SSPX Dialogue Continues: “Patience, Serenity, Perseverance, and Trust are Needed” | Michael J. Miller | Catholic World Report
The last several months’ developments in Vatican/SSPX relations have been misinterpreted by extremists of all ideological stripes.
The last official meeting between the Ecclesia Dei Commission and the authorities of the Society of Saint Pius X took place in the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on June 13, 2012. Some sanguine observers expected the return of the Society to the fold in months if not weeks, while the more cynical opined that the meeting marked the end of the CDF-SSPX negotiations.
Since June there were major personnel changes at the CDF, and the Society held a General Chapter, defined the parameters for its future dealings with the Vatican, and neutralized an internal threat to its unity. Commentators weighed each of these developments in turn as though it could seal the ultimate fate of the Society. Often lost in the shuffle was the key fact that the SSPX authorities still had not responded officially to Rome’s latest offer—a fact helpfully pointed out in a communiqué from the Ecclesia Dei Commission issued in late October.
This article reviews these events and offers a perspective on the controversies surrounding them.
A new phase of discussions
At the June 13 meeting at the Vatican Cardinal William J. Levada, then-prefect of the CDF, presented to Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the SSPX, a doctrinal declaration and a proposal for the canonical regularization of the Society. The first document was the most recent form of the “Doctrinal Preamble” drawn up by the Ecclesia Dei Commission in late 2011; the acceptance by the SSPX of the principles stated therein was to be the basis for any arrangement to reinstate the Society in the Church with a canonical mission. It was understood that the Society could modify the wording but not the substance of the Doctrinal Preamble; as of June 2012 the SSPX authorities were waiting for Rome’s response to a version that they had proposed.
They were surprised, therefore, that the “Doctrinal Declaration” presented for them to sign on June 13 was almost identical to the original Preamble. They were even more perplexed by the canonical proposal. When the Society began its doctrinal discussions with the CDF, it assured its members that there would be no talk about regularizing its canonical status until after the doctrinal issues were settled. Now Rome was asking for both at once. Bishop Fellay and his assistants prudently deferred their response to Rome’s proposal until they had the opportunity to consult widely with other SSPX members.