- Dialogue between the Society of St. Pius X and the Holy See
For a number of years after the 1988 consecrations, there was little if any dialogue between the Society of St. Pius X 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.
Role of Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos
A sympathetic Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, approached the SSPX bishops during the pilgrimage and, according to Bishop Fellay, told them that the Pope was prepared to grant them either a personal prelature (the status enjoyed by Opus Dei) or an apostolic administration (the status given to the traditionalist priests of Campos, Brazil). The SSPX leadership responded with distrust, saying that Castrillón was vague on how the new structure would be implemented and sustained, and criticising the Holy See's allegedly heavy-handed treatment of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. They requested two preliminary "signs" before continuing negotiations: that the Holy See grant permission for all priests to celebrate the Tridentine Mass; and that its statement that the 1988 consecrations had resulted in excommunication for the clerics involved be declared void.
Cardinal Castrillón refused to grant interviews on the subject, in order "to maintain the privacy of the details of our dialogue", though this silence was broken when his letter of 5 April 2002 to Bishop Bernard Fellay was later published. This contained the text of a protocol summarizing the meeting between the two men held on 29 December 2000. This envisaged a reconciliation on the basis of the Lefebvre-Ratzinger protocol of 5 May 1988; the 1988 excommunications would be lifted rather than declared null. From 2003 onwards, the annual reports of the Ecclesia Dei Commission began to report on dialogue between the Vatican authorities and the SSPX, beginning with "some high-level meetings and... an exchange of correspondence" in 2003, continuing with "dialogue at various levels... [and] meetings, some at a high level" in 2004, and leading to "somewhat improved" dialogue with "more concrete proposals" in 2005.
Advancement in 2005
The year 2005 was of great significance because it saw the accession to the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, who had participated in the 1988 negotiations and who was seen as being sympathetic to the use of the Tridentine liturgy. In August 2005, Benedict met with Bishop Fellay for 35 minutes, at the latter's request. There was no breakthrough, but statements from both sides spoke of the atmosphere as positive. It was reported that the SSPX question was among the topics for discussion at meetings of the Pope with cardinals and Curia officials in early 2006.
In July 2007, the Pope issued Summorum Pontificum, which liberalised the restrictions on the celebration of the Tridentine Mass. In an accompanying letter, he wrote that he wished to see "an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church" and "to make every effort to enable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew" - presumably a reference to the SSPX and other traditionalists in dispute with Rome. Bishop Fellay, while welcoming the Pope's decision, referred to "the difficulties that still remain", and stated that the SSPX wished that the new "favourable climate" would "make it possible - after the decree of excommunication which still affects its bishops has been withdrawn – to consider more serenely the disputed doctrinal issues."
Ecclesia Dei report
The 2007 Ecclesia Dei report states that "the Pontifical Commission has taken advice from many experts to continue studying concrete juridical ways for the Lefebvrians' reconciliation. The projects drafted to this end have been submitted to the Supreme Authority".
After the motu proprio
In April 2008, Bishop Fellay issued Letter to Friends and Benefactors No. 72, informing the SSPX faithful that, in spite of both Summorum Pontificum and the recent Vatican documents on the true meaning of Lumen Gentium  and evangelisation, the Society still could not sign an agreement with the Holy See, which was not going to deal with doctrinal errors. Two months later, after a meeting held in Rome between the two, Cardinal Castrillòn Hoyos indicated five conditions that SSPX must comply with as a preparatory step for achieving full communion. The Cardinal did not ask in an explicit way for acceptance of the Second Vatican Council as a true Ecumenical Council or of the validity of the Mass of Paul VI, matters on which the Secretariat of State later made clear agreement is required for unity of doctrine. On several occasions, but especially in the homily Fellay preached at Lourdes for the SSPX Pilgrimage, on 26 October 2008, he replied that the Vatican requests were ambiguous. He also launched a new Rosary Crusade for 1 November to Christmas 2008. The first such Crusade was undertaken to ask for liberalization of Tridentine Mass. The second was to pray that the 1988 excommunications be declared void. Fellay later reported on DICI.org that one million seven hundred thousand rosaries were prayed in this Crusade.
Lifting of the excommunications
By a decree of 21 January 2009 (Protocol Number 126/2009), which was issued in response to a renewed request dated 15 December 2008 that Bishop Fellay made on behalf of all four bishops whom Lefebvre had consecrated on 30 June 1988, the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, by the power expressly granted to him by Pope Benedict XVI, remitted the automatic excommunication that they had thereby incurred, and expressed the wish that this would be followed speedily by full communion of the whole of the Society of Saint Pius X with the Church, thus bearing witness, by the proof of visible unity, to true loyalty and true recognition of the Pope's Magisterium and authority.
No change in juridical status
A Note of the Secretariat of State issued on 4 February 2009 specified that, while the lifting of the excommunication freed the four bishops from a very grave canonical penalty, it made no change in the juridical situation of the Society of St. Pius X, which continued to lack canonical recognition in the Catholic Church, and that the four bishops remained without any canonical function in the Church and were not exercising legitimately any ministry within it. The note added that future recognition of the Society required full recognition of the Second Vatican Council and of the teaching of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and repeated the assurance given in the decree of 21 January 2009 that the Holy See would study, along with those involved, the questions not yet settled, so as to reach a full satisfactory solution of the problems that had given rise to the split.
Pope Benedict XVI confirmed this stance in his motu proprio Ecclesiae unitatem of 2 July 2009, in which he declared that by lifting the excommunication of the four bishops he "intended to remove an impediment that might have jeopardized the opening of a door to dialogue and thereby to invite the Bishops and the 'Society of St Pius X' to rediscover the path to full communion with the Church. ... the remission of the excommunication was a measure taken in the context of ecclesiastical discipline to free the individuals from the burden of conscience constituted by the most serious of ecclesiastical penalties. However, 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."
February 2011 comments
In February 2011, Bishop Bernard Fellay, said that the reconciliation talks with the Vatican would soon be coming to an end, with little change in the views of either side. In addition to disputes over the changes introduced by the Second Vatican Council, new problems have been created by plans for the beatification of Pope John Paul II. Bishop Fellay said the scheduled beatification of Pope John Paul II on 1 May 2011 poses "a serious problem, the problem of a pontificate that caused things to proceed by leaps and bounds in the wrong direction, along 'progressive' lines, toward everything that they call 'the spirit of Vatican II.'"
- ^ So I told all these things to the Cardinal.... He spoke about an arrangement like that of Opus Dei, that is, a personal prelature (talk given by Bishop Bernard Fellay in Kansas City, Missouri on 5 March 2002). On an earlier occasion Bishop Fellay said that what was under consideration was not a personal prelature but an apostolic administration (Communicantes: August 2001).
- ^ The Superior General expressed his point of view, his distrust, his apprehension (Statement of Bishop Fellay to SSPX Members & Friends January 22, 2001)
- ^ "Rome’s failure to understand our position is such that if today we accepted their agreement, tomorrow we would have to undergo exactly the same treatment as Saint Peter’s Fraternity, which is muzzled, and being led where it does not want to go".See also.
- ^ On January 16, there was another meeting with Cardinal Castrillon, during which the Superior General exposed the necessity of having guaranties from Rome before going ahead in the details of eventual discussions or an agreement: That the Tridentine Mass be granted to all priests of the entire world; That the censures against the Bishops be declared null (Statement of Bishop Fellay to SSPX Members & Friends January 22 2001); We thus did require these two signs, first the withdrawal of the decree of excommunication and, secondly, the permission for all the priests of the Latin rite, without distinction, to celebrate the traditional Mass. I believe these two steps would have been able to create a truly new climate in the universal Church (http://www.sspx.ca/Communicantes/Aug2001/Our_Hope_After_the_Battle.htm Interview with Bishop Fellay, August 2001, Angelus magazine)
- ^ Letter to Fellay
- ^ 2003 edition of L'Attività della Santa Sede (ISBN 88-209-7583-1), page 1097
- ^ 2004 edition of L'Attività della Santa Sede (ISBN 88-209-7752-4), page 1090
- ^ 2005 edition of L'Attività della Santa Sede (ISBN 88-209-7831-8), page 1168.
- ^ Benedict and the Lefebvrites, John L. Allen, Jr., Word From Rome, National Catholic Reporter, September 2, 2005.
- ^ Pope, Curia to discuss reconciliation with SSPX, National Catholic Reporter, 24 March 2006
- ^ Summorum Pontificum.
- ^ Press Release from the Superior General of the SSPX.
- ^ "Grazie alla Volontà del Santo Padre per una piena riconciliazione dei lefebvriani con la Chiesa, anzitutto della Fraternità S. Pio X, il Cardinale Presidente ha continuato il dialogo con i vertici di quella Fraternità, in vista di un ulteriore miglioramento, soprattutto alla luce del Motu Proprio 'Summorum Pontificum'. Egli ha avuto alcuni incontri anche con altri membri della Fraternità San Pio X aperti a tale prospettiva. La Pontificia Commissione si è avvalsa del parere di diversi consultori per continuare a studiare concrete vie giuridiche per favorire la riconciliazione dei lefebvriani. I progetti realizzati a tale scopo sono stati presentati all'Autorità Suprema.": L'Attività della Santa Sede 2007, p. 1076.
- ^ Conditions qui résultent de l'entretien du 4 juin 2008 entre le Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos et l'Evêque Bernard Fellay. See also http://www.la-croix.com/illustrations/Multimedia/Actu/2008/6/25/vatican.rtf La Croix, 25 June 2008.
- ^ Note of the Secretariat of State, 4 February 2009
- ^ http://dici.org/dl/fichiers/The_New_Rosary_Crusade.pdf
- ^ http://220.127.116.11/news_services/bulletin/news/23251.php?index=23251&lang=en
- ^ Bulletin of the Press Office of the Holy See, 4 February 2009
- ^ Traditionalist bishop cites lack of progress in talks with Vatican
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