Interview with Mgr Bernard FELLAY, Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X

We will perhaps be at Sinai in the year 2000... but on the side of the God of armies and of wrath.


Fideliter: The Priestly Society of Saint Pius X is going to celebrate its twenty fifth year. For what do you give the most heartfelt thanks? What do you ask in particular from God for the year 2000?

Mgr. Fellay: The most important thing is the faith preserved and clearly explained in the Mass.

The foremost thanksgiving? I would have to say simply: the Church preserved. Without that we may take ourselves for the Church, we notice in the history of the Fraternity a visible sign of this preservation... By it people are even coming to identify Church Tradition with the Society of Saint Pius X.

What is necessary for the year 2000? Faithfulness in guarding the deposit of the faith, the "despositum custodi" of which Saint Paul speaks. It is a question not only of transmitting it to our own but equally of communicating it to others. To see to it that they find, in its integrity, Catholic tradition for the salvation of their souls and ours.


Neither Frightened, Nor Weary, Thank You!

Fideliter: One and a half years after having been elected Superior General of the Society at Econe, do you feel yourself, Monseigneur, frightened, crushed by your task or, on the contrary, confident, happy?

Mgr. Fellay: Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini! The hope of the assistance of Heaven is founded on the promises of the Good God. I fill an office which at each instant, exceeds human capacity. In spite of that, I have more confidence than fear. Mgr. Lefebvre had the heaviest task. The same fight continues but the principles by which we live in the present circumstances, have been established by him. The most difficult will have been of venturing the first step of reaction against conciliar Rome. My concern, to me, is of gaining more influence for the Society, in order to help Tradition to progress in its entirety. Now, there are so many factors, other than personal, which enter into the reckoning. No, I feel myself neither frightened, nor weary. Not yet, thank you!


The Government Governs At Menzingen

Fideliter: Does the office of Superior General consist principally in dealing with the dossiers at Menzingen? To receive there, emissaries, priests, the faithful. Or indeed, to travel the world visiting districts and priories?

Mgr. Fellay: The essential task is to govern. The government governs here at Menzingen.

To govern, it is necessary to know the positions. That demands that colleagues inform, establish links. Beside the study of the files, the journeys are irreplaceable. The Superior General does a little of all that but to various degrees, and without impenetrable barriers between the different activities of government.

Furthermore, the Superior General is not alone: the regional Council(1) helps him in his decisions, as well as the district Superiors for their district.

Finally, it is not so much a question of innovating as of making the constitutions of our Society live. And here, the writings, the teachings, the example of Mgr. Lefebvre, as well as the practical experience of his first successor, are invaluable guides.

(1) The regional Council of the SSPX is constituted, besides the Superior General, of two assistants (Fathers Schmidberger and Aulagnier), with a general Secretary (Mgr Tissier de Mallerais) and with a general Bursar (Father Laisney).


Tradition Is Intensifying Slowly But Surely

Fideliter: Can an appraisal of the Society be established? What is the respective share of the progress or the decline, of the hopes or of the fears?

Mgr. Fellay: Our progress, though continuing, is not absolutely equal from year to year. There are some periods more fruitful than others. However, since the foundation of the Society, our global curve has never been negative in any sphere.

One example: 1995 remains, as regards vocations, a minor year in Europe but for the whole of our international seminaries we have registered 50 admissions, figure to compare this to the highest ever attained, which was 67 on two occasions, and to the most modest of the first years.

The big leap concerns teaching. Today we are in charge of 60 schools, particularly primary, but also secondary. We administered 5 in 1982.

It is the same in all spheres, as the table below, which we have drawn up on the occasion of the twenty-fifth year, shows.

Tradition is slowly intensifying, not in a spectacular way, but solidly. Remember that in 1994, the general Chapter of the Society had chosen stabilisation as a policy rather than progression: "to strengthen what exists", was called for in the most explicit manner.

A Society Which is Growing Each Day




















Retreat Houses



Religious of the Society



Oblates of the Society




Not Hindered By The Society Of Saint-Peter, Except...

Fideliter: Has the existence of the Society of Saint Peter reduced your development potential?

Mgr. Fellay: It is certain that because of the Society of Saint Peter, certain vocations are not directed towards our seminaries. One dozen perhaps? A small number in fact.

I am not sure, however, that in the hypothesis where the Society of Saint Peter had not existed, these seminarians would all have entered our seminaries.

The Society of Saint Pius X does not feel itself hindered by the Society of Saint Peter. Except, perhaps, in some places where the priests of this last have been assigned, apparently because we were strongly established there.

Without wishing to speak of competition with regard to us, let us remark that their apostolate extends in practice only where we are already established, except perhaps in the USA.

But in fact, we do not occupy ourselves much with them.


Some Rather Young Newcomers

Fideliter: On a world scale, do the aged priests, who remained faithful to Tradition, find relief for their parishes?

Mgr. Fellay: The veterans are dying out little by little. We are often receiving their heritage, which is asking for priests and new establishments.

Aside from this old guard, still numerous enough happily, some newcomers, rather young priests, come to us from just about everywhere. May they join the Society, may they work with us.

It is a movement towards Tradition which, in the present circumstances, can still become a little more marked. I do not believe, however, that it will become for all that a notable phenomenon. I want to say: I do not think that we will soon be faced with a massive influx of external priests, coming back to Tradition.

However, it must be made clear: "in the present circumstances." Because if Rome continues and expands its unfortunate initiatives, then the situation may change...

The ecumenical ceremonies forecast for the year 2000, for example, is profoundly disconcerting to the faithful, especially in Latin countries, and is making numerous priests feel ill at ease. When it happens, it may trigger off a significant return to Tradition.


A Bishop With Us

Fideliter: And still no bishop has joined you, not even one who has reached the age of retirement?

Mgr. Fellay: Yes! One bishop in the Philippines has publicly demonstrated his attachment to Tradition, in abandoning the new Mass, and his approbation of the Society in coming to celebrate in accordance with the tridentine rite in our Church in Manila.

Mgr. Lazo, 78 years, is a highly skilled bishop (retired) from San Fernando de la Union, in the Philippines. We are awaiting his visit to Menzingen. Some other bishops encourage us also, with private support, having said to us, "I, myself, am not courageous."

However, we do not give up hope of "awakening" someone.


We Await More Vocations

Fideliter: Why so few vocations? Is it necessary to call the methods of the seminaries into question?

Mgr. Fellay: Certainly not! The problem is to bring candidates to the starting block. And with a satisfactory standard of general education which many are missing because of the general decline of society. In the way of reforms, we are considering making a preparatory year on entrance to the seminary. So as to provide some people with a knowledge of Latin, grammar and even religious instruction which they are lacking.

Certainly, the lengthening of studies might be a first test, but if the candidate truly has a vocation, he will come out of it strengthened.

Why so few vocations? you ask me. The question is not resolved. There are in answer a number of elements: they are not absolutely decisive. So we may wait for more vocations from our schools.

The evil of the modern epoch is the lack of decisiveness, of taking responsibility. We suffer also because young people often have difficulty in making a decision; are afraid of a definite commitment, for life.

In any case, as Our Lord says, it is God who sends vocations, and it is above all by prayer that we obtain them. That is why we have launched, especially in France for several years, a crusade of prayers for vocations.


At Rome, It Is Always The Council

Fideliter: For the Society there is no doubt at all, the salute will come one day, from Rome. Are the feelings of the Vatican becoming more favourable to Tradition? On your side, are you making overtures?

Mgr. Fellay: I do not know what Rome, the Pope, the Cardinals truly think, but I detect a slight shift towards us, towards the defence of Tradition. It seems to me that Rome is beginning to think a little in our way. Our steady development is certainly one of the motives, but not the only one. I believe that the anarchy instigated by the progressives could be there for a reason. On our side, we keep an extreme prudence. Why? Because the position of the Vatican has not fundamentally changed. It is always the Council and this time in the light of Assisi, of the interreligious meeting of Assisi.

It is true that one hears lamentations on the part of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, for example: "It's a pity that all this energy, this strength of the Society of Saint Pius X could not be at the service of the Church!" However, up to now, the facts and the gestures of the Vatican have not convinced me that Rome may be truly willing to do something in favour of Tradition.

Fideliter: Has a good wishes message not reached you from Rome on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Society? That would have been a good way of renewing the dialogue!

Mgr. Fellay: What do you think? Officially, we no longer exist for conciliar Rome.


Some Contacts, Nothing More

Fideliter: Yet, Rome ensures the ordinations of traditional seminarians who have been won over.

Mgr. Fellay: Some traditionalists who have had to take all the medicine... They were made to accept, in principle, all the reforms: the new Mass, religious liberty, ecumenism, the new catechism, even if they are still permitted to criticize the extreme consequences of the "abuse". It is what Rome would like to do also with us.

However, there are some periodical, personal, contacts with prelates, bishops, but that is not going very far.

In 1994, Cardinal Cassidy, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, declared: "The Society is an internal affair of the Church. It is not another Church in the sense used by the ecumenical board of directors.

The cardinal recognized in this way that we are not a strange sect of the Roman Catholic Church, but indeed one of its branches. We clearly belong to the Church, in spite of those who would wish for our exclusion.

But, for the moment, there are no regular negotiations with Rome.


We Are Refusing To Attend

Fideliter: Does the Society envisage "strong action" in the case where new reforms in the conciliar spirit would play a part?

Mgr. Fellay: It is to be expected. With the setting in place of the programme for the celebration of the year 2000, it is necessary to be prepared for some rather lively reactions on our part.

The form of these reactions? That will depend. In reality all will be decided on rapidly, at the last minute, according to concrete circumstances. What will the Pope do? What attitude will the bishops take?

Our actual battle consists in a radical opposition to several Roman documents and to their practical consequences. While saluting with joy certain reminders of doctrine and of traditional morality (condemnation of the ordination of women, of abortion, of euthanasia), and we are often almost the only ones to do it, we protest with vehemence against the programme announced for the jubilee celebration of the year 2000. We are refusing to attend.

I am not saying: "We will be at Sinai", but if we are there, it will be on the side of the God jealous of His glory, of the God of the celestial armies and of wrath, who manifested Himself there to the rebellious Jews, in the time of Moses!


Self-Satisfaction Is Not Catholic

Fideliter: Henceforth, a traditional Catholic baptised in the Society receives catechism there, studies there, marries there, receives the sacraments and dies there without any more contact with the official Church. Is there not a danger of withdrawal into himself?

Mgr. Fellay: It is an altogether objective danger, the natural inclination of fallen human nature. It is necessary to turn away from it. Self-satisfaction is, very simply, not Catholic. Each Catholic must be an apostle at his level. We must all wish that Catholic Tradition will triumph at Rome and in the whole Church. As long as Tradition has not been fully restored we do not have the right to come to a standstill. The Society of Saint Pius X will be missionary or it will disappear.


A Fight For Life...Supernatural Life

Fideliter: Clearly, in the "fight for life" the Society has stayed rather in the background. Is it not the occasion for widening our circle?

Mgr. Fellay: The fight for life is good, it is important. But it is used by some people to attempt a mixture which we reject and which risks leading to religious indifferentism.

We have before our eyes the example of communists who, in the name of "unity in action", attempt to regain some movements. One finishes, in the case of the defence of life, by deviating from the essential. It is not our niche. The mission of the Society is the defence of the faith and of the supernatural life.

After that, the laity, solidly armed with doctrine as Saint Pius X says, can (and must) direct the fight on a political and social level, for the reign of Christ the King.


The Signal Beacon of Tradition

Fideliter: You spoke, Monseigneur, of a missionary Society. The sending of priests to Albania, to the Ukraine, to Sri Lanka, does it not compromise the return to Tradition of regions of the world where Catholics are much more in the majority?

Mgr. Fellay: We cannot remain deaf to the call of Catholic souls. They receive however only the crumbs which fall from the table... The basic essentials of our work are situated in the ancient Christian regions.

Our visits in the regions disinherited on the religious level do some good: without allowing that they make the episcopal conferences tremble.

It is not our first activity but it is important as a signal beacon for Catholic Tradition.


Truth Is A Jealous Queen

Fideliter: The face of Mgr. Lefebvre grows fainter. Do you feel the necessity of renewing some of his "approches" according to the development of the situation?

Mgr. Fellay: In rereading some viewpoints, sermons, conferences of Monseigneur, one is struck by their topicality. His perception of the practical consequences following some principles adopted at the Council is extraordinary. As if he had seen exactly!

This does not, however, rule out that new problems are appearing suddenly to which we must reply in the same well-plotted vein. All will depend on the famous plan 2000.

1996 is still the ante-preparation, as the encyclical Tertio Millenio Adveniente says, the "preliminary to the preparation" phase. But the danger draws near at full speed, and we must prepare ourselves for it.

From now on we must warn the faithful of the grave danger of indifferentism, a word which implies an equality of all religions, at least the Christian ones. Until the year 2000, I am persuaded that that is the point upon which it will be necessary to fight. The truth is a jealous queen with her exclusive rights. In that case, let us espouse jealousy.

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