The Vatican warning to the ultra-traditionalist SSPX not to ordain new priests this month without Roman approval had no discernible effect on the rebel Catholic group. Soon after the Vatican declared the ordinations would be illegitimate, Father Yves Le Roux, rector of the SSPX’s St Thomas Aquinas seminary in Winona, Minnesota, said the ordination of 13 new priests there would go ahead on Friday.
“Absolutely. We are doing it,” he told our Vatican correspondent Philip Pullella by telephone. “This is something the Vatican feels it has to say. It’s a political statement but the reality is totally different.” (Photo: SSPX ordains deacons in Écône, Switzerland, 3 April 2009/Valentin Flauraud)
The SSPX seminary at Zaitzkofen, in the German state of Bavaria, declared its intention to go ahead with its June 27 ordinations in a statement posted on its website on Monday (here in German original and in English). It argued that Pope Benedict’s decision in January to lift the excommunications of the four SSPX bishops was a “confidence-building measure for the coming theological discussions with representatives of the Holy See” meant to thrash out an official position in the Church for the SSPX.” Further ordinations are due at the SSPX headquarters in Écône, Switzerland on June 29.
Defying a papal warning against ordaining new priests before its official status was clarified seems to be the opposite of a confidence-building measure on the SSPX’s part. As the BBC’s David Willey put it in his report from Rome tonight, Pope Benedict “gave them an inch and they took a mile.”
So the SSPX has thrown the ball back into the Vatican’s court. The Vatican statement said “the ordinations should still be considered illegitimate” and “doctrinal and, consequently, also disciplinary questions still remain open.” That leaves open the option of a further reaction from Rome, or possibly from Regensburg Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller. Or there might be no reaction, just that curious Vatican silence that caused it such trouble after the Regensburg speech and the readmission of the Holocaust-denying SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson. That would leave the narrow issue unresolved and pose wider questions about Pope Benedict’s leadership.