Extract from the Sermon of Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the SSPX, for the
feast of Candlemas, 2 February 2012
In the following transcription, reviewed by His Excellency Bishop Fellay, we have retained the quality
of the spoken word.
You can also listen to the sermon here.
The Society of St. Pius X has been founded by the Church and in the Church, and we say this Society continues to
exist, despite the fact that there is a pretense that it does not exist; that it was suppressed in 1976 (but
obviously with total disrespect of the laws of the Church itself). And that’s why we continue. And our
dear Founder insisted many, many times on the importance of this existence of the Society. And I think, as
time evolves, we must keep this in mind – and it is very important that we keep this Catholic Spirit.
We are not an independent group. Even if we are fighting with Rome, we are still, so to say, with
Rome. We are fighting with Rome; or, if you want, against Rome, at the same time with Rome. And we
claim and we continue to say, we are Catholic. We want to stay Catholic. Many times I say to Rome, you
try to kick us out. And we see it would be much easier for us to be out. We would have many more
advantages. You would treat us much better! Look at the Protestants, how they open the churches to
them. To us, they close them. And we say, we don’t care. We do things in front of God. We
suffer from the Church, fine. We don’t like that, of course. But we ought to stay there in the
truth. And we have to maintain that we do belong to the Church. We are Catholics. We want to be
and we want to stay Catholic, and it is very important to maintain that.
It’s also important that we don’t finally imagine a Catholic church which is just the fruit of our imagination
but which is no longer the real one. And with the real one we have problems. That’s what makes it even
more difficult: the fact that we have problems with it. That does not allow us, so to say, to shut the
door. On the contrary, it is our duty to continuously go there, knock at the door, and not beg that we may
enter (because we are in) but beg that they may convert; that they may change and come back to what makes the
Church. It is a great mystery; it is not simple. Because at the same time we have to say, yes, we do
recognize that Church – that’s what we say in the Creed, I believe in the Catholic Church – so we accept that there
is a pope; we accept that there is a hierarchy, we do accept that.
And practically, at many levels, we have to say no. Not because it does not please us, but because the
Church has already spoken about that. Even many of these things it has condemned them. And so, in our
discussions with Rome we were, so to say, stuck there. The key problem in our discussions with Rome was
really the Magisterium, the teaching of the Church. Because they say, “we are the pope, we are the Holy See”
– and we say, yes. And so they say, “we have the supreme power,” and we say, yes. They say, “we are the
last instance in teaching and we are necessary” – Rome is necessary for us to have the Faith, and we say,
yes. And then they say, “then, obey.” And we say, no. And so they say to us, you are
protestant. You put your reason above the Magisterium of today. And we answer to them, you are
Modernists. You pretend that the teaching of today can be different from the teaching of yesterday. We
say, when we adhere to what the Church has taught yesterday, we, by necessity, adhere to the teaching of the Church
today. Because the truth is not linked to time. The truth is above it. What has been said once is
binding all times. These are the dogmas. God is like that; God is above time. And the Faith is
adhering to the truth of God. It’s above time. That’s why the church of today is bound and has to be
like (not only like) the Church of yesterday. And so when you see the present pope say that there must be
continuity in the Church, we say, of course! That is what we have said at all times. When we talk about
tradition, that’s precisely the meaning. They say, there must be Tradition, there must be continuity.
So there is continuity. Vatican II has been made by the Church, the Church must be continuous, so Vatican II
is Tradition. And we say, beg your pardon?
It goes even further, my dear brethren. That was during the discussion. At the end of the
discussion, comes this invitation from Rome. In this invitation there is a proposition of a canonical
situation that is to regularize our situation. And I may say, what is presented today, which is already
different from what was presented on the 14th of September, we can consider it as all right, good. They
fulfilled all our requirements, I may say, on the practical level. So there is not much problem there.
The problem remains at the other level – at the level of the doctrine. But even there it goes very far – very
far, my dear brethren. The key is a principle. Which they say, “this you must accept; you must accept
that for the points that make difficulty in the Council – points which are ambiguous, where there is a fight –
these points, like ecumenism, like religious liberty, these points must be understood in coherence with the
perpetual teaching of the Church.” “So if there is something ambiguous in the Council, you must understand it
as the Church has always taught throughout the ages.”
They go even further and say, “one must reject whatever is opposed to this traditional teaching of the
Church.” Well, that is what we have always said. Amazing, isn’t it? That Rome is imposing on us
this principle. Amazing. Then you may wonder, then why don’t you accept? Well, my dear brethren,
there is still a problem. The problem is that in this text they give two applications of what and how we have
to understand these principles. These two examples that they give to us are ecumenism and religious liberty,
as they are described in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, which are exactly the points for which we
reproach the Council.
In other words, Rome tells us, we have done that all the time. We are traditional; Vatican II is
Tradition. Religious liberty, ecumenism is Tradition. It is in full coherence with Tradition. You
just wonder, where do we go? What kind of words will we find to say, we agree or we don’t? If even the
principles which we have kept and said, they say, yes it’s ok you can say that, because this means what we mean,
which is exactly the contrary of what we mean.
I think we could not go further in the confusion. In other words, my dear brethren, that means that they
have another meaning with the word “tradition,” and even maybe even with “coherence.” And that’s why we were
obliged to say no. We’re not going to sign that. We agree with the principle but we see that the
conclusion is contrary. Great mystery! Great mystery! So what is going to happen now? Well, we
have sent our answer to Rome. They still say that they’re reflecting on it, which means they’re probably
embarrassed. At the same time I think we may see now what they really want. Do they really want us in
the Church or not? We told them very clearly, if you accept us as is, without change, without obliging us to
accept these things, then we are ready. But if you want us to accept these things, we are not. In fact
we have just quoted Archbishop Lefebvre who said this already in 1987 – several times before, but the last time he
said it was in 1987.
In other words, my dear brethren, humanly speaking, difficult to say how the future will look, but we know that
when we deal with the Church, we deal with God; we deal with divine providence, and we know that this Church is His
Church. Humans may cause some disruption, some destruction. They may cause turmoil, but God is above
that, and He knows how to, out of all these happenings – these human happenings – these odd lines, God knows how to
direct His Church through these trials.
There will be an end to this trial, I don’t know when. Sometimes there is hope that it will come.
Sometimes it is like despair. God knows when, but really, humanly speaking, we must wait for quite a time
before hoping to see things better – five, ten years. I am persuaded that in ten years things will look
different because the generation of the Council will be gone and the next generation does not have this link with
the Council. And already now we hear several bishops, my dear brethren, several bishops tell us: you give too
much weight to this Council; put it aside. It could be a good way for the Church to go ahead. Put it
aside; forget it. Let’s go back to the real thing, to Tradition.
Isn’t that interesting to hear bishops who say that? That’s a new language! It means that you have a new
generation which knows that there are things that are more serious than Vatican II in the Church, and that we have
to go back to this more serious, if I may say so. Vatican II is serious because of the damage it has caused,
yes it is. But as such it wanted to be a pastoral council, which is over now. We know that someone who
is working in the Vatican wrote a thesis for his academic grades and it was about the magisterium of Vatican
II. He himself told us and nobody in the Roman universities was ready to take that thesis. Finally a
professor did, and the thesis is the following: the authority of the magisterium of Vatican II is that of a homily
in the 1960’s. And he passed!
We shall see my dear brethren. For us it’s very clear. We must stick and hold to the truth, to the
Faith. We are not going to give that up – whatever happens. There are some threats, of course, from
Rome now. We shall see. We put all these things in the hands of God, and in the hands of the Blessed
Virgin Mary. Oh, yes, we have to continue our crusade of rosaries. We count on her, we count on
God. And then whatever happens, happens. I cannot promise a beautiful spring. I have no idea
what’s going to be in this spring. What I know is that the fight for the faith will continue, whatever
happens. If we are recognized or not, you can be certain that the Progressives will not be happy. They
will continue and we will continue to fight them too.
Sermon of Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the SSPX, December 8, 2011, in Econe
My dear seminarians,
My dearest confreres,
We celebrate today the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. Some people,
curiously enough, perhaps because of the word “conception” (which they connect with what we say in the Angelus,
“And she conceived by the Holy Spirit”), think that this feast concerns the virginal motherhood of the Blessed
Virgin: Mary conceived the Child Jesus while remaining a virgin. That is not what it is about. When we speak about
the Immaculate Conception, we mean the spotless conception of the Most Blessed Virgin. The Blessed Virgin was
conceived and came into the world without sin, preserved from the stain of original sin. This law is imposed on all
the children of Adam and Eve; we all have the inheritance of original sin.
Adam and Eve sinned, and they committed that first sin as the head of the whole human race. In that sin, one
might say, they pawned the whole human race, all their descendants. So it is that all the sons and daughters of Eve
and Adam come into the world with this terrible inheritance: a debt owed to God. And more than a debt, because they
are deprived of what can bring about their happiness: grace. This lack of grace is not a neutral state, it is a
state of hostility toward God. A state of imprisonment, of slavery in the hands of the devil – the consequence of
that first sin which is called original sin. One human creature was preserved from it, the Most Blessed Virgin
The Immaculate Conception, the extraordinary privilege of the Holy Mother of God
This absolutely extraordinary privilege is precisely what today’s feast celebrates. She does not have that
inheritance. Why? In expectation of the merits of her Son. Her Son is Our Lord, the Savior. And God willed that His
Son – the Son of God – should come into the world from a mother who from the very beginning of her existence was
preserved from sin, from opposition to God. Immaculate! Immaculate even in her conception. And this Immaculate
Conception will preserve this immaculate character during her whole life. Throughout her life, the Most Blessed
Virgin Mary would never sin, would never offend the Good Lord. A truly extraordinary privilege! Let us truly
salute, let us hail the Mother of God, the Queen of heaven and earth, our Mother, for such a beautiful, such a
To say that she was preserved or spared may give us a somewhat negative idea. But when we say about a
tablecloth, for example, that it is spotless, we are not saying something negative. If a tablecloth is spotless, if
it is immaculate, it is quite beautiful. And when we say that the Blessed Virgin was preserved from sin, this does
not mean that she is in a neutral state in relation to God. She is in a state of grace, and not just any grace.
Pius IX, in order to establish this dogma of the Immaculate Conception, would base it on the words of the angel’s
salutation that we heard in the Gospel: “full of grace”, “Hail, Mary, full of grace”. The angel calls Mary “full of
grace” (Luke 1:28). This is the title that he gives her. A fullness of grace, a sanctifying grace, is a
participation in the life of God. You see, at the beginning of human history, this natural state, as opposed to the
supernatural state, did not exist. The Good Lord, from the beginning, destined man to much more than what man can
do. He destined him to become a child of God. He destined him for Heaven. And when we say Heaven, this means:
participating in His own happiness, in His beatitude. When He creates man, He wants him to become a sharer in His
own nature, in His divine life. In this natural state, we consider human nature as it was created; but a neutral
state, in other words, a state of pure nature, does not exist. Either you are with God or you are against God. It
is terrible, but so it is. And even the children who die without baptism, who have never sinned personally, who do
not have that responsibility, will nevertheless always remain deprived of the beatific vision, deprived of that
life of God, that life with God. They will be in a state called limbo, a state where one is deprived precisely of
that happiness of God. They will still have a kind of happiness that we may call natural or human, but that is all.
It is not the hell of punishments that is reserved for those who have sinned personally, but it is not the
happiness that the Good Lord wants to give us. And so, once again, when we hail the Immaculate Conception, we
salute the marvel, the most beautiful of all creatures, the one who was most favored by the Good Lord.
Saint Thomas would not hesitate to tell us that she is the one who has reached the limits, if we may put it this
way, of God’s infinitude, of God’s perfection. She received the most graces, the most blessings from God in all
respects. Thus in calling her the Immaculate Conception, we mean that she is something extraordinary, extremely
beautiful, perfect. She is, to that same extent, enriched with all the virtues, all the gifts, truly favored, with
a view to the Savior and therefore to the salvation of mankind. This is God’s triumph. It is a victory, an
extraordinary victory for us who see so many, many evils around us, so many, many sins, so many, many errors,
rebellions, arrogance and insolence against God. Some even go so far as to doubt God; this is the famous objection:
“There is so much evil; if a good God existed, all these evils would not exist,” and so on. Well, then! In the
Immaculate Conception the Good Lord gives us the sign that He is God and that He is infinitely above all these
miseries that you can see in creation.
This is more than just the announcement, this is already the victory of God over sin, over the devil – a victory
that will be complete with Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Commitments in the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X
Archbishop Lefebvre wanted the members of the Society to renew their commitment on this feast day of holiness,
and he wanted those who desire to enter it to do so on such a beautiful day by making their commitment to the
Society. On this day, under such splendid patronage, under her protection, the seminarians enter the Society.
This is an important day for you, dear seminarians, and so do not take it lightly. The questions that we ask you
today and the answers that you give to these questions are very serious, very demanding. And just because these are
not vows, just because these commitments are canonically one step lower, like a solemn promise made in the presence
of God – not that far from the definition of a vow, but canonically a step lower – that does not mean that you
should take things lightly. The renunciations that are mentioned in the formula of commitment are renunciations
that correspond to the evangelical counsels. Although Archbishop Lefebvre did not want the members of the Society
to take vows directly, this is only because of the circumstances in which we live, the circumstances in which our
apostolate is carried out, where often it is not materially possible to keep the vows as one should. For example
under obedience you must ask permission, but if you are all alone in your mission, you must make a decision, and
you cannot refer it to your superior; that goes against the vow of obedience per se, at least against the letter of
[the law of] obedience. As for poverty: you must decide to make a purchase quickly, but with the vows it would be
necessary to ask permission. Therefore it was because of these very practical circumstances that
Monseigneur did not want the members of the Society to take vows. But that does not mean that Archbishop
Lefebvre wanted or would have wanted to dispense us from the spirit of the vows. More precisely, the requirement of
renunciation, this requirement of a total gift of self to the Good Lord and the Most Blessed Virgin – this
consecration to the Blessed Virgin that is found in your commitments – is something very precious that commits you
very clearly; you take on an obligation to pursue perfection. And so do not exempt yourselves from these
obligations by saying, “We are not religious, we are secular seminarians.” It would be an insult to the Society to
say that. That is not what the Society expects of its members. When you look at the virtues – indeed,
Monseigneur decided to describe several virtues of members in the Statutes – you may be struck also by the
loftiness of these requirements. The first virtue is charity, charity toward God, Monseigneur tells us,
toward the Most Holy Trinity, which is precisely such a virtue that it naturally gives rise to all the sorts of
detachment that we find in the vows, in the evangelical counsels. Naturally, detachment from the world, or poverty,
the detachment that we find in chastity, detachment from one’s own will in obedience.
It seems to me that today, on this feast of the Immaculate Conception, in looking at the Most Blessed Virgin
Mary, we have the most beautiful model of this practice of the virtues.
The spiritual combat of the Society of St. Pius X
When we salute the Blessed Virgin and her virtues, we do not think of it immediately, but the Church reminds us
that it is not only a very beautiful perfection, but also at the same time a victory. And to say victory is also to
say combat, struggle. If the Society wants to tend toward that sanctity, it must struggle. Its members must
struggle. Against themselves, to be sure, but they must also struggle against the world, and that about sums up our
whole project. Here we discover something quite mysterious: the era in which we are living. By a great mystery, God
has allowed the spirit of the world to try to enter into the Church. And one must fight not only against external
enemies, but also against a non-Catholic spirit that has come back into the Church. Plainly we see that with all
the recent changes, the introduction of this spirit happened at the time of the Second Vatican Council. This is an
inexpressible tragedy. This evil is a great mystery. Paul VI spoke about the “smoke of Satan”. It is as though the
devil had set foot in the sanctuary. And we find this reality chilling. It is radically the opposite of what the
Church is. In the Credo we sing that she is holy, and we believe that she is holy. And then some prelates, bishops,
cardinals, even popes turn around and invite the faithful to do what the Church has always forbidden, with grave
interdicts, with the threat of sanctions that could extend even to excommunication. That is why Archbishop Lefebvre
said, “I cannot.” And you yourselves: if you are here, it is for the same reason: No, you cannot, because those
things offend God.
This is a great mystery because at the same time that we see these things and have to say “no” to them, we must
also continue to say that Good Lord has promised the Church: “The gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Mt
16:18). On the one hand it is necessary to insist that it is the Church of Christ, the Church that God founded, and
on the other hand we see plenty of elements that are not the Church, that are the contrary of the Church but are
inside the Church. Consider an exact image that can help us understand this: it is like a sickness that is
introduced into a body. This sickness is like a foreign body, but this foreign body is inside. How do the cells
react when they find themselves in the presence of these foreign bodies? Obviously, they try to defend themselves!
And then, what is worse, the organs in control tell us, “You must not defend yourselves. You have to swallow
everything, accept everything.” And for forty years—fifty years soon—we have been in that state. Because so far we
haven’t seen any great change.
The recent proposals by Rome
You have all heard that there was a proposal from Rome, a proposal that said, “We are ready to recognize you
[canonically].” The problem is that there is always a condition. This condition may have varied a bit in its
formulation, but basically it is always the same. This condition is: you must accept the Council. One could sum up
the current situation by saying: “Yes, you can criticize the Council, but on one condition: it is necessary to
accept it first.” Which leaves us saying, “What can we criticize afterwards?”
I think that this is an honest summary of the present situation. And it is not difficult to describe for you our
Obviously, the formulas are more and more interesting, closer and closer to what we say. We have arrived by now
at a point that clearly shows the depth of the problem. In that famous proposal this is what they tell us: “You
commit yourselves to acknowledging that with regard to points from the Council that cause difficulties, the only
way to understand those points is to understand them in light of the continuous, perpetual Tradition, in light of
the preceding Magisterium.” The light of Tradition is the only way by which one can understand the dubious points.
They even go further: “Any proposition and any interpretation of the dubious texts that was opposed to that
perpetual Magisterium, that continual Magisterium of the Church must be rejected.” That is what we have always
said. But there is a tiny little incidental clause that adds, “as the New Catechism says”. Now the New Catechism
adopts the Council.
In other words, concerning the principle we can only agree. As for the application, it is completely the
opposite. They claim that they are applying the principle by saying: everything that was done at the Council is
faithful to Tradition, is consistent with Tradition, whether it be ecumenism or religious liberty. That shows you
the seriousness of the problem. There is a problem somewhere. It is not possible otherwise. The problem is based on
the understanding of certain words. And these words are of course “Tradition” and “Magisterium”. Their way of
understanding these words is subjective. Certainly there are cases in which one can understand “tradition” in the
sense of “transmit”: the act of transmitting is a transmission. But the usual way of understanding this word has
bearing on its content. What is transmitted? What is transmitted from generation to generation? The classical
definition of Tradition is “that which has always been believed by all, everywhere and at all times”
(Commonitorium by St. Vincent of Lerins). Here the expression “That which” designates the object. But
nowadays, it is as though we went from the object to the subject, so as to consider only the one who transmits.
That is why they talk to you about “living tradition”, because the one who transmits, when he transmits, is
alive. Now life moves, it changes. The popes changeâ€¦ and therefore tradition changes, but it remains tradition.
It is the same tradition, but one that changes. The Church has also taken this sense into consideration, but in an
altogether secondary way. That is not what she is talking about when she talks about Tradition; what we call the
deposit of the faith, the set of truths that the Good Lord has entrusted to the Church so that she might
transmit it from generation to generation, so that souls might be saved. This content is what she means. And this
is the reason why, with the definition of infallibility at the First Vatican Council, the Church teaches that the
Holy Ghost has effectively been promised to St. Peter and to his successors, therefore to the popes. But He was not
promised in such a way that the popes might teach something new by a new revelation. He was promised so that, with
the help of the Holy Ghost, Saint Peter and the popes might preserve holily and transmit faithfully that which does
not change, the revealed deposit.
Where is the real problem in the Church?
That is where we are. That is what we are trying to do, since there is in fact a gesture made by Rome toward us,
we must recognize it, a surprising gesture after these doctrinal discussions in which we determined that we were
not in agreement. In effect it is a situation similar to that of two persons who meet, discuss something and arrive
at the conclusion that they do not agree. What do you do then? Rome tells us: “You accept nevertheless!” And we
reply: “It is not possible.” And so what we decide to do, besides answering that it is not possible, is to tell
them: Wouldn’t you like to look at things a bit differently? Wouldn’t you like to try to understand that the
Society is not the one that is a problem. There is indeed a problem in the Church, but it is not the Society; we
are not a problem because we are saying that there is a problem. Then we ask them to deal with the real problem. We
are ready; we want only one thing and it is precisely to attack the real problem.
You understand very well that humanly speaking there is no great hope that they will agree to change such a
position. Maybe the disappointments that the Church has experienced will move them? The fact that currently the
disaster, the sterility is more clearly evident: there are no more vocations. It is frightening. I saw, a few
moments ago, the statistics for the Sisters of Charity, the nuns who used to be everywhere in France: between
thirty and forty years of age I think that there are still three left in all of France. Between the ages of 40 and
50, likewise three. The majority, in other words almost 200, are between 70 and 80 or between 80 and 90. Some of
them are more than 100 years old, and they are more numerous than those who are 20, 30, 40 or 50 years old. If you
take the ones from 20 to 50 years of age, you have one more than the group of those who are 100 years old or more:
9 as opposed to 8. Those nuns who used to do all sorts of charitable works in all the rural areas! And it is over.
That is one example among thousands. Take the priests. Take instances from whatever area you want: it is a Church
that is dying, disappearing. Nevertheless that ought to make people reflect. We think, we hope that some are
beginning to reflect. People do get the impression that that is just not enough. Of course, grace is needed. It is
necessary to pray.
Pray! Pray that the Good Lord will truly deliver the Church, that the Blessed Virgin will do something. She is
the one who promised that her Immaculate Heart would triumph at the end to get the Church out of this disaster. For
us who are involved in this great battle for the Church, it is an extraordinary honor to be able to be members of
this Society today. And so let us ask the Most Blessed Virgin Mary that we might be worthy members of this Society.
Let us live faithfully according to its statutes. Follow the seminary rules, as it is expected of you, with all
your heart, while practicing the great charity that the Statutes of the Society require of us. Let us request it
from the Most Blessed Virgin Mary so that really, every day, we might please God, that we might sanctify ourselves
and thereby might be able to win souls for the Good Lord, those souls that are entrusted to us, for the greater
glory of God, for the honor of the Most Blessed Virgin and that of the Church. Amen.
In order to preserve the distinctive character of this sermon, the spoken style has been kept.
(Source: SSPX/Econe; Transcription and subheadings by DICI, December 14, 2011)