The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith last March conducted a survey of bishops around the world on the application of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum in dioceses. The Conference of Bishops of France (Cef) provided a summary of the results.
This manner of proceeding is characteristic of the modern collegial spirit. A bishop has authority in his diocese, and he may have his own judgments that will not necessarily be accurately reflected in a synthesis of the thinking of all the bishops in a country.
The document reveals that 87 out of 92 metropolitan dioceses responded to the survey, representing a 95% result. But it is possible that the other dioceses sent their reply directly to Rome, as did one of the dioceses listed.
The Traditional Mass: How Many Divisions?
Based on the estimates in the text, it appears that at least 15,000 people attend the motu proprio Mass every Sunday in France. However, this figure is underestimated according to Liturgical Peace, which has been conducting surveys and estimates in many countries for years.
According to this publication, about 67,000 people attend the Tridentine Mass every Sunday in France, including the places of worship of the Society of Saint Pius X.
The Cef document reveals that in the diocese of Versailles, about 9% of practitioners attend the motu proprio Mass, though this number still does not include the Society of Saint Pius X. Without wanting to unduly extend this particular result, it is probable that at least 5% of Catholics in France practice in the traditional rite.
The Desiderata and Claims of the Episcopate
The interest of the synthesis of the Cef is to provide the opinion of a part of the French episcopate on the question of the traditional Mass and everything connected to it.
The text notes that many dioceses use the Ecclesia Dei societies (Fraternity of St. Peter, Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, Institute of the Good Shepherd, etc.). In answering the nine questions asked, the bishops show a recurring concern: how to obtain substantive adherence to conciliar reform? The negative aspects of the situation created by the motu proprio listed in the third answer are characteristic. Here is a sample.
- Injures the unity of the Church. Challenge of the Second Vatican Council (“mentality of resistance”). Communities that are very critical of the “Conciliar Church.” “Two churches.”
- Group in a closed environment; isolated; self-reflective; community apart. Subjectivism and individualism.
- No passing between the two forms of the only rite that could be expected.
- Difficulties for catechesis (different paths).
- Risk of identifying the Mass in extraordinary form to the only “true” Mass.
Another major concern of the episcopate is the influence that this situation could have on the clergy in formation - a question that was, moreover, raised by the inquiry. On the one hand, there is a fear that the young clergy will be drawn to the “extraordinary” rite - which the bishops acknowledge, by the way.
And on the other hand a bishop “suggests the idea of training a few seminarians in the celebration according to the extraordinary form of the Roman rite in order to get rid of the dependence of particular institutes, especially the FSSP which celebrate exclusively according to the extraordinary form.” In a word, the bishops want to control absolutely what they have been forced to concede by the motu proprio.
Suggestions Offered by Bishops for the Future
The synthesis notes five major themes addressed by the bishops:
1. Encourage the faithful of the extraordinary form to participate more in diocesan life to prevent a parallel Church from being established.
2. Share the same liturgical (sanctoral) calendar and the same lectionary.
3. Return to the exclusive use of the extraordinary form of the Roman rite.
4. Nurture the communion of faith within the Church. With this note: “The moral teaching of the Church should not be forgotten… until the reception of Amoris laetitia.”
5. To remedy the weakness of the missionary dynamism of the ecclesial communities celebrating according to the extraordinary rite.
The last two points show how blind the episcopate is. The missionary dynamism of the French dioceses is well known: the steady decline of practitioners is a sure example.
And it’s clear that if churches are emptying, it’s because of the doctrinal and moral deficiency, the poverty of the spiritual life proposed today by the “conciliar” Church. To rally to its principles is to prepare for the same decline.
Finally, there is a point on which we can only agree, this is the last sentence of the document: “The application of this motu proprio ultimately raises ecclesiological questions rather than liturgical ones.”
This is the whole question: a new ecclesiology, new rites, new theology, new catechism, new canon law, and finally a new “conciliar” Church which is still dying before our eyes.
Pour ceux qui désirent lire le rapport de la Cef in extenso, le fichier est disponible ici :