Society of St. Pius X: Unprecedented Progress
By Noémie Bertin and Jean-Marie Dumont – Famille Chretienne
29th April, 2015
An association of diocesan right is the status of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (SSPX) in Argentina since 9th April. A decision of the Secretariat of Worship, published in the Official Gazette of the country, enters it into the Register of institutes of consecrated life. That is where one finds Argentinian Catholic religious orders and congregations.
This request was officially sent to the administration by Cardinal Mario Aurelio Poli, Archbishop of Buenos Aires - successor to the current Pope. The latter accompanied an approach initiated in 2011 by the leaders of the Society of the apostles of Jesus and Mary, another name for the SSPX.
In this Latin American country, its followers have several priories, three schools, twenty-five resident priests and a seminary forming thirty-odd seminarians.
What are the challenges of this newly granted status? "The Lefebvrists are reintegrated into the Church in Argentina," was the headline in the great Argentine daily newspaper ‘Clarin,’ on 12th April. Like other media, the newspaper over-interpreted the decision. The decision in reality comes primarily as an answer to very practical questions. "The main concern was to give a status to foreign priests and religious," says Fr. Christian Bouchacourt, Superior of the Society for France. From 2003 to 2014, the prelate [sic] oversaw the South American district. "They were forced to leave the country every three months, as a result of not being granted resident status,” he adds, “to obtain which, they had to belong to the Catholic Church."
Another way out of the deadlock was open to the SSPX: to be recognized by the state as the "Lefebvrist Church." "But in Argentina, are sects swarming all over,” says Fr. Bouchacourt. “I always refused that we be registered as an entity distinct from the Catholic Church."
With this strong conviction, the district superior recounts how he "went to see the Nuncio," who "sent him on to Cardinal Bergoglio." "It was he [i.e. Bergoglio - trans.] who made things easier,” he says. “Without him, it would have been impossible. He helped us out with the government, telling them that we were Catholic."
A sign of confidence
This novel recognition is emblematic: the Society of St. Pius X is thus presented as a work of the Church. Yet not everything has been sorted out yet: the decision of Cardinal Poli has no canonical goal. "As stated by the Archbishop himself in his letter, the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X has not yet found a definitive legal framework in the universal Church," says Monsignor Guido Pozzo, Secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, the Roman dicastery dialogues with the heirs of Archbishop Lefebvre. The latter, by the voice of their official organ of communication, DICI, also discussed an "administrative decision of the Argentine State," recalling that only the Roman authorities "may sort out the canonical status of the Society." "The negotiations with Rome are the responsibility of our Superior General, Bishop Bernard Fellay," says Fr. Christian Bouchacourt in support of this.
At Ecclesia Dei, Monsignor Guido Pozzo nevertheless says that he is "pleased" with this "sign of goodwill on the part of the Church," which "helps create a constructive atmosphere of trust." The SSPX’s canonical recognition remains to be found, he recalls, and the creation of a personal prelature, like Opus Dei is envisaged. It would allow the Society priests to minister legitimately. "It is to this end,” Archbishop Pozzo explains, “that the journey of clarification and deepening some controversial doctrinal issues, through the relations between the Ecclesia Dei Commission and the Society of St. Pius X, is continuing." Dear to the heart of Benedict XVI, this work of unity continues under the pontificate of Pope Francis. The stakes are high for the Church: St. Pius X currently has 586 priests, 203 seminarians, 6 seminaries and exercises an apostolate in 70 countries.
Noémie Bertin and Jean-Marie Dumont
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