A rather astonishing news came in the last days from the Vatican. It appears Ecclesia Dei now say the SSPX needs more time, and the Vatican is ready to give it to them. Actually, they even mention ongoing discussions…
With all due respect: poppycock.
The SSPX has made very clear, in the most possible public manner conceivable, that further discussions are subject to the Vatican accepting certain conditions, without which there can be no fruitful discussion anyway.
Furthermore, the SSPX has made public that whilst one should never say never, they do not believe in any agreement during this pontificate, and I am rather sure they know why.
Moreover, the SSPX has decided that whatever (future) agreement with the Vatican is proposed, it will not be decided by a small troop of “leaders” (who then ask the other members to simply “obey”) but it will have to be approved by the majority of the SSPX members, thus making it utterly inconceivable that the ambitions of the one or the other may achieve the result of carrying the order with them.
In addition, Cardinal Mueller himself has immersed the negotiations in frozen yoghurt, making very clear he does not want to have anything to do with those bad, bad men who do not even indulge in simony, or encourage sexual perversion like his well-fed German Kollegen. (look at the graphic, please)
Once again: the SSPX has spoken, and unless there is a sudden change of mind from the Pontiff the only reasonable conclusion is that there’s nothing else to say for the time (and the Pontificate) being; then to talk is good, but to waste breath when everything has been said is not very smart.
Why, then, this sudden change of perspective from Ecclesia Dei, which even contradict their own immediate superior?
I can only imagine the following two hypotheses, but perhaps the readers will have other suggestions:
1) Someone at Ecclesia Dei would like to re-launch the discussions and – now Williamson is away – attempt to isolate Mueller, who is clearly an enemy of every sensible agreement. This might make sense because the press release comes from Ecclesia Dei rather than from the CDF itself, and the astonishing description of the discussions as ongoing is clearly an open contradiction of what the boss himself has said. Therefore, it might be Ecclesia Dei now simply pretend the discussions haven’t ended yet; which makes, in this perspective, a lot of sense, as an open offer to the SSPX to re-open them would be linked with some loss of face.
2) This is a very Italian, erm, Southern Italian message: a bit like saying, with a raucous voice, “you think you have spoken, picciotto, but I will pretend you haven’t; just for a while, whilst you reflect on the consequences… I am trying to help you before you get in serious trouble, mi capisci?“.
The second hypothesis is in my eyes less probable, as there would be no need whatsoever to do it in public in such a cryptic way, whilst in the first case the public – if not open – isolation of Mueller is probably the best message the people at Ecclesia Dei can try to send to the SSPX; it is reasonable to assume many at Ecclesia Dei want to see the SSPX reconciled, and could have made without the Pontiff’s sleight of hand when he last changed the text of the preambolo.
Far-fetched both of them, you may rightly say, and I would agree with you. On the other hand, it does not happen very often that both the SSPX and the CDF say “the matter is closed” and suddenly Ecclesia Dei comes out saying “ahem, we are still waiting for your answer then, aren’t we?”
We shall see. Perhaps it was nothing, merely someone at Ecclesia Dei has simply not been paying much attention… one is reminded of the revocation of the excommunication for the SSPX bishop without even knowing Bishop Williamson’s ideas about the Holocaust.
If this is not a case of insisted sleeping activity, I never cease to be amazed at the Vatican corridors: there must be more mines there than at the border with North Korea…
Strange things happen these days at the FSSPX. I have already written about the potential offer of a worldwide ordinariate for Traditionalists, and of the subsequent clarification from Bishop Fellay that no formal offer has been made. On this second occasion, the Italian blog Messa In Latino insisted that the news (Ordinariate on its way of being offered; formal document not ready yet) are authentic and from credible source.
We now have, from the same blog, two pieces of news; the first rather, the second very interesting.
The first is that Bishop Williamson has criticised the offer of Ordinariate (which was clearly expected), at the same time confirming that he has a source of information directly inside of Ecclesia Dei. He adds the definition “Apostolic Ordinariate“, with the adjective not mentioned by Messa in Latino. This sounds like one with one ear inside Ecclesia Dei, and not particularly pleased at what he hears.
The second is that Bishop Fellay has been summoned to Rome, together with his two assistants, for the 14th September, 4th anniversary of the day Summorum Pontificum came into force.
Fellay is supposed to deposit the SSPX’s final relation about the doctrinal talks, but the date is a sensitive, directly relevant and historical one and it is not difficult to imagine that something might be in the making here. What day would be more apt for this second historical step, than the anniversary of when the first came into force…
Against this datum of 14th of September would, on the other hand, speak the fact that in October we will have the questionable “Assisi III” gathering, and it is easy to imagine that the spirits at the SSPX will be rather excited. If, therefore, a formal offer is presented mid-September, the discussion within the SSPX will develop in the weeks leading to the Assisi gathering. Not good for them, and not good for Rome. Good, actually, only for Williamson and the other opposers of full reconciliation.
We will see out this pans out. In the meantime, the clear nervousness of Bishop Williamson and the symbolic date for Bishop Fellay’s meeting with the Pope do give some reason to hope.
I have written two days ago about the interviews of Mgr Pozzo and Bishop Fellay.
As you can read here, my impression was that the distance between the two sides was greatly reduced and that particularly Fellay seemed to indicate that now only a decision from the Vatican was waited for, though I thought that the Vatican would prefer to wait for the funeral of the V-II generation before taking action.
If the generally very well informed Messa In Latino blog is right, this might not be the case.
First the text in Italian:
Il Papa sta per proporre a mons. Fellay la costituzione di un Ordinariato, per regolarizzare la situazione della FSSPX e delle sue comunità alleate, lasciandogli la piena (e indispensabile, visti certi epìscopi in circolazione) autonomia nei confronti dei vescovi diocesani. Alcuni membri di una comunità Ecclesia Dei hanno potuto precisare che questa proposta canonica sarà fatta nel corso del presente mese di giugno a mons. Fellay.
My unworthy translation:
The Pope is going to propose to Mons. Fellay the constitution of an Ordinariate to regolarise the situation of the FSSPX and of the communities allied to it, by leaving to the SPPX the full (and, given certain bishops going around, indispensable) autonomy towards the diocesan bishops. Some members of an Ecclesia Dei community were in a position to confirm that this canonical proposal will be made to Mons. Fellay during the present month of June.
If confirmed, this would be huge. It would mean that in one fell swoop not only the FSSPX would be given full communion again, but there would be a ready platform for all those desirous to attend Mass, and to live the Church, in the old way.
Again a commentary of Messa In Latino:
E’ una soluzione win-win, in cui tutti avrebbero moltissimo da guadagnare: da un lato Roma ricucirebbe una dolorosa rottura e troverebbe truppe fresche e determinate per condurre la battaglia del recupero di quanto gli ultimi decenni hanno dissipato; dall’altro la FSSPX si laverebbe dello stigma di ribellione e di ‘scisma’, potendo così svolgere un apostolato ben più efficace e senza subire i mille pregiudizi che l’accompagnano nella mente del cattolico medio, pur conservando appieno l’attuale libertà di movimento e di azione.
Again, my unworthy translation:
This is a win-win situation, by which everyone would have an awful lot to gain: on the one hand, Rome would heal a painful fracture and would find fresh and determined troops to carry the battle of the recovery of what the last decades have squandered; on the other hand, the FSSPX would wash itself from the stigma of rebellion and “scism”, thus being able to carry on a much more effective apostolate, without having to suffer the thousand prejudices associated to it in the mind of the average Catholic, but still keeping the actual freedom of movement and action in full.
If confirmed, this would be in my eyes as big as Summorum Pontificum.
Please, Please God make this come true…
Next time you hear someone complaining that in the Tridentine Mass the priests gives his back to the faithful, you may want to ask him the following questions:
1) Is he offended that the people sitting in front of them in the pews turn their back to him?
2) Shouldn’t the Mass, then, be held with the faithful in a nice half circle of one row only?
3) Does he know what a Tabernacle really is? You might have to explain this I’m afraid. When you have explained, you may ask:
4) Has he noticed how the priest is placed relative to the Tabernacle during the New Mass?
5) So who should the priest face: God or the faithful?
Of course you always run the chance of someone answering “the faithful, as God is not offended but the faithful are”.
But at least you’ll know whom you are talking to.
A beautiful example of how the internet is changing the way faithful organise themselves from the always excellent Messa in Latino.
Just a couple of days after Universae Ecclesiae, a reader is published with a public invitation to those living in and near Palermo to write to him to organise a stable group for the Tridentine Mass.
Mind, though, that in Palermo the Tridentine Mass is already available (in Italy the situation is, whilst patchy, certainly better than in the UK) and the scope of the faithful is simply to have more of them.
The internet (blogs, meetup, twitter, facebook, and the like) now allows conservative minded Catholics to rapidly get in touch with each other and make their voices heard. Whilst the gathering together of like-minded people has always been possible, it is fair to say that it has never been as easy as today; similarly, exposing the boycott of a bishop has never been so easy, too.
Universae Ecclesiae is going to give another spallata, a powerful shoulder’s push to the resistance of liberal bishops and now that it is explicitly said that no minimum number is necessary for a stable group, the boycott of the Tridentine Mass will become more and more difficult. Young priests able and willing to celebrate will certainly be available and their number will, in the next years, certainly increase.
Better times ahead.
You would have imagined that the bishops would have been not slow in reacting to Universae Ecclesiae, but I’m sure the speed with which Archbishop Nichols has started to fire his Big Bertha against the Tridentine post is nothing less than remarkable.
Mere hours after the publication of the Instruction, Archbishop Vincent “Quisling” Nichols was already intent at the first trial shots. His analysis of Universae Ecclesiae doesn’t stress the huge importance of the work in terms of the obligations it puts on bishops, or the renewed statement of the importance given to the Tridentine Mass, or its being every bit the equal in rank to the Novus Ordo.
Instead, his analysis focuses on the (now reduced, though he doesn’t say) powers of the bishops and, most importantly, on the stressing of the only weak point of the Instruction: the absence of compulsory instruction in the celebration of the Tridentine in Seminaries.
It is really telling of the Archbishop’s forma mentis that he would immediately point out to the only point that is not overtly in favour of the mounting tide of Catholic conservatism. It is, at the same time, very telling about the spirit and attitude with which at least the bishops of England and Wales will react (react is here truly the right word) to Universae Ecclesiae.
Just a few hours after the release of the instruction, ++ Nichols’ trumpet has gathered his own around him and made clear to them that they may start preparing to battle. As so often in life, the why something is said tells you much more about an issue than what is, in the specific case, being said. This is clearly the case here, with the first distinguos clearly giving the start for the slow, silent, relentless work of sabotage now approaching. The Italians call this seemingly innocuous, but in fact very dangerous sabotage muro di gomma, or “rubber wall”. It is clear here that Archbishop Nichols’ message to his troops is “we may not be able to stop this, but we will certainly try”.
We will see whether he has any success. In my opinion, a prompt enforcement from the part of Ecclesia Dei will cause things to run smoothly from the start, whereas uncertainties in the enforcement will condemn this instruction to certain, if perhaps rather slow, death.
Let us hope the first will be the case.
Universae Ecclesiae is, then, finally out.
In the next days there will be plenty of time to review and examine in detail the aspects and the reactions to this Ecclesia Dei document. I will here only write some short observations about what I think are the main events.
1) The Tridentine Mass is here to stay. No ifs, no buts. Those Bishops who had hoped that the Tridentine would have been relegated to small group of traditionalists have been utterly defeated. The two rites exist alongside, a very powerful way to say what was meant from the beginning but was never understood from the professional deaf. In my eyes, the very expression “Extraordinary Form” should now slowly be abandoned to say things as they were said before the Great Madness: Tridentine Mass, and that’s that.
2) This document is directed to the Bishops. It basically says to them what they must now start to do to do things properly.
3) At the same time, the documents takes the control of the process – at least in theory – out of the Bishops’ hand and puts it in the hands of Ecclesia Dei. Ecclesia Dei will decide about controversies, and bishops can then (merely) escalate the conflict to the Signatura Apostolica. This is in my eyes the clearest sign of the punishment of the bishops for having failed to give honest application to Summorum Pontificum, and of the mistrust they have earned in this matter. How the liberals have fallen.
4) The “stable group” has explicitly no minimum number. This means in extreme cases……. three people? Or just two? No priest can say that the group is not big enough, or not stable enough. Similarly, no priest can say that the group can’t have the Tridentine because they are not traditionalists in SSPX-style. This will be fun.
5) The 1962 missal applies. No bollocking around. No altar girls, no communion in the hand, no communion in standing, no strange vestments, no strange innovations. The praxis of the 1962 missal rules. You can’t kneel? You can receive in standing rather than not receive (as in the past). You can kneel? Well, then….
6) Religious orders can have their own Tridentine as they used to have. The hunt is open for a good Tridentine Mass with the specificities of the orders (say: the Franciscan, or the Dominican one, etc). This will be good in order to see whether some vitality has remained in some of those orders (say: the Dominicans) or whether they are already doomed (say: the Jesuits, the Franciscans).
7) Unfortunately, no provision for the Ambrosian Rite. As Universae Ecclesiae strengthens the praxis of the Tridentine Mass, I’m sure extra provisions will come in due time.
8 ) Only weak point: no compulsory training in the Tridentine for seminarians. This is odd. In the very moment in which it is clearly said that the Tridentine exists alongside the Novus ordo, this “alongside” is not made compulsory. It sounds like a driving school training you in the use of the stick, but not of the clutch pedal.
Clearly, enforcement is where this document will stand or fail as a useful instrument to the practice of the Tridentine Mass. If Ecclesia Dei shows a robust hand in dealing with the unavoidable resistance of the bishops, things will progress smoothly. If not, this will only be added to the long list of documents made to be ignored (a beautiful example is Veterum Sapientia). Also, the silent threat to the priests of liberal dioceses will, at least initially, remain. It is only when the number of Tridentine masses spreads, that many priests will be able to introduce it without fear of retaliation.
I remember very well the alarm at the clearly attempted sabotage of these instructions. It is beautiful, in this day of Fatima, to remember those frantic days and celebrate today’s relief and hope.
This document is a knockout blow to liberal bishops. They will get up and continue the fight, no doubt; but after Universae Ecclesiae, they must feel rather groggy.
Tomorrow is the 13th May, the day of the first apparition of the Blessed Virgin to the children of Fatima.
It migh tbe a coincidence that this be the day for the publication of Universae Ecclesiae, the new Ecclesia Dei document with the instructions about Summorum Pontificum. But I love to think that it isn’t.
The document would appear to be not good, but very good and if the legal part is followed by a robust enforcement (perhaps with the one or other exemplary punishment of some of the most reluctanct bishops, following a pattern that has started to take form in the last months), then this might be an important step forward toward a Church where everyone has reasonable access to a Tridentine Mass.
If I may allow myself the thought, I think it’s fair to say that on the day of John Paul II’s death – around only six years ago – no one would have imagined that things would have progressed so far, so fast. Again, we now need a healthy enforcement.
In all this there was, mind you, no schism. Schism is, I think, rather an excuse for inactivity than a real danger.
Messa In Latino has the latest news about the improvident instruction on Summorum Pontificum and the news are a mixed bag.
All the bad elements of the instructions are confirmed and seem now rather definitive: the non-application of Summorum Pontificum to the Latin rites who are different from the Roman rite, unfortunately, stays. This means that the diocese of Milan and – if memory serves – part of those of Lugano (5,000,000 faithful, Ambrosian rite) will be destined to be a Tridentine desert unless, as it has been suggested, the next Archbishop doesn’t provide a small “Summorum Pontificum” ad hoc. This is very, very bad and one can’t avoid seeing in this decision a kind of frightful ammunition given to the Sixty-eighters. Same situation for the rites of the religious orders (like the Dominicans), where the blow is a bit softened by the rather easier way to get over the ban (consent of superior suffices if the Mass is cum populo; no bishop required and no authorisation whatsoever if the mass is not cum populo).
Also confirmed is the fact that the Tridentine will not be used for ordinations, not even if authorised by the Bishop. Ordinations with Tridentine Mass will – obviously – remain for traditionalist orders, but that’s that. Interestingly, Messa in Latino points out to the fact that in France one-quarter of seminarians describes themselves as traditionalists even if not members of one of the traditionalist orders. This will certainly bring further and well-deserved sympathies – and probably further vocations, also fully deserved – to the SSPX.
In the disappointment of this and other, so to speak, minor bad news (all of them already known), one or two elements of improvements seem to have paved their way into the instruction, no doubt in order to give some token satisfaction to the very dissatisfied, ehm, serious Catholics. The two improvements would appear as follows:
a) in case of controversy between priest and Bishop, Ecclesia Dei decides. This is not much of a consolation as a priest is required to start an open war with his bishop before Ecclesia Dei is required to intervene in the first place; this is very far away from the original hope that Ecclesia Dei could appoint churches within the diocese to the celebration of Tridentine masses whenever the bishop slept. Still, it might make some bishop a bit more prudent, when he has a priest who is clearly imprudent.
b) The teaching of Latin in the seminaries is to be reintroduced. This is a bit of a joke as officially the teaching of Latin has never been abolished (Veterum Sapientia, I have written about it here) and the entire matter sounds not entirely credible, but one registers at least the token consolation and point of principle.
Summa summarum, the instruction remains very bad; a disappointment and a mistake, and a weapon in the hands of the trendies, but with some small half improvement and symbolic concessions meant to sweeten the pill.
Mala tempora currunt.
Messa in Latino has another post about the thorny question of the instruction. Once again, this beautiful site shows that it has pretty good feelers concerning Vatican affairs.
The process of the instruction is described as follows:
1) There was a first version, ready as soon as February 2008. A good version but with some questions left open. The then secretary of Ecclesia Dei, Mons. Perl, personally vouched with the Messa In Latino‘s blog post writer “Enrico” about this fact.
2) A second draft was prepared by the new Secretary of Ecclesia Dei and therefore called “Pozzo draft”. This was, we are assured, magnificent, as it was both exhaustive in its dealing with interpretation questions and able to greatly enhance the concrete possibility of use of the Tridentine Mass.What Summorum Pontificum freed in the juridical sense, this Instruction would have freed concerning its practical application.
3) The Pozzo draft was apparently “too good” and, well, not entirely popular among liberal Bishops. These then started to lobby to have it watered down. Messa in Latino mentions as helpers Cardinals Re, Kaspar, Arinze, Tauran. Together with Cardinal Levada, some (not all, see Kasper) of them are rather conservative chaps but alas, they’re no great friends of the Tridentine.
An added problem was that the merging of Ecclesia Dei within the CDF in the wake of the “Williamson affair” led to a deminutio of the latter, now merely a branch of the CDF and not in a position to vigorously defend the original document once pressure for change started to come from the CDF (Levada) himself.
The rest, as we will probably very soon say, is history.
What would seem to transpire (and at this point it seems to me that the people at Messa In Latino certainly know what they write) is that an original sincere intention to do things better and, most importantly, in an orthodox way goes through a process of internal “improvement” and comes out of the Vatican’s washer-dryer rather discolored in the best of cases, and gravely stained in the worst. One is reminded of Vatican II, really.
Let us hope that last-minute interventions will avoid great damage and that the bombing of Summorum Pontificum, so it should come, will prove not threatening for the edifice’s structure.
In the end and as I have written in the past, there is no way the resurgence of the desire for the Latin Mass can be stopped, though it can certainly be slowed down.
The real solution will come from the undertakers.
Father Z references a letter (in German) dated June 21st from Ecclesia Dei stating that
the celebration of Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form envisages the reception of Holy Communion while kneeling, as the Sacred Host is laid directly on the tongue of the communicant. There is no provision for the distribution of Holy Communion on the hand in this Form of the Holy Mass.
One would think that in a Tridentine Mass the reception of Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue would be obvious, but apparently this is not the case.
I thought that this letter would be worth a little hurrah.