After a meeting of major superiors of the Society of St. Pius X, gathered apparently to discuss the status of negotiations between the Society and Rome, Bishop Bernard Fellay has issued a communiqué. There are two particularly relevant passages. First:
The Society of Saint Pius X, in the present state of grave necessity which gives it the right and duty to administer spiritual aid to the souls that turn to it, does not seek primarily a canonical recognition, to which it has a right as a Catholic work. It has only one desire: faithfully to bring the light of the bi-millennial Tradition which shows the only route to follow in this age of darkness in which the cult of man replaces the worship of God, in society as in the Church.
(Emphasis supplied.) Then:
The “restoration of all things in Christ” intended by Saint Pius X, following Saint Paul (cf. Ep.h 1:10), cannot happen without the support of a Pope who concretely favors the return to Sacred Tradition. While waiting for that blessed day, the Society of Saint Pius X intends to redouble its efforts to establish and to spread, with the means that Divine Providence gives to it, the social reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The usually very reliable Edward Pentin seems to view the communiqué as a pause in the ongoing discussions between the Society and Rome and request for clarification, instituted not only because of the events in the Church so much discussed here and elsewhere but also because the line from Rome had gotten somewhat confused.
Recall that Archbishop Guido Pozzo, secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, had stated in interviews that Vatican II could be understood only in the full light of the Church’s preceding tradition, which is a position fairly close to the Society’s, relatively speaking. On the other hand, Gerhard Ludwig Cardinal Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Pozzo’s boss, has stated that, indeed, any arrangement between the Society and Rome would have to involve full acceptance.
The Holy Father himself has weighed in through an interview in La Croix, holding that “[t]he Second Vatican Council has its value,” which is not exactly a ringing defense of the Council and a demand that the Council be adhered to absolutely and gleefully. And his position makes the confusion between Cardinal Müller and Archbishop Pozzo even more acute: their boss, so to speak, does not seem to have an absolutist view about the Council. In other words, the Society would be, we think, justified in requesting clarification—or simply waiting for the dust to settle—from the Roman authorities as to what, exactly, the requirements with respect to the Council are. One cannot be expected to agree to something without knowing what he’s agreeing to.
Rorate Caeli, often reliable on Society issues, has given its analysis of the communiqué, and seems to imply that the Society is giving Francis an opening to act unilaterally with respect to the Society. Certainly if any situation calls for a personal intervention by the Holy Father, settling the matter once and for all, it is this one. A unilateral recognition of the Society by the Holy Father would fit in nicely with his own ongoing program: reform of the Curia and pastoral accompaniment of marginalized groups. In one move, Francis would not only cut through a Curia that cannot quite make up its mind but also reach out a group that has been accused of schism (and worse) for trying to hold fast to the ancient, apostolic faith as it understands it.