On Friday 7 July 2006, on the feast of the saints Cyril and Method, the General Chapter of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (a clerical society of apostolic life of pontifical right), gathered in its mother house in Wigratzbad (Germany), has elected today Fr. John Berg as Superior General for a six-year term according to law. An American citizen, Fr. Berg has studied philosophy in the USA and theology in Germany (Wigratzbad) and in Rome. He has worked in pastoral ministry and as a seminary professor. Very Rev. Fr. Berg is the third Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter.
THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: The 'Society of St. Pius X' is another priestly order which also promotes the restoration of the old Tridentine Rite. However, it's status is somewhat in question. Though no formal canonical schism exists between the Society and Rome, four of its bishops (as well as its founder) have been excommunicated -- mainly for political reasons regarding obedience to the pope under the reign of Pope John Paul the Great. Rome currently discourages Catholics from attending Society masses, but imposes no canonical penalty for those Catholics who do. The following is the lastest update (or perhaps speculation) on their order...
Bishop Rifan says:
- Q. Do you think there are sufficient grounds for the Pope to grant the second precondition — lifting the decrees of excommunications (or declaring them null and void) against the bishops of the SSPX and Archbishop Castro de Mayer?
- A. The Pope can lift the decree of excommunication, as a sign of benevolence, in order to facilitate the conversations with the SSPX. That was my suggestion [to the Pope] during the conversations.
Here, Bishop Rifan uses the same exact phrase used by Cardinal Ricard: the Pope will make a "gesture of good-will (geste de bienveillance)," says Ricard; lifting the excommunications will be a "sign of benevolence," says Rifan.
Cardinal Ricard's second statement, that after this "gesture" is made, "it will remain to be seen whether the Fraternity will take the next step," corresponds to what Bishop Rifan says next:
- After this lifting of the decree of excommunications, they will be in the similar condition of the Greek Orthodox, from whom the Pope [Paul VI in 1964] lifted the decree of excommunication too. Afterwards, they will need the canonical regularization and the correction of doctrinal mistakes.
I think we can get a pretty good idea, from these two interviews, what will take place after the Society's General Chapter and the election of the new Superior-General. In all likelihood, if the odd similarity between Cardinal Ricard's "geste de bienveillance" and Bishop Rifan's "sign of benevolence" is not just coincidence, the Pope will lift the SSPX excommunications as a preliminary first step; it will then be the expectation of the Pope that the SSPX will "take the next step," that is, accept "the correction of doctrinal mistakes."