Recently leaked documents reveal the correspondence between four bishops of the Society of St. Pius X, which show disagreement over reconciliation efforts with the Vatican.
The breakaway society gave its assent on April 13 to a statement of doctrinal belief presented to it by the Holy See but with some suggested amendments to the text.
It will now be for Pope Benedict XVI to decide whether the traditionalist group's response is sufficient to permit them back into full communion with the Catholic Church.
Newly leaked correspondence from early April, however, shows discord among the bishops shortly before the superior of the society, Bernard Fellay, delivered his response Vatican's doctrinal Preamble which was issued to the group in 2011.
The documents consist of a first letter sent by three bishops – including Richard Williamson, known for his downplaying of the Holocaust – to Fellay dated April 7. The group claims that a “doctrinal agreement with present-day Rome is impossible,” and that they therefore formally oppose “a practical agreement” with the Church.
Addressing the stance of some of the society's top leaders, who are more favorable to an agreement with the Holy See, the bishops said they are “leading the Society to the point of no return, to an irreversible profound division.”
In a subsequent letter responding to the group, Fellay condemned “the lack of supernatural vision and of realism” of those criticizing him.
After affirming that Benedict XVI is the legitimate Pope and saying that that God speaks through the pontiff's words, Fellay asked, “If he expresses legitimate will towards us, which is good, and that is not against God’s commandments, do we have the right to ignore or reject that extended hand?”
“The Pope has told us that the concern for fixing our situation for the good of the Church was at the heart of his Pontificate, and likewise that he was aware that for him and for us it would have been easier to maintain the status quo.”
Fellay said that the society in general “would much prefer the status quo for now, but it is obvious that Rome no longer accepts that.”
“There is a change in the attitude of the Church, backed by the gestures and the acts of Benedict XVI towards Tradition,” he added.
In his letter, Fellay expressed regret that he did not have the support and advice of the bishops who wrote him “in order to endure such a delicate time of our history.”
The Society has had a strained relationship with the Vatican since its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebrve, consecrated four bishops against the orders of Pope John Paul II in 1988.
Archbishop Lefebrve founded the Society in 1970 as a response to what he described as errors that had crept into the Catholic Church following the Second Vatican Council.
In 2009, Pope Benedict remitted the excommunications of the Society’s bishops and set talks in motion aimed at restoring “full communion.” The Pope said at the time that to achieve full communion the members of the Society would have to show “true recognition of the Magisterium and the authority of the Pope and of the Second Vatican Council.”
Society headquarters reacted to the leaking of the documents in May 11 statement, calling the move a “grave sin.”
The full text of the letters can be found at: