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Pope ready to regularize SSPX?

April 27, 2016

Pope Francis may be prepared to end the split between the Vatican and the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), and the breakaway traditionalist group is ready to accept a papal offer, according to a report in the National Catholic Register.

In an internal memo that has leaked to the media, an influential SSPX leader recommends accepting any offer by the Pope that would grant “an appropriate ecclesial structure” to the group. “It seems the time to normalize the situation of the Society has come,” the memo suggests.

Although Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications of SSPX bishops, the bishops and priests of the traditionalist group remain suspended from ministry. Pope Francis has already shown a willingness to lift that suspension, at least partially, by granting SSPX priests faculties to hear confessions during the Jubilee Year. In a recent meeting with Bishop Bernard Fellay, the superior general of the SSPX, the Pope reportedly said that he hoped to extend that permission before the end of the Year of Mercy.

The memo—written by Father Franz Schmidberger, who was superior general of the SSPX from 1982 to 1994—remarks that Vatican officials have been gradually easing their demands regarding what the SSPX must do to achieve regular canonical status. The memo speculates that Pope Francis might approve a reconciliation without requiring the group to endorse all the documents of Vatican II. Father Schmidberger writes that “perhaps only Pope Francis is able to take this step, given his unpredictability and improvisation.”

In an interview earlier this month, a key Vatican official lent support to the notion that the SSPX would be allowed to continue questioning certain Vatican II documents which, in the view of traditionalists, clash with previous Church teaching. Archbishop Guido Pozzo, the secretary of the Ecclesia Dei commission, which supervises relations with traditionalists, told the French daily La Croix: “Vatican II can be adequately understood only in the context of the full Tradition of the Church and her constant magisterium.” He added that some questions about the interpretation of Vatican II documents remain “subject to discussion and clarification.”

Vatican-watchers speculate that if the Pope moves to regularize the SSPX, he will offer the group special canonical status—perhaps as a “personal prelature” like Opus Dei.


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  • Posted by: rjbennett1294 - Apr. 28, 2016 6:54 AM ET USA

    If the Pope does regularize the status of the SSPX, that will certainly be good news for many of us traditional Catholics, and I will be glad that I was wrong when I said it would never happen. Still, there's a part of me that finds it hard to believe that the same pope who intervened in (and some say destroyed) the FFI because of disagreements over the traditional liturgy will now grant “an appropriate ecclesial structure” to the SSPX. In other words, I'll believe it when it becomes a reality.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Apr. 28, 2016 3:43 AM ET USA

    Over the last 20 years many of the parishioners at my parish have returned to the SSPX. This has been a source of sadness to me because of the painfulness of such a decision. But I can understand their move: Catholic schools that proffer mediocrity in religious instruction, conformity of nearly every aspect of modern Catholic life to the secular irreligion, the occasional priest of the extraordinary form who suffers from bouts of clericalism, restrictions on lay evangelization, and other issues.