It has been reported elsewhere, but I would like to re-post the communique from the Vatican on today’s meeting between Cardinal Levada and Bishop Fellay. From VIS:
COMMUNIQUE CONCERNING THE SOCIETY OF ST. PIUS X
VATICAN CITY, 14 SEP 2011 (VIS) – At midday today the Holy See Press Office released the following communique concerning the position of the Society of St. Pius X:
“On 14 September at the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the congregation and president of the Pontifical Commission ‘Ecclesia Dei’; Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer S.J., secretary of the congregation, and Msgr. Guido Pozzo, secretary of the pontifical commission, met with Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the Society of St. Pius X, who was accompanied by Fr. Niklaus Pfluger and Fr. Alain-Marc Nely, respectively first and second assistant general to the society.
“Following the appeal of 15 December 2008, addressed by the superior general of the Society of St. Pius X to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, the Holy Father decided to remove the excommunication against the four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre. At the same time, he approved the opening of discussions with the society in order to clarify doctrinal problems and to heal the existing rift.
“In order to put the Holy Father’s instructions into effect, a joint study commission was set up, composed of experts from the Society of St. Pius X and from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who met in Rome on eight occasions between October 2009 and April 2011. Their discussions, which aimed to identify and study the essential doctrinal difficulties in the controversial issues, had the result of clarifying the positions of the two sides and their respective motivations.
“While bearing in mind the concerns and demands presented by the Society of St. Pius X about protecting the integrity of the Catholic faith against Vatican Council II’s ‘hermeneutic of rupture’ with Tradition (a theme addressed by Pope Benedict XVI in his address to the Roman Curia on 22 December 2005), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith maintains that the fundamental basis for achieving full reconciliation with the Apostolic See is the acceptance of the text of the Doctrinal Preamble, which was handed over during a meeting on 14 September 2011. The Preamble defines certain doctrinal principles and criteria for the interpretation Catholic doctrine, which are necessary to ensure faithfulness to the Church Magisterium and ‘sentire cum Ecclesia’. At the same time, it leaves open to legitimate discussion the examination and theological explanation of individual expressions and formulations contained in the documents of Vatican Council II and later Magisterium.
“At the same meeting, certain suggestions were made for a canonical solution to the position of the Society of St. Pius X, with a view to achieving the desired reconciliation”.
The preamble mentioned as the foundation for settling this matter and granting regular canonical status has not been made public.
The type of canonical solution envisioned for the Society, according to published reports, is an international personal prelature, or ordinariate, such as was offered to the recently reconciled Anglicans.
Obviously, the contents of that preamble are of the utmost importance to commenting intelligently on this issue; since we do not have the contents, I will refrain from commenting on it. But as to the context of the situation, it is noteworthy that, like with the Institute of the Good Shepherd (a traditionalist group formerly connected with the SSPX and reconciled within the last few years), the Holy See does not see any problem with the SSPX questioning the many ambiguous formulations of the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the many more problematic interpretations of them subsequent to the Council. Such a process of questioning, if conducted in submission to the ultimate authority of the Holy Father, is a good thing. To me, part of the problem is not the questioning, nor the power of the Holy See to decide these types of things, but rather that the Holy See has so often refused to exercise that power and authority it alone possesses. Perhaps the conclusion of this matter will provide the cause to begin to clarify the worst confusions of the last fifty years.
As to the desirability of a canonical structure outside of the control of diocesan ordinaries, can that be questioned? At least until we see Summorum Pontificum respected and implemented on a widespread basis, I think the concept of an ordinariate or prelature is an absolute necessity in practical terms. Perhaps when the SSPX’s number of priests and apostolates is unquestionably “in the fold”, there will indeed be some pressure for the more recalcitrant local bishops to act in accord with the directions of the Vicar of Christ.
Talk about gravitational pull: the more the Extraordinary Form and the Traditional practice of the faith are made available– the more the whole truth of the Catholic faith is actually imparted from the pulpit– the more people will be drawn to fullness of the faith, and cast aside the milquetoast verisimilitudes they now largely endure.
The mercy shown by the Holy Father and the trust shown by the reconciled SSPX will do great good for souls.