"We have an appeal for extremists, who we don't even want," says Fellay, for whom questions of faith are ultimately the most important issues. One of those questions of faith revolves around who should have the say in religious matters in Switzerland: the church, with its beautiful churches and bell towers, or the mosques, with their minarets? This is why Fellay has fueled the recent debate in Switzerland over banning minarets. In fact, he welcomed the debate, because, as he says, Islam is "aggressive in general."
On the other hand, the Pius disciples are perfectly calm and understanding when it comes to the mendacious and hate-filled speech coming from their own ranks. None of Williamson's colleagues get upset when the bishop writes disparagingly about women in his blog, calling them "less than zeroes" and insisting that they are "under the power of the man." "He should be your master," he writes.
The Catholic brothers in Stuttgart showed their aggressive side against gays by staging a protest against the city's Christopher Street Day parade, which celebrates gay pride. The priests held up signs that read "Save Children from Perversion," and one of them condemned the event as "moral pollution." He neglected to mention his fellow SSPX member's denial of the Holocaust.
To avoid misunderstandings, the ultra-conservatives have even hired their own PR specialist, Rudolph Lobmeyr, who once worked for the Austrian national public broadcaster ORF in Vienna, to explain the benefits of the Pius campaign to the public. "Fabric-softener faith is no longer wanted," he says. He insists that people are looking for decisive leadership and want to be able to divide the world into good and evil -- just as the SSPX does when it rages against gays, women and journalists. "It's a reflection of the desires of many people, and it's the secret to the society's growing popularity," Lobmeyr says.
"We are merely the thermometer indicating the fever in the body of the church," says SSPX leader Bishop Fellay. The society claims to have 600,000 supporters. It maintains six seminaries, 14 districts, 161 priories and 725 mass centers and is active in 1,000 locations worldwide. The society is growing in the United States, Asia and Africa.
It was this potential that the pope had in mind when he lifted the excommunications of the four SSPX bishops last year. Benedict is a traditionalist and, like the Pius Brothers, he loves the Latin mass, shares their ideas about morality and sometimes despairs of modern society, which could turn a sentence Williamson uttered on a Swedish television program into a global scandal.
Fellay reports triumphantly that the pope himself -- in keeping with the SSPX's demands -- apparently no longer places communion wafers into the hands of the faithful, but directly into their mouths. For Fellay, this represents yet another success in the battle against the modern church.