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SSPX declines Vatican offer--for now

July 19, 2012

The traditionalist Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) has declined a Vatican offer for reconciliation, but left the door open for further talks.

The SSPX answer to the Vatican was not a surprise, since Bishop Bernard Fellay, the leader of the traditionalist society, had already said that the group could not accept the conditions of the most recent offer from Rome. But the SSPX statement released on July 19 gave evidence that negotiations would continue.

After meeting at a general chapter in Écone, Switzerland, SSPX leaders said that they had “determined and approved the necessary conditions for an eventual canonical normalization.” That sentence could be interpreted as a sign of confidence that the group anticipated eventual success in the talks with Rome.

The SSPX statement said that the group had “recovered our profound unity” during the general chapter. Prior to the meeting, reports had circulated about severe divisions within the group, prompting speculation that some members of the SSPX might accept the Vatican’s offer for regularization, while others could resist.

The SSPX said that the general chapter had settled on a process for approving any future offer for reconciliation: “an extraordinary chapter with deliberative vote will be convened beforehand.” That sentence, too, could be a positive sign for future talks, since Bishop Fellay—who is generally understood to be strongly in favor of eventual reunion with the Holy See—would appoint the voting members of the chapter.

The talks between the Vatican and the SSPX have been conducted privately, and a “doctrinal preamble” presented to the traditionalist group as a precondition for reconciliation has not been made public. In keeping with that careful approach, the SSPX statement did not specify which conditions of the Vatican offer the group found unacceptable.

However, the statement strongly reaffirmed the SSPX commitment to “the constant Tradition of the Church, which transmits and will transmit until the end of times the teachings required to preserve the Faith and the salvation of souls.” The statement looked forward to “the day when an open and serious debate will be possible which may allow the return to Tradition of the ecclesiastical authorities.”

The July 19 statement also underlined the group’s dedication to Catholic Church, saying that “the supreme power of government over the universal Church belongs only to the Pope, Vicar of Christ on earth.” The SSPX proclaimed its determination to uphold the teachings of the Church, but said that these teachings must be interpreted in the light of the “uninterrupted Magisterium.” The statement drew the line at “all the novelties of the Second Vatican Council which remain tainted with errors.”

The Vatican press office released its own statement on July 19, saying that the Holy See “has taken note” of the SSPX statement. However, the Vatican said, although the statement by the SSPX general chapter had been released to the public, it “remains primarily an internal document” and not an official response to the Vatican. The press office indicated that the Vatican would wait for a formal response, which would presumably be addressed to the Ecclesia Dei commission, which is handling talks with the SSPX.


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  • Posted by: demark8616 - Jul. 25, 2012 4:08 AM ET USA

    "Fight the good Fight" - sorry, these are 'slogans' of a palliative type that the SSPX use in their propaganda to still the consciences of the Faithful, who deep down know that there will be no victory, nor is it pleasing to God, unless they are in full communion with the Church of Christ here on earth.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jul. 20, 2012 4:34 PM ET USA

    I agree with Alcuin below. I too believe that the SSPX would be wiser to wait than to reject the Vicar of Christ prematurely. I anticipate a mass exodus of Catholics from the Church should the American bishops ever decide to "impose" regular Catholic discipline on the members of their dioceses. If the SSPX still refused to normalize after such event, then the question must be asked about their true motivations.

  • Posted by: ILM - Jul. 20, 2012 7:44 AM ET USA

    This is so disappointing. Perhaps the PiusXer's didn't think Christ had the authority to say "what you hold bound on earth is bound in heaven and what you hold......"

  • Posted by: demark8616 - Jul. 20, 2012 2:14 AM ET USA

    Despite the SSPX protests that they are 'not in schism', they appear to be an exact fit to this description, and 'if the cap fits', they must wear it!! "What rascal, what traitor, what madman would be so misled by the spirit of discord as to dare rend the Divine unity, the garment of the Lord, the Church of Jesus Christ?" -- Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, martyr, saint; in early writings (De eccl., unit., viii; circa A.D. 250), saw no legitimate reason for schism.

  • Posted by: Alcuin - Jul. 20, 2012 1:36 AM ET USA

    Speaking as a member of an FSSP parish, I believe that the SSPX can wait. Every year the modernist churches are a little more empty while the traditionalist churches, seminaries, and monasteries are a little more full. I had hoped that the SSPX would be brave enough to come home and fight the good fight, but I guess they didn't think they could win right now.

  • Posted by: Contrary1995 - Jul. 20, 2012 12:12 AM ET USA

    I have an idea for a new Reality TV Show: let the LCWR and the SSPX general chapter spend a weekend together on Survivor Island.

  • Posted by: JimKcda - Jul. 19, 2012 6:56 PM ET USA

    Close the door - they are gone! Future talks will only inflate their ego and make them seem, to their members and others, more important than the Pope, since the Pope can now be seen as the one who is "begging" them to come home. BXVI acted as the Good Shepherd seeking the lost sheep but now the sheep has turned out to be a goat not willing to be saved except on their own terms. Fat Chance! Pray that many individual SSPX members will understand this and return to the one, True Church

  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Jul. 19, 2012 6:12 PM ET USA

    What was added to the preamble in June that SSPX could not accept is a key question? Was this added with the approval of the Pope? Are these enemies of an accord with SSPX seeking to kill a deal? The Pope seems less engaged on this or is this my imagination? The irony is that SSPX is more faithful to Catholic doctrine than a lot of the brethren allegedly in full communion who reject Catholic doctrinal and moral teaching! Who is doing the more damage? Oremus.