This article highlights a recent speech by Bishop Fellay–the head of the Society of St Pius X–otherwise known as the Catholic sect the Lefebvrists.
In the late 1970s I was a student at Bob Jones University–the fundamentalist school in Greenville, SC. Dr Bob Jones Jr. was the Chancellor of the university at the time and he and his son Dr Bob III would preach daily at our chapel services. So we got a hefty dose of hellfire and brimstone anti-Catholicism. My church background before that was full of dispensationalist “end times” preaching.
What struck me about Bishop Fellay’s talk was how similar it was to Protestant fundamentalism. Note the connecting points:
1. Bishop Fellay relies heavily on end times prophecy for the heft of his talk. The Protestant fundamentalists used Tim LaHaye’s interpretations of the Book of Revelation. Bishop Fellay uses Sister Lucia of Fatima and the famed third secret. I know, I know, Fatima is approved by the church and Tim LaHaye is a BJU crank. Nevertheless, the same apocalyptic shock and awe tactics are used to rally the faithful with fear.
2. Bishop Fellay doesn’t come right out and say that Pope Francis is the anti Christ, but he suggests it. The “son of perdition” is already on earth….the antichrist will take his seat at the head of the church herself–“the apostasy begins at the top”. These were also favorite themes and images of Dr. Bob. He spoke constantly of the apostasy, of the pope being the antichrist and the Catholic Church being the “mother of all harlots” and the great abomination.
3. Bishop Fellay says the people of God are left on their own. It’s the “we few we faithful few”…”the Remnant” idea so beloved of sectarian teachers and cult leaders. Dr Bob taught “separation, separation, separation” from all the apostate groups. Not only were the Catholics inspired by Satan, but so were the liberal Protestants and the neo-Evangelicals like Billy Graham who compromised with the. Indeed, most of the other fundamentalist preachers were also outside the fold.
4. Bishop Felly castigates the modernists. Same with Dr Bob. The modernists were the devils hiding under every sofa. Every little hint of compromise was “modernist” and the more subtle the hint of modernism the more dangerous it was because it was that much more deceptive. The devil dressed up like a traditionalist is far more dangerous than a modernist easily spotted don’t you know?
5. There’s not much talk about Jesus and the gospels. I always found this strange and creepy about the fundamentalists. There was a lot of preaching on St Paul’s epistles, the cross and death of Christ, the OT prophets and the Book of Revelation and the end times, but precious little about Jesus and the gospels. Likewise with Bishop Fellay; there’s not much mention of Jesus Christ or the gospels.
6. Bishop Fellay is heavy on doom and gloom and judgement (usually of others). This trick to rally the faithful was also a favorite at Bob Jones. It strengthens the esprit de corps to have a clear and present danger “out there”. This kind of scapegoat stuff is not very healthy and gives me the creeps.
However, as usual, there is good mixed in with the bad. I would agree that the church is in a bad way….but then the church has always been in crisis. I dislike the modernism in the church and have written extensively against it….but the sheep and the goats are always together. I thin we may be in the end times…but then the church has always been in the end times. It’s part of the deal.
What is worst about the sectarians is that they have now clearly been lost to the idea of reconciliation. They path has diverged and it does not look like it is on the way back. Too bad. We could use them in the battle.