Tom Heneghan at Reuter’s Faith World Blog has opined that the SSPX bishops are not serious about the dialogue with Rome for full communion. He has the evidence that shows that at least Williamson may not be on the same page as his Superior, Bernard Fellay.
But meanwhile, Benedict himself has spoken on the issue at his general audience yesterday, pointing out (exactly as I and others have been saying) that the reason for lifting the excommunications was so that the process of dialogue might begin which will lead to the Society being restored to full communion with the Church. This is what the Pope said (with my emphasis):
In the homily delivered on the occasion of the solemn inauguration of my pontificate, I said that the “call to unity” is an “explicit” duty of the pastor and I commented on the Gospel passages about the miraculous catch of fish, saying: “Though there were so many fish, the net did not break.” I continued after these Gospel words: “Alas, beloved Lord, with sorrow we must now acknowledge that it has been torn!” And I continued, “But no — we must not be sad! Let us rejoice because of your promise, which does not disappoint, and let us do all we can to pursue the path towards the unity you have promised. … Do not allow your net to be torn, help us to be servants of unity!”
Precisely in fulfilling this service to unity, which determines in a specific way my ministry as the Successor of Peter, I decided some days ago to concede the remission of the excommunication incurred by four bishops ordained without pontifical mandate in 1988 by Archbishop Lefebvre. I have carried out this act of paternal mercy because repeatedly these prelates have manifested their sharp suffering in the situation in which they found themselves. I trust that following from this gesture of mine will be the prompt effort on their part to complete final necessary steps to arrive to full communion with the Church, thus giving testimony of true fidelity and true recognition of the magisterium and the authority of the Pope and the Second Vatican Council.
Tom Heneghan asks the question at the end of his coverage of this issue:
Will Benedict stand up for Vatican II? Or is he using this as another way to re-interpret it in a more conservative way?
The answer to these questions is “Yes, absolutely” and “Yes, quite probably”.
There is absolutely no way that the Lefebvrists will be able to be received back into full communion without accepting “all that the Catholic church believes, teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God” – that INCLUDES the all the decrees and constitutions of the Second Vatican Council. This will be, of course, a huge hurdle for them to jump.
In all ecumenical dialogue, the magisterial documents of the Church are discussed and their proper interpretation is considered. Is it possible that in the discussions with the SSPX, interpretations of the Second Vatican Council will be proposed that are more conservative than has been the case in the past? Undoubtedly. And undoubtedly, the Holy Father would not see this as a bad thing. I would be surprised if his proposed “hermeneutic of continuity” did not get a real test out in these dialogues. If he can make it work for the SSPX, he can make it work for anyone.
Make no mistake. Pope Benedict is not going to admit any bishop into the fellowship of the Church who has reservations about the authority of the Second Vatican Council. But just as certainly, he will be more than happy to take this as an opportunity to rule out interpretations of that Council that are contrary to the tradition and faith of the Church.
And that ought to be good news to all faithful Catholics.