Catholic World News

Vatican offers terms for reconciliation to SSPX

September 14, 2011

The Vatican has asked the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) to endorse a statement accepting the central teachings of Vatican II, suggesting that if the traditionalist group fulfills that requirement, the SSPX could be recognized as a personal prelature.

At a September 14 meeting in Rome, Cardinal William Levada, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, presented an SSPX delegation led by Bishop Bernard Fellay with a short document that a Vatican statement described as “the fundamental basis for achieving full reconciliation with the Apostolic See.”

The Vatican did not reveal the contents of the document, which was identified as a “Doctrinal Preamble.” Officials in Rome indicated that the Holy See hopes to receive a positive response from the SSPX within the next few months.

Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, told reporters that if the SSPX accepts the document, he Vatican would grant canonical recognition to the traditionalist group, most likely in the form of a personal prelature. The leaders of the SSPX are currently suspended from ministry, and the Vatican does not recognize their pastoral authority. A personal prelature would give the group an approved worldwide ministry, subject directly to the Roman Pontiff.

The September 14 meeting was the product of a series of exploratory talks between Vatican officials and SSPX leaders, dedicated to identifying precisely the traditionalists’ objections to some teachings of Vatican II. Representatives of the Holy See have consistently said that the SSPX must accept the authority of that Council in order to regain regular canonical status.

The “Doctrinal Preamble,” a Vatican statement explained, sets forth “the fundamental basis for achieving full reconciliation with the Apostolic See.” The document “defines certain doctrinal principles and criteria for the interpretation Catholic doctrine, which are necessary to ensure faithfulness to the Church Magisterium and sentire cum Ecclesia,” the statement continued. The Vatican acknowledged that beyond these fundamental principles, the document “leaves open for legitimate discussion” the more specific formulations of the Council. In other words, the “Doctrinal Preamble” asks the SSPX to accept the basic authority of Vatican II, but allows for disagreement on some particular aspects of council documents. Again, the exact contents of the “Doctrinal Preamble” have not been made public.

The Vatican statement indicated that along with discussion of the document, the September 14 meeting also explored the possible canonical options that could lead to the full reconciliation of the SSPX.


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Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: koinonia - Sep. 20, 2011 10:39 PM ET USA

    This situation is often oversimplified. The problem is complex in that the SSPX has always claimed to exist for all Catholics in defense of traditional Catholicism against modernism and for the salvation of souls. There are many "independent" traditional groups and several religious orders attached to the SSPX. What will become of these souls? Bishop Fellay has stated that the decision will be made "for the good of the Church and of souls." He has asked that many Rosaries be prayed. Good idea.

  • Posted by: samuel.doucette1787 - Sep. 15, 2011 8:24 AM ET USA

    I've been praying for this reconciliation for years. I hope it happens.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 14, 2011 8:47 PM ET USA

    “Given the Council’s [i.e. Vatican II] pastoral character, it avoided pronouncing, in an extraordinary manner, dogmas endowed with the note of infallibility.” – Pope Paul VI, General Audience of January 12, 1966

  • Posted by: koinonia - Sep. 14, 2011 8:33 PM ET USA

    Our Lord told his apostles to "watch and pray." This situation is not yet resolved. Nonetheless, the developments continue to be remarkable. As pointed out by another observer, the "legitimate discussion" phrase is important. "...but allows for disagreement on some particular aspects of council documents" is also quite notable. The tremendous developments with regard to Catholic Tradition during this pontificate provide a refreshing contrast to an otherwise troubling and difficult 21st century.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 14, 2011 5:55 PM ET USA

    "The Vatican acknowledged that beyond these fundamental principles, the document `leaves open for legitimate discussion' the more specific formulations of the Council." That has been my impression from both the current Pope and JPII: but there are some orthodox Catholics who would dispute the possibility of any disagreement with any of the wording of the Council ever being legitimate.