A Progress Report

News from the Ecclesia Dei Commission

It was a busy week for Msgr. Guido Pozzo, secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.

Friday, October 23: Grant interview to the weblog “Messa in Latino.” Saturday and Sunday: Greet members of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X as they arrive at the Vatican; ask how they like their rooms at the Domus Sanctae Marthae (it was designed for conclaves, which can be austere). Apologize about the altars at the house being booked up; explain that they’ll have to celebrate Mass in the crypt at St. Peter’s Basilica.

Monday, October 26: Attend the first session of the theological dialogue between the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the SSPX at the Palace of the Holy Office. Thursday: Greet delegation from the International Federation “Una Voce” when they stop by the office of the ED Commission. Read their second annual progress report on the implementation of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.

In retrospect, the week that was centered liturgically on the Feast of Christ the King (according to the traditional calendar) went smoothly and was auspicious for devotees of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Missal.

The interviewer for the Italian website dedicated to “The Latin Mass,” when speaking with Msgr. Pozzo, tactfully avoided questions about the impending discussions with the SSPX. Instead, he asked Msgr. Pozzo about a “widespread restrictive interpretation” of the motu proprio, claiming that “the papal provision is primarily, if not exclusively, aimed at those groups and institutes that were already attached to the traditional form.” Msgr. Pozzo replied:

“The motu proprio is addressed to all the Catholic faithful who desire the extraordinary form of the Roman liturgy…. The purpose of the document is also to allow the spreading of the extraordinary form.” The motu proprio mentions a threeyear term, after which an assessment will be made. Does this mean that the 1962 Missal is being liberalized ad experimentum, perhaps only temporarily? No, said Pozzo; reports will be gathered so that if serious difficulties arise appropriate remedies can be found. Finally, he cited a recent poll which found that an “absolute majority of practicing Catholics…regard the coexistence of the two forms of the Mass in the parishes as perfectly normal.”

The CDF-SSPX MEETING

The Vatican waited until October 15 to announce the time and place for the inaugural session of the doctrinal talks between the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Fraternity of St. Pius X. The statement also named those who would participate in the meeting on behalf of the Holy See: Msgr. Pozzo and Archbishop Luis F. Ladaria Ferrer, SJ, secretary of the CDF, ex officio, together with three CDF consultants: Father Charles Morerod, OP (secretary of the International Theological Commission), Msgr. Fernando OcÁriz (Vicar General of Opus Dei), and Father Karl Josef Becker, SJ. An SSPX communiqué dated October 15 listed the appointees who will represent the Fraternity in the discussions: Bishop Alfonso de Galarreta, rector of the Fraternity’s seminary in La Reja (Argentina), Father Benoît de Jorna, rector of their international seminary in Ecône (Switzerland), Father Jean-Michel Gleize, professor of ecclesiology at the latter seminary, and Father Patrick de La Rocque, prior of Saint Louis Priory in Nantes (France).

The first doctrinal meeting on October 26, 2009, lasted from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Both sides agree that their discussions should be conducted with a minimum of publicity, and after the meeting the participants went to lunch without taking questions from the journalists waiting outside. The Vatican Press Office did issue a statement saying that the conversations had begun “in a cordial, respectful, and constructive climate.” The press release announced that further discussions would be held every other month and identified the issues to be examined: “the concept of Tradition, the Missal of Paul VI, the interpretation of Vatican Council II in continuity with Catholic doctrinal Tradition, the themes of the unity of the Church and the Catholic principles of ecumenism, the relationship between Christianity and non- Christian religions, and religious freedom.” The first meeting also addressed the method and organization of the work of the CDF and SSPX commissions.

Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, head of the Press Office of the Holy See, met with journalists at midday that Monday. His own comments neatly summed up the historic occasion: “At last competent and authorized persons [representing the Vatican and the Lefebvrites] discussed doctrinal questions” and did so in a “spirit of trust.”

On Wednesday, October 28, after his General Audience, Pope Benedict XVI received a delegation from the International Federation “Una Voce” (FIUV) on St. Peter’s Square. The Holy Father was reportedly very happy to meet with four members of the FIUV executive committee, who spoke with him about their lay apostolate of promoting the celebration of Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. After the conversation the pilgrims submitted to the Pontiff a copy of their Report on the Second Anniversary of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum. During their three-day stay in Rome the delegation also visited several Curial officials, the editorial office of L’Osservatore Romano, the headquarters of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, and two of its past presidents, in each case presenting a copy of their documentation.

UNA VOCE ’S REPORT

The report of the Una Voce Federation runs to 95 pages. A 14-page summary of Parts 1 and 2 was made public. Parts 3 and 4—status reports from particular countries and regions worldwide— contain sensitive material and were not released.

Part 1, a wide-ranging reflection by FIUV executive president Leo Darroch titled “Tradition Restored,” ascribes the current crisis in the Church to the failure of many to obey papal authority. “Since the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum the signs, increasingly, are encouraging; tradition [i.e. the Traditional Latin Mass]…has been restored to its rightful place in the Church and is now making quite clear progress…. The iron grip of Modernism is finally being loosened. It is a movement…with a blinkered vision that does not extend beyond the minds of its adherents. On the other hand, tradition has a secure foundation, a history, a present, and a future; a continuity.”

Darroch goes on to praise Pope Benedict XVI for his wise and patient leadership “in gathering together a scattered and disenchanted flock.” “All his actions are guided by one principle: restoration of true Catholic liturgy for the unambiguous worship of Almighty God through the sacrifice on the altar of his Blessed Son. By his courageous action in promulgating Summorum Pontificum,our Holy Father has now generated a debate at all levels in the Church about what was actually authorized by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council.” Millions abandoned the practice of the Catholic faith in response to the post conciliar “renewal” of the Mass, Darroch notes. The current critical reexamination of that liturgical reform is driven largely by the laity. Fidelity to our Lord and to the Gospel means fidelity to Christ’s vicar on earth.

Part 2 of the report summarizes and analyzes the observations of FIUV members worldwide on “how the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum is being implemented in their own countries during the second year following [its] promulgation [on September 14, 2007].” Although the motu proprio was “issued with the authority of the [Church’s] Supreme Legislator,” it has met with “a mixed reception…which includes a serious level of episcopal disapproval in many countries.” Some bishops have taken an authoritarian stance in their efforts to thwart the new liturgical legislation, going so far as to threaten and impose sanctions on priests who dare to use the 1962 Missal.

Despite the silent treatment of the motu proprio by some conferences of bishops, Catholics are learning about it through the Internet. Those old enough to remember the traditional Mass and young people just discovering “the beauty and spirituality of the ancient liturgy” are forming groups to request Masses in the Extraordinary Form. “Generally…it is the younger laity and priests who are showing the most interest.”

An analysis of the data for 2008-2009 follows, arranged under 10 headings. There has been “noticeable improvement,” notably in Poland, South Africa, and the US, “with more [traditional] Masses being celebrated and in different locations.” The situation has deteriorated in some places (e.g., Nigeria) and remained the same in most others. “In those places where bishops have welcomed the motu proprio and both forms co-exist, there is harmony and growth in their dioceses. This was the clear intention of the Holy Father.”

Currently 151 out of 178 dioceses in the United States offer at least one weekly celebration of the traditional Mass. Poland has seen “a considerable increase” in celebrations. “In Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, and England and Wales there has been some increase in Masses and locations, but this is often due to the persistence of lay people and the courage of individual priests rather than the pastoral concern of their bishops.”

Many bishops around the world have responded positively; the FIUV report commends the following from English-speaking countries: Archbishops Hart and Hickey (Australia), Archbishops Miller, Collins, and Currie (Canada), and Cardinal George and Bishops Bruskewitz and Finn in the US. “FIUV members have provided a great deal of factual information about a lack of cooperation, and this information will be [forwarded] to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.”

The reaction of young people to the traditional Mass is described as “quite dramatic.” Non-Catholics who encounter it at weddings or funerals are also often favorably impressed. “They do not understand the language, or the ceremony, but they experience something that moves them; something ‘extraordinary.’”

The FIUV receives requests from priests for information or assistance in celebrating the Extraordinary Form. “The largest numbers have been in the USA, England and Wales, Germany, and Canada.” Una Voce America, in collaboration with the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, established a program in June 2007 which has trained more than 130 priests from 72 North American dioceses; more than 80 percent of them now celebrate the Extraordinary Form regularly. Similar courses are conducted in Ushaw College, a seminary in northern England, and at All Saints Pastoral Center in the Archdiocese of Westminster.

In an interview published November 18 in the Catholic newspaper L’homme nouveau, Msgr. Pozzo confirmed several major points in the FIUV report, acknowledging that the motu proprio has sometimes met with “hostility or prejudices.” He added, “We must be realistic and have the necessary tact,” since there are often practical reasons for failure to implement it (clergy shortage, lack of trained clergy). Msgr. Pozzo emphasized, nonetheless, the legitimacy of the Traditionalist demands: “It’s not a question of a concession being made for the faithful, but rather of Catholics’ right to have access to the Gregorian liturgy.”

 


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About Michael J. Miller 125 Articles
Michael J. Miller Michael J. Miller translated Priesthood and Diaconate by Gerhard Ludwig Müller for Ignatius Press and Eucharist and Divorce: A Change in Doctrine? for the Pontifical John Paul II Institute.