Letter of Bishop Fellay
to Cardinal Castrillon
Most Eminent Lord,
It is with my eyes fixed on the Sacred Heart, whose feast we celebrate
today according to his own desire, that I implore, of His mercy,
that it might deign to impregnate the lines that follow with His
light and His charity.
The Jesuit, Bishop Pierre Henrici, at the time secretary of Communio,
said in a conference on the development of the Council that at Vatican
II two theological traditions, that are deep down incomprehensible
to one another, entered into collision.
Your letter of May 7 caused me similar sentiments of incomprehension
and of disappointment.
We have the impression that you are trying to force us to make
a choice: either we are to enter into full communion, and then we
must be silent concerning the great evils that afflict the Church,
that is in the absence of a golden cage, we must accept a muzzle;
or we are to stay "outside".
We refuse to be forced to chose between each of these alternatives.
On the one hand, we have never left the Church. On the other hand,
our present situation that is, without a doubt, uncomfortable, is
not the effect of any culpable action on our part, but the consequence
of a disastrous situation in the Church, against which we have striven,
as far as we could, to protect ourselves. The various decisions
made by Archbishop Lefebvre were dictated by the determination to
not lose the Catholic Faith and to survive in the midst of a universal
rout that involves even Rome. We call this a "state of necessity".
If we desire to advance beyond the deadlock to which your letter
leads, we must change rather profoundly the perspectives, the questions
to be asked.
In effect, for Your Eminence:
- We have broken communion.
- The reasons that we give to justify our actions, and in particular
the episcopal consecrations, are entirely insufficient. For since
the Church is holy and the Magisterium is always assisted by the
Holy Ghost, the deficiencies that we complain about either do
not exist or are simply limited abuses. Our problem comes from
the fact that our vision of the Churchs history and crises
is much too fixed and limited, preventing us from understanding
the homogenous evolution brought about by the Council and the
subsequent Magisterium, necessitated by different adaptations
to todays world.
- Rome has been exceedingly generous in offering us the structure
that was proposed to us. It would be abusive for us to ask for
more, and even perhaps injurious towards the Holy See in these
circumstances in which Rome took the initiative. No preliminary
can be granted, and especially not the Mass, for it would cause
trouble in the Church.
It seems to me possible to affirm, from our point of view, that,
following Popes Pius XII and Paul VI, the Church is presently in
a literally apocalyptic condition. It cannot be denied that the
dysfunction of the Catholic hierarchy Cardinal Seper said
"the crisis of the Church is a crisis of bishops"
omissions, silences, deceptions, tolerance of errors, and
even of positively destructive acts even in the Curia, and unfortunately
even in the Vicar of Christ. These are public facts that can be
seen by ordinary men.
The affirmation of the existence of these facts is not in contradiction
with the Faith in the holiness of the Church, nor in the assistance
of the Holy Ghost. But here we draw near to the mystery of the Church,
of the joining together and coordination of the divine and human
elements in the Mystical Body. In order to remain with the truth
of the reality we must hold just as much to the affirmations of
Faith as to the acknowledgement of the facts.
The First Vatican Council, in the affirmation of the infallibility
of the Sovereign Pontiff, explicitly gave the limits to the assistance
of the Holy Ghost:
"The Holy Ghost was not promised to the successors of
Peter that by His revelation they might disclose new doctrine,
but that by His help they might guard sacredly the revelation
transmitted through the apostles and the deposit of Faith, and
might faithfully set it forth." (Db 1836 in The Sources
of Catholic Dogma, p. 456).
Obviously, we adhere with our whole heart to the paragraphs of
Pastor Aeternus [Vatican I Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of
Christ; Ed.] that follow, as well as to Dei filius
[Vatican I Dogmatic Constitution concerning the Catholic Faith;
But it is precisely here that we draw closest to the heart of
the present mystery. For it is in this regard that can be found
the novelties of the new theology, that were condemned by the Church
under Pius XII, and that were introduced into Vatican II. How can
we explain that the Councils great names, its expert theologians,
were all sanctioned under Pius XII? De Lubac, Congar, Rahner, Courtney-Murray,
Dom Beaudoin (who died just before the Council), and to go back
a little further Blondel, Teilhard de Chardin...
They would have us believe today that these novelties are but
a development in conformity with the past. They were already condemned,
at least in their principles. Cardinal Ratzinger himself called
Gaudium et spes a counter-Syllabus. (Theologishce
Prinzipienlehre, p. 398, Erich Wewel Verlag, Muchen, 1982). We have
therefore necessarily to make a choice.
To make these doctrines acceptable, it is not enough that they
were afterwards approved by a Council that chose not to be dogmatic.
The seal of a vote does not transform an error into infallible truth.
In fact we have only to read Msgr. Felicis response to the
Council on the question of its own infallibility (Notification of
November 16, 1964, DH 4350 4351).
Furthermore, the problem of the Council is not primarily one of
individual interpretations. It comes as well from its lack of precision
in the use of terms, and its willful ambiguities (as one of the
Councils experts said), that make several differing interpretations
possible. It also comes from certain interpretations given by the
Holy See itself. If one were to follow the Holy Sees own directions,
one would end up with Assisi, in the synagogue or the sacred forests
of Togo (Pope John Paul II, Audience of August 22, 1986: "Seeing
Assisi in the light of the Council").
How does one explain in the light of the Catholic Faith this key
phrase of John Paul IIs theology, that clarifies many passages
that would otherwise have been incomprehensible: "man is
the path of the Church" (in the light of which this passage
from Gaudium et spes §22 can be understood: "For,
by his incarnation, he, the Son of God, has in a certain way united
himself with each man" Cf. Flannery, Vatican Council II,
p. 953; Ed.)
"In the Holy Ghost each person and each people have
become, by the cross and the resurrection of Christ, children
of God, participating in the divine nature, and heirs of everlasting
life" (John Paul II, Message to the peoples of Asia,
February 21, 1981, DOC 1894, March 15, 1981, 281).
A Magisterium that contradicts the teaching of the past (for example,
between todays ecumenism and Mortalium animos) is a
Magisterium that contradicts itself (See the Joint Declaration
on Justification and the preceding note from Cardinal Cassidy,
where is to be found the condemnation and the praise of the term
"sister churches") here lies the painful
This crisis in the Magisterium constitutes a problem that it is
practically impossible to resolve practically.
How are we supposed to have the discernment necessary to distinguish
between that which truly belongs to the Magisterium and that which
only gives the appearance of doing so?
Moreover, the nightmare concerns also the Curia and the residential
bishops. Here are two very recent examples, taken from a thousand.
Was Bishop Tauran faithful to the Catholic Faith when he declared
in the Philippines on June 4, 2001:
"It would be erroneous to consider the faithful believer
of another religion as someone to be converted. He is rather someone
to be understood, leaving to God the role of enlightening his
conscience. Different religions ought not to enter into competition
with one another, but should rather be like brothers and sisters
who walk hand in hand to construct the channels of brotherhood,
building up a good world in which it is possible to live and to
Did Cardinal Kasper express the Catholic Faith, and was he faithful
to Saint John, to Saint Paul, and to Our Lord Himself, when he declared
in New York:
"The old theory of substitution is no longer relevant
since the Second Vatican Council. For we, todays christians,
the alliance with the Jewish people is a living heritage
cannot be a simple coexistence between two testaments. Jews and
christians, by their respective specific identities, are intimately
bound to one another. The Church believes that Judaism, that is
to say the faithful response of the Jewish people to Gods
irrevocable covenant, has the effect of saving them, for God is
faithful to his promises"?
However, the first of these is a close collaborator of the Pope,
and the second a prince of the Church, recently honored by receiving
the purple Cardinals biretta, becoming an elector of the future
Vicar of Christ. It is impossible to be in communion with them.
They no longer have the Faith.
We could quote dozens and dozens of statements of bishops that
are equally shocking. What are we to do when the guardians of the
Faith fail? Are we to follow them blindly? Do they not merit the
same descriptions that Saint Catherine of Sienna used for certain
prince of the Church of her time?
Such declarations do not place us in the good graces of the Holy
See. However, we have much more serious concerns. Thousands and
millions of Catholic faithful are losing the Faith and damning themselves
on account of Romes failures, this is our concern.
"Quicumque vult salvus esse, ante omnia opus est, ut
teneat catholicam fidem: nisi quisque integram inviolatamque servaverit,
absque dubio in aeternum peribit. Whoever wishes to be
saved, needs above all to hold the Catholic Faith; unless each
one preserves this whole and inviolate, he will without a doubt
perish in eternity." (Athanasian Creed, Ds 75; The Sources
of Catholic Dogma, p. 15).
A distinction must be made between Rome and Rome. This is what
we strive to do.
Pius XIIs words, while yet Secretary of State for Pius IX,
ring loud in our ears:
"Suppose, my dear friend, that communism is only the
most visible of the organs of subversion against the Church and
against the Tradition of divine Revelation. Then, we are going
to see the invasion of everything that is spiritual: philosophy,
science, law, teaching, the arts, the press, literature, the theater
and religion. I am obsessed by the Virgins words, that she
entrusted to the little Lucia of Fatima. Our Heavenly Mothers
standing up against the danger that threatens the Church is a
divine warning against the suicide that an alteration of the Faith
would mean to its liturgy, its theology and its soul
I hear around me those fascinated with novelties who would
like to dismantle the Sacred Chapel, destroy the Churchs
universal flame, reject its vestments, and make it regret its
historical past. Well, my dear friend, it is my conviction that
the Church of Peter must assume its past, or it will dig its tomb.
the day will come when the civilized world will deny
its God, when the Church will doubt as Peter doubted. It will
be tempted to believe that man has become God, that His Son is
only a symbol, a philosophy as so many others, and in the Churches
Catholics will seek in vain for the red lamp where God wait for
them." (Mgr. Roche and P. Saint Germain; Pie XII devant
lhistoire, pp. 52 & 53).
Paul VI said, in effect, to his friend Jean Guitton, that there
is in the Church a type of thinking that is non-Catholic, and that
although it is possible that it may become prevalent, it will never
be the Catholic Church (Jean Guitton, Paul VI secret).
Faced with this catastrophe, how are the faithful supposed to
react? Is it permissible for them to react? We follow quite simply
the counsel given by Saint Vincent of Lérins in his Commonitorium
What will the Catholic Christian do if some part of the Church
happens to separate itself from the communion of the universal
Faith? What other position could he hold than to prefer the body
as a whole, which is healthy, to the gangrenous and putrid member.
And if some new contagion were to try to poison not only a small
part of the Church, but the entire Church at the same time? Then
still, his great concerns will be to attach himself to antiquity,
which, quite obviously cannot be seduced by any lying novelty."
These are the questions that are to be considered if we are to
try and find a solution. We are but a clear sign of the terrible
tragedy that the Church is presently suffering, perhaps the most
terrible of all until now, for it is not just one dogma, but all
dogmas that are attacked, and this from the pontifical universities
themselves down to the desks of elementary schools.
The liturgical problem is rather similar. The furthermore, the
faithful are obliged to take it upon themselves to find an appropriate
liturgy. They can no longer simply go to the parish. This is a fact
that does not just affect traditional Catholics.
Hence the great transformation in the Catholic world, at least
in the old world. Parish life has fallen apart. The growth of ecclesial
movements is due in large part to the fact that the faithful no
longer find in their parishes the nourishment of which they are
in need to live the life of Faith and of grace. The New Mass is
not without responsibility in this phenomenon.
We cannot sweep this gigantic problem under the carpet. We desire
to work without our whole heart and our whole soul for the restoration
of the Church. However, we cannot simply pretend that all is well,
and that these are but questions of detail.
We are ready to explain our Faith to Rome, but we cannot call
that which is evil good, nor that which is good evil.
May Your Eminence deign to excuse the length of this letter, and
the generality of certain statements that ought to have been much
better backed up. We are entirely willing to continue this work,
if Rome desires it
We desire to remain Catholic, we desire to conserve our entire
Faith, without abandoning anything. This is the cause of our combat,
of our sufferings, and of the opposition that we meet with. We are
convinced that we cause no evil to the Church by doing this, even
if appearances speak against us.
May Your Eminence kindly accept the expression of our devout and
religious affection in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary,
from the Cardinal's Letter to Bishop Fellay
- 7th May 2001
"We have carefully considered the two conditions that you[r]
request for the return: the permission for all priests to be able
to freely celebrate the Mass of St. Pius V and the lifting of
the excommunication that hangs over you...
"With respect to the first condition, a certain number of
cardinals, bishops and faithful believe that such a permission
ought not to be granted
for such a permission could create
a confusion in the minds of many people who would understand it
as depreciating the value of the Holy Mass as it is celebrated
in todays Church. It is certain that in the statutes of
your reinsertion, you would be offered every guaranty that the
Societys members, and all those who have a special attraction
to this noble liturgical tradition, could celebrate it freely
in your churches and places of worship. You could likewise celebrate
it in other churches, with the permission of the Ordinary of the
"With respect to the second condition; the Holy Father has
the clear intention of granting it at the time that your return