Pope Francis has made a concession to the Society of St Pius X (SSPX) by issuing new regulations for marriages. A bishop may now appoint priests to assist at SSPX marriages and to celebrate the nuptial Mass. SSPX priests will also be permitted to officiate over the marriage rite if no diocesan priests are available. However, the prospects of full regularisation of the SSPX may have been hurt by new claims that the Society failed to act on abuse allegations.
What commentators are saying
The news was “nothing short of a landmark”, said Rocco Palmo on his blog Whispers in the Loggia.
He interpreted the move as an “explicit prod to the world’s dioceses to prepare their groundwork for the Lefebvrists’ return to full communion”. Palmo noted a “commonly cited prospect for an SSPX pact”, in which its half-million lay members and clergy are “accorded the status of a personal prelature”.
This means that the Society would enjoy the same status as Opus Dei, “which effectively renders a community of clergy and laity as a global diocese”, free to conduct their affairs without interference from local bishops.
Ross Douthat of the New York Times tweeted: “It seems increasingly likely that Pope Francis will regularise the SSPX. Worth asking why.” Among the reasons Douthat offered was that Francis favours an “Anglican-esque” future for the Church with a diversity of theological views – or that he sees a liberalised future for the Church with a “special Latin Mass zone” for remaining traditionalists.
Michael Brendan Dougherty, senior correspondent at The Week, replied that Francis was “doing justice”, and pointed out that the Pope “may feel he can’t be more ecumenical with Protestants if he can’t solve a schism that is more about trust than theology”.
Meanwhile, Fr John Zuhlsdorf, at his blog wdtprs.com, said he had long hoped for the reconciliation of the SSPX. But “under the unlikely pontificate of Pope Francis, steps are being made. Just as Nixon went to China, it seems that Pope Francis may be the one to get this job done.”
✣ Italy puts Vatican bank on approved list
After years of allegations concerning financial misconduct, the Vatican bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion, has been placed on Italy’s “white list” of financial institutions, signifying that it is now regarded as “clean” by the Italian government and no longer as a tax haven for well-connected Italians.
Why was it under-reported?
The long-standing media narrative that the mysterious Vatican is corrupt and full of intrigue has always aroused interest, and for the usual suspects is another stick to beat the Church with.
A story which suggests that the Vatican has entered an age of transparency does not fit the well-
established narrative, nor is it likely to receive hits or sell papers. The story is also only likely to appeal to people who follow the financial news and, while suited to the pages of the
Financial Times, is not likely to make it into the other broadsheets.
What will happen next?
The Vatican said that the news “confirms the process towards reform and transparency”, indicating that the Holy See “is a cooperative and transparent country with respect to fiscal information”.
However, the “white list” concerning tax purposes is separate to the one which assesses a state’s effectiveness in preventing money laundering.
Time will tell if the Holy See manages to qualify for the money laundering white list as well, which would be another milestone in improving its financial record.
✣The week ahead
On Easter Sunday Benedict XVI will celebrate his 90th birthday. When once asked by the journalist Peter Seewald if he thought he would still be alive aged 90, the German pope replied: “Hopefully not.” When Joseph Ratzinger was born in Bavaria in 1927, April 16 fell on Easter Saturday. He was baptised the following morning, on the most significant day of the year.
at 12.15pm today Cardinal Vincent Nichols will participate in a Good Friday ecumenical Walk of Witness. Prayers will be offered at Trafalgar Square before the Solemn Liturgy at 3pm at Westminster Cathedral.
On Tuesday Georgetown University will formally rename two buildings on its campus. Previously they were named after priests who sold slaves. Mulledy Hall will now be named after Isaac Hawkins, the first enslaved person listed in the sale documents, and McSherry Hall will be named after Anne Marie Becraft, who established a school for black girls in the area.
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