The Recusant

An unofficial SSPX newsletter, fighting a guerilla war for the soul of Tradition!

Sheer Trickery!

Bishop Fellay and the Oath of Fidelity

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.
14: Oath of fidelity

Question: What do you think of the instruction of Cardinal Ratzinger setting up the Oath of Fidelity which includes a Profession of Faith?

Archbishop Lefebvre: Firstly, there is the Credo which poses no problems. The Credo has remained intact. And, so the first and second sections raise no difficulties either. They are well-known things from a theological point of view. It is the third section which is very bad. What it means in practice is lining up on what the bishops of the world today think. In the preamble, besides, it is clearly indicated that this third section has been added because of the spirit of the Council. It refers to the Council and the so-called Magisterium of today, which, of course, is the Magisterium of the followers of the Council.     
As it stands this formula is dangerous. It demonstrates clearly the spirit of these people with whom it is impossible to come to an agreement. It is absolutely ridiculous and false, as certain people have done, to present this Oath of Fidelity as a renewal of the Anti-Modernist Oath suppressed in the wake of the Council. All the poison is in this third section which seems to have been made expressly in order to oblige those who have rallied to Rome to sign this profession of Faith and to state their full agreement with the bishops. It is as if in the times of Arianism one had said, “Now you are in agreement with everything that all the Arian bishops think.”

No, I am not exaggerating. It is clearly expressed in the introduction. It is sheer trickery. One may ask oneself if in Rome they didn't mean in this way to correct the text of the [1988] protocol. Although that protocol is not satisfactory to us, it still seems too much in our favour in Article III of the Doctrinal Declaration because it does not sufficiently express the need to submit to the Council.

And so, I think now they are regaining lost ground. They are no doubt going to have these texts signed by the seminarians of the Fraternity of St. Peter before their ordination and by the priests of the Fraternity, who will then find themselves in the obligation of making an official act of joining the Conciliar Church.

Differently from in the protocol, in these new texts there is a submission to the Council and all the conciliar bishops. That is their spirit and no one will change them. ”

What is very important, then, is that this text is clearly condemned by Archbishop Lefebvre, and in the strongest terms too! And yet it pops up again in a text which Bishop Fellay signed and handed over as a true representation of where the SSPX stands! One begins to see why, in his own words, the SSPX Superior General was somewhat worried about how his text would be received by the faithful!
What’s even more interesting to note is the way that Archbishop Lefebvre says that he thinks the Vatican composed the Oath of Fidelity, with its “poisonous” final paragraph, because they felt that the 1988 protocol was not explicitly Vatican II –friendly enough! It has already been pointed out that there is a certain similarity between the 1988 protocol of agreement signed (and almost instantaneously repented of!) by Archbishop Lefebvre, which had been proposed to him by and composed by the Vatican, and the 2012 “Doctrinal Declaration” or “Doctrinal Preamble” proposed by, composed by, and signed by Bishop Fellay (without a similar such repentance!). It is certainly true that there is a similarity. And yet there are important differences, differences where Bishop Fellay’s text is far worse than that of the Archbishop - Archbishop Lefebvre’s 1988 agreement did not accept the entire Chapter 3 of Lumen Gentium, for example! And surely one of the most important differences is the acceptance of the Oath of Fidelity, whose significance we believe has been largely overlooked:

•    The 1988 protocol proposed to the Archbishop contained no footnotes that we are aware of, and no reference to this Oath of Fidelity, which did not yet exist.
•   The 2012 agreement text proposed by Bishop Fellay contains this “poisonous” barb (to use Archbishop Lefebvre’s word) which had already been condemned by the Archbishop himself, when it first appeared.

Thus Bishop Fellay’s April 2012 text is significantly worse, more liberal, more modernist-friendly, and more lethal and damaging to Tradition than the 1988 text given to Archbishop Lefebvre. Those SSPX clerics who favour an agreement with Rome have made much of Archbishop Lefebvre's words prior to the episcopal consecrations, and for the past year we have been told that what was being intended was nothing less than what the Archbishop himself would have wished. And yet, in the Archbishop's own words, Bishop Fellay's April 2012 “Doctrinal Preamble” text is different from anything that the Archbishop would ever have considered signing, even when at his most optimistic, because:
              “Differently from in the [1988] protocol, in these new texts [i.e. in the Oath of Fidelity, and therefore,
        by extension, in Bishop Fellay’s April 2012 text] there is a submission to the Council and all the conciliar

Is Bishop Fellay aware of all this? Is there any conceivable way in which he could not be aware of this? After all, not only ought he to be familiar with the text momentarily signed by Archbishop Lefebvre, but he surely must also be aware of the Fideliter interview which was only one year after his own consecration as a bishop. Did he not spot the first footnote in his text? Of having spotted it, did he not grasp its significance? If one layman with a computer and a slightly suspicious mind can unearth and deduce what is written above, can it be asking too much to expect Menzingen with their superior resources to find out about what they are actually signing? Or did he simply know and not care? Taken as a whole, Bishop Fellay’s April 2012 text effectively reconciles Tradition and conciliarism, making them mutually dependent, so it is surely not outside the realms of credibility that he simply allowed it and somehow justified it in his own mind. One certainly does not wish to think him quite so grossly negligent or guilty of the sort of crass ignorance which alone could explain away any subjective guilt. Either way, we see here one more serious question to be added to the large and growing pile of questions which need urgently to be answered by Menzingen.

Finally, since Bishop Fellay has himself explicitly referred to his own qualms about how his April 2012 text would be received by the faithful, and since he himself has said that it would “need to be properly explained”, knowing now what poison it contains, we cannot help being reminded of Archbishop Lefebvre’s words and re-apply them 23 years later:

"It's sheer trickery!"