Rome appoints SSPX head as canonical trial judge

Rome has appointed the superior-general of the Society of St Pius X as a first-instance trial judge in a case involving a Lefebvrian priest.

The move by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was announced by SSPX superior-general Bishop Bernard Fellay during a homily.

The Secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, Archbishop Guido Pozzo, said the appointment did not signal that “existing problems” between the SSPX and Rome had been resolved.

“But it is a sign of benevolence and magnanimity. I see no contradiction here, but rather, a step toward reconciliation,” Archbishop Pozzo said.

This is not the first time the SSPX has made recourse to Rome regarding “delicta graviora” by priests and dispensations from priestly obligations.

The CDF is in charge of dealing with a number of “delicta graviora”, and the one that occurs most frequently involves the sexual abuse of minors.

But what is new is that the CDF has decided to entrust a case, in the first instance trial, to the SSPX superior-general.

Bishop Fellay presented his appointment as an example of the “contradictions” in the Holy See’s approach to the SSPX.

“We are labeled now as being irregular, at best.  Irregular means you cannot do anything,” he said.

“So I was appointed by Rome, by the Congregation of the Faith, to make judgements, canonical Church judgements on some of our priests who belong to a non-existent society for [Rome].”

Bishop Fellay contrasted his appointment with Rome’s treatment of a pilgrimage involving 1500 faithful, from which came a request for a celebration of the old rite in St Peter’s Basilica.

This request was rejected by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.

It was felt that the celebration of a Mass by a Lefebvrian priest before existing problems around canonical regularisation and full communion were resolved would have sent out the wrong signal.

Pope Francis gave his approval to a proposal for the requested Mass to be celebrated by an Ecclesia Dei priest in St Peter’s Basilica.

But SSPX leaders rejected this offer.


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