still Catholics; we still believe in the Holy Trinity, the Holy Eucharist, in all of Catholic doctrine without any exception, and we want to live according to the principles of the discipline of the Church. We have no problem there, and we are certainly not the problem. We admit that living the Catholic Faith as we do manifests the problem with you, Rome. To remove us as a problem does not remove the real problem."
Campos Accord Revisited
There is much more. Let me reflect upon Campos with you.
Let's suppose the Society of Saint Pius X signs an agreement with Rome as did Campos. By analyzing Campos, you will find a demonstration of what Rome wants to happen. Go to Campos; go into the traditional churches, into the catechism classes. They continue to say the Old Mass; there is no heresy; nothing against the Faith. Is everything fine? Not exactly. Where is the problem? The problem is found in quotes taken from the website of Bishop Rifan, now leading the traditional Catholics of Campos. He says, "We sustain that the Council cannot be in contradiction with tradition" [Famille chretienne, Oct. 19-25, 2002–Ed.]. For 30 years Campos fought the Council because it opposed tradition. Bishop de Castro Mayer issued strong statements, some stronger than Archbishop Lefebvre! [See the serialization of De Castro Mayer's On the Problems of the Modern Apostolate in The Angelus, begun with its Dec. 2002.–Ed.] He said, for instance, that what we know as the Vatican II notion of "religious liberty" was a heresy. Now if a heresy is not in contradiction with tradition, I don't know what is! But Bishop Rifan is saying that now the Council cannot be in contradiction with tradition. Do things in Campos really continue as before?
Bishop Rifan gave a conference in Versailles, France (Sept. 30, 2002). He spoke of the ten-year period that traditional Catholics of Campos were served by Bishop Licinio Rangel, consecrated without the permission of the Holy Father. (Pray for Bishop Rangel, by the way, who died two days ago on Dec. 17.) Bishop Rifan confessed to reflecting very much on these ten years of separation. Now that they had passed, he said, this reflection made things more clear and revealed to him that many things did not go so very well during this time, such as, for example, a spirit of generalized criticism among the traditional faithful towards the Magisterium, that everybody criticized everything and everybody. He admitted to fearing this separatist mentality could become a real schism. According to the sense of the Church received from Bishop de Castro Mayer, he understood it was not normal that Catholics be "separated"–even if for reason of the "state of necessity"–from the hierarchy and felt that the traditional Campos priests wanted this problem resolved. Bishop Rifan felt uneasy in this "state of separation." You detect the mind-set shift away from "state of necessity."... Just before the consecration of Bishop Rangel to succeed Bishop de Castro Mayer, the Campos priests said the Church was in a "time of necessity," making the episcopal consecration necessary. Ten years later, Bishop Rifan is saying, "Well, we felt very uneasy."
Twenty-five of the Campos priests were the authors of the "62 Reasons Why the Traditional Latin Mass. Why Not the New?" But Bishop Rifan seems to have forgotten it when he was addressed by some faithful recently, "If we don't have the Tridentine Mass on Sunday, what should we do?" His answer was, "If the new Mass is said correctly it is valid." Now, what he says is true, but to say this as an answer to that question will be understood to mean that there is no problem with attending the new Mass. For 30 years the traditional priests and faithful fought the progressivists–they were even kicked out of their churches over the Mass–so they really took the burden. Now, suddenly (!)..."If it is well said, there is no problem."
Bishop Rifan has visited the formerly traditional monastery of Le Barroux to apologize to Dom Gerard and gave a conference explaining that there were "two Bishop de Castro Mayers." The "first" Bishop de Castro Mayer lived until 1981–submitted to the hierarchy, very brave, serious, very respectful to the authorities. The "second" Bishop de Castro Mayer lived after 1981, the year when he retired–a hard-liner, recalcitrant. At his presentation to the monks, Bishop Rifan announced that the Priestly Union of St. Baptist John Mary Vianney "had chosen the first Bishop de Castro Mayer." Well, his conference was so convincing that a priest left the monastery of Le Barroux to come to the Society! I think Bishop Rifan should speak there more often (!) The one who has changed is not Bishop de Castro Mayer, but Bishop Rifan (and we prefer the former).
If you visit the Campos website under "Ecumenism," you will find the following statement: "We are Catholics. As children of the Church, our position on ecumenism is the position of the Magisterium of the Church, from the past and from the present." Traditionally politically correct quotes from the encyclical of Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, and other documents accompany their statement. Of course, the phrases from these documents are carefully chosen to address ecumenism in a truly Catholic way, in the correct manner, but not a word about the bulk of the very same documents which are in contradiction with genuine Catholic teaching.
I summarize the new Campos position by relating a story you may have heard already. When I objected to Cardinal Castrillon how we found him untrustworthy for having destroyed the Fraternity of St. Peter, he explained to me why he felt he had to replace Fr. Bisig, its Superior at the time. He said Fr. Bisig was about to demand an oath against the new Mass from all the priests of the Fraternity. What the Cardinal was incorrectly referring to was, in fact, a document the priests of the Fraternity were to freely sign by which they promised that if they would celebrate the new Mass–the Chrismal Mass of Holy Thursday–they would promise to do it only once a year, that is, to concelebrate the new Mass only once a year. That is not an oath against the new Mass, but Cardinal Castrillon called it that.) And it was enough for the Cardinal to say, "I cannot accept such a man to be the Superior General of a religious society in the Church."
The Society wondered, if the Cardinal treated the Fraternity of St. Peter this way, how would he treat us? And he answered, "It is not the same. They are against the new Mass; you are in favor of the old!" This is the quote which now applies to Campos. This is exactly its new position. Campos is in favor of the old, but no longer against the new, or, if it is, it doesn't say so.
The new perspective of Campos is to speak about the good things presently happening in the Church while ignoring the bad things. It is a way to look at things, but it is not the way to look at the reality. To see only halfway and forget the rest is awfully dangerous. Let's say you have a man with an injured leg who goes to the doctor. The doctor examines his head, compliments the patient on his good eyes and healthy heart, and releases him without checking his injured leg! Has this doctor improved the state of his patient? Absolutely not! But that's what Campos is doing. Campos is like the negligent doctor: he says to his patient, "You have a good heart; you are going to live to be 120," and ignores the kidney cancer. It is nonsense. It is serious.
At the moment of the Campos-Vatican agreement (Jan. 20, 2002), the personal theologian of the Pope, Fr. Georges Cottier, said that he was very happy because Campos had accepted "the principle condition [which has] always been the full recognition of the authority of Vatican Council II." He said, "...we must expect other steps: for example, that they also participate in concelebrations in the reformed rite" [i.e., the new Mass–Ed.]. Fr. Cottier referred to an internal psychological dynamism which would bring them there. Campos has obviously stepped into–jumped into–this dynamic psychological process.
I am afraid that had the Society made such an agreement we would fare no better. Human beings more or less react the same way; we follow similar patterns. Most people do what the majority does. The Catholic majority is "at peace" with the hierarchy. And if we make an agreement with Rome, that will be understood that we "made peace." In wartime, the very fact of making an agreement means that there is a ceasefire; you stop fighting. It's very clear. If we make an agreement with Rome about our status and apostolate, we will stop fighting. That is why we reject any kind of agreement which is only of appearances and not touching the real issues. Of course, we will be glad to have an agreement when it is a real agreement about the real thing!
The only agreement which we will accept is when Rome says unconditionally, "Okay, you are Catholic and continue that way." I think the only way we will have an agreement with Rome is when the Roman authorities are convinced of the necessity of tradition. Until that time, any agreement is to put a rope around our neck. Why?–Because, once again, we are in a fight; we see the way Rome behaves during all these times. Rome does not want fights; it constantly tries to balance the progressives and conservatives. Anything that comes from Rome deliberately attempts to satisfy both persuasions. Something for them, something for them, and everybody's happy. Never is a point pushed hard enough to risk separating or kicking somebody out... (Well, except for us; they need to for us!). We understand very well that we are not the necessary fighters, but we are waging a fight.
The Society is a sign of contradiction in the "family" of the Church. Not one family among us is spared divisions, that does not endure problems because of Catholic tradition. It is not our fault. It is the "fault" of Our Lord, if I may say so. He is the sign of contradiction, He is the one who said there would be division even in the families–son against father, daughter against mother. He said it. Never before have we known the understanding of that word "contradiction" on such a scale as we do now.
This question of tradition invites a real fight. Here we touch something very important. We see this violence with which bishops and priests have acted against us. They never have such violence against the sects. They would not be as violent against the Satanists as they are with us. Why such a violence? There must be a reason. There is a reason. It is because we touch the heart of the Church, that is to say, we touch Our Lord Jesus Christ. We don't pretend to be our Lord, but we certainly to try to follow His doctrine and teaching. We are really at the crux of the matter. It's a fight for or against Our Lord, and this fight you cannot escape. Rome constantly tries to escape this fight by its ecumenism, by compromising, by concessions. If we surrendered our fight, I promise you there will be fighting everywhere. I don't think that an agreement will put things in better shape, I'm not sure at all of that.
Rome would like to tell us, "Please, be kind, lower your voice, be positive; make positive, constructive remarks; make concessions, and, of course, peace; don't be so rigid...." That's what they would say. What kind of concession are we ready to make? There is no room for concession; we cannot. The Faith–either you have it or not. The discipline is either right, lawful, and pleasing to God, or it is a sin. There is no room for concession. That's what I've said to Rome.
We first must deal with the real problem. If we don't, it's a waste. The same problem will be there tomorrow. Rome is ready to retract the excommunications of the bishops today?...and have us receive it again tomorrow? It's nonsense; that's what I tried to say to Rome. It does not mean we are against any kind of agreement. We are of course in favor of a real agreement, of the truth, of the triumph of tradition....We want the Catholic Church to be the Catholic Church, period; nothing else.
The path that Campos is taking is bringing them very gently, little by little, into that modern river, into that modern flow and flux. For instance, on their website appears the sermon for the canonization of Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, of whom we have the most serious doubts. They speak of "Blessed John XXIII." We have such serious objections against this beatification that the Society sent Rome a thick dossier against it. (Our accusations are not nitpicky little things!) Rome didn't even answer. We sent it to eight cardinals; not one reply. Superficially, it may appear that nothing has changed in Campos. In fact, a lot has changed. Campos is now on a slippery slope. None of the priests of Campos have said the new Mass till now. They may take offense at the phrase "till now," but they have placed themselves in a process that will end there. The new Mass is no longer the serious matter against which they had fought, at least for Bishop Rifan, who is the key figure.
Inside the Vatican
Is there a standstill between Rome and the Society of Saint Pius X?–Not exactly. Officially, maybe; but we are not inactive at other levels. We continue to ask for the liberation of the old Mass. Contrary to the thinking of those who believe we ask the impossible, Rome is still considering the possibility of freeing the old Mass. I don't know when it will be done, but let's say it is still open to it. One of our priests was told by a Roman authority, "But, if we grant that, you are just going to take it and then run away." This shows that Rome is still reflecting on it. There are our friends in the Vatican who are strengthening a movement in favor of the old Mass. How strong is it right now?–Not strong enough yet, but it is encouraging that the idea of granting this Mass as a necessary means to relieve this terrible crisis of the Church is winning favor even in the Vatican. And so we have to nurture it.
This summer a French bishop brought to Rome 250 petitions from the French diocesan priests asking for the liberation of the old Mass. Wise enough to know the peril of the situation, the bishop did not provide the names, especially of the young priests, well knowing that if he did they would be persecuted. So, there are bishops, not only in Rome but also in the field, who are starting to think rightly. From France, I'm aware of a vicar general who brought this petition before his bishop and inquired what he thought about it. The bishop said, "Give it to all our priests so they can sign it." There is a whole work being carried on which is not yet visible, but which is growing slowly and steadily. Certain people in Rome say, "Stick to it. Don't give up; don't give in." Amazing. Yes, even after the agreement of Campos, our friends in the Roman Curia are not asking us, "Why don't you sign it?" On the contrary, they say, "Don't sign it!...Ask for more."
We have to perservere; we have to pray. Any victory is one of grace, a victory of the supernatural. The resolution of this crisis will not be accomplished sheerly by the abilities of human diplomacy. We have many friends, but not only friends. The enemies of the Church who are within her know what they are doing, and we have to realize that.