Society of St. Pius X - Discussions With The Holy See

Discussions With The Holy See

For a number of years after the 1988 consecrations, there was little if any dialogue between the SSPX and the Holy See. This state of affairs ended when the Society led a large pilgrimage to Rome for the Jubilee in the year 2000.

In January 2009 the Holy See remitted the excommunications of the Society's bishops that it had declared at the time of the 1988 consecrations and expressed the hope that all members of the society would follow this up by speedily returning to full communion with the Church.

In June 2009, Father Franz Schmidberger said that the SSPX is moving in the "direction of a personal prelature", somewhat similar to the situation of Opus Dei. Father Schmidberger's view has not been confirmed by the Holy See, which sees the society as still requiring "to rediscover the path to full communion with the Church ... the doctrinal questions obviously remain and until they are clarified the Society has no canonical status in the Church and its ministers cannot legitimately exercise any ministry." In May, 2011, Vatican Press Office Director, Fr. Federico Lombardi reaffirmed the March 2009 statement made by Pope Benedict XVI: "As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church...Until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers...do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church."

On 14 September 2011, at the conclusion of doctrinal discussions that began in 2009 between representatives of the Society and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation gave Bishop Bernard Fellay, as superior general of the Society, a "doctrinal preamble", which if accepted by the Society would allow it to be accepted as in full communion with the Holy See and to be given a corporative canonical status within the Church. The possibility of making agreed adjustments of the wording was left open. Fellay was told on 16 March 2012 that the reply that he had submitted in January of that year was "not sufficient to overcome the doctrinal problems that are at the basis of the fracture between the Holy See and the society". Fellay continued to express optimism on the possibility of an agreement, but a leaked letter signed by the other three SSPX bishops showed their strong opposition to the proposal. On behalf of Pope Benedict XVI, the Congregation told Fellay on 13 June 2012 that a further response that he submitted in April still needed clarification and that, if reconciled, the Society could have the status of a personal prelature within the Church. A leak of a letter from Fellay to SSPX superiors showed that he viewed the doctrinal preamble "clearly unacceptable". On 19 July 2012 the Society announced: "We have determined and approved the necessary conditions for an eventual canonical normalization. We have decided that, in that case, an extraordinary Chapter with deliberative vote will be convened beforehand." On 16 September, it informed the Holy See that it needed more time to prepare its response to the Holy See's proposals of 13 June 2012. In a 4 October 2012 interview, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the new President of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei", remarked, with regard to the Holy See's demand that the Society accept the decisions of the Second Vatican Council, including those on religious freedom and human rights: "In a pastoral sense, the door is always open"; he added: "We cannot put the Catholic faith at the mercy of negotiations. Compromise does not exist in this field. I think that there can now be no new discussions." And on 27 October 2012, the Pontifical Commission commented on the Society's request for more time to prepare its response: "After thirty years of separation, it is understandable that time is needed to absorb the significance of these recent developments. As Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI seeks to foster and preserve the unity of the Church by realizing the long hoped-for reconciliation of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X with the See of Peter – a dramatic manifestation of the munus Petrinum in action – patience, serenity, perseverance and trust are needed."

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