The crisis: problems, causes, remedies

A classic conference of Bishop Fellay given in 1999 about the post-conciliar crisis, its elements and reality, and what the Catholic reaction should be.

The pertinence of this brief, but comprehensive conference of Bishop Fellay concerning the post-conciliar crisis continues to resonate today just as it first did in 1999. One can perhaps consider this conference to be Bishop Fellay's version of Archbishop Lefebvre's Open Letter to Confused Catholics.

Problems, causes, remedies

I am going to give an overview of the current situation in the Catholic Church which will be loosely divided into three parts: 

  1. A description of the situation by an assembly of assorted facts,
  2. My reflections on the causes of this situation, and
  3. Remedies to be sought.

"The Church is in anarchy "

One of our faithful in France wrote a letter to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger describing the scandalous behavior of a particular French bishop. On behalf of the cardinal, Msgr. Perl answered:

Yes, you’re right. The situation in the Church is anarchy. If you expect that an order from Rome regarding the above will solve the situation, you are in total illusion."

This point is very important to understand. It means Rome has lost control. Oftentimes we hear the solution to the crisis is to increase our fidelity to the pope and bishops. Yet, in his letter Msgr. Perl admits bishops don’t obey and anarchy is the result. The answer is to be faithful to the bishops?! Illogical! The word to describe this insanity is "confusion." This confusion comes from way back and now touches everything in the life of the Church. It starts with confusion in doctrine.

The enemy sows its seed

In the 1950’s Rome condemned a large number of theologians. In his encyclical, Humani Generis, Pope Pius XII condemned the theory of Henri de Lubac, a Jesuit priest, that there is no difference between nature and grace, between the natural and supernatural levels. This condemnation required all Jesuits to stop teaching this theory or vacate their teaching positions. Two years later a Dominican, Yves Congar, was condemned for his book on true and false reform in the Church and was exiled to Jerusalem. At the same time, a Jesuit priest in the US, John Courtney Murray, began teaching a new theory about the relations between Church and State and was condemned by Rome. Just prior to Vatican II another Jesuit, Karl Rahner, was forced to submit all his writings to the Holy Office on suspicion of Modernism. A Benedictine, Dom Beauduin, was made to do the same.

On the eve of Vatican II, a meeting of the central commission of the Council prepared a list of the theologians who would assist the bishops during the Council. At this meeting, Archbishop Lefebvre, one of the members of the commission, spoke up,

There is something I do not understand. We have here a list of the proposed experts. We have a rule which prohibits us to put on the list any theologian who has been condemned by the Church. On one of the proposed lists there are three condemned theologians."

After the meeting, Cardinal Ottaviani took the Archbishop by the arm and said, "It’s the Boss who wants it," that is to say, Pope John XXIII. He made the rule that condemned theologians not be on the list and also ordered that they be on the list!

Around the same time, Pope John XXIII published an encyclical about the importance of Latin in the Catholic Church. Ten days after its release, a bishop speaking with Archbishop Lefebvre attacked the Latin. Archbishop Lefebvre asked, "How do you dare to attack the Latin after the pope has published a text on the defense of the Latin?"... "What I say is exactly what the pope thinks," replied this bishop. To find out for himself, Archbishop Lefebvre was granted an audience with Pope John XXIII who demolished in an hour what he had written in his encyclical ten days before!

The big intellectuals of the Council—de Lubac, Congar, Rahner, Murray—were all condemned because of their errors in the ten years preceding Vatican II ! Today, what they taught is now considered the doctrine of the Church! [see the SiSiNoNo serialization in 1993, issues #3-11, "They Think They've Won" for details]

Here’s a story which shows the intellectual honesty of the condemned theologians. In the aftermath of Vatican II, Yves Congar was quoted:

I had been given a very hard job during the Council. It was to prepare this part of the document in which I was to prove that religious liberty is found in Holy Scripture, which it is not!"

This is terrible! The contradiction in doctrine has given us the mess we are in. We have a state of confusion in the Church. Here are some more recent examples of contradictions and confusions.

Cockle in the papacy

Pope John Paul II issued an apostolic letter to prepare for the Jubilee Year 2000 titled, Tertio Millennio Adveniente [On the Coming of the Third Millenium]. The word "adveniente" refers to Advent, a literal concept of the Holy Father referring to the period of the Church from Vatican II to the Year 2000. This "Advent" is the time of preparation for a new era. Those who pretend the famous three zeroes of millenial years will usher in new eras have been condemned in former times. Practically speaking, the pope is a milleniarist, but at the same time Rome says it’s not milleniarism.

The Jubilee Year 2000 will sponsor inter-religious Christian and non-Christian meetings. At the same time Rome insists it will not tolerate syncretism. What is syncretism if not this kind of mixing of all religions? We worship the one Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth. At Assisi the Vicar of Christ prayed with people praying to the Great Thumb, with others smoking the peace pipe, and others who adored Buddha. This syncretism is put into practice, but Rome protests, "No, no, it’s not syncretism!"

In his encyclical, Ut Unum Sint, Pope John Paul II explained and defended the primacy of the pope. Immediately after the correct teaching in the encyclical, he asks that new ways to exercise the primacy be researched. It is a demolition of the primacy. You mean the popes of the last 2000 years didn’t know how to exercise their primacy?!

Inconsistencies in the hierarchy

A few years ago Cardinal Ratzinger issued a text condemning the theology of liberation. The first text was a clear condemnation. The second text was announced and it was said that the second and the first had to be read in the light of the first and second respectively. But, in the second version you find phrases which justify the theology of liberation. So, liberation theology is simultaneously condemned and justified!

Last year, a Sri Lankan priest, Fr. Tissa Balasuriya, O.M.I., was excommunicated because of the heresies he taught about the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Church. Less than one year later, his religious order had his excommunication lifted even though Fr. Tissa Balasuriya preferred to sign his own text of abjuration rather than the one given him by Rome. After his excommunication had been lifted, Fr. Balasuriya said he had absolutely no regrets, that he had not taken anything back. So he continues to be the same heretic, but now is no longer excommunicated!

Two years ago there was a big movement in Austria to collect signatures establishing a new Church, a Church where priests can marry, where women can be priests and so on. It fomented a lot of turmoil, and so the bishops gathered delegates from the entire country to a meeting. What were the propositions on which votes were taken?—that laymen be consulted in the ordination of bishops; that women be present at all levels of the hierarchy which do not exercise the sacrament of Holy Orders; that married men be priests; that women be deacons; that "divorced and remarried" go to Communion, etc. The least majority vote was 75% approval.

Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a letter to the German bishops telling them Communion could not be given to "divorced, remarried Catholics." All but three bishops rejected the order and defended their priests doing the same. By his own admission, Cardinal Ratzinger says "dialogue" is the only "obedience" remaining among the German bishops.

The pope wrote again this year [1998] to the German bishops about abortion. For a woman to have an abortion in Germany, she must first appear before a board of consulters for counseling and receive a certificate of proof she has done so before she can submit to the murder of her baby. By law, one third of the board of consulters are Catholic bishops. The pope wrote to forbid the German bishops to grant this certificate under pain of direct cooperation in the abortion. In response, the German bishops held an extraordinary meeting and agreed that in a year’s time they would obey the pope’s order!

Two weeks later, the president of the German bishops’ conference said the papal disposition on the matter was not applicable and the German bishops met again. This time only two bishops favored obedience to the pope. All the others are directly cooperating in murder!


At the end of November [1998], a Capuchin priest visited our seminary in Germany wanting to join the Society of St. Pius X. He had been forbidden to hear confessions because he refused absolution to penitents who refused to avoid proximate occasions of mortal sin. Six months ago, he was forbidden to celebrate Mass because he insisted on using the (more traditional) First Eucharistic Prayer of the Canon of the New Mass!

A 78-year-old sister has joined us to escape the convent where every Sunday she was obliged under obedience to watch television for two hours!

In one of the important ecclesiastical magazines of Holland [July 1998], a bishop wrote such scandalous things I had to check with the chancery who verified the words as his. In his article, this bishop began:

When I die, I will not go to heaven, neither will I go to hell, because these words are words which the Church has taken from the Middle Ages. They have nothing to do with the reality. Science has now seen the heavens with powerful telescopes, so these concepts are totally wrong and we can no longer speak of heaven and hell."

He continues by approving euthanasia, relations outside of marriage, and contraception. Finally, he argues that 80% of Catholics are committing excommunicable offenses, but that since it would be impossible to excommunicate four out of five Catholics we are safe to believe whatever we want! Nothing happens to him!

In his book, The Salt of the Earth, Cardinal Ratzinger makes a keen analysis of the situation in the Church and concludes that the Church as we have known it is finished! He says what will remain are little groups which, like "the salt of the earth" will give some savor to the earth, to the Catholic Church, otherwise it will be exterminated. Nevertheless the cardinal is happy because certain ecclesiastical movements are giving life to the Church, for example, the charismatics. Though these movements are often controversial, he says, at least there’s life. Something is moving! There are true heretics amongst these ecclesiastical movements, but that doesn’t matter to the cardinal.

A friend of ours in the Curia came to visit me recently. He told me a story that shows a little bit what the pope does or can do. The pope, he told me, wanted to go to Fatima on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the first apparition, but didn’t attend because he was not invited! I didn’t know the pope needed to be invited to go somewhere! The pope first asked the bishop of Leiria [the diocese where Fatima is located], and the bishop deferred to the bishops’ conference and did not give an answer. The pope sent off a letter to this bishop and asked that he be told to expect it. He never received it. The letter was intercepted by the Secretary of State. Our friend in the Curia gave me the impression that the pope has lost control. He holds the office but has nothing important to say. He has big ideas about the Jubilee Year 2000, but the rest is in the control of the Secretary of State. I will give you some examples. One is about last year’s anticipated condemnation of the Society of St. Pius X.

The Polish bishops are strongly prejudiced against our work in Poland which is very intense and has become the topic of discussion in all the media there. We have learned that a condemnation of the Society was motivated by the Polish bishops and that they suggested several points for this condemnation. The Holy Father agreed and he entrusted Msgr. Perl to draft the text which was completed and given to the pope in June [1998]. The Secretary of State also received a copy and judged it to be inopportune. He advised it be dropped because it would give us undue publicity. So, it was apparently dropped.

False remedies: ecumenism and trad-ecumenism

All is not well in Rome, that is for sure, and we should all be aware of it. In the circles of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, there is a euphoria which says, "Look, we have been received in Rome. Everything is fine. Cardinal Ratzinger has greeted us; the pope has received us, he has greeted the seminarians, so everything is fine." Well...

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, the Fraternity of St. Peter wanted a Pontifical High Mass and it asked Cardinal Ratzinger to celebrate it. The cardinal refused and so the Fraternity approached the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Divine Worship in charge of the questions of liturgy for the whole Church. This cardinal agreed to celebrate the Mass, but the Secretary of State intervened and informed him the Tridentine Mass was not the competence of the Prefect of the Congregation for the Divine Worship! I think it’s very important to understand this. It means that for the Secretary of State the Tridentine Mass is no longer the Mass of the Catholic Church. The Latin Mass is only granted to a very little group to which has been granted the freedom of a bird in a cage.

I know an Armenian [Orthodox] priest who was received into the Catholic Church recently. The response he met in Rome when asking to be received into the Church was, "Do you have the permission of your bishop?" According to the Balamand Statement [see The Angelus, December 1997], you remember, Catholics must desist from proselytizing the Orthodox. Nevertheless, the Armenian priest was received in the Catholic Church, but Rome felt obliged to apologize to the Armenians, "We are sorry. We promise, it’s only one case; it’s not harmful to ecumenical relations." The concessions made in the name of ecumenism are all from the Catholic side. The Protestants are still Protestant, as are the Anglicans and so for the Orthodox. The only changes are among the Catholics, who are losing great numbers. Ecumenism is the practical destruction of the identity of the Church. The Society maintains that this ecumenism is not Catholic.

Ecumenism is of Protestant origin, yet the Protestants are unable to arrive at any real unity! In 1950, two years after its founding, the Ecumenical Council for the Churches [ECC] determined that unity cannot be based on any concept of "Church." Some thought this unity could be acquired in a unity of hierarchy and doctrine, others thought it would be achieved by an umbrella agreement regarding faith, some thought it necessary only to agree on the fundamental points of faith, and the rest believed an agreement of any kind would foster more divisions! The Protestants have never known what kind of unity they want! They get together trying to put in practice something which they can never get! That the Orthodox threatened to boycott the ECC [December 1998] clearly demonstrates the fruitlessness of this movement.

On the other hand, the Catholic Church’s prayers for Good Friday, which date from the second century, include a series of prayers for schismatics, for heretics, for Jews, etc. to return to the unity of the Church. This is what the Church has always sought for in its relations with those who have left Her. The Catholic Church has unity; it cannot lose it. It doesn’t have to "invent" unity! It is one of the marks of the Catholic Church. True unity with the Orthodox or the Protestants will be achieved by their conversion, their return, to the Catholic Church. This is the common teaching of the Church throughout the centuries. False dialogue does nothing but destroy the Church.

The Faith is gutted

There was a time when Catholics were at home with the liturgy anywhere in the world. It was your Mass. Now, every church is different. You don’t know what’s happening. Sometimes you don’t even know if the Consecration was properly done. For those unsure of the crisis, they might get an education by attending one of these ceremonies!

One of our priests recently celebrated the Latin Mass in a parish church in Belgium at which the parish priest assisted. It was the first time in his 30 years as a parish priest that he witnessed the Tridentine Mass. After the Mass, he said, "They have cheated us for 30 years!" He was so moved that when he celebrated the New Mass later that morning he stopped himself several times. All of a sudden, he departed the altar for the sacristy and returned wearing a traditional chasuble, showing that he wanted to have something more for the good Lord. At the end of this Mass, he confided to our priest, "I am the only priest in the whole diocese who believes in the Real Presence."

I personally estimate that about half of the priests worldwide have lost faith in the Real Presence. I think two-thirds of the priests no longer believe the Mass is really the renewal of the Sacrifice of Our Lord on the cross. I know seminary rectors who teach the Mass is not the Sacrifice. Two of these left and lost the Faith. It is not a question of abuses. It is the New Mass itself which is to blame because it doesn’t express clearly the idea of the Sacrifice and the Real Presence. There are a lot of little things in the New Mass which erode the belief of priests who end up thinking the way the New Mass makes them act. No longer must the priest hold together the thumbs and forefingers which have touched the consecrated hosts. It is no longer obligatory for the chalice or paten to be plated with gold nor to purify the sacred vessels at the end of the Mass. Sometimes horrible things happen. I know of a priest who has come to Tradition because of one of these happenings.

During the Papal Mass in New Zealand, this priest was shocked when one of his communicants took Holy Communion from him in his hand, broke the Host, and threw It to the ground in front of him. The priest bent to gather the particles of the Host and discontinued distributing Communion. He returned to the site of the ciboria and saw something there that sickened him more. He saw priests dumping unconsumed consecrated hosts in trash bags. He walked to his nearby convent, placed his ciborium in a tabernacle there, and left to join us.

Naive Catholics say these are isolated abuses, that Vatican II is not responsible. Look around! I ask, "Where aren’t there abuses?" What is done to protect the faithful?—to tell them to be faithful to unfaithful bishops as Msgr. Perl does?!

The faithful are abandoned

A poll of French Catholics who assist at Mass at least once a month was taken [October 1998] on different issues in the Church. The majority favor use of contraception by Catholics by 72%; of a married priesthood by 66%; that divorced people should be able to "remarry" in the Church by 60%; 60% favor women priests; 62% favor euthanasia. What are the causes of this disaster? In answering, we will have to look at philosophy, theology, morality, and politics.

In philosophy

In philosophy, the modern philosophers have given us the idea of evolution, that everything must change. It is in the name of changes that Vatican II was convened. "Everything must change because things must change!"  It’s not reasonable! Is the fact that what is done by foot, or by bicycle, or train, or plane is not travel anymore? Has the heart of man changed?  A lie 2000 years ago is still a lie today!  What was a sin is still sin; what was Truth is still Truth. These things have not changed! To argue that we have to change the Mass for the new technological age is crazy. Truth can’t change!

A famous French thinker, Maurice Blondel [1861-1949; cf. the SiSiNoNo "They Think They’ve Won!" series, #4] is one of the grandfathers of Vatican II. He taught a new definition of truth. Directly contrary to the Church’s perennial definition, he said truth is not the agreement of our intellect and objective reality. Let me give an example of why this is wrong and why truth is the conformity of our intellect with reality. If I hold a bird and tell you this is a bird, you will test the truth of my statement by comparing what I have said, what is supposed to be in my mind, and the objective reality. If these correspond, then my word is true and you must submit your intelligence to the reality of the bird. If these do not correspond, then my word is false. But modern thinkers say truth is the agreement between our intellect and life. Now, how do we recognize life? The first question we ask when we find someone lying in the road is, "Is he alive?" To see if he is, you will see if there is movement of his eyes, if his heart is beating, etc. Life means movement. If you say that truth is the conformity of our intellect with life, that is, of our intellect and movement, then truth must move! If truth must move, then we must keep changing it. If it stands still, then it’s not truth. So, we have been ordered to change to show that the Church has life!

Modern philosophies also deny that our intelligence can understand the essence of things—the deepest part of things—which can’t change. You may have a boy named Paul who will change in height, weight, and age, but his essence as Paul will always be Paul. He will always be a man, always possess a human nature, and this will not change. The modern philosophers say you can’t go that deep, that you are obliged to stay at the level of changing. This limits discussion to only the changing part of things and our personal opinions about them which are no more or less important than anyone else’s opinions. This is a world of total subjectivism, of opinions, which is clearly evident at the level of religions. All religions are equally good! But the essence of God is His existence. There is still only one God and this one God has to be worshipped as He commands. There can be no change here! But the modernists say we can no longer say that Our Lord has to reign on this earth; there are Buddhists, Muslims, this and that, and it is impossible to require them to worship a Jesus they don’t know. But, don’t try to convert them because their opinion is as good or bad as yours! The loss of the essential in the Catholic Church is to lose truth and conviction.

In theology

Another disaster is perpetrated in theology by the refusal of bad theologians to distinguish between nature and grace. This leads to a failure to distinguish between body and soul. To refuse to distinguish between created nature and the grace of the Creator concludes to no distinction between creatures and the Creator, between man and God! What does Pope John Paul II himself say?

Every man and every people, by the fact that Our Lord died on the cross and by the action of the Holy Ghost, every man is a child of God. He is a participant of divine life and is called to eternal happiness." (Tertio Millennio Adveniente)

Every man! St. Paul says [Rom. 8:14] that those who are led by the Spirit of God, are the sons of God. The Spirit of God must be in them. He says very clearly that the Holy Ghost is not in everybody [Rom. 8:13]. But the present pope maintains that the Holy Ghost is dwelling mysteriously in everybody because of the failure to distinguish between nature and grace.

In morality

At the level of morality we have seen adaptation to the world. In the name of changes, we are told, "Look, the Church is so far behind the world. Let’s catch up." To close in on the world, you have to change so the broad way is proposed to us instead of the narrow stony way which leads to heaven. This broad way of Liberalism is compromise with the world. This Liberalism is all over the place in the Church. Cardinal Ratzinger himself says that the problem in the Church in the 1960’s was the conflict of assimilating the "best values of two centuries of liberal culture," but now it has been done. That means that the Church has assimilated liberal culture. What is this liberal culture?—the French Revolution!

In politics

We can’t understand politics without admitting infiltration of the Catholic Church by Her enemies. There is evidence discovered by the Church which was published under Pope Pius IX of the plan by Freemasons to elect a pope who would evangelize their freemasonic ideals. Its strategy emphasized the destruction of especially seminaries and of women. In an interview three years ago, a Mason from Mexico boasted of four freemasonic lodges of the Scottish Rite within the Vatican. In further explanations he claimed that Freemasons have the power to reward cooperating priests with the episcopacy. A NATO report [1974] on the activities of the Communist Secret Service in the Eastern Bloc nations within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church estimated 3000 agents had successfully infiltrated the Catholic hierarchy. In 1984, just before the reunification of Germany, the Secret Service of East Germany was known to dramatically increase its number of agents with the aim of subverting Catholic and Protestant churches.

Modernism is not so "modern!"

There is also the infiltration by the Modernists into the Catholic Church. They hide in Her and it is our task to unmask them. The Modernists are very closely linked to Gnosticism, a strong tendency to which is visible in the Church today. There are subtle touches of it in Vatican II. An insightful priest who died in 1890 correctly forecasted that the Catholic Church would change its leadership through an ecumenical council and that a new liturgy would be composed to harmonize with the modern world. He predicted that priests would trash the cassock. He called them "progressives." Even the founders of the New Age Movement wrote that the Catholic Church of the end of the 20th century would adopt the principles of Freemasonry, but the Church would keep up a Catholic appearance so the faithful would not become alarmed.

Such things are happening in front of us. Our problem is the enemy is dressed in the same uniform as those they attack. How do you know that someone in the same uniform as you is an enemy? You only know when he shoots you, and then, it’s too late! It’s quite a mess. It’s a massive work of destruction at all levels. We cannot close our eyes and say, "Oh, it’s fine, we’re surviving," or, "It must be nice because the pope said it."

Fear not

So what is our solution? Remember, we are not allowed to look at the Church with human reason alone. The Catholic Church is a supernatural society, not a natural society. The head of the Church is Our Lord Himself and the Church is nothing else but Our Lord Jesus Christ and the souls who make up His Mystical Body. The essential dimension of the Church is not human, which will not pass, which is holy, which is one; and the Head of the Church is almighty and eternal! His Wisdom is above all circumstance of times and events. The Church herself has these attributes of stability.

Stay in the boat

In the Creed, we profess the Church is one, that the Church is holy, and it is! We must remember God is in control even though it can seem to us He’s lost it. Remember the apostles in the little boat. They thought they were sinking. But Who was giving the wind its ferocity, giving the waves their strength to crash against the boat? It was Jesus, the One Who was sleeping there. When He said "Stop!" there was peace. Silence. When God wants this silence for His Church, it will be done in an instant; if not now, it’s because He wants us of the Church Militant to share His sufferings and pains. The Church will triumph, but we must pray for that. We must stay with Our Lord and that means to stay in the same Faith.

Keeping faith

Faith is the door to the Holy Trinity, to God. Someone who sins against the Faith commits a mortal sin more grave than those against the sixth commandment. One who has lost the Faith has no way to go to God! Whoever rejects one part of the Faith, rejects all of it.

The Catholic Faith is like a balloon filled with air. If you try to cut only a piece of the balloon with your knife, the whole balloon explodes. Some say Catholics and Protestants have the same Faith. No! The Protestants have exploded the balloon. There’s nothing left to them but a little bit of rubber. It’s no longer the Catholic Faith. We have the duty to know and keep this Faith in its totality. Catechism is for all ages, not only little children. Refresh your knowledge by reading the encyclicals of the good popes.

Asking for grace

Pray for grace. St. Thomas Aquinas says that God does something greater than the creation of the universe when he pours grace into a soul at baptism. It means that the loss of this treasure by one mortal sin is more serious than the destruction of the whole universe.

It is important we know the Catholic principles and establish Catholic standards in our lives. We have to take the means God provides. If we stay close to God, we have nothing to fear. God is above all the happenings of His creatures. He has won the victory and those who stay with God will have the victory with Him. Our Lord Himself said to seek for the kingdom of God and His justice, and all the rest will be given to you besides.

Rallying to the Rosary

The apparition of Our Lady of Fatima at the beginning of this century is significant. It is not hard to guess that her Third Secret has something to do with the disaster in which we live. Her remedies, however, are simple: pray the rosary daily and do penance. Console the Immaculate Heart of Mary, our heavenly Mother. To her has been entrusted the peace of the world.

Having traveled the world over, I can testify that those who have kept the Faith, who have kept the traditions of the Catholic Church, are devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary and pray the rosary. This friend of the pope [John Paul II] who came to visit me said the same.

On the eve of the Year 2000, I would like to announce a new crusade of the rosary. In the Church’s most desperate hours, the popes have always asked the faithful to pray the rosary. This always has been the victory for the Church: the time of St. Dominic, Lepanto, Budapest, Vienna, etc. Every time we see the rosary and the visit of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Let us pray for the same victory. So, let’s go! Thank you very much.

This conference was given on January 7, 1999 in Kansas City, Missouri and transcribed by Angelus Press; it has been adapted and abridged to maintain its conversational tone.