Interview with Bishop Bernard Fellay, Menzingen, November 2013
In this climate of confusion, restore the Church through the Mass
This interview was recorded on video by the website www.dici.org. The following is an English translation of the complete transcription, in which the spoken style has been maintained.
The arrival of a new pope
The arrival of a new pope can be rather like resetting our odometers to zero. Especially with a pope who distinguishes himself from his predecessors by his way of acting, speaking, and intervening and makes quite a contrast. This can cause people to forget the preceding pontificate, and that is what has happened somewhat. At least at the level of certain conservative or reforming lines marked out by Pope Benedict XVI. It is certain that the first interventions of the pope have caused a lot of haziness and even almost a contradiction, at any rate a contrast in relation to those reforming lines.
One example: the Franciscans of the Immaculate
In their spirituality they follow the guidelines of Father Maximilian Kolbe.
This is very interesting, because Maximilian Kolbe desires a combat for the Immaculata, a combat by the Immaculata, the victory of God over the enemies of God—we really can use that term—namely the Freemasons. It is very interesting to see that. This combat against the world, against the spirit of the world made them close to us, almost by nature, one could say, because to enlist in a combat against the world implies the Cross somewhere. That implies the eternal principles of the Church: what is called the Christian spirit. This Christian spirit is expressed magnificently in the old Mass, in the Tridentine Mass. So that when Benedict XVI published his Motu Proprio, which once again made the Mass widely available, that congregation decided in their Chapter, in other words a decision by the whole congregation, to return to the old Mass, and really to do so across the board, realizing that they would have a lot of problems since they have parishes, but that nevertheless these problems were not insurmountable. A few of them also began to pose certain questions about the Council.
As a result, some malcontents, a handful if you consider the number of them (there are around 300 priests and brothers in all), maybe a dozen protested to Rome, saying “They are trying to impose the old Mass on us, they are attacking the Council.” This provoked a very strong reaction on the part of Rome, already during the pontificate of Benedict XVI—it is necessary to make that clear. Nevertheless, the conclusions, the disciplinary measures were taken under Pope Francis. These include, among others, the prohibition against celebrating the old Mass for all the members, with a few exceptions and permissions, possibly, here or there…. This is directly contrary to the Motu Proprio, which spoke about a right, that the priests had the right to celebrate the old Mass and therefore there was no need for permission, either from the ordinary or even from the Holy See. Therefore that is quite shocking; obviously this is a signal.
A new approach by the Church
“We’re closing the parenthesis.” This is the slogan used by several progressives at the coming of Pope Francis. I think that in any case, for those who are called progressives, it was what they wanted. In other words, after the pontificate of Benedict XVI, they wanted to consign to oblivion his pontificate and its initiatives which had the intention of reestablishing, for better or for worse, the situation by a few corrections—is it possible to say “restoration?” In part, at any rate, there was at least a desire to get the Church out of the disaster in which she finds herself.
The new pope arrives with different positions, attacking almost everything. Everyone understood: Benedict XVI is forgotten! It was useless to say: “But no! This is the same combat, Benedict and Francis, the same combat!” Obviously, the attitude is not the same at all. The approach, the definition of the problems that affect the Church is not the same! This idea of introducing reforms that are even more extensive than anything that has been done thus far. In any case, you don’t get the impression that they will just be cosmetic, these reforms of Pope Francis!
Then how will this affect the Church? It is very difficult to say.
A climate of confusion
The coming of a new pope makes people forget (what preceded him), as though starting over from zero, with a lot of surprises, a lot of offenses, too, because by his words he has irritated almost everyone, not just us, but all conservatives in general. On questions of morality, he has taken astonishing positions, for example that question about homosexuals: “Who am I to judge?” “Well, the pope, for one thing!” He is the supreme judge here on earth. Therefore if there is someone who can judge, who must judge and set forth God’s law to the world, he is certainly the one! What the pope thinks personally does not interest us; what we expect from him is that he be the voice of Christ and therefore the voice of God, who repeats to us what God has said! And God did not say, “Who am I to judge?” He really said something else: you see, the condemnations that we find in the writings of Saint Paul, and not just those of the Old Testament—think of Sodom and Gomorrah—are very explicit. Saint Paul and the Apocalypse speak very forcefully against that whole unnatural crowd. Therefore expressions like that, even if they have been “explained correctly” later on, give the impression that on many topics everything and the opposite of everything has been said. This creates a climate of confusion; people are thrown off balance: they necessarily expect clarity about morals, and even more about the faith; the two are connected. Faith and morals are the two points that the Church teaches and where infallibility can be invoked, and all at once we see a pope making hazy statements…
It goes much farther than that: during an interview with the Jesuits, the pope attacks those who desire clarity. Unreal! He does not use the word clarity; he uses the word certitude, those who want doctrinal security. Obviously people want that! In dealing with the words of God Himself, Our Lord, who says that not even one iota should be abandoned, it is better to be precise!
A less credible pope
It is difficult to arrive at a judgment about his words because a little later on, or almost at the same time, you find words about the faith, about points of faith, about points of morality, which are very clear and condemn sin, the devil; statements that explain very forcefully and very clearly that no one can go to heaven without true contrition for one’s sins, no one can expect mercy from the Good Lord unless one seriously regrets one’s sins. All these are reminders that we are very happy about, very necessary reminders! But unfortunately they have already lost a large part of their force because of the contrary statements.
I think that one of the most unfortunate things about these statements is that they have spoiled his credibility; they have taken away much of the credibility of the Supreme Pontiff, so that when he has to speak about important things, now or in the future, those statements will be put at the same level as the others. People will say: “He is trying to please everyone: one move to the left, one move to the right.” I hope I am wrong, but you do get the impression that this will be one of the traits of this pontificate.
The higher a position of authority one is raised to, the more careful one must be about what one says, and this is especially true about the words of the pope. I think that he talks too much. Consequently, his words become muddled, vulgar, perhaps in the deeper sense of the word. Non decet: it is not fitting; this is not how a pope ought to act.
You can no longer tell what is a private opinion and what is doctrine… The mix-ups occur immediately. “Oh, but this is the pope speaking!” Now the pope is not a private person. Of course he can speak as a private theologian, but just the same it is the pope speaking! And the journals will not say, “This is the pope’s private opinion,” but rather “The pope is the one who says that; the Church thinks this way.”
The pope, a man of action
I do not think that I could dare say that I can already make a synthesis. I see many disparate elements, I see a man of action. This is the primacy of action, no doubt about that; this is not a man of doctrine. An Argentine said to me: “You Europeans will have a lot of difficulty understanding his personality, because Pope Francis is not a man of doctrine, he is a man of action, of praxis. He is an extremely pragmatic man, very close to the ground.” You see that in his sermons; he is close to the people and that is perhaps what makes him very popular, because what he says touches everyone. He also irritates everyone a little, but he is very close to the ground. There is not much theory. You see this clearly: this is action, pure and simple.
This is what you see. But how will that affect the Church? What will be the consequences for the life of the Church as a whole? Is this quite simply a voice crying out in the desert, which will have no effect at all, or on the contrary will one part of the Church, the progressive part, benefit from it? You can tell that they would like to take advantage of it.
What is interesting, even now—in this analysis of the situation of the Church—is to see that clumsy words are pronounced, some draw conclusions from them, and after that comes a “clarification” (an attempt to reestablish the doctrine). There have already been one or two remarkable clarifications—interventions by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who restates quite clearly and firmly the points unsettled by the Pope. It is almost as though the Prefect of the CDF had to censure or correct… it is a bit awkward! Finally, the progressives, at a certain point, will change their tune and say that this is not what they were expecting. Meanwhile, the pope is giving them a hope, a false hope….
A modernist pope?
I used the word “modernist;” I think that it was not understood by everybody. Perhaps I should have said a modernist in his actions. Once again, he is not a modernist in the absolute, theoretical sense: a man who develops a whole coherent system; that coherence does not exist. There are lines, for example, the evolutionary line, which is precisely connected with action. When the pope says that he wants a haziness in doctrine, when doubt is introduced, and not just haziness, but doubt, going so far as to say that even the great leaders of the faith, like Moses, allowed room for doubt…. I know of only one doubt of Moses: the time when he doubted and struck the rock! Because of that the Good Lord punished him and he was not able to enter the Promised Land. Well then! I do not think that this doubt is to Moses’s credit; the rest of the time he was rather forceful in his assertions… without a doubt.
It is really surprising, this idea that there must be doubts about everything; it is very peculiar! I will not say that this is reminiscent of Descartes, but… it creates an atmosphere. And what is really dangerous is that they leave it at that in the newspapers and the media… He is to some extent the darling of the media, he is well regarded, they praise him, they showcase him, but that does not get to the bottom of the matter.
An unchanged situation
This is an atmosphere that has come alongside the real situation of the Church, but the situation itself has not changed. We have gone from one pontificate to another, and the Church’s situation has stayed the same. The basic lines remain the same. On the surface there are variations: one might say that these are variations on a well-known theme! The basic assertions: we find them, for example, about the Council. The Council is a reinterpretation of the Gospel in light of contemporary or modern civilization—the pope has used both terms.
I think that we should begin by very seriously asking for a definition of what contemporary, modern civilization is. For us and for average mortals, it is quite simply the rejection of God; it is “the death of God”. It is Nietzsche, it is the Frankfurt School, it is an almost universal rebellion against God. We see this almost everywhere. We see it in the case of the European Union which in its Constitution refuses to acknowledge its Christian roots. We see it in everything that the media propagate, in literature, philosophy, art: everything tends toward nihilism, to the affirmation of man without God, and even in rebellion against God.
Then how can we reread the Gospel in that light? It is quite simply not possible; that is squaring the circle! We agree with the definition just given and from it we draw consequences that are radically different from those of Pope Francis, who goes so far as to show, to expose the continuation of his thought by saying: “Look at the fine fruits, the marvelous fruits of the Council: look at the liturgical reform!” Obviously that sends a chill down our spine! Since the liturgical reform was described by his immediate predecessor as the cause of the crisis of the Church, it is difficult to see and to understand how all of a sudden it should be described as one of the finest fruits of the Council! It certainly is a fruit of the Council, but if this is a fine fruit, then what is beautiful and good or bad? It makes your head spin!
For the moment, nothing is being done to heal the Church
For the moment, nothing has been done to remedy the situation of deviance, of decadence in the Church, absolutely nothing, no measure that affects the whole Church. We might mention the Encyclical on the faith; I don’t think that we can consider that as an effective measure. Certainly not. That does not touch, that does not heal the sick Mystical Body, sick to the point of death, the dying Church. What are they doing to get out of this situation? Nothing, after all; until now, nothing. Words, a few passing words that go in one ear and out the other—someone might say that I am being too harsh; I don’t know, but practically speaking where are the measures being taken or announced to correct the aim? There aren’t any. Quite simply.
The Church however has promises of eternal life
Our Lord said it very clearly: the gates of hell will not prevail against her. You would love, on the basis of these very words, you would love to turn to Our Lord and say to Him: “But what are You doing?! Look, You are letting things happen that seem to go against Your promise!” In other words, we are bit surprised by what is happening. Here I am talking about the history of the Church. These words, I am convinced of it, have been for most theologians the source of statements about the impossibility of seeing in the Church precisely what we are seeing now. Considering that it is absolutely impossible, because of this promise by Our Lord. Well, then, we will not deny Our Lord’s promises; we will try to say how these promises, which are infallible, are still possible in a situation that seems contrary to them. It seems to us that this time the gates of hell have made a first-class entry into the Church. I think that it is necessary to be careful; we must not equivocate. Especially with such statements, prophetic statements by our Lord, it is necessary to keep the basic meaning. These are very forceful analogies; there is a reality being asserted here that is undeniable: the gates of hell will not prevail. One point, and that’s the whole thing. But this does not mean that the Church is not going to suffer. Well, then, to what point can this suffering go? And here there is room for interpretation; we are obliged to extend a bit further what we used to think.
When we think of Saint Paul, who speaks about the Son of perdition, who will have others adore him as God, it is therefore not just a military or, one might say, a civil Antichrist; this is a religious person, a person who has people adore him, who claims acts of religion for himself. And the abomination of desolation, is that connected with this? I think so. Therefore this means that there are, alongside this announcement of the promises of the indefectibility of the Church, the announcements of a terrible time for the Church, in which people will ask themselves questions. In fact, this very question: but then what about this indefectibility, these promises of Our Lord? The Blessed Virgin… the famous sayings at La Salette, which are repeated almost word for word by Leon XIII—these are not revelations, this is the Church and, we might say, the Church itself in an act: Leo XIII composes an exorcism, that famous exorcism of Leo XIII, but later on they deleted the most solemn expression of that exorcism, which announces that Satan will reign and set up his throne in Rome. Quite simply. Therefore the headquarters of the Church will suddenly find itself the headquarters of the Antichrist. These are the very words of the Blessed Virgin: “Rome will become the seat of the Antichrist.” These are the words of La Salette. Just like: “Rome will lose the faith,” “the eclipse of the Church”; thus very forceful words contrasting with the promise. This does not mean that the promise is null and void; obviously it remains, but it does not rule out a moment of such suffering for the Church that one could consider it as an apparent death.
Passion of Christ, Passion of the Church
I think that we have arrived at that point. The question remains: to what extent will the Good Lord ask His Mystical Body to accompany, to imitate what His physical body had to endure, which was even unto death. Will it go to that point, or will it stop short of it? We all hope that it stops short. I think—it would not be the first time—that the Good Lord will intervene to reestablish things, at the moment when everyone thinks: This time it’s over. I think that this will be one of the proofs of the divine origin of the Church. At the moment when all human efforts are over, exhausted, in other words, when everything is finished, that is precisely the moment when He will act. I think. And then it will be an extraordinary manifestation, indeed, of the fact that this Church is the only one that is really divine.
The attitude of the faithful
First of all, they must keep the faith. This is the primary message, we can say, of Saint Paul; it was also the message for the times of persecution: be firm, state [in Latin], hold on, remain standing, stand firm in the faith. Keeping the faith cannot be merely theoretical. There is such a thing as what I would call “theoretical” faith: the faith of someone who is capable of reciting the Creed, he has learned his catechism, he knows it, he is capable of repeating it, and of course this sort of faith is the beginning; you have to have it, or else you do not have the faith. But this faith does not yet lead to heaven. This is what you have to understand. The faith that Scripture speaks about is the faith that is—to use the technical expression—informed by charity. Saint Paul was speaking about this relation between Faith and Charity when he said to the Corinthians: “If I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains,” (which is no small thing, since a faith that can move mountains is not something you see every day!) “and have not charity, I am nothing…. I am only a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal….”
It is not enough to make great professions of faith; it is not enough to attack or condemn errors; many think that they have fulfilled their duty as Christians when they have done this, but that is an error. I am not saying that you should not do it; it is one part, but the faith that Saint Paul and Sacred Scripture speak about is informed faith, in other words, faith imbued with charity. Charity is what gives form to faith. Charity is the love of God and consequently the love of neighbor. Therefore it is about a faith that turns toward this neighbor who is certainly in error and reminds him of the truth, but in such a manner that, thanks to these reminders, the Christian will be able to sow the faith, reestablish someone in the truth, lead this soul toward the truth. Therefore it is not a bitter zeal; on the contrary it is a faith made warm by charity.
The duty of state
What the faithful must do is their duty in their state in life. To keep the faith, a faith properly imbued with charity, profoundly anchored in charity, which will enable them to avoid discouragement, bitter zeal and spite, and instead to experience joy, the Christian joy that consists of knowing that God loves us so much that He is ready to live with us, to live in us through grace. This sheds light on everything that happens, and gives a joy that makes us forget problems and puts them in their place—problems that certainly can be serious. But what are they in comparison with the Heaven that is won precisely through these trials? These trials are prepared, arranged by the Good Lord, not so as to make us fall but so as to make us win. God goes so far as to live in us, as Saint Paul says: “And I live, now not I: but Christ liveth in me!” That is so beautiful! The Christian is a tabernacle of the Holy Trinity, a temple of God, a living temple!
The role of the Society of Saint Pius X
Its primary concern is truly what keeps the Church alive: the Mass. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is really the concrete, everyday application of the merits of Our Lord Jesus Christ, everything that he earned, merited on the Cross, which is truly the totality of graces for all human beings, from the first ones, Adam and Eve, down to those at the end of the world. All graces were merited by Our Lord on the Cross. The Mass is the perpetuation, the renewal, the representation of this sacrifice; on the altar there is a sacrifice identical to the one of the Cross, which each and every day places at the disposal of Christians (by extension one could say at the disposition of mankind) the merits of Our Lord, His satisfaction, His reparation, so as to obtain forgiveness for all the sins, that ocean of sins committed every day, and also to obtain the graces that we need. The Mass really is the pump that distributes throughout the Mystical Body the graces merited on the Cross. This is why we can say that it is the heart that distributes by means of the blood everything that the cells of the body need. That is what the Mass is about: it is the heart. By taking care of this heart, we take care of the whole life of the Church.
Restoring the Church through the Mass
If we want a restoration of the Church, and certainly we do want it, that is where we must go. To the source, and the source is the Mass. Not just any liturgy, but rather, I mean to say, an extremely holy liturgy. One that is holy to an unimaginable degree. One that has an extraordinary sanctity that was truly forged by the Holy Ghost over the centuries, composed by the holy popes themselves, and therefore having an extraordinary depth. There is absolutely no comparison between the New Mass and that Mass. They really are two different worlds and, I was about to say, Christians who are in the least sensitive to grace realize it very quickly. Very quickly. Alas, today, we observe that many people do not even see it any more! But for me it is obvious that the restoration of the Church must start there. Therefore that is why I am profoundly indebted to Pope Benedict XVI for having reinstated the Mass. That was of capital importance. It is of capital importance.
The Society promotes the Mass, wants this Mass, and it also promotes the man who says it, and there is no other who can, but the priest alone. Therefore this is truly the very purpose of the Society: the priesthood, the priest, to form priests, to help priests, without any limitation, no limitations, no one is going to be ruled out, no! It is the priest as Our Lord intended him. By reminding him precisely of the treasures that many ignore today. It is tragic.
Rediscovering the Christian spirit
The Mass is even more important. The Mass is what will impart the faith; this is what will nourish the faith. Obviously, if someone celebrates the Mass without faith, there is a big problem. So it is not a matter of causing antagonisms; it is a matter of truly uniting what is supposed to be united. But I think that already with these two elements we have enormous resources for the survival of the Church, quite frankly. Let’s say that everyone does see that the Church has been attacked at various levels; yet the most profound problem, I am convinced, is the loss of the Christian spirit. Christians have tried to become like the world. They said so the whole time, it was the purpose of the Council to accommodate itself to the modern world. Well, no: that is not possible! We live in this world, therefore we use a lot of things from it, which remain concrete historical circumstances that pass away. The foundation that remains, is attachment to the Good Lord, service rendered to the Good Lord which includes, of course, faith, grace, and this Christian spirit. You want to go to heaven? You should go to heaven, and to do so it is necessary to avoid sin and to do good. Both. As long as we don’t return to those basics, the Church will continue, we might say, to be battered by a lethal virus, which is the virus of the modern world, precisely of modern civilization.
The triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
“In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” This is an absolute statement; nothing about it is conditioned by what happened before. And it is truly a statement that elicits hope and establishes it; it is a rock. Obviously, since it seems right that this triumph is connected with the consecration (of Russia), we are asking for the consecration; that is altogether normal. How long will we have to wait to see it done as it was requested, or will the Good Lord, once again, be content with less? We don’t know. What we do know is that in the end there will be this triumph. And therefore this is a certitude. We will not speak about a certitude of faith, because this is not a question of faith; it is a word given by the Blessed Virgin, and so we know very well what her word is worth! That is all. Stat!
(Source: FSSPX/MG – DICI dated 20 November 2013)