At the end of a conference that he gave in Poland in July, Archbishop Pozzo answered a few questions from the audience. Fr. Gleize of the SSPX gives the following analysis:
The current situation of the Society of St. Pius X in the Church was one of the themes that was brought up in the context of his remarks on the liturgy, in the seventh question put to him:
Can Pope Francis’ decision to grant the SSPX priests the ability to give sacramental absolution be seen as a way to encourage the faithful to go to SSPX priests for other sacraments?
Archbishop Pozzo’s answer was anything but ambiguous.
No, I do not think it can be interpreted in that way; it is not an encouragement to go see the Society priests. The pope gave his motives in the decree. He is concerned for the spiritual salvation of the SSPX faithful. That is the reason he made sacramental absolution for sins and Extreme Unction for sick persons valid and licit even after the Holy Year, for the good of souls. Suprema lex salus animarum. This was also the reason for the Letter on Marriages, to grant the possibility of a valid marriage with due canonical form, for the good of souls, and certainly in view of a reconciliation. The priests and bishops of the Society of St. Pius X nonetheless exercise their ministry illicitly and illegitimately. They are not excommunicated, of course, not anymore; the excommunication was lifted, so they are not formally schismatic – it is absolutely false to claim that the SSPX is schismatic from a formal, canonical point of view – because there is no longer a schism since they are no longer excommunicated; that is very clear. But they are in an irregular situation, and insofar as they do not have a canonical recognition, they do not exercise their ministry legitimately, except for confessions and marriages, as granted by the pope. We must be very clear about this. The necessity of a canonical recognition is not just a notarial, formal act. The Church is a visible structure and it is essential for the clergy to have a canonical recognition from the Holy See. And this is another truth of the reality of the Church and they should admit it.
The SSPX is Not Schismatic
This answer calls for two remarks. The first remark: “It is absolutely false to claim that the SSPX is schismatic from a formal, canonical point of view.”
Should we see this as a denial of Cardinal Burke’s remarks last year, in his conference on July 15, 2017, in Merdford? In any case, Archbishop Pozzo is determined to clear the Society of the accusation of schism.
The reason for this is that the excommunication of the SSPX bishops and priests was lifted. Which raises the question of the exact impact of this excommunication. Based on the answers the Holy See sent to Bishop Brunner of Sion in 1997, the bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1988 would have encountered excommunication by reason of the crime of a consecration without a papal mandate. The excommunication would apply to all those who formally adhered to the "schismatic movement" inaugurated by this episcopal consecration.
In his Letter to the Bishops on March 10, 2009, Benedict XVI declared that he lifted the excommunication incurred by the four bishops consecrated in 1988 by Archbishop Lefebvre, nothing more, nothing less. It is not unreasonable to think that he also and by the same acted lifted the excommunication which would have resulted from a formal adherence to a state of schism, judging that the four bishops had sufficiently expressed “their recognition in principle of the Pope and his authority as Pastor, albeit with some reservations in the area of obedience to his doctrinal authority and to the authority of the Council.” Archbishop Pozzo’s answer that we have just quoted confirms this interpretation.
An Unsatisfactory Situation
The second remark: the situation of the SSPX priests remains unsatisfactory in the eyes of the Holy See. For these priests do not have the canonical recognition that is indispensable for anyone who wishes to exercise a legitimate ministry in the Church. The favors granted to them by Pope Francis therefore remain exceptions, conceded for the spiritual good (salvation) of the faithful who go to these priests.
In Rome’s eyes, they do not make the ministry of the SSPX priests legitimate outside of the conditions provided by the Pope (for the sacraments of Penance and Extreme Unction and the delegation granted for the celebration of marriages).
Archbishop Pozzo is thus showing that Rome still does not recognize the state of necessity that authorizes the priests of Tradition to work for the salvation of souls, despite the absence of an official recognition from the conciliar authorities.
But if the Society is not schismatic, then why does Rome continue to consider its situation irregular? The explanation was given by Archbishop Pozzo in his answer to a preceding question (the sixth):
“The problem will remain so long as the Society of St. Pius X does not adhere to the doctrinal declaration approved by Pope Francis and presented by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”
The problem, therefore, is indeed, first and foremost, a doctrinal problem. In Rome’s own eyes, the canonical recognition depends on the resolution of this problem.
We have to be clear on this, too. Indeed.
-- Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize, priest of the Priestly Society of St. Pius X
Originally Posted in French on Courrier de Rome