For the Lefebvrists, It's the Last Call to the Sheepfold
Otherwise it's schism. But Rome will do everything possible to avoid the irreparable. From Australia, the theologian John Lamont shows that reconciliation is possible
by Sandro Magister
ROME, April 13, 2012 – In the next few days, a response is expected from the Society of Saint Pius X to the last call from Rome for its return to the sheepfold.
The forecasts fluctuate between optimism and pessimism. The match underway between the Holy See and the community founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre began with the lifting of the excommunication, on January 21, 2009, of four bishops of the community illegitimately ordained by Lefebvre himself. It went live with eight meetings between the two sides in Rome, between October of 2009 and April of 2011. It culminated with the delivery to the Lefebvrists on September 14, 2011, on the part of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, of a "doctrinal preamble" as the "fundamental basis for the attainment of full reconciliation." And it continued with only the partial acceptance of this preamble on the part of the Lefebvrists, an acceptance judged by Rome as "not sufficient" to heal the "fracture."
So much for the regulation time of the match, with the whistle that sounded last March 16 with a statement issued by the Holy See. But on that same day overtime began, and could last quite a while. In the same statement of March 16, Rome offered the Lefebvrists the possibility of another response. Which is the one that is expected any day now.
But what exactly is the doctrinal cause of the division? And why is there a fracture between Rome and the Lefebvrists over their rejection of some of the teachings of Vatican Council II, while at the same time other Catholic currents of the opposite nature continue to inhabit the Church undisturbed, in spite of the fact that they too reject essential teachings of the same Council?
These are the two questions at the heart of the analysis by John R. T. Lamont reproduced below.
He follows these up with three more interconnected questions. These do not arrive at exhaustive answers. But they allow one to look at the controversy from a new point of view, in some ways unexpected: not prejudicially hostile toward the Society of Saint Pius X, but on the contrary apparently too understanding of its arguments.
The author, who received a degree in philosophy from Oxford and in theology in Ottawa with the great Dominican theologian Jean-Marie Tillard, lives in Australia and teaches in Sydney at the Catholic Institute and at the University of Notre Dame, with the canonical mandate of the archdiocese for the teaching of theology.
He has published various books and articles, including in non-specialist magazines like the American "First Things."
In the latest issue of the international magazine "Divinitas" directed by Monsignor Brunero Gherardini, one of his articles has just been published, on how to interpret the teaching of the Council on religious freedom: "Pour une lecture pieuse de Vatican II au sujet de la liberté religieuse," Divinitas vol. 55, 2012/1, pp. 70-92.
The following analysis was written by John R. T. Lamont expressly for www.chiesa.