An agreement between Rome and the heirs of Msgr. Marcel Lefebvre, thirty years after his excommunication, could be announced by this summer. This prospect arouses mixed reactions among the faithful close to the Society of St. Pius X.
In mid-May, Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet was boiling. Fr. Patrick de La Rocque, parish priest of this emblematic church in central Paris, occupied by the traditionalists since 1977, had just been relieved of his duties by his superiors of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX) with six other leaders of the Fraternity. What caused this was their public opposition to the recent text of the Vatican recognizing marriages between the faithful Lefebvrians.
An umpteenth symptomatic episode of the tensions provoked by the perspective, more real than ever, of a reconciliation with Rome. The Vatican could soon grant the SSPX a personal prelature, a very flexible legal framework based on the model of Opus Dei: the Fraternity would then form part of the hierarchical structure of the Church, but not be limited to a territory such as the dioceses.
Even among those who favorably see such reinstatement, the concerns are vivid. “Once one is attached to Rome, will one have the same freedom?” asked Caroline, a parishioner of Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet. “Will our schools be able to continue, without always having to ask permission from the bishop of the place … Do they not give us a prelature to prevent us from doing what we want?”
“As time passes, gaps widen”
“Mistrust”, “risk”, “danger”: these words often come from Thomas, a corporate taxpayer, who also frequents Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet. If he says he is a partisan of the rallying led by Bishop Bernard Fellay, the superior of the FSSPX, this thirty year old fears that the hand extended by Rome is “a pretext for us to return to the ranks”. For all that, he says, the SSPX has “nothing to lose”.
“The more time passes, the more the gaps widen, and if we wait too long, we will end up with a real schism. [Archbishop Lefebvre : “Once the word schism is mentioned, it will be used as a scarecrow..”] For me it would be too painful. If one considers that the Church remains the bride of Christ, to separate from it has no meaning.” Thomas also feared that the Fraternity would eventually become a marginal entity, without a leader or authority. “Archbishop Lefebvre did not want us to remain too far away, under penalty of being won by a sectarian spirit,” Caroline adds. [Archbishop Lefebvre : “So the Society will be accused of exaggerating.. and ultimately of sectarianism.”]
We could establish a long list of those who have abandoned us for these reasons.
She herself wishes this agreement, but notes that many around her are destabilized by the figure of Pope Francis, whom she considers “unexpected” and “surprising”. “He reaches out to all who are outside, but his very progressive ideas are far removed from the line of Archbishop Lefebvre.” At issue is the ecumenism advocated by the Pope and the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. “Among us, Catholics of all ages have maintained the infallibility of marriage,” Caroline insists.
Refractories especially in France
If these fears are real, the refractors to an agreement with Rome seem to represent only a minority, confined to the district of France. In Germany, Switzerland or the United States, the negotiations are being followed, and a petition, launched almost two weeks ago in several languages, against the marriage nullity agreement, has received only 500 signatures in the world.
For Marie-Alix Doutrebente, parishioner of Notre-Dame de Consolation in Paris, it is the “last jolts” of some priests who resist all the more that the agreement is near … The majority, in the eyes of this woman who collaborated with the foundation, 20 years ago, of a group of informal dialogue between Catholics on both sides [GREC !? ] , is waiting for a happy ending. “For us, the faithful, it is a real suffering for forty years. We aspire to find our place in the Church and pray on the same benches.”
Showing the right path to the Church
Minds are more mature too, she recalled, since the publication of the motu proprio, ten years ago, by which Benedict XVI liberalized the Tridentine Mass. “Many families who only frequented the chapels of the Society of St. Pius X now attend the Mass at the Institute of Christ the King or in the diocesan parishes where it is celebrated according to the extraordinary form.” [which only goes to show how Rome's manoeuvre's to erode and dissolve Tradition and to "recycle" Traditional Catholics are being successful.]
Once reinstated and “devoted” as they say, the Lefebvrists claim to want to show the Church the right way. “We have not changed anything in the doctrine of all time,” Caroline believes. The Fraternity could render a great service to the Church by bringing this rigor to the faith. And our many religious vocations could benefit all Catholics. A return, perhaps, but, it seems, without giving up anything on the substance. [i.e., the SSPX is no longer a lifeboat, but has now become a tugboat, the savior of the Church.]
Three French bishops recognize the marriages of the Society of St. Pius X
Archbishop Luc Ravel became the third French bishop to apply the letter of the Ecclesia Dei commission of 27 March on marriages in the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X (FSSPX).
After Msgr. Alain Planet, Bishop of Carcassonne and Narbonne, and Msgr. Dominique Rey, Bishop of Fréjus-Toulon, Monsignor Ravel will give some priests of the FSSPX in his diocese the necessary delegation to bless or receive the consents of marriage.
This authorization is one more step towards the return of the Lefebvrists in the full communion of the Catholic Church: the latter did not recognize so far marriages celebrated by a priest of the SSPX.
Céline Hoyeau and Mélinée Le Priol