Tuesday, January 31, 2006

More on Flavigny

Tomorrow, as previously reported here, representatives of all the religious groups which form the aggregate Lefevbrist movement are meeting in Flavigny, France.

It is widely believed that the convocation is being held in an attempt to unite the groups and brief them on a proposed reconciliation between the Holy See and the Society of St. Pius X, the flagship splinter-sect which broke communion with Rome in 1988 at the ordination of four bishops without papal approval by the Tridentine renegade Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

In exchange for the return to full communion of the Lefebvrist bishops -- which by no means could come immediately, but toward which goal tomorrow's summit is oriented -- and other, unspecified conditions, it's said the Holy See could be prepared to grant:
  • an acknowledgment that the Pian, or Tridentine, rite was not abrogated in the liturgical reforms following the Second Vatican Council;
  • an acknowledgment of the Old Mass' place and value in the life of the Latin church;
  • an acknowledgment that the SSPX never sought on its own accord to enter into schism;
  • an Apostolic Administration, subject to the Congregation for the Clergy, for the Society to maintain administration of its chapels, seminaries and other apostolates
Before anything is sealed, however, several questions do remain.

The first is whether, if the plan as sketched out goes forward at all, the four SSPX bishops return in unison. Two of them are said to be publicly noncommittal: Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, and Richard Williamson, who last night was reported to be "obstinate." Alfonso de Galarreta is said to be more aligned with Fellay's pro-reconciliation stance.

The timetable for all this has been expedited by the exigencies of the SSPX leadership. Fellay's term as Superior General expires later this year, and as he is perceived as the most-amenable of the four to a reconciliation, an accord hammered out with him as a principal would likely provide the best possible outcome, both for Rome and Econe.

While promotions and sacramental titles would not be part of any deal, as Popes do not bargain their prerogatives and the freedom of the office, Schmidberger -- the last of Lefebvre's closest aides still in the Society's upper echelon of leadership -- is seen as the Society's likely future head, particularly given the moderation with which he has handled the issue of its potential return; he was in the room with Fellay on 29 August as the SSPX leadership met with a Pope for the first time since the 1988 excommunications.

Lastly, one would be led to wonder what Rome seeks in return for the concessions it seems prepared to grant the Society. In a word, as one source puts it, all Rome wants is "the four bishops back," and in communion. (Of course, in order to do so, they must profess to accept the validity of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council as part of the Magisterium, etc.)

Even if a splinter, or more than just a few, of the SSPX's priests and faithful remain outside the church, the Society's sources of sacramental life vis a vis the ordination of priests and the consecration of churches would be cut at the knees were the four bishops to return to Rome in one piece. Be reminded, however, that many variables remain fluid and are changing by the hour.

More as it comes....