Prot. N 126/2009
Decree of the Congregation for Bishops
In a letter dated December 15, 2008, addressed to His Eminence Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, Bishop Bernard Fellay, also in the name of the other three Bishops consecrated on June 30, 1988, requested anew the removal of the latae sententiae excommunication formally pronounced by a Decree of the Prefect of this same Congregation on July 1, 1988. In the aforementioned letter, Bishop Fellay affirms, among other things: "We are still as steadfast in our determination to remain Catholic and to place all our strength [or "efforts"] at the service of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the Roman Catholic Church. We filially accept her teaching. We firmly believe in the Primacy of Peter and in its prerogatives, and this is the reason why the present situations makes us suffer so much."
His Holiness Benedict XVI, touched with fatherly compassion over the spiritual difficulty manifested by those concerned by the sanction of excommunication and confident that the commitment they expressed in the above quoted letter of sparing no effort to go further in the necessary discussions with the Authorities of the Holy See concerning the issues still pending, and thus of being able to reach quickly a full and satisfactory solution of the problem raised at the origin [also translated as "posed in the origin" which in English could be read as "posed at the outset or beginning"] decided to reconsider the canonical standing of the Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson, and Alfonso de Galarreta, with respect to their episcopal consecrations.
This act expresses the desire to consolidate reciprocal confidence in our dealings, to intensify and give stability to the relations of the Society of St. Pius X [or Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X ]with the Apostolic See. This gift of peace, at the end of the Christmas celebrations, is also intended to be a sign for the promotion of unity in the charity of the universal Church, and to thereby remove the scandal of division.
Desiring that this step be followed without delay by the full communion with the Church of all the Society of Saint Pius X [also translated as "the entire Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X"], in testimony of a true fidelity and genuine recognition of the Magiserium and of the authority of the Pope by the proof of visible unity.
According to the faculties expressly granted [or "conceded"] to me by the Holy Father Benedict XVI, in virtue of the present Decree, I remit the censure of excommunication latae sententiae, pronounced [or "declared"] by this Congregation on July 1, 1988, upon Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Lallerais, Richard Williamson, and Alfonso de Galaretta as I likewise declare void of juridical effects the Decree published at the time [or "I remit from Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson, and Alfonso de Galarreta the censure of latae sententiae excommunication declared by this Congregation on July 1, 1988, while I declare deprived of any juridical effect, from the present date, the Decree emanated at that time."].
Rome, from the Congregation for Bishops, January 21, 2009.
Card. Giovanni Battista Re
Response from the Superior General of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X
The excommunication of the bishops consecrated by His Grace Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, on June 30, 1988, which had been declared by the Congregation for Bishops in a decree dated July 1, 1988, and which we had always contested, has been withdrawn by another decree mandated by Benedict XVI and issued by the same Congregation on January 21, 2009.
We express our filial gratitude to the Holy Father for this gesture which, beyond the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X, will benefit the whole Church. Our Society wishes to be always more able to help the pope to remedy the unprecedented crisis which presently shakes the Catholic world, and which Pope John Paul II had designated as a state of “silent apostasy.” [Emphasis added]
Besides our gratitude towards the Holy Father and towards all those who helped him to make this courageous act, we are pleased that the decree of January 21 considers as necessary “talks” with the Holy See, talks which will enable the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X to explain the fundamental doctrinal reasons which it believes to be at the origin of the present difficulties of the Church.
In this new atmosphere, we have the firm hope to obtain soon the recognition of the rights of Catholic Tradition.