Source: FSSPX News


The bishops of France study the place

of the Ecclesia Dei traditional Catholics in their dioceses


The bishops of France will hold their plenary Assembly from November 4 to 9 in Lourdes. They will listen to the reports given by the members of the commission they created in April last, on the issue of the place to be granted to the traditionalists in their dioceses. This commission is made up of Cardinal Panafieu, former archbishop of Marseilles, Archbishop Aubertin of Tours and Bishop Planet of Carcassonne.

We may wonder whether the bishops who have important traditionalist communities under the Roman Ecclesia Dei Commission, have not already arrived at a common attitude to achieve the integration – or even the recuperation – of these faithful attached to the Mass of St Pius V and at variance with the SSPX ever since the consecrations of 1988.

We remember the concern expressed by Cardinal Ricard, president of the French Bishops’ Conference, at the end of the precedent Assembly in Lourdes (April 7, 2006):

“Our exchange showed that many (bishops) were concerned about the conciliation of the welcoming of diversity and the safeguard of the unity of the diocesan Church. How are they to recognize the place in the Church for a diversity of liturgical sensitivities and ecclesial motivations without thus contributing to the birth of parallel Churches which would have no link with one another? We feel there is something at stake here which is important for the Church and the pastoral ministry. We are ready, as bishops, to commit ourselves to this true work of communion. This is why to set up a juridical structure which may entail the risk of loosening the links of full affiliation of these particular faithful with their diocesan church does not seem to us opportune.”

The concern of the bishops was to not compromise the unity of their dioceses by the setting up of a juridical structure, which would confer a particular status upon the Ecclesia Dei traditionalists. We could see there a thinly veiled criticism of any Roman proposition in the sense of an apostolic administration, a personal prelature or an institute of pontifical right…

Without waiting for the conclusions of the commission in charge of the question, some bishops even seem to have already adopted a similar solution. It consists in entrusting churches in which the Tridentine Mass is celebrated only to priests who are in full agreement with the local bishop, without having anything to do with a “juridical structure” more or less exempt from the jurisdiction of the local authority.

Thus in Lyons, since Sunday October 1st, three out of the five priests of the Society of St Peter, which were in charge of the St Georges’ Church, left their Society while remaining in charge of the church, in agreement with the archbishop of Lyons. The two priests which remained in the Society of St Peter no longer have any access to the Church. In addition, the Padre Pio house, located in Francheville is no longer in the hands of the Society of St Peter. The young seminarians, who were to begin their first year of study there, had to be sent to Wigraztbad. – We could just as well examine the situation of the Ecclesia Dei faithful in Versailles, Orleans, Angers, and Strasburg…

No doubt, the election of a Superior General not disposed to bi-ritualism, Fr. Berg, at the head of the Society of Saint Peter this summer, may have pushed into the arms of the local bishops’ the priests from the said Society who, on June 29, 1999 had addressed a letter to Rome in which they looked favorably on concelebration. But we must acknowledge that their opposition to their new Superior General coincides with the present desire of the bishops to find a French – and not a Roman – solution to the problem raised by the Ecclesia Dei traditionalists.

The recent creation of the Institute of the Good Shepherd, a society of Pontifical right, greatly vexed the bishops of France, because neither them nor the three members of the commission created in April, nor even Bishop Baldelli, the papal nuncio in Paris were consulted. Cardinal Ricard, a member of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, made known that he was informed of the foundation of the institute by a Roman journalist and only on the previous day. But, more importantly, the Institute of the Good Shepherd is the very type of “juridical structure which may entail the risk of loosening the links of full affiliation of the (traditionalist) faithful with their diocesan church”, and which Cardinal Ricard had said did not to seem “opportune”. This is why, on October 6, in the official newspaper of his diocese he was keen to specify that: “The Institute of the Good Shepherd is ‘a society of apostolic life of pontifical right’. (…) Like the other societies of apostolic life of pontifical right, it depends upon Rome for all that pertains to the internal life of the Institute. On the other hand, it needs the local bishop’s authorization for any apostolic activity in his diocese, and even more so to have the pastoral charge of some of the faithful. This Institute has one characteristic all its own: the ‘exclusive’ use of the liturgical books of 1962 was granted to them, i.e. the books used before the Second Vatican Council and the application of the conciliar reforms. The priests of this Institute will not concelebrate. But given this, nobody may forbid a priest to concelebrate with the local bishop or the pope himself.” This statement was immediately reprinted in the daily La Croix.

We can read between the lines of the last phrase that he is questioning the “exclusive use” granted to the Institute of the Good Shepherd and alluding to the answer given by the Congregation for Divine Worship, on July 3, 1999, to the authorities of the Society of Saint Peter, reminding them that the right to celebrate the Old Mass did not take away from its members the right to celebrate the New Mass.

And in order to dissipate any misunderstanding, Cardinal Ricard, - in his communiqué of April 7 at the end of the Assembly in Lourdes, as well as in his editorial of October 6 about the Institute of the Good Shepherd - recalls that the rapprochement with the Ecclesia Dei traditionalists will take place “in charity and truth.” “In truth” means for him “in fidelity to Vatican II.”

April 7: “This communion must be sought for in charity and truth. (…) Truth implies that our points of dissension be clearly stated. These latter are not so much about questions of liturgy as about the reception of the Magisterium, and more particularly that of the Second Vatican Council and of the popes of these past decades. Communion may go hand in hand with questions, requests for more precision or for a deeper appreciation of the issues. It could not, however, tolerate a systematic refusal of the Council, criticism of its teaching and denigration of the liturgical reform decreed by the Council.”

October 6: “In what state of mind are we going to live this rapprochement? In charity and truth. (…) A genuine reconciliation could not be achieved in an atmosphere of revenge, in a light and shadow approach to our respective convictions, or with the practice of double talk. St. James reminds us: “Let your yes be yes and your no, no so that you do not fall into judgment” (5:12). It is important that the preconditions set for the recognition of the Institute be better known. I will myself have the opportunity to go to Rome and ask for more information on this point. Entrance into full communion implies, indeed, fidelity to the present Magisterium of the pope and the bishops and a clear position with respect to the Second Vatican Council and the promulgation of its texts, both of which were magisterial acts. To be sure, questions and difficulties do not disappear for all that. But communion implies that these issues be shared fraternally, in an atmosphere of mutual respect and of filial obedience to the Magisterium. They must not be expressed in an atmosphere of polemics, which is as tedious as it is sterile. Yes, communion implies welcome of our neighbor, mutual knowledge, and the will to hearken together to what “The Spirit says to the Churches” (Ap. 2; 29). This appeal is truly addressed to all. It implies a conversion of each and every one of us.”