A fascinating in-house SSPX interview with Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the schismatic right-wing order, shows he was taken by suprise by Benedict’s sudden lifting of the excommunications. Why? As Reuters’ Tom Heneghan has it in this FaithWorld post, Fellay says (translation from the French) that relations with Rome had been “rather cold” for months.
Fellay confirms that he rejected the Vatican’s “ultimatum” (maybe call it a “penultimatum”?) last June, and then he wrote the Vatican in December requesting that the excommunications be lifted. “Since the letter was relatively severe, I didn’t expect a quick response. It was just a way to reestablish contact,” Fellay says.
Then boom, in January Vatican officials said they wanted to discuss something with him urgently, and presto, excommuncations gone. As Heneghan writes:

What is striking in this part of Fellay’s account is the apparently sloppy handling of this even beforehand. Let’s step back and remember that this split was the most important schismatic act since the Second Vatican Council. The Vatican has been dealing with this issue for years. Why such a rush all of a sudden?

That question remains. As does where they go from here. Fellay said negotiations with Rome now would be “not necessarily short, maybe even long.” But he seems to have reason to hold out, and the basis for an eventual deal. Another Reuters story recounts Fellay’s interview this week with Famille Chretienne, a Catholic weekly, in which he seemed to indicate how the SSPX would try to get around accepting parts of the Second Vatican Council they don’t like:

“One cannot approach it in a dogmatic way and say ‘amen’ to everything. This approach is completely wrong. There are different domains, themes and degrees of authority,” he said. “In my opinion, many of the problems we point out can be resolved by distinctions and not by absolute acceptances or rejections.”

Nice deal if you can get it. Maybe he can.

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