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On 14 September at the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the congregation and president of the Pontifical Commission ‘Ecclesia Dei’; Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer S.J., secretary of the congregation, and Msgr. Guido Pozzo, secretary of the pontifical commission, met with Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the Society of St. Pius X, who was accompanied by Fr. Niklaus Pfluger and Fr. Alain-Marc Nely, respectively first and second assistant general to the society.
Following the appeal of 15 December 2008, addressed by the superior general of the Society of St. Pius X to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, the Holy Father decided to remove the excommunication against the four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre. At the same time, he approved the opening of discussions with the society in order to clarify doctrinal problems and to heal the existing rift.
In order to put the Holy Father’s instructions into effect, a joint study commission was set up, composed of experts from the Society of St. Pius X and from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who met in Rome on eight occasions between October 2009 and April 2011. Their discussions, which aimed to identify and study the essential doctrinal difficulties in the controversial issues, had the result of clarifying the positions of the two sides and their respective motivations.
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, which was handed over during a meeting on 14 September 2011. 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’. At the same time, 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.
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.