Zaitzkofen: Ordinations Criticized by German Bishops

Source: FSSPX News

On June 19, the feast of the Sacred Heart, 13 new — including two Benedictines and one Dominican — were ordained by Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais at the Seminary of Winona in the US. On June 27, Bishop Alfonso de Galarreta ordained three new priests at the seminary of Zaitzkofen in Germany; and Bishop Bernard Fellay ordained seven priests for the SSPX and one Capuchin friar in Ecône on June 29. At the end of the year, two priests are due to be ordained at the seminary of Goulburn in Australia, and four at La Reja in Argentina. And one more priest might be ordained in Zaitzkofen, thus bringing to 27 the number of priests ordained this year for the SSPX, versus 16 last year.

German bishops, and more specially Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller of Regensburg, the diocese in which the seminary of Zaitzkofen is located, and Bishop Heinz Josef Algermissen of Fulda, wrote to the pope to ask him how they should react to these ordinations which they considered as a provocation. Bishop Robert Zollisch, President of the German Bishops’ Conference even spoke of  “an affront to the unity of the Church.”

Bishop Mülller had warned that, as long as the issue of the canonical status of the SSPX had not been resolved, ordinations were not authorized and were consequently liable to disciplinary penalties. “Our bishop is expecting an advice from Rome concerning the response to be made,” declared Jakub Schotz, a diocesan spokesman at the end of June. “But he feels quasi certain that it will end with excommunications against the priests and the bishop who ordains them.” Bishop Müller even went to Rome to advocate his viewpoint.

In a declaration dated June 13, Fr. Stephan Frey, superior of the seminary of Zaitzkofen expounded on the state of necessity in which the Church in Europe finds itself today: “An emergency requires and justifies corresponding emergency measures. Is there an emergency in the Church today? We refer to an appendix attached to this declaration, in which representative statements from popes, cardinals, bishops, and theologians are documented. Pope Paul VI, for example, speaks of the "self-destruction of the Church", Pope John Paul II speaks of "silent apostasy". Additionally we give two numerical examples: In 1950 in Germany, 13 million Catholics regularly attended Sunday Mass. Today it is less than 2 million - a reduction of more than 85 percent. The number of priestly ordinations in German dioceses in 2008 reached a record low of less than 100.

It is a question of the existence or the dissolution of Christianity in Europe. Should the ordination of these new priests, who have been formed on the solid foundations of Catholic tradition and who are so necessary for the survival of the Church, be postponed? Instead, as true vocations become more and more uncommon, should we not, with great devotion, thank God for the grace of such vocations? There can be no talk of an insult to the unity of the Church and most certainly not of a rebuff of the outstretched hand of the Holy Father, for whom we pray daily.” (See integral text in the Documents section)

For Bishop Müller — who said so to KNA agency — “the state of emergency” does not exist in any way, objectively speaking. According to him there is no oppression of the Church coming from the outside, as it could have been the case in Czechoslovakia in the days of the iron curtain. Besides, it would not belong to the SSPX to define such a state of emergency if it existed. With genuine or feigned candor, the bishop of Regensburg takes into account persecution only as coming from exterior enemies, such as the communists during the Cold War. But Paul VI, who was hardly to be suspected of excessive traditionalism, spoke of self-destruction, which means that there are destructive agents in the very bosom of the Church.

A press release from the Vatican Press Office, dated June 17, answered the German bishops by merely quoting the letter of the pope to the bishops of the Catholic Church written on March 10. In this document, Benedict XVI wrote that, because of the lack of a canonical status, the SSPX could not exercise a legitimate ministry, yet he recognized that once a new status had been given to the Ecclesia Dei Commission, in connection with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, doctrinal debates would take place in view of bringing the necessary clarifications. See the Vatican’s Press Release in the Documents section.

This simple reminder of the letter of March 10 shows that, in the pope’s eyes, the ordinations at the end of June do not modify in anyway the program outlined in the decree of January 21 which explicitly acknowledge the necessity of doctrinal discussions. In this sense, Bishop Bernard Fellay declared to the Austrian daily Die Presse on June 21: “I wrote to the pope (on March 28, on the occasion of the ordinations to the sub-diaconate, Ed.) and begged him to consider these ordinations not as an act of rebellion, but of survival in difficult and complex circumstances.”

Our Comment  (the … indicate a phrase which I do not know how to translate, a British friend who works in French-speaking Switzerland is looking into the problem)

Why did Bishop Müller’s spokesman brandish the threat of excommunication? And why did Bishop Müller himself declare that the SSPX claimed to benefit from “a temporary canonical status” - adding that this argument was blatantly false - whereas Bishop Fellay always admitted that in the transitory interval of time which separates the lifting of the decree of excommunication from the doctrinal discussions which must imperatively precede a canonical solution, the Society would be in an intermediary situation? The answer is that Bishop Müller must not read Christendom (# 17) which, a year ago, published an interview in which the superior general of the SSPX clearly declared: “If the decree of excommunication is withdrawn, it becomes possible to make the experiment of Tradition according to the wish of Archbishop Lefebvre. Namely it will be possible to judge the fruits of Tradition at last “de-diabolized.” I do mean that Tradition should be judged upon its “fruits”, i.e. its results and not upon the infamous labels too easily given it.

I do not think this solution is a utopia. I believe it to be deeply realistic because it takes into account the concrete circumstances of the situation of the Church today. Already in the Letter to Friends of the Society at Christmas 2004, I quoted the proposal I had made that preceding June 6 to Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos: “The Holy See could observe us and examine our development without there being any engagement of the two sides for the time being.” It would be an intermediary step, during which the Society would be neither excommunicated nor canonically recognized. Yet, such a state, though not regular according to Canon Law, would already be an improvement and allow the tree to be judged by its fruits. Everybody would be able to observe with a more serene look this Tradition which brought forth all the Saints of the Church. Tradition would thus be reachable for all and could thus give immense hope to many Catholics who are utterly disillusioned. It would mean opening a main door to Tradition for the whole Church.”

If it were but a matter of a lack of information on the part of the bishop of Regensburg, we might easily remedy it by subscribing him to Christendom, but we much fear that the attitude of the German prelate finds its deeper explanation in what Bishop Fellay said in the following sentences: “[this intermediary step, during which the Society would be neither excommunicated nor canonically recognized] would amount to a de facto exemption with regard to the Bishops’ Conferences. Such an exemption is indispensable when we see the opposition raised by the bishops against the few gestures made by Benedict XVI in favor of Tradition. We only have to look at the situation of the Ecclesia Dei communities in dioceses. Though officially recognized by Rome, they are only allowed to exercise a traditional ministry but only as it were “on probation.” They are under obligation to observe a strict reserve as to the liturgical and theological extravagances taking place in the dioceses which receive them. Actually, the SSPX has more freedom to do good than these communities.”

To put it in a nutshell, the bishops do not want a de facto exemption which would enable us to “make the experiment of Tradition”! If they are using again the old defamatory labels — more and more outdated — it is because they fear that the young priests ordained in 2009 give in their ministry with souls the opportunity to judge the tree of Tradition upon its fruits.