The Next Steps between the Holy See and the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX)

GUIDO-POZZO2

Archbishop Guido Pozzo.

Full Interview with Archbishop Guido Pozzo, Secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. Pozzo speaks with Jean-Marie Dumont, of the French magazine Famille Chrétienne.

This interview was granted in October by the Secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, Archbishop Guido Pozzo, to Jean-Marie Dumont of the French magazine Famille Chrétienne and made available on October 20, 2015. It is published as one of the main articles of the issue of Saturday, October 25. Thanks also to the Rorate Caeli website for making this available on the internet.—The Editor

What is the current state of relations between Rome and the Priestly Fraternity [Society] of St. Pius X?

Archbishop Guido Pozzo: In order to favor the redressing of every fracture and division in the Church, and to heal a wound that is felt in a painful way in the life of the Church, Benedict XVI decided in 2009 to remove the excommunication of the bishops who had been ordained in an illicit fashion by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1988. By this decision, the Pope wished to remove a sanction that rendered the opening of a constructive dialogue difficult.

The removal of the excommunication was a disciplinary measure taken in order to free the persons from the gravest ecclesiastical censure. But the doctrinal questions remain and must be clarified. As long as they are not, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X (FSSPX) has no canonical status within the Church and its ministers do not exercise their ordained ministry in a legitimate manner, as the Letter of Benedict XVI to the Bishops of the Catholic Church of March 10, 2009, indicates.

It is precisely to redress the difficulties of a doctrinal nature that still subsist that the Holy See maintains relations and discussions with the FSSPX, by way of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.

The latter is closely linked to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, because the president of the Commission is the Congregation Prefect himself.

These relations and these exchanges have been pursued since the election of Pope Francis.

They aid to clarify the respective positions on controversial matters, in order to avoid incomprehension and misunderstandings, by keeping alive the hope that the difficulties still preventing the achievement of full reconciliation and full communion with the Apostolic See may be left behind.

What are the areas of disagreement that still subsist?

An issue of "La Famille Chretienne" ("The Christian Family") .

An issue of “La Famille Chretienne” (“The Christian Family”) .

The controversial aspects concern, on the one hand, the estimation of the ecclesial situation in the period following the Second Vatican Council, and the causes that have produced certain theological and pastoral turmoil in the post-conciliar period and, more generally, in the context of modernity.

On the other hand, they are related to some specific points related to ecumenism, dialogue with the world’s religions, and the question of religious liberty.

What are the juridical solutions that could be adopted for the FSSPX in case of an agreement?

In the case of a complete reconciliation, the canonical statute proposed by the Holy See is that of a personal prelature. On this point, I believe that there is no problem from the side of the FSSPX.

Have the discussions between Rome and the Society recently recommenced, or have they never really stopped?

In reality, they never really stopped. The provisional interruption of the meetings was simply due to the nomination of a new prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the election of the new Supreme Pontiff in April [sic: March] 2013.

The path of dialogue therefore recommenced in the fall of 2013 with a series of informal meetings, up to the past September 23 meeting between Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the superior of the FSSPX, Bishop Bernard Fellay, a meeting which the Holy See Press communiqué reported.

Is it possible to dissociate the juridical agreement from the doctrinal discussion? To set in place a personal prelature, all the while pursuing, in the long term, discussions on the controversial theological points?

Bishop Fellay and Pope Benedict XVI.

Bishop Fellay and Pope Benedict XVI.

In coherence with the motu proprio Ecclesiae Unitatem of Benedict XVI, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith has always considered that the redressing of the problems of a doctrinal nature was an indispensable and necessary condition in order to proceed to the canonical recognition of the Society.

I allow myself nonetheless to specify that the redressing of the difficulties of a doctrinal nature does not mean that the reservations of the positions of the FSSPX on certain aspects that are not related to the domain of the Faith, but that concern themes that are pastoral or are of the prudential teaching of the Magisterium must be necessarily removed or annulled by the Society.

The wish to pursue discussion and deepening of such issues that create difficulties for the FSSPX, in view of ulterior clarifications and specifications, is not only always possible, but — at least in my opinion — desirable and to be encouraged. It is not demanded of them, consequently, to renounce this demand that they manifest regarding a certain number of issues.

What is, therefore, the non-negotiable point?

That which is essential, that which we cannot renounce, is adherence to the Professio fidei (“Profession of Faith”) and the principle ac­cording to which it is only to the Magisterium of the Church that was entrusted by the Lord the faculty of authentic interpreting, that is, with the authority of Christ, the written and transmitted word of God.

This is Catholic doctrine, recalled by Vatican II (Dei Verbum, 10), but already expressly taught by Pius XII in the en­cyclical Humani Generis. This means that the Magisterium, while it is not of course above Scripture and Tradition, is nevertheless the authentic instance that judges the interpretations of Scripture and Tradition, from whichever part they may come.

Consequently, if there are no different degrees of authority and adherence of the faithful to her teachings — as the Vatican II dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium (25) declares — no one can place himself above the Magisterium.

I earnestly think and hope that, in this doctrinal framework that I have just explained, we will be able to find the point of convergence and common agreement, because this specific issue is a doctrinal point belonging to the Catholic faith, and not to a legitimate theological discussion or to pastoral criteria.

A capital point, yet at the same time clearly defined…

Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the society of St. Pius XI, ordains a priest during a ceremony in Econe, Switzerland. The Vatican has said it considers such ordinators "illegitimate, although the priests are validly ordained. In 2009,   Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication of Bishop Fellay and three other bishops of the traditional society.

Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the society of St. Pius XI, ordains a priest during a ceremony in Econe, Switzerland. The Vatican has said it considers such ordinators “illegitimate, although the priests are validly ordained. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication of Bishop Fellay and three other bishops of the traditional society.

It is not true that the Holy See wishes to impose a capitulation on the FSSPX. Quite the opposite, it invites them to find themselves at her side in the same framework of doctrinal principles necessary to ensure the same adherence to the Catholic faith and doctrine on the Magisterium and Tradition, while leaving at the same time to the field of study and in-depth analysis the reservations that they have raised on certain aspects and formulations of the documents of Vatican II, and on certain reforms that followed it, but that do not concern unquestionable dogmatic or doctrinal matters.

There is no doubt on the fact that the teachings of Vatican II have a degree of authority and a constraining character that is extremely variable according to the texts. Therefore, for example, the constitutions Lumen Gentium, on the Church, and Dei Verbum, on Divine Revelation, have the character of a doctrinal declaration, even if there were no dogmatic definitions, while, for their part, the declarations on religious liberty [Dignitatis Humanae], on non-Christian religions [Nostra Aetate], and the decree on ecumenism [Unitatis Redintegratio] have a different and lesser level of authority and constraining character.

Do you think that discussions can now reach a conclusion rapidly?

I do not think that we can indicate at this moment a specific due date for the conclusion of the path taken. The engagement from our side and, I suppose, from the side of the FSSPX superior, consists in moving forward by stages, without improvised shortcuts, but also with the clearly declared goal of promoting unity in the charity of the universal Church guided by the Successor of Peter. “Caritas [Christi] urget nos!” (“The love of Christ compels us!”) as St. Paul declares. [Source: in French, from the French district of the FSSPX/SSPX]

Note by Rorate Caeli: Different sources on the ground have suggested the possibility that one of the “stages” mentioned above in the last answer by Archbishop Pozzo could be simply the (obviously unilateral, on the part of the Holy See) recognition of faculties and the end of the suspension a divinis of the members (i.e., clerics) of the Society.

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