After a meeting between the superior general of the Society of St. Pius X and the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the canonically irregular priestly society said the problem in its relations with the Holy See is fundamentally doctrinal.
Father Davide Pagliarani, superior general of the SSPX, met for two hours Nov. 22 with Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, the CDF prefect, at the Vatican.
Ladaria was accompanied by Archbishop Guido Pozzo, secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, and Pagliarani by Father Emmanuel du Chalard.
In a Nov. 23 statement, the Society said Pagliarani had been invited by Ladaria “to meet for the first time and together to take stock of the relations between the Holy See and the Society of Saint Pius X” since Pagliarani’s July election as superior general.
During the meeting “it was recalled that the fundamental problem is actually doctrinal … Because of this irreducible doctrinal divergence, for the past seven years no attempt to compose a draft of a doctrinal statement acceptable to both parties has succeeded. This is why the doctrinal question remains absolutely essential.”
According to the SSPX, “The Holy See says the same when it solemnly declares that no canonical status can be established for the Society until after the signing of a doctrinal document.”
“Therefore, everything impels the Society to resume theological discussions with the awareness that the Good Lord does not necessarily ask the Society to convince its interlocutors, but rather to bear unconditional witness to the faith in the sight of the Church.”
The priestly society said its future “is in the hands of Providence and the Most Blessed Virgin Mary,” and that its members “want nothing else but to serve the Church and to cooperate effectively in her regeneration … but they can choose neither the manner, nor the terms, nor the moment of what belongs to God alone.”
The SSPX was founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970 to form priests, as a response to what he described as errors that had crept into the Church after the Second Vatican Council.
Its relations with the Holy See became particularly strained in 1988 when Lefebvre and Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer consecrated four bishops without the permission of St. John Paul II.
The illicit episcopal consecrations resulted in the excommunication of the bishops involved. The excommunications of the surviving bishops were lifted in 2009 by Benedict XVI, and since then negotiations “to rediscover full communion with the Church” have continued between the SSPX and the Vatican.
When he remitted the excommunications, Benedict noted that “doctrinal questions obviously remain and until they are clarified the Society has no canonical status in the Church and its ministers cannot legitimately exercise any ministry.”
The biggest obstacles for the SSPX’s reconciliation have been the statements on religious liberty in Vatican II’s declaration Dignitatis humanae as well as the declaration Nostra aetate, which it claims contradict previous Catholic teaching.
There were indications in recent years of movement towards regularization of the priestly society, which has some 600 priest-members.
In March 2017, Pope Francis gave diocesan bishops or other local ordinaries the authorization to grant priests of the SSPX the ability to celebrate licitly and validly the marriages of the faithful who follow the Society’s pastoral activity.
Pozzo spoke about interactions with the SSPX in an April 2016 interview with La Croix. The archbishop, whose commission is responsible for discussions with the SSPX, said that discussions over the last few years have led to “an important clarification” that the Second Vatican Council “can be adequately understood only in the context of the full Tradition of the Church and her constant Magisterium.”
And in September 2015, the pope announced that the faithful would be able to validly and licitly receive absolution from priests of the SSPX during the Jubilee Year of Mercy. This ability was later extended indefinitely by Francis in his 2016 apostolic letter Misericordia et misera.