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Vatican says No to deal with traditionalists

Catholic World News - March 16, 2012

The Vatican has informed leaders of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) that doctrinal differences prevent the regularization of the traditionalist group.

The Vatican announced on March 16 that Bishop Bernard Fellay, the head of the SSPX, has been notified that Pope Benedict XVI could not accept the position put forward by the traditionalist group in its response to an offer from the Holy See.

Last September, after months of talks, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had presented SSPX leaders with a “doctrinal preamble,” which could provide the basis for a canonical agreement regularizing the status of the SSPX. The group has been separated from Rome since 1988, when its founder, the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, consecrated new bishops without permission from Rome. In 2009 Pope Benedict lifted the excommunications that resulted from that act, but the SSPX bishops remain suspended from active ministry.

The Vatican made it clear in September that the SSPX would be asked to accept the “doctrinal preamble” as a condition for reconciliation with the Holy See. Although the contents of the document have not been made public, the Vatican was asking for an acknowledgment from the SSPX that the teachings of Vatican II are valid.

In a first response to the “doctrinal preamble,” SSPX officials said that they could not accept the document as it was written, and suggested some amendments. The Vatican today revealed that Bishop Fellay has been advised that “the position he expressed is not sufficient to overcome the doctrinal problems which lie at the foundation of the rift between the Holy See and the Society of St. Pius X.”

Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, told reporters that an agreement is still possible. “The question isn’t considered closed,” he said. An official Vatican statement indicated that Bishop Fellay “was invited to clarify his position in order to be able to heal the existing rift, as is the desire of Pope Benedict XVI.”

However, the prospect of an agreement now appears remote. Informed sources at the Vatican say that Pope Benedict, who has sought for years to end the split between the Holy See and the SSPX, made the final decision to reject the SSPX position. The Pontiff evidently concluded that the SSPX response to the “doctrinal preamble” was not even adequate to form the basis for further negotiations.

In its March 16 statement, the Vatican said that it was seeking another response from Bishop Fellay in order “to avoid an ecclesiastical rupture of painful and incalculable consequences.”

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Show 7 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: demark8616 - Mar. 21, 2012 4:35 AM ET USA

    "The key problem in our discussions with Rome was really the Magisterium, the teaching of the Church. Because they say, "we are the pope, we are the Holy See" – and we say, yes. And so they say, "we have the supreme power," and we say, yes. They say, "we are the last instance in teaching and we are necessary" – Rome is necessary for us to have the Faith, and we say, yes. And then they say, "then, obey." And we say, no. And so they say to us, you are protestant." Bishop Fellay sermon Feb 2,2012

  • Posted by: GymK - Mar. 20, 2012 2:12 PM ET USA

    Rather than critisism of the SSPX, shouldn't we be encouraged that they are still in talks with the Pope and are seeking reunion with the Church. So maybe details are not yet acceptable to both sides, but they are still talking! We should be praying that these well-intentioned (but mistaken) folks can be brought into full union with the One, True Church.

  • Posted by: RomanRevert - Mar. 18, 2012 3:33 PM ET USA

    I find it troubling that the SSPX is considered by many as "outside" of the Church while groups such as Neocatecumenal Way as as well many heterodox bishops, universities, and other catholic groups are not. Compare the SSPX to the Jesuits and tell me who is more orthodox. Groups that call for gay "marriage," female priests, deformation of the Mass, etc are good, solid members of the Church but because the SSPX questions Vat II they are the bad guys? Give me a break.

  • Posted by: demark8616 - Mar. 17, 2012 6:31 AM ET USA

    The SSPX has always traded on accusations of the 'heresy' of Rome & the recent Popes, to justify maintaining their schismatic actions & attitude regarding authority owed to the Pope. "Between heresy and schism there is this difference, that heresy perverts dogma, while schism, by rebellion against the bishop, separates from the Church. Nevertheless there is no schism which does not trump up a heresy to justify its departure from the Church." -- St. Jerome, (In Ep. ad Tit., iii, 10)

  • Posted by: jeremiahjj - Mar. 16, 2012 9:07 PM ET USA

    Incalculable consequences? Separatists, are you listening? Did you hear that word "consequences?" I think I know what the Holy Father meant, but you can read it any way you want. My advice would be to consider those words very carefully because I believe they have an eternal dimension. I would not want to be in the shoes of the separatists with that hanging over my head.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Mar. 16, 2012 6:02 PM ET USA

    This places the Society in the rather uncomfortable position of being at odds with the Magisterium--a position shared by the likes of Luther, Calvin and Zwingli, to name a few.

  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Mar. 16, 2012 5:17 PM ET USA

    I think the tone of this report is too negative in tone. Consider the take of the secular French paper Le Figaro: Rome invited further response. This very Roman courtesy is not at all meaningless. Quite the opposite, it indicates that the Pope still wants an agreement, whether we want it or not. And that Bp. Fellay wants it as well, whether we want it or not.

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