Bishop Fellay of SSPX to go to Rome for doctrinal talks.

By Carol Glatz Rome summons SSPX leader for doctrinal talks
Bishop Fellay ordains a priest during a ceremony in Écône, Switzerland (CNS photo)

The head of a group of traditionalist Catholics will meet Vatican officials on September 14 to continue a series of doctrinal discussions.

The Vatican confirmed that Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), will travel to Rome in mid-September to meet Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The superior of the Society in Germany, Fr Franz Schmidberger, said on the group’s website that the meeting would discuss the results of doctrinal dialogues from the past two years.

The priest, who is not expected to attend the September meeting, said the discussions would focus on the Society’s “point of view of canon law”, adding that the atmosphere of previous talks had been “very good”.

The talks were launched in late 2009 in an effort by Pope Benedict XVI to repair a 21-year rift with the Society. The Pope said that full communion for the group’s members would depend on “true recognition of the Magisterium and the authority of the Pope and of the Second Vatican Council”.

But Bishop Fellay has said that the Society has been using the talks as a means to show the Holy See the contradictions between the Church’s traditional teachings and its practices since Vatican II.

The dialogue with the Vatican was not a search for compromise but “a question of faith”, Bishop Fellay said in February.

Fr Davide Pagliarani, superior of the Society in Italy, said: “The canonical situation in which the Society presently finds itself is [the] result of its resistance to the errors that infest the Church.

“Consequently, the possibility of the Society arriving at a regular canonical situation does not depend on us but on the hierarchy’s acceptance of the contribution that tradition can make to the restoration of the Church,” he said in an interview published in English on the Society’s website.

Pope Benedict XVI placed the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei under the authority of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in July 2009. He said that the commission would be responsible for talks aimed at restoring “full communion” with members of the SSPX, founded by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

The Vatican said the talks had focused on the concept of tradition, liturgical reform, interpretation of the Second Vatican Council in continuity with Catholic doctrinal tradition, Church unity, ecumenism, the relationship between Christianity and non-Christian religions, and religious freedom.


About Gertrude

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium.
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20 Responses to Bishop Fellay of SSPX to go to Rome for doctrinal talks.

  1. Srdc says:

    Are they still priests in the eyes of the church?

    I appreciate the fact that they are willing to talk things through, maybe the Liberals will now listen and do the same.

    If you make claims about V2 on either side, then it’s up to you to prove it.


  2. toadspittle says:


    “If you make claims about V2 on either side, then it’s up to you to prove it.” says Srdc

    The trouble is, claims re, V2 for example are not provable. All one can do is present evidence. Asking for proof is folly.


  3. JabbaPapa says:

    SSPX is teaching some doctrines that are contrary to Vatican II, and if they refuse to stop doing so even after these gestures by the Holy See, then the schism will become effective.

    Ironically, even though they are motivated by what they see as traditionalism, their disobedience is a completely modernist phenomenon, given that they are claiming that their own doctrinal authority can overrule that of the Pope, and that the Magisterium is therefore prone to errors in their view. This is a fundamentally Protestant view of the teaching of the Church, and there is a grave danger in the actions of the SSPX.

    The Pope, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, could possibly rule that the doctrines that SSPX objects to are not infallible (which would let SSPX disagree with them, though they would still be required not to publish any teachings contradicting those doctrines) ; except that at least some of them have, I believe, been declared infallible by previous Popes or by other sovereign doctrinal Authority.

    The Holy See could also simply decide not to rule on this matter at all, and simply treat every case of doctrinal disobedience by SSPX members on its own individual merits, excommunicate any individual priest teaching doctrines contrary to the Faith, and demand obedience in this matter from each individual SSPX bishop under pain of excommunication.

    It really is a most awful mess, because SSPX could and should have remained fully in communion with the Church, and defended the traditional position from within ; instead of deliberately and willfully creating this situation of schism and heresy.

    Lefebvre was under no compulsion whatsoever to start this practice of unauthorised ordinations, which were entirely unnecessary towards the purpose of teaching and preaching a more traditional understanding of the Church.


  4. JabbaPapa says:

    The trouble is, claims re, V2 for example are not provable. All one can do is present evidence.

    That statement is valid for almost everything else in life too, so that your objection is pretty much an irrelevant generality, cheers.


  5. Gertrude says:

    I am no expert on the SSPX, and never quite seem to have been able to get to the bottom of their discord in a comprehensible way. I am sure it not as simple as adherance to the old liturgical norms. The apostolic constitution Cum ex apostolatus guarantees all of the faithful the right to reject papal claimants that they judge to be heretics – do SSPX follow some sort of sede vacantism?
    Lefebvre could well have been one of the greatest saints to have graced this earth, and yet been entirely wrong about matters of the gravest importance. History furnishes numerous examples of such things, one of which is St. Cyprian’s opposition to the truth on Baptism. He was a saint whilst he was wrong, and he died a martyr for Christ still believing his error to be the truth. And yet he is one of the greatest saints in the calendar.
    Perhaps you can enlighten me Jabba, as I would genuinely like to understand SSPX and their schism. I realise most of it goes back to V2 (doesn’t everything?) but didn’t Paul VI have something to do with it?


  6. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Thank you Jabba for this detailed explanation (08.05) – I had no idea about all this. Tho’ that’s my case about many things in life.

    Let’s hope you don’t get covered in spittle for your pains.


  7. JabbaPapa says:

    There was some rather dismal clumsiness at the Holy See in the decades immediately following Vatican II, and there were also far too many bishops and priests who took some of the more liberal teachings of V2 as if they were central doctrines, instead of being simply being clarifying of and supplemental to traditional doctrine, which V2 has not repudiated in the slightest (although yes, some minor points of doctrine have changed slightly following V2 — a) this is perfectly normal evolution of doctrine as has been ongoing since the leadership of the Apostles b) V2 proclaimed not a single new doctrine that has any truly major importance one way or the other … there is no “new theological doctrine of the Mass”, as the SSPX likes to put it – the theological doctrine of the Mass was not altered by V2).

    The actual nature of the problem is that there are some extremist liberals who think that V2 should somehow authorise them to deny some parts of traditional doctrine and practice ; whereas there are some extremist traditionalists who think that V2 is somehow _itself_ a denial of those same doctrines, and claiming that V2 provided false teachings.

    What these positions have in common is that they both of them strongly exaggerate the importance of the small amount of new doctrinal teachings that V2 provided.

    Vatican 2 is a Council that was concerned with pastoral matters, not doctrinal ones.

    At its heart and in its texts, and in the continuing work of implementation of V2 which is probably only about halfway towards completion (so that in a sense the Council is continuing its work in the present day), the central concern of the Council has been about how to create a pastoral focus on Catholic Tradition which is appropriate for a World that has lost its understanding of the old Latin Rite.

    This is quite obviously not an easy undertaking — and indeed, some fairly serious mistakes have been made along the way by the Vatican, by the Traditionalists, and by the Liberals.

    SSPX was censured NOT for its positions concerning doctrinal matters, because these doctrinal matters are still under discussion in the wake of V2 anyway, so that divergent views on certain doctrinal questions exist within the Church in the first place — SSPX was censured for its acts of rebellion – against the Pope, against Holy Doctrine, and against the Magisterium.

    You write that the apostolic constitution Cum ex apostolatus [officio] guarantees all of the faithful the right to reject papal claimants that they judge to be heretics — except that no, it doesn’t grant any such right, not in the slightest. ONLY a Church Court, assisted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, could possibly have the legal and doctrinal Authority to depose a Pope on the grounds of heresy or deviation from the Faith — which would need to be formally established, instead of simple claims in public by a few rebels against the Papal Authority being somehow sufficient for such a purpose. No individual Catholic, no individual group of Catholics, can possibly claim any such Authority for themselves without themselves falling into heresy.


  8. JabbaPapa says:

    BTW, what the apostolic constitution Cum ex apostolatus officio actually DOES specifically rule upon is that the SSPX clergy can legitimately all of them be excommunicated and stripped of all clerical dignities because of their clear and public departure from the teaching of the Catholic Faith ; and their churches and places of teaching and all other goods to be taken back from them for the benefit of the Church.


  9. Gertrude says:

    Thank you for that clarification, particularly regarding Cum ex apostolatus. When I implied V2 as being responsible for error, I should have said perhaps that ignorance blames V2, and in my misunderstanding of Cum ex apotolatus, I too am guilty of a degree of ignorance in interpretation.. Whilst SSPX is an association of secular priests (I suppose somewhat similar to the Oratorians) I wonder why their respective Ordinaries couldn’t have had a word in their ‘shell-likes’? After all, at Ordination don’t all priests undertake obedience to their Ordinaries – Religious or Secular? Maybe, just maybe this would not have gone on for so long. (It can’t be that simple can it?) After all, Universae Ecclesiae now gives the right to traditional congregations to ordain according to their usual liturgical norms, and one would imagine that the original ordinations by Lefebre could now be regularised.


  10. Gertrude says:

    Just out of interest, was this the clause of Cum ex apotolatus that would have been applied to Lefebre, or was he an Archbishop before V2?

    6 We add moreover that if at any time it shall appear that any Bishop even if he
    ssert for himself the rank of Archbishop, Patriarch, Primate, or Cardinal of the aforesaid
    Roman Church, or legate, or even Roman Pontiff before his promotion or assumption
    into the Cardinalate or Pontificate, shall have deviated from the Catholic faith or have
    fallen into any heresy, or incurred, excited or committed any schism, his promotion or
    assumption even made in full concord and with the unanimous consent of all the
    Cardinals, shall be null, abrogated, and void,


  11. JabbaPapa says:

    Yes Gertrude, that clause COULD have applied to him, but instead he was simply excommunicated. He was never defrocked, I think. The Holy See never brought out its heaviest artillery against SSPX, as it did against the liberation theologians for example.

    Most of Lefebvre’s clerical acts including any Masses he may have celebrated after his excommunication cannot be considered valid, except that even excommunicated priests can perform baptisms (unless specifically forbidden to do so), that confessions given to excommunicated clergy are illicit but nevertheless accepted as valid as far as the penitent is concerned (the casuistics here are a bit messy), and some other strictly defined emergency acts that he may have engaged in.

    All ordinations performed by him prior to that excommunication were still valid ; ordinations performed by non-excommunicated and regularly ordained SSPX bishops were also perfectly valid ; and since the lifting of the excommunications against the SSPX Bishops, the SSPX ordinations performed even during that period of excommunications have probably mostly been legitimised (but that’s just a guess, and you’d need to research that specific point if you needed the facts instead of a guess).


  12. Gertrude says:

    Thank you Jabba. The outcome of these talks will be most interesting. I am now a little clearer though on the Fraternity. Thanks be to God I am not a Canon Lawyer 🙂


  13. Mr Badger says:

    Thanks be to God I am not a Canon Lawyer

    Great prayer! I once read that Thomas Aquinas was visited by an angel who consoled him with the news that he would never be a bishop.

    Can’t remember where I read that, its got a whiff of Chesterton about it though.


  14. Gertrude says:

    Ah Badger, but he did end up a saint and a Doctor of the Church!! I guess not being a bishop was a blessing – he’d never have had the time to write his Summa!!


  15. Srdc says:


    That’s an interesting comment on disposing the Pope for departure from the faith. Would the same apply to the Orthodox churches, that make claims that Rome deviated from the faith, without a church court or council in the past thousand years?


  16. toadspittle says:

    SSPX sounds like some sort of very powerful motorbike.

    Off topic however, It seems Toad is never going to be told if Quasimodo will still have his hump in Heaven. Oh, well. Nothing’s perfect.


  17. Mr Badger says:

    His hump will burst open into a beautiful flower, the joy that he brings the children in heaven as he walks by will more than make up for his sufferings on Earth. Obviously.


  18. JabbaPapa says:

    Would the same apply to the Orthodox churches, that make claims that Rome deviated from the faith, without a church court or council in the past thousand years?

    I haven’t the foggiest idea, sorry — but I don’t think that schism as such can be resolved by any Church Court…


  19. Srdc says:

    Sisters Reunite With Church
    Former Members of Sedevacantist Group Now Recognize Pope Benedict


  20. toadspittle says:


    Many thanks for your reassuring and comprehensive answer at 7.08, on Aug. 29, Badger.

    It makes more sense than most things on here. Toad can now die happy.

    “Former Members of Sedevacantist Group Now Recognize Pope Benedict.”

    “Yes! We recognise him! He’s the one who looks a bit like Uncle Fester!” (smiley face)


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