The Corner

The SSPX-Vatican Talks

Rumors were circulating earlier this weekend that the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X would issue a definitive “No” on Sunday to the latest Vatican offer of a regularized position in the Catholic Church. That didn’t happen — and a source friendly to the SSPX writes that the group has not given up on the Vatican yet. That was the message I got, today, too: I attended an SSPX Mass in Manhattan, at which the priest told his flock that he was pretty sure there would be no change in the near future in their relations with the Vatican, but that they should continue to pray for an outcome that would be consistent with the fullness of the Catholic faith. He stressed that the group respects and recognizes the Pope — he said, “we are not sedevacantists” — and that they would follow all papal strictures and requests that are consistent with Catholicism. (A sign of their allegiance to the Pope: They have a large portrait of Benedict XVI at the entry to their meeting place in a midtown club.) The priest was thus warning his parishioners to expect a “no” in the near future — but encouraging them not to view this “no” as the end of the story. He basically described the SSPX (“our little group”) as a leaven within Catholicism, sticking to its guns in the hope of eventually restoring theological orthodoxy to the broader church. (Though he did, also, use a rather less optimistic analogy, saying the SSPX was a “life raft” tethered to the “mother ship” — which he called “the Titanic.” At some point, one hopes that people on a life raft tethered to the Titanic would do what good sense dictates, and cut the tether; but perhaps this is to push the analogy further than this particular SSPX homilist would wish.)

The article I linked to above, by Côme de Prévigny, suggests that the current roadblock in the talks was caused by new conditions added to a Vatican-SSPX agreement at the last minute by Vatican bureaucrats. The Pope has reshuffled the bureaucracy since then, which is a sign that he, too, is not quite ready to give up on the negotiations. There are major theological differences between the SSPX and the mainstream of inside-the-Vatican thought; so the question is, on what specific topics will disagreement be tolerated, and to what extent. Despite what headlines now and over the next few weeks may say, this process may not be over.

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