The Vatican on Friday told an ultra-traditionalist Roman Catholic splinter group they must accept non-negotiable doctrinal principles within a month or risk a painful break with Rome that would have “incalculable” consequences.
The ultimatum was issued after a two-hour meeting between Swiss-born Bishop Bernard Fellay, leader of the dissident Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) and U.S. Cardinal William Levada, head of the Vatican’s doctrinal department.
Levada told Fellay the group’s response after years of negotiations was still insufficient to overcome doctrinal problems at the root of the split with Rome.
The SSPX, which rejects reforms made at the historic 1962 Second Vatican Council, defied Rome in 1988 by illegally consecrating four bishops, triggering their excommunication by the late Pope John Paul.
In a gesture of reconciliation, Pope Benedict lifted those bans in 2009 and promoted the use of the traditional Latin Mass favored by the SSPX.
But Benedict has refused to grant SSPX bishops the right to reject some of the Council’s teachings, such as its historic reconciliation with Judaism and other faiths.
A Vatican statement warned of a possible “Church rupture that would have painful and incalculable consequences” and demanded that the SSPX clarify its position if it wanted to rejoin the Church and heal the rift.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the group had been given a month to respond.
He indicated this was the last chance for the traditionalists to come back on board, saying the process had already been a very long one.
“I don’t know what else can be done,” Lombardi said.
And there’s this, from CNS:
In a formal communique published after the meeting, the Vatican said it wanted to “avoid an ecclesial rupture with painful and incalculable consequences,” so Bishop Fellay and leaders of the society were asked to further clarify their response to a “doctrinal preamble” the Vatican asked them to study last September.
The text of the preamble was not made public, but the Vatican had said it “states some doctrinal principles and criteria for the interpretation of Catholic doctrine necessary to guarantee fidelity” to the formal teaching of the church, including the teaching of the Second Vatican Council.
Bishop Fellay delivered the society’s official response in January, the Vatican said, and it was “placed under the examination of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and successively under the judgment of the Holy Father.”
“In compliance with the decision of Pope Benedict XVI,” the communique said, Bishop Fellay was given a letter signed by Cardinal Levada explaining that “the position he had expressed is not sufficient to overcome the doctrinal problems that are at the basis of the fracture between the Holy See and the society.”
Father Lombardi said Cardinal Levada told Bishop Fellay the society had a month to clarify its position in order to heal “the existing fracture.”
“A further clarification from the society is expected by mid-April,” said Father Lombardi. The society has been given “more time for reflection to see if some further step can be made.”
The Vatican spokesman would not give examples of the points on which the Society of St. Pius X and the Vatican still differ since the original preamble was never published. He said the additional month given to the society shows “the case is not closed,” although the letter to Bishop Fellay makes clear that the consequence of “a non-acceptance of that which was foreseen in the preamble” would be “a rupture, something very serious for the church.”