WE ARE FIRM BUT NOT UNREACHABLE.
In May 2004, Latin Mass magazine published an interview of Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, head of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. His Excellency Bishop Fellay, Superior General of the SSPX, responded to proposals the Cardinal made in favor of Tradition.
In this interview for Latin Mass Magazine, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos does more than just stretch out a hand to the faithful attached to tradition; he affirms that the Holy Father holds his arms open. Aren't you touched by such a generous offer?
H. E. Fellay: I am very much touched by this gesture and do not doubt the generosity behind it. But I have to remark, at the same tnme, that the cardinal minimizes as much as he can the real difficulties which exist on both sides. On the side of the local bishops, he only wants to see "confusion" and "hesitations" to acknowledge the "right of citizenship" of the Tridentine Mass, whereas there is a real opposition to the traditional doctrine on the Holy Sacrifice. To be convinced of this, you merely have to look at the very reserved reactions of the bishops to the recent disciplinary document Redemptionis Sacramentum. Apparently, nobody is interested in this call to order! There are neither abuses, nor liturgical scandals!
And as for the faithful of Tradition, Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos only acknowledges that they have a specific "sensibility" and a "perception" all their own, whereas it is really a question of fidelity to the doctrine of the Church of all times. All these euphemisms indicate the diplomacy of the cardinal, but they do not succeed in hiding his embarrassment: how can he solve the painful situation of the Society of Saint Pius X without raising the doctrinal issues? Honestly, if it were only a matter of dissipating the "confusion" of the bishops and of acknowledging the legitimacy of the traditionalist "sensibility," I believe that the crisis would have been solved long ago. But what is at stake goes far beyond the realm of confusion and sensibility.
Aren't you afraid of appearing mired in an attitude which is constantly critical and negative?
H.E. Fellay: On the contrary, ever since the beginning of our conversations with Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos, we have been making positive proposals. But we must be sure, first of all, that the pillars holding up the bridge between Rome and us are sturdy. These pillars are doctrinal. We cannot be silent on this reality without the risk that–sooner or later–all our efforts for a solution will fail. The solution of the cardinal is to propose a practical agreement, minimizing fundamental differences as much as possible. Is it possible? Can cordial words stave off the hard blows of the crisis which shakes the Church? I do not think so.
So for you, it is doctrine, integral doctrine, or nothing? Doesn't this position of "all or nothing" lack realism?
H.E. Fellay: We are firm but not unreachable. Doubtless doctrine is fundamental, but we do think there are some preliminary stages to go through. That is the reason why, from the very beginning, we proposed two preliminary conditions to the Roman authorities. These conditions would make it possible to create an atmosphere of confidence which would be favorable to solving the problem of Ecône. These conditions are: the withdrawal of the decree of excommunication against the bishops of the Society and the acknowledgment of the right for every priest to celebrate the traditional Mass.
How do you see this withdrawal of the excommunication?
H.E. Fellay: What has been done for the Orthodox could be done a fortiori for us. Rome lifted the excommunication against them without their changing anything in their attitude towards the Holy See. Could they not adopt the same measure towards us who have never been separated from Rome and have always acknowledge the authority of the Sovereign Pontiff, as defined by Vatican Council I? Indeed, the four bishops consecrated in 1988 took the oath of fidelity to the Holy See, and ever since they have always professed their attachment to the Holy See and the Sovereign Pontiff. They took all kinds of dispositions in order to show that they had no intention of creating a parallel hierarchy. I recalled this again in my press conference in Rome on February 2nd.
This withdrawal of the decree of excommunication would create a new atmosphere, indispensable for going any further. Among other things, it would enable the persecuted priests and faithful to see that their attachment to Tradition is no fault, but that it was motivated by all these grievous liturgical scandals which Redemptionis Sacramentum very rightly points out without, however, considering their cause, which is undoubtedly the liturgical reform itself.
And you ask for this withdrawal unilaterally, without obliging yourself to grant anything in return?
H.E. Fellay: If the decree of excommunication were withdrawn, the bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X could go to Rome, just like the diocesan bishops for their ad limina visit. They would give an account of their apostolic work, and the Holy See could observe the development of the "experience of Tradition" which Archbishop Lefebvre always desired to make for the good of the Church and of souls. There would be no need of any further commitment. It would simply be a matter of giving an account, on the part of the Society, and of taking stock, on the part of Rome, of the development of the experience of Tradition.
Do you not feel that you have been heard at least as far as your second preliminary request is concerned, i.e., the acknowledgment of "the right of citizenship" of the Tridentine Mass?
H.E. Fellay: I cannot help but approve the praiseworthy effort of Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos to rehabilitate the Mass, but there also, I can only see a certain embarrassment: a right of citizenship conceded by the Holy Father, is it a right or a concession? The difference is not slight. We do not want to be granted a specific status which would be the hallmark of some liturgical "specificity." We are asking for a right which has never been lost: the freedom of the Mass for everybody. Because what we are attached to is the common patrimony of the Roman Catholic Church.
Even if you are not opposed to a dialogue with Rome, you nevertheless give the impression of practicing a "wait and see" policy. Do you not think it is time to get out of this marginalized position and commit yourself now, as they invite you to, in order to be more fruitful in the very serious situation in which the Church finds itself?
H.E. Fellay: The position of the Society is not wait and see, but rather ora et labora, pray and work! Our priests are working for the restoration of the reign of Our Lord daily, with the families, the schools, etc. These 450 priests are more than committed, they are overworked. Everywhere in the world, people are asking for them. We would need three times as many! What would really marginalize us would be a concession closing off Tradition in a kind of Indian reservation or enclave within the Church. In truth, it is our concern for fruitfulness at the service of the Church and of souls which obliges us to request a true liberty for Tradition. The present state of the Church and the world is too serious for us to convince Rome that with a mere traditional "sensibility" (one that is strictly monitored) we could truly fight against the "silent apostasy" denounced by John-Paul II in Ecclesia in Europa. It would be altogether dishonest. But the Roman authorities, if they want to, can give back to Tradition its "right of citizenship" everywhere and for everyone.
Interview given to DICI (Documentation Information Catholiques Internationales), the press agency of the Motherhouse of the Society Saint Pius X.