France: Traditionalists on the agenda at bishops’ meeting

Source: FSSPX News


The French bishops, meeting in Lourdes for their Spring Plenary Assembly – from April 4 to 7 – considered the social crisis which is shaking France, and at the same time carried on with their structural reforms. They also considered the place for traditionalists in their dioceses. We reproduce below the article which appeared in the April 6 edition of La Croix, which gives an account of this meeting, and the conclusions of Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, president of the French Bishops Conference, as well as the reaction of Fr. Régis de Cacqueray, the District Superior of France of the Society of St. Pius X, which appeared in the April 8 edition of Le Figaro.

 La Croix, April 6, 2006

 (…) Another weighty question: the place of traditionalist groups (linked with Rome), or even the eventual reception of the integrist (the Lefebvrists, in rupture with the Catholic Church) in the dioceses, at a time when the Pope is preparing to publish a motu proprio on the rite of the Mass. After having studied the statistics (issued by the traditionalist group Oremus) of a census in France on 35,000 integrist and 45,000 traditionalists, three bishops – Mgr. Vingt-Trois (Paris), Mgr. Saint-Macary (Rennes) and Mgr. Rey (Toulon) – spoke of their “rather good” relations with some monastic communities celebrating according to the rite of Saint Pius V.

 But even “supposing a total of 80,000 French faithful attached to the Tridentine liturgy, that will never add up to more than a few hundred families per diocese,” was the opinion of one of the bishops, who did not want to consecrate “too much time to it, when there are many other pastoral and social priorities.”


Our comments:

 - The announcement by La Croix of this hypothetical motu proprio on the rite of the Mass was taken up the following day by a Vatican Radio journalist, then issued by Il Tempo on April 9, and then put out under the trademark “according to sources at the Holy See” by websites such as Golias (progressive) and Virgo Maria (sedevacantist). Which shows the seriousness of the sources used by these two sites!

 - La Croix puts the remarks by Mgr. Vingt-Trois and those of Mgr. Saint-Macay and Mgr. Rey on the same level. It would be more accurate to draw attention to the fact that the archbishop of Paris is totally in line with his predecessor Cardinal Lustiger, who intervened at Lourdes, in order to give his far from conciliatory opinion on relations with the Traditionalists.

 - Whatever this anonymous bishop might say who doesn’t want to devote “too much time” to the question of Tradition, there are 80,000 faithful attached to the Tridentine liturgy, which is the equivalent of the practicing faithful of two dioceses of France.


Conclusions of Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard at the end of the Assembly of the Bishops of France at Lourdes (April 7 2006)

 The reception of “Traditionalist” groups within our dioceses

 We wish to take stock of the reception and the place of “traditionalist” groups in our dioceses. In his motu proprio, Ecclesia Dei adflicta of 1988, Pope John Paul II asked the bishops to respond “widely and generously” to requests from the faithful and groups of faithful wishing to celebrate Mass according to the rite of the1962 missal, more commonly called “the Mass of St. Pius V.” Now, over the last 15 years, the situation has evolved. New demands have materialized, new priestly societies have appeared, putting themselves at the service of these groups, young men have entered their seminaries, private schools have been created for which parents are directly responsible. Every bishop has had to cope pastorally with this ever changing situation. Our discussion has shown that many have been concerned to express clearly our welcome for this diversity, while at the same time safeguarding the unity of the diocesan Church: how do we acknowledge the place in the Church for a diversity of liturgical sensibilities and ecclesial animations, without creating parallel churches which would have no connection with one another? We feel that this is a key ecclesiological and pastoral issue. As bishops, we are ready to commit ourselves to this real task of establishing communion. This is why the setting up of a juridical structure, which would risk loosening the links of these faithful with their membership in their diocesan Church, does not seem to us to be timely.

 We have expressed a desire to pursue our reflections and to seek what the general framework and the recommendations might be, at the level of this Conference, which would be good to take on board for the reception of traditionalist groups.

 In order to have a follow up to this reflection, the permanent Council has asked a small working group to present a text on this question to our Assembly in November.

 The question of relations with the Society of St. Pius X merits specific treatment. We know that pope Benedict XVI is concerned about it. In the weeks or months which lie ahead, he must give directives to facilitate the way to a possible return to full communion. We will welcome them with faith and put them to work faithfully. Evangelically, everything must be done so that Our Lord’s words are realised: “That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in Thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:21)

 This communion must be sought in charity and truth. Charity implies that we seek to know each other, to understand each other, to rid ourselves of the false images which we may have of each other. It also involves abandoning polemic and the desire for confrontation. The truth involves being clear on our points of dissention. These are in any case concerned less with liturgical questions than with the acceptance of the magisterium, particularly that of Vatican II and the popes of the last few decades. So this communion may be accompanied by questions and demands for precision and thoroughness. It will not tolerate a systematic rejection of the Council, criticism of its teaching or disparagement of the liturgical reforms which the Council decreed.

 Certainly, there were abuses in the years following the Council; some used the term the “spirit of the Council”, which did not have much to do with it, as Pope Benedict XVI emphasized in his speech to the Curia on December 22. But we must not forget all of these priests, religious and lay people, who put the Conciliar reforms into practice, with wisdom and an apostolic sense and have contributed to the comprehensive reception of the Council into the Church. It is important today to express our gratitude to them.


Comments on the passages in bold type:

 - The French bishops have taken into account an evolution in the situation of traditionalists since 15 years. They consider that they can no longer stick to their position of even a decade ago: to wait for Tradition to die out by itself… The young parents, the schools founded for their children, the priestly and religious vocations have obliged them to reconsider their point of view.

 - The bishops are afraid of a juridical structure which would exempt Traditionalists from their authority. They let it be known here, just as Cardinals Lustiger and Ricard had said, concerning an eventual personal prelature for the Society of St. Pius X. (see DICI n° 133)

 The French bishops, realizing that they are far from unanimous, are setting up a commission responsible for compiling a report. This is typically French.

 On the subject of the Society of St. Pius X, they say that they will rely on what the Pope decides in the weeks or months to come. If we can believe what the Vatican expert John Allen says (see From Rome “The meeting of heads of dicasteries of April 7”), the cardinals could, by their opposition, make sure that the weeks become months, even years.