by Andrea Tornielli
From Vatican Insider
The Holy See and the Society of St Pius X, founded by Mgr. Marcel Lefebvre, might come to an agreement in matter of days, or even hours. The Superior General of the Society, Bishop Bernard Fellay, apparently signed a new version of the doctrinal preamble, which he had been given last September by cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and president of the pontifical commission Ecclesia Dei.
Officially the Vatican is still waiting for Fellay’s reply. On the 16th of March the bishop had been asked to make a final decision. But according to the information gathered by the Vatican expert Jean-Marie Guenois, who works for the French magazine Le Figaro, unofficially negotiations have moved significantly forward and an agreement will soon be reached.
In September 2011, at the end of a series of doctrinal dialogues requested by the Society of St. Pius X, the Holy See presented the Lefebvrians with a short document and asked them to sign it. The document was left open for small changes. It featured three main points and the request to subscribe to the “confession of faith” required by anyone wanting to take on a role in the Church.
This would ensure “a religious submission of the intellect and will to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declare concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act”, as it is the case for the great majority of the magisterium‘s documents.
The Vatican authorities reiterated that subscribing to the preamble does not mean the end of the “legitimate discussion, study and theological explanation of particular expressions or formulations found in the documents of the Second Vatican Council”. It is common knowledge that the Society of St. Pius X declared itself open to accept many conciliar documents, except the doctrine of religious freedom as stated in the second paragraph of the Dignitatis Humanae Declaration, the doctrine of the Church stated in paragraph 8 of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium and the doctrine on ecumenism in article 3 of the Unitatis Redintegratio decree, as well as the doctrine on collegiality as written in paragraph 22 of Lumen Gentium.
It seems that they have finally drafted a text that can be mutually recognized. After all, Fellay himself during the meeting in September 2011 had explained to the Roman authorities that he had no problems accepting the first and second points of the preamble, while there were still unresolved issues concerning the third. However in the reply that he sent in two rounds between December and January and therefore in more than one public statement, the Superior General of the Society of Pius X had declared the doctrinal text suggested by the Vatican unacceptable.
On the 16th of March, the final meeting took place and the Holy See asked Fellay to reply within a month. It is well known that Benedict XVI cares deeply about healing this rift within the Church. After all he witnessed it happening when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1988.
At that time Lefebvre, after having reached an agreement with the Vatican, decided not to sign it and appointed four new bishops without the pope’s commission, thus creating a Schism. Pope Benedict liberalized the Traditional Latin Mass and lifted the excommunication of the four Lefebvrian bishops, he even agreed to the third demand of the Society, which was to begin a doctrinal debate with the Vatican authorities, especially concerning the conciliar documents.
The Society of Pius X would fit in the Canon by being awarded the status of “personal prelature”, a new juridical role added to the Canon law in 1983 and so far adopted only by Opus Dei.