Pope Benedict XVI is no stranger to controversy. His recent decision to lift the excommunications of four traditionalist bishops has sent shockwaves reaching far beyond Christendom. This controversy may prove the greatest challenge of his pontificate to date — for more reasons than one… The Pope’s January decision marks the close of years of dashed hopes on the part of the Vatican. Benedict’s repeated “magnanimous gestures of peace” made toward the Lefebvrists have not been followed, so far, by any significant step of reconsideration and reconciliation on their part. The Pope’s previous effort at reconciliation fell apart just last year when the SSPX failed to respond to a set of conditions laid out by the Holy See, most notably that the Society would avoid “the pretext of a Magisterium superior to that of the Holy Father.” Of all the concerns, this one likely remains the most problematic. The Lefebvrists have long given the distinct impression that they have set up a parallel Magisterium — yes, one they seem to consider superior to that of the See of Peter.