ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis is requiring that the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) accept an orthodox interpretation of Vatican Council II and the validity of the new Mass in order to be reunited with the Catholic Church.
According to a French media report published July 1, the SSPX has received a letter from Cdl. Gerhard Müller, then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), reminding them that their reunion with the Catholic Church is based on the following conditions:
Cardinal Müller says these conditions were contained in the "Doctrinal Declaration" given to the SSPX last year during a meeting on June 13, 2016. He relates that these same conditions were presented by him with the "approval of the Sovereign Pontiff" to his congregation on May 10 and were approved at that time by a "unanimous decision of all members" of the CDF. He further notes the "Sovereign Pontiff approved these decisions" of the CDF on May 20.
Cardinal Müller's five-year term as head of the CDF ended July 2. On June 27, however, while still in charge of the CDF, he sent a letter with the papally approved terms of reunion to Bp. Bernard Fellay, head of the SSPX. The cardinal's letter has subsequently been circulated to all members of the group.
The SSPX has rejected similar terms of reunification with Rome in 2012 and in 2016. It is speculated that the group will also reject these conditions. The SSPX claims Vatican Council II is full of doctrinal errors, and these errors are being universally perpetuated by all subsequent popes and the Magisterium. On its website FAQ, SSPX questions many doctrinal points of Vatican Council II, many teachings of all the popes since then and even the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The SSPX even claims the Novus Ordo Mass is intrinsically evil, and no one should ever go to a Mass unless it's in the extraordinary form of the Latin Rite — and only then if it's offered by an SSPX priest. This recent video on the society's website clearly states their long-held position in this regard.
These conditions of accepting an orthodox understanding of Vatican Council II and the validity of the ordinary form of the Roman rite are not new. In March 2009, Pope Benedict XVI wrote a letter, explaining the SSPX separation is doctrinal in nature and not merely canonical or legal, as the SSPX would have the public believe.
The fact that the Society of Saint Pius X does not possess a canonical status in the Church is not, in the end, based on disciplinary but on doctrinal reasons. ... In order to make this clear once again: Until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers — even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty — do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church. ... In light of this situation, it is my intention henceforth to join the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei — the body which has been competent since 1988 for those communities and persons who, coming from the Society of Saint Pius X or from similar groups, wish to return to full communion with the Pope — to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This will make it clear that the problems now to be addressed are essentially doctrinal in nature and concern primarily the acceptance of the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar magisterium of the Popes. (emphasis added)
The Holy Father continues:
The Church's teaching authority cannot be frozen in the year 1962 — this must be quite clear to the society. But some of those who put themselves forward as great defenders of the council also need to be reminded that Vatican Council II embraces the entire doctrinal history of the Church. Anyone who wishes to be obedient to the council has to accept the Faith professed over the centuries and cannot sever the roots from which the tree draws its life.
One SSPX priest vividly describes the real dangers of not reconciling with Rome, wherein he laments:
We have been living in independence from the Pope and the bishops for a very long time, as if that were normal. We pretend to defend the doctrine, but we all run the risk of establishing a chosen doctrine, abandoning certain dogmas, those that bother us, especially those concerning the primacy of Peter. ... Rome is no more than a pilgrimage site, and the Church is a Mystical Body with Jesus Christ for a head, the Holy Ghost for a soul and the "Trads" for members. Our priests can quickly become gurus. Everyone could be a pope with his Denzinger in hand, and every father of every family could be the pope of his family. As for authority ... recognized in principle but not admitted in fact as far as the pope is concerned, it risks no longer being recognized at any degree whatsoever. ... [Even] families will fall apart. Why obey a father who does not obey the pope, the bishop, the priest?