Vatican to meet SSPX ultra-traditionalists, final reconciliation offer due
The Vatican has invited a Roman Catholic splinter group to a meeting next month that could decide the fate of the ultra-traditionalists seeking full reintegration into the Church without fully accepting its teaching authority. Leaders of the dissident Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) will meet the Vatican’s top doctrinal official on Sept. 14 to discuss the results of two years of difficult discussions on how they might accept reforms the Church introduced in the 1960s.
The SSPX defied the Vatican in 1988 by consecrating four of its own bishops, triggering their excommunication. In a gesture of reconciliation, Pope Benedict has lifted those bans and promoted the use of the traditional Latin Mass the SSPX favours. But he has until now refused to grant the four SSPX bishops the right to reject other teachings of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), such as its historic reconciliation with Judaism and other faiths.
The Vatican press office confirmed Tuesday a report by the German SSPX chapter that the group’s leader, Swiss-born Bishop Bernard Fellay, had been invited with two assistants. “Bishop Fellay will have an audience with Cardinal (William) Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to discuss the result of almost two years of discussions between the Holy See and the Society,” the German SSPX chapter said on its website.
It said preparatory talks had been held “in a very good atmosphere” and the meeting would focus on how to integrate the SSPX into the Church. Benedict has shown keen interest in fully resolving the schism created by the SSPX dissent.
The SSPX-Vatican talks have been shrouded in secrecy. Asked in an interview in February whether the SSPX had been able to persuade the Vatican to allow its continued dissent, Fellay said: “I don’t think that you can say that.”
If the SSPX agrees to any accord, it would probably be offered a special legal status within the Church, similar to the prelature created for disaffected Anglicans who want to become Roman Catholics but preserve some of their traditions. Refusal to accept the Vatican’s offer would leave the four SSPX bishops in limbo, as validly ordained bishops with no official mission or position within the Church.
Another question to be resolved will be the status of British-born Bishop Richard Williamson, who caused an uproar by denying the Holocaust just before Pope Benedict lifted the 1988 excommunication bans on him and the three other SSPX bishops. He has called the talks with the Vatican “a dialogue of the deaf.”
A group of Holocause survivors has urged the Vatican to reimpose the excommunication on Williamson, who was fined 6,500 euros in July by a German court for for publicly denying the Holocaust in 2009.
The SSPX, which retains the centuries-old Latin Mass and other Catholic traditions, insists it represents the true faith and that the Vatican and the rest of the 1.2 billion-strong Church went off the rails at the Council.