Friday, 22 October 2010

The SSPX: Vatican recognition de facto and ad hoc

Here is a fascinating article by Brian McCall in The Remnant newspaper, dated 20th October. My source, acknowledged with thanks: Rorate Caeli.

The occasion was an Angelus Press conference held from 12th – 17th October this year to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Founding of the Society of St. Pius X. Bishop Bernard Fellay of the SSPX gave an address to the conference, at the end of which he provided “a survey of the SSPX’s political and legal relations with the authorities in Rome”.

Bishop Fellay referred to what he termed the “principle of action” in his explanation of the Vatican’s present dealings with the SSPX. He said: “The Holy See has been pursuing a two-pronged policy – an official de jure policy contradicted by de facto actions.”

I strongly recommend the entire article; but for the general whetting of appetites I have extracted the following extraordinary details.


According to the standard understanding, the priests of the SSPX cannot validly hear confessions or grant absolution. However:
“As most Catholics know, there are certain grave sins, the remittance of which is reserved to the Holy See alone. Under Church law if a priest hears the confession of a person who has committed one of these reserved sins, he is obligated to report the matter to the Holy See …” [Bishop Fellay went on to say] “that from time to time Society priests have heard such confessions, and that, in every case, the required notification was sent to the Holy See. In each of these cases, the response received from the Vatican was that “all was good and licit” and that the permission for the SSPX priest to absolve was granted.”

The SSPX had arranged to ordain a number of priests in Germany in March 2009. This provoked great tensions between the German hierarchy and the Vatican.
“The Vatican asked Bishop Fellay to move the ordinations out of the jurisdiction of the German bishops. If Bishop Fellay would do so, the Vatican Cardinal bargained, the Society “would be legally recognized until Easter.” This was to cover the two-week period in which the ordinations would occur. Bishop Fellay explained that he had asked the Cardinal why this was being requested since, according to a recent document of the Secretary of State, the SSPX does not “even exist legally.” The Cardinal replied that “the Pope does not believe that.” “
Truly, we live in adventurous times.

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