Fr Franz Schmidberger, the former superior general of the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), has told members of the society that, if it gains official status within the Church, it will create a “healthy turmoil” in which “the good would be encouraged, the malevolent will suffer a defeat”.
Fr Schmidberger, currently rector of the SSPX seminary in Germany, wrote a letter addressed to “all members”, discussing the possibility that, under Pope Francis, the society’s situation will be regularised.
Speculation of a Vatican-SSPX agreement has grown since a meeting earlier this month between Pope Francis and the society’s current superior general, Bishop Bernard Fellay.
The letter criticises the Pope for his “liberal ideas” and for creating “a great confusion in the Church”. But it adds that Jesus Christ “allowed his ascent to the papal throne”, and suggests that perhaps “only Pope Francis is able to take this step [normalisation], by unpredictability and improvisation.” Fr Schmidberger says that Pope Francis’s popularity might allow him to make the step, where Pope Benedict XVI could not have.
The SSPX, founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970, has lacked a canonical status within the Church. Agreement has broken down over the Second Vatican Council, whose statements on religious freedom, ecumenism, and liturgical revision the SSPX say they cannot accept in their present form.
In 1988 Archbishop Lefebvre and a fellow-bishop consecrated four bishops without Vatican permission, resulting in the excommunication of all six. The excommunications were lifted in 2009, but discussions broke down three years later. Under Pope Francis, however, there has been some progress in discussions.
Fr Schmidberger’s letter floats the idea that the SSPX could become a “personal prelature”, as Opus Dei is.
He answers possible objections to such a deal, including the possibility that the SSPX would have to water down its positions. Fr Schmidberger tells members: “We will not be silent, moreover we will point out the errors by name. Before and after our normalisation.”
Before concluding with a prayer to the Virgin Mary, Fr Schmidberger writes: “If God wants to help His Church indeed He has many means. One of them is the recognition of the SSPX by the Roman authorities.”
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