Reports are suggesting that the quasi-schismatic group Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) may be closer to re-entering full communion with the Vatican. The group has been in a "canonically irregular" situation since 1988, when their founder Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre was excommunicated for ordaining four bishops without Vatican approval. While the excommunications were lifted in 2009, and Pope Francis said that the society has the ability to perform licit and valid confessions during the Year of Mercy, relations with the Vatican have remained frosty as of late. This, however, may be changing.
The group is hesitant to accept some Vatican II teachings. Recently, their leader Bishop Fellay met with Pope Francis in a private audience.
The recognition of the Second Vatican Council is "not an unreasonably high hurdle” to overcome, he said, adding that it was rather “the adequate remedy to enter into full communion with the Pope and the bishops in communion with him.”
The CDF prefect further asserted that Pope Francis’ relationship to the SSPX does not differ from that of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. "He sees this and similar groups as Catholic, but still on the way towards full Catholic unity."
Earlier this month, Pope Francis 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.”
He also received Bishop Fellay for the first time in a private audience last month, and told La Croix he is “a man with whom one can dialogue.”
This would be huge, if true. SSPX has been in an awkward situation for nearly three decades, and any steps towards reuniting with Rome can be considered a big deal for traditional-minded Catholics. Tridentine Mass, which is celebrated by SSPX priests, has been making an unprecedented comeback since the 2007 apostolic letter by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI permitting its use. Let's pray that these issues are resolved in the near future.