The Motu Proprio: a “how to use” guide...

Source: FSSPX News


... in France

Archbishop Jean Pierre Grallet of Strasbourg, presented the Motu Proprio to the priests of Alsace in his diocesan bulletin L’Eglise en Alsace of September 2007. First of all, he recalled “what the pope wants”: “He does not in anyway desire to question the legitimacy of the Second Vatican Council, likewise he is keen to stress that the Church did not suffer any rupture in her tradition during the Council. This affirmation alone constitutes the strongest repudiation of the integrist movement which denounces such an interruption.” Next, he pointed out the “present practice in the diocese”: the St. Arbogast Association of faithful in the juridical framework of a personal parish. Bishop Grallet feels that this practice is sufficient since it anticipated the dispositions of Summorum Pontificum. And he is keen on stressing “the fact that in St. Joseph’s church in Strasbourg, the parish priests celebrate Mass not only according to the traditional form of the John XXIII missal, but also according to the present form of the Paul VI missal. In this way, it is made clear that the so-called Mass of St. Pius V is not meant to disqualify the Mass which issued from the liturgical reform, but that it can be recognized as an extraordinary form of what remains the ordinary expression of the lex orandi of the Church.” - So, the people of Strasbourg can congratulate themselves on having benefited from the generosity of the Motu Proprio even before the Motu Proprio!

Some priests, and even some faithful may be tempted to ask for yet a little more. Consequently, the archbishop of Strasbourg sees himself forced to study “what may change in our diocese in accordance with the Motu proprio,” and he specified: “Maybe some of you (priests) will use the permission henceforth granted to celebrate the Mass of 1962 in private (article 2). I ask that this be done in such a way as not to disturb the majority of the faithful, and that consequently such a celebration be not substituted for the weekly Masses presently organized in the parish.

“Concerning the requests which may come from stable parish groups (article 5), I stress the personal responsibility of the parish priests canonically appointed. It is not for the collaborating priests, nor for the vicars, nor for a group of faithful, to exercise their authority in this regard. I will make sure that, as the Motu proprio reminds us, this disposition be applied for the good of the faithful and for the ‘fostering of unity in the Church at large.’

“In the letter which accompanied the Motu proprio, the pope foresaw that the requests would be rather rare, all the more so because they would demand a deep knowledge of the rite on the part of the priests and of the faithful. Will such be the case? It would be desirable. The implementation of the Motu proprio will give rise to many concrete problems, which will often be difficult to solve (disposition of the places of worship, priests’ schedule, issues related to the Christian people, and so on). Much pastoral common sense will be needed in order to avoid misunderstandings and disagreements.

“Consequently, I ask the faithful attached to the ancient liturgical form to practice it, according to what was already scheduled in our diocese, in the two places of worship attributed to the traditional parish in Strasbourg and in Colmar.”

In plain language, in Strasbourg as in most French dioceses, motu proprio will rhyme with statu quo. There will be no new churches for the Tridentine Mass, what exists already is quite sufficient, and there is no need to call upon the Ecclesia Dei communities.


In Verdun, there will be no battle for the traditional Mass. Indeed, Bishop François Maupu, in a letter entitled “The obsession of unity”, gives his reasons for avoiding a reckless implementation of the Motu proprio. And he reveals something which nobody ever suspected before: “(...) to rule the Church is a complex and delicate matter. Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos had prepared a text for a motu proprio in the Fall of 2006. Subsequently, the Holy Father heard many reactions, including those of the French Cardinals Lustiger, Ricard, and Barbarin. Cardinal Castrillon did not modify his text. Consequently, the Holy Father had to send this text with a letter to all the bishops. In this letter, without contradicting the Motu proprio, he said that he believed it would concern only a small number of persons, and he recalled the authority of every bishop over the liturgy in his diocese.” - So, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos is supposed to have forced the hand of Benedict XVI?!

And the bishop of Verdun warns : “(...) sometimes good intentions can be betrayed by a clumsy implementation. Such was the case with the Regensburg incident, when it was a matter of talking with the Muslims about the relationships between faith and reason. Such was the case again in June with the publication of a document by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Its objective was to reassure the integrists who might have asked: “Did the Second Vatican Council change the previous doctrine on the Church?”. In order to enable them to accept the Council and to remain within the unity of the Church, the answer used a pre-Vatican II manner of speech which offended the Protestants and the Orthodox. This effort to reach unity on one side caused tensions on another side!” — In Verdun at least, we can be sure that there will be not clumsy implementation of the Motu proprio because there will be just no implementation at all.


In Saint-Denis, in the Paris region, Bishop Olivier de Berranger thinks along the same lines. After having consulted with Catherine Pic, “diocesan delegate for Liturgical and Sacramental Pastoral Ministry”, he gave some clarifications in a letter dated July 11. Extraordinary form, means: “the celebration corresponding to the liturgical books published by John XXIII in 1962, which were those inherited from the Council of Trent but purged of the formulas offensive to the Jewish people.” Concerning the parish priest’s right to grant the request of a stable group desirous of attending the traditional Mass, the bishop of Saint-Denis added that “the moderator of a pastoral team enjoys the same faculties,” and he specified that “‘moderator‘ (in the Latin sense, moderare) means ‘to guard’ and to ‘promote’, but bishop de Berranger did not give these two verbs any direct object… As for the stable group, he said : “The decree does not authorize the celebration of the Mass in the extraordinary form according to the tastes of each and everyone. Those who request it must be known as ‘faithful’ of the parish and represent a respectable number of people wishing to live in communion with the community as a whole,” and he added, quoting the letter which accompanied the Motu proprio: “‘in order to experience full communion, the priests of the communities (Ecclesia Dei communities, Ed.) adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books,’ because this would not be consistent with ‘the recognition of [the] value and holiness’ of the ordinary form promulgated at the Council.” But the clergy of Seine-Saint-Denis are in no danger because “it is true that we do not have this type of community in the diocese,” — nor is there any risk of seeing one in the immediate future!


… in Germany

Bishop Walter Mixa of Augsburg, is a “conservative conciliar” bishop, close to Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne, and rather foreign to liturgical issues. Here are the main norms he established, as of July 24, 2007, for the application of the Motu proprio in the diocese of Augsburg. Everything is said in the first article of the document: “ The norms contained in the Motu proprio (…) must be strictly applied.” This means restrictively, of which we find prof in article 4 which establishes the minimum number of faithful to constitute a “stable group”, whereas the Motu proprio does not give any specification: “The stable group in the parish, which, according to article 5 § 1 of the Motu proprio, may ask the competent parish priest for Mass to be celebrated for them according to the Roman missal published in 1962, must number at least 25 persons who are really domiciled in the parish concerned or at least usually reside there.”

Articles 5 and 6 show clearly that there could be no question of attending exclusively the Latin Mass:

5. The parish priest may grant the request of faithful desiring the celebration of the Mass in forma extraordinaria only inasmuch as they recognize the compulsory character of the Second Vatican Council and of its decisions and are faithful to the pope and the bishops.

6. Being in full communion means that the faithful do not, as a matter of principle, exclude the celebration according to the new liturgical books. For this reason, care must be taken that the faithful who request the Mass in forma extraordinaria have also access to the spiritual riches and theological depth of the Mass in forma ordinaria so that “the Missal of Paul VI can unite parish communities and be loved by them” (letter of Benedict XVI to the Bishops on July 7, 2007). Hence, a religious practice limited exclusively to the celebration of the Mass in forma extraordinaria cannot be accepted.

And in order that everything be quite clear in the minds of priests who might consider the possibility of celebrating the Latin Mass, a detailed report is requested in article 16: “So that the bishop may fulfil the pope’s desire for a report on the experiences made after the implementation of the Motu proprio, the parish priest will have to inform the Vicar General if, in his parish, the requests of a group of faithful desiring the Mass in forma extraordinaria have been granted. At the same time, he will have to give the number of persons who requested this, the number of faithful attending the Mass as well as the name of the celebrant.”

Since the publication of this text, Mgr Mixa is said to have received some Roman reprimands which obliged him to soften his attitude. We will study this softening of his position in our next issue, together with the guidelines adopted by the German Bishops’ Conference during their annual meeting in Fulda.


… in the Philippines

On July 9, 2007, the President of the Bishops’ Conference in the Philippines, Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo, of Jaro, gave an official statement concerning the Tridentine Mass in which he shows himself less fastidious, and more broad-minded than his European counterparts.

“We fully welcome with respect and appreciation the recent Apostolic Letter of Pope Benedict XVI on the "Tridentine" Mass. It clarifies for us the status of the Tridentine Mass in the Latin Language.

 In accordance with the Apostolic Letter ("Motu proprio") entitled "Summorum Pontificum" of Pope Benedict XVI, the celebration of the so-called Tridentine Mass, which is in the Latin language, as approved by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1962 continues to be fully permissible as an extraordinary form of the Mass. The Tridentine Mass was never forbidden or abrogated.

 The so-called "New Mass" which was introduced after the Second Vatican Council and approved by Pope Paul VI in 1970 has become more popular among the people because it allowed the use of some approved adaptations, including the use of the popular languages and dialects. It became the ordinary form of the Mass, widely celebrated in the parish churches.

 When may the Tridentine (Latin) Mass be celebrated? According to the letter of Pope Benedict XVI, it may be celebrated by catholic priests of the Latin Rite: a) in private masses, b) in conventual or community mass in accordance with the specific statutes of the Congregation, c) in parishes upon request of the faithful and under the guidance of the bishop (in accordance with Canon 392). In such Masses, however, the readings may be given in the vernacular.

 This permission given by Pope Benedict XVI means that the Mass in Latin and in accordance with the formula of the Council of Trent, hence Tridentine, with the celebrant’s back to the faithful may be celebrated, as it was never forbidden or abrogated. For new priests, this will require formation in the Latin Mass.” (…)