The Motu Proprio  and the traditionalist

Source: FSSPX News


In an article published on Sunday July 8, Vittorio Messori, journalist for Corriere della Sera, presented Bishop Bernard Fellay’s reaction to the Motu Proprio released the day before. He repeated the words of the Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X: ‘This is a truly historic day. We extend our deep gratitude to Benedict XVI. His document is a gift of grace. It is not a step, it is a leap in the right direction.’ For the Lefebvrite Superior, the ‘normalization’ of the Mass ‘not of Saint Pius V’, he specified, ‘but rather of the Church of all times’, is an act of justice, and is an extraordinary supernatural help in a time of serious crisis in the Church.” (…)

 And the author of The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church commented: “To reach this result, the resistance of Archbishop Lefebvre and his followers proved decisive. Cardinal Ratzinger already thought he was indebted towards these brethren who expressed an uneasiness which he himself shared, at least partly. Bishop Fellay, it is true, admits the role of the Society, but he is looking further: “Yes, Providence allowed us to be instruments goading the Church of Rome to reach this day. But we are also aware of being only the thermometer revealing a fever demanding adequate remedies. This document is a fundamental stage in a procedure which will now be able to progress at a greater speed, and we hope with comforting prospects also on the issue of the excommunication.”

“‘So, there is no disillusionment?’ asked Vittorio Messori. ‘I would say no. Even if some passages of the introductory letter, in which we can well see the demands of ecclesiastical politics, seem to us less satisfactory.’ In any case, the fact is objective and Bishop Fellay and his followers are fully aware of it: the forty years of opposition, in spite of certain aspects which were at times very harsh and open to criticism, have not been useless. (…)

‘The protests of some bishops?’ wondered the Italian journalist before answering: ‘Some point out by ominous projections in the future, that in less than twenty years from now, one third of the dioceses in the West – France included, where the disapproval of the pope’s initiative is the strongest – will have to be suppressed because of lack of priests. So it is difficult for bishops who are reduced to their last breath, to speak loud against these ‘Lefebvrists’ who, on the contrary, enjoy an uninterrupted flow of vocations.” (…)

 In an interview granted to Il Giornale in its July 8 edition, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos declared: “With the Motu Proprio, we are opening the door to a return to full communion of the Society of Saint Pius X. If after this act, they do not return, I would not be able to understand it.” The Columbian cardinal specifies however that the pontifical document was “not made for the Lefebvrist”, but “because the pope is convinced of the necessity to underline that there is continuity in tradition, and that in the Church, we do not progress through fracture.”

In the weekly 30 Giorni of July, the president of the Ecclesia Dei Commission adds that the pope has re-affirmed that the “habitual mode for the celebration of the Mass is the Novus Ordo.” So, the followers of Archbishop Lefebvre “cannot deny the value nor the validity of the Novus Ordo,” he stated. “This must be clear,” added Cardinal Castrillon for whom the decree is “in no wise a return to the past.”

He revealed besides that “thousands of letters had arrived in Rome to ask for the freedom to attend the Tridentine Mass and” that “John Paul II wanted to prepare a Motu Proprio similar to that released today.”

Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, in an interview granted to La Croix of July 7, answered the question as to whether the claims of the traditionalists were satisfied: “It is true that the door has been widely opened… But the Motu Proprio also lays down conditions for this liberalization. The priests who desire to celebrate according to the 1962 Missal must acknowledge the riches of the conciliar liturgical reform. They will not be allowed to deliberately exclude their celebrating according to the Missal so-called of Paul VI --- in this case we may wonder what becomes of the ‘exclusive’ use of the old form of the rite, granted, for instance, to certain institutes.”

 To the question: “Is the liturgy the right means to bring back unity with the Lefebvrist tendency?” the president of the French Bishops Conference affirms: “The pope wanted to answer in first place a request concerning the liturgy: he wished to allow a wide celebration of the old Missal to persons who do not for all that reject the Second Vatican Council. But he also knows that many other issues cause difficulty to the members of the Society of Saint Pius X, and these are not settled by the Motu Proprio: the Catholic commitment to the ecumenical movement and the interreligious dialogue, religious liberty, etc. This document is a step forward, but we have not reached the end of the road. Benedict XVI knows that discussion must be resumed on all these other issues. He will not barter anything of the Council. This can be seen clearly in the importance he never ceases to attach to all these domains. He will not yield there.”

 In an interview dated July 7, and made by I.Media agency and the French weekly Famille chrétienne, and distributed by CIPA, Cardinal Ricard made the following precisions: “On the one hand, the Holy Father is addressing all those who appreciated the enrichment brought about by the liturgical reform. He asks them to accept that the treasure of the Church is much larger than what they think they perceive. And that people today can be nourished by the Tridentine Mass, which sustained the Christian life of the faithful for centuries. Secondly, the pope also tells the people attached to the 1962 Missal that they must acknowledge the benefits of the conciliar reform. There is no contradiction between the two forms of the Roman Missal. The Holy Father understands the Council as a continuity, an enrichment and not as a rupture. He reminds them that we cannot deny the legitimacy of the 1970 Missal in the name of our attachment to the 1962 Missal. ‘In order to experience full communion, the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books.’ To me, this disposition seems incompatible with the statutes of various institutes in which is inscribed the exclusive use of the Tridentine form. I think that this can no longer stand after the Motu Proprio.” – Here it would seem that the priests of the SSPX (excluded from the dispositions of the Motu Proprio by article 5 § 4: ‘Priests who use the Missal of Blessed John XXIII must be qualified to do so and not juridically impeded’) are paradoxically the only ones able to claim the exclusive use of the Tridentine Mass. This “exclusion” which they contest by right guarantees exclusivity in fact for them.

 To the question: “When he published the document, was the pope also thinking of the faithful of Archbishop Lefebvre?” the archbishop of Bordeaux answered: “This is not said explicitly in either of the two texts. But in a broader way, Benedict XVI is also thinking of the SSPX. He told us so himself (on the occasion of the presentation of the Motu Proprio to some cardinals on June 17, Ed.). But, in my opinion, this Motu Proprio will cause them difficulty, especially with regard to all that pertains to the authority of the liturgical reform which the priests and faithful of this Society refuse to acknowledge.”

 We understand why Bishop Fellay, in his letter to the faithful dated July 7, strove to underline “the clear desire [of Benedict XVI] to re-affirm the continuity of Vatican II and the Mass which issued from it, with the bimillenial Tradition.” This denial of the rupture caused by the last council – already made manifest in his address to the Curia on December 22, 2005 – was contested by the Society of Saint Pius X, and, after the withdrawal of the decree of excommunication which affects the bishops of the Society, it is on this point that a doctrinal discussion must take place.