A letter from the Society of St. Pius x (sspx) that could herald its return to the Catholic Church arrived at the Vatican over the Easter weekend. The content of the letter is secret, but Spiegel Online reports that it indicates the sspx is willing to make the concessions necessary to rejoin the fold.
“The new letter is significant in that it seeks to tone down the conflict,” it writes. “Points of disagreement are no longer to be seen in terms of who is ‘more Catholic’ than the other. The letter makes clear that conflicting positions on Vatican ii are ‘not decisive’ for the future of the Catholic Church. In short, the Society of St. Pius x is no longer demanding that the Vatican ii reforms be repealed.”
Jean-Marie Guenois from the French newspaper Le Figaro said “the final adjustments have been concluded” on an agreement between the Catholic Church and the sspx.
The sspx split off from the Catholic Church in 1969 in response to what it saw as liberalization of the church by the Second Vatican Council, known as Vatican ii. It has tens of thousands of members and several hundred priests.
But if this group rejoins the Catholic Church, the impact will be far greater than just bringing in a few thousand more members. The return of the sspx is part of a deliberate campaign by Pope Benedict xvi and his right-hand men to take the Catholic Church in a more conservative direction. The pope has been slowly replacing key liberal bishops with like-minded conservatives. He has already steered the church in a more traditional and right-wing direction. The return of the sspx takes the church further down that path. It will mean the permanent weakening of some of the church’s more liberal reforms over the past few decades.
The return of the sspx also ties in to a second key aim of the pope: to return the Protestant and Orthodox churches to the Catholic fold. A success with the sspx could give this powerful momentum. This goal doesn’t necessary conflict with the church’s rightward direction. Many of the Anglicans who are dissatisfied with their current church are more traditional and conservative than the Catholics in their countries. Anglicans joining the Catholic Church in Britain, for example, could help push the church in the rightward direction Benedict wants.
The reunification with the sspx is just a small step on the way to the Catholic Church’s ultimate goal—uniting all of Christendom under the papacy. ▪