Cardinal Pell dismisses SSPX leader’s attack on Pope

From Gerard O’Conner at Vatican Insider, this interview with Cardinal Pell:


The Australian cardinal George Pell, one of the eight cardinals that Pope Francis has chosen to advice  him, agreed to talk about his experience of their historic meeting (October 1-3) with the Holy Father on the understanding that “the only substantial information” available about that gathering is what Fr Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, gave to the media. “Anything that I might say will be peripheral to that”, he said; and “as one of the Pope’s councilors, I see that part of my task is to defend and explain the Holy Father, to support him in his role”.




On that basis, I interviewed him in Rome, October 17, five days after Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior-General of the Society of Saint Pius X, speaking in Kansas City, had launched a harsh attack on Pope Francis. I began by asking him to comment on that attack.




Q.  Bishop Fellay has denounced Pope Francis as “a genuine modernist”, and charged that while the Church was “a disaster” before he was elected, he is making it “10,000 times worse”. What do you say to this?


A.  To put it politely, I think that’s absolute rubbish!   Francis said he’s a loyal son of the Church, and his record shows that.  He’s very, very concerned for the day-to-day life of the people, and for those who are suffering, those not well off and those in difficult situations.  He’s a completely faithful exponent of Christ’s teaching and the Church’s tradition.




Q.  So people like Fellay have completely misread Pope Francis?


A.  Yes, it is a gigantic misreading!  In actual fact, the Lefebvrists – many of them – have misread the situation for decades.  It was to Benedict’s great credit that he tried to reconcile with them, but they didn’t respond. Now the Church today accepts the Second Vatican Council. You don’t have to accept every jot and tittle of it, but it is part of Church’s life now, there’s no way around that.




Q. An Argentinean theologian, Father Carlos Galli, recently told me that he sees “the elder brother syndrome” emerging in the Church as Pope Francis goes out more and more to meet the prodigal sons.  What do you say to that?


A.  Well I think it is up to us elder-brothers, unlike the elder-brother in the parable, to get behind the father as he goes to meet the prodigal son.   It’s our task to help him in that, to defend him.


There’s a lot more at the link.  Enjoy.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Cardinal Pell dismisses SSPX leader’s attack on Pope

  1. Pingback: Cardinal Pell dismisses SSPX leader’s attack on Pope | Catholic Canada

  2. P.K.T.P. says:

    Interesting what Cardinal Pell has to say about Vatican II, and this is a direct quotation: “You don’t have to accept every jot and tittle of it”. That’s good, very good, because traditionalists don’t, and not all traditionalists are supporters of the S.S.P.X. As I’ve written here before, there is nothing new in Vatican II that is binding as a matter of assent except that which was declared so by the Council fathers. And since they never made such declarations, there is nothing binding and therefore nothing infallible that is new, all according to the Theological Commission of the Council as declared by its Secretary-General and signed by Paul VI with his FULL authority as Pope: “In view of conciliar practice and the pastoral purpose of the present Council, this Sacred Synod defines matters of faith or morals as binding on the Church only [note the adverb!] when the Synod openly declares so” (“Announcements Made by the Most Excellent Secretary-General of the Most Holy Council at the 123rd General Congregation”, 16 November, 1964, para. 5, “from the Acts of the Most Holy Second Oecumenical Council of the Vatican”. This excerpt from the Acts of the Council is not an integral part of the Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) but was published together with it in the Acta Apostolicæ Sedis and signed by the Pope; it therefore bears the full authority of the Apostolic See to interpret the Constitution: that is, it has the same general authority as the Council documents themselves (see Pastor Aeternus, Vatican I). The Announcement appended to the final official version of Lumen Gentium quotes two excerpts of a statement of the Theological Commission. A footnote from the title of the Appendix notes the following: the two statements of the Theological Commission are “both of great importance for the correct interpretation of the Constitution itself”. A second footnote (and these footnotes are part of the Appendix made authoritative in the A.A.S.) affirms this: “especially in view of the predominately pastoral aims of Vatican II, the teachings of [this] Constitution were not to be regarded as infallible definitions unless clearly and specifically proposed as such”. Commenting further on whether or not the fathers did make infallible any specific statement in “Lumen Gentium”, the footnote goes on to comment further for Mr. Norm’s edification: “But nothing in the language of the Constitution on the Church [i.e. Lumen Gentium] indicates that the Council wishes to propose its teaching in this document with the irrevocable binding force proper to infallible definitions.” Note that, according to this same Note, while faithful “should accept and believe” what is in the Constitution, they are not strictly bound to do so.

    As many commentators have noted, not only in this Constitution but in all the documents of Vatican II, not even once did the fathers invoke their full authority to bind the faithful by divine and Catholic faith or to propose a teaching as infallible. Therefore, one might presumably reject Vatican II altogether and not be a heretic under the definition of heresy as set forth in Canon 751: “Heresy is the obstinate denial or doubt, after Baptism, of a truth which must be believed by divine and Catholic faith”. This refers to the previous Canon.

    Mr. Norm, who throws around serious accusations against others’ characters like a bull in a china shop should know that there are many theological errors which do not qualify as heresies. Therefore, it is possible that some Catholic adheres to theological errors and yet is not a heretic. Many of the teachings at Trent, Lateran IV, Florence and Vatican I, not to mention the early councils, are infallible and do require assent by divine and Catholic faith such that those who deny them are directly anathematised as heretics. Examples are the following: those who deny the propitiatory Sacrifice of Christ at the Mass, those who deny the intercessory power of the angels and saints, those who deny the existence of Purgatory or Hell, those who deny the Immaculate Conception or the Assumption of our Lady, those who deny free will (e.g. Calvinists), those who deny the efficacy of good works as necessary for salvation (i.e. Lutherans), those who deny papal infallibility, and those who deny the supreme, plenary, universal and immediate jurisdiction of popes.

    As a result of this declaration of the Theological Commission at Vatican II, two sorts of errors are possible. First, the documents could contain expressive errors, meaning that they are open to erroneous or even heretical interpretation. This is generally admitted by ‘conservatives’, the more knowledgeable among them (meaning not Mr. Norm, who seems to know very little). In such cases, the Vatican can clarify a teaching, and Benedict XVI did precisely this as Pope in the case of the subsistit in issue. But there might also be theological errors in Vatican II documents. This is the unthinkable proposition of traditionalists, not conservatives`. On this question, one must distinguish between fallible and non-infallible as terms. Many of the Church’s teachings are said to be non-infallible; they are not said to be fallible. This means that, while not declared infallible to date, they might be so declared in the future. As a result, all the Church’s teachings, infallible or not, require submission of mind and will (cf. Canon 752). But that does not exclude at least the possibility of error.

    The general position of `conservatives` is that there could be merely expressive errors in Council documents and that there has been misimplementation of the Council`s directives. They tend to dismiss expressive errors as being of little importance, whereas they are of the greatest importance, since the Church has a strict duty to express her teachings clearly that faithful not be led astray, for the salvation of souls is the highest law. That is why pre-conciliar documents and their locutions are marked by such razor-sharp precision. From Vatican II, we get fuzzy claims. The general position of traditionalists is that it`s much worse than expressive error: there are theological errors in the documents of Vatican II. This is the controversial affirmation which brings liberals and neocons together to condemn trads. Liberals are those who believe that Vatican II is all `sweetness and light` and was properly implemented at first but not later on; conservatives believe that it was all `sweetness and light`but misinterpreted at first and then later corrected. But traditionalists hold the unthinkable position that the sacred cow is not sacred at all but includes at least some theological errors. That position makes traditionalists `completely unacceptable`to both liberals and neocons alike.

    Of course, many faithful are at least material heretics, like the approximately 82% who do not accept the Real Presence as defined at Trent. But one must be a formal heretic to lose office in the Church; that is, one must pertinaciously adhere to a heresy after one has been warned to cease doing so by competent ecclesiastical authority.

    It is interesting that Cardinal Pell admits that one need not accept “every jot and tittle” of Vatican II. This comes on the heels of Cardinal Müller’s admission a few months ago that Vatican II does not speak infallibly in its new teachings. Well, it is only infallible insofar as Norm thinks it to be infallible for him. Of greater interest to me is that the Theological Commission went beyond this. It did not merely proclaim on infallible status but said that nothing was “binding on the Church” unless proposed as such. Note that this is a broader category than the “irrevocably binding“ one of the footnote. Since the fathers never made such propositions anywhere, that perhaps goes beyond the status of infallibility. In other words, there might be things that are, in various degrees, binding on the Church and yet not infallible. Even these are not proposed in the documents of Vatican II. One wonders, then, why Vatican II is so often quoted as the ultimate authority in matters of dogma, as if it were the only oecumenical council in Church history and as if oecumencial councils were somehow more authoritative than are binding papal declarations. It is not a dogmatic council but a pastoral one. If you want authority in dogma, go to Vatican I, Lateran IV, Florence or Trent! But Mr. Norm does not read anything written before Vatican II, as if the Church were born then. And you will rarely if ever hear Trent quoted from the pulpit! My favourite council used to be Lateran IV of 1215 but I may be changing that to Florence soon, as some liberals in the Church cannot abide Florence, making it all the more attractive to me.


  3. Christopher William McAvoy says:

    One man’s “attack on the Pope” is another man’s “loving criticism for the welfare of the Pope and faithful souls”. Once one meets and studies the SSPX firsthand, one is able to address and understand their concerns more concretely and sees that there is a certain logic in most of their views.

    As long as they pray for the Pope at mass and consider themselves in communion with him, albeit irregularly, their criticism is still ultimately out of love and obedience to the Pope, not out of hatred or schism against him.

    • Rev22:17 says:


      You wrote: As long as they pray for the Pope at mass and consider themselves in communion with him, albeit irregularly, their criticism is still ultimately out of love and obedience to the Pope, not out of hatred or schism against him.

      Rather, when a reigning pope says that an organization is not in full communion with him, that statement settles the matter — and Pope Benedict so stated quite clearly in his motu proprio Ecclesiae unitatem. Note the following paragraph of that document (boldface added).

      4. In the same spirit and with the same commitment to encouraging the resolution of all fractures and divisions in the Church and to healing a wound in the ecclesial fabric that was more and more painfully felt, I wished to remit the excommunication of the four Bishops illicitly ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre. With this decision I intended to remove an impediment that might have jeopardized the opening of a door to dialogue and thereby to invite the Bishops and the “Society of St Pius X” to rediscover the path to full communion with the Church. As I explained in my Letter to the Catholic Bishops of last 10 March, the remission of the excommunication was a measure taken in the context of ecclesiastical discipline to free the individuals from the burden of conscience constituted by the most serious of ecclesiastical penalties. However, the doctrinal questions obviously remain and until they are clarified the Society has no canonical status in the Church and its ministers cannot legitimately exercise any ministry.

      An organization that’s currently in full communion with the Catholic Church has no need “to rediscover the path to full communion” — which is precisely what the pope said that he was inviting the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) to do.


      • Christopher William McAvoy says:

        Yes, I agree with you Norm. The SSPX thinks that it is obedient to the Pope. Obviously the Pope does not think they are in obedience to him. That is to say He does not think they are obedient to the extent that they would be viewed in full communion. Though their irregular semi-schismatic communion is by no means as profound or serious as the Eastern Orthodox Churches for example either. The SSPX clergy and laity who attend their chapels are very unique, kind people in my experience. I pray that all misunderstandings between them and the regular diocesan clergy will be resolved before I pass away. It is time for the confusion over what it means to be Catholic to end.

        I think that Bishop Bernard Fellay’s accusing Pope Francis of being a modernist is no different than a number of average catholics feelings inside their own hearts about His Holiness, the main difference is that they do not speak about this much in public.

        Even if Pope Francis had modernist tendencies, so long as he is not a manifest heretic , he would enjoy the privilege of infallibility and remain genuinely Pope.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s