Citing Pope Francis’ recent motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, the archbishop of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, has decreed the abolition of the local quasi parish administered by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), which has been celebrating the Mass and other sacraments according to the traditional Latin rite in the archdiocese since 2008.
In addition to suppressing the parish, Archbishop José Francisco Robles Ortega has restricted the number of Masses permitted in the archdiocese, effectively eliminating Masses for weddings, funerals, and other events. He has also prohibited the FSSP from doing public masses at their pastoral house, and states that he will soon decide who will be permitted to celebrate the traditional Mass and provide spiritual care for the faithful, implying that the FSSP might be excluded completely from the archdiocese.
Robles’ decree, issued on Tuesday of last week, implies that the ultimate goal is to eliminate the traditional rite of Mass completely in the Archdiocese of Guadalajara, citing Francis’ statement in a letter accompanying Traditionis Custodes that he wishes to “work for a return to a unitary form of celebration” that will exclude the ancient rite. It also implies that further restrictions on the number of Masses will be imposed in the future, decreeing that “the celebrations will be carried out without adding to those already established . . . Once the time of the pandemic is over, the number of celebrations will be reviewed in each case.”
According to members of the parish who spoke to CWR about the case, the cardinal archbishop and his subordinates did nothing to discuss the matter with the lay faithful of the parish nor the FSSP priests before making his decision, despite claiming in a July press conference that he wished to have a “dialogue” with the FSSP following the issuance of Traditionis Custodes, which requires priests to obtain permission to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass according to the 1962 missal, and prohibits the creation of “new groups” associated with the ancient liturgy.
When several members of the parish attempted to approach the cardinal on Sunday to respectfully ask for an audience with him about the matter, he refused, claiming he was speaking to their priests – a claim that CWR is told is untrue – and quickly withdrew, appearing to be discombobulated by the encounter.
Robles is known for his aloofness, and is believed to rarely grant audiences to laity in the archdiocese, in marked contrast to his predecessor, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, whose doors were open several days of the week to any who sought an appointment with him.
So far the decree seems to be bringing about the opposite of its intended effect, spurring record levels of attendance at FSSP Masses. Sources tell CWR that a total of 798 people attended the Sunday Masses yesterday, a number that exceeds the earlier record of 715, which occurred on the Sunday following the issuance of Traditionis Custodes in July of this year.
Faithful left without rights and “unsheltered” by the archdiocese
The decision has left former parishioners feeling betrayed by the archdiocese, who committed more than ten years of work to build up the quasi-parish since it was founded in 2010. They note that the parish community brought several priestly and religious vocations to the Church, as well as many lay conversions, and led to the creation of a highly active community devoted to works of charity for the poor, orphans, and the sick in local hospitals, as well as street evangelization and missionary work in smaller towns in the region.
“Without any previous dialogue by the archbishop with the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) nor with the faithful, the quasi-parish that was based in the church of Our Lady of the Pillar in the historic downtown of Guadalajara has been eradicated, leaving more than 150 families that had been members without a series of canonical rights and unsheltered,” stated a group of the faithful in a press release issued on Saturday.
“It is important to note that in no part of the document [Traditionis Custodes] is there a suggestion or a requirement for the suppression of parishes or quasi-parishes that were already erected under the previous motu proprio Summorum Pontificum issued by Pope Benedict XVI,” the press release continued.
“The now ex-parishioners, who were surprised by the notice, believe that this measure is being taken to bring about the elimination of the celebration of the Eucharist according to the Missal of Saint John XXIII in the archdiocese of Guadalajara, since, despite the fact that Robles Ortega indicated in a press release in July that he would meet with the Fraternity to have a dialogue, this never happened.”
Calling the decree, “cruel and unjust,” the former parishioners note that “the edict will destroy the work of more than a decade of a devoted and vibrant community . . . In the little more than twelve years that the FSSP has been in Guadalajara, many people have returned to the Catholic Church and to the practice of their faith thanks to its apostolates. During that time, the community has given to the Church four priests, one nun, conversions and baptisms of non-Christian adults who continue to have an authentic spiritual growth.”
The press release led to articles in Guadalajara media about the suppression of the parish, which appeared yesterday in Guadalajara’s El Informador and Mural newspapers.
Decree marred by contradictions and factual errors
Sources among the former parishioners stated to CWR that the decree appears to have been hastily composed, and contains errors that tend to confirm suspicions that the cardinal archbishop and his chancery secretary know very little about the quasi-parish and the Fraternity of St. Peter, despite the fact that the order has been present within the archdiocese for almost thirteen years.
The most glaring error is the naming of the Fraternity of St. Peter as “The Fraternity of St. Peter in Chains,” confounding the name of the FSSP with the name of the quasi-parish erected in the archdiocese. The document additionally states that the parish has the same name as the FSSP, confirming that archdiocesan officials are confused about the FSSP’s actual name.
In addition, the decree incorrectly calls the FSSP pastoral house a “house of formation,” although it was canonically erected for pastoral work and not for the formation of priests. The decree cites this designation as its basis for prohibiting public Masses and restricting the number of Masses at the house, although it is not clear that the archbishop has the authority to impose such a restriction over the house of a society of pontifical right that was expressly created to serve the pastoral needs of the laity, who carry out their activities there.
The document also permits FSSP priests to continue the celebrate Mass “according to the 1962 Missal (art. 2 TC), with the sole proclamation of the readings in the vernacular,” a mandate that appears to be self-contradictory, given that the 1962 missal requires that the Scripture readings be done in Latin. Sources tell CWR that the FSSP priests already proclaim the Scriptures in the vernacular when giving their homily after first reading them in Latin.
Despite the obstacles they face, the ex-parishioners continue to “reaffirm their unbreakable fidelity and service to the Catholic Church and to the successor of St. Peter,” and still express “hope that we will be heard by Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega” and obtain the reversal of his decree, according to their press release.
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