Vatican say No to deal with SSPX traditionalists
The Vatican has informed leaders of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) that doctrinal differences prevent the regularization of the traditionalist group.
The Vatican announced on March 16 that Bishop Bernard Fellay, the head of the SSPX, has been notified that Pope Benedict XVI could not accept the position put forward by the traditionalist group in its response to an offer from the Holy See.
Last September, after months of talks, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had presented SSPX leaders with a "doctrinal preamble," which could provide the basis for a canonical agreement regularizing the status of the SSPX. The group has been separated from Rome since 1988, when its founder, the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, consecrated new bishops without permission from Rome. In 2009 Pope Benedict lifted the excommunications that resulted from that act, but the SSPX bishops remain suspended from active ministry.
The Vatican made it clear in September that the SSPX would be asked to accept the "doctrinal preamble" as a condition for reconciliation with the Holy See. Although the contents of the document have not been made public, the Vatican was asking for an acknowledgment from the SSPX that the teachings of Vatican II are valid.
In a first response to the "doctrinal preamble," SSPX officials said that they could not accept the document as it was written, and suggested some amendments. The Vatican today revealed that Bishop Fellay has been advised that "the position he expressed is not sufficient to overcome the doctrinal problems which lie at the foundation of the rift between the Holy See and the Society of St. Pius X."
Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, told reporters that an agreement is still possible. "The question isn't considered closed," he said. An official Vatican statement indicated that Bishop Fellay "was invited to clarify his position in order to be able to heal the existing rift, as is the desire of Pope Benedict XVI."
However, the prospect of an agreement now appears remote. Informed sources at the Vatican say that Pope Benedict, who has sought for years to end the split between the Holy See and the SSPX, made the final decision to reject the SSPX position. The Pontiff evidently concluded that the SSPX response to the "doctrinal preamble" was not even adequate to form the basis for further negotiations.
In its March 16 statement, the Vatican said that it was seeking another response from Bishop Fellay in order "to void an ecclesiastical rupture of painful and incalculable consequences."