Vatican to meet SSPX ultra-traditionalists, final reconciliation offer due

August 23, 2011

(Bishop Bernard Fellay addresses the crowd during an ordination ceremony for priests -- against Vatican warnings -- in Econe, southwest Switzerland, June 29, 2009/Denis Balibouse)

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.


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First of all the SSPX is not in schism with the Catholic Church. Disobedience does not constitute schism. Secondly Bishop Williamson’s disavowal of the number of victims of the holocaust, although unfortunate, does not constitute matter for excommunication. Lastly, a refusal of an offer would not leave the SSPX in limbo. They would function as did St. Athanasius and the bishops and priests who refused to cooperate with the Arian heresy. They were still Catholic, albeit in an emergency crisis situation. But it was a crisis in the Church.

Posted by fload46d | Report as abusive

SSPX does not reject the teaching authority of the Church, as this article says, but rather struggles to keep this authority, against powers that wish to deny the authority in favor of ‘modernization.’ The Church may not modernize, it may not vote to change anything, it can only transmit the teaching of Christ and of the Church’s tradition. Vatican II denied the authority of the Church in the matters of ecumenism, collegiality, and so-called religious freedom (which replaced the traditional tolerance of other faiths, the age-old concept which did not deny the special election of the Church founded by Christ as Vatican II does).

Posted by JanetBaker | Report as abusive

The sad thing here is that the SSPX was persecuted by several popes for adhering to the traditional rites and rules that the entire church used for multi-centuries. Vatican II had the greatest of intentions. However, it was infiltrated by various groups which hijacked the “ship of state”. The strangest of stories came from allowing Russian Orthodox representatives who were known to be Bolshevik in exchange for not criticizing Communism as Godless. According to Malachi Martin,SJ, this was an attempt to create a world wide socialist government.

Posted by JBQ21 | Report as abusive

Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote the following in Ecclesia Dei: “Hence such disobedience [The 1988 SSPX Ordinations] – which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman primacy – constitutes a schismatic act.”

I would not be surprised if SSPX disagrees with the pope on this.

Posted by ReganWick | Report as abusive

Echoing the the fload46d comment above, I would just add that I find it curious that Reuters and so many other major news venues display such an apparent lack of research when reporting on this issue.

Posted by WaltM | Report as abusive

fload, wishful thinking on your part. SSPX has been in schism. No righteousness here. But there has been arrogance.

Posted by genennene | Report as abusive

That would be a valid comment fload, but when St. Athanasius and his group refused to cooperate with the Arians, they weren’t refusing to accept an ecumenical council of Holy Mother Church, whereas our brethren in the SSPX do refuse acceptance of Vatican II.

Posted by catholicindeed | Report as abusive

A more sober and less hsitrionic look at the meeting. It is obvious from this secular article, someone with little or no knowledge of the Catholic faith wrote it. Of course, it’s anonymous. How fitting. y_confirms_8-24-2011.htm

Posted by EastSideHunky | Report as abusive

catholicindeed, note, the fathers of V2 and Pope Paul VI made numerous efforts to insist this was a “pastoral” council not a doctrinal one like all other ecumenical councils. Only those parts of V2 that are in agreement with what the popes and the Church magisterium have always taught everywhere are considered undisputable. Accepting all the false religions and a secularized “freedom of religion” like Nostrae Aetate did would consitute breaks from the unchanging teaching of the Magisterium, and are one of the key objections of Traditionalists.

This article is full of superlatives and negative ad hominems against Tradition and men of tradition, so it is easily dismissed as in error from the get go.

Posted by EastSideHunky | Report as abusive

Ecclesia Dei was not written by JP II but rather by the head of the Congregation of Worship. Get your facts right before slamming someone, ReaganWick.

Posted by EastSideHunky | Report as abusive

Vatican II was a problematic Council. Time bombs or ambiguous seeds were planted in many of the documents, which led to widespread liturgical abuse in the post-Council Church. Catholicism needs SSPX because they represent tradition. Walk into most Novus Ordo parishes and what do you see? Horrible architecture (the church looks Protestant), altar girls, lay ministers playing priest, the priest facing the people, semi-secular Protestant hymns, total mayhem and handshaking frenzy at the Kiss of Peace. I’m sorry, but this is apostasy. This is why the Orthodox Church shakes its collective head when they consider the Novus Ordo liturgy. The Catholic Church since Vatican II has spiraled downward–empty seminaries, convents, nuns in secular dress, clergy sex abuse. Need I go on? The fruits of Vatican II have been prettry rotten.

Posted by maumort | Report as abusive

In response to EastSideHunky

The Vatican website has the Ecclesia Dei document as an Apostolic Letter of John Pail II given Motu Proprio aul_ii/motu_proprio/documents/hf_jp-ii_m otu-proprio_02071988_ecclesia-dei_en.htm l

Posted by ReganWick | Report as abusive

To “EastSideHunky” — before you make remarks about anonymous articles, please look at the post more carefully. The byline is there, along with a picture of the author. On the homepage, it’s at the top left of the post, and when you call up the whole article, you’ll find not only a picture but also a profile of the author. Who happens to be me. We don’t publish anonymous articles, but readers don’t always look for the bylines before concluding that their prejudices against the media are confirmed.

Should I mention here that you haven’t indentified yourself with your real name? We won’t ask for a picture and profile, but something more than “EastSideHunky” might be informative. Otherwise this is just another anonymous complaint.

As to your comment about “someone with little or no knowledge of the Catholic faith,” I would just refer you to dozens of articles on the blog that I’ve written on Catholic topics. Or Reuters articles that I’ve posted and outside contributions I’ve commissioned and posted, such as the recent posts from a young pilgrim attending the World Youth Day in Madrid. Just because an article doesn’t reflect your opinion doesn’t mean it is wrong.

Posted by Tom Heneghan | Report as abusive

Notice that they are not saying “whether or not” to allow them back into the “church”, but HOW to integrate them back. In other words, in a meeting, “shroudedin secrecy,” they are discussing the “manner” in which they are going to “integrate” the members back into the “Church.” Only one of the ways was discussed. They discussed whether they should “re-excommunicate” Bishop Williamson. Now, how are they going to do that? By saying that he denied one of the dogmas of the “Church”? Or are they going to use “disobedience”. The only dogma of theirs that I can point to is the “holocaust” dogma. They can possibly say that his apology did not extend far enough. They could force him to be more explicit in his acceptance of that dogma. How can it be “disobedience?” Didn’t he “apologize” for his statements? Isn’t sorry enough anymore in the Catholic Church? Or must he go on Opray? So, how are they going to re-excommunicate him, I wonder?

Posted by anastasia60 | Report as abusive