Key excerpts (slightly edited for clarity) from Bishop Fellay’s talk at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy in New Hamburg, Ontario, on December 28, 2012


Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the SSPX, delivers a blessing during an early morning Mass at the Society’s headquarters in Menzingen, Switzerland, May 11 (CNS photo)

Editor’s note: We give here considerable space to the remarks of Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) during a talk in Canada on Dec­ember 28, because what Fellay says is important, even when disturbing—perhaps especially when it is disturbing.

Fellay’s words and positions are a matter of importance because Pope Benedict deeply desires to find a way to bring an end to the division which has separated the SSPX from Rome. So it is important to listen to Fellay.

This long talk was taped, then transcribed and widely circulated on the internet. (What appears here is approximately half of the complete text. The text has been edited very slightly for clarity, and minor repetitions have been removed.)

In this talk, we see a man under great pressure, both from within his Society (to “hold firm”) and from without (to “make compromises”). We see a man confused by the way the dialogue process with the Vatican has unfolded; anxious not to betray the Catholic tradition he holds dear; yet hesitant to accept the guidance of the Holy See, the guardian of that very tradition—even if his hesitancy may mean the Society will be lost to the Church, that is, excommunicated.

The world’s news media picked up on two points: (1) that Fellay felt the Vatican had been giving him “mixed messages” for “years”; and (2) an assertion that “the Jews, the Masons” are “enemies of the Church.” (Spokesmen for the Society subsequently stated charges that the Society is anti-Semitic are not true; see article.)

Dear Fathers, dear faithful,

Since 2009, I have been facing contradiction directly, that is, instances when authorities in Rome contradict themselves about us. The contradiction was so strong that in June I requested a meeting with the Secretary of State, with Cardinal Bertone. He did not give it, but he asked me to see Cardinal Levada and I told him, “I want to see you because you people are contradicting yourselves about us. Some of you say that we are excommunicated, that we are out of the Church; others say no, there is no problem, we are totally in order.”…


Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (2005-2012)

I happen to know, simply, that on the certain points where the Pope has done something favorable to us there are other people in Rome who are doing sabotage against the Pope…

There is an abbey in Germany, it is the only Trappist Abbey and the Father Abbot asked the Pope not only to go back to the Old Mass — because now it is allowed, you can do that — but to go back to the old rule before the Council.

And the Pope granted it and even said that he hoped that it’s an example that would be followed by many.

Now, six months later, this abbot has not received any answer from Rome and he is calling a friend in Rome and he says what is happening with me. This friend who is very, very close to the Pope told him, “Well, write again to the Pope and this time send this letter to me and I will bring it to the Holy Father,” which happened. I know the story from that very person so it is not just hearsay. Directly this person who was very close to the Pope told me that story, so he went to see the Pope with this letter and he asked the Pope, “What is going on with this abbey in Germany?”

And the Pope said, “But it is six months since I have granted the permission!”

So, they made an inquiry and in fact it was the person in the secretariat of state who should have transmitted the decision of the Pope but just put it in the drawer. This man is now a cardinal, the one who sabotaged the Pope. I know the same person did another sabotage, well, many. He just hijacked a decision of the Pope that had to be transmitted to the Prefect of the Liturgy.

You see, you have to understand how Rome works. When the Pope decides something, it does not go directly to the persons; it goes through the Secretary of State. But, if you receive a letter from the Pope, it will have gone through the Secretary of State. If you write a letter to the Pope, it goes through the Secretary of State. There are some bypasses, but you must be well-placed to get them. In a sense, it is impossible to get straight to the Pope. And even for decisions of the Pope inside the Vatican, they go through the Secretary of State. And so, you have people in the Secretary of State who block the decisions of the Pope and don’t transmit them…


Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state.

So, I know that the Pope would like to do something with us. I know that he is very attached to the Council. Very. You read the audience in 2005, the point which impressed me the most was how inconceivable it was for the Pope to have a Catholic who would reject the Council. It was so strong that in the little letter which I wrote to thank him for the audience, I had to mention that I didn’t agree with him about the Council. No, we don’t accept that.

So, we have discussions. For two years, we have had doctrinal discussions in Rome. These discussions, they were interesting and very frustrating, at least for us, for our people. We really had the impression that they did not listen to what we said. They had just to defend the house and that’s it.

And the end of the discussions were pretty hot because they told us, “You are Protestants,” and we answered them, “You are Modernists.” That’s the way the discussions finished.

As a matter of joke, I said, “Well, we came to one point of agreement with Rome and that is that there is no point where we agree.” Just to say; and so they know that.

And, Cardinal Levada is inviting me, this is in June, is inviting me for a meeting in September, on the 14th of September. And, he says, it’s for an evaluation of the discussions. And he adds, and also to evoke some perspective for the future. But, clearly, the main topic will be the discussions, an evaluation of the discussions. So, we arrived there.


Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy (1996-2006), current president emeritus of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei

About the discussions, they said, maybe it took 3 minutes, maybe 5, but very, very short. What did they say about the discussions? They said, the discussions have reached the end, the purpose was fulfilled which was for you to expose clearly your position, that’s it. Is it good? Is it bad? Nothing. Just, you were able to expose how you think. That’s all. And then, then the proposal. Rome is going to give you canonical status and you sign this declaration. The name was “Preamble.”

And what is in this preamble? More or less every point which we would disagree with, we had to accept. There was something in our direction, or maybe two things: one was to say there is a legitimate discussion on certain points which make difficulty of the Council, so there is an opening on discussing difficult points. And another which we say, I may say, that’s the most tricky… It says: on the points which are difficult, which make difficulty of the Council, we follow the following principle. These difficult or confusing points must be understood or interpreted in coherence with all the teaching of the Church throughout the ages. So you must understand them as the Church has always taught. And we reject any kind of explanation which is opposed to what the Church has always taught. You know. That is what we have always said. That is what Archbishop Lefebvre has said, always. We say, what is clearly traditional in the Council: well, we accept, we have no way to reject that. What is doubtful, we understand it the way the Church has always taught it. And what is opposed, we reject. So when you read that you say: “Hup, that’s what we said!”


Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the SSPX (d. 1991)

Well, there was a little, little phrase that was added to it. And the little phrase said: as we find it, so we have to interpret, to understand the things as the Church has always done and so on, as it is done in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Now there’s a little problem there, because the new Catechism is precisely accepting all the novelties of the Council, and that’s what we oppose. So in other words they pretend now to do things as we do, and they do the contrary. Big problem.

And so, so from the start, this text, we could not accept. And that’s what I told Rome: we can’t accept. I told it even two times. The first time, I tried to remain broad because my aim was to demolish the frame which they were trying to impose to us. This frame is called the Hermeneutic of Continuity. That means that we have to interpret, or to understand, they pretend that the Council is in the line of Tradition… And we say no, that’s not true, we say, that we should understand anything that comes from Rome in the light of Tradition, it’s the only Catholic way, but precisely this Council, with this Council, we can’t do that, because the texts are opposed to Tradition, they’re contrary; what they say in the Council has been condemned before. Especially Religious Liberty, but also Ecumenism, for example, very clearly the contrary. And so, we say: no, it doesn’t work. Doesn’t work…

Things seemed clear, no? But the big, big problem at that time was the following. Even before the 14th September, I got messages from people working in Rome, and who are friendly with us. People who have even been burned, their fingers have been burned, because they were too close to us. And they work in Rome and they are our friends. And these people told me: “The Pope is going to recognize the Society. And he’s going to do that the same way he did with the excommunications. That is, without anything from your side.” Pope does it: done.

And I got several of these messages from several different persons, whose, let’s say, authenticity, I cannot put in doubt. For example, one of those was a person working in Ecclesia Dei, those who are dealing with us. And this very person, after we got the text, told us: “That’s not what the Pope wants!”

So you see, I got all these kinds of messages which were not fitting together. I got an official thing, where I clearly have to say no. And I got other messages, which are not official of course, but which say, “No, that’s not what the Pope wants! The Pope is much more inclined toward you!”


Guido Pozzo, secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei from 2009-2012 and current Almoner of His Holiness

And the people tell me these things, they’re not just someone in the Vatican. They’re very close to the Pope. Very close. I mean, people who see him every day, or every two days, and there are very few people who see him every day. And these people, they know the Pope, they know what he thinks, and they give me this message.

So what am I going to do now? I have an official message where I have to say no. I have people who tell me: “But that’s not what the Pope wants!” You see, that was a major problem. So this is confusing.

But the second problem I was in, it was impossible for me to say these things in the public. Because if I would say that, I would make things even worse. And Rome would say: “That’s not true!”

And even now, I expect Rome to say that, because I tell these things now. And if you think: “What is Bishop Fellay telling us?” I would remind you something which happened to me just a few years ago. It was with Cardinal Castrillon. Cardinal Castrillon told me the following: “What I am going to tell you now, if you repeat it, I will be forced to deny it.”

Understand? I tell you something, if you repeat it, I will say no, that’s not true. And he finished by saying: “The Pope and myself, we are in your favor.”

But, if he tells us that he’s going to say the contrary, what can I do with it? Nothing!… You see how complicated it is? So it’s messy, and you can’t even say it. And if you try to say it, you make it even more messy…

Now, to show that it was really serious, the messages that I got, they were very serious, very precise. And, well, I did not give you names, but I give you one position: it is the secretary of the Pope himself. Closer to the Pope you cannot have—who gave us these kind of messages. Example: “Bishop Fellay must not fear. Once the agreement is done, he will be able to continue to attack everything as he does now.” Attack all the errors, inside, outside, doesn’t matter.

Another one: “If the Congregation of the Faith is ruling against the Society, the Pope is above the Congregation of the Faith and he will overrule it in favor of the Society.”

Or other things like, the Pope made, gave me a message: “You must know that to solve the problem of the Society is at the heart of the preoccupation of my pontificate.”


Pope Paul VI (1963-1978)

So something very, very important for the Pope, to solve the problem. To solve the problem means to recognize the Society as Catholic. And I know that the Pope knows that we oppose the Council.

So how do we reconcile all these pieces? Well, the situation came to a peak a little bit later in March. In March I was to receive the answer from the Congregation of the Faith to my double no. I said no to them. And so I am called again to Rome by Cardinal Levada, and the 16th March he gives me a letter, and he says this letter has been approved by the Pope.

Now I tell you, this letter, if I would have only this letter, would mean the end of our relation with Rome. Because this letter says: “You do not have the right to oppose what the Church has taught yesterday with what she’s teaching today. You cannot say there are errors in the Council.” And more: “If you refuse the proposal of the 14th September, which has been explicitly approved by the Pope, this means that in the facts you reject the authority of the Pope.”

And hence there is a reference to the Canon Law which, they say—the words you don’t find in the letter, but the reference yes — and this reference says you are schismatic and you are excommunicated. And the letter concluded by saying that the Pope, in his goodness, he wants to leave you one more month to think about it; and if during this month you change your position, please let us know. That’s the letter.

Clear letter. Also to say, (I was) thankful to the Good Lord, because now I had something clear in my hands.

This clarity did not last long. The day before or the same day I got that message from Rome: “Well, you’re going to receive a very hard letter, but be cool. No panic.” And two days after, the message was: “The only thing you have to do with this letter is to put it into the archives.”


Bishop Bernard Fellay met with Benedict XVI at Castel Gandolfo, summer residence of the Pope near Rome on August 29, 2005

In other words, don’t give to it any credit, any attention. Imagine. When I got that message, I said: “That’s crazy!” And someone did report that to Rome, and the person who got that message in Rome with a little smile said: “Yes, that’s crazy!”

It’s so solemn from Rome, you know, with this authority who says: “I speak in the name of the Holy Father. If you disobey, it’s finished, done.” And same time, oh, don’t give any attention to that letter. It’s unbelievable. How you agree to tell these things outside!? I say it now, but at the moment when it happened I could not. It’s clear that it was impossible.

So what did I do? I did something in such a case you shouldn’t be able to do. I short-cutted the Congregation of the Faith… I wrote another, a new letter, something new, to the Pope.

What I tried to do was something delicate. I saw in the discussion of the 16th of March, that in fact if Rome was so hard against us, it was because they thought that we really reject absolutely everything since 1962. Everything. Means, the Pope, the Council, whatever they teach, they do, they decide, we reject everything. That was my understanding, they believe that from us.

Now that’s not true! When we say we accept the Pope as Pope and we pray for him, that’s something real, it’s not just a nice wording in the air. And so I tried to write a letter in which, first announcing the principles of the Faith and the magisterium, I tried to show them that, that in fact, even in the Council, there are some things we accept. But it is very delicate because there are some things we accept, some things we reject, so to make this balance was very delicate.

Anyway, after… how much? …two weeks, I got the message from the Pope, “Now send this same letter to the Congregation of the Faith.” Which means that he would have accepted it. And that’s why at that moment you had the newspapers who said: “Well, there will be an agreement now, it’s about to be an agreement…” and so on, and so on.

Which has never been true! Why? Because first, this text, which seemed to be more or less accepted, finally will not be accepted.

And secondly, much more important, I have always from the start said to Rome: “We are glad to be recognized by the Church. But there is one condition. And this condition is that we are accepted as we are.”


Vatican official Archbishop Augustine Di Noia (CNS photo)

And to be accepted as we are means that we continue to do what we do. That we continue to learn, or to teach what we do. That we continue to attack what is wrong, the errors. That we continue to have our liturgy. The old one. And I said that’s a condition where I just quoted Archbishop Lefebvre, in fact, because he’s the one who said that, and I just gave the quote, condition sine qua non of recognition by Rome.

And so, at that moment where I hear the Pope seems to be satisfied with my letter, I wanted absolutely to verify the second point which was for me more important: are we or are we not allowed to continue to attack? And I made an extra trip to Rome to verify that. It was in May. And during this meeting, I saw the Congregation of the Faith, in fact, they wanted to correct my text.

And I sent a letter to the Pope and to Cardinal Levada saying: “You change one word: finished!”

Now we have the meeting of the cardinals who study my text. Cardinal Levada at the beginning and at the end of the meeting will say: “We don’t touch the text.” You have the cardinals who express themselves, you have a vote. The vote had one abstention and all the others in favor of the text.

And nevertheless, when I get the text in my hands, it is changed. And all the things I have kept out because I cannot accept them they put in again. What happened?

What happened is simple. As I was not happy with the answers they gave us when I said “Can we continue to attack?” I made a test. I published an interview. It was the beginning of June. And there I speak about the errors of Vatican II. And I speak about, let’s say the… how do you say? …how bad the New Mass is. And they used that. They went to see the Pope with this interview, and with this they made the changes of the text. I know that precisely for two reasons. And the second reason is that when I was called to Rome on the 13th June, they had my interview in their hands. And they said, “You cannot say that there are errors in the Council. You cannot say that the New Mass is bad.”

And I also know that Lombardi wrote the text to the Pope, and that they had the whole Friday afternoon from the Congregation of the Faith with the Pope, and they discussed that. So that’s why when, on the 13th June, I received this corrected text, I don’t need one minute of reflection, and on the spot I say: “I’m not signing that!”

A few hours before, because I get that, that letter, the meeting is at 5 in the afternoon, a few hours before the head of the Freemasonry in Rome says: “There will be no agreement!” That means that Freemasonry knew about these happenings. I cannot say more. I just say what I know.


Vatican official Archbishop Gerhard Mueller (CNS photo)

I know also that the state had prepared a counter-action which would be a breach of relations with the Vatican, if the Vatican would have recognized us. And it’s a big state. Several bishop’s conferences had prepared also counter-attacks. Precisely the German-speaking, they had prepared something which, in which it was clearly declared that they don’t want to have anything to do with us, and if possible they request that we leave the country, close all our churches, chapels there, and remove all the priests, that was the plan for the German-speaking countries. Against the recognition by the Pope, you have to understand, if the Pope would have recognized, that’s what they would have done… So it’s clear that many people thought: “Well, it’s not far from an agreement,” but in reality it has never been so far.

…Once again, for us, we cannot be in the hands of the bishops. It’s impossible! We see with the Society of St. Peter, Christ the King and so on, what happens to them, and I may say that’s one of the major problems for them, all their apostolate is dependent on the bishops. And with this, the bishops they can request from them what they want. And we know there are good people amongst these priests, but they are blocked. They cannot open the mouth. If they do so it’s finished, have to go. That’s why it’s one of our first major requirements that we will have our own jurisdiction of the faithful. And, amazingly, this point has been granted. Which means that our apostolate would be independent from the bishops…

What does really the Pope want? If he says that he really wants to recognize us, he cannot at the same time request from us the impossible. And we definitely, we definitely are opposed to these errors which we find in the Council. And we’re not going to say it’s OK. No! I concluded, and also, I may say with all these people who were talking to me, that most probably the Pope was ready to downgrade, at least a little bit, the Council. To say: “Yes, it is true, the Council is not infallible, so you may discuss about these difficult points,” as it seems that they said.


Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the Society of St. Pius X, waves as he arrives for an ordination ceremony in Econe, Switzerland, June 29, 2012. (CNS photo)

And so when I got this letter, this new proposal from the 13th of June, I wrote a new letter to the Pope, where I said that, I said: “Knowing, you know that we’re opposed to the Council, and nevertheless that you want to recognize us, I had to conclude that you were ready to put aside the problem.” And I gave a historical example, because it would not be the first time that that would have happened in the Church. I gave the example what happened in the decree of union with the Greeks, at the Council of Florence. At the Council of Florence, that is in the late Middle Ages, you had documents where the Church did really manage to re-unite the Greek Orthodox and the Armenians. They did! You have the decree there signed! What happened then is when the people came back to the East, to Constantinople, to Russia, they were kicked out, the people refused what they, these Patriarchs had signed. And there is one point that is very interesting with the Greek, the Greek Orthodox. There was one point where they were not able to be, to come in agreement. And it was about marriage. The Orthodox say that if a party is unfaithful in the marriage, this marriage can be annulled, can be broken. The Catholic Church says no, can’t do that. But they were not able to find an agreement, so what did they do? They made an agreement dropping the case… They just dropped it.

And so I mentioned the case, say maybe that’s what you do, you just leave the problem at the side in order to go ahead, say, well, maybe that’s what you want. And then I continued: “But now, as you put these things again, I have to conclude that I was mistaken.”

And so I write him: “Please tell us what you really think! What you want!”

I also request an audience, but of course this was not granted.

But I got a letter, an answer to that. It’s the first time the Pope does answer me, anyway, and in this letter, which is dated from the 30th June, we have these following points.

First he says: “I did agree that we change the text.” Then he said: “There are three points which you must accept, so that you will be recognized. The first is that it is the Magisterium which is the judge of what is Traditional or not.” And, well that’s true, that’s a point of Faith. But if we say yes they will use it against us, of course, so it’s dangerous. Second point: “You must accept that the Council is an integral part of Tradition.” That the Council Vatican II is traditional! Imagine! During 40 years they themselves have said the contrary. Now they say it’s traditional. And we say, “Beg your pardon?” We say, “Look at the reality!”

And the third point, we must accept that the New Mass is valid and licit. But that point I told them, “Well, we rarely use the word licit, we just simply say about the New Mass that it is evil.”

And um… that’s the situation. I say with this clarifications, things are cleared but everything is blocked…

And you come now to a curious situation, which can be a little bit confusing, which can explain also what happened recently. You have the Pope, who still, still would like to solve the problem. He can have many reasons, some good, some less good. Some good is like, for example, to repair. He did say to one of his close people, you know the Society have suffered so many injustices, so they know, you know, that they have been unjust with us. So to repair, that’s fair.

He wants to avoid a schism, he said it publicly…

Also, ecumenism is a possibility, it is trying to make easier the way for the Orthodox, because the Orthodox, they look very closely at what’s happening with us. You see there is a kind of familiarity for them, for the Orthodox, because they also want to stick to Tradition, and if the Church is not able to arrange things with their, its own tradition, the Orthodox will say, “Well, if you’re not able to do this with yourselves, you’re not going to do it with us.” So, on the contrary, you know, when the Pope greeted, or well, said, “It’s OK to say the Old Mass,” the Patriarch of Moscow said, “That’s good!” So he proved, he proved this, so to say, opening to Tradition which helped the Church…

Things are blocked. He nominated a prefect of the Congregation of the Faith who is very clearly opposed to us, and strongly opposed to us. And so in order to balance the thing, he nominated another person [Di Noia] who seems to be more open or who wants to represent the position of the Pope, which makes it a little bit messy, and so when Mueller said, you know, “There’s no discussion any more with the Society,” the Pope was very angry and he asked the Number Two to write a statement in which it is said, “No, we have to be patient with the Society, we want to continue the discussions”…

I sent three times my answer. I don’t know why it would not be official. But, just to, let’s say, relieve the pressure, they say, “No, it’s not official!” I can write it a fourth time…

The problem is in Rome, not in us. And the problem is that we have the Modernists who would like to finish the story of the Society with a condemnation, and we have some people who still hope that we’ll get to something. I frankly don’t know how it would be possible. For me, this situation now is really blocked. Really blocked…

The New Mass is leading souls into losing the Faith, into Protestantism. It’s clear, it’s a fact. I told them, I told them, “Look! It is this liturgy which is making the priests lose Faith in the Real Presence. And so many!” You know, their answer to me? They did not question the fact that priests have lost the Faith, because it’s true… And they answered to me: “No. No, no, it’s because they have been badly trained.” And in fact it’s even worse. It means their seminary was a tragedy…

So what is going to happen in the future now? I don’t know. I say, “Be ready.” Can be… excommunication. Will it really happen or not? I think so long as the Pope is alive, I hardly believe it, but… I really don’t know. If they manage to convince him that we are really against the Council, it could happen…

What is moving us is the salvation of souls. We know that going the way that the Church goes now, thousands and millions of souls get lost. That’s what we don’t want! That’s why we want the Church to come back to its Tradition. And we know that one day it will happen — how, when, this is really not in our hands. We have to do our job, our duty. The rest is in the hands of God…

We have many enemies, many enemies… Who was the most opposed that the Church would recognize the Society? The enemies of the Church. The Jews, the Masons, the [Modernists]!… What did they say to Rome? They said, “You must oblige these people to accept Vatican II.”

That’s also very interesting, isn’t it? People from outside the Church, who clearly during centuries were enemies of the Church, say to Rome, if you want to accept these people, you must oblige them to accept the Council. Isn’t that interesting? Oh, it is! I think it’s fantastic! Because it shows that Vatican II is their thing! Not the Church’s — they see, the enemies of the Church see their benefit in the Council. Very interesting! And so, I may say that’s the kind of argument we’re going to use with Rome. Trying to make them reflect… trying to make them reflect…

We are Catholics and we have a right to that label. But that does not mean that we are going to change ourself to get it! No… we know that this tradition is the future of the Church. And so we must work that it comes back. Do what we can. We see that the influence of the tradition is gaining… We are, we are making our point, little by little…


“One condition”
“We are glad to be recognized by the Church. But there is one condition. And this condition is that we are accepted as we are”


At a certain moment, towards the end of winter, you see on the trees new buds, they just come out. It’s a little thing there. When you see that, you know, spring will come… And now we have a very, very, delicate moment. These buds, they have a certain time they have to come out. If they come out too quickly, they might be frozen, and the new flowers will be demolished. That’s why we have to be very, very prudent, before having these buds come out… I may say, that’s precisely where we are now. We don’t want to demolish what we have done for 30-40 years. That would be crazy, so we want to be, and we are certainly prudent.

We’re still in the fight, that’s all. And continue to pray, to pray the Blessed Virgin Mary; pray the Rosary!… We must continue to defend the Faith. Not change. We have nothing to change. The Faith is above time, what was true is true, and will be true… One day the Lord will put again order in His Church. We must not forget that. It’s His Church, and He remains the boss. Our Lord is the boss. He’s in control. This sometimes we forget…And so, well, in conclusion, the fight continues…

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