Vatican, SSPX reported ready to reconcile
The Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) could be within days of reaching an agreement with the Vatican, ending a 24-year rift between the traditionalist group and the Holy See.
Bishop Bernard Fellay, the head of the SSPX, has sent a positive reply to the Vatican's request for assent to the "doctrinal preamble" that could be the basis for a formal reconciliation, a spokesman for the traditionalist group has revealed. Although Vatican officials had said in recent interviews that they had not received a formal response, they said that they expected the SSPX reply in "a matter of days, and no longer of weeks."
Jean-Marie Guenois, a veteran religion correspondent for the French daily Le Figaro, has reported that although the formal answer from the SSPX had not yet reached the Vatican, officials involved in the talks have indicated that an agreement in principle is already in place, and "the final adjustments have been concluded between Rome and Écone," the SSPX headquarters.
Msgr. Guido Pozzo, secretary of the Ecclesia Dei commission that was responsible for talks with the SSPX, confirmed that the traditionalist group had promised to submit a response to the Vatican's latest requests, and said on April 13 that he hoped to see the document "at the beginning of next week." While declining to speculate on the outcome, he said that reports he had heard were "encouraging." Meanwhile Vatican Insider reports that Bishop Fellay has written to the bishops and priests of the SSPX, telling them that the group's response to the Vatican would not make any major concessions from the traditionalist perspective. His letter seemed to imply that an agreement was within reach, and suggested that the SSPX leader was eager to quell a rebellion by hard-liners within the ranks of his own traditionalist group.
The split between the SSPX and the Holy See, which arose out of disputes over liturgical changes and the teachings of Vatican II, peaked in 1988 when the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, then the leader of the group, ordained three bishops in defiance of orders from Pope John Paul II. The Vatican soon announced that the bishops involved in that ceremony were excommunicated—although their episcopal ordinations were valid. In January 2009, in a dramatic gesture to heal the breach, Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications. But the bishops of the SSPX remain suspended from ministry.
For the past 3 years, the Vatican and SSPX have been involved in negotiations designed to complete the reconciliation of the breakaway group. Last September the Vatican presented the SSPX with a "doctrinal preamble" that would be the basis for a Vatican document restoring the SSPX to recognized status—perhaps as a "personal prelature" similar to Opus Dei in its canonical structure. However, the Vatican indicated that the SSPX acceptance of the "doctrinal preamble" would be a necessary condition for any such move.
In March of this year, Bishop Bernard Fellay met with Cardinal William Levada, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), to discuss an earlier SSPX response to the "doctrinal preamble." Cardinal Levada informed the SSPX leader that the response was inadequate, and asked for a "clarification" of the SSPX position by April 15.