Vatican May Reconcile with Breakaway Catholics

A breakaway group of traditionalist Catholics may be on the verge of returning into full communion with Rome, bringing a 24-year rift to an end and fulfilling a key goal of Benedict XVI’s pontificate.

Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi told journalists April 18 that the Society of St. Pius X had taken an encouraging “step forward” by clarifying its response to a “doctrinal preamble,” a Vatican document that has become the basis of any reconciliation.

The society insisted “a step and not a conclusion” had been reached and stressed its clarifications, submitted by the society’s superior general, Bishop Bernard Fellay, must now be examined by the Vatican and the Pope.

“We are all praying and hoping for reconciliation,” said Toni Brandi, a worshiper at an SSPX church in Rome. “Most members want it and we don’t think Fellay will make any compromises.”

Some Catholics and members of the society remain pessimistic, however, seeing the society in particular as unable to make necessary sacrifices, and internally split. They also argue that such hopes for reconciliation have emerged before, only to be dashed at the last minute.

The society, founded by French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1969, broke away from Rome over the Second Vatican Council reforms of the 1960s. The council helped foster warmer relations with members of other faiths and Christian denominations, and allowed celebration of the Mass in languages other than Latin.

But the SSPX believes that the council’s declarations on religious freedom, ecumenism, interreligious dialogue and the liturgy, have represented a surrender to modernity that has wreaked havoc on the faithful. The consequence, they argue, has been a crisis of faith that has led to a collapse in vocations and Church attendance in the West, and the adoption of modern, irreverent liturgical practices. [More]