The late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre´s Society of St Pius X has been undergoing its own crisis of authority, with its leader Bishop Bernard Fellay being forced to expel two French priests who had criticised his leadership.
Bishop Felay last week announced the expulsion of Fr Philippe Laguérie, who had criticised conditions inside the Society's seminaries.
Bishop Fellay, complaining that his critics were causing a breach of solidarity within the Society, ordered them to leave France, assigned them to new posts in Mexico. Father Laguérie refused, and was expelled.
Fr Laguérie, a pastor for 25 years, reacted to the expulsion order by charging that the SSPX leadership had indulged in an unjustified exercise of their power to stifle criticism, creating a crisis that would "put the entire Society in a very grave situation."
Catholic World News sources point out the the Vatican has no power to intervene in the dispute because there are no official ties between the Vatican and the Society.
The traditionalist group broke from Rome in June 1988, when its founder, the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, was excommunicated for ordaining bishops without a mandate from the Holy See.
Controversies within the traditionalist movement have become widespread, an unnamed Vatican official noted, "particularly in the US, where small unattached congregations have formed." The crisis in France, he suggested, could demonstrate that the Lefebvrist movement has failed to establish a workable system of authority.
The Vatican, which has made two significant moves to reconcile traditionalist Catholics in recent years, has not commented.