by Martin Newland
A TRADITIONALIST fraternity composed of former members of the outlawed Society of St Pius X is to ordain its first priest in Rome on December 10 with the full approval of the Pope.
The Society of St Peter, which comprises 32 trainee priests, two thirds of whom are "refugees" from French and German Lefebvrist seminaries, was formally declared a Society of Apostolic Life with Pontifical Right as part of a damage limitation exercise undertaken by Rome following Archbishop Lefebvre's schismatic consecration of four bishops in the summer.
It has near full immunity from the jurisdiction of the local bishop and those who submit themselves for the priesthood need not be vetted by him.
Cardinal Mayer, who heads a special traditionalist commission set up by the Pope to dissuade as many Catholics as possible from following Archbishop Lefebvre into schism, is to personally ordain a priest and a sub-deacon of the new fraternity in Rome. The ordinations are to be conducted according to the old rite, and the ordination of a sub-deacon, an office that has been defunct since 1968, is seen as a major concession to the traditionalists.
Fr John Emerson, the only English speaking member of the fraternity and a former member of the Society of St Pius X, spoke of the folly of Archbishop Lefebvre in turning down Rome's concessions made during protracted negotiations aimed at stopping the archbishop consecrating his own bishops.
"Rome was ready to give us all we wanted, I don't know why the archbishop deliberately ruined our chances of incorporation into the Church," he said.
"Our incorporation into the Church does not nullify our significance," said Fr Emerson, who was about to return to the fraternity's headquarters at Wigratzbad near Lake Constance. "We celebrate exclusively the old liturgy in all sacraments from the Mass to Holy Orders and people are already packing our churches. We are not simply former Lefebvrists, we represent the aspirations of many Catholics who have longed for the old rite and traditional principles."