A little bit of good news

There was a little bright spot in the recent drumbeat of bad news when Edward Pentin reported that Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the Society of St. Pius X, met with not only high officials of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith but also with the Holy Father. As you may recall, in June, following a meeting of major superiors of the Society, a couple of communiques were released, which, while not precluding the possibility of unilateral action by Rome, made it clear that the Society’s priorities were its work of priestly formation and its apostolic work, not negotiating a final settlement with the Roman authorities. This was a little disappointing, since rumors were flying that the Holy Father had made a canonical recognition of the Society a major priority and, indeed, such a recognition was imminent. (More in a moment why the Society might have pulled back from negotiations.) As a Society spokesman told Pentin, the meeting, while not hugely productive, does show that discussions are ongoing.

Pentin also links to an English translation of part of a conference Bishop Fellay gave in France about a week ago. As you might expect from Bishop Fellay, it is a precise, clear-eyed, and charitable summary of the situation with the Roman authorities, particularly the apparent disagreement between Archbishop Guido Pozzo, secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, and his boss, Gerhard Ludwig Cardinal Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. A sample:

The second point is that they had crossed out everything concerning religious liberty and ecumenism. They no longer demanded anything of us. That is interesting! Why are they doing this? In this first interview granted to Zenit in February (February 28, 2016, Editor’s note) we see that it is necessary nevertheless to accept the whole Council. But in fact there are degrees. And this idea will be clarified in April (La Croix, April 7, 2016). And here this becomes particularly interesting, because all of a sudden they go and tell us that what was produced by the Council but is not dogmatic, in other words, all the Declarations—the declaration to the world [?! Sic], etc.—are not criteria for being Catholic, according to Abp. Pozzo. What does this mean? “You are not obliged to agree in order to be Catholic.” That is what he started to say when speaking about the Society. And to us, explicitly, he said: “On religious liberty, on ecumenism, on Nostra Aetate, on the liturgical reform, you can maintain your position.” When I heard that, I found it so amazing that I told him, “There is a possibility that I may have to ask you to come and tell us that, because our confreres are not going to believe me.” And still today, I think that it is legitimate to ask the question: is this serious? Is it true or not? Abp. Pozzo actually gave several interviews. I quoted for you the one in April, then there were the ones in July (Zenit, July 4, 2016, and Christ und Welt, July 28, 2016). Between these two dates, in June, his superior, Cardinal Müller, said the contrary (Herder Korrespondenz, June 2016). Therefore you have on the one side Abp. Pozzo who is the Secretary of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, who said in public (in La Croix, April 7, 2016): “‘The statements of articles of faith and of sure Catholic doctrine contained in the documents of Vatican Council II must be accepted according to the degree of adherence required,’ the Italian bishop continued, restating the distinction between dogma and certain Decrees or Declarations containing ‘directives for pastoral activity, guidelines and suggestions or exhortations of a practical and pastoral character’, as is the case especially with Nostra Aetate that inaugurated dialogue with non-Christian religions. The latter ‘will constitute, after a canonical recognition as well, a subject for discussion and more in-depth study with a view to greater precision, so as to avoid misunderstandings or ambiguities which, we know, are widespread in the contemporary ecclesial world.’” That is very interesting.

(Emphasis supplied.) We encourage you to read the whole thing. It is fascinating and deeply informative, especially since one wonders how it is possible to negotiate when high officials of the CDF itself cannot seem to agree about the Conciliar texts.