SSPX Nearing Agreement with Holy See?

Rome and Écône on the verge of reaching an agreement

by Jean-Marie Guénois

Updated on April 13, 2012 20:37 (1837 GMT)| published April 13, 2012 19:45 (1745 GMT)


The signing of a document establishing relations between the Holy See and the disciples of Abp. Lefebvre is a matter of days.


Officially, the Vatican awaits the response of Bp. Bernard Fellay, the head of the Lefebvrists. As soon as it is received in Rome – “it is a matter of days, and no longer of weeks”, – it will be immediately examined. If it conforms to expectations, the Holy See will very quickly announce a historic agreement with this group of faithful, known under the name of “integrists”.

But unofficially, and with the greatest discretion, emissaries have worked, on both sides, to “reach an agreement”. In the past few weeks, the final adjustments have been concluded between Rome and Écône in order to better respond to the demands of “clarifications” asked for by the Vatican last March 16.

A very delicate negotiation 


It is thus that the final response of Bp. Fellay, very well pondered and well prepared, should settle – this time, for good – a very delicate negotiation which was relaunched by Benedict XVI following his election, in 2005. 


The “Ecclesia Dei” commission, sheltered within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the most important ministry in the Vatican, is in charge of this dossier. But it is also, at this point, personally followed by Benedict XVI. And he wants an agreement. 

Which allows for the consideration, by well informed persons, that a positive outcome will truly come into being. Even at the cost of the permanence of profound disagreements regarding the Second Vatican Council.



Disagreements completely accepted, besides, by the Pope. He has placed his pontificate under this line of reinterpretation of the Vatican II Council. Following two axes: emptying the spirit of “rupture” of ’68 and avoiding opposition between the highest tradition of the Church and modernity.

Fifty years of opposition

On Monday, Benedict XVI will reach 85. He is tired. His entourage do not hide this. He has had to rest this week in Castel Gandolfo from his exhausting voyage to Mexico and Cuba, then from the long services of Holy Week. He should be back in the Vatican on Friday evening. As a priority on his bureau: this decision on the Lefebvrist affair. It will be one of the weightiest of the pontificate.

For fifty years, the Lefebrvists have stood in opposition to the Holy See regarding Vatican II. And in formal juridical rupture since June 1988, when Abp. Marcel Lefebvre ordained four bishops despite the Pope’s interdict.

Joseph Ratzinger was placed at the time by John Paul II in charge of the negotiations with the rebellious bishop. He has never accepted that failure. Nor, once having become the Pope, the prospect of an enduring schism in the Church.

Benedict XVI compels the Church to reconcile with herself

One after the other, Benedict XVI has demolished, with all his papal authority, the obstacles that prevented a full reconciliation with the disciples of Abp. Marcel Lefebvre.

And, if a final agreement is announced in the upcoming days, the essential part of the work was already put in place by this pope:

– The reestablishment in 2007 – as an “extraordinary” rite of the Catholic Church – of the Mass celebrated in Latin, that is, according to the Missal of John XXIII in force before the Council.

-The removal, in 2009, of the excommunications which fell on the four bishops ordained by Abp. Lefebvre.

-The launching of the doctrinal discussions between the Holy See and the Fraternity of Saint Pius X, in that same year, regarding the Second Vatican Council

The apparent failure of the latter, one year ago, had given the impression of a complete failure of the negotiation. 

The doctrinal disagreement between the Lefebvrists and Rome regarding the Second Vatican Council was effectively abyssal. But it had been forgotten that the object of those conversations was not finding an agreement, but establishing the list of divergences and of their reasons.

It is therefore knowingly and, thus, without any ambiguity, that Rome intends to seal this unity found once again with Écône, stronghold of the Lefebvrists in Switzerland.

It will probably be done with the creation of a special statute – a “personal prelature” – already experienced by Opus Dei. This structure grants a true autonomy of action at the same time as the Catholic faith is shared. Its superior answers directly to the pope, and not to the bishops.

But the true “revolution” that Benedict XVI intends to leave before the eyes of the history of the Catholic Church is elsewhere. It is not related to peripheral aspects of the Catholic Church. These have already enraged the groups opposed to this reconciliation. The so-called “Progressives” of the Conciliar Church who see the “gains” of Vatican II questioned. The “ultras” within the Lefebvrist ranks who see in this a betrayal and a compromise with Modernist Rome.

This revolution aims for an enlarged vision of the Catholic Church. Benedict XVI, the theologian, has never accepted that in 1962 the bimillennial Catholic Church would have cut herself from the culture and strength of her past. More than a reconciliation with the Lefebvrists, he aims, with this gesture, for a reconciliation of the Catholic Church with herself.