Unitatis Redintegratio of Vatican II wisely concentrated on what was positive; what the Catholic Church and other bodies could confidently be said to hold in common. (The same attitude was adopted towards non-Christian religions.)
This was rather like looking at the Orthodox wine glass and saying "Goody! It's three quarters (or more) full". But in the dialogue between the Vatican and the SSPX, all the time has been spent haggling about whether the SSPX glass might be a milligram or two less than full.
The modern Catholic Ecumenical Industry does not shout at Orthodoxy "You must accept every word in the Decrees of Florence, and the entire post-Florentine papal Magisterium". Or, if it does, it does so too quietly for me to have heard it. One curial official has recently said, of the SSPX, that "they must change their approach and accept the conditions of the Catholic Church and the Supreme Pontiff". Is this the way that the Vatican talks about the Orthodox ... or the Methodists ... ?
I think that the situation with regard to the SSPX is urgent. Although Archbishop Lefebvre wisely chose young men to be consecrated bishops, those young men are now 25 years older. The time must come when the problems surrounding the consecration of their successors will have to faced. Must we really, when that time comes, revisit all those bad-tempered and endless arguments about States of Necessity and Excommunications latae sententiae? Is there any other single ecclesial group for whom the Holy See would prescribe that lugubrious prospect as the Way Forward to a Joyful Reconciliation? Is it to be for nothing that Benedict XVI cut that particular Gordian Knot? And, by doing so, incurred the ranting calumnies of the ignorant and the ill-disposed?
Pope Francis has critics who believe that his openness, his humility, his desire to cut through red tape, his preference for a Church that does something even if mistakes are made, is all PR, all posturing. I do not think that they are right. I think he is prayer-filled and sincere.
But the crisis he faces is greater than is often assumed. If Rome simply cannot achieve an accommodation even with the SSPX, with whom it holds in common all the dogmatic definitions of all the Ecumenical Councils and both the ex cathedra definitions of Roman Pontiffs, what realistic possibility is there that it will ever make progress with more doctrinally distant churches and ecclesial bodies? The very possibility of ecclesial reconciliation, of unitatis redintegratio, is at stake. If Rome can pull it off with the SSPX, then anything is on the cards. But if not ... Clio waits with baited breath ...
I can think of one, massive, reason why Francis is the man to conclude this episode. If Benedict had done so, all the predictable ninnies in the Catholic and non-Catholic Media would have said that this was just further evidence that he was an arch-reactionary. Francis, if he solves it, will create massive puzzlement among the predictable ninnies, but his current Media reputation will enable him, so to speak, to get away with it. This time, early in this pontificate, is the moment, the divine kairos, for such an action, which may very probably not recur. (There is evidence that the more perceptive commentators in the liberal Media are already beginning to see through his persona.)
It is open to the Holy Father to solve the SSPX 'problem' within days. The Roman Pontiff regularly grants an audience, I think on Friday evenings, to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Next Friday, he could give Archbishop Mueller his orders. During the next audience, he could sign the documents*. The following Wednesday, at his General Audience, in between kissing the babies and hugging the cripples, he could embrace in public His Excellency Mgr Fellay and the other Reverend and Right Reverend leaders of the SSPX, in front of all the world's cameras and all its head-scratching journalists. And, just as he electrified the world by his choice of the feet to be washed and kissed on his first Maundy Thursday, Francis could use a dozen young clerics of the Society in his second Maundy Thursday pedilavium. (After all, Paul VI, when they had the junketings in Rome to celebrate the remission of the 1054 excommunications, disconcerted poor Metropolitan Meliton by diving to the ground and kissing his feet ... humility ... you know it makes sense ... )
Then he could deliver an address on Reconciliation. It might go down in History as his Beard of Aaron Address.
Or if the Holy Father is not adventurous enough, or not sufficiently his own master, to be able to do this, the remission of Archbishop Lefebvre's excommunication would be a first and a gracious gesture.
And the more inane or childish you think my remarks and my opinions are, the more I think you ought to stop sniggering and face up to the questions I posed in my previous post: is there a Plan in place, other than the plan of waiting for the decades to change into centuries and the breach to become set in stone? And: is that the Vatican II model of Ecumenism?
* As Vatican observers have often pointed out, the obvious solution is to 'grant' to the SSPX precisely what, de facto, they already have. This would preserve the Holy See from the indignity of negotiating, and very considerably reduce the risk of a split within the SSPX. There need only be included two extra provisions, both lifted from Anglicanorum coetibus: (1) requiring the SSPX to consult with local hierarchies/ordinaries about developments in their mission without giving the hierarchies/ordinaries any right of actual veto; and (2) providing for the Council of SSPX to send a terna to Rome when an episcopal vacancy happens. A substitute could then at once be nominated for Bishop Williamson.