The April 21 London Times ran a story by journalist Richard Owens that claims 3 of the 4 bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X will be "reconciled" with Rome at the end of May. Owen writes, "the readmission to the Church of the three other bishops who were ordained by Dr Lefebvre - Bernard Fellay of Switzerland, Bernard Tissier of France and Alfonso de Gallareta of Argentina - is to be announced next month at a Mass at the Basilica of St Mary Major in Rome, conducted by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos of Colombia, head of the Congregation for the Clergy".
I contacted the Society of Saint Pius X's District Headquarters in England to check the report's veracity. Father Jacques Emily, England's SSPX District Superior, responded that the story of the so-called "reconciliation" is not true. Father Emily explained, "We have here (in England) Father Sélégny, the General Secretary (of the SSPX) who is going to preach a retreat and who confirmed to us that it is all wrong".
Likewise Father Robert MacPhearson at England's District Headquarters said "Father Sélégny told the congregation at Easter Sunday Mass yesterday that the Society of Saint Pius X will have no official representation at the Tridentine Mass to be celebrated by Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos at St. Mary Major in Rome on May 24h".
Renegotiations between Rome and the Society of St. Pius X were established by the Vatican in the summer of 2000 after the SSPX conducted a pilgrimage to Rome for the Jubilee Year. In January 2001, the SSPX established two primary conditions for negotiations from the Vatican as a gesture of good will:
1) That the Vatican make it known that every priest in the world may celebrate the Tridentine Mass without any restriction.
2) That Rome make it clear that the four bishops of the Society of St. Pius X are not excommunicated.
It should be noted, particularly in regard to the first condition, that the SSPX was not thinking only of itself. If Rome acceded to the first condition, it would benefit every Roman Rite priest worldwide.
To date, the Vatican is not willing to agree to these two primary conditions.
Father Franz Schmidberger of the SSPX related in a February 2001 speech that Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos admitted reluctantly that the Tridentine Mass has never been abrogated. According to Father Schmidberger, Cardinal Hoyos said, "Okay, we recognize that the old Mass is not abrogated and is legitimate, but we cannot say it publicly because there will be too much rebellion and difficulties with the bishops. We cannot say it publicly."
Thus the Vatican is aware that there are no restrictions on priests to celebrate the Tridentine Mass, but does not make this truth publicly known. Instead, it mainstains the falsehood that special permission for the Tridentine Mass is must be obtained from the Vatican or the local bishop.
Even before England's SSPX explained that the recent rumor was false, there was strong reason to doubt the London Times report, since Richard Owens presented himself as a journalist who did not know what he was talking about:
1) Owens report continually referred to Archbsihop Marcel Lefebvre as "Dr. Lefebvre". "Dr" is a term more fitted to the Anglican Arch-layman of Canterbury,
2) Owens writes, "the ordination of the bishops will be recognized in retrospect as part of their readmission to the fold". This is statement is patentdly absurd. I was told by a priest in at Rome's Ecclesia Dei office that the Vatican accepts the consecrations of the SSPX bishops as valid, so an alleged "ordination" by Cardinal Hoyos is pointless,
3) Owens writes. "the returning bishops will have to swear loyalty not only to the Pope, but also to the conclusions of Vatican II". First, The Society of Saint Pius X is already loyal to the Papacy of all time by its firm adherence to traditional Catholic teaching. Second, it is simply not believable that the SSPX bishops would suddenly swear loyalty to the progressivist, ecumenical orientation of Vatican II, an orientation that the SSPX has resisted since its inception under Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.
When I asked Father MacPhearson how he thinks these rumors get started in the press, he responded, "I don't know. Perhaps it was an over-zealous journalist who thought he had a scoop".
Postscript - April 22, 2003:
This afternoon (April 21) after I had written my first report about the false news of the SSPX “reconciliation”, I spoke with Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais of the Society of Saint Pius X who is presently giving a retreat at St. Peter’s Priory in Browerville, MN. The bishop says there is no truth in the stories now in the press that three of the four bishops are about to be “reconciled” with Rome. “This is a rumor thrown by Rome in an attempt to divide us” said Bishop Tissier de Mallerais.“We four bishops are all together and are not divided. We do not seek 'reconciliation' with Rome unless Rome converts back to Catholic Tradition, back to the traditional Catholic Profession of Faith”.
Bishop Bernard Fellay, General Superior of the Society of Saint Pius X, knows nothing of such a story and assures that the four bishops, and not only three of them, are well united in their unchanged position for the defense of the Catholic Tradition according to the line of conduct traced by His Grace Archbishop Lefebvre