Friends and Benefactors,
The motu proprio Summorum
Pontificum, which acknowledged that the Tridentine Mass
was never abrogated, raises a certain number of questions concerning
the future of the relations of the Society of St. Pius X with
Rome. Several persons in conservative circles and in Rome itself
have made themselves heard, arguing that, since the Sovereign
Pontiff had acted so generously and thus given a clear sign
of his good will towards us, there would be nothing left for
the Society to do but to “sign an agreement with Rome.” Unfortunately,
a few of our friends were deceived by such an illusion. We would
like to take the opportunity of this Eastertide letter to review
once again the principles governing our actions in these troubled
times and point out a few recent events which clearly indicate
that, basically, nothing has really changed except for the motu
proprio’s liturgical overture, so as to draw from all this
the necessary conclusions.
The fundamental principle
that dictates our action is the safeguard of the faith, without
which no one can be saved, no one can receive grace, no one
can be pleasing to God, as the First Vatican Council states.
The liturgical question is not paramount; it only becomes such
inasmuch as it is the manifestation of an alteration of the
faith and, consequently, of the worship due to God.
A notable change of orientation
took place at Vatican II with regard to the Church’s outlook,
especially on the world, other religions, the State, and even
itself. These changes have been acknowledged by all, yet not
all judged them in the same way. Until now, they were presented
as being very profound, even revolutionary. One cardinal at
the Council could even speak of “the 1789 Revolution in the
While still a cardinal,
Benedict XVI phrased it thus: “The challenge of the sixties
was to assimilate the best values expressed in two centuries
of ‘liberal’ culture. These are values which, even if they originate
outside the Church, can find a place, once purified and corrected,
in her vision of the world. This is what was done. 1”
In the name of this assimilation, a new vision of the world
and its components was imposed: a fundamentally positive vision,
which dictated not only a new liturgical rite, but also a new
mode of presence of the Church in the world: much more horizontal,
and more concerned about social and temporal problems than those
of a supernatural and eternal character...
At the same time, the Church’s
relationship with the other religions underwent a transformation.
Since Vatican II, Rome has avoided any negative or depreciatory
observations about other religions. For example, the classic
term of “false religions” has completely disappeared from ecclesiastical
vocabulary. The words “heretic” and “schismatic,” which used
to designate the religions closer to the Catholic Church, have
also disappeared, except when they are occasionally employed,
especially the term “schismatic,” to label us. The same holds
true for the term “excommunication.” The new approach is called
ecumenism, and contrary to what everyone used to think, it does
not mean a return to Catholic unity, but rather the establishment
of a new kind of unity that no longer requires conversion.
are considered under a new light, and this is especially clear
for the Orthodox. In the Balamand Declaration, the Catholic
Church officially pledged herself to not convert the Orthodox
and to collaborate with them. The dogma “outside the Church
there is no salvation,” recalled in the document Dominus
Jesus, underwent a reinterpretation for the sake of the
new vision of things. They could not keep this dogma without
broadening the limits of the Church, and this was accomplished
by the new definition of the Church given in Lumen Gentium.
The Church of Christ is no longer the Catholic Church,
it subsists in her. They may say that it subsists only
in her, but the fact remains that they claim that the Holy
Ghost and this “Church of Christ” act outside the Catholic Church.
The other religions are not without elements of salvation...
The “Orthodox Churches” become authentic particular churches
in which “the Church of Christ” is built.
Obviously, these new views
completely disrupted the Church’s relations with the other religions.
It is impossible to speak of a superficial change; for what
they want to impose on the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ is
a new and very profound mutation. John Paul II consequently
was able to speak of a “new ecclesiology,” admitting an essential
change in the part of the theology that treats of the Church.
We simply cannot understand how they can claim that this new
understanding of the Church is still in harmony with the traditional
definition of the Church. It is new; it is radically different
and obliges the Catholic to observe a fundamentally different
behavior towards the heretics and schismatics, who have tragically
abandoned the Church and scorned the faith of their baptism.
From now on they are no longer “separated brethren,” but brothers
who “are not in full communion”... and we are “deeply united”
by baptism in Christ in an “inamissible” 2
union. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s latest
clarification of the word “subsistit” is very revealing
on this point. Even as it states that the Church cannot teach
novelty, it confirms the novelty introduced at the Council...
Likewise for evangelization:
the sacred duty of every Christian to respond to our Lord Jesus
Christ’s command is at first upheld: “He that believeth and
is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall
be condemned” (Mk. 16: 15-16). But then it is alleged that
this evangelization only concerns the pagans, so that neither
Christians nor Jews need be bothered. Very recently Cardinals
Kasper and Bertone, addressing the controversy over the new
prayer for the Jews, stated that the Church has no intention
of converting them.
Add to this the pope’s positions
on religious liberty, and we can easily conclude that the combat
for the faith has not slackened over these last few years. The
motu proprio that introduces the hope of a change for
the better in matters liturgical is not accompanied by the logically
related measures that should follow in other domains of the
Church’s life. All the changes introduced at the Council and
in the post-conciliar reforms, which we denounce precisely because
the Church had already condemned them, have been upheld. The
only difference is that now they claim at the same time that
the Church does not change... which amounts to saying that these
changes are perfectly in line with Catholic Tradition. This
confusion of terminology combined with the assertion that the
Church must remain faithful to her Tradition might well be troubling
to more than a few. So long as facts do not corroborate this
new assertion, we must conclude that nothing has changed in
Rome’s intention to pursue the conciliar course despite forty
years of crisis, despite vacant convents, abandoned rectories,
and empty churches. Catholic universities persist in their divagations,
and the teaching of the catechism is uncertain while Catholic
schools are no longer specifically Catholic: they have become
an extinct species...
For these reasons the Priestly
Society of St. Pius X cannot sign an “agreement.” It definitely
rejoices at the pope’s desire to reintroduce the ancient and
venerable rite of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, yet it also
observes the opposition— sometimes very tenacious—of entire
bishops’ conferences. Without giving up hope and without impatience,
we can see that the time for an agreement has not yet come.
This does not prevent us from continuing to hope, nor from following
the line of conduct defined in the year 2000. We are still asking
the Holy Father to annul the 1988 decree of excommunication
because we are convinced that this would be a boon for the Church,
and we encourage you to pray for this to happen. But it would
be very imprudent and hasty to dash off ill-advisedly in pursuit
of a practical agreement that would not be based on the Church’s
fundamental principles, and especially the faith.
The new Rosary Crusade we
have invited you to join, to pray that the Church recover and
resume her bimillennial Tradition, calls for some clarification.
This is how we envision it: let everyone pledge to recite daily
a rosary at a fairly fixed time of day. Given the number of
our faithful and their distribution throughout the whole world,
we can be assured that at every hour of the day and night prayerful
voices will be ascending to heaven, voices earnestly praying
for the triumph of their heavenly Mother and the coming of the
reign of our Lord “on earth as it is in heaven.”
April 14, 2008
+ Bernard Fellay
Menzingen, April 14, 2008