News that the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) intends to ordain 23 priests in late June caused the Vatican to issue a statement on Wednesday saying that the ordinations will not be legitimate.
The statement from the Vatican made reference to the Holy Father’s “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church” from last March. The letter states, “As long as the Society (of St. Pius X) does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church.”
The status of the SSPX within the Catholic Church remains in question because it has previously rejected certain portions of some key Vatican II documents.
“Until the doctrinal questions are clarified,” the Holy See's press office said, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers ... do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.”
Created by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1969, the Society of St. Pius X has rejected the modern rites of the Mass, refused to accept portions of the Second Vatican Council and challenged papal authority on several occasions.
In 1988, Lefebvre consecrated four bishops against the will of Pope John Paul II, a move Rome declared to be “a schismatic act.” Archbishop Lefebvre and the four bishops were excommunicated by John Paul II in 1991.
In December of 2008, Pope Benedict lifted the excommunications in hopes of restoring “full communion with the Church on the part of the whole Society of St Pius X.”
In his “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church,” the Pope had also announced that he would make the ‘Ecclesia Dei’Commission, tasked with reconciling the Society to the Church, a part of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The change in the commission's status is intended to foster dialogue with the leaders of the SSPX and to resolve questions and disagreements over doctrinal matters.