Vatican Offers Pius X Path to Reconciliation

Asks Traditionalist Society to Sign «Doctrinal Preamble»

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 14, 2011 ( The Vatican is offering the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X a path to full reconciliation with the Church, but the group must first sign a «doctrinal preamble» that outlines certain principles of Church teaching.

During a two-hour meeting held today at the Vatican, Cardinal William Levada, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, presented the statement of principles to Bishop Bernard Fellay, the superior general of the St. Pius X Society.

The text of the preamble was not made available to the public, but a statement issued by the Vatican press office explained that the «preamble defines certain doctrinal principles and criteria for the interpretation Catholic doctrine, which are necessary to ensure faithfulness to the Church Magisterium and ‘sentire cum Ecclesia’ [thinking with the Church].»

«At the same time,» the statement added, «it leaves open to legitimate discussion the examination and theological explanation of individual expressions and formulations contained in the documents of Vatican Council II and later magisterium.»

The communiqué reported that «at the same meeting, certain suggestions were made for a canonical solution to the position of the Society of St. Pius X, with a view to achieving the desired reconciliation.»

When asked by reporters what «canonical solutions» were being considered, Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, said that it could be a personal prelature — a structure similar to a diocese, but which is comprised of people who undertake specific pastoral activities, rather than those who live within certain geographical boundaries. The only other personal prelature in the Church is that of Opus Dei.

No deadline has been set for the Pius X Society to sign the preamble, but Father Lombardi told said that the group is expected to sign it «within a few months.»

Also present at the meeting were Monsignor Guido Pozzo, secretary for the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, and Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and Fathers Niklaus Pfluger and Alain-Marc Nely, respectively first and second assistant general to the society.

In need of study

Bishop Fellay reported in an interview posted on the Web site of the Society of St. Pius X that the meeting was conducted «with great courtesy and with equally great candor, because for the sake of honesty the Society of St. Pius X refuses to evade the problems that remain.»

Asked if he will sign the preamble, he answered: «As soon as I have taken the time necessary to study this document, and to consult with those who are chiefly responsible for the Society of St. Pius X, because in such an important matter I have promised my confreres not to make a decision without consulting them first. But I can assure you that our decision will be made for the good of the Church and of souls.»

In 1988, Pope John Paul II excommunicated four bishops ordained without papal permission by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the founder of the Society of St. Pius X. Lefebvre, who died in 1991, founded the traditionalist group in 1969.

In late 2008, Bishop Fellay, one of the bishops Lefebvre ordained in 1988, petitioned Benedict XVI to remove the excommunication against the four bishops, which the Pope did in January 2009.

At the same time, the Pope initiated discussions with the society by establishing a joint study commission that would seek to clarify doctrinal difficulties.

The commission, composed of experts from the Society of St. Pius X and from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, met in Rome eight times between October 2009 and April 2011.

According to the communiqué issued today, the discussions «had the result of clarifying the positions of the two sides and their respective motivations.»

The note added: «While bearing in mind the concerns and demands presented by the Society of St. Pius X about protecting the integrity of the Catholic faith against Vatican Council II’s ‘hermeneutic of rupture’ with Tradition (a theme addressed by Pope Benedict XVI in his address to the Roman Curia on 22 December 2005), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith maintains that the fundamental basis for achieving full reconciliation with the Apostolic See is the acceptance of the text of the Doctrinal Preamble.»

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