There has been a lot of chatter in the more traditional quarters of the Catholic web over the leaking of letters between the bishops of the Society of St. Pius X. Bishop Bernard Fellay, the head of the society and the man who has been leading discussions about its reconciliation with Rome, follows the controversy by giving an interview to Catholic News Service. Especially notable is his sympathy for the idea that Vatican II is part of the Church’s tradition:

Bishop Fellay spoke appreciatively of what he characterized as the pope’s efforts to correct “progressive” deviations from Catholic teaching and tradition since Vatican II. “Very, very delicately — he tries not to break things — but tries also to put in some important corrections,” the bishop said.

Although he stopped short of endorsing Pope Benedict’s interpretation of Vatican II as essentially in continuity with the church’s tradition — a position which many in the society have vocally disputed — Bishop Fellay spoke about the idea in strikingly sympathetic terms.

“I would hope so,” he said, when asked if Vatican II itself belongs to Catholic tradition.

“The pope says that . . . the council must be put within the great tradition of the church, must be understood in accordance with it. These are statements we fully agree with, totally, absolutely,” the bishop said. “The problem might be in the application, that is: is what happens really in coherence or in harmony with tradition?”

Insisting that “we don’t want to be aggressive, we don’t want to be provocative,” Bishop Fellay said the Society of St. Pius X has served as a “sign of contradiction” during a period of increasing progressive influence in the church. He also allowed for the possibility that the group would continue to play such a role even after reconciliation with Rome.

“People welcome us now, people will, and others won’t,” he said. “If we see some discrepancies within the society, definitely there are also (divisions) in the Catholic Church.”

“But we are not alone” in working to “defend the faith,” the bishop said. “It’s the pope himself who does it; that’s his job. And if we are called to help the Holy Father in that, so be it.”

One wonders if the other bishops of the SSPX will accept this view—indeed, in the same interview Fellay acknowledged the possibility of a split within the society . The task of reconciling the traditionalists certainly seems too immense for any human power.

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