December 2004 - Superior General's Letter #67

In these days when we celebrate the advent of Our Lord Jesus Christ, may the newborn Child cover you with his blessings. More than ever, we must all see with the eyes of faith and expect everything of Him. The letter we sent to Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos in June expresses our unchanged position towards Rome.

Dear Friends and Benefactors,

In these days when we celebrate the advent of Our Lord Jesus Christ, may the newborn Child cover you with his blessings. We ask Him that He might render you a hundredfold your generosities and devotion!

The Nativity is full of lessons for our times. God among us, the True God, Eternal and All-powerful, Creator of all things and the absolute Sovereign comes in our midst to save us.

While being diligent and making the best use of the means He gives us, we must expect EVERYTHING of Him. “Without Me you can do nothing.” “It is the Father’s will that you bear many fruits.” These two phrases are not at all contradictory, but complementary —they indicate the personal effort and cooperation that should accompany the grace of God. They tell us that with Our Lord we can do everything, in whatever situation we find ourselves, and especially in this 21st century of unbelievable decadence. The times in which we live discourage many people. Rebellion against God becomes more and more open, manifest, blasphemous, through the whole world. The Church seems inert, numb and without force before this new deluge.

More than ever, we must all see with the eyes of faith, this faith which conquers the world, which gives the courage to fight, this faith by which we resist even the Devil. Cui resistite fortes in fide.

It is this faith which makes us recognize in the Newborn in the crèche our God, the Word made flesh, the Savior of the world, Who asks us to stake everything on Him. Venite adoremus!

We would like to take this opportunity to communicate to you the letter we sent to Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos in June. It expresses our unchanged position towards Rome.

May Our Lady protect you in this new year and obtain for us all this faithfulness to the end which will save us; may she bless you with the Child Jesus, as the Liturgy so well puts it: Nos cum prole pia, benedicat Virgo Maria.

With all our gratitude,

† Bernard Fellay

On the feast of Christmas

25 December 2004



Priorat Mariae Verkundigung Schloss Schwandegg

Menzingen, ZG, CH-6313 SWIZTERLAND

+Menzingen, 6 June 2004

H.E. Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos

Most Reverend Eminence,

Your letter of December 30, a letter of greetings with the new proposal of an accord did indeed reach us. We have taken some time to answer because it leaves us perplexed. Allow me to respond with the greatest frankness, the only way of making progress.

We are sensitive to your efforts and those of the Holy Father to come to our aid, and we see that this overture on your part is certainly very generous. Accordingly, we are much afraid lest our attitude and our response not be understood. When we made our request that two conditions be met at the beginning of our discussions, and when we repeated that request several times, we were simply indicating a natural and necessary order to follow: before constructing a roadway on a bridge, one must lay its foundations. Otherwise the enterprise is doomed to failure. We do not see how we could arrive at a recognition without passing through a number of steps.

Among these steps, the first seems to us to be the lifting[1] of the decree of excommunication. The excommunication applying to the Orthodox was lifted without their in any way changing their attitude towards the Holy See; would it not be possible to do something similar in our regard, for us who have never separated ourselves from the authority of the Supreme Pontiff, which we have always recognized as defined by Vatican Council I. At the time of our[2] consecration in 1988 we took an oath of fidelity to the Holy See; we have always professed our attachment to the Holy See and the Sovereign Pontiff, we have taken all kinds of measures to show that we have no intention of erecting a parallel hierarchy: it should not be so difficult to cleanse us from the accusation of schism…

As regards the penalty for the reception of the episcopate, the Code of Canon Law of 1983 foresees that the maximum penalty should not be applied in the case where a subject has acted on the basis of a subjective necessity. If the Holy See does not want to admit that there was a state of objective necessity, it should at least admit that we perceive things in this way.

Such a measure would be recognized as a real overture on the part of Rome and would create the new climate necessary for any progress.

At the same time, the SSPX would submit itself to what we could by analogy call an ad limina visit. The Holy See could observe us and examine our development without there being any engagement of the two sides for the time being.

With respect to the formulas that you ask us to sign, they suppose a certain number of conditions that we cannot accept and that leave us very ill at ease.

The propositions suppose that we are guilty and that this guilt has separated us from the Church. In reparation, and to certify our orthodoxy, they ask us for a sort of limited profession of faith (Vatican Council II and the Novus Ordo).

Most of our priests and faithful have been directly confronted with heresy, and often faced with grave liturgical scandal coming from their own pastors, from bishops as well as priests. The whole history of our movement is marked by a tragic succession of events of this kind up to today, as we are joined by religious, seminarians, and priests who have had the same experience. You cannot exact a justified penalty or contrition because alone, abandoned by the pastors and betrayed by them, we have reacted to conserve the faith of our baptism or in order not to dishonor the divine Majesty. It is impossible to analyze the 1988 Consecrations without considering the tragic context in which they took place. Otherwise, things become incomprehensible and justice no longer has its due.

Furthermore, it is often said that our status would be a concession, and that we would be accorded a situation suitable to our “special charism.”

Must one recall that what we are attached to is the common patrimony of the Roman Catholic Church? We do not ask nor do we seek a special status as a mark of singularity, but we want a “normal” place in the Church. So long as the Tridentine Mass is considered a particular concession, we remain marginalized, in a precarious and suspect position. It is in this perspective that we claim a right that has never been lost: that of the Mass for everyone. To reduce this right to an indult (which certain Roman voices hold to be provisory) is already to diminish it.

In the current situation, where everything of a traditional savor immediately becomes suspect, we have need of a protector and defender of our interests in the Curia. It is more a question of representing Tradition at Rome than of establishing a delegate of the Holy See for traditional matters, as in the case of Ecclesia Dei today. In order for this organization to have some credibility and to correspond to its purpose, it is important that it be composed of members who belong to Catholic Tradition.

To achieve a “recognition” without having first resolved these questions in principle would be to doom the proposed “practical accord” to failure, for we hope to act tomorrow with the same fidelity to Catholic Tradition as we do today.

Wanting to maintain the frankness with which we address these questions (which is not a matter of arrogance or of lack of charity), we would be condemned tomorrow as we were yesterday.

At baptism a contract is established between the Christian soul and the Church: “what do you ask of the Church?” “The faith.” This is what we ask of Rome: that Rome confirm us in the Faith, the faith of all times, the immutable faith. We have the strict right to demand this of the Roman authorities. We do not believe that we can truly progress towards a “recognition” so long as Rome will not have shown its concrete intention to dissipate the cloud which has invaded the temple of God, obscured the faith and paralyzed the supernatural life of the Church under the cover of a Council and subsequent reforms.

In the hope that this letter may make its contribution to overcoming the current inertia we assure you, Eminence, of our daily prayers for the fulfillment of your heavy duty in this grave hour of Holy Mother Church.

† Bernard Fellay





[1] I.e., a declaration on the invalidity of the decree, for as Bishop Fellay points out later in the following paragraph, the 1983 Code of Canon Law is clear that neither Archbishop Lefebvre, Bishop de Castro Mayer nor the four consecrated bishops of the SSPX were liable for any canonical penalties.

[2] “our” refers to the four bishops of the SSPX, respectively, Bishops Fellay, Tissier de Mallerais, Williamson and de Galerreta.