A British superior in the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X called Vatican attempts to reconcile with the group through a doctrinal agreement “clearly unacceptable.”
Father Paul Morgan, a district head in Britain, said in a November newsletter that despite recent talks between society leaders and Vatican officials, the group is far from agreeing to Rome's proposal.
On Sept. 14 at the Vatican, Society Superior General Bishop Bernard Fellay was presented with a statement of principles, or “doctrinal preamble,” by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Levada.
The document outlined points of doctrine that the Vatican needs clarified before finally healing the decades-long rift between the two sides.
If the society consented, they could be offered the status of a personal prelature within the Church—a jurisdiction without geographical boundaries designed to carry out particular pastoral initiatives.
Although the talks in September seemed to leave open the possibility of the society repairing its relationship with the Church, Fr. Morgan's recent comments showed their dissatisfaction with the Vatican's preamble.
After an Oct. 7 meeting among society leaders in Albano near Rome, the group agreed that the doctrinal statement “contained all those elements which the society has consistently rejected, including acceptance of the new Mass and of Vatican II as expressed in the new catechism.”
“Indeed, the document itself conveys the impression that there is no crisis in the church,” Fr. Morgan said in his online newsletter.
“Hence the stated consensus of those in attendance was that the doctrinal preamble was clearly unacceptable and that the time has certainly not come to pursue any practical agreement as long as the doctrinal issues remain outstanding.”
Fr. Morgan said the group agreed at the meeting that the society should continue pressing its doctrinal stance in talks with the Vatican due to “Rome's persistence in the modern errors.”
The priest also took issue with Pope Benedict's recent interfaith prayer gathering in Assisi. He called the event a “scandal” which “replaces faith with religious liberty as the means to obtain world peace.”
Society leaders, however, were quick to distance themselves from Fr. Morgan's remarks.
The newsletter was removed from the group's website, and in a Nov. 2 statement, leaders downplayed comments that “have been published in the press about the answer that Bishop Bernard Fellay should give to the Roman propositions of September 14th.”
They also emphasized that only the general house “has the competency to publish an official communique or authorized comment on the subject.”
The Society of St. Pius X was founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebrve in 1970 as a response to what he described as errors that had crept into the Catholic Church following the Second Vatican Council.
It has had a strained relationship with the Vatican since Archbishop Lefebrve consecrated four bishops against the orders of Pope John Paul II in 1988. In 2009, Pope Benedict began efforts to reconcile with the group.