The SSPX has sent out a letter of explanation to their followers.
Let’s have a look with my emphases and comments.
As I announce in the attached press release, “the excommunication of the bishops consecrated by His Grace Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, on June 30, 1988, which had been declared by the Congregation for Bishops in a decree dated July 1, 1988, and which we had always contested, [I am trying not to take this as a "neener neener" sort of comment. The word "contested" raises in my mind the question of whether or not they finally got a canonical process to review the situation.] has been withdrawn by another decree mandated by Benedict XVI and issued by the same Congregation on January 21, 2009.” It was the prayer intention I had entrusted to you in Lourdes, on the feast of Christ the King 2008. Your response exceeded our expectations, since one million seven hundred and three thousand rosaries were said to obtain through the intercession of Our Lady that an end be put to the opprobrium which, beyond the persons of the bishops of the Society, rested upon all those who were more or less attached to Tradition. [I welcome such a petition, and I wouldn’t be sorry to see yet another initiative like this. There are a lot of people out there who have suffered a great deal because of their attachment to the Church’s Tradition and they don’t get a spotlight!] Let us not forget to thank the Most Blessed Virgin who has inspired the Holy Father with this unilateral, benevolent, and courageous act to. Let us assure him of our fervent prayers. [Nicely expressed.]
Thanks to this gesture, Catholics attached to Tradition throughout the world will no longer be unjustly stigmatized and condemned for having kept the Faith of their fathers. [I hope that is true, but I think it is overly optimistic.] Catholic Tradition is no longer excommunicated. [Hrumph. This is nice flourish, but Catholic Tradition was never excommunicated. These four bishops were excommunicated, not "Tradition". And… sorry… these men are not the human embodiment of Tradition. ] Though it never was in itself, [better] it was often excommunicated and cruelly so in day to day events. [Amen. I agree entirely.] It is just as the Tridentine Mass had never been abrogated in itself, as the Holy Father has happily recalled in the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum of July 7, 2007. [Again… a statement like this harks to the idea that perhaps they were pressing for a process to determine if there was ever an excommunication in the first place. But.. that is a moot point now.]
The decree of January 21 quotes the letter dated December 15, 2008 to Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos in which I expressed our attachment “to the Church of Our Lord Jesus-Christ which is the Catholic Church,” re-affirming there our acceptation of its two thousand year old teaching and our faith in the Primacy of Peter. I reminded him that we were suffering much from the present situation of the Church in which this teaching and this primacy were being held to scorn. And I added: “We are ready to write the Creed with our own blood, to sign the anti-modernist oath, the profession of faith of Pius IV, we accept and make our own all the councils up to the Second Vatican Council about which we express some reservations.” ["up to" And including? I have no problem with "reservations". I don’t think Pope Benedict would have problems with "reservations" either, considering what he wrote about some of the Council’s documents and his own "reservations" expressed about Gaudium et spes. "Reservations" aren’t the real obstacle, in the final analysis, though it is necessary to determine what they are and how deeply they run.] In all this, we are convinced that we remain faithful to the line of conduct indicated by our founder, [This is a pep talk for the supporters.] Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, whose reputation we hope to soon see restored. [Remember that the Vatican Decree is not "retroactive" for the late Archbishop.]
Consequently, we wish to begin these “talks” [ALLELUIA! May they begin SOON! Please God. This would be a good prayer intention.] – which the decree acknowledges to be “necessary – about the doctrinal issues which are opposed to the Magisterium of all time. We cannot help noticing the unprecedented crisis which is shaking the Church today: crisis of vocations, crisis of religious practice, of catechism, of the reception of the sacraments… [There have been bad times in the Church before.. but okay.] Before us, Paul VI went so far as to say that “from some fissure the smoke of Satan had entered the Church”, and he spoke of the “self-destruction of the Church”. John Paul II did not hesitate to say that Catholicism in Europe was, as it were, in a state of “silent apostasy.” [Not so silent anymore!] Shortly before his election to the Throne of Peter, Benedict XVI compared the Church to a “boat taking in water on every side.” [Remember his stunning Stations of the Cross while the late Pope was dying?] Thus, during these discussions with the Roman authorities we want to examine the deep causes of the present situation, and by bringing the appropriate remedy, achieve a lasting restoration of the Church. [If something could be worked out with the SSPX to formalize unity, I would stand shoulder to shoulder with them. In a sense, we already do, but in a very imperfect way.]
Dear faithful, the Church is in the hands of her Mother, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. In Her we place our confidence. We have asked from her the freedom of the Mass of all time everywhere and for all. We have asked from her the withdrawal of the decree of excommunications. In our prayers, we now ask from her the necessary doctrinal clarifications which confused souls so much need. [YES!]
Menzingen, January 24, 2009