Lefebvrians say preamble is not acceptable as they eagerly wait for a response

In an interview with “Die Welt”, Abbot Franz Schmidberger, Lefebvre’s first successor, said “If Rome is asking us to accept the entire Council, unconditionally, I see no possibility for reconciliation”
Andrea Tornielli
vatican city

In a homily pronounced during his recent visit to the United States, Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X declared that the “Doctrinal Preamble” proposed by the Holy See to the Lefebvrians, could not be signed in its current form. This statement, which did not signify an end to the Society’s dialogue with the Holy See, is now being reiterated  and clarified even further by the abbot Franz Schmidberger, who was Archbishop Marcel lefebvre’s first successor as well as acting as a go-between in Vatican- Lefebvrian relations. In a long interview with Vatican correspondent Paul Badde, published by the German newspaper Die Welt on 13 February, the abbot confirmed that the Lefebvrians are not prepared to reconcile with the Pope “at any price”.

Schmidberger explained that “On 14 September 2011, Cardinal Levada presented Mgr. Fellay with a “Doctrinal Preamble”, the acceptance of which is the condition for canonical recognition of the Society. We consulted at length on the text and reached the conclusion that it is not acceptable.” The abbot added that he delivered Fellay’s response again, in person, to Rome on 1 December and – upon the Vatican’s request – sent another note clarifying the original response. “We are now eagerly awaiting a reply from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

In response to the embarrassing statements made by the bishop of the Lefebvrians, Richard Williamson, Schmidberger said: “I am not a prophet, but I think that during the debate about the canonical structure for the Society, which will certainly not be completed in just one session, those who will take part will speak with Bishop Williamson. What can certainly be expected of him is that he will obey the instructions of his superior general.”

The first successor to Lefebvre stated that the Society’s founder himself had been very clear about the fact that “the current ecumenism characterised by religious relativism and religious freedom which gave rise to today’s secularism, and collegiality, which completely paralyses Church life, is unacceptable to us.” And he said these problems still exist today.

On the crucial theme of religious freedom, Schmidberger says: “Religious freedom is not, above all, a question of practice but of doctrine. The Popes’ condemnation of religious freedom has never intended to force others to accept Catholic religion, but has implied that a state in which the majority of the population is Catholic, should recognise that the Catholic religion is the one revealed by God. At the same time, it can of course tolerate other religions and confessions and make this tolerance part of civil law.” But, he added, “Error never has a natural right.”

Replying to a question on the risks of a permanent separation from Rome, the abbot said: “An emergency is an emergency; it is abnormal and aspires to normalization. But how can we reach an agreement with meetings such as the gathering in Assisi, which implicitly (not explicitly!) sustain that all religions constitute paths to salvation? We are definitely suffering in the situation we are in, but we are suffering even more as a result of this religious indifferentism that leads an infinite number of souls towards perdition.”

In terms of the dissent and protests that the Northern European Churches are experiencing, Schmidberger said: “The Society will be a huge support to the Pope when it comes to healing the latent schism that is present everywhere in Europe as a result of forces trying to break free from the central authority, as is happening in Austria for example.” The Church’s problem “is not the Society, but modernist theologians and the collapse of Church life since the Council.”

So on what conditions would the Lefebvrians sign an agreement with the Holy See?

“If Rome’s leaders do not ask for something that is contrary to the traditional teaching and practice of the Church, in order to grant us canonical recognition, there will be no problem in the regularization going ahead.If, however, Rome asks us to accept the entire Council unconditionally, I see no possibility for a reconciliation.”

One can therefore assume that the version of the Doctrinal Preamble presented by Rome to the Society of Saint Pius X, which remains unpublished, contains passages regarding the Council and Lefebvrians claim they cannot sign the document, despite manifesting their wish for canonical regularisation and their entry into full communion with the Pope. Now is is the Holy See that will have to decide on what response to give to the Lefebvrians’ negative reply, delivered on 14 September.
One can only pray.

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