Traditionalist leader says group could divide over unity with Rome

By Francis X. Rocca
The Boston Pilot
May 14, 2012
Link to original

Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the Society of St. Pius X, is pictured near a photo of Pope Benedict XVI at the society’s headquarters in Menzingen, Switzerland, May 11. Bishop Fellay acknowledged there could be a split in the breakaway society if it decides to reconcile with the Vatican. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

MENZINGEN, Switzerland (CNS) — The leader of a breakaway group of traditionalist Catholics spoke in unusually hopeful terms about a possible reconciliation with Rome, but acknowledged significant internal resistance to such a move, which he said might lead to the group splitting apart.

Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the Society of St. Pius X, spoke to Catholic News Service May 11 at the society’s headquarters in Switzerland about the latest events in more than two years of efforts at reconciliation with the Vatican.

The society effectively broke with Rome in 1988, when its founder, the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, ordained four bishops without the permission of Blessed John Paul II in a protest against modernizing changes that followed the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65.

In April the society responded to a “doctrinal preamble” stipulating the group’s assent to certain church teachings, presumably including elements of the teaching of Vatican II, as a prerequisite for reconciliation. The Vatican has yet to respond, but the director of the Vatican press office initially described the latest position as a “step forward.”

The society is hardly united behind its leader’s position, however. In April, according to a letter which surfaced on the Internet May 10, the society’s other three bishops warned Bishop Fellay that the Vatican’s apparent offer to establish the group as a personal prelature — a status currently held only by Opus Dei — constituted a “trap,” and urged him to say no.

“There are some discrepancies in the society,” Bishop Fellay told CNS. “I cannot exclude that there might be a split.”

But the bishop defended his generally favorable stance toward the Vatican’s offer against the objections of his peers.

“I think that the move of the Holy Father — because it really comes from him — is genuine. There doesn’t seem to be any trap,” he said. “So we have to look into it very closely and if possible move ahead.”

He cautioned, however, that the two sides still have not arrived at an agreement, and that unspecified guarantees from the Vatican are still pending. He said the guarantees are related to the society’s traditional liturgical practices and teachings, among other areas.

“The thing is not yet done,” the bishop said. “We need some reasonable understanding that the proposed structure and conditions are workable. We are not going to do suicide there, that’s very clear.”

Bishop Fellay insisted the impetus for a resolution comes from Pope Benedict XVI.

“Personally, I would have wished to wait for some more time to see things clearer,” he said, “but once again it really appears that the Holy Father wants it to happen now.”

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7 comments on “Traditionalist leader says group could divide over unity with Rome

  1. I must take this moment to register a (rare) disagreement with His Excellency.

    There will be no REAL “split.” Those leaving will have nowhere to “split” too. They’ll have no schools, chapels, seminaries or anything that resembles a congregation for that matter.

    It was good that the society learned the hard lesson taught when the sede 9 “split” and took all that property with them. Today, nearly all the infrastructure is owned or controlled by the society as a legal entity.

    Also, the momentum with the faithful (and I’d imagine the society priests as well) is with Bishop Fellay – simply because he’s DOING WHAT IS RIGHT. There is a time to bunker down, and a time to emerge from the bunker.

    Now is the latter.

  2. @serv

    Could +Fellay be kicked out of the Society? … If so, what then?

  3. Howdy, Serv! Yep, this new thing feels a little strange for now, but then I also use a blogging interface to post my music, so I’m not one to complain.

    P.S. I really did believe that technical problems were the reason for AQ being down; I work with computers, so it never occurred to me that SQL error messages were anything other than actual SQL error messages.

  4. A certain minority will read your post and agree that they were real SQL errors, but it was the (fill in blank with masons, Rome, etc.) causing them.

  5. Hello Serv, everyone,

    Thank you for regrouping here.

    Posting here seems surreal, almost a foreshadow of the many that will probably leave the SSPX Chapels and back into basements and hotel rooms when this is all done. This feels like the basement. Kind of makes me feel bad at taking the old site for granted.

    In regards to Bishop Fellay, I do hope he does all in his power to prevent any kind of split…..a 3/1 split with Bishop Williamson staying behind would (will?) be bad , a 2/2 catastrophic, but if the none of the other bishops come along it seems like it could be the end of the SSPX. Lots of prayers are needed.

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