Newsflash Archives > Where Is the Ecclesia Dei Document?
Where Is the Ecclesia Dei Document?
Another conversation with a Vatican official... Plus, still more on the upcoming encyclical... And, true joy...
By Dr. Robert Moynihan, reporting from Rome
Today was warmer than yesterday, but it is still quite cool compared to the usual June heat. Perhaps it will stay cool through the weekend, when so many bishops will come to Rome to receive the "pallium" from the Pope on Monday, June 29... Let's hope so.
A very important document was supposed to come out last Friday, June 19.
It didn't come out Friday. Or Saturday. Or Sunday, or Monday, or Tuesday, or Wednesday, or today.
And behind this delay, there is a story.
What document am I talking about?
Not the long-awaited social encyclical! That is still coming, trundling along, due to be signed June 29, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. This morning, in the press office, I was talking to one of my colleagues, who said she thinks they've already started printing the encyclical.
"Why do you think that?" I asked.
"Well," she said, "yesterday I was in the Vatican to do a bit of shopping at the supermarket. As I came walking out with my bags, I walked by the tipografia (the building of the Vatican printing press). I noticed the machines were humming more than usual, as if there was some big project on the presses.
"I was able to just catch a glimpse of some piles of printed paper on pallets. So I really think some of the editions of the encyclical are finally being printed. I think it is coming.
"But perhaps not the Chinese and Latin editions. I've heard they are having problems finalizing the translations of the Latin and Chinese editions. There aren't as many Latinists of the highest quality as there used to be, nor too many qualified Chinese translators..."
(Her words recalled to my mind the memory of my Latin teacher, Father Reginald Foster, who taught me Latin in the 1980s at the Gregorian, and who worked for 30 years as a papal Latinist, writing the official Latin of papal documents. He has gone back to America — he is a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin — and the Eternal City now lacks one of its most colorful characters, and perhaps the greatest teacher I have ever known.)
So the encyclical, which evidently has passed through seven or eight distinct drafts, and was blocked for six months at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith while it was being studied carefully, and which will be the Pope's considered response to the world economic crisis (and so of considerable interest even outside the Church), will be signed June 29, and available to all of us a day or two, or three, after that...
(Unless there is a leak! I was told this evening that an unofficial text, in English, is already floating around the internet... But it seems to me of little importance who reads the encyclical first, or second, or third. The important thing is not to be first. The important thing is to read it attentively, and understand it completely, and interpret its relevance to our time effectively.)
The Ecclesia Dei Constitution
No, I am talking about another document entirely: the one regulating the future of the Ecclesia Dei commission (the commission founded in 1988 to focus on questions related to the old Mass and to provide pastoral care for those Catholics attached to the old liturgy).
It's a very brief document, perhaps just three pages long. It is rumored to have been ready for some time. And I was told today that it was definitely scheduled last week for release on Friday, June 19.
But it hasn't come out. Why?
Hints and Guesses
I should make clear that these newsflashes are often just "hints and guesses," impressions, partial insights... They are a genre of writing which doesn't have a name: neither news, nor literature; neither art, nor science.
In this regard, a reader just wrote to me saying, "I understand you have to be politically correct in what you write, being so close to the Vatican." and adding that he knew that I knew more than I was writing.
But it isn't true. I don't know much more than I am writing. I write what I know, and what I don't know, I don't write.
This newsflash has a modest scope. I have no desire to break stories, to "scoop" the world. I intend merely to describe, in my own, limited way, what it is like for an American in Rome at the beginning of the 21st century.
St. Augustine said: "I learn by writing." Sometimes I think I understand something, but when I try to write it down, I realize I don't understand it at all. So I learn by writing.
Another reader writes: "I really appreciate your newsflashes, but quotes like 'Benedict is a holy man, but he doesn't know how to govern,' really discourage me. I want to love the Pope as a father, support him with everything I have, not be critical of his abilities to rule the Church. Surely the Holy Spirit will provide him with the grace he needs for this? Bless you in your work, Sara Fredestad, Sweden."
It is possible that Benedict is governing the Church in the most prudent way — even the most brilliant way. Opinions are not facts. They reveal what some believe may be the case, and as such, can be interesting.
But readers should be cautious, thoughtful, and always patient!
But what about the Ecclesia Dei document?
According to one friend here, "Behind the pretext of changing Ecclesia Dei, and merging it into the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Pope wants to reopen a theological dialogue concerning Vatican II."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"The Second Vatican Council provoked an earthquake in the Church," my friend said. "The clergy, the laity, and the Vatican itself — everything was shaken. And now, 45 years later, there is only one group which wants a thorough debate on the meaning of the conciliar documents: the Society of St. Pius X. And the purpose of moving Ecclesia Dei under the CDF is to prepare the way for a thorough debate on the conciliar documents."
"So what is the problem with that?" I asked.
"Look," my friend said. "The document regulating the role of Ecclesia Dei is all written. It has three parts: 1) some technical points concerning how it will function; 2) some measures about its relationship to the CDF, within the CDF; and 3) an outline of a program for discussing Vatican II and how the Council should be interpreted in keeping with the perennial tradition of the Church."
"And?" I asked.
"That's the problem."
"What's the problem?" I asked.
"Some people don't want these questions opened up again."
What is really happening here?
Benedict, knowing that the Second Vatican Council was a watershed in the history of the Church, and knowing also that the interpretation of the Council has led in some unexpected and erroneous directions, has decided to face the basic problem — the problem of the interpretation of Vatican II — by placing the Ecclesia Dei commission in the heart of the most important doctrinal office in the Church, in the CDF.
And yet, for some reason, the implementation of that decision is being delayed.
Another friend today told me he thinks the visit of the Austrian bishops to Rome last week has not been understood.
"The Austrian bishops, who are they?" my friend said. "They are Schoenborn..."
He was referring to Christoph Schoenborn, the 64-year-old cardinal archbishop of Vienna, Austria, and a former student of Joseph Ratzinger.
"It is significant that the Pope agreed to spend two days speaking with Schoenborn," my friend said. "I think there could be further developments. For example, Cardinal Levada just turned 73 on June 15. The Pope could be thinking of bringing Schoeborn back to Rome, to take Levada's place when he turns 75..."
Eighteen years ago, on June 19, 1991, Pope John Paul II reflected on true joy at his General Audience. He said:
"According to Paul, Christians reproduce in themselves the paschal mystery of Christ, whose foundation is the cross. But its crowning glory is 'joy in the Holy Spirit' for those who persevere in the time of trial. It is the joy of the beatitudes, particularly the beatitude of the mourning and the persecuted (cf. Mt 5:4, 10-12). Did not Paul the Apostle say: 'I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake...' (Col 1:24)? And Peter, in his turn, urged: 'But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly' (1 Pet 4:13).
"Let us pray to the Holy Spirit that he may always enkindle in us a desire for the good things of heaven and enable us one day to enjoy their fullness: 'Grant us virtue and its reward, grant us a holy death, give us eternal joy.' Amen."
Talks by Dr. Robert Moynihan on CD!
Special Offer for New Subscribers Only! Subscribe to Inside the Vatican Magazine for Only $34.95! Buy Now and Save $15.00! Click here!
Inside The Vatican (ISSN 1068-8579) is a Catholic news magazine, published monthly except July
and September, with occasional special supplements.