Let’s have a look with my emphases and comments.



By way of a letter of December 15, 2008 addressed to His Eminence Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, Mons. Bernard Fellay, also in the name of the other three Bishops consecrated on June 30, 1988, requested anew the removal of the latae sententiae excommunication formally declared with the Decree of the Prefect of this Congregation on July 1, 1988. In the aforementioned letter, Mons. Fellay affirms, among other things: "We are always firmly determined in our will to remain Catholic and to place all our efforts at the service of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the Roman Catholic Church. We accept its teachings with filial disposition. We believe firmly in the Primacy of Peter and in its prerogatives, and for this the current situation makes us suffer so much."

His Holiness Benedict XVI – paternally sensitive to the spiritual unease manifested by the interested party due to the sanction of excommunication and trusting in the effort expressed by them in the aforementioned letter [Pope Benedict has clearly also taken into consideration the pain that this excommunication caused.]deepen the necessary discussions with the Authority of the Holy See in the still open matters, so as to achieve shortly a full and satisfactory solution of the problem posed in the origin[Yes… the problems still remain.  This was not an ending of the story.  This was an important, but single, step toward beginning to resolve problems which remain.  Hopefully this reciprocal expression of, at least, desire will help.] decided to reconsider the canonical situation of Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson, and Alfonso de Galarreta, arisen with their episcopal consecration. [That is interesting.  They decided to study and reconsider the canonical situation.  I wonder if they determined that the excommunication wasn’t in fact ever incurred and therefore the zeroed out the declaration of such by the Cong. for Bishops?  Either way they are lifted.]

With this act, it is desired to consolidate the reciprocal relations of confidence and to intensify and grant stability to the relationship ["grant stability"…. hmmm… the status of the SSPX hasn’t really changed.  They are moving toward some changes, of course, by dealing with their leadership in this way.] of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X with this Apostolic See. This gift of peace, at the end of the Christmas celebrations, is also intended to be a sign to promote unity in the charity of the universal Church and to try to vanquish the scandal of division[Especially during the Week for Christian Unity.]

It is hoped that this step be followed by the prompt accomplishment of full communion [There is, of course, some level of Communion.  What that is is a little hard to determine.  But it is clear that this step will help them to a more manifest union.] with the Church of the entire Fraternity of Saint Pius X, thus testifying true fidelity and true recognition of the Magisterium and of the authority of the Pope with the proof of visible unity. ["proof" of visible unity… that’s what we are waiting for.]

Based in the faculty expressly granted to me by the Holy Father Benedict XVI, in virtue of the present Decree, I remit of Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson, and Alfonso de Galarreta the censure of latae sententiae excommunication declared by this Congregation on July 1, 1988, while I declare deprived of any juridical effect, from the present date, the Decree emanated at that time.
Rome, from the Congregation for Bishops, January 21, 2009.

Card. Giovanni Battista Re
Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops

[Available Vatican publication: in Italian]

Press release
of the Superior General of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X

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, has been withdrawn by another decree mandated by Benedict XVI and issued by the same Congregation on January 21, 2009. [I am back to my earlier question.  I think they often protested that the excommunications were not valid, namely, that they never were excommunicated.  Thus, I wonder if the "study" on the part of the Holy See, mentioned above, was in some part a canonical process to determined that.]
We express our filial gratitude to the Holy Father for this gesture which, beyond the Priestly Society  of Saint Pius X, will benefit the whole Church. Our Society wishes to be always more able to help the pope to remedy the unprecedented crisis which presently shakes the Catholic world, and which Pope John Paul II had designated as a state of “silent apostasy.”  [I can think of a couple ways in which they could help the Pope do that.]
Besides our gratitude towards the Holy Father and towards all those who helped him to make this courageous act, we are pleased that the decree of January 21 considers as necessary “talks” with the Holy See, talks which will enable the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X to explain the fundamental doctrinal reasons which it believes to be at the origin of the present difficulties of the Church.  [I hope those talks begin SOON!]
In this new atmosphere, [Read THIS] we have the firm hope to obtain soon the recognition of the rights of Catholic Tradition
 [A little pompous, but basically that sounds like an appeal simply to be allowed to behave like Catholics, without harsh accusations just because they don’t like the documents or fruits of Vatican II, etc.]
Menzingen, January 24, 2009
+Bernard Fellay


I was deeply gratified to read this.

The remission of the censures has raised my hopes

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Brick by Brick. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. TJM says:

    Although I certainly don’t have problem at all with the documents of Vatican II, I do have a problem with some of its “fruits” and the “fruits” who push some of the nonsense that flowed from the Council. Tom

  2. J. Wong says:

    Deo gratias.

  3. Brian Wisconsin says:

    Roma locuta est, causa finita est. Let us rejoice and be glad and pray for full reconciliation ASAP. Deo gratias, indeed. However, as Father rightly notes, all else is SOP. Nothing substantially changes. For example, it is not a recognition of their episcopal status (that still has to be properly resolved), it is not a definite reconciliation, it is not much of a sign of any real progress in the reconciliation process. It is a gesture of outreach. Still, it is a step forward, and, yes, Deo gratias for that.

  4. a catechist says:

    A great message for the end of the Christmas season–peace to men of good will. Let’s all keep praying for the Holy Spirit to guide the doctrinal discussions. And again, thank God for blessing the Church with Benedict XVI!

  5. Mitchell says:

    This was the first bit of news I checked on this morning. God is working to unify the Church through Pope Benedict XVI. These are big things he is doing in his Pontificate to stabilize our future. I hope the SSPX acts quickly and graciously to move into dialogue with Rome in order to fully rectify the situation. What an enormous help they(SSPX) could be when back in the fold completely. It really is time to move this along while good intentions are floating about and anything is said to stall or harden positions again. Negotiate, Solve, and get back in and help us. It simply no longer looks good to be sitting on the outside. The SSPX may have to soften some of their positions and open their hearts and minds to a new mindset but I think they can do it with this Holy Father. He has reached out and done what many thought they would not see in their lifetimes. I hope coverage of this gets widespread in order to put a little pressure on both sides to keep moving for the good of the whole Church. Deo Gratis!

  6. Deo Gratias.

    I had wondered if this would be analogous to declaring a marriage null where it is proven the marriage never happened

  7. wsxzy says:

    Brian, there is no doubt that they are truly bishops.

  8. Ottaviani says:

    Brian in Wisconsin: … it is not much of a sign of any real progress in the reconciliation process.

    What planet are you living on? This is a major move on the part of the Holy Father!

    Talk about some thing never change…

  9. o.h. says:

    NPR was already running this story this morning as “Pope lifts excommunication of Holocaust-denying bishop.”

  10. RichR says:

    I never thought I’d read this.

    This Pope is just what the Church needed at this point in time.

    I hope the Society will come to the defense of the Holy Father when the jackals surely come to encircle him. This Pope has given so much, and at personal risk. Surely the Society will make SOME act of visible unity besides a Thank You letter. An estranged son who is welcomed back home should not be proud nor enumerate injustices done to him, but rather, should by humble and loyal as he begins to discuss how to heal the relationship.

    Let us see the true character of the SSPX which professes loyalty to the HF. By their fruits we shall know them.

  11. Laus Tibi Jesu Christe!!

  12. EDG says:

    o.h. – If you think that’s bad, the Reuters headline read “Pope Rehabilitates Holocaust Denier.”

  13. Matt of South kent says:

    “In this new atmosphere” I think is the key statement in Bishop Felley response.

    There is a huge change in attitude on the part of SSPX and the Vatican.

    I firmly believe that both sides want reconciliation and that is the key. Something happened to soft the hearts and minds of those involved. hummmmm.

  14. Deprived of any juridical effect…

    There’s more to that than meets the eye…

    Canon lawyers…?

  15. CDN Canonist says:

    Tom in Columbus,

    There can be no comparison with a declaration of nullity/invalidity of a marriage. In this case, the bishops clearly incurred the censure of latae sententiae (i.e. automatic) excommunication. By this recent decree, the excommunication was remitted. The last paragraph makes this very clear.

    If the excommunication was, in fact, not incurred, as some contend, this decree would not remit the censure of excommunication. How could the Holy See remit something which was never incurred? No, if the Holy See judged the excommunication as never having been incurred, it would have stated this and, clearly, it has not done so.

  16. Matt of South kent says:

    The bad press is worth the step toward unity of Christ’s seamless garment.

    The world does not care what the Pope or Catholics thinks. The feeling is mutual.

  17. prof. basto says:

    Deo Gratias! Long live the Pope!

    Father, as to your question on wether the excommunication was lifted or annulled, I think the answer lies in the operative paragraph of the decree, that is, the last one:

    “Based in the faculty expressly granted to me by the Holy Father Benedict XVI, in virtue of the present Decree, I remit of Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson, and Alfonso de Galarreta the censure of latae sententiae excommunication declared by this Congregation on July 1, 1988, while I declare deprived of any juridical effect, from the present date, the Decree emanated at that time.”.

    The language used talks of remission, not of annulment. Remission is specific language to indicate that the sanction existed and has been lifted, such as in “remission of sins”.

    Note that, according to this new Decree, the 1988 Decree of Excommunication is deprived of juridical effects “from the present date”. This means, in legal terms, the removal of the sanction has effects ex nunc, not ex tunc. In other words, the sanction really existed between 1988 and now. But the important thing is that it is now lifted.

    So, the “reconsideration of the canonical situation”, simply means, it seems, that the Pope decided to re-examine wether the continuation of the excommunication was appropriate after Fellay’s letter, and decided to grant the remission.

    Another indication that points towards that interpretation is that, had the previous Decree of Excommunication been declared null and void from the beggining, instead of merely deprived of effect from the present date, then the Congregation would be obliged to specify that not only Bishops Fellay, Williamson, Tissier and Galarreta were never excommunicated, but also that Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop de Castro-Mayer had never incurred the censure. If the Congregation were to recognize the nullity of the previous decree, then, although Lefebvre and Castro-Mayer they are already dead, their memory would have to be vindicated by a post-mortem declaration of nullity of the sanction, as was done vis a vis now St. Joan of Arc. In the present case, however, this was not done. The decree does not mention either Lefebvre or Castro-Mayer. The only thing it does is remove the excommunication that had been incurred by Fellay, Williamson, Tissier and Galarreta. So, this is further evidence that we are talking not of nullity of the excommunication, but of plain removal of an excommunication that had been indeed incurred.

    Another thing that I find interesting is that, contrary to the precedent that was followed in the case of Campos, the “other censures” were not simultaneously lifted (particularlly important are the penalties of suspension a divinis, that still remain in the case of SSPX clergy). Also, SSPX Bishops were not assigned titular sees; that is, there was no regularization of their Episcopal status. Perhaps this is due to the fact that, unlike the Campos case, in the present case the SSPX excommunications are explicitly being lifted without simultaneous full reconciliation, with regularization of Episcopal ministry and the lifting of other sanctions being left for the moment of return to full communion.

    I now hope and pray that this act of mercy, peace and goodwill on the part of the See of Rome may prompt a new attitude of true filial devotion on the part of the SSPX, and that, after the doctrinal discussions, full communion be quickly restored.

  18. Patrick says:

    Father George,

    It essentially means that the censure of excommunication no longer has a juridical effect after 01/21/09. That means on 01/20/09, they were excommunicated. This is a lifting of a punishment as a gift of mercy, but not in any way, a conclusion that the punishment was in any way unjustified. Essentially, they just received a papal pardon.

    This is a wonderful event and truly puts the ball in the court of the SSPX to act quickly to reconcile.

  19. therese b says:

    “deprived of any juridical effect, from the present date, the Decree emanated at that time.”

    “From the present date” indicates to this secular law graduate that the decree is not retrospective, but that it affects actions taken between 1988 and yesterday by the Society.

  20. LCB says:

    Patrick, Now and Forever!

    Fr. Z, It seems that one of the core claims coming from the SSPX bloc is that Vatican II had no teaching authority. Not because it was an invalid council, but because none of the documents claimed teaching authority and because the council was Pastoral in nature. They often reference documents released right before the council met, but that my gender-neutral translation seems to be lacking.

    I don’t mean to derail this thread, but I have some questions that I feel are worth considering:

    1) Has the matter of the exact canonical weight of Vatican II documents been settled? I hear different strokes from different folks.
    2) Can you recommend some books about these and other matters Vatican II, for those of us that are interested in seriously engaging the Council and the events following to the present day?
    3) How do we proceed from here? You provided The RuleZ after SP, perhaps some more guidance would be helpful.

  21. James the Less says:

    Question. It says the excommunications are remitted as of January 21, 2009. Does that mean that the priestly ordinations (administered by the Bishops) are now licit as well as valid? Or not?

  22. Bobby Bambino says:

    So I may be quite incorrect about this, but it was my understanding that before the lifting of the excommunication, sacraments done is the SSPX were valid but not licit. Does this change things? Or I guess in general can someone explain how the sacraments and the laity’s participation in an SSPX mass changes now and what it was like before? Thanks, God love you.

  23. Patrick says:

    They are still forbidden from celebrating the Sacraments. It is a grave matter for a priest to offer a Sacrament when he is strictly forbidden from doing so. They continue to offer all Sacraments illicitly and some (those requiring jurisdiction) invalidly. Hopefully, they will move quickly to remedy their status.

  24. CDN Canonist says:

    Father George,

    There is not more than “meets the eye” in this decree. The phrase “deprived of any juridical effect” refers to the earlier decree of the Congregation of Bishops which had declared that the four bishops had, in fact, incurred a latae sententiae excommunication. The bishops incurred an automatic excommunication in virtue of c. 1382. The Congregation of Bishops subsequently, by decree, declared that these bishops incurred the excommunication. This results in further consequences (see. c. 1331, 2).

    The present decree is merely stating that the previous decree of the Congregation of Bishops is now “deprived of any juridical effect.”

    “Deprived of any juridical effect” is a statement of revocation, not an admission of invalidity.

  25. Mark says:

    I am very much encouraged by Bishop Fellay’s response. The remission vs. nullification is an elephant in the room that will be immediately noted by all within the Society. While he seems to continue with the previous reasoning (“always contested”) and hopes to see Lefebvre vindicated, he seems to have a warm and positive attitude. May it continue. Let us pray for him and the other bishops and priests.

  26. Andrew says:

    In his press release, Bishop Felley states that the excommunication has been ‘withdrawn’. Without wishing to sound like a spoilsport, this is a very loose interpretation of what has happened.

    The excommunication, which was incurred ‘latae sententiae’ back in 1989, has, according to the Decree of the Congregation for Bishops, been ‘remitted’. A censure which has been incurred or declared (in this instance, the Congregation for Bishops declared that the censure of excommunication had been incurred by these four Bishops on 1 July 1989) cannot be remitted unless the offender has purged his contempt (cf. c 1358, 1), i.e., he has ‘truly repented of the offence and has made, or at least has seriously promised to make, appropriate reparation for the damage and scandal’ (c 1347, 2). Once contempt has been purged, the censure, which is a medicinal penalty the purpose of which is to bring about the correction of the offender’s behaviour and his reintegration into the life of the Church, must be remitted (cf. c 1358, 1), although the person remitting the penalty (in this case the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops at the behest of the Roman Pontiff) can make further provision, including the imposition of a penance, should it be so warrented. So, the term remission in this context has a very precise canonical meaning, which could be lost on the reader should he read Bishop Fellay’s statement without having read Cardinal Re’s decree.

    As for Brian from Wisconsin’s query regarding the episcopal status of the four Bishops, this is not doubted whatsoever by anyone; indeed, the relevant page on the Vatican’s website refers to the four Bishops concerned as ‘S. E. Mons.’, an epithet which is only applied to validly ordained Bishops. And as to his point about progress not having been made, it is obvious that the Holy Father has been pleased with what has happened so far, as the remission could not have been granted unless contempt had been purged in some way.

    However, this is only one stage in the journey, something which is alluded to in the Decree, so maybe we can all pray that further progress is made to continue the reintegration of the FSSPX into the life of the Church.

  27. Maynardus says:

    This is indeed great news and very important for the Church, but as many have commented under the previous thread, fraught with danger.

    The Holy Father undoubtedly knew how the media would spin this in any event, but especially after Bishop Williamson’s absurd comments. Coming on the heels of the recent attempt by various liberal Catholic and Jewish elements to tar H.H. with the brush of anti-Semitism and the dreaded “setting-back-the-cause-of-interfaith-relations”, this shows very great courage on Benedict’s part.

    Williamson is of course entitled to his opinions, but it is farily common knowledge that he is opposed to any reconciliation short of a complete capitulation by the Holy See to the theology, ecclesiology and worldview of… “pope” Williamson himself! I have a very hard time believing that his comments were anything other than deliberate, and calibrated so to raise the maximum controversy in order to scuttle the prospects of reconciliation.

    So – that gambit has apparently failed in its primary ojective, but who knows what the secondary damage will be?

    The Pope has done a great and generous thing, but we should all be prepared for some heavy weather as the media hurricane gains force. They will recognize neither nuances nor distinctions in their attempt to “report” this in the fashion most likely to discredit the Church, Her faithful clergy and adherents, and our beliefs. Such discernment (and the benefit of the doubt) are reserved for the acts and pronouncements of their new secular “messiah”!

    This is indeed a gamble, becauce the ball is squarely in the S.S.P.X.’s court. They will need to play it with sensitivity and finesse if they truly desire a reconciliation, if not they can probably do more harm to Holy Mother Church at this critical moment than at any time in their existence. I was greatly encouraged to see that Bishop Fellay’s letter referred to the Pope’s “courageous act”; hopefully that is a sign that they do recognize the stakes here.

    Let us redouble our prayers!

  28. prof. basto says:

    James the Less and Bobby Bambino,

    The answer is negative. Before incurring excommunication, the SSPX clergy had already incurred suspension a divinis. It was the suspension that made — even before the excommunications — SSPX liturgies illicit. The excommunication was lifted, but the suspension a divinis was not.

    So, SSPX priests and Bishops are no longer excommunicated, but they still cannot licitly celebrate the Sacraments and sacramentals or exercise any clerical ministry. This will be solved once full communion is achieved, which I hope will now happen soon.

    In addition to that, the Ordination are illicit for other canonical reasons.

  29. Pot.calling.Kettle says:

    “Pompous”!!! ??
    You just had to go and ruin the benevolent & gracious mood, didn’t you, Fr. Z?

  30. ssoldie says:

    God bless and deo gratius Pope Benedict XVI, and all those whose prayers stormed heaven and pleaded to our Lady for this wonderful event to happen.

  31. Scott says:

    Can you imagine how good a full reconcilation would be? I know for certain that many diocesan seminarians will flock to the SSPX seminaries around the world.

    So many seminarians want simply to become Parish Priests who are faithful to the liturgical and donctrinal tradition of the Church and not be persecuted for their so called conservatism.

    Long live Pope Benedict the Great!

  32. Bobby Bambino says:

    Thanks prof. basto.

  33. Sid says:

    Let’s have two responses from us all:

    1. Pray the 99th (100th)Psalm, especially
    Introite portas Eius in confessione,
    atria Eius in hymnis

    2. Take care that what we ourselves say does not hinder the success of the “talks” that are doubtless going on between the SSPX and Rome.

  34. Mark says:

    Flecte quod est rigidum,
    fove quod est frigidum,
    rege quod est devium.

  35. ssoldie says:

    Why does it seem that there are so many negative remarks on this wonderful action that the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI deems right and just.? I was called rigid when after Vatican II, I said I will stay with the doctrines and traditions, that the Church has always taught, teaching from “My Catholic Faith” by Bishop Louis Morrow, and found, ‘Casti Canubi’ superior to ‘Humane Vite’ praying the Traditional Latin Mass, which comes to us from “Pope Gregory The Great” in the 6th century, the Gregorian Rite. Now those who called me rigid, when I considered my self and so many others as faithful, are now being ‘rigid’

  36. Mark says:

    Please forgive the above quote, I forgot how much baggage the term “rigidum” carries. No harm intended.

  37. ssoldie says:

    Mark! could you please translate in english, my latin is limited to the Mass. Thank you.

  38. RBrown says:

    1) Has the matter of the exact canonical weight of Vatican II documents been settled? I hear different strokes from different folks.
    Comment by LCB

    Vat II said that clerics and religious should pray their office in Latin. Of course, 99% of them don’t.

    In light of that, the question of the exact canonical weight of the documents needs to be considered by the entire Latin Church.

  39. Mary says:

    It’s from the Veni Creator Spiritus (to the Holy Ghost): “Bend what is rigid, warm what is chill, rule what goes astray.”

    Good quote Mark. I don’t think it’s offensive. I’ve always thought of it as mostly referring to hearts and seems like all parts of that are needed by each of us at times.

  40. Drew of the Holy Whapping says:

    “There is, of course, some level of Communion. What that is is a little hard to determine. But it is clear that this step will help them to a more manifest union.”

    As Vatican II taught, there is some level of communion with all the baptized, Protestant, Orthodox, etc., and so we were always in some level of communion with the SSPX — just as Augustine said he was in partial communion with the Donatists, insofar as they agreed with the universal Church. Though, of course, the partial communion with the SSPX is greater, this juridical obstacle being removed..

  41. Mark says:

    Yes Mary. Veni Sancte, actually. The sequence for Pentecost.

  42. RBrown says:

    The SSPX had two conditions for reconciliation with Rome. The first was the universal permission to use the Missal of 1962. The second was the lifting of excommunication.

    Both of those conditions have been met. Now it’s up to the SSPX to act.

  43. Mike says:

    Comments on bishop Williamson from Monsignor Robert Wister, professor of church history at Immaculate Conception School of Theology at Seton Hall University in New Jersey.

    “To deny the Holocaust is not a heresy even though it is a lie. The excommunication can be lifted because he is not a heretic, but he remains a liar.”

    I have a question. With the lifting of the excommunications, are the four bishops now recognized by the church as bishops, or only as validly ordained priests?


  44. Mark says:


  45. wsxyz says:

    Mike, the Church has always recognized the four bishops as validly ordained Bishops.

  46. prof. basto says:

    They have always been regarded as validly ordained Bishops. Their canonical status as Bishops is not yet regular, but they have always been validly ordained Bishops.

    Neither the fact of the validity of ordination, nor the canonical irregularity of their episcopal status, is changed by the lifting of the excommunications. Probably, that will only be resolved once full communion is restored.

    They still cannot – pending future canonical regularization of their episcopal status – discharge any Episcopal ministry.

    Indeed, pending the lifting of the previously-incurred penalty suspension a divinis, the whole of the SSPX clergy cannot licitly discharge ministry or celebrate the Sacraments.

    But we are now much closer to the lifting of the suspension, and to the regularization of the canonical status of the Bishops.

  47. Piers-the-Ploughman says:

    What a tremendous act by the Holy Father! Thank you!
    Now SSPX, make this work!

    Too bad that Michael Davies did not live to see this day.

  48. Matt Q says:

    This is very great news. A great day to commemorate hereon.

    From all the different entries though it seems like there is still “something else” which needs to happen. What? The Excommunications ( which have been declared never to have been so? ) have been lifted, does this mean the SSPX is now no longer in Coach and now moving through Business Class on their way to First? Does this now mean the Faithful can attend SSPX Masses and Receive without fear of taint? **??**

  49. Peter Karl T. Perkins says:


    “Proof of visible communion” is obviously a reference to regularisation. The Holy See is calling for the Society to accept sort form of regularisation promptly. The form would be one mandated by Rome after discussions with the Society (cf. Transalpine Redemptorist arrangements ensuing). Judging from past discussions from 2000 with Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, this would be be erection as a society of apostolic life for the Society, and its incorporation into an international and ‘personal’ particular church (e.g. diocese or apostolic administration) together with those societies of religious which it is associated with (e.g. the Dominicans of Avrillé). The exact details, of course, are a matter of speculation at this point and would be determined by the experts after some consideration.


    While it certainly can be inferred from this Decree that the Holy See takes the view that its previous decree of excommunication had canonical effect, this decree does not, in itself, make any declaration on the claims of the affected parties that the censure had no force in the first place owing to circumstances mentioned in Canon 1323. This Decree removes any juridical effects of the 1988 Decree from this day forward, but without affirming directly whether or not there were any such effects from 1988 until how.

    In other words, this present Decree will enable the S.S.P.X to continue arguing that the 1988 decree had no effects owing to exculpating cirucmstances, while it also allows the Holy See to affirm that such effects certainly did apply between 1988 and 2007.

    I am merely saying that the present decree makes no attempt to address the arguments of exception typically raised by Society defenders.


    Unforunately, so far, we have only the bare-bones minimum. The Holy Father makes here no public statement to support Msgr. Perl’s private admissions that the Society Masses fulfil the Sunday obligation. Presumably, the Holy Father will not concede one more jot or tittle until the Society responds in some way.


  50. Peter Karl T. Perkins says:


    While this Decree does call for a prompt regularisation of the Society, I note that nowhere does it demand that the Society must accept a juridical structure before doctrinal difficulties have been resolved. This is very good news. It would appear that the Pope is holding back his right arm and his sword of justice; instead, he offers the left hand and the broken sword (symbolically) of mercy. He is asking the Society to take the structure first but he is not making this suggestion a demand AT THIS TIME, while he is also not ruling out issuance of such a demand at any point in the future.

  51. Peter Karl T. Perkins says:


    Fr. Z. is quite correct (despite that ugly misuse of “hopefully”) that this decree does undertake to consider doctrinal difficulties, although it does not specify whether this must be done before or after the Society has accepted regularisation (while “prompt” at least suggests regularisation first). But this is an important point raised by Fr. Z. There is here a public undertaking in a decree to begin or continue “necessary discussions” of “open matters”. Benedict XVI, it would seem, is signalling to the Church through Cardinal Re that he is about to consider interpretations of various Vatican II documents so as to clarify their meaning, possibly excluding some popular interpretations since the 1960s. This should prove very interesting. As we all know, H.H. has already begun this process of interpretation (although not in reaction to Society questions), for he has clarified the term ‘subsists in’.


  52. Adam says:

    Excellent news! With the motu proprio and now the removal of the excommunications, we may very well have a contra-Vatican II. This will eventually do for Catholic Tradition what Vatican II did for the liberals.

  53. Geoffrey says:

    “Our Society wishes to be always more able to help the pope to remedy the unprecedented crisis which presently shakes the Catholic world, and which Pope John Paul II had designated as a state of ‘silent apostasy.'”

    I’m a little impressed. I didn’t expect the SSPX to speak about the late Servant of God in a seemingly positive way. Perhaps I myself will look at them anew with “fresh eyes”.

  54. Edward C. says:

    What’s the status of Bishop Lefebvre?? The letter doesn’t even mention his name…. was his excommunication lifted as well or no?

  55. Matt Callihan says:

    This act took a lot of courage on the part of the Holy Father, who is, in my opinion, the greatest pope since Pius XII. He is no doubt going to take a lot of heat for this act from many different quarters. We will have to pray for him.

    As they sing in the Byzantine rite, “God grant him many years!”

  56. Would it be fair to say that the relationship with the SSPX is now very similar to the relationship of the Catholic Church with the Orthodox Churches, since the mutual Catholic-Orthodox excommunications have also been lifted? Or is that far too simplistic an understanding?

  57. Geoffrey says:

    “…we may very well have a contra-Vatican II. This will eventually do for Catholic Tradition what Vatican II did for the liberals.”

    Comments like that are just not helpful.

  58. Joe says:

    Fr. Andrew Moore: one significant distinction is that the Orthodox Churches are Churches, that is integral bodies. The SSPX has always claimed not to be a Church or a para-Church, but to be an association of faithful Roman Catholics.

    That having been said, people often use the example of Orthodox Churches in union with Rome as a possible source of models for various groups such as the SSPX, or the Traditional Anglican Communion (which also claims, indirectly through its Anglican heritage, to be part of the Western Catholic Church). Perhaps this is why Rome has not yet done anything public about the request of the TAC to be acceped as a body into union with Rome; namely, (perhaps) Rome is working on a model of co-existence.

  59. Greg says:

    Hooray! Hallelujah! Huzzah! Glória in excélsis Deo et in terra pax homínibus bonae voluntátis! This is the greatest day in a long time!!! I have waited since I was a young boy for this!!! Thank you and God bless you, Pope, my Pope!

  60. Greg says:

    Hooray! Hallelujah! Huzzah! Glória in excélsis Deo et in terra pax homínibus bonae voluntátis! This is the greatest day in a long time!!! I have waited since I was a young boy for this!!! Thank you and God bless you, Pope, my Pope! And many thanks to the Blessed Virgin Mary for her intercession. The water was turned to wine at her request and that was only the beginning! Ave Maria gratia plena.

  61. Peter Karl T. Perkins says:

    On Fr. Andrew Moore’s question:

    Not quite. Rome has said publicly that the Society is “Catholic” and that resolution of the dispute is an internal matter. In Rome’s view, the 1988 consecrations were a schismatic act but not one sufficiet to result in a state of schism, although Society supporters are in danger of falling gradually into schism. The Society itself is deemed to be disobedient to legitmate authority and irregular, but not schismatic.

    Lastly, while it is very unpopular to say so these days, the Eastern Orthodx are not merely schismatics (and remain so despite the lifting of excommunication), they are also heretics. They are at least material heretics because, in general, they reject teaching from Vatican I on the plenary, supreme, universal and immediate jurisdiction of the Pope-not his infallibility but his jurisdiction. Interesting how neo-conservatives, in particular, whine about needing to accept the non-infallible doctrine of Vatican II but refuse to whine or even mention the infallible dogma of Vatican I. But that’s discussion for another day.


  62. Peter Karl T. Perkins says:

    On Joe’s comments abotu the TAC:

    I have had contact with some of their priests. My impression is that the delays in reaching communion are logistical rather than doctrinal or political. For example, Rome cannot simply accept their liturgical books which may, in this place or that, include texts which have the odour of Cranmerian heresy. So they need to vet their texts and then *all* approved translations, including those in India, where several languages are used (e.g. Hindi, Marharasti, Tamil, Bengali, Assamese). Add to that the fact that their Indian and African churches just don’t have the money to revise texts and publish new translations and you have a gargantuan problem on your hands. Frankly, only Rome has all the resources needed to do the job.


  63. Peter Karl T. Perkins says:

    On questions about Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop de Castro Mayer:

    Excommunications cease at death. The formula for absolution of a deceased excommunicate only remove the *effects* of excommunication and mainly concern burial rights.


  64. Cynthia says:

    I’m confused. I understood that Archbishop Lefebvre and his associates were excommunicate NOT because of the Latin Mass, but because the Archbishop had ordained priests and bishops without the permission of Rome, thereby establishing de facto a schismatic church. (Just as if I were to start using the logo of my company and hiring people to run my company independently of my CEO.) What’s being done to make sure that we don’t have as many rebels on the right as we already have on the left?

  65. TerryC says:

    Archbishop Lefebvre and his associates were excommunicate because the Archbishop had ordained priests and bishops without the permission of Rome. This is an act of material disobedience, a schismatic act, but not necessarily the creation of a schismatic church. As a matter of fact the members of the SSPX have always maintained that they were not a schismatic church, not did they ever intend to create a church separate from the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Based on statements from the Vatican it seems that the Holy See also does not consider them a schismatic church, but rather an irregular group, with some members who were in a state of excommunication. That is why it has been stated that the situation is an internal matter of the Church, unlike the TAC situation which involves a schismatic group (the Anglicans) which now are requesting union with Rome.

Comments are closed.