The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the approval of Pope Benedict, has defined as "insufficient" the position of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X on certain basic doctrinal principles and criteria for interpreting Church teaching.
Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the doctrinal congregation, met for two hours March 16 with Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the society, to explain the Vatican's evaluation of the position of the SSPX, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.
In a formal communique published after the meeting, the Vatican said it wanted to "avoid an ecclesial rupture with painful and incalculable consequences," so Bishop Fellay and leaders of the society were asked to further clarify their response to a "doctrinal preamble" the Vatican asked them to study last September.
The text of the preamble was not made public, but the Vatican had said it "states some doctrinal principles and criteria for the interpretation of Catholic doctrine necessary to guarantee fidelity" to the formal teaching of the Church, including the teaching of the Second Vatican Council.
Fellay delivered the society's official response in January, the Vatican said, and it was "placed under the examination of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and successively under the judgment of the Holy Father."
"In compliance with the decision of Pope Benedict XVI," the communique said, Fellay was given a letter signed by Levada.
The letter explained that "the position he had expressed is not sufficient to overcome the doctrinal problems that are at the basis of the fracture between the Holy See and the society."