Much has already been said regarding the Doctrinal Declaration which Bishop Fellay offered to Rome in April 2012, and no doubt a great deal more will still be said in the weeks ahead. There are more than a few difficulties and pitfalls in the text. This article, as the others before it, does not claim to be definitive or comprehensive, not is it intended to be the final word on the matter. We will for the moment focus on just one problem contained in Bishop Fellay's April 2012 text.
We refer to the first footnote, the reference to which is to be found at the end of Section II, which we believe means in effect that the compromise entailed goes even further than appears at a first glance. It reads:
“ 1. cf. the new Formula for Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity for assuming a charge exercised in the
name of the Church, 1989; ”
Since Section II of Bishop Fellay’s April 2012 text consists of only one sentence and begins with the words “We declare that we accept...” it is surely not unreasonable to conclude that the “we accept” also covers the Oath of Fidelity and Profession of Faith mentioned in the footnote. Nothing to the contrary is evident and it is difficult to see how it would make sense any other way.
Let us now turn our consideration to the text of the Oath of Fidelity in question, referred to in the above-quoted footnote. Its full title is: “Oath of Fidelity on Assuming an Office to be Exercised in the Name of the Church”, and as the title suggest, the idea is that it is taken by clerics on appointment to a given office. Whether or not the intention was that the SSPX clergy would have been required to take it, though worrying, is not the point: by including it in paragraph II of his April 2012 ‘Doctrinal Declaration’ which begins with the words “We dclare that we accept...”, Bishop Fellay has signalled and signed to the effect that he, on behalf of the SSPX, accepts the contents of this Oath. The reader who is really interested can find the text of the Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity on the Vatican website:
Moreover, from an interview which Archbishop Lefebvre gave to Fideliter in 1989, the same year as the Oath of Fidelity was published, we know that there was a originally a “preamble” to the oath, which came with the Oath and served as its introduction, although it was not strictly speaking part of the Oath itself. According to the Archbishop, it “clearly indicated” that the final part of the text “has been added because of the spirit of the Council.” Unfortunately, this introduction or “preamble” is not easy to find on the Vatican website. No reference to it whatsoever appears on the English page referred to above, indeed, had it not been mentioned by Archbishop Lefebvre, this author might well have been unaware of its existence. It is only visible in Italian and it reads thus:
“Si è reso necessario, pertanto, provvedere a predisporre i testi atti allo scopo, aggiornandoli con stile e
contenuto più conformi all'insegnamento de l Concilio Vaticano II e de i document i successivi.”
Which this author, though being no expert in Italian, reads as meaning something like this:
“It became necessary therefore to ensure the preparation of the texts with this purpose in mind: that they be
updated in style and content so as to make them more in conformity with Vatican II and later documents.”
It is possible that the above-quoted passage could well have been written by the author of the Oath itself as a sort of introductory explanation. What is clear is that, whichever way one reads it, in the eyes of the men who originally published it in 1989 the Oath of Fidelity is a conciliar text. It is a text which has been designed specifically to be in conformity with Vatican II and all post-conciliar documents.
The text of the actual Oath of Fidelity itself is, thankfully, much easier to locate, being readily available in several languages on the Vatican website. The first paragraph of the Oath of Fidelity is perfectly orthodox being, as the Archbishop says in his Fideliter interview, nothing more than the Nicene Creed. Then follow two paragraphs stating acceptance of everything contained in Scripture or handed down in Tradition, and “everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.” Again, as the Archbishop says, this in itself is unremarkable and quite acceptable.
The paragraph with which the oath concludes, quoted in our last issue (Recusant 6), is clearly the worst part and reads as follows:
“Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman
Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do
not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.”
So far, so good. What follows is what is really interesting and where the reader will wish to pay close attention. As mentioned above, this very same Oath of Fidelity, apparently acceptable to Bishop Fellay and the modern SSPX, has already been dealt with by none other than Archbishop Lefebvre himself. In an interview with Fideliter magazine entitled "One Year after the Consecrations", given in the summer of 1989, Archbishop Lefebvre spoke of what was then a brand new text issued by Cardinal Ratzinger. Because his words are so clear, and because of its importance and relevance, we will here quote the Archbishop at some length, with emphasis in bold added by the author of this article.