From the Archives: On the Withdrawal of the 1988 Excommunications

January 18, 2023
Source: District of the USA
Bishop Bernard Fellay, former Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X

Following the passing of Pope Benedict XVI, the New York Times along with several other media outlets called attention to the late pope’s 2009 withdrawal of the 1988 excommunications of the Society of Saint Pius X’s (SSPX) four bishops. Unsurprisingly, the Society was not asked for comment.

While nearly 14 years have passed since Benedict XVI’s gracious act, misunderstandings persist concerning both the excommunications themselves and the SSPX’s position on their lifting. To provide clarity on the matter, Bishop Bernard Fellay, then-Superior General of the SSPX, issued a press release and a letter discussing the contested excommunications and the ultimate purpose of their withdrawal, which was to facilitate doctrinal talks between the Society and Rome. Although those talks did not result in an agreement regularizing the SSPX’s apostolate, they provided the Society with an important opportunity to express openly its positions on Vatican II, the New Mass, and the crisis in the Church to the authorities in Rome.

Those wishing to learn more about the 1988 excommunications and the issues they raise are directed to the anthology Is Tradition Excommunicated? and the documentary volume Archbishop Lefebvre and the Vatican. Both are available from Angelus Press.