PARIS (Reuters) - An ultra-traditionalist bishop seeking rehabilitation from the Vatican said in an interview on Wednesday that his breakaway movement could not fully accept landmark 20th century church reforms, as his critics demand.
Bishop Bernard Fellay, whose excommunication was lifted last month along with those of three other bishops, said his Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) did not agree with a key document of the Second Vatican Council on respecting other religions.
He also told the French weekly Famille Chretienne he did not reject the 1962-1965 Council completely but only "a dangerous spirit that runs through the whole Council" that caused what he saw as a break with centuries of Roman Catholic tradition.
In a debate that broke out after SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson denied the Holocaust, several leading Catholic prelates and Jewish organisations insisted the SSPX must support all Council reforms in order to be fully rehabilitated.
While the lifting of excommunications readmitted them into the Church, the four men must now negotiate with the Vatican to be officially recognised as bishops and take posts of responsibility within the Church.
Fellay said of the Council: "One cannot approach it in a dogmatic way and say 'amen' to everything. This approach is completely wrong. There are different domains, themes and degrees of authority."
"In my opinion, many of the problems we point out can be resolved by distinctions and not by absolute acceptances or rejections," he said.
Fellay said the Church had given up trying to convert people to Catholicism in recent decades because the Council stressed respect for other faiths. "The Church no longer has the will to convert. We don't agree here. This is serious," he said in the interview, distributed before publication next week.
Asked about the Council statement that Jews were spiritual "elder brothers" of Christians, he agreed the two faiths shared the Old Testament but said Jews rejected the New Testament.
"That is not enough for them to be saved," he said.
As for cooperation with other Christian churches, he said it was acceptable if it led them to return to the Catholic Church they left during and after the Protestant Reformation.
"If that's the true aim of ecumenism, we certainly don't oppose it," he said. "There is only one Church and there cannot be several."
Fellay said the modern Catholic Mass, which the SSPX rejects in favour of the traditional Latin liturgy, was valid but sometimes not reverent enough. Pope Benedict extended use of the Latin Mass in 2007 as part of his drive to win back the SSPX.
Fellay, who lives at the SSPX headquarters in Switzerland, said he hoped the negotiations with the Vatican would start soon but he had no idea when this would happen. "I love this Church even if I take some knocks from it," he said.