Lefebvrite schism may be nearing an end
The Vatican confirmed Wednesday that the Society of St. Pius X, the traditionalist movement founded by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, has responded to a “doctrinal preamble” presented in September as a precondition for reunion with the Catholic church.
A terse statement released by the Vatican’s Ecclesia Dei Commission, responsible for relations with the traditionalists, said only that a response has been received and will be studied by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and eventually submitted to the pope.
Sources indicate, however, that the Lefebvrite superior, Swiss Bishop Bernard Fellay, has communicated a largely positive reaction to the preamble, proposing only small changes described as “non-substantive.”
That concession could clear the way for formal readmission of the Society of St. Pius X into full communion with Rome.
If that happens, one option for doing so would be a “personal ordinariate,” similar to the structure Benedict XVI authorized in 2009 to incorporate former Anglicans and their communities into the Catholic church. Other observers believe the Vatican might instead offer the Lefebvrites a “personal prelature,” a canonical structure akin to a nonterritorial diocese led by a prelate. Currently, the lone personal prelature in the church is Opus Dei.
Either option would allow the Lefebvrites to maintain much of their distinctive spirituality, including celebration of the older Latin Mass.
Should reunion take place, it would mark an end to the only formal schism to follow the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Experts caution, however, that similar breakthroughs have been rumored several times previously, only to fall apart at the last minute.
Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson, said Wednesday that “we cannot consider the discussions [with the Lefebvrites] concluded,” but called the positive response from Fellay “encouraging” and “a step forward” with regard to earlier reactions from the Society of St. Pius X. [more]