Catholic-SSPX split not yet healed, George Weigel cautions

Bishop Richard Williamson / George Weigel
Bishop Richard Williamson / George Weigel


Catholic commentator George Weigel has suggested that the Society of St. Pius X’s (SSPX) response to the lifting of the excommunications of its leaders may not bode well for the full reunion of the traditionalist breakaway group with Rome.

Writing in a Jan. 26 issue of Newsweek, Weigel said SSPX leader Bishop Bernard Fellay’s Jan. 24 letter to society adherents may be seen by some as a “unilateral declaration of victory.”

The bishop’s letter said that “Catholic Tradition is no longer excommunicated” and affirms “all the councils up to the Second Vatican Council about which we express some reservations.”

According to Weigel, the letter implies that talks between the Vatican and the SSPX will focus on these “reservations.”

“Benedict XVI undoubtedly intended this lifting of excommunications as a step toward healing a wound in the church. Bishop Fellay's letter, in response to the pope's gesture, suggests that the healing has not taken place,” Weigel argued in Newsweek. “Moreover, Fellay's letter raises the stakes for everyone, and to the highest level. For what is at issue, now, is the integrity of the Church's self-understanding, which must include the authenticity of the teaching of Vatican Council II.”

Noting that Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi has emphasized that the excommunications do not mean that “full communion” with Rome has been restored, Weigel cautioned:

“For it is not easy to see how the unity of the Catholic Church will be advanced if the Lefebvrist faction does not publicly and unambiguously affirm Vatican Council II's teaching on the nature of the Church, on religious freedom, and on the sin of anti-Semitism. Absent such an affirmation, pick-and-choose cafeteria Catholicism will be reborn on the far fringes of the Catholic right, just when it was fading into insignificance on the dwindling Catholic left, its longtime home.”

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