France: Convention signed between the diocese of Bordeaux and the Institute of the Good Shepherd

Source: FSSPX News


On February 1st, 2007, a convention was signed between the diocese of Bordeaux and the Institute of the Good Shepherd. The document refers to the decree of establishment on September 8, 2006 by the Ecclesia Dei Pontifical Commission, and fixes the conditions in which the Institute of the Good Shepherd may use the church of Saint-Eloi, which, it is recalled, is allocated to the diocese of Bordeaux.

This agreement stipulates that the archbishop appoints the parish priest and curate of the personal parish of Saint Eloi entrusted to the Institute of the Good Shepherd, on the recommendation of its General Superior. The services and sacraments of the personal parish must be celebrated exclusively in the Church of Saint-Eloi. Processions and other manifestations outside the church will be subject to the written permission of the archbishop. Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard retains his own right to celebrate in the church of Saint Eloi. His pastoral letters and other official documents will have to be read in the church, where a notice board will be placed for diocesan notices and announcements.

On the material level, the ordinary collections will go to the personal parish, and the collections prescribed by the archbishop will have to be “announced, collected and handed over” to the diocese, just as the church offering.

This convention is established ad experimentum for five years, but it “will be submitted to a yearly re-evaluation during five years.”

In a text of presentation, dated February 2, and available on the website of his diocese, Cardinal Ricard specifies the meaning and scope of the convention. He takes note of the new dispositions of the superior of the Institute of the Good Shepherd: “A personal letter from Father Laguérie, expressing the wish to have more fraternal relationships with the diocese, after years of polemics, convinced me that the time had come to sign a convention with the Institute.” And he goes on: the signing of this agreement is “the expression of a willingness to welcome them into the diocese of Bordeaux and to be in communion with those priests and faithful who have wished to find again full communion with the See of Rome.”

In an interview granted to the daily La Croix on February 4, the archbishop of Bordeaux added: “I must admit that, after the creation of this Institute by Rome, I was very much worried by statements such as “We have won”, “We did not give in on anything,” “We will be the saviors of a Church in ruins”! Such declarations had devastating effects. It would have been impossible to sign a convention on such terms. Today, I sense, in Father Laguérie and the priests of the Institute of the Good Shepherd, a willingness to be in full communion with Rome, and to become integrated into the diocesan family under my Episcopal responsibility.

In his presentation on the Internet, Cardinal Ricard situates the personal parish of Saint Eloi in the “general pastoral” of the diocese of Bordeaux: “It takes its place among the other communities in which this liturgy is celebrated in agreement with the archbishop: the chapels of Christ the Redeemer (in Talence) and of Saint-Germain (in Auros), Saint-Bruno’s church (in Bordeaux). (…) This personal parish has the same rights and duties as the other parishes of the diocese, as they are defined by our diocesan statutes and the universal law of the Church.” And in order to avoid any misunderstanding, a special commission has been set up: “At the suggestion of the Presbyteral Council, I have decided on the creation of a commission of dialogue (between 5 and 7 persons) which will have regular contact with this parish entrusted to the Institute of the Good Shepherd and will facilitate a better mutual relationship.”

A joint communiqué dated February 1, and co-signed by Cardinal Ricard and Father Laguérie, gives the spirit in which the settlement was reached. It is a question of giving a “framework for a better mutual knowledge and a constructive dialogue. Mutual respect will make a calm debate possible concerning the acceptance of the Second Vatican Council, in fidelity to the Magisterium, and about the stakes of evangelization today.” In his text of presentation, Cardinal Ricard explains what he meant in concrete terms by “a calm debate about the acceptance of Vatican II”: “On September 8 last, the priests of the Institute declared that they “accepted the doctrine contained in n° 25 of the dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium of the Second Vatican Council on the Magisterium of the Church and the requisite adherence   to it. They also agreed to be more specific: ‘Concerning certain points taught by the Second Vatican Council or dealing with subsequent reforms of the liturgy and of Canon law, which seem to us hard to reconcile with Tradition, we commit ourselves to a positive attitude of study and of communication with the Apostolic See, and to avoid any polemic’ (Act of adherence – This is the formula adhæsionis which the Ecclesia Dei Commission demands of the priests who leave the SSPX, Ed.) Consequently, continued Cardinal Ricard, it will be possible, in fidelity to the present Magisterium to speak with the members of the Institute and the faithful who join them, about the various issues which cause them problems with the Second Vatican Council.” And he added: “The Second Vatican Council, which is situated in the entire Tradition of the Church, is for us ‘a compass’ in our ecclesial progress, according to the words of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.”

At the end of his interview with La Croix, Cardinal Ricard replied to two questions, one about the possible extension of the convention, the other about the eventuality of a Motu Proprio liberalizing the Tridentine Mass:

Father Laguérie thought that this convention could be used as a “prototype” for other dioceses: as president of the Bishops’ Conference would you encourage such a diffusion?

This convention is designed for the diocese of Bordeaux and refers to a specific situation. It is always possible to draw some inspiration from it, but each bishop remains sole judge of whether it is opportune to call the Institute of the Good Shepherd into his diocese.

The decision of September 8 generated shock waves within French Catholicism and several questions remain regarding an eventual motu proprio liberalizing the Tridentine Mass. You are a member of the Ecclesia Dei Commission in charge of this matter in Rome; will the Holy See really pursue this way of reform?

Benedict XVI wishes to pursue a work of reconciliation with these priests and faithful who have left the full communion with the See of Peter (in particular the Society of Saint Pius X). He is also considering the question of a “liberalization” of the Tridentine Mass. The pope has all the elements of the dossier to hand. He will take his time before reaching a decision on a matter of such importance.