Is the SSPX on the brink of reunion with Rome?

A recent editorial by Fr. Michel Simoulin, SSPX, answers several objections of Traditionalist “hard-liners” to the current negotiations between the Society of Saint Pius X and the Holy See and describes the prospect of reunion with Rome in a remarkably positive light. 

Writing in the May 2012 issue of Segnadou, a Traditional Catholic online magazine, Fr. Simoulin, responds point by point to a “document” sent to him by a concerned Catholic who fears that the SSPX might renege its principles in order to gain canonical recognition by the Vatican.  He quotes the document:  “When are we going to return to the fundamentals of the Society?  When are we going to have the humility to respect the heritage of its founder?” 

Fr. Simoulin, a chaplain for the Traditional Dominican Sisters of Fanjeaux in Southern France, replies,

I think that I know something about the Society—of which I have been a member for thirty-five years—and that therefore I have the right to remind everyone that our “fundamentals” are engraved in golden letters in our statutes:  “The purpose of the Society is the priesthood and everything related to it, and nothing else, namely what Our Lord Jesus Christ intended when He said:  Do this in memory of Me.”  This is the heritage of our founder;  these are our “fundamentals”;  we have no others and do not want to have any others.  The Society is not an army in an uprising against Rome, but rather an army formed for the Church. 

The correspondent asks, in effect, why should the SSPX now sign the Doctrinal Preamble prepared in 2011 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, when Archbishop Lefebvre rejected an agreement proposed by the CDF in 1988, saying, “With the May 5 protocol we would soon have been dead.  We would not have lasted a year.” 

Fr. Simoulin patiently explains that Archbishop Lefebvre actually signed the CDF protocol on May 5, 1988, and never regretted it.  What disappointed him terribly and what caused the rift between the SSPX and Rome was the latter’s refusal to grant permission for him to go ahead with the episcopal consecrations scheduled for June 30, 1988.  Lefebvre was alarmed, not by the terms of the protocol, but by the prospect of having to continue indefinitely under those ambiguous terms without the guarantee that he could ordain bishops to perpetuate the work of the Society of Saint Pius X.   Fr. Simoulin writes:  “Therefore the process was stopped not over a doctrinal question, nor over the issue of the canonical status being offered to the Society, but rather over the date of the consecration of the bishop” who was to be granted under the indefinite terms of the protocol.  The editorial writer notes that then-Cardinal Ratzinger is the one who refused to allow Archbishop Lefebvre to ordain a bishop on June 30.  “Without a bishop [of our own], we would have been at the mercy of the good or bad intentions of Rome and the [diocesan] bishops.”   This is what the founder meant when he said “We would not have lasted a year.” 

But much has happened in the years since 1988. 

Since our [pilgrimage to Rome during the] Jubilee Year 2000, Rome has taken the initiative of establishing new relations [with the SSPX].  Today, the same Cardinal [Ratzinger], who has now become the Pope, tells us that the Tridentine Mass was never abrogated (July 7, 2007:  “It is, therefore, permissible to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass following the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Bl. John XXIII in 1962 and never abrogated”);  he rehabilitated our four bishops (January 21, 2009);  he agreed to let us conduct doctrinal discussions for two years….  These are all things that Archbishop Lefebvre was not demanding in 1988.  It is no exaggeration to say that Bishop Fellay has gained more than what Archbishop Lefebvre demanded, yet without having the latter’s prestige or moral authority.  Can we then be more demanding than Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop Fellay? 

Whatever the present state of Rome may be, … common sense and honesty should lead us to regard the current situation in a different light than the situation in 1988! … We are no longer in 1975 with Paul VI, nor in 1988 with John Paul II, but in 2012 with Benedict XVI….  Don’t tell me that the state of affairs is the same as in 1988, or even worse.  That is contrary to reality and to truth, and that can only be the result of a more or less secret rejection of any reconciliation with Rome, perhaps even of a lack of faith in the holiness of the Church, which is made up of poor sinners but is always governed by her head, Jesus Christ, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.  The Society of St. Pius X is not the Church and it can “respect the heritage of its founder” only by preserving his spirit, his love of the Church and his desire to serve her as a loving son….

As Fr. Simoulin views it, the crucial question is:  “How should the Society respond to the ‘needs’ of the Church today? … Only Bishop Fellay and his assistants, who by definition have all the cards in their hand, can judge most accurately the present situation.  The question that everyone should ask himself instead is the question about our good will toward authority and especially about our trust in it.”


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About Michael J. Miller 125 Articles
Michael J. Miller Michael J. Miller translated Priesthood and Diaconate by Gerhard Ludwig Müller for Ignatius Press and Eucharist and Divorce: A Change in Doctrine? for the Pontifical John Paul II Institute.