A French and German bishop react; some comments by Fr. Finigan

His Hermeneuticalness has some interesting news and comments:

This morning, the Holy See has communicated the Decree of the Congregation for Bishops which remits, for the four Bishops ordained by Archbishop Lefevbre, the censure of excommunication declared against them on 1 July 1988.

Official announcement at the Vatican website (Italian)
English translation provided by Rorate Caeli
Press release issued by the SSPX superior general, Bishop Fellay
Bishop Fellay’s Letter to the Faithful

Some reactions are beginning to come in. Cardinal Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, [A French bishop] in an interview this morning with Radio Notre Dame expressed some cautionary remarks but said:

I am delighted. This is an opportunity, a door open to allow Christians to find the fullness of communion with the Church. As long as they want or they accept it. It is a gesture of mercy and a gesture of openness to strengthen the unity of the Church.

The Chairman of the German Conference of Bishops [Now a German bishop!  I pray the ice is cracking on both banks of the river.] has issued a statement in which he says that the Pope has offered his outstretched hand and that he hopes that they take it.

Not everyone is happy, of course: I am not thinking of the sandalistas [excellent phrase] or the secularists but of many good and sound Catholics who are concerned at the tendencies shown by some within the SSPX and given voice especially by Bishop Williamson. Damian Thompson has written a good piece this morning which summarises those concerns. (See: Pope Benedict is taking a huge risk in lifting the SSPX excommunications). I agree that he is taking a huge risk and that "Joseph Ratzinger has already factored the hostile reaction into the equation."

As I indicated yesterday, I am delighted by this news. I have met some very good people from the SSPX and it is a great joy to know that the principal obstruction to their full jurisdictional normality in the Church has now been removed. It is a typically "Benedictine" move to have the announcement made during the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity and I trust Pope Benedict’s judgement that this will "promote unity in the charity of the universal Church." Nevertheless, Damian is right to say that "This is the biggest risk that Pope Benedict has taken in his pontificate so far."  [I think Summorum Pontificum was bolder.  But this is really just the other shoe dropping, isn’t it?]

In his letter to the faithful, Bishop Fellay attributed today’s good news to the one million, seven hundred and three thousand rosaries  [a key point]  that have been said to obtain the intercession of Our Lady. We must pray for the Holy Father – offer up rosaries, Masses, penances, and almsgiving that his courageous "gift of peace" will bear abundant fruit.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Paul says:

    Deo gratias!

    I have been praying and will continue to pray.

    Thank you Holy Father.

  2. supertradmom says:

    Thank you, Jesus. I am especially grateful, as this action will begin a greater clarification for all of us, and especially for my friends in the SSPX parishes, concerning their role in the Church.

  3. Wm. Christopher Hoag says:

    Te Deum laudamus!

    Now the real work begins with the doctrinal discussions and canonical regularisation.

  4. The Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, André Vingt-Trois, said today:

    Si cette excommunication est levée, c’est d’abord parce que “le pape a la possibilité, s’il le souhaite, de le faire. S’il a décidé de le faire aujourd’hui, c’est qu’il a des éléments suffisamment positifs qui le justifient.”

    It is; he does; he did; he does.

    Simple as that.

  5. Germanus says:

    The statement of the Chairman of the German Conference of Bishops was hostile and polemic: He calls the FSSPX a “schismatic movement” and fantasizes that this act of the Holy Father proves without any doubt (!), that the decisions of Vatican II are the indispensable fundament (!) for the life in the Church.

  6. RichR says:

    Well, it looks like I have my plans for the weekend: Reading this blog every other hour.

  7. TMG says:

    I would also like to thank you, Fr. Zuhlsdorf, for the supportive comments you have made on your blog of the SSPX. Even something as seemingly insignificant as posting Angelus Press’s “Handbook for Laundering Liturgical Linens” and their “Roman Catholic Daily Missal” took a certain fortitude to endorse. It gave me hope.

  8. Maureen says:

    My German’s not very good, but it did sound as if there were a semi-colon-ish statement missing in your translation:

    “The Pope shows the possibility of full return to the Catholic Church; and/but there is also no doubt that the decisions of the Vatican Council are an indispensable foundation for the life of the Church.”

    He does say “schismatic group”, though.

  9. Jim says:

    Risk nothing, gain nothing.

    We must continue to pray for our Holy Father and for all our bishops and priests. Our prayers will be heard.

  10. Tradition says:

    Dear Fr.,

    What is the canoncial status of parishes and priests who serve them in St. Paul, MN that are SSPX such as Immaculate Heart of Mary Church? [The SSPX “parishes” are not parishes. “Parish” is a technical term with juridical meaning. Their chapels are separated from union with the local bishop and from union with the Bishop of Rome. They are unapproved and illicitly established.]

  11. Germanus says:

    @ Maureen

    That was no translation; the statement is longer. I just wanted to point that besides the diplomatic standard response of almost everyone, Archbishop Zollitsch, whose statement will be cited in all german media, acts malicious by intentionally falsely using the terrifying word “schismatic” and by inventing some “facts”, which don’t even remotely relate to the papal act or the new decree.

  12. Maureen says:

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable for someone to say, “Oh, yeah, and just ’cause the Pope’s remitting some excommunications, that doesn’t mean we’ve just made a Church Council null and void.”

    It is, however, unfair for any bishop or cardinal to call the SSPX a schismatic group. They’re supposed to speak with precision when they use technical terms, and that’s a technical term we’re not supposed to use for the SSPX. Still, it’s probably best to assume that a lot of bishops don’t always speak with technical precision.

  13. Malta says:


    Now “conservative” Catholics can quite calling SSPX the “Secret Society of Protestant Extremists.” [I think we should remember that this step, though wonderful, did not change the status of the SSPX. There is a lot yet to accomplish.] I am very heartened by this news. Two weeks ago I went to my third ever SSPX mass and was bowled-over by how beautiful the liturgy was and by how holy and staunchly Catholic it all was: from the homily to the large families etc. At the close of mass a six or seven year old boy sang a latin chant solo, and perfectly rendered–it was like something you might have heard at St. Denis before the Revolution! This contrasts with the novus ordo mass I heard the previous week, where the Jesuit presider preached about how “family” now encompasses “two mommies or two daddies,” gag! I know Pope Benedict is a big defender of Vatican II, but even he has said it was a “modest” council, which was on a merely “pastoral” level, and that not every council “in the final analysis” has benefitted the Church. It is my firm belief that one can be a good Catholic, perhaps a better Catholic, without ever having read one page from the Documents of Vatican II because the fruits of this Council has caused great division and harm in the Church, and has been used as the justification for most of the silliness we see in the Church. So reintegrating SSPX back into the Church will be an adenaline shot into a decaying Church. Pope Benedict has stated that he doesn’t mind a smaller, more devout Church, so if this moves Episcopalianizes some of the catholic-in-name-only churches out there, and causes them to break away, so be it! They can then get to the business that they really want, like consecrating priestesses, etc. So, though this move was done in the name of Christian unity, it also may cause a bit of division for some of the wackier fringes of the Church. I think with this move, and with Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict has indicated the direction that he wants the Church moving in. May God grant Pope Benedict many more days!

  14. wsxyz says:

    The statement of the Chairman of the German Conference of Bishops was hostile and polemic: He … fantasizes that this act of the Holy Father proves without any doubt (!), that the decisions of Vatican II are the indispensable fundament (!) for the life in the Church.

    I don’t see where the statement says that this act “proves” anything. The statement reads:

    Der Papst zeigt die Möglichkeit der Rückkehr in die volle Gemeinschaft mit der katholischen Kirche und lässt zugleich keinen Zweifel daran, dass die Beschlüsse des II. Vatikanischen Konzils unabdingbar Grundlage für das Leben der Kirche sind.

    Which I would translate as:

    “The Pope is making possible the return to full communion with the Catholic Church while, at the same time, permitting no doubt that the decisions of the 2nd. Vatican Council are the indispensable foundation of the life of the Church.”

    I haven’t heard that the Pope has actually said any such thing to Bishop Fellay, but on the other hand, I also haven’t heard that he considers the 2nd. Vatican Council “dispensable.”

  15. Father Totton says:

    “…permitting no doubt that the decisions of the 2nd. Vatican Council are the indispensable foundation of the life of the Church.”

    Given the “pastoral” nature of the council, I think it is clearly overstating the case to describe the decisions of VC II as “the indespenable FOUNDATION of the life of the Church.”

  16. Calleva says:

    “permitting no doubt that the decisions of the 2nd. Vatican Council are the indispensable foundation of the life of the Church”

    Eh? We are no longer living in the 1960s but the 21st century and the church’s 2000-year old tradition and teaching are the foundation of the life of the Church. Don’t the libs sound increasingly old fashioned? Vatican II was a product of its time, as is the SSPX. Pope Benedict is taking the church into the new millennium and he wants the SSPX back on board. It’s a brave thing he has done – I hope they now respond with similar generosity. The terms presented from Rome last June made no mention of Vatican II. They simply asked the SSPX to refrain from dissing the HF and to show goodwill. One hopes that the response will now be positive.

  17. Nick says:

    Vatican legalisms aside, in the age of “separated brethren” and political correctness are there any longer technical “schismatics”? Do the SSPX recognize the “New Mass” and will they attend it or is it heretical? At every Papal mass there is a section reserved for the “separated brethren.” Will the SSPX sit there or will they even attend? This should be interesting because Roman Catholics can now very easily divide into the (Anglican) High Church / Low Church model legally, apparently the only important factor.

  18. wsxyz says:

    Do the SSPX recognize the “New Mass” and will they attend it or is it heretical?

    It is entirely possible to recognize the New Mass as valid, but nonetheless refuse to assist at or say the New Mass. [Or like it. It is okay to criticize it and still be in good standing with the Church. But… the same goes for the older form of Mass as well, right?]

  19. Geri says:

    That is certainly a nice change, in Holy Smoke, from the silly statements that he didn’t want to belong to a Church that had members like Williamson.
    Alert the media! The Church is made up of sinners!

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  20. Nick says:

    “It is entirely possible to recognize the New Mass as valid, but nonetheless refuse to assist at or say the New Mass.”

    More legalism. Will the SSPX attend Papal New Masses as even the Nestorians and Monophysites do or not? It often appears that absolutely all that being a Roman Catholic entails is just legalistically recognizing Papal authority, specifically the Pope du jour. Obviously the answer to my question will depend on future events.

  21. Barb says:

    It would have been illegal and morally repugnant to hold-up or refuse to lift the excommunication from these
    bishops because of Williamson’s views of the history of the holocaust. Those views he holds are totally
    irrelevant to the case.

    Now for an interesting question. Now that the excommunications are gone, and if they are “regularized” as
    bishops, would that not mean they would be eligible to rise in the ranks of the heirarchy? Is this not
    really the fear of many who are tainted by modernism?

    Fiat Voluntas Tua

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