The following article disappeared from the internet. I wonder why?
Interview with Bishop Fellay by Father Gregoire Celier
The following interview is a translation from May-June 2006 edition of Fideliter magazine.
Fideliter: My Lord, could you resume for us the main lines of the Society’s development over the past twelve years?
Bishop Fellay: Happily. If one wants to resume in a simple way the material development of the Society in the course of these twelve years, one can say that it has doubled in size. First of all there has been an interior development, a reinforcing of that which already existed: chapels which become priories, which themselves become parish centres; schools which increase in size, etc. Then there has been a territorial development, although prudence dictated moderation here. This second development has nevertheless been important for whilst our priests reside in 30 countries, the Society henceforth covers 65 countries: which means that on average each country of residence takes care of another country also. But this simple quantitative description risks hiding something more important, namely the remarkable spiritual energy, which animates the Society as a whole: our priests, our faithful who build and renovate churches around the world. It is truly impressive for somebody such as myself these last twelve years to travel throughout the world. Again and again churches have developed or have sprung up like mushrooms!
Fideliter: What takes up most of the Superior General’s attention?
Bishop Fellay: It is difficult to answer because the office of Superior General is so varied. One answer, true but paradoxical, is that that which goes well takes up a lot less time than the problems. Often one is obliged to concentrate much energy on those things, which one would like to qualify as minor, but which are not minor, concerning as they do the whole issue of human relations, of human problems. That which concerns the Superior General essentially is obviously his leading the Society towards its proper end, leading souls to serving the good Lord.
Fideliter: Is there any particular sorrow, which has marked these twelve years?
Bishop Fellay: Without a doubt the sorrow of any Superior of a priestly society is the loss of priests! To see a priest distancing himself from our work, especially if this soul takes options which call into question his own priesthood, and to feel powerless to stop this separation, in spite of ones efforts and desires, is truly the main sorrow of the Superior General.
Fideliter: Is there anything in particular which has inspired you in the course of these twelve years?
Bishop Fellay: Of course! I should say that in spite of the difficulties of such an office, in spite of the sorrows which one inevitably encounters, so many things are uplifting. For, more than any other, the Superior General is in constant contact with miracles of grace, as much on the side of priests as on the side of the faithful. And it is this, which is heartening and indeed marvellous. (…)
Fideliter: The great development these last few years in the matter of communication is without a doubt the Internet. Do you think that the Society is well provided for and effective in this regard?
Bishop Fellay: Sometimes the Society is criticised for lagging behind technical development. On the technical level it seems to me that we are sufficiently up to date with things. The large districts of the Society possess viable Internet sites. We have an on-line news service, notably with DICI, quick and, to my mind, well adapted. Clearly it is always possible to do better, but I do not think that we are behind the times in this respect. Nevertheless, we refuse to become drawn into the (information) machine which keeps souls in a completely superficial, emotional state in which they are caught up by such rapidity of information as appears to require their immediate reaction without the time to think. There is a real problem here and I think that given the mass of information coming over the Internet, the faithful and even the priests should be taught to reflect before allowing their immediate and uncontrolled emotions to rule them to the detriment of good sense and the spirit of faith.
Fideliter: Before coming to the relations with Rome, about which much has been said these past months, it appears interesting to gauge the scale of the Society’s relations with different important parties within the Church. First of all are there any relations with other traditional Catholics (Ecclesia Dei, Campos etc,)?
Bishop Fellay: We have some personal contacts with one or other members of these societies, in general with the members who are especially close to us. But I must say that we do not particularly look for contact with those who declare that we are schismatic (and who are almost alone in the Church to do so). We consider simple polemics to be hardly constructive. Therefore if somebody chooses to maintain this hostile position in our regard, he will not in any event look to have contact with us, and neither would we with them. Do you think that in spite of everything �traditional� Catholics contribute anything to the Church? I think that Divine Providence makes use of everything. Notwithstanding what we would call Rome�s dubious intention in establishing these various societies, it seems to me that in the end it is Tradition which wins. Rome, I believe, attempts to destabilise us somewhat by setting up competition, but the good Lord uses these things so as to further the cause of Tradition and the Mass.
Fideliter: And the present contacts with the conciliar clergy?
Bishop Fellay: One can say that these last years have witnessed a tighter, deeper contact with an element of the official clergy, that things are going in the right direction, which is pleasing. It is worth recalling that this concerns an essential aspect of the Society’s apostolate: according to our constitutions we are meant to care for priests, for all priests. It is very consoling to see that one can do much, even now, to help modern priests rediscover the taste for Tradition.
Fideliter: I believe that in the USA there was a similar initiative to the French Letter to our brother priests and that this initiative brought about astonishing fruits.
Bishop Fellay: That was not exactly the same thing as the Letter to our brother priests. Rather it consisted in a book composed of priests testimonials on the Mass, and of liturgical materials for learning the Old Mass, which were sent to priests across the country. A similar endeavour took place in Great Britain with a send-out of a video on the Mass. Also, it is worth noting that the German district regularly publishes its own Letter to brother priests. These are the attempts to contact the clergy, which doubtless bear fruits, even if they remain discreet at the present.
Fideliter: Have the recent contacts with Rome changed the climate in the relations with the bishops?
Bishop Fellay: Undoubtedly Rome’s present climate bears an influence on a number of bishops. It is easier for me to meet them, to speak with them frankly and clearly. In addition, compared to a few years ago, the local superiors are better received by them. Whilst this is not a substantial change, neither is it negligible.
Fideliter: These last months you have issued numerous explanations on the relations with Rome in the course of conferences and divers interviews. Could you give a brief synthesis of these?
Bishop Fellay: I would like to begin by saying that there is no hurry. Some people in good faith believe that tomorrow there is suddenly going to be an agreement with Rome. And sedevacantist Internet sites unceasingly spread untruthful statements to this end, which only serve to increase the confusion. In reality any development will be slow, very slow in certain respects: it is not possible to come out of a crisis which began some 40 years ago after just a few weeks. People should realise that the procedure in question is complex and therefore long. Let us not have any illusions about this. In the year 2000 we submitted to Rome two prerequisites. We are now in 2006 and word has it that perhaps Rome is going to grant one or other of the prerequisites, maybe even both. We were asking for a first step, almost six years have passed, and this first step has still not been granted: hence we are not going to fret over the next move when the affair in question has not even begun.
Fideliter: You have alluded to a procedure in three stages?
Bishop Fellay: Indeed we envisage three stages towards a solution of the crisis: prerequisites, discussions and agreements. In order to have a clear idea of the situation it is necessary to grasp the nature and goal of these three stages.
The idea behind the prerequisites is the following. The Society, and consequently all that which is somewhat conservative or traditional in the Church, has been stigmatised by means of the alleged excommunications. The faithful and the priests who adhere to Ecclesia Deican say what they want, they can distance themselves as much as they like from us, but they suffer from the consequences of this stigma.
Hence we request that in the first place Rome ceases this negative game and restores to favour that which is traditional in the Church. This is the reason behind the much-vaunted request for the lifting of the decree of excommunication. It is also the reason behind the request for the public acknowledgment that the traditional Mass has never been forbidden and that every priest can celebrate it freely. It is a question of changing somewhat the anti-traditional climate, which has taken hold of the Church of today.
In this regard we speak of creating a new climate, one favourable towards Tradition within the Church. It is not simply a question of sentiment or positive publicity, rather it consists in very real actions which would render possible once again a life conforming to Tradition, theologically, liturgically and spiritually.
Fideliter: But if Rome were to accept these prerequisites?
Bishop Fellay: In this new ambiance (and it is important not to underestimate the openings which a frank and sincere granting of the prerequisites would create in the Church), it would be possible to move on to the second stage, namely the discussions. Here the great difficulty would be in getting to the principles themselves of this crisis, and not simply lamenting over the disastrous consequences of these same principles. As long as the principles remain untouched, the consequences will inevitably continue. I must say that at the present time Rome does not appear at all disposed to look at the principles, when one considers for instance Benedict XVI’s 22nd December 2005 speech in which he tried to rescue the Council from shipwreck.
This stage, namely that of the discussions, would be difficult, arduous and probably quite lengthy. What sort of time frame are we talking about? I do not know, it remains in the hands of the good Lord who could make things go quickly or slowly, but humanly speaking we are far from the end. In any event it is impossible and inconceivable to pass to the third stage before these discussions have succeeded in exposing and correcting the principles at the root of the crisis.
Fideliter: Does this mean that the crisis must be fully resolved before signing any agreement?
Bishop Fellay: No. We do not pretend to wait until everything is sorted out on a practical and human level, along with every last consequence of the crisis, everywhere and for all. This would not be reasonable.
However, it is obvious that we will not sign any agreements until such time as things are resolved on the level of principles. That is why we need to have in-depth discussions; we cannot allow ambiguities. The problem of wanting to make fast agreements is that they would necessarily be based upon hazy notions, and that no sooner signed would the crisis again re-appear with renewed vigour.
So in order to resolve the issue the Roman authorities would have to clearly and unambiguously manifest, for all the world to see, that there is only one way of coming out of the crisis, namely that of the Church fully rediscovering her own bi-millennium Tradition. The day when this conviction will be clear for the Roman authorities, even if things elsewhere remain unresolved, will be the time when agreements can be very easily made.