It certainly appears so, as this article from the National Catholic Register indicates and if so, it is wonderful news, as the evangelical vigor and doctrinal consistency of SSPX coming back into the Catholic Church would be reinvigorating.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Register, the leader of the traditionalist priestly society details how Pope Francis has opened the door to the SSPX’s full integration with the Church.
MENZINGEN, Switzerland — Reconciliation between the Society of St. Pius X and Rome looks to be imminent, as a key obstacle — opposition to certain aspects of the Second Vatican Council — may no longer be a cause for continued separation from the Church.
Bishop Bernard Fellay, the superior general of the SSPX, told the Register May 13 that he is “persuaded, at least in part, by a different approach,” in which, he believes, Pope Francis is placing less weight on the Council and more emphasis on “saving souls and finding a way to do it.”
That message was reinforced this week when Pope Francis himself hinted reconciliation could be close, telling the French Catholic daily La Croix May 16 that the SSPX are “Catholics on the way to full communion” and that “good dialogue and good work are taking place.”
According to Bishop Fellay, the Vatican is telling the society, through nuanced words, that it is now possible to question the Council’s teachings on religious liberty, ecumenism and liturgical reform “and remain Catholic.”
“That means, also, the criteria they would impose on us, to have us prove to them that we are Catholic, will no longer be these points,” he said. “That, to us, would be very important.”
In 1970, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, a French Holy Ghost Father, founded the international society to form and support priests in spreading the Catholic faith throughout the world.
But its opposition to some teachings of the Second Vatican Council regarding ecumenism, freedom of religion and aspects of liturgical reform came to a head in 1988, when Archbishop Lefebvre ordained four bishops in 1988 against the express wish of Pope St. John Paul II. All five incurred automatic excommunication, and the society has been in a canonically irregular situation ever since.
Archbishop Lefebvre died in 1991, and the Vatican and SSPX have been earnestly working towards reconciliation since 2000.
Benedict XVI sought to improve relations, first in 2007, by confirming that priests may celebrate the Mass in Latin according to the 1962 Roman Missal (officially called the extraordinary form of the liturgy) and stressing that it had never been abrogated, and then lifting the excommunications on four surviving SSPX bishops in 2009.
He also opened formal reconciliation talks with the SSPX in 2011, but those subsequently faltered because the Vatican, apparently in contrast to Benedict’s own wishes, raised the stakes on the central issue: that the society accept the validity of all of the Council’s teachings, including the texts on religious freedom and human rights that the SSPX rejects as theological “errors.”
The latest groundbreaking and surprising concession on this issue has, therefore, brought the SSPX to the brink of regularization that, sources say, could happen in a matter of weeks or months.
Pope Francis received Bishop Fellay for the first time in a private audience last month, signaling a clear intent on the Holy Father’s part that he wishes the society to be regularized. “Bishop Fellay is a man with whom one can dialogue,” he told La Croix.
The Pope also announced that SSPX confessions would be valid and licit during and after the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Until then, Rome considered them as invalid because they lacked necessary jurisdiction.
The SSPX is now understood to have the Vatican’s draft of an agreement to sign to formalize regularization, but wants to make sure it has secure guarantees. “The ball is in their court,” a Vatican source told the Register May 12. “We want them to go ahead with it.”