Newsletter of the District of Asia

 Jan-Jun 2001

Roman talks – An Update

By Fr. Pierre-Marie Laurençon SSPX
Superior of the French District

From Letter to Priests, no.9, March 2001

By the time this letter comes out, most of our readers will have heard, by one way or another, that an official dialogue has resumed since around last Christmas between the Society of St Pius X and Cardinal Castrillon, mandated especially for this in his function of Prefect for the Congregation of the Clergy by the Holy Father.  The story is true.

It all began with the very positive impact of our August 2000 Roman Pilgrimage.  Expecting  an excited and perhaps embittered crowd,  Roman observers discovered innumerable normal families, filled with joy and determination, praying for the Holy Father and for the Church.  Msgr. Tavanti, in charge of the liturgy in St Mary Major stated:  “It is one of the most edifying pilgrimage that I have seen during the Holy Year.”

As a result of these intense days of prayers, 30 Days magazine managed to obtain a long interview with the Superior General of the SSPX, H.E. Bishop Bernard Fellay.  Although the written interview omitted certain reservations made by Bishop Fellay, one sentence resounded in the Vatican corridors: : "If he calls me, I go. Right away. Or rather, I run. This is certain. Because of obedience. By filial obedience with regard to the head of the Church."  In the same interview, Bishop Fellay gave a certain frame of work that would be required for any further discussions: to allow all the priests in the world to have the free option to celebrate the Tridentine Mass, without any condition, whatsoever, without any penalty.  (In the original interview, Bishop Fellay had said that this was a very first step for the negotiations.  The editor removed the words very first step, and made it appear as if that was the only thing he was asking.)

This pre-requisite may surprise since it doesn’t seem to concern directly the SSPX.  However, keen and authorized observers have estimated it as ‘non excessive’.  In fact, now that it is quasi officially recognized that the Tridentine missal was abusively forbidden (see Card. Ratzinger, Ma Vie, p.132), now that high ranking officials in the Church are coming out with statements such as “the crisis in the Church lies greatly on the disintegration of the liturgy” (id.), it doesn’t seem improper then to lift at this present moment the abusive and infamous interdict weighing on a multi-secular missal, which has proven its doctrinal certainty and salutary efficacy beyond question.  That is why Cardinal Castrillon, in a subsequent interview he gave to the same 30 Days magazine, when asked about the two prerequisites put forward by the SSPX, declared that: “If they are submitted, they will be examined with respect and in view of the authentic good of the whole ecclesial community.” (30 Days, Nov. 2001, p.19, French Edition).

However, while these lines are written, in spite of many official meetings between the Prefect of the Congregation of the Clergy and the authorities of the SSPX, in spite of the first brief meeting between Pope John Paul II and Bishop Fellay on Dec. 30, it seems that a favorable conclusion of these talks has been compromised temporarily.  What has caused this is the Roman change of mind in relation to the first prerequisite, about which they had given assurance that it would not cause any difficulties.  It seems that, after some internal pressure, Rome has backtracked on this beneficial and ‘non excessive’ measure.  Such a change of mind would be very unfortunate because it throws up in the air not only a burgeoning dialogue, but especially “the authentic good of the whole ecclesial community”, to use Cardinal Castrillon’s own words.

As a matter of fact, the ‘signs of the times’ are there:  at this moment, in France, one out of every five priests who is ordained is ordained for a traditional community, while 50% of diocesan seminarians have asked themselves one day if they should not join one or the other of these traditional communities (Interview of Card. Ratzinger, Spectacle du Monde, Dec. 2000).  The story is the same in Italy.  While influential priests, such as Fr. Baget Bozzo, publicly ask for the re-establishment of the Tridentine Rite, other parish priests make some practical moves.  One of them, of French origin, of his own initiative, is now celebrating the traditional Mass for his parishioners every Sunday, “the only perfectly healthy food for their eucharistic faith”, was his explanation. 

Similar testimonies have been heard in the USA, in Argentina, in Poland, in Germany.  Usually they come from the young clergy.  “As priest, I have a great desire to move on to the traditional Mass, because of the spiritual richness which seems to come from it.  The more I examine it, the more I know it, and the more I see what has been taken from us.”

The Roman interdict, maintained until now, cannot but provoke serious misunderstanding amidst the clergy, which could eventually explode in the open, as in some French dioceses.  Only a gesture of Rome could appeased this tension all-of-a-sudden  and prevent a fratricide war similar to the one that shook the clergy of the ‘70s.  This act is simple: to give to every priest the full freedom to celebrate according to the traditional missal.  This act, yesterday on the Roman agenda, is now being reconsidered by Rome  This indecisiveness of Rome has sadly led the SSPX to suspend for the moment any further official discussion with Rome, by the very fact that Rome has backtracked.  This attitude would especially signify the rejection of a grace of pacification, and of numerous spiritual benefits, carrying with them the promise of a true revival for the whole Church.

Let us continue to pray ardently for this intention, that the liberating act awaited by so many may come: to allow every priest the freedom to use a missal certainly worthy of God, which communicates in abundance the treasures of the depositum fidei and which has produced throughout all the ages such fruits of sanctity for all to see.

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