Traditionalists facing showdown with Vatican

When Pope Benedict XVI chose in 2009 to lift the excommunications of four bishops from a conservative schismatic group, few would have thought the news would generate headlines worldwide.

But Benedict’s gesture received outsized attention when one of the four bishops, Richard Williamson, did a television interview and denied that millions of Jews had died in gas chambers at Nazi death camps. Not only were Jews outraged, but so were more than a few Catholics.

As the Vatican worked to reassure Jews that Williamson’s views were not its own, steps were underway to achieve the real goal of Benedict’s move: full reconciliation with the traditionalist group, known as the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), and an end to the most significant schism within the Roman Catholic Church in a half century.

Now, after more than two years of secret negotiations, the SSPX is due in mid-April to give its response to the Vatican’s final offer for reconciliation, which was delivered last September.

Regardless of whether the group accepts the pope’s olive branch — and his insistence that SSPX give some sort of recognition to the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) — the outcome is bound to have a profound impact on Benedict’s papacy and on the larger Catholic Church. [more]

RNS via Washington Post