Vatican issues ultimatum to traditionalist Catholic group

VATICAN CITY Fri Mar 16, 2012 1:18pm EDT

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican on Friday told an ultra-traditionalist Roman Catholic splinter group they must accept non-negotiable doctrinal principles within a month or risk a painful break with Rome that would have "incalculable" consequences.

The ultimatum was issued after a two-hour meeting between Swiss-born Bishop Bernard Fellay, leader of the dissident Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) and U.S. Cardinal William Levada, head of the Vatican's doctrinal department.

Levada told Fellay the group's response after years of negotiations was still insufficient to overcome doctrinal problems at the root of the split with Rome.

The SSPX, which rejects reforms made at the historic 1962 Second Vatican Council, defied Rome in 1988 by illegally consecrating four bishops, triggering their excommunication by the late Pope John Paul.

In a gesture of reconciliation, Pope Benedict lifted those bans in 2009 and promoted the use of the traditional Latin Mass favored by the SSPX.

But Benedict has refused to grant SSPX bishops the right to reject some of the Council's teachings, such as its historic reconciliation with Judaism and other faiths.

A Vatican statement warned of a possible "Church rupture that would have painful and incalculable consequences" and demanded that the SSPX clarify its position if it wanted to rejoin the Church and heal the rift.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the group had been given a month to respond.

He indicated this was the last chance for the traditionalists to come back on board, saying the process had already been a very long one.

"I don't know what else can be done," Lombardi said.


Benedict values the SSPX's commitment to Church traditions and wants to avoid their movement creating a permanent schism claiming to be Catholic but outside Vatican control.

He has shown a keen interest in resolving the matter, including making a number of concessions to the traditionalists such as the limited use of the old-style Latin Mass.

Benedict's opening to the traditionalists has met with resistance in many quarters of the Church, particularly because of the group's reluctance to hold dialogues with other religions.

Last year, the Vatican told Catholic bishops around the world they had to allow priests to say the old-style Latin mass for traditionalist Catholics, whether they liked it or not.

Most Catholics regard the old mass as nostalgic, rigid and something that turns the clock back on the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, which many saw as bringing the Church into modern times.

The return of the Latin liturgy has been controversial even in inter-religious relations.

During Good Friday services in the old liturgy, traditionalists still read a prayer in which they pray that Jews will "recognize Jesus Christ as the savior of all men".

Another question to be resolved will be the status of British-born Bishop Richard Williamson, who caused an uproar by denying the Holocaust just before Benedict lifted the excommunication bans on him and the other SSPX bishops in 2009.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; editing by Barry Moody)

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Comments (3)
Eyeofaneedle wrote:
SSPX is in Schism and so is the pope. If you submit to the authority of Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, you must accept Vatican II as a legitimate ecumenical council. You think that Benedict XVI is a Catholic? If you can look at the proof and maintain that he is a Catholic, then you are nothing more than an apostate. He doesn’t believe in the Bible, Jesus or the Papacy. He holds that Protestantism is not heresy.

The Church does not teach that a true pope could never contradict Catholic doctrine. Pope Honorius was condemned by the Third Council of Constantinople and by true popes. Catholic teaching is that a true pope could contradict Catholic doctrine, but he could not do so in an infallible capacity. Moreover, St. Paul tells us that even if one purported to be an angel or an apostle, he must be rejected if he preaches a new gospel. onsider these questions: Is it true that Benedict XVI teaches salvation for non-Catholics, including pagans, Protestants, Muslims and Jews? Yes. Is it true that Benedict XVI teaches that Protestants and schismatics are inside the Church, and that this contradicts Catholic dogma? Yes. Is it true that Benedict XVI teaches that the Bible is historically inaccurate? Yes. Is it true that Benedict XVI has participated in condemned interfaith worship in synagogues, Protestant churches and a mosque? Yes. One could go on and on.

St. Francis De Sales (17th century), Catholic Doctor of the Church, The Catholic Controversy, pp. 305-306: “Now when he [the Pope] is explicitly a heretic, he falls ipso facto from his dignity and out of the Church…”

Mar 17, 2012 4:33pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
vaticatholic wrote:
There is a term for people who do not think the Pope is valid. They are called Protestants. Benedict XVI has been more than accommodating to SPX folks and all they have done is prevaricate and dissemble. Give them a date. If they gain some humility in the mean time, welcome them in. If not cut them lose.

Mar 19, 2012 12:44pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
jollyb wrote:
If the only reason why the Vatican is excommunicating the SSPX is the refusal to recognize ECUMENISM, what does it have to do with the Catholic faith? If it does not have to do with our faith, then where is the schism? If ecumenism is treating all religion in the same parity as the Catholic religion, then which one is the One and True religion? If ecumenism simply suggests that we should treat other religion with respect, I do not have any problem with that. I have done that and will always respect other peoples belief. But it does not mean that we have to attend any celebration that we believe as false celebration of faith. In fact it is a sin to attend one. We have the obligation as Catholics to be an example to other people and we should invite other religion to our faith and not the other way around otherwise our faith might become diluted which has already been accomplished by the Vatican Council II.
In answer to those who believe that going back to tradition is going back in time, we the people should conform to the “True Church” and not the True Church conforming to the people. In the same token, we should conform to God and not God conforming to us. What happen during Vatican II is that the Church conformed to the people (mainly the protestants).

Mar 21, 2012 6:48pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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