The process for the Society of St. Pius X’s return to full communion with Rome is expected to be concluded by the end of May
Vatican city, From Vatican Insider
The response sent to the Vatican on 17 April by Bishop Bernard Fellay will be examined in the next few days by the cardinal and bishop members in Ordinary Session of the Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith, commonly known as Feria Quarta; their decision will then be submitted to Benedict XVI. The process which should lead the Society of St. Pius X – founded by Mgr. Lefebvre – to return to full communion with the Catholic Church is expected to conclude by the end of May. Twenty four years have passed since the illegitimate consecrations that led to the split from Rome and the excommunication of the traditionalist archbishop and four priests whom he ordained bishops without the Pope’s approval. When the final decision is announced, the content of the doctrinal preamble – that the Holy See presented Fellay and the Fraternity with and which the Fraternity’s leader sent back to Rome proposing some minor modifications – will also be published.
In recent days, statements by some authoritative figures of the Society of St. Pius X have multiplied, particularly from the Lefebvrian wing that is more favourable towards the Society’s return to full communion with the Catholic Church. In a public conference in Hattersheim, Germany, Fellay’s First Assistant Fr. Niklaus Pfluger, said that under the current circumstances, the Fraternity’s superior does not “believe it is possible to turn down the Pope’s proposal.” He said that straying from the Pope’s wishes would lead to Sedevacantism. Pfluger pointed out that there is still some disagreement between the Holy See and the Fraternity and the latter claims the right to freely criticise certain points contained in the conciliar documents. He recalled how in 1988, Lefebvre had signed a doctrinal agreement with the Holy See which contained “many more (doctrinal Ed.)concessions by the Fraternity than those Benedict XVI is asking for today.”
The former superior of the Society of St. Pius X, Fr. Franz Schmidberger, wrote an equally important editorial in the May issue of the Fraternity’s monthly magazine which says: “The fact that Rome is now calling us back from the exile we were forced into in 1975 – with the abrogation of the” Fraternity’s canonical “approval”, and “set in stone in 1988 with the degree ordering the excommunication “ of consecrating and consecrated bishops” – “is an act of justice and undoubtedly an act of authentic pastoral care by Benedict XVI.” Even more important, is the editorial of another historical member of the Fraternity, Fr. Michele Simoulin, which was published in the May issue of the Seignadou bulletin published by the Saint-Joseph-des-Carmes priory. Fr. Simoulin also talks about the agreement reached between Lefebvre and Ratzinger in 1988, explaining that the version of the doctrinal preamble presented at the time was not the reason for the split; the real reason was a more practical one. Indeed, Lefebvre did not trust the Vatican’s reassurance regarding the possibility of consecrating a bishop as his successor: “The reason has nothing to do with doctrine or the statute presented to the Fraternity,” Fr. Simoulin wrote. “The reason why the process came to a halt was to do with the date of consecration of the conceded bishop.”
About the objections among Lefebvrians who do not want an agreement with Rome, Fr. Simoulin recalled that when Ratzinger “became Pope he told us that the Tridentine mass has never been abrogated (7 July 2007: “Hence it is licit to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass in accordance with the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962 and never abrogated”); he reinstated our four bishops (21January 2009); he allowed us to hold doctrinal discussions for two years, things which Mgr. Lefebvre did not demand back in 1988. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Mgr. Fellay obtained more than what Mgr. Lefebvre had asked for, despite not having the status or moral authority to do so. So should we demand more of Mgr. Lefebvre and Mgr. Fellay?” Simoulin concluded stressing that today’s situation is different from what it was in 1975 and 1988 and those who claim the opposite do so because they reject “any form of reconciliation with Rome” perhaps showing “alack of faith in the sanctity of the Church.” “The Society of St. Pius X is not the Church and cannot respect the legacy of its founder who by conserving its spirit shows his love for the Church and his wish to serve it as a loving son.”
Reading over the doctrinal part of the “protocol of accord” signed by Lefebvre on 5 May 1988, is useful in understanding part of the content of the doctrinal preamble frequently discussed in recent months. The content of this preamble has remained confidential because of the potential need for modifications or alterations to the expressions used within it – changes which were foreseen from the start. The founder of the Fraternity promised loyalty to the Pope, stating that he “accepted the doctrine on the ecclesiastical magisterium contained in point no. 25 of the dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium of the Second Vatican Council and adherence to it.” In relation to the dissent on certain conciliar passages, he stated: “In relation to certain points that are taught by the Second Vatican Council or that relate to later reforms of the liturgy and the law which do not appear to us easily reconcilable with tradition, we are making efforts to adopt a positive attitude and to communicate with the Apostolic See, a voiding any controversy.” Lefebvre also stated that he “recognise[d] the validity of the sacrifice of the mass and the sacraments celebrated with the aim of following what the Church does, according to the rites described in the typical editions of the Roman missal and the rituals for the sacraments promulgated by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II.” Finally, he promised “to respect the Church’s common discipline and ecclesiastical laws.”
As was also the case in 1988, the agreement reached with then cardinal Joseph Ratzinger set down in black and white that there were “certain points” which Lefebvrians considered as not “easily reconcilable with tradition”. But this dissent should not have prevented full communion. Forty four years ago, events took a different path: a schism formed and there were some excommunications. Now, almost a quarter of a century later, this wound could finally be healed.