The Institute of the Good Shepherd: Declarations and reactions

Source: FSSPX News


1. Declarations made by Fr. Philippe Laguérie, Superior General of the Institute of the Good Shepherd to France Presse Agency

Fr. Laguérie salutes the gesture of Benedict XVI, “a traditionalist pope” (AFP – Sept. 8, 2006)

The integrist priest Philippe Laguérie was rejoicing on Thursday over the authorization obtained from Rome for the establishment of an institute in Bordeaux in which the traditional Latin Mass will be celebrated. And he saluted the gesture of Pope Benedict XVI as coming from “a traditionalist pope”.

“We have a new pope who has understood tradition. Tradition has not yet completely regained its rights, but it is making progress. Pope Benedict XVI is a traditionalist pope. And this is something completely new which gives great hopes to the Church”, the priest told AFP.

In 2004, he was excluded from the SSPX founded by Archbishop Lefebvre, but had continued to celebrate services in the Saint Eloi church in Bordeaux.

He also stressed that the authorization of creating an “institute of pontifical right” in Bordeaux had been obtained with the agreement of Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, President of the French Bishops’ Conference since 2001.

“For the Institute this is the token that it is entering France through the main door, the door of the president of the Bishops’ conference, the cardinal-archbishop of Bordeaux. He gave his explicit agreement”, he indicated.

“Today reconciliation takes place around the cradle of the Institute of the Good Shepherd which was just born on this day”, he added.


Note: On September 13, during a TV debate on the News channel LCI, Fr. Laguérie admitted that the adjective “traditionalist” he used with regard to Benedict XVI was “reductive”. Yves Chiron, in his newsletter Aletheia, comments: “To call Benedict XVI ‘traditionalist’ is simplifying the matter and it is false. Neither the thought, nor the acts of Benedict XVI can be put under the label ‘Traditionalism’. The Institute of the Good Shepherd got the traditional liturgy to be recognized as ‘its own proper rite’”, but it would be a mistake to believe that Benedict XVI has a will to restore the traditional liturgy in the whole Church. During meetings in Fontgombault (an indult Benedictine Monastery), five years ago, he, who was still Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, expounded in a most developed and clear manner his position on the question. He said he was in favor of a ‘reform of the reform’ (of the 1969 Missal), but he was also considering an evolution of the 1962 Missal (with the introduction of new saints, additional prefaces, and so on…). Elsewhere, he mentioned the necessity for the Church to have ‘a single rite’” in the future. On this point, a dispatch from I.Media Press Agency, dated September 8, specifies: “According to Vatican sources, the novelty resides in the fact that ‘Benedict XVI himself desired this step” in which ‘the traditional missal of Saint Pius V is not a missal apart, but an extraordinary form of the unique Roman rite’.  On September 13, during their press conference in Paris, Fathers Laguérie and de Tanoüarn explained that the Vatican authorities only wanted to consider one single Roman rite under two forms: one ordinary (the Pope Paul VI Mass, in the vernacular), and the other extraordinary (the Tridentine Mass in Latin).

On September 8, Mr. René-Sébastien Fournié (seminarian), secretary of Fr. Laguérie, assured the AFP: “We made no concession whatsoever on the rock-bottom problem”. And he added: Cardinal Ricard “gave his agreement to the Institute having his seat in his diocese”. The Archbishop of Bordeaux “had been discussing the matter with Fr. Laguérie for several months, and the atmosphere had taken on a spirit of confidence”, he specified.


The integrists who have rallied to the Vatican mean to establish themselves “everywhere in France”. (AFP – 13-09-06)

The head of the integrist priests who have made an agreement with the Vatican was affirming on Wednesday (September 13) that the new Institute of the Good Shepherd, which has been granted to them by the Holy See, desired to open parishes “everywhere in France and elsewhere”. “They will have to cohabit with us. We will not be a divisive factor, on the contrary”, declared to the press Fr. Philippe Laguérie, Superior General of the Institute, and leader of the five historical disciples of the schismatic Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre who are now rallied to Rome. The institute has in mind abandoned or deserted churches in city centers. “There is no question of arriving somewhere and warning the bishop afterwards”, he assured. But “canon law makes it an obligation for an institute and the local bishop to work together”. The convention which should be signed for the Saint-Eloi church in Bordeaux, which he has been occupying since 2001 in the diocese of Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, President of the French Bishops’ Conference, and which will be the seat of the new institute, “will be the prototype of what we want to accomplish everywhere in France and elsewhere.” According to the priest, Cardinal Ricard like Cardinal Dario Castrillon-Hoyos, to whom the pope has entrusted the dialogue with the “Lefebvrites”, wishes to perform the first ordinations. Four seminarians are ready. The institute already numbers 6 priests and is going to receive about 10 priests from South-America. “Priests from the SSPX are asking to join us, I am cautious”, he added, even if the Vatican “would not find it bad if a sufficient number of priests would come and knock at our door, so that the SSPX may think things over”. According to him, who was excluded in 2004 from the organization founded by Archbishop Lefebvre after having been one of its columns, the decree from the Vatican creating the institute offers them the possibility of “participating in a serious and constructive criticism” in view of “reaching an authentic interpretation” of Vatican Council II, and gives them the right to celebrate exclusively the traditional Mass in Latin. “We are the first landmark set by the pope for a return to liturgical unity”, he said. And he affirmed that the Vatican is about to publish a document, which will “re-establish the traditional Mass in all its rights”. At his side, Fr. Guillaume de Tanoüarn laid stress on “the complete change of atmosphere” in the Vatican of Benedict XVI: “We are no longer second-class Christians, we are accomplishing ‘a work useful for the Church’ according to the words of the decree” creating the institute.


Note: On September 15, the following communiqué was released:

“Fr. Christian Bouchacourt, superior of the South American district categorically denies the insistent rumor which is being broadcasted on the Internet and according to which about 10 priests of the district would join the Institute of the Good Shepherd, erected by Rome a few days ago.

This is not the first time that this kind of insinuation is being spread on the Internet by people who realize that Tradition is constantly growing and gaining strength on our continent.

All the priests of our District remain united to our Superior General, Bishop Bernard Fellay, and are unanimous in refusing any practical agreement like that which the Institute of the Good Shepherd has just signed. They consider that such an agreement entails a grave danger for Tradition.

Unlike the Institute of the Good Shepherd, the SSPX does not ask any privilege for itself. But, on the contrary, its fight only aims at restoring the fullness of Tradition in the whole Church.”


2. Declarations from Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, archbishop of Bordeaux, President of the French Bishops’ Conference and member of the Ecclesia Dei Commission

Communiqué of Cardinal Ricard concerning the Institute of the Good Shepherd, September 8 (excerpts)

(…) In this decision, there is the desire to propose an experience of reconciliation and communion, which will still have to be strengthened and deepened by the facts. This is why the statutes of the Institute are ad experimentum for a 5-year period.

(…) In Bordeaux, the presence of the Institute calls for a convention between the Institute and the diocese, as is the case for any other institute. We still have to work on this convention. We will have to specify the modalities of the presence and of the mission of the Institute, as well as the conditions set for them. Information will be given in due time. A whole task of pacification, of reconciliation, and of communion still has to be accomplished, because up to these last months violence was the characteristic of the relations of several members of the Institute with the diocesan Church. Everybody will have to make an effort. (…)


Interview granted by Cardinal Ricard to the daily La Croix in its September 11 edition.

It is not easy to receive newcomers.

Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, member of the Ecclesia Dei Commission in charge of dealing with the integrist case, is hoping for reconciliation, but adopts a “prudent realism”.

 What does this agreement means concretely?

What is granted is an exclusive use of the rite of the Mass in force in 1962. This concerns the missal as well as the ritual or the breviary.

 Does “exclusive” mean that these priests may refuse to celebrate in the Paul VI rite?

Yes, since the use of their rite is exclusive.


Does this mean that they may refuse, for instance, to join in the Chrismal Mass, which gathers all the priests of a diocese around their bishop during Holy Week?

Indeed, this allows them to answer “no” to the request for concelebration. But, alas, they may very well not be the only ones to do so… After the recent elections in the Society of Saint Peter, it seems to me that the possibility of concelebration for the chrismal Mass may also be ruled out for these priests by their superior.

How are you going to manage these contradictions?

On the one hand, we must accept the pope’s decision, he himself wanted this. He wanted to make a gesture in favor of those who had followed Archbishop Lefebvre, to show them that they could have a place in the Church. On the other hand, things will have to be very clear concerning the Council and the conciliar heritage. I wish that – even if there have been a few deviations or a few abuses – the extremely positive aspect of what the Church has lived since the Council may be reaffirmed. The Church, which set the Council in motion, is my Church. It is the Church in which I studied, in which I was ordained a priest, and a bishop. This Church has given me great joy! The liturgical celebration born of the texts of the Council is truly lived prayerfully, with a sense of nearness to Christ. It is not at all lived on a horizontal level, as it is sometimes said reproachfully. We must render honor to the priests who have been good shepherds since the Council, and who have done a very good job. I would not like the fact that we welcome traditionalist faithful to be thought of, or experienced as a denial of the Council, as if we were questioning the great intuitions of the Council, which have sustained and are still sustaining my presbyterium, and our pastoral work.


Why, in the texts of the agreement, was a “critical” welcome of the Council envisaged?

I quite agree that such or such a point may be questioned, but the tree must not hide the forest. A reformulation or a reorganization of ecclesial life does not at all mean that we question the spiritual event lived by the Church during the Council, and which has been the life of the people of God for forty years.

 Do you believe that reconciliation may take place?

I hope so! If everyone expresses the desire to better understand his neighbor, if this effort is made, it seems to me that reconciliation may begin. But it is a spiritual matter. It is not sufficient that a decree be passed for all the problems to be resolved. The real problem is about fraternal relationships. You had two households living side by side and excommunicating each other, they are now called to live under the same roof. It is not easy to receive newcomers. They must realize that they are not in a conquered land. They are getting into a house where there are others occupants. We have to learn how to live together, even if we live on different floors.

 Does this act have a historical scope?

We cannot say whether this is a historical act. The statutes were granted for five years, so time will tell. We will see who does not keep his promises or, on the contrary, whether it was the real first step towards reconciliation.

Are you optimistic?

In faith, I think that the worst is not necessarily certain, and I want us to give this initiative every chance. But knowing the situation and the persons involved, I remain prudently realistic.

Did you encourage this agreement, or did it come from Rome?

When these priests were excluded from the SSPX, the question of their ecclesial status arose for them. Unless they created a new Church, the only solution left to them was, either to go back some day to the SSPX after their exclusion, or to consider a return to the communion of the Catholic Church. The first solution was incardination. With other bishops, I was not very much in favor of that solution, in as much as incardination would be concerned with a group. I could see for myself the problems this would create in Bordeaux. I advised Fr. Laguérie to contact Rome. He did not do it at once, only a year later. This contact with Rome, I believe, sped things up and ended with the decision, which has been taken.

Were you kept informed of what was going on?

This past May, I was told of the project, and I knew it may happen. I thought that, in any case, a canonical solution had to be found for these priests, especially since they desired to be in a greater communion with Rome. And we could easily see that on the part of the SSPX things were presently at a standstill. Then, it is true that I was somewhat surprised to learn that the decree was to be signed on Friday last. In this respect, what has not yet been specified concerning the establishment in Bordeaux will have to be decided in the coming months.

Do you feel you are taking some ecclesial risk?

The risk was taken by Rome, since they depend upon Rome. The risk is also shared by all the bishops, who will accept these priests in their dioceses.

And you are one of them…

The statutes are clear. For all that concerns the Institute’s internal life, they depend directly on Rome. For the creation of a parish, parish ministry, or the lay apostolate and the mission, they depend upon the local bishop. They are under obligation to secure the local bishop’s agreement for any establishment in a diocese.


3. Reactions of the clergy of Bordeaux

 Communiqué of the priests’ council on September 15

Meeting with Archbishop Ricard, the delegates of the priests of the diocese have expressed their questions, regrets and joy.

On the occasion of the creation of the Institute of the Good Shepherd, the priests’ council of the diocese of Bordeaux:

- reaffirms its communion with its Archbishop, Cardinal Ricard, and accepts as its own the text of the interview he granted to the daily La Croix on September 11, 2006.

- denounces the lack of information and collaboration with the local Church in the creation of the Institute;

- is concerned that a diocese was given no say in a decision in which it was involved;

- repeats the joy of the priests to live their ministry with the zeal born of Vatican Council II, and sets itself the task to invite priests and communities, in the coming months, to tell how the orientations of the council  have inspired their ministry and their life;

- affirms its conviction that brotherhood in Christ supposes kindness a priori and truth in what is said and exchanged. Any reconciliation, which would take place out of this exigency, would but delay the time when new difficulties rise.


Declaration of Fr. Jean Rouet, vicar general of Bordeaux, September 15 (excerpts)

(…) The decree n° 118-2006 from the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, recognizing the Institute of the Good Shepherd as a society of apostolic life, contains a certain number of affirmations on the presupposed agreement of Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard. These affirmations contain misinformation.

(…) We have the impression that kind words are immediately made use of, without the elaboration of any of the precise agreements, the necessary conventions and legal acts, which the Church usually requests.

(…) I would wish that in the coming weeks, our Archbishop, to whom I renew the expression of my total confidence and the service of my freedom as counselor, be received in private audience by the Holy Father himself, to tell him what the Church of Bordeaux is living through on the occasion of these events. (…)


Note: The reference of Fr. Rouet to “misinformation” contained in the decree of erection of the Institute of the Good Shepherd refers to the following passage:

“In a certain number of dioceses in France, the faithful attached to the previous liturgical forms of the Roman rite are lacking pastors available to offer effective help to the bishops for the pastoral ministry to these faithful.

Recently, in the diocese of Bordeaux, a group of priests appeared under the patronage of the Good Shepherd. The members of this group have tried to help His Eminence Most Reverend Jean Pierre Cardinal Ricard with parish work, and first of all in the care of the faithful determined to celebrate the ancient Roman liturgy. The archbishop himself, convinced of the great utility of such collaborators, received this community. He entrusted to them the Saint Eloi church located in his episcopal city, and the pastoral ministry for its faithful.

And since this new Institute wants to offer its pastoral service also to the other bishops who may desire it, in the special circumstances of the present time, it has humbly beseeched the help and support of the Apostolic See.”

Fr. de Tanoüarn alluded to this same passage during the press conference given in Paris on September 13, when he affirmed: “We are no longer third-class Christians; we perform ‘a work useful to the Church’ according to the words of the decree.” We can see here the difference in the interpretation of the same text by the members of the Institute of the Good Shepherd and by the clergy of Bordeaux. This is why Fr. Rouet wished that Cardinal Ricard be received by the Pope himself. Likewise, Bishop Vingt-Trois made known to Fr. de Tanoüarn – he said so on the air waves of Radio Courtoisie on September 13 – that he wanted to speak with the Roman authorities before considering what ministry could be entrusted to the Institute of the Good Shepherd in the archdiocese of Paris.


4. And the SSPX?

 Interviewed by I.Media press agency, on September 21, Cardinal Castrillo-Hoyos answered. (Excerpts)

Does not this gesture jeopardize the negotiations with the SSPX?

I cannot really see the logic of the question. Why a gesture like the erection of the Institute of the Good Shepherd, accomplished under the sign of reconciliation and of full communion regained with the Church, should cause us to question another process, which must also be achieved under the sign of reconciliation and full communion? Besides, these two realities are very much distinct from one another. They are on different levels and require different paths.


With this new institute, the Mass of St Pius V seems to be reinforced as the extraordinary form of the Roman rite. Is this the case?

 This question also seems to me to go beyond what really happened. When the Holy See approves an institute, in this case the Good Shepherd, it approves the reality presented to it. The rite of Saint Pius V never was excluded from the life of the Church. And this is why to this institute, like to many other ecclesial entities, the old rite was granted as its proper rite, for its members as well as for the faithful who go to them.