Interview with Bishop Bernard Fellay on SSPX, the Mass, Traditionis Custodes - Part 2

February 21, 2022
Source: District of the USA

In the first part of this interview, Bishop Bernard Fellay, who held the position of Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) for 24 years, responds to questions asked by Mr. Luis Román. The first part of the interview is available here.

Luis Román is the producer and host of two programs on YouTube and all podcast platforms. In his programs he shares the Gospel and delves into the beauties and riches of the Catholic Faith, with analysis of current news, interviews and more.

While some editorial adjustments have been made to this translation and transcript of the video interview, the conversational style of the conversation has been retained throughout.

Mr. Román: In this second part of the interview, we focus a little more on the liturgy. We discuss why the Society of Saint Pius X does not celebrate the New Mass. For many, it is a scandal to hear that there is a New Mass. We are going to talk more about that too, today. Why are there technically two Masses? Why does the Society not celebrate the New Mass? What are the problems with the new liturgy promulgated by Paul VI?

Moreover, we talk about Summorum Pontificum and how the traditional Mass is freed completely from any kind of prohibition which may have been placed after the reforms, and how the Society was involved in these conversations. And we talk about Traditionis Custodes and what the actual position of Pope Francis is towards the Traditional Mass.

Does the SSPX Acknowledge the Pope & Bishops?

Mr. Román: You acknowledge the reigning Pope, you acknowledge Pope Francis, or are you sedevacantists?

Bishop Fellay: No, no absolutely not! We recognize the Pope, the local bishops, and also in every Mass we celebrate una cum with Pope Francis, before him Pope Benedict XVI, before him Pope John Paul II... we say it and we recognize him as the Holy Father, and also the local bishops.

Mr. Román: The local Bishop? Excellent. Wow. I remember speaking with Bishop Athanasius Schneider who told me many things I didn’t know. He said a lot about the Society, that they recognize the reality of the present crisis, but that they are faithful to the Church. Excellent.

Bishop Fellay: Yes. And when it’s possible, to work with the local bishop, of course. Why not? Now as for the question of marriages, for example, though we have not always liked it, it has forced us to have closer contacts with the local bishops, and in about 90-95% of the cases it has gone well.

Mr. Román: That’s great!

Bishop Fellay:  It has improved. The bishops have gotten to know us and we have gotten to know the bishops, and it’s gone well. Not completely, but it’s gone well. For me, it’s progress.

Can One Fulfill the Sunday Obligation at SSPX

Mr. Román: How wonderful. Excellent. I ask you, for a Catholic who doesn’t regularly attend the Society’s chapels, he comes from another country...or let’s say he wants to make a change… can he fulfill his Sunday obligation at one of your chapels?

Bishop Fellay: [smiling] For me the answer is clear.

Mr. Román: [laughing] Yes, I know but I want to ask the question as they want it asked.

Bishop Fellay: Yes, yes, of course. You can prove the point. If the Pope gives the SSPX the right to hear confessions, you could not imagine that he would say at the same time, “They are irregular.” Someone who is irregular cannot at the same time hear confessions.

To give the right to hear confessions indicates that now, God knows how, he has fixed these problems about irregularity. And so, if you can hear confessions, you can at the same time celebrate Mass, you can give communion. It’s all together.

Additionally, and that’s something to laugh about, the delegation for marriages says explicitly, that, as they are marriages of the Society, the priest who blesses the marriage is the SSPX priest. Even if the marriage is celebrated in a diocesan parish, the priest who blesses it is the SSPX priest. If we were irregular, if it was prohibited, how could you at the same time say that we are to bless those marriages?

They are delicate questions that are not the clearest on the legal level, yes, and why? Because we are in this very deep situation, with many problems, in which I see the intention of the Church that is very profound, that looks towards the good. What is the good? The salvation of souls.

When Pope Francis told me in an audience that he was giving us the faulty to hear confessions, he told me two or three times, “It’s for the salvation of souls.” There is not a higher argument than that: the salvation of souls. He insists on this.

He also said, “I give it perpetually” [laughs]. He said this many times. It doesn't correspond to the official text, but it expresses the papal intention well.

Mr. Román: Yes. We must pray a lot for the Pope. I tell people we must pray a lot for him.

Bishop Fellay: Every time that something goes well, the entire Church benefits from this. It is very important to pray for the Pope, very important. You can become angry, too, but you can’t stay angry. You must go forward. St. Paul said, “Overcome evil with the good.”

"You Prefer the Old Mass"

Mr. Román: Amen, amen. Your Excellency, I’ll ask you something now because of the questions I receive from people. Of all the things we have talked about, we have not yet talked about the liturgy.

What would you in the Society say about those who say, “Oh ok. You prefer the (wrongly termed) Old Mass,” the traditional Mass, or we could say the Catholic Mass, the Mass of all time. My question is, why do you not celebrate the New Mass?

Bishop Fellay: There are various, let’s say graded, answers. A very easy answer, though not the most profound, but that everyone understands, is, If I am going to receive the President and I can use a golden trumpet or a trumpet of second or third-class quality, it would be an offense to the President to use the trumpet of third-class quality. You must use the best.

Here the rite of Mass is the most precious thing we have to give glory to God. You must use the best! To use something less is an offense. This argument is not the deepest, but everyone can understand it.

More seriously. When they made this New Mass, the one who made it was Archbishop Bugnini. And Bugnini said publicly (it was published in the L’Osservatore Romano in 1964); “Prayer does not need to be an obstacle for anyone.”

Therefore, what is the consequence? “We will take from the Mass everything that has the suspicion of being an obstacle for our separated brothers.” Therefore, he stated very clearly that he took from the Mass everything that is typically Catholic, that is, rejected by the Protestants.

So, that is what he did. The New Mass has enough to be the Mass, to be valid, but it is not more Catholic. They took out what’s Catholic. You must know the Protestants rejected three or four dogmas in the Mass. To take them out is very serious. It's going to abandon people, push people in the direction where they will lose the Faith.

You see so many now. So many do not believe in the Real Presence. Why? Because the way of behaving in this Mass does not give the respect that is due to Our Lord. Finally, you lose the Faith! I don’t know how many priests have lost belief in the Real Presence!

I remember a Diocese in Germany, Trier, about three years ago, where a poll revealed that 80 % of Catholic priests no longer believed in the Real Presence. In a Diocese in Belgium a priest told us that in the entire Diocese there were three priests who still believed in the Real Presence.

In general, I think there are more who believe in it. But this is serious, very serious. Also, considering religions ecumenically, it’s very clear that each one can think that as a Protestant, as an Anglican, he can be saved. No! It's not like that!

All those beliefs that have been introduced with this Mass, are very subtle. It sins by omission. The ideas are not clearly stated, no, not positively. You can read it and think it’s not there. No, it’s negative, it’s left out. It pretends that it doesn’t exist.

The gravest elements are firstly the idea of the sacrifice, then the reminder of the priest, the absolute necessity of a Catholic priest, a priest to say the Mass, then the Real Presence. Those are the, let’s call them major, points. Then we can say fourthly, since it is a dogma, that the Mass is identical to the sacrifice of Our Lord on the cross. 

These realities are in the shadows; you can’t now see them in the sunlight. When you ask people what the Mass is, they are going to say that it’s a party, a banquet, all of that. But who says it’s Calvary, that there I’m in front of Our Lord dying for me? That's forgotten.

So, for these reasons, we don’t celebrate the New Mass.

Mr. Román: Thank you. No, Monsignor, I shared with one of your priests here [in Florida] that I was born into the New Mass. I was also an altar boy in the New Mass. I see what you say, that the omissions from the New Mass are very grave. At least for me when I was little there was still a little bit of reverence. You received Our Lord on the tongue.

Now you see lay people at the altar, without vestments, receiving Him in the hand. It's to the point that in the same Novus Ordo, the New Mass, you can see the harm done. The grave harm done in the beginning has changed into a monstrosity. Now, after the difficulties that we have had since the pandemic, it has gotten worse.

Bishop Fellay: Yes. You know that when the New Mass was introduced, Protestants contributed. That's incredible! There were six Protestant Pastors who collaborated in the New Mass. One of them, Max Thurian said, “Now Protestants can celebrate Protestant worship with the Roman Missal. It's theologically possible.”

That means this Mass corresponds to Protestant theology. Another, named Metz, said, “Now that in the Mass the idea of sacrifice is not reflected, a Protestant can feel at home!” It’s clear, isn’t it?

Mr. Román: It’s sad. Sometimes I give them [the creators of the New Mass] the benefit of the doubt and believe their intention was to lead more people to Catholicism. But, no. How many years, for 50-60 years now, we have seen the disaster the New Mass has caused?

Bishop Fellay: The churches have emptied.

The Impact of Summorum Pontificum

Mr. Román: And the Catholics have abandoned them. That is the worst damage. I want to finish because I have taken a lot of time. But I don’t want to leave before we talk a little bit about Pope Benedict XVI and Summorum Pontificum, and the impact that it’s had.

I saw the impact of Summorum Pontificum. Thanks to Summorum Pontificum we have gotten to know the traditional Mass. The Fraternity of St. Peter has grown considerably. But, I wanted to ask your opinion. People may not know, but I know that Summorum Pontificum is the consequence of many conversations that you had with Pope Benedict XVI. Can we talk a little about that, the good that the Society of Saint Pius X did for the Church?

Bishop Fellay: You know, I think that there are two things that worked together. On the one hand, our request. We requested this text. We asked that each priest be able to say the traditional Mass.

We know, not by hearsay but certainly, that in 1982 there were discussions in the Curia, among the cardinals. As a consequence of this meeting they said, “We do not have arguments, neither canonical nor theological, to say that the [traditional] Mass was abrogated.”

In 1982 these Cardinals knew the traditional Mass was not abrogated. It is not abrogated, and there are no arguments, neither theological nor canonical, to say so. Good. That is a foundation. Based upon this, we made our request [to Benedict XVI].

On the other hand, Pope Benedict XVI in his books, in his articles, before becoming pope, lamented the liturgical reform to the point of saying that the liturgical reform was one of the causes of the devastation in the Church. So, upon becoming pope, he wanted to make a correction.

It was called the reform of the reform but when you see it more deeply, you can see more, in an official note dated April 30, 2011 from Ecclesia Dei. This note is about the motu proprio and gives explanations. This note is almost unknown, but it is worth reading.

Why? Because here they say that the Pope’s motu proprio is a universal law. It does not just consider a group like the Society, no, it’s for everyone, for all Catholics. The intention of the promulgator, the Pope, is to give access to the Traditional Mass, to the traditional liturgy, to all Catholics. All.

Therefore, there is an intention of Pope Benedict XVI to re-establish contact for everyone with not just the Mass, but all traditional worship.

Afterwards you should note that it talks not just about the missal, that every priest has the freedom to use the missal, but also the breviary. He can also use the breviary without a problem. He can use the ritual, without a problem. The bishop can use the pontifical.

The only restriction is that in diocesan seminaries you should not use the pontifical for ordinations. It's the only restriction. The bishop is given access to everything else. It also mentions the Ceremoniale Episcoporum, a book almost unknown.

But, all of those liturgical books are mentioned, literally. Every man in the Church, at his level, has access to this liturgy. So, it is a lot more than just saying, “Ok. This is for those who lament and look to the past.” No, no, there is a much deeper intention.

Pope Benedict XVI saw the disaster caused by the liturgical reform and wants to make reparation for it; he wants [the traditional liturgy] to come back. He wants to show the way to come back, by these ceremonies that have sanctified the Church for more than 1,000 years.

They are certain means of sanctification that really augment the Faith, nourish the soul, give the courage, the virtue, the strength to go forward in this world that has gone completely insane. It is most clear. For me, the intention of Pope Benedict XVI is most clear.

He must have thought about the bishops, consequences, so he changed the problematic language a little. But the intention is very clear. This note really must be read.

What Does Pope Francis Want with Traditionis Custodes?

Mr. Román: Excellent. Yes. I read it and it is very good. Summorum Pontificum was a breath of fresh air for the Church, which needed it. Now, recently, Pope Francis published the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes.

What can you tell me about Traditionis Custodes? Does it basically reverse things? Does it change things to how they were before? What do you think of it and also the note that accompanies the document?

Bishop Fellay: Yes...I don’t think much good of it. I am not sure that it corresponds exactly to the Pope’s position. It is possible...there are parts where I see the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in these texts. But there are things...Is it him [Pope Francis] or the people around him who sharply pressured him?...I don’t know. But I don’t have the answer on this level, and you can’t deduce anything.

There is a text; the text is objective. There is an incredible severity, a hard cruelty that is not the spirit of the Church, accompanied with ridiculous arguments. It talks about the unity of the liturgy. Yet you must know that with the New Mass a division was introduced.

There are not two Masses that are the same! There are not two parishes that have the same Mass with this New Mass! To talk about the unity of the Church, and what about the other rites? The Church has lots of rites. Never was there a problem with liturgical unity.

So why in the name of liturgical unity should the most ancient rite, the most noble, the most sanctifying, be suppressed? No! That is ridiculous. Moreover, it’s completely unjust! I think it must be remembered, too, that Pope Francis’s document has this problem.

Moreover, there is something else, something we have used for 20 years. It's called the indult of the bull Quo Primum. Pope St. Pius V when he restored the Roman Rite, and because of that it’s called the Rite of Pius V...because it’s not from St. Pius V, it’s more ancient,...asked a commission to find the most ancient, unmodified rite that was celebrated in Rome.

So, the rite is from the 4th or 5th century, the most ancient you can imagine. Good. Reintroducing this rite, firstly Pope St. Pius V suppressed the new rites of that time. But he also said rites older than 200 years are to be kept. Afterwards, he said no priest until the end of time can be punished if he celebrates this rite.

It's what’s called an indult. It is a permission, a protection, for each priest to celebrate this [traditional] Mass until the end of the world, without fear of being punished. That lasts throughout all ages. That cannot be suppressed. It’s given.

In Summorum Pontificum Pope Benedict says the [traditional] Mass was not abrogated, so it was not abrogated. The new motu proprio does not abrogate it. It can’t!

Mr. Román: No, it doesn’t have that power. I liked what you said there. That’s why we have to pray for Pope Francis, that he helps the Church. When that document came out, it caused me a lot of pain, even though it still says the [traditional] Mass is available. He sees this, too.

Bishop Fellay: How did he say it? I don’t understand this text well. Also, the question if it really comes from the Pope or not. Some say yes, others say no. For me, it leaves me with a malaise.

It's possible that it comes from him. Officially, it’s presented like that, so it must be accepted as such. But it’s not the usual way of proceeding. One of his principles, that he himself said to me, that time is above space. Here there is a total contradiction.

What do time and space mean? The Pope explained to us that an idea needs time to spread, and it doesn’t help at all to force it. If you force it, and that’s what’s called space, it produces contradiction and division. And here, that’s exactly what is happening.

That's why I see a malaise. But, again, I can’t say it doesn’t come from the Pope. It's presented as coming from the Pope, so ok, but I see contradictions.

I also read a text from Bishop Schneider that points out these contradictions. Yes. It's a contradictory text, and we can define it so. So, it is not a source of unity in the Church.

Mr. Román: Of course. It came to me with a shade of surprise, as that was not the case in the 1970s and 1980s. But, the great number of bishops did not make changes in their dioceses, thanks be to God. The great majority. Some who are very radical did, but a great many did not. It contradicts a bit the note that accompanies the document, that says the great majority of bishops asked him to act.

Bishop Fellay: That’s not true.

What to Think about the Ecclesia Dei Communities?

Mr. Román: Yes, it seemed to me not, because if so afterwards they would have gone forward with it. I’ll ask the question. I see now the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, the Institute of Christ the King, the distinct groups there are from Ecclesia Dei, are they in the same situation that you are?

Bishop Fellay: They must make a decision. We will see what decision they make.

Mr. Román: Yes. What advice would you give them?

Bishop Fellay: A treasure has been entrusted to them. They must not lose it. That is my advice about all of this. It is not for themselves, but for the Church.

The Future of the SSPX and Tradition

Mr. Román: Amen, amen. And another, more personal, question. If Rome does not give permission in the future...when you are much older, I hope that you live much longer, and with the other bishops who protect us...but if there comes a moment when there is a need for more bishops in the Society, would you do the same as previously?

Bishop Fellay: We will act exactly the same as at the time of Archbishop Lefebvre. So, when the urgency presents itself, the necessity, at that time we will act the same. We will ask Rome. Afterwards, depending on the response of Rome, we will see what the good God shows us.

It is another door that perhaps a few years later might become more visible. I do not exclude in the proximate future that bishops of the Catholic Church will back us up, even publicly. I don’t exclude it. If that happens, it can relativize the necessity of consecrating our own bishops.

You know, the future is in God’s hands, not ours. For us, what’s important is to watch every day to see how things develop. See how the will of God and Divine Providence develops things. It was the Archbishop’s principle to always align with, and never anticipate, Providence.

Mr. Román: Amen.

Bishop Fellay: Anytime there was a decision, however grave to make, in the moment when he was to make a decision, the good God gave him everything to make the most peaceful, prudent, clear decision. Every time.

Before doubts, questions, obscurity...but in the moment everything became clear. As for the question about the future, about the bishops, it’s the same thing. You must have confidence in the good God. He's never abandoned us. Never.

I see every day how the good God, in an amazing way, a way that’s not natural, helps souls. The good God uses everything. He helps the soul primarily with ordinary means. But if that’s not enough, he helps with spectacular means!

He [Archbishop Lefebvre] saw [in a dream] the Cathedral [at Dakar]. He saw how God led him to establish the Society. You can actually call it a miracle. He saw it. These things are from God. Ok, he permits the crosses. Yes, of course, crosses, contradictions, and everything else. But, finally, He directs things.

It's a fundamental Catholic principle that if a soul loves the good God, if he asks the good God for help, grace, the good God will never refuse this grace. Never. It's impossible. He promised it.

Mr. Román: Amen. I ask you for a final commendation. What would you say to priests, bishops too, who see this video about this time of crisis, in the world, but also in the Church?

Bishop Fellay: To me what’s most important is to believe strongly, without a doubt, that they have the grace of state to fulfill their obligations. It costs what it costs. They have this grace, and they must lean on this grace. When God gives a mission, He gives all the means to fulfill it.

Today’s world is difficult. The situation in the Church today is a mess. So it’s very difficult. Therefore, grace is on the same level, proportionate, to this time. So, they must count on this grace to fulfill their obligations before God.

Mr. Román: Amen. Excellent. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Bishop Fellay: A blessing for everyone.

Mr. Román: Your Excellency, thank you.

Part 1 of this interview >>