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Hardly unexpected, but hard to bear nonetheless

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First the bad news.

See today’s bulletin from the Vatican News Service.

Here is the bulletin in English:


Vatican City, 16 March 2012 (VIS) – Given below is the text of a communique relating to the Society of St. Pius X, released this morning by the Holy See Press Office.

“During the meeting of 14 September 2011 between Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and president of the Pontifical Commission ‘Ecclesia Dei’, and Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the Society of St. Pius X, the latter was presented with a Doctrinal Preamble, accompanied by a Preliminary Note, as a fundamental basis for achieving full reconciliation with the Apostolic See. This defined certain doctrinal principles and criteria for the interpretation Catholic doctrine [sic], which are necessary to ensure faithfulness to the Church Magisterium and ‘sentire cum Ecclesia’.

“The response of the Society of St. Pius X to the aforesaid Doctrinal Preamble, which arrived in January 2012, was examined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before being submitted to the Holy Father for his judgement. Pursuant to the decision made by Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop Fellay was, in a letter delivered today, informed of the evaluation of his response. The letter states 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.

“At the end of today’s meeting, moved by concern to avoid an ecclesial rupture of painful and incalculable consequences, the superior general of the Society of St. Pius X was invited to clarify his position in order to be able to heal the existing rift, as is the desire of Pope Benedict XVI”.

If the Pope dies without effecting the healing he so longs for, who will presume the (deepening of the) rupture will be repaired? Early in 1054 the Pope died. A couple of months later the Roman legatus issued the infamous excommunication, which on account of being given after the Pope’s death was invalid anyway. Nonetheless, the Orthodox reciprocated by removing the prayers for the Pope from the diptychs of the liturgy. The rest, as they say, is history: a thousand years for both sides to come up with all sorts of justifications, theological and otherwise, for (continuing) the estrangement. What began as something small, seemingly insignificant, has grown into an unthinkably terrible condition.

The SSPX has already long begun to build a parallel church, despite Archbishop Lefevbre’s warnings and provisions to the contrary. They have, e.g., elected one of the bishops as superior, set up their own marriage tribunals, and some have been casting doubts on the Holy Father’s canonizations. How difficult is it now to imagine they eventually will do as the Orthodox have done, who say that, because of this ‘loophole’ or that one, that the See of Rome is vacant – saying this even while admitting the need to honor that See. “But”, say the Orthodox, “it is tainted”, or “enough of the Latin politics”! Sound familiar?

When Pope John Paul II back in the 1980s announced to the Synod of Bishops his appointment of Cardinal Gagnon to visit all the Society’s communities, the Cardinal said: ‘We must be careful, or there will be a schism. Let us pray this [effort] succeeds now, so that we don’t later have to start another ecumenical movement to repair a break with the Society.’ It has not succeeded.

Is it too late for the effort to be redimensioned, post haste? Please God not. Let us all therefore pray.

What might the human contribution be to that redimensioning? We’ll be thinking. Send NCCL your ideas.


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