All are waiting for the Superior of the Society of St. Pius X to respond to the text received by the Pope. The Vatican does not expect any new doctrinal discussions
The communiqué sent by the Vatican Press Office after the meeting on 13 June between Cardinal William Levada and the Lefebvrian Superior, Bishop Bernard Fellay, stated that the bishop had “represented the situation in the Society of St. Pius X.” Even in this case, Vatican sources urge us to think carefully about the meaning of these words. The core problem over the next few days which will be crucial for the future of the traditionalist group founded by Mgr. Lefebvre is not just to do with the content of the doctrinal declaration which the Pope has asked Fellay to sign. It is also to do with the complex situation within the Fraternity.
Over the past few days, some of the priests who are closest to Bishops Tissier de Mallerays, de Gallareta and Williamson have been repeating that if the agreement is signed, very few of the Fraternity’s priests would follow Mgr. Fellay and enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. So that short phrase in the Vatican communiqué regarding the “situation” within the Lefebvrian group is especially significant. Up until now it was believed that the Society was divided approximately into the following categories: 25% in favour of the agreement, 50% undecided and 25% against (including the three bishops, as was clearly stated in the letter they sent to Fellay in recent months, expressing their intention to oppose any agreement with Rome).
However, no one is in a position to confirm the current accuracy of these figures. It is clear from the statements made by some Lefebvrian representatives and the bishops who oppose an agreement, that part of the Fraternity is only willing to enter into communion with Rome again is the Pope decides to renounce the Second Vatican Council, attributing all blame for the crisis of faith during the past decades to the Council and to the post-conciliar liturgical reform. It should be noted that nostalgia for the suffering caused by the current separation has been primarily expressed by those who had met Lefebvre, who had experienced his struggles first hand and had lived in communion with the Pope before the split in 1988. This nostalgia does not appear as strong among the new generations of priests.
The doctrinal declaration which Cardinal Levada handed to Fellay on 13 June leaves no room for manoeuvres. It is also hard to foresee a new round of talks after two years of discussions between the Fraternity and Holy See theologians regarding the authentic interpretation of the Council. Benedict XVI wanted to examine the final text carefully taking into account the thoughts of the cardinals and bishops who attended the Feria Quarta meeting of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: during this meeting which took place on 15 May, cardinals raised doubts over several modifications which Fellay asked to be made to the doctrinal preamble and presented corrections to the interpretation of references (particularly to the Second Vatican Council) which they considers unacceptable.
The Pope welcomed and shared various concerns raised by his collaborators. Therefore, the text which Fellay is required to sign “within a reasonable timeframe” is the final deal. It is no longer possible for any substantial amendments to be made. However, the communiqué the Fraternity issued after the June 13 meeting did mention the possibility of a new round of talks. This indicates that the version of the doctrinal preamble which Fellay received from the Vatican leadership still contains some contentious elements. In an interview published in the Fraternity’s official bulletin lat 7 June, the Lefebvrian Superior stated: “Rome no longer makes total acceptance of Vatican II a prerequisite for the canonical solution.”