SSPX facing deadline before papal resignation

SSPX facing deadline before papal resignation

The Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) has been asked to respond by February 22 to a Vatican proposal that could lead to reconciliation.

Archbishop Gerhard Müller, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has set the deadline for a response from the traditionalist group to the Doctrinal Preamble, which would, if accepted, furnish the basis for a reconciliation of the traditionalist group. The SSPX has not yet formally responded to the Vatican offer, although leaders of the group have indicated that they are not prepared to accept the document.

February 22 is the feast of the Chair of St. Peter. The deadline could also represent the last opportunity for the SSPX to reconcile with the Holy See under the authority of Pope Benedict XVI, who has made it a priority to repair the split between the Vatican and the traditionalist group founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

This was reported on previously in another thread which is now closed due to going over 1000 posts. At the time, it was only one site reporting it so the credibility of the report seemed to be in some question. It now appears that the report was accurate and is now being confirmed by more than one source.


Lefebvrians: The last train

Lefebvrians are given a final chance. The Holy See has asked the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) to accept the agreement proposed by Rome by 22 February, the day the Church celebrates the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, so before Benedict XVI resignation comes into effect.

Following the “personal” and highly spiritual letter sent by U.S. archbishop Augustin Di Noia, to the Lefebvrians last December, a new letter dated 8 January has reached the SSPX’s Superior, Bishop Bernard Fellay. It would not be correct to call it an ultimatum as such but the document signed by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and President of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, imposes a deadline on the Lefebvrians for the first time. A particularly dramatic move in light of Benedict XVI’s shock resignation.

The existence of the letter was confirmed by the abbot Claude Barthe, a careful observer of relations between Rome and the traditionalists, in an interview with Présent on 16 February: “Everyone knows by now that the “Ecclesia Dei” Commission sent a letter to Bishop Fellay on 8 January and that he is expected to reply by 22 February, the day of the Feast of the Chair of Peter. This could also be the day the Prelature of Saint Pius X is founded. If it does indeed happen, it would mark the real end of Benedict XVI’s papacy: Mgr. Lefebvre’s rehabilitation. You can imagine what a clap of thunder that would be and what an effect it will have on March’s scheduled events,” in other words, the Conclave.

According to Abbot Barthe, the game is not over yet. It does however seem unlikely that Lefebvrians will agree to sign the doctrinal preamble the Holy See sent to them last June. According to French Catholic daily La Croix, if the SSPX fails to send a reply by 22 February, Rome has the right to appeal to each of the Fraternity’s priests directly, without first going through their Superior, Fellay, extending individual invitations to them to re-enter into communion with Rome. The first reactions of the Lefebvrian clergy, however, indicate unanimous support for their Superior.

Readers will recall that last June, the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Levada, delivered the final version of the doctrinal preamble to Fellay, along with a proposal for a Canonical settlement which involved transforming the SSPX into a personal Prelature.

The document required Lefebvrians to recognise that the magisterium is the authentic interpreter of Tradition, that the Second Vatican Council agrees with Tradition and that the post-conciliar liturgical reform promulgated by Paul VI was not only valid but legitimate as well. These conditions were discussed during the Fraternity’s General Chapter in July 2012, but no response came from Rome. Lefebvrian leaders gave various statements and interviews in which they implied that it was difficult for them to accept the conditions laid out by the Holy See.

Will the Pope’s resignation speed things along? It’s hard to tell. Conditions as favourable as the current ones and a Pope as willing to reach an agreement as Benedict XVI will certainly be hard to come by. If the SSPX rejects the Holy See’s proposals, the new Pope will have to decide on what to do next.

The article title is misleading in my view, in fact, very much so. It might be the last opportunity for the short term as any new pope is going to have plenty to take care beyond this particular situation. However, the idea that Rome is going to simply stop trying to bring the SSPX back into the fold is a false one in my view.

It’s time for SSPX leaders to practice the virtues of humility and obedience.

The parishioners of a Roman Catholic Church in my city were given this notice in this Sunday’s bulletin.“During a talk at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy in New Hamburg Bishop B. Fellay of the SSPX made a statement that the “Jews are the enemies of the Church.” Such remarks are not in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops denounces all forms of anti-Semitism and rejects assertions such as those reported to have been made. PLEASE NOTE: The SSPX is a schismatic group not in communion with the Catholic Church. Therefore, Sacraments celebrated by priests of the SSPX at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy in New Hamburg are illicit. The sacraments of Marriage and Penance celebrated there are invalid.” If this is true I doubt that the Church would want the members of the SSPX to join us. At least not the anti-Semitic members of the SSPX. Apparently their leader is anti-Semitic.

The Church very much wants the SSPX to come back into the fold. Pope Benedict and many others have been working quite hard to make that happen. There is a great deal of history here which, if you are interested, can be found by searching the forum.


Yes indeed, the last two popes have bent over backwards reaching out to SSPX, who are beginning to look very much like modern day proud Pharisees…

I believe the article is trying to say that there is a chance that the next pope may not be as patient. Which is always possible. As Archbishop Mueller recently said, “The Church can’t wait forever.” Even with the Eastern Christians, there was a point at which the Church disengaged. It’s taken almost 1,000 years for the Catholic and Orthodox Churches to sit down and talk again.

This can certainly happen. A future pope may decide to disengage. At which point, the SSPX is then in schism, because it will be Rome who will be refusing to speak with the SSPX unless it’s on Rome’s terms. Up to now, the dialogue has been on the SSPX’s terms. They asked for the EF mass. They got it. They asked for the remission of the excommunications, they got it. They have asked to celebrate mass at some of the Church’s holiest sites, they’ve gotten it, eve though they’re not supposed to be celebrating mass at all. They have asked for other things and Rome has given it to them rather than treat them with antagonism. During the last 2 1/2 years when they’ve been talking, Rome was said very little. In fact, Rome has said nothing about what has happened behind closed doors. It has been the SSPX that has made information available to the public. It has been the SSPX who has bashed Rome, even while negotiation were taking place. Rome behaved diplomatically and politely, respecting the privacy of both parties and their good name.

If we think on all of this, a future pope may say that Rome has given enough. Such a position would be the last train. From then on, reconciliations will have to be individual. A generation or more will pass before Rome attempts this again.

The Bishop did make this comment and it is true that Rome condemned the comment. I don’t know if he’s antisemitic or if that was just an imprudent way of describing the tension between Judaism and Christianity. The tension is a theological one, not a political one. When one uses the term “enemy” it can easily be translated into politics. That would be incorrect.

There may be some Catholics who have a political ax to grind with Jews, the Vatican does not and it is the Vatican, not Bishop Fellay and not the laity who speaks for the Church.

The one mistake in the pastor’s memo is that the SSPX is not a schismatic group. The SSPX is guilty of schismatic actions, guilty of violating Canon Law, guilty of disobedience, guilty of pride, and probably guilty of presumption. Having said all of that, I can publish a list of my sins that will make the SSPX and Bishop Fellay look like Mother Teresa and her nuns, not that the Bishop and the SSPX would find that flattering. They have a bone to pick with Mother Teresa too. That’s another story.

My point is that we all have a list of sins. The key here is to understand that the SSPX cannot legally celebrate the sacraments and there are certain sacraments that it cannot even celebrate validly. In the case of confession, it is better to take your chances with Father Bozo, who has faculties from his bishop than Father Saint at the SSPX, who does not have faculties from any bishop and whom the Church denies has supplied faculties. To be on the safe side, Father Bozo is a better choice. He can validly absolve, even if he is a clown. The sacrament does not depend on his person, but on his relationship with the Church. You can have a saint and a clown, but the clown is in good standing with the Church and the saint is not, then only the clown can forgive your sins. The saint is iffy at best.

In the end, I don’t have to take Father Bozo home with me or believe everything he says. But I can believe when he says, "I absolve you . . . . " There is no doubt in the mind of the Church that you are absolved, if you are sorry for your sins.

I would love it if the SSPX were to come back into communion with the Church, but they have proven themselves time and time again to be disobedient and unwilling to compromise anything and accept the authority of their pope.

My guess would be that it must be very hard to make this happen, because they seem to have different points of view inside the Society. A superior can only do so much. At some point he has to cross his arms and do nothing or do what he feels is best for the community and let the chips fall where they may. Both are risky and very frightening prospects.

I think the clock is always ticking. “Tomorrow” is the reason given by many a sinner. “Tomorrow I will start going to Mass.” “Tomorrow I will quit drinking.” “Tomorrow I will start reading my Bible.” Scripture tells us today is the acceptable day of salvation because it is only “now” that we are guaranteed.

So, what do I mean by this? There will be people that follow the SSPX that will die this year, possibly without valid confession and in a position that is questionable with the Church. I am not saying they will go to Hell, of course, only that they are not availing themselves of the full benefits of all the Sacraments, the surest way to go to heaven.

Additionally, the current SSPX bishops will not be around forever. Soon their mortality will force a decision of continuing without a bishop, and the means to validly consecrate priests, even though it is illicit; or, to once again incur excommunication by the invalid consecration of bishops.

This February deadline is only the most immediate, and the only know one at the time. The next pope may not allow any ministry for return of the Church or require that they work under a diocesan bishop. In other words, no special treatment. He might also not actively seek any solution and let the organization seek union only through individual reconcilliation. I would think that there would be some olive branch as long as possible, but this is not forever. Eventually they will be something like the Old Catholic Church, valid but out of communion, or incorporated back into the Church. Kibitzing is seldom a wise option.

A somewhat positive interview from last Friday, Feb. 15, 2013

Your Excellency, would you appreciate it if the last major act of Benedict XVI’s pontificate could be the reintegration of the Society of St. Pius X?

Bishop Bernard Fellay:** For a moment I thought that, with his resignation, Benedict XVI would perhaps make a final gesture in our favor as pope. That being said, I have a hard time seeing how he could do so. We will probably have to wait for the next pope. I will even go so far as to say, at the risk of surprising you, that the Church has more important problems than the Society of St. Pius X, and in a way, it is by resolving these problems that the problem of the Society will be solved.**

Some say that you wish Rome to recognize that the ordinary rite is illicit; can you tell us more on this point?

**We know very well that it is very difficult to ask the authorities to condemn the new mass. In reality, if what needs to be corrected were corrected, it would already be a big step.

**It can be done by an instruction from the Congregation for the Divine Cult and the Discipline of the Sacraments. It’s not that complicated, really. I think that important changes need to be made because of the serious and dangerous deficiencies that make this rite condemnable. The Church could very well make these important corrections without losing face or undermining her authority. But at present, I am aware of the opposition from a number of bishops to the Pope’s legitimate request that the translation in the Canon of the Mass of “pro multis” by “for all” be corrected and replaced by “for many”, since the former translation which can be found in several languages is false.
Would you like to say anything about Vatican Council II?

**As far as Vatican II is concerned, just like for the Mass, we believe that it is necessary to clarify and correct a certain number of points that are either erroneous or lead to error. That being said, we do not expect Rome to condemn Vatican II any time soon. She can recall the Truth and discretely correct the errors, while preserving her authority. Nonetheless, we think that the Society contributes to the Lord’s edifice by denouncing certain disputed points.
Concretely speaking, you know that your demands will not be answered overnight.

**Absolutely, but little by little they eventually will be, I think. And the time will come when the situation will become acceptable and we will be able to agree, even if that does not seem to be the case today.
You met with Benedict XVI in the first months of his pontificate; can you tell us what your impression of him was at that time?

**I can say that I met with a pope who had a sincere desire to bring about the unity of the Church, even if we were not able to agree. But I assure you that I pray for him every day.
In your opinion, what was the most important act of his pontificate?

I think that the most important act was without any doubt the publication of the motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum which grants to priests everywhere in the world the freedom to celebrate the traditional Mass. Might I add that he acted with courage, for there was opposition. And I think that this act will bear very positive fruits in the long run.

The blue and the reds are mine. Here are some problems that they have to resolve. The Vatican has told them as much. There is a stubborn streak here. I’m not sure that anyone really knows how to get past this. My sense is that it has to come from inside the SSPX.

I do agree that taking a chance on a future pope being more accommodating is a risk. It’s like gambling. It may or may not happen. You always know what you have, but you’re never sure what you may get.

Any translation is going to be a problem, FSSPX or no FSSPX. Even “many” has been pointed out not to have the same meaning as some of the other languages.

But that said, I did see one of the FSSPX priests on youtube about explaining what makes the sacrament valid. Seemed very orthodox to me and in accordance with DeDefectibus.

I pray the Holy Spirit leads them back to Rome, but I am beginning to think it won’t happen in my liftime.

I don’t know how old you are, but I do know that their bishops are in my age group and I’m not getting any younger. My concern is, what happens when their bishops can no longer minister to them?

If they ordain another bishop, everything goes back to square one. If they don’t ordain another bishop, their ordinations will either slow down incredibly or stop. I can’t see any Catholic bishop ordaining their priests. There is no ordinary who can give the SSPX candidate a dimissorial letter.

They need to fix this in my lifetime. :smiley:

Which begs the question of why a Vatican-imposed deadline is even necessary. The FSSPX has imposed its own deadline and the Church really needs to do nothing. If their churchgoers can’t see that, then something is definitely wrong.

I have not inside knowledge. I’m going to take a guess here.

I believe the deadline may be the Holy Father’s desire to close this chapter before he leaves the papal office. He’s a man of great sensitivity. He has always opposed leaving something for the next guy to clean up or fix, unless it can’t be helped. He’s going to give this one parting shot. If they respond positively on the 22nd, there are six days left for Rome to accept their response. Otherwise, it will be tabled until there is a pope.

On the flip side, if there is a negative response or no response, then he’s conscience is clear that he did everything he could do. Whatever his successor inherits is not for lack of effort on his part.

That’s my guess. Everyone is free to disagree, because it’s only speculation on my part.

I believe that you are correct in your assessment. Pope Benedict does not strike me, in the limited way that one can get to know him through his writings and his speeches, to be a man that enjoys kicking a problem down the road for the next guy to deal with. His pontificate has been one where he has not ducked the hard decisions, and has not merely been a caretaker by any stretch of the imagination. As such, I believe he has legitimate hopes that the SSPX will come home prior to him leaving, but if not, he does not wish it to be because he did not try everything that he could to make it happen.

New Pope will handle Pius X Society decision

Vatican City, Feb 21, 2013 / 07:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The effort to reach an agreement between the Church and the Society of St. Pius X will be passed on to the next Pope, Father Federico Lombardi said.

“An important point is that these days people have spoken about a deadline for Pius X priests and a conclusion to the situation. The Pope is confiding the decision to the next Pope, and no conclusion will be made on this date,” said Fr. Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office.

Archbishop Gerhard L. Muller, the head of the Vatican doctrine office, originally set Feb. 22 as a deadline for the Society of St. Pius X to reach a decision about accepting a doctrinal preamble that was sent to the society.

“The purpose of dialogue is to overcome difficulties in the interpretation of the Second Vatican Council,” Archbishop Muller told CNA July 20, “but we cannot negotiate on revealed faith, that is impossible. An Ecumenical Council, according to the Catholic faith, is always the supreme teaching authority of the Church.”

The document contains a set of doctrinal statements that the breakaway group would have had to accept to establish a framework for full reconciliation.

All indications seemed to be pointing toward the Pius X Society rejecting the agreement.
The society has had a strained relationship with the Vatican since its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, consecrated four bishops against the orders of Pope John Paul II in 1988.

Archbishop Lefebvre founded the society in 1970 as a response to what he described as errors that had crept into the Catholic Church following the Second Vatican Council.

In 2009, Pope Benedict remitted the excommunications of the Society’s bishops and set talks in motion aimed at restoring “full communion.”

In May 2012 the Vatican began discussions with Bishop Bernard Fellay, the superior general of the society, and said that it would establish separate talks with the other three bishops.

Looks like it isn’t going to happen.

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