Vatican-SSPX talks to start “in next few days” – Schönborn
Doctrinal negotiations between the Vatican and the ultra-traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) are due to start “in the next few days,” according to Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, and Rome will not “let the Lefebvrists off easy for everything.”
In particular, he told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper in Bavaria over the weekend, “the SSPX will be told very clearly what is not negotiable for the Holy See. This includes such fundamental conclusions of the Second Vatican Council as its positions on Judaism, other non-Christian religions, other Christian churches and on religious freedom as a basic human right.” Here is our news story.
(Photo: Cardinal Schönborn, 16 March 2008/Herwig Prammer)
This is going to be interesting. The SSPX has been insisting for decades that it represents the true Roman Catholic faith while the Vatican and the vast majority of the Church took a wrong turn at Vatican II. By allowing wider use of the traditional Latin Mass and revoking the excommunication of the four SSPX bishops, Pope Benedict has taken two of the group’s main rallying points off the table. Now it comes down to the core issue of accepting the fundamental reforms of the 1962-1965 Council concerning Catholicism’s relations with other religions.
Certainly not right away. Possibly not at all. Maybe only in part (if past practice is anything to go by).
In their public statements, SSPX bishops were triumphant after the decree lifting the excommunications was published and determined to stand firm in its meetings with the Vatican. It’s interesting to note that they describe these upcoming sessions as “meetings” or “doctrinal discussions” (entretiens doctrinaux), while Schönborn calls them “negotiations” (Verhandlungen). Since the full reintegration of the SSPX is at stake, the word “negotiations” seems more suited to these sessions.
Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, one of the four readmitted, said the bishops had no intention of changing their views in these sessions.” No, absolutely not,” he said. “We do not change our positions, but we have the intention of converting Rome, that is, to lead Rome towards our positions.”
(Photo: Bishop Tissier de Mallerais/SSPX photo)
Bishop Richard Williamson, whose denial of the Holocaust-era gas chambers overshadowed the reporting of the ban lifting, wrote on his blog:“No doubt some Conciliarists in Rome are hoping that the Decree will serve to draw the SSPX back into the fold of Vatican II, but the Decree itself, as it stands, commits the Society to nothing more than to entering into those discussions to which the Society committed itself in 2000 when it proposed the liberation of the Mass and the ending of the “excommunications” as preconditions in the first place.”
SSPX Superior General Bernard Fellay, who has said the negotiations would be “not necessarily short, maybe even long,” has been more nuanced. On the one hand, he told the Italian agency APCom (here in English) in July: “We will not make any compromise on the Council. I have no intention of making a compromise. The truth does not tolerate compromise. We do not want a compromise, we want clarity regarding the Council.”
On the other hand, at the ordination of eight new SSPX priests in Ecône, Switzerland held in June despite Vatican warnings, Fellay said: “The biggest problem is philosophical. Two philosophies meet: the classical scholastic philosophy and modern philosophy. The pope is very eclectic and we feel that he has been marked by a subjective philosophy — less when he talks about morality than when he speaks in the abstract. Our scholastic philosophy is more objective.” The pope and the SSPX, he said, may be speaking “about the same thing, but differently.”
The German SSPX chapter seems to be on a similar wavelength. In a report on its website, it said the three theologiansreported to make up the Vatican team at the sessions “are all Thomists, so a fruitful discussion should be possible.”
(Photo: Bishop Fellay in Ecône, 29 June 2009/Denis Balibouse)
French religion writer Nicolas Senèze, author of a history of the SSPX called La crise intégriste (The Traditionalist Crisis), wrote on FaithWorld from Ecône that Fellay’s statement was “a timid opening.” Could it actually be an audacious opening gambit? Up until now, the SSPX only aimed to convince the Vatican that it was wrong about the Council. Now it also wants to persuade it that Benedict, a tireless preacher against relativism, is a subjective and faulty philosopher. Get ready for some long and difficult negotiations.
UPDATE: Jean-Marie Guénois at Le Figaro reports the talks will not start until mid-October.