Firstly, some background information for the readers. When you have your own blog you have the possibility of seeing, from a “background page” not available to the public, which other internet pages have linked to you causing readers to land on your internet site from the site who carried the link. Every now and then, one clicks to see what is going on and is then carried directly to the internet site that has posted a link to one’s own site.
It was thus that I landed, some days ago, on this site. As you can see, this is not a very liberal site and is actually far more on the conservative site than yours truly; it appears to be either very near, or a mouthpiece of the SSPX (or FSSPX, if you prefer the abbreviation of its Latin name) itself. In particular, on this same thread another post was placed, equating the possible “peace proposals” of the Vatican to the Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes (“I fear the Greeks, even when they are bearing gifts”) many of us will remember from our schooldays.
I found the comparison indelicate, as whilst I do not think that along the corridors of the Vatican everything is made in a spirit of disinterested saintliness I do believe that the attempt to reach a reconciliation with the FSPPX is a sincere one, and a great concern of the Holy Father. If memory serves, I saw this “Greeks fearing” comment (possibly also posted elsewhere) mentioned in Rorate Caeli, with reactions generally not far away from mine.
It turns out now from Messa in Latino that:
a) the Timeo Danaos comment is lifted from here and therefore clearly from Williamson himself.
b) that, coming from Williamson, this would be a clear indication that, however concrete or advanced, some form of proposal is really in preparation.
What Messa in Latino is thinking is that possibly on the 14 september we will not have the official announcement of an agreement with the FSSPX, but the presentation of a proposal, that would be examined by the SSPX in all tranquility, particularly in view of the unfortunate Assisi-III gathering still scheduled for October.
Messa in Latino finds the events momentous enough to justify the title “Rome-FSSPX: decisive moments ahead”. I am obviously pleased, but cannot avoid noticing that if no agreement is being finalised, the (mere) proposal of a structure similar to an Ordinariate for the SSPX and other traditionalists would not be anywhere near the historical moment perhaps hoped by many within the SSPX (and dreaded by the liberal troops), but rather the beginning of a painful – if hopefully salutary – phase of conflict within the SSPX itself, with the likes of Williamson refusing a priori every kind of contamination with Rome’s “Greeks” whatever the gifts, and the coming Assisi “event” not contributing at all to the serenity of the discussion.
Please also note that, in an unprecedented move, a religious sister from New Zealand has been authorised to be transferred to a convent dependent from the FSSPX. I can’t imagine such a decision unless if dictated from the persuasion that a reconciliation is not so very far away. The news relating to the sister has been published and then taken offline, but it is still available in cached version, with the link on the Messa in Latino site. Whilst I understand Messa in Latino’s reasons to publish it I prefer not to do it for obvious reasons, but take it from me.. ;).
From the outside, we can’t do anything else than pray of course. Still, one can’t avoid thinking that if such a proposal is on the table, it would have been perhaps wiser to wait until after the Assisi-III gathering – provided that such an event must really take place – and start the discussion, say, before Christmas or around Easter, in a different and less controversial environment.
I find some positions within the SSPX frankly difficult to digest, and the entire Danaos-attitude not helpful. But from what I have read around – on the internet, and from the leaflets-booklets I have picked from them on several occasions – the desire for reconciliation is very vivid among the majority of the members and supporters of the organisation, and the idea that Rome should be “converted to Catholicism” (rather than, say, persuaded to rephrase and reformulate questionable statements and attitudes of the past) rather in the minority.
Let us hope and pray for the best. Even if on the 14 September nothing should happen, this might be a good sign as it might – just might – indicate that a proposal for reconciliation is ready, but its official presentation wisely postponed to a less controversial time.
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 know, this is in Italian. But what would be the use of your humble correspondent, if he wasn’t able to give a little help when needed…
It turns out that twenty-one French priests have written to the Head of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Ouellet, to ask him for… better shepherds. This after the latest appointment, the one of the apparently notorious bishop Fonlupt (see above a photo of his in unmistakable clerical garments….) , left once again much to be desired.
The letter has been signed, though Messa In Latino doesn’t report the names. Also noticeable is the decision not to allow any seminarian to sign, after a similar appeal from Milan seminarians to have Summorum Pontificum applied in their own diocese led to inordinate thundering and unpleasant consequences.
Messa in Latino puts it, as always, in a refreshingly blunt way:
La media dei vescovi di Germania, Austria, Svizzera, Francia, è da asilo per lunatici; in Italia e Spagna, dove non siamo caduti così in basso, la media è comunque mediocre e di desolante immobilismo.
The average of the bishops in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France is at madhouse level; in Italy and Spain, where we haven’t sunk so low, the average is still mediocre and marked by a depressing total absence of action”
Personally, I must say that one begins to see something vaguely approaching a harder stance. It hadn’t happened for very long, surely, that two bishops were kicked out in a matter of months, and three in less than a year. Still, what – I think – must end is the mentality by which an appointment is the result of a compromise between the diverging desires of the Pontiff (for an orthodox man) and of the local clergy (for a lunatic, or a heretic). In the end, there is no way protests from liberals can be avoided and appointing liberal bishops will not appease them (as if appeasement were a working strategy, ever), but only make them more vocal.
Summorum Pontificum is, I think, a point in case. A very lax enforcement of the clear dispositions of that historic motu proprio didn’t facilitate at all a prompt reception of its clear message; on the contrary, it encouraged a huge number of Western bishops into thinking that SP could be boycotted as long as necessary, and destroyed as soon as practicable. Only Universae Ecclesiae will put an end to this; and again, only if seriously enforced.
“Messa in Latino” puts the importance of the matter in such a beautiful way, that I can’t resist reporting and translating the entire concept:
La prima preoccupazione di questo sito è sempre stata per la scelta di buoni vescovi e per questo abbiamo cercato di seguirne le nomine, prima ancora che parlare di liturgia. Perché è dalle risorse umane che dipendono le sorti di un’azienda; e certo, se la Chiesa fosse un’azienda, sarebbe già fallita da molto tempo. Il fatto che la barca vada avanti nonostante certi rematori, è la prova storica dell’assistenza divina. Nondimeno, cerchi un po’ la Congregazione per i vescovi di facilitare il compito alla Provvidenza.
The most pressing care of this site has always been the choice of good bishops and this is why we have tried to follow their appointments, even before talking about liturgy. This, because it is from the human resources that the furtunes of a company depend; and certainly, if the Church had been a company she would have gone bankrupt a long time ago. The fact that the barque continues to go on notwithstanding such rowers is the historical proof of the Divine assistance. Still, the Congregation For Bishops should try to make the task of Providence easier”.
I am confident that Cardinal Ouellet will make Providence’s task somewhat easier; though episodes like Fonlupt’s appointment show that the process will not be as speedy as we would wish.
In the rather disconcerting matter of the Instruction on Summorum Pontificum, extremely clear signals are now being received a bit everywhere that the Instruction is going to be (largely) rather an improvement on the existing Motu Proprio than the sabotage attempted in the rather dangerous corridors of the Vatican.
That things are largely improving is now proven by the fact that a “trendy” magazine (whose name I do not want to make in case it should bring them two or three clicks) basically confirms the conservative content of the Instruction in its latest draft.
If this matter will end up with a lieto fine (that is: with only minor damage but with the official, if certainly ignored, clear indication that Summorum Pontificum is here to stay) I think that some lesson will have to be learned, like for example:
1) That whilst the corridors of the Curia are now certainly more conservative than they were 15 or 20 years ago, conservatism does not necessarily mean favour for the Tridentine.
2) That this Holy Father – good person as he is – has his own people so little under control, that they can dare to think to partially undo the most important provision of his papacy under his very nose. Think whether this could have ever happened to St. Pius X, or Pius XI, or Pius XII! A rather alarming lack of leadership is apparent here and if I were allowed to respectfully voice my opinion in the Holy Father’s presence I’d suggest that he might dedicate less time to writing and more time to selecting the right people, demanding that they work properly and controlling that they do as they are told. There’s a time to be a theologian and a time to be a Pope, methinks; particularly when episodes happen which, like this one, clearly point out to what can only be a diffused praxis instead of a single episode thought out by imaginative prelates.
3) That the leak has been providential and very well-timed, and that it pays to voice one’s dismay when things are attempted that are a shame to Catholicism. Leaks are, at times, good for one’s Church, and for one’s liver.
I will not translate the (as so often: how refreshing!) rather harsh word of Messa In Latino to those who say – as the weak and spineless are bound to say – that it is oh so unchristian to criticise a document before it is out. Rather let it go out, would their recipe be; after which they’ll invariably say that now ithat t is out it doesn’t make any sense to complain…..
The fearful will always have a reason why they don’t want to battle, but they’ll prefer to call it “love for peace” or even “obedience”. Bad Catholicism, if you ask me.
This battle has been (apparently) won because brave people (first of all Messa in Latino and Rorate Caeli) have had the gut to call a spade a spade and to do it out loud.
Nothing un-Catholic in that. On the contrary!
But we certainly need more commitment in the Curia, and a more decisive action from the very top.
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.