The Vatican’s Secretariat of State has issued an official statement on the Society of St. Pius X this morning here. It has a clear message: The acceptance of Vatican II and the authority of the last five popes is an "indispensable" condition for full communion for the group. Per un futuro riconoscimento della Fraternità San Pio X è condizione indispensabile il pieno riconoscimento del Concilio Vaticano II e del Magistero dei Papi Giovanni XXIII, Paolo VI, Giovanni Paolo I, Giovanni Paolo II e dello stesso Benedetto XVI.
These are strong words, and it will be interesting to see how a group whose raison d’etre is the rejection of Vatican II will react.
Also, Bishop Williamson is directly noted in the statement, which is a rarity for such documents. He is instructed that he must "absolutely and unequivocably" renounce his position on the Holocaust, which was "not known by the Holy Father at the time of the remission of the excommunication." Il Vescovo Williamson, per una ammissione a funzioni episcopali nella Chiesa dovrà anche prendere in modo assolutamente inequivocabile e pubblico le distanze dalle sue posizioni riguardanti la Shoah, non conosciute dal Santo Padre nel momento della remissione della scomunica.
Father Joseph Komonchak, of Catholic University, over at Dotcommonweal, highlights three points:
"1) While the lifting of the excommunications relieves the four from a very serious canonical punishment, “it has not altered the juridical situation of the Society of St. Pius X which, at the moment enjoys no canonical recognition by the Catholic Church.” In addition, the four bishops “have no canonical function in the Church and do not licitly exercise a ministry within it.”
2) Any future recognition of the SSPX has as an “indispensable condition a full recognition of the Second Vatican Council” and of the last five popes.
3) For him to be admitted to episcopal functions in the Church, Bishop Williamson must repudiate absolutely unequivocally and publicly his positions with regard to the Shoah, which, the Note says, were not known to the Pope when he lifted the excommunication." --Komonchak
Meanwhile, Sandro Magister, the Italian journalist, has a piece on his site that speaks of the "double disaster" of the Vatican: governance and communications. (H/t to Dotcommonweal.) And Father Thomas J. Reese, SJ, former editor in chief of America, and senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center, weighs in on the controversy, in an article entitled Benedict is Destroying his Legacy. Here’s Reese:
"The sad thing is that Pope Benedict is saying and doing many great things, but these media disasters are undermining his papacy. His words about peace, justice, refugees and the economic crisis are not being heard. Benedict wants to be a pastor and teacher, but he needs people who know how to run an organization and communicate in the 21st century, and he does not have them. The Vatican’s model for the papacy is still the absolute monarchies and royal courts of the past. That model simply will not work today. " --Reese
James Martin, SJ