C&W: What has changed in the Vatican’s position since the beginning of the [current] pontificate?
Pozzo: There has been an integration of new perspectives. From 2009 to 2012, particularly the theological debate was at the forefront. There were doctrinal difficulties that hindered the canonical recognition of the Society [of St. Pius X]. However, we know that life is more than just doctrine. In the past three years, there has been the added desire to get to know and understand the Society in its concrete reality.
C&W: Why has the SSPX been offered the prospect of the establishment of a so-called personal prelature?
Pozzo: This seems to be the [most] suitable canonical form. Mgr. Fellay has accepted this proposal [Vorschlag], even though we still have to work out some details in the coming months. Only Opus Dei has this [personal prelature] arrangement [at the moment];
this is a great mark of confidence for the SSPX. It is clear that a canonical solution presupposes a resolution of the doctrinal questions.
C&W: What doctrinal questions are at issue?
Pozzo: As Pope Benedict XVI explained in his interview book Light of the World, the SSPX bishops incurred excommunication because Mgr. Marcel Lefebvre had consecrated the bishops in 1988 without papal approval. After Bp. Fellay recognized the [papal] primacy on behalf of the other bishops in 2009, the excommunication was lifted. Pope Benedict XVI stated expressly that the excommunication had nothing to do with the Second Vatican Council but with an offense [Verstoß] against the primacy.
C&W: Why is the Society still in a canonically irregular situation?
Pozzo: The rescinding of the excommunication cannot be equated with a canonical recognition, which cannot happen until there is a resolution of the doctrinal problems. As long as this hasn’t happened, the priests cannot exercise their functions [Amt] legitimately.
C&W: So what is still missing?
Pozzo: The heart of the matter is the question to what extent [bis zu welchem Grad] some texts of the Second Vatican Council are in continuity with the perennial magisterium of the Church. We are in complete agreement with the SSPX on the principle that the council can only be correctly understood within the context of the whole of Tradition and the perennial magisterium. The council is not a pastoral super-dogma but a part of the entirety of Tradition and the perennial magisterium.
C&W: What does this mean?
Pozzo: This means that although Church Tradition does develop, it can never develop in the sense of a new understanding that represents a contradiction to the former understanding, but [only] in the sense of a deeper understanding of the depositum fidei,
of the authentic deposit of faith. In this sense all ecclesiastical documents must be understood, including those of the council.
These presuppositions, together with an acceptance of the creed [Verpflichtung zum Glaubensbekenntnis], with the acceptance of the sacraments and the papal primacy, form the basis for the doctrinal declaration that is being put before the Society to sign. These are the prerequisites for a Catholic to be in full communion with the Catholic Church.
C&W: You no longer expect the SSPX to accept all of the conciliar declarations, including the texts regarding ecumenism or interreligious dialogue?
Pozzo: The Society professes adherence to the defined dogmas of the faith and the Catholic truths which were reaffirmed in the conciliar documents. These must, however, be accepted according to the degree of assent that is owed them. Doctrines of the Catholic Church that were proposed by the Second Vatican Council that must decidedly receive internal assent include, for example, the teaching of the sacramentality of episcopal consecration as the fullness of the sacrament of holy orders and the doctrine of the primacy of the Pope and the episcopal college in union with its head, as laid out by the dogmatic constitution
Lumen Gentium and as interpreted by the Nota explicativa praevia [preliminary explanatory note] that the highest authority wanted [to be added to the document].
The SSPX has difficulty with some aspects of the decree Nostra aetate on interreligious dialogue, of the decree Unitatis redintegratio on ecumenism, and of the declaration Dignitatis humanae on religious freedom or with questions regarding the relationship of Christianity to modernity. These are not matters of doctrine, however, nor are they definitive statements; rather, they are instructions or statements of guidance for pastoral practice. We can continue to discuss these pastoral aspects even after a canonical recognition in order to settle [these questions].
C&W: So the Vatican has lowered the bar?
Pozzo: No. In the past years, we clarified what questions are essential and what topics can still be discussed later. Formerly we tried to reach immediate agreement on all questions, unfortunately without success. Now we’ve asked ourselves: What are the truly essential requirements for being Catholic? In
consultation with the Pope, these requirements already mentioned are included in the doctrinal declaration that is being put before the Society.
C&W: Who guarantees that the controversial questions will not simply be ignored after the canonical recognition?
Pozzo: The SSPX has committed itself to dialogue. The continuation of the discussion need not scare anyone and can only be enriching for the entire Church. In my talks with representatives of the Society I have encountered many open minds in this regard, even though there are also some more rigid and more skeptical attitudes [to be found] at the same time.