The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has said that the theological position of the breakaway Society of St. Pius X is insufficient to restore full unity with the Church at present.
Pope Benedict XVI has reviewed a January 2012 letter from Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the society. In that letter, the bishop responded to a doctrinal statement intended to be a basis for full reconciliation with Rome.
However, following the decision of the Pope, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has found that the position Bishop Fellay expressed is “not sufficient to overcome the doctrinal problems which lie at the foundation of the rift between the Holy See and the Society of St. Pius X,” a March 16 communiqué from the Holy See Press Office said.
The congregation is concerned to avoid “an ecclesial rupture of painful and incalculable consequences” and has invited Bishop Fellay to clarify his position “in order to be able to heal the existing rift, as is the desire of Pope Benedict XVI.”
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre founded the Society of St. Pius X in 1970 in response to what he saw as errors that had arisen in the Church after the Second Vatican Council. The society broke from the Church in 1988, when its founder ordained four bishops against Pope John Paul II’s instructions, resulting in their excommunications.
Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications in 2009 as a prelude to talks about reconciling the society with the Church. At the time he said that the society would have to show “true recognition of the magisterium and the authority of the Pope and of the Second Vatican Council” to restore full communion.
Vatican officials said that the restoration of unity could come in the form of a personal prelature, a special Church jurisdiction without geographic boundaries.
In September 2011 Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, presented Bishop Fellay with the doctrinal preamble, a statement of principles that outlines points of doctrine which the breakaway group needed to accept to restore communion.
In November 2011, Bishop Fellay said that the society cannot endorse the preamble. He said he particularly wanted to discuss what the Vatican meant when it said there is “leeway” for a “legitimate discussion” on the documents and legacy of the Second Vatican Council.