An ultra-traditionalist bishop seeking rehabilitation from the Vatican said in an interview on Wednesday that his breakaway movement could not fully accept landmark 20th century church reforms, as his critics demand.
Bishop Bernard Fellay, whose excommunication was lifted last month along with those of three other bishops, said his Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) did not agree with a key document of the Second Vatican Council on respecting other religions.
He also told the French weekly Famille Chretienne he did not reject the 1962-1965 Council completely but only "a dangerous spirit that runs through the whole Council" that caused what he saw as a break with centuries of Roman Catholic tradition.
In a debate that broke out after SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson denied the Holocaust, several leading Catholic prelates and Jewish organisations insisted the SSPX must support all Council reforms in order to be fully rehabilitated. (So did the Vatican.)
While the lifting of excommunications readmitted them into the Church, the four men must now negotiate with the Vatican to be officially recognised as bishops and take posts of responsibility within the Church.
Fellay said of the Council: "One cannot approach it in a dogmatic way and say 'amen' to everything. This approach is completely wrong. There are different domains, themes and degrees of authority." (Spoken like a true cafeteria Catholic.)
"In my opinion, many of the problems we point out can be resolved by distinctions and not by absolute acceptances or rejections," he said. (Good luck with that one. It hasn't worked for the progressive wing.)
Fellay said the Church had given up trying to convert people to Catholicism in recent decades because the Council stressed respect for other faiths. "The Church no longer has the will to convert. We don't agree here. This is serious," he said in the interview, distributed before publication next week.
Asked about the Council statement that Jews were spiritual "elder brothers" of Christians, he agreed the two faiths shared the Old Testament but said Jews rejected the New Testament.
"That is not enough for them to be saved," he said. (Ah, but the question is, is this enough for them to be condemned?)
As for cooperation with other Christian churches, he said it was acceptable if it led them to return to the Catholic Church they left during and after the Protestant Reformation.
"If that's the true aim of ecumenism, we certainly don't oppose it," he said. "There is only one Church and there cannot be several." (The earliest tradition says something quite different.)
Fellay said the modern Catholic Mass, which the SSPX rejects in favour of the traditional Latin liturgy, was valid but sometimes not reverent enough. Pope Benedict extended use of the Latin Mass in 2007 as part of his drive to win back the SSPX.
Fellay, who lives at the SSPX headquarters in Switzerland, said he hoped the negotiations with the Vatican would start soon but he had no idea when this would happen. "I love this Church even if I take some knocks from it," he said. (Could be worse, you could be a gay liberal.)
Looks like Benedict is going to have some issues with his favorite right wing cafeteria Catholics.
This is truly the story which will never die because there are too many core issues at stake.
Forget for a minute the ubiquitous Bishop Williamson and his 'traditional' anti semitism, misogyny, and triumphant clericalism. Bishop Fellay is the real problem because his bone is his opposition to Vatican II and he is not letting go of the bone. His identity is wrapped up in his opposition.
How one defines personal identity and how narrow that identity is can be a monstrous stumbling block in relating with others. The more narrow the definition the bigger the stumbling block. It takes an even bigger stumbling block to unite narrowly defined identities.
Last night I was watching the History channel and they were talking about the reign of Emperor Justinian in the late 400's. Justinian was quite the piece of work and managed to engender all kinds of hate. A riot broke out in Constantinople during chariot races between the two biggest rival chariot teams. It is recorded that the stadium in which this race occurred was evenly divided between fanatics of both teams. For whatever reason the crowd came together when someone started a cheer against Justinian. In a fit of sports passion they stormed Justinian's palace. As the show said, this would be equivalent to Mets and Yankees fans attending the same game and deciding to attack City Hall instead of each other.
The end result was the deaths of 40,000 chariot race fans who happened to realize they hated Justinian more than each other. Unfortunately for them, Justinian had the last of the Roman legions.
As I was watching this I couldn't help thinking that the upshot of a lot of recent Vatican happenings is that Benedict is starting to bring the left and right together in at least the recognition that both wings are engaged in cafeteria Catholicism and both sides engage in it because they love Catholicism. Mets and Yankee fans may hate each other's teams, but they both love baseball.
Maybe instead of attempting to force some kind of contrived unity on Catholicism, Benedict should organize Catholicism along the lines of Major League Baseball and become a commissioner. That way we could all play the more or less same game while keeping our different uniforms. After all even Major League Baseball continues to function with it's two leagues using different rules concerning the non traditional designated hitter.
It makes more sense to follow this path than the one Justinian took. After all baseball is not a democracy either, and Benedict doesn't have a Theodora at his side to stop him from deserting the field the way Justinian did. And in theory, Benedict wouldn't need to adopt a policy on steroids!