Our sharp-eyed friends at Rorate have a very interesting story. Not my translation, but my emphases and comments:
I.Media: SSPX asks for removal of excommunications
Agence France-Presse (AFP) publishes today the information that the Rome-based French religious news agency I.MEDIA reports that the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX) has asked the Holy See to lift the excommunications: [If this is so, then it is reasonable to assume that the request was made in the context of a fairly positive letter, the response the the "ultimatum".]
The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X has asked the Vatican to lift the excommunications pronounced against it, an Integrist [sic] [The French term "integriste" is a way of saying "traditionalist", but it has a bit of a pejorative overtone.] organization, to display its will to dialogue, according to religious news agency I.Media.
The Superior of the Fraternity, Bishop Bernard Fellay, sent Pope Bendict XVI a letter responding to the conditions posed by the Vatican to a reintegration of this organization, founded by schismatic [sic] bishop Marcel Lefebvre, the agency notes.
According to an internal note of the Fraternity [read=SSPX] mentioned by I.Media, Bishop Fellay asks that the dialogue "be placed at a doctrinal level" and that he may avoid every hastiness. He underlines that "prior withdrawal of the excommunication of 1988 would favor the serenity of such a dialogue".
[I have to fix up this next part of the translation…]
"These conditions seem to aim at securing a favorable climate for a later dialogue rather than precise commitments on specified points," the Priestly Fraternity assesses in its note.
I am very happy to read this.
Note a few things.
The SSPX is trying to slow things down. This might be important for their interior cohesion as a group.
The SSPX wants to talk about doctrine, whereas the Holy See is, at least right now, focused on getting them to tone down the harsh rhetoric and show some positive interest in union. Issues before group hug.
When someone incurs a censure for something that is done in public, some sort of public redress is necessary. You can’t simply ask for an excommunication to be lifted without some sort of public expression of regret or submission. To make this principle clearer, think of the situation of a "Catholic" politician who says publicly he is pro-abortion and acts on those views in voting, etc. He must make public reparation before he can receive Communion in public. Even if he changes his heart, goes to confession and receives absolution, he must make public redress somewhere along the line because the scandal he caused was public. This is a matter of justice. Of course the Holy Father can apply whatever mercy it pleases him to apply to what is required by strict justice.
Most importantly, they all seem to be talking in some way about concrete things.