A recent letter leaked online suggests that leaders of the Society of St. Pius X, a breakaway traditionalist group, have rejected a proposed Vatican document to aid in reconciliation efforts.
The June 25 letter, written by the society’s general secretary, Father Christian Thouvenot, informs leaders within the society that the groups’ superior general, Bishop Bernard Fellay, found the Vatican’s offer “clearly unacceptable” at a meeting earlier this month.
After years of negotiations, the society, which broke with Rome in 1988, had been considering a Vatican offer that would have brought it back into the Church as a personal prelature, which functions as a jurisdiction without geographical boundaries.
The society was being asked to agree to certain doctrinal teachings specified by the Vatican, including full acceptance of the Second Vatican Council.
Pope Benedict XVI’s efforts to reach out to the Society of St. Pius X have been ongoing.
On June 26, the Pope appointed Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, titular archbishop of Oregon City, as vice president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which has been responsible for leading conciliatory talks with the group.
Three years of negotiations had yielded a “Doctrinal Preamble” from the Vatican last fall, intended to pave a way to overcome disagreements over doctrine between Rome and the society.
Father Thouvenot’s letter said that Bishop Fellay had replied with a different version of the preamble in April that had “seemed to satisfy the Supreme Pontiff,” according to “several” sources.
According to the letter, however, Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, presented the bishop’s proposal on June 13 but “amended” in such a way that the bishop “immediately informed him that he could not sign this new document.”
The Society of St. Pius X will discuss the matter at its next general meeting, said Father Thouvenot.
He added that Bishop Richard Williamson, a controversial society prelate who caused an uproar several years ago when he denied the atrocities of the Holocaust, is being prohibited from attending that meeting “due to his stand calling to rebellion and for continually repeated disobedience."