.- The Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., has dismissed the recent ordination of 20 priests by the Society of Saint Pius X as illegitimate.
“As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church - Benedict XVI underlines - its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church,” said Father Lombardi in response to a question from CNA at a July 5 media conference.
Fr. Lombardi said that the Society’s canonical status will not be resolved “until the doctrinal questions are clarified.”
The Society of Saint Pius X is a traditionalist group founded in 1970 by the Frenchman Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. Their relationship with the Vatican soured in 1988 when Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated four bishops against the orders of Pope John Paul II. It was an act deemed to be schismatic by the Vatican.
While the excommunication of the four bishops was lifted by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, the Society still has not fully resolved doctrinal disagreements with the Catholic Church, which are mainly tied to the Second Vatican Council.
Over the past two weeks, the Society has ordained priests in ceremonies in Switzerland, Germany and the United States. The latter ordinations took place on June 17 at the group’s seminary in Winona, Minn. and were conducted by the St. Pius X’s Superior General, Bishop Bernard Fellay. He used his homily to accuse the Vatican of lacking unity and consistency in negotiations with the Society.
“When I speak of contradiction, my dear brethren, I mean that certain people in Rome consider us as being outside the Church, excommunicated, and even as having lost the Faith and being heretics. But there are others who very clearly accept us as Catholics,” he told the congregation gathered for the ordination of five priests.
“When Bishop de Galarreta (a Pius X bishop) and our priests go to Rome for the doctrinal discussions, they say Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. How can you have both attitudes at the same time? Do you see how strong this contradiction is?”
Pope Benedict has been eager to heal the rift between the Pius X Society and the Church. In 2007 he made it easier to celebrate Mass according to the older Tridentine rite, saying he hoped it would lead to “an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church.” But today’s developments won’t make that reconciliation any easier to achieve.