Rorate reported a few days ago that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has handed on its recommendations regarding the SSPX to the Holy Father. It’s expected a determination may be made by the end of the month. So, to borrow a turn of phrase common in the postconciliar age, let’s have a dialogue. What’s going to happen? Some thoughts of my own below the break.
First, it’s worth remembering that Rome moves at a glacial pace compared to what we’re used to. Even if the Holy Father definitively declares that the SSPX is to be reconciled, expect a year or two before the kinks are worked out. And even if he declares them to be in schism, expect dialogue to continue ecumenically rather than internally, with the possibility of future reconciliation left open.
That said, I’m fairly confident reconciliation will happen here-and-now. The Holy Father wants this as his legacy, and has earnestly desired it for some years; I’ve read that he heard the news of Abp. Lefebvre’s illicit consecrations with great suffering.
The big question is how the doctrinal issues between the SSPX and Rome will be resolved. Given that these issues reduce to a giant misunderstanding precipitated by Rome’s insistence on not speaking clearly about anything, expect some forceful clarification, perhaps in the form of a doctrinal commission to investigate the SSPX’s concerns and set about the task of outlining that hermeneutic of continuity the Pope keeps talking about.
Expect the SSPX to be reorganized as a personal prelature or something very close to it, an arrangement that both grants the SSPX a reasonable degree of freedom, keeps them where the Pope can see them, and forces them to play nice with the diocesan bishops, who must still grant them faculties to licitly celebrate the Mass and perform valid absolutions, at least for a little while.
Also expect the SSPX that returns to the Church to be much smaller than the one we have today. An entire generation of trads have grown up in the SSPX never knowing unity with Rome and have no great desire for it now. I would not be surprised if Fellay alone among its four bishops returns, and certainly not surprised if the majority of the laity elect to schism (probably led by Williamson, who’ll go sedeprivationist or worse without cooler heads to restrain him).