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Key Vatican official sees no doctrinal problem with SSPX reconciliation

May 10, 2012

The secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts has said that there are no significant doctrinal problems barring the way to the reconciliation of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX).

Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta Ochoa told a Belgian audience that in talks between the traditionalist group and Vatican officials, “I think we were able to clarify the doctrinal problems.”

The bishop’s statement lent support to the belief—already widespread among Vatican observers—that Pope Benedict XVI will soon approve a canonical agreement regularizing the status of the SSPX, thus ending a split that began in the 1970s and peaked in 1988 when the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, then the leader of the SSPX, was excommunicated after ordaining four bishops in defiance of orders from Pope John Paul II. In 2009, Pope Benedict lifted the excommunications (which also applied to the SSPX bishops), but the traditionalist prelates remain suspended from ministry.

In March the Vatican asked Bishop Bernard Fellay, the SSPX leader, to sign a “doctrinal preamble” that would form the basis for a canonical agreement. After some negotiation on the wording of the document, Bishop Fellay has apparently accepted it. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is now reviewing the agreement, and a final decision is expected from Pope Benedict by the end of this month.

In a related development, leaked correspondence among the bishops of the SSPX has confirmed that there are serious divisions within the traditionalist group, with some prelates begging Bishop Fellay not to accept the Vatican’s offer. The leaked correspondence suggests that some traditionalists will split from the main body of the SSPX, and remain separated from Rome, if the agreement is consummated.


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  • Posted by: - May. 11, 2012 8:19 AM ET USA

    Can someone tell us about the humility and intelligence of Bishop Fellay?

  • Posted by: normnuke - May. 10, 2012 9:13 PM ET USA

    I am a big fan of both Pope Benedict and Bishop Fellay: I'm convinced that the reconciliation could not have come to pass without both of them. It's a pity that Bishop Fellay's humility and intelligence are not well known. Pope Benedict'a qualities , of course,are. Gott Sie Dank. And also welcome to (officially) Saint Hildegard von Bingen.

  • Posted by: rpp - May. 10, 2012 9:00 PM ET USA

    I have great hopes that the SSPX will return to a normal canonical status. While I would be saddened if some individuals refuse to return to full communion, in a sense, that is part of the pruning process. Now, if other those on the (perceived) opposite side where those who refuse to accept Church teachings on sexuality, marriage and culture of life issues would also publicly state they are not in line with Rome. Alas, that would be too much to hope for.

  • Posted by: koinonia - May. 10, 2012 7:57 PM ET USA

    There will be a split of some sort regardless of outcome.