Archbishop Augustine DiNoia
The traditionalist Society of St. Pius X will have a future only if it returns to full communion with the Vatican, said the Vatican official responsible for relations with traditionalist Catholics.
The society must also stop publicly criticizing the teaching of the pope, said Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, vice president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.
"Surely the time has come to abandon the harsh and counterproductive rhetoric that has emerged over the past years," Di Noia wrote to members of the SSPX in an Advent letter.
The archbishop's letter was sent several weeks before the SSPX superior, Bishop Bernard Fellay, gave a speech in Canada Dec. 28 in which he described the Jews as enemies of the Church and described as "evil" the Mass as reformed by the Second Vatican Council.
In the speech, Fellay said he had continued the discussions for three years because top Vatican officials told him that Pope Benedict's true views were not reflected in official statements demanding the group accept the validity of the modern Mass and the Second Vatican Council as part of tradition.
Vatican Radio reported Jan. 20 on the contents of Di Noia's Advent letter.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told the French Catholic newspaper La Croix that the letter was a personal appeal from Di Noia.
While Di Noia said in the letter that the Vatican would not and could not continue to forever remain silent when SSPX leaders misrepresent what is taking place in the discussions.
Nor can it ignore the SSPX publicly rejecting positions still supposedly being discussed with the Vatican, he said.
"A review of the history of our relations since the 1970s leads to the sobering realization that the terms of our disagreement concerning Vatican Council II have remained, in effect, unchanged," he wrote.
Di Noia suggested the focus of future discussions would need to change to avoid "a well-meaning, but unending and fruitless exchange.
"Nothing less than the unity of the Church is at stake."
"Our souls need first to be healed, to be cleansed of the bitterness and resentment that comes from 30 years of suspicion and anguish on both sides," he said.
But healing also is needed for the "imperfections that have come about precisely because of the difficulties, especially the desire for an autonomy that is in fact outside the traditional forms of governance of the Church."
Di Noia said a serious change of attitude was needed to move from a situation of stalemate toward reconciliation.
Humility must mark the followers of Christ, he said, and Christians must strive to recognize the goodness in others, even those with whom they disagree.
The unity of the Church is of such high value – theologically and not just practically – that Catholics are called to work to preserve or recover it "even if it involves suffering and patient endurance."