|SSPX Bishop* Bernard Fellay|
To give some background, in 1988 Archbishop Lefebvre unlawfully consecrated four bishops for the Society. To consecrate a bishop requires the approval of the Pope, and doing so illegally is an act that incurs an automatic excommunication (called latae sententiae, or "the sentence already determined"). There is no doubt that Lefebvre was aware of the consequences of his actions, as then Cardinal Ratzinger had warned him that it would be a schismatic act and cause his excommunication.
Nor was there any doubt in the mind of the Church, as expressed by Pope John Paul II, that this was a schismatic act and that Lefebvre and the priests involved were automatically excommunicated. As the Pope wrote in his motu proprio Ecclesia Dei:
In itself, this act was one of disobedience to the Roman Pontiff in a very grave matter and of supreme importance for the unity of the church, such as is the ordination of bishops whereby the apostolic succession is sacramentally perpetuated. Hence such disobedience - which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman primacy - constitutes a schismatic act. In performing such an act, notwithstanding the formal canonical warning sent to them by the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops on 17 June last, Mons. Lefebvre and the priests Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta, have incurred the grave penalty of excommunication envisaged by ecclesiastical law.In 2009, Pope Benedict lifted the excommunications against the remaining bishops as an act of good faith with a view to reconciliation, but noted that
the remission of the excommunication was a measure taken in the context of ecclesiastical discipline to free the individuals from the burden of conscience constituted by the most serious of ecclesiastical penalties. However, the doctrinal questions obviously remain and until they are clarified the Society has no canonical status in the Church and its ministers cannot legitimately exercise any ministry.
(Ecclesiae Unitatem, no. 4)
But every attempt at reconciliation on the part of Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and now Holy Father Francis has been rebuffed with determined intransigence. Based on Bishop* Fellay's recent tirade against the Church, it seems obvious that SSPX has no desire to be in union with Rome.
In his recent remarks, as published on Rorate Caeli blog, Fellay states clearly that he views the Holy Mass as promulgated by Pope Paul VI as "bad, it is evil". He rejects the Second Vatican Council and the Novus Ordo ( “It has never been our intention to pretend either that the Council would be considered as good, or the New Mass would be ‘legitimate’”). As Fr Zuhlsdorf intimates, it is all but a formal act of schism.
All the appeals from the Holy Father for reconciliation fall on deaf ears. And they presumably ever shall fall on deaf ears, for it is not in the interest of SSPX to be in union with Rome. Like every other schismatic group, self defined and self regulated and self sufficient, they make their coin preying on confused and disgruntled, but presumably good faith, Catholics.
Pray for their conversion. And especially for those who they lead away from the Church.
* I am unclear as to whether Bernard Fellay's episcopal consecration is even valid -- it was certainly illicit.