Monday, January 21, 2019

“With a new Apostolic Letter issued ‘motu proprio,’ Pope Francis has suppressed the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which was established 30 years ago by Pope St. John Paul II.” —Christopher Wells, Vatican News, January 19, referring a a papal decree of January 17 suppressing the Ecclesia Dei commission (link)

“The will of the bishops [at the Second Vatican Council] was to renew the Faith, to deepen it. However, there were, more and more, other forces effective – especially journalists – who interpreted the things in a fully new way. At some point, people started to ask: ‘If the bishops can change everything, why can we not do the same?’ The liturgy started to crumble and to slide into randomness. In this regard, one could see that that which had been positively willed was then being pushed into another direction. Since 1965, I felt it to be my mission to clarify what we truly want and what we do not want.” —Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, speaking to his biographer, German writer Peter Seewald, in a private interview either just before or just after his resignation as Pope (February 2013), cited in the book Last Testament, published in German in the fall of 2016. His words are relevant with regard to the debate over the correct interpretation of the Second Vatican Council, which is a central point in the dialogue between the Society of St. Pius X and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, now intensifying as a result of the Pope’s motu proprio of January 17

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) Assumes Duties of Ecclesia Dei Commission

In a document signed January 17 and released January 19, Pope Francis has suppressed the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which was established 30 years ago in 1988 by Pope St. John Paul II.

What does it mean?

Most observers are terming it a fundamentally “bureaucratic” decision.

These observers say it which will not change the way the Holy See deals with the traditional Catholics, especially with the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X.

(Known as the SSPX — sometimes written FSSPX — the Ecclesia Dei document in 1988 was issued by Pope John Paul II in response to the decision of traditionalist French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the SSPX in 1970, to consecrate four bishops against the Pope’s will on June 30, 1988, causing the first and, thus far, only official schism in the Church in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council).

Indeed, many observers are saying that doctrinal talks between Rome and the SSPX are now far advanced and that there are real hopes that there may soon be a positive conclusion to the talks, and that this is the reason the decision has been taken to have the talks handled directly by the Vatican’s top doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and no longer by the Ecclesia Dei commission, which had a lesser doctrinal authority.

So some are seeing this as a hopeful step in the long, 30-year process of reconciling the SSPX fully with Rome.

However, that process still faces difficult obstacles.

That is because the dialogue must address differing positions on the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).

Especially, the dialogue must distinguish between what the Council said, and what was said after the Council (with greater and lesser authority) in the Council’s name.

The doctrinal points in question between the SSPX and Rome relate to teachings that have been presented by many as fully legitimate developments of the pastoral emphases of the Second Vatican Council.

But the theologians of the SSPX contend that many of these teachings are an unacceptable departure from traditional Catholic teaching.

So the dialogue between the SSPX and CDF, now expected to intensify, will inevitably confront the very thorny question of Vatican II and its legacy — a matter that Pope Benedict XVI himself has often said is very complex and very delicate.

Here below, several items to help readers have a better idea of what this decision of Pope Francis means, beginning with two official Vatican explanations (the second by the new editorial director of the Vatican, an old colleague and friend, Andrea Tornielli), followed by the text of the recent and the 30-year-old papal decrees, followed by another article of observations, two interesting news notes about developments in the dialogue between the SSPX and Rome, and finally, a report from almost two and half years ago (September 2016) on Emeritus Pope Benedict’s reflections on his own role at Vatican II, based on interviews he granted to his biographer, Peter Seewald, in recent years, both before and after his resignation in 2013.


CDF assumes duties of Ecclesia Dei Commission (link)

By Christopher Wells

The Holy See has published the text of an Apostolic Letter, issued motu proprio on 17 January 2019, by which Pope Francis suppresses the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.

Established by St John Paul II

The Commission was established by Pope St John Paul II on 2 July 1988, with the “task of collaborating with the bishops, with the Departments of the Roman Curia and with the circles concerned, for the purpose of facilitating full ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, religious communities or individuals until now linked in various ways to the Fraternity founded by Archbishop Lefebvre [the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X, or FSSPX], who may wish to remain united to the Successor of Peter in the Catholic Church.”

Dialogue with FSSPX

In the Letter, Pope Francis notes the “sincere solicitude and praiseworthy care” with which the Commission undertook its work. He explained, however, that “the conditions that led the holy Pontiff John Paul II to the institution” of the Ecclesia Dei Commission have changed since its foundation. Notably, the dialogue with the FSSPX is now focused primarily on questions of a doctrinal nature. For this reason, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith requested, in November of 2017, that the dialogue with the priestly fraternity be conducted directly by the CDF.

The new motu proprio effects that change through the suppression of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.

In addition to the dialogue with the FSSPX, the Pontifical Commission had also exercised the authority of the Holy See “over various institutes and religious communities which it has erected which have as their ‘proper Rite’ the ‘extraordinary form’ of the Roman Rite and observe the previous traditions of the religious life.”

It was also tasked with looking after and promoting “the pastoral care of the faithful attached to the antecedent Latin liturgical tradition, present in various parts of the world.”

In the motu proprio suppressing the Ecclesia Dei Commission, Pope Francis notes that “the Institutes and Religious Communities which habitually celebrate in the extraordinary form have today found their own stability of number and life.”

New Section of CDF

With the Apostolic Letter, the Holy Father assigns the duties of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei in their entirety to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “within which a specific Section will be set up in order to continue the work of vigilance, promotion, and protection” of the suppressed Commission.

Finally, Pope Francis disposes that the budget of the Ecclesia Dei Commission fall within the ordinary accounting of the CDF.


Editorial: Ecclesia Dei, exceptional nature ends (link)

The Editorial Director of the Dicastery for Communication comments on the significance of Pope Francis’ decision to assign the duties of the Ecclesia Dei Commission to a special section of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

By Andrea Tornielli

The Apostolic Letter motu proprio with which Pope Francis suppressed the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei and transferred its competence to a special section of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has a two-fold meaning.

Exceptional nature ends

In the first place, the Pope notes that the exceptional character for which Pope St. John Paul II had instituted it in 1988 – following the break with Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and the subsequent episcopal ordinations that took place without pontifical mandate – has disappeared.

The Commission was meant to encourage the recovery of full ecclesial communion with the priests, seminarians, and men and women religious linked to the pre-conciliar Roman Rite, allowing them to maintain their own spiritual and liturgical traditions.

The emergency no longer exists, thanks also to the decision of Benedict XVI to permit the use of the 1962 Roman Missal (promulgated by Pope St. John XXIII before the beginning of the Second Vatican Council).

For this reason, Pope Francis said in the motu proprio that “the Institutes and Religious communities which habitually celebrate in the extraordinary form have today found their own stability of number and life”. Their existence is therefore consolidated, and all the functions are transferred to the new section which, among other things, will consist of the same staff previously employed by the Commission.

The second meaning of the decision is related to the specific competence of the Doctrinal Dicastery.

Pope Francis’ decision is part of a process already begun by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who in 2009 decreed that the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith should preside over the Ecclesia Dei Commission.

This most recent change is motivated by the fact that the aims and questions dealt with by the Commission “are of a primarily doctrinal order.”

This is a reference to the dialogue between the Holy See and the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X, or FSSPX, founded by Archbishop Lefebvre.

As is well known, with the revocation of the excommunications of the bishops ordained illegitimately in 1988, the free use of the Roman Missal of 1962, and the faculties granted to the priests of the FSSPX by Pope Francis, the doctrinal issue remains the only issue still open, though it is also the most important – especially since the FSSPX has changed its superiors.

In fact, its new leaders have announced their desire for further discussions with the Holy See regarding the texts of the Second Vatican Council: a delicate issue which will be addressed by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Luis Ladaria.



The Pope’s New Decree: The Complete Text (link)

Here below is a LifeSiteNews translation of today’s motu proprio on the suppression of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. (The working translation is by Diane Montagna, Rome correspondent for LifeSite.)


Apostolic Letter

issued Motu Proprio

on the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei

For over thirty years the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, established with the Motu proprio Ecclesia Dei adflicta of 2 July 1988, has carried out with sincere solicitude and praiseworthy concern the task of collaborating with Bishops and the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, in facilitating the full ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, communities or individual men and women religious, linked to the Fraternity founded by Bishop Marcel Lefebvre, who wished to remain united to the Successor of Peter in the Catholic Church, preserving their own spiritual and liturgical traditions.[1]

In this way, it was able to exercise its authority and competence in the name of the Holy See over these societies and associations, until otherwise provided.[2]Subsequently, by virtue of the Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum of 7 July 2007, the Pontifical Commission extended the authority of the Holy See to those Institutes and Religious Communities which had adhered to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite and had assumed the precedent traditions of religious life, supervising the observance and application of the provisions established.[3]

Two years later, my Venerable Predecessor Benedict XVI, with the Motu Proprio Ecclesiae unitatem, of 2 July 2009, reorganized the structure of the Pontifical Commission, in order to make it more suited to the new situation created by the remission of the excommunication of the four Bishops consecrated without pontifical mandate. And, furthermore, considering that after this act of grace, the questions dealt with by the same Pontifical Commission were of a primarily doctrinal nature, he more organically linked it to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, while maintaining its initial aims, but modifying its structure.[4]

Now, since the Feria IV of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on 15 November 2017 formulated the request that dialogue between the Holy See and the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X be conducted directly by the aforementioned Congregation, as the questions being dealt with are of a doctrinal nature, to which I gave my approval in an audience with the Prefect on 24 November 2017, and this proposal was accepted by the Plenary Session of the same Congregation celebrated from 23-26 January 2018, I have arrived, after ample reflection, at the following decision.

Considering that today the conditions which led the Holy Pontiff John Paul II to institute the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei have changed; noting that the Institutes and Religious Communities which habitually celebrate in the extraordinary form have today found their own stability of number and of life; recognizing that the aims and questions dealt with by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei are of a predominantly doctrinal order; and wishing that these aims be made ever more evident to the conscience of the ecclesial communities, with this Apostolic Letter ‘Motu proprio data’,

I decree that

1. The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, instituted on 2 July 1988 with the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei adflicta, is suppressed.

2. The duties of the Commission in question are entirely assigned to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, within which a special Section will be established that is committed to continue the work of vigilance, promotion and protection conducted thus far by the suppressed Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.

3. The budget of the Pontifical Commission returns to being part of the ordinary accounting of aforementioned Congregation.

I also establish that this Motu proprio, to be observed notwithstanding anything to the contrary, even should it merit particular mention, be promulgated by publication in L’Osservatore Romano in its 19 January 2019 edition, coming into immediate force, and that subsequently it be inserted into the official Commentary of the Holy See, the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 17 January 2019, Sixth Year of Our Pontificate.

+ Francis

[1]Cf. JOANNES PAULUS PP. II, Litterae Apostolicae ‘Motu proprio datae’, Ecclesia Dei adflicta’, 2 Iulii 1988, AAS, LXXX (1988), 12 (15 Nov. 1988), 1495-1498, 6a.

[2]Cf. Rescriptum ex Audientia Sanctissimi, 18 Oct. 1988, AAS, LXXXII (1990), 5 (3 Maii 1990), 533-534, 6.

[3]Cf. BENEDICTUS PP. XVI, Litterae Apostolicae ‘Motu proprio datae’, Summorum Pontificum, 7 Iulii 2007, AAS, XCIX (2007), 9 (7 Sept. 2007), 777-781, 12.

[4]Cf. BENEDICTUS PP. XVI, Litterae Apostolicae ‘Motu proprio datae’, Ecclesiae unitatem, 2 Iulii 2009, AAS, CI (2009), 8 (7 Aug. 2009), 710-711, 5.



The Old Decree of Pope John Paul II Now Rendered Obsolete: The Complete Text of the 1989 “Ecclesia Dei” motu proprio






1. With great affliction the Church has learned of the unlawful episcopal ordination conferred on 30 June last by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, which has frustrated all the efforts made during the previous years to ensure the full communion with the Church of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X founded by the same Mons. Lefebvre. These efforts, especially intense during recent months, in which the Apostolic See has shown comprehension to the limits of the possible, were all to no avail.(1)

2. This affliction was particularly felt by the Successor Peter to whom in the first place pertains the guardianship of the unity of the Church,(2) even though the number of persons directly involved in these events might be few. For every person is loved by God on his own account and has been redeemed by the blood of Christ shed on the Cross for the salvation of all.

The particular circumstances, both objective and subjective in which Archbishop Lefebvre acted, provide everyone with an occasion for profound reflection and for a renewed pledge of fidelity to Christ and to his Church.

3. In itself, this act was one of disobedience to the Roman Pontiff in a very grave matter and of supreme importance for the unity of the church, such as is the ordination of bishops whereby the apostolic succession is sacramentally perpetuated. Hence such disobedience – which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman primacy – constitutes a schismatic act.(3) In performing such an act, notwithstanding the formal canonical warning sent to them by the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops on 17 June last, Mons. Lefebvre and the priests Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta, have incurred the grave penalty of excommunication envisaged by ecclesiastical law.(4)

4. The root of this schismatic act can be discerned in an incomplete and contradictory notion of Tradition. Incomplete, because it does not take sufficiently into account the living character of Tradition, which, as the Second Vatican Council clearly taught, “comes from the apostles and progresses in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on. This comes about in various ways. It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts. It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience. And it comes from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth”.(5)

But especially contradictory is a notion of Tradition which opposes the universal Magisterium of the Church possessed by the Bishop of Rome and the Body of Bishops. It is impossible to remain faithful to the Tradition while breaking the ecclesial bond with him to whom, in the person of the Apostle Peter, Christ himself entrusted the ministry of unity in his Church.(6)

5. Faced with the situation that has arisen I deem it my duty to inform all the Catholic faithful of some aspects which this sad event has highlighted.

a) The outcome of the movement promoted by Mons. Lefebvre can and must be, for all the Catholic faithful, a motive for sincere reflection concerning their own fidelity to the Church’s Tradition, authentically interpreted by the ecclesiastical Magisterium, ordinary and extraordinary, especially in the Ecumenical Councils from Nicaea to Vatican II. From this reflection all should draw a renewed and efficacious conviction of the necessity of strengthening still more their fidelity by rejecting erroneous interpretations and arbitrary and unauthorized applications in matters of doctrine, liturgy and discipline.

To the bishops especially it pertains, by reason of their pastoral mission, to exercise the important duty of a clear-sighted vigilance full of charity and firmness, so that this fidelity may be everywhere safeguarded.(7)

However, it is necessary that all the Pastors and the other faithful have a new awareness, not only of the lawfulness but also of the richness for the Church of a diversity of charisms, traditions of spirituality and apostolate, which also constitutes the beauty of unity in variety: of that blended “harmony” which the earthly Church raises up to Heaven under the impulse of the Holy Spirit.

b) Moreover, I should like to remind theologians and other experts in the ecclesiastical sciences that they should feel themselves called upon to answer in the present circumstances. Indeed, the extent and depth of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council call for a renewed commitment to deeper study in order to reveal clearly the Council’s continuity with Tradition, especially in points of doctrine which, perhaps because they are new, have not yet been well understood by some sections of the Church.

c) In the present circumstances I wish especially to make an appeal both solemn and heartfelt, paternal and fraternal, to all those who until now have been linked in various ways to the movement of Archbishop Lefebvre, that they may fulfil the grave duty of remaining united to the Vicar of Christ in the unity of the Catholic Church, and of ceasing their support in any way for that movement. Everyone should be aware that formal adherence to the schism is a grave offence against God and carries the penalty of excommunication decreed by the Church’s law.(8)

To all those Catholic faithful who feel attached to some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of the Latin tradition I wish to manifest my will to facilitate their ecclesial communion by means of the necessary measures to guarantee respect for their rightful aspirations. In this matter I ask for the support of the bishops and of all those engaged in the pastoral ministry in the Church.

6. Taking account of the importance and complexity of the problems referred to in this document, by virtue of my Apostolic Authority I decree the following:

a) a Commission is instituted whose task it will be to collaborate with the bishops, with the Departments of the Roman Curia and with the circles concerned, for the purpose of facilitating full ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, religious communities or individuals until now linked in various ways to the Fraternity founded by Mons. Lefebvre, who may wish to remain united to the Successor Peter in the Catholic Church, while preserving their spiritual and liturgical traditions, in the light of the Protocol signed on 5 May last by Cardinal Ratzinger and Mons. Lefebvre;

b) this Commission is composed of a Cardinal President and other members of the Roman Curia, in a number that will be deemed opportune according to circumstances;

c) moreover, respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of all those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition, by a wide and generous application of the directives already issued some time ago by the Apostolic See for the use of the Roman Missal according to the typical edition of 1962.(9)

7. As this year specially dedicated to the Blessed Virgin is now drawing to a close, I wish to exhort all to join in unceasing prayer that the Vicar of Christ, through the intercession of the Mother of the church, addresses to the Father in the very words of the Son: “That they all may be one!”.

Given at Rome, at St. Peter’s. 2 July 1988, the tenth year of the pontificate.

+ Joannes Paulus PP. II

(1) Cf. “Informatory Note” of 16 June 1988: L’Osservatore Romano. English edition, 27 June 1988, pp. 1-2.

(2) Cf. Vatican Council I, Const. Pastor Æternus, cap. 3: DS 3060.

(3) Cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 751.

(4) Cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 1382.

(5) Vatican Council II. Const. Dei Verbum, n. 8. Cf. Vatican Council I, Const. Dei Filius, cap. 4: DS 3020.

(6) Cf. Mt. 16:18; Lk. 10:16; Vatican Council I, Const. Pastor Æternus, cap. 3: DS 3060.

(7) Cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 386; Paul VI. Apost. Exhort. Quinque iam anni, 8 Dec. 1970: AAS 63 (1971) pp. 97-106.

(8) Cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 1364.

(9) Cf. Congregation for Divine Worship, Letter Quattuor abhinc annos. 3 Oct. 1984: AAS 76 (1984) pp. 1088-1089.



Pope Dismantles Ecclesia Dei Commission, Gives Responsibilities to CDF

Steve Skojec, OnePeterFive (link)

January 19, 2019

In a motu proprio letter dated January 17th, the pope has made official an action that has been rumored for some time: citing a change in the conditions that had “led the Holy Pontiff John Paul II to the establishment of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei” (PCED) in 1988, Francis has suppressed the commission and has transferred its duties to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The PCED, the pope notes, was charged with “facilitating the full ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, communities or individuals religious and religious, linked to the Fraternity founded by Mgr. Marcel Lefebvre, who wished to remain united to the Successor of Peter in the Catholic Church, preserving their spiritual and liturgical traditions.”

Among the changed conditions he cites are the promulgation of “the Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum of 7 July 2007″ and “the Motu Proprio Ecclesiae Unitatem, of 2 July 2009″ which “reorganized the structure of the Pontifical Commission, in order to make it more suitable for the new situation created with the remission of the excommunication of the four Bishops consecrated without a pontifical mandate.”

In his letter he observes that subsequent to those two events, “since the issues treated” between the Society of St. Pius X and Rome are “of a doctrinal nature”, he has approved the request of the CDF that “the dialogue between the Holy See and the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X be conducted directly by the aforementioned Congregation”.

At the National Catholic Register, Edward Pentin reports: “In an explanatory article in today’s L’Osservatore Romano, and which Francis refers to in the motu proprio, Nicola Gori writes that ‘conditions and circumstances change, but the dialogue continues’ with the SSPX and with all those who have followed its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. He explained that the ‘main core of this dialogue is now made up of mainly doctrinal issues’ which has ‘led’ Pope Francis to take the decision announced today. He stressed it is not a question of ‘total abolition’ of the commission but rather ‘a transfer of competences given that the main axis on which the task will be set is restricted to the doctrinal sphere.’”

“This means that progress has been made in communion and therefore the current motu proprio offers an implicit recognition of the pontifical commission which, with its efforts and its activity, has brought its own duties to a conclusion.”

An informed Vatican source told the Register that the motu proprio is “essentially” a good development towards helping the SSPX return to full communion.

But he added that primarily it “represents a normalization of the ecclesiastical status of traditionalist communities in the Pius X ambit which many years ago were reconciled with the See of Peter, as well as those celebrating the extraordinary form.” Both areas, he noted, have been “administered by Ecclesia Dei until now.”

Hilary White offers further analysis from an unnamed source today:

“The CDF is taking over talks with the SSPX; that does not mean the rest of PCED’s functions are being dispersed will-nilly to the various dicasteries. What the motu proprio does is give the CDF the competency of… ‘dialoguing” with the SSPX. The other functions of the PCED are going to continue in a newly formed, special ‘Section’ of the CDF, with – as far as I can tell – the same staff (except for the Bishop Secretary, Guido Pozzo).

“That is, the suppression of the PCED is more a question of organizational charts. What was a quasi-independent body, is now directly a part of the Congregation it already depended on (the head of CDF, for instance, has been ex officio President of PCED for years).

“The key line here, I think, is in the third of the new dispositions: 3. Il bilancio della Pontificia Commissione rientra nella contabilità ordinaria della menzionata Congregazione. That is, PCED used to have its own budget; now it is part of the ordinary accounts of CDF.”

The SSPX released their own statement on the development, which consists primarily of a summary of the motu proprio and the events it describes. But the statement becomes notably terse when describing the other traditionalist communities under the umbrella of the PCED:

“One conclusion is evident: as the so-called Ecclesia Dei communities have preserved ‘their spiritual and liturgical traditions,’ they clearly do not count in this discussion. If they remain attached to a section of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it is incidental. They can have the Mass, the ‘spiritual and liturgical traditions,’ but not the whole doctrine that goes along with them. That has always been the Society of St. Pius X’s great reproach against Dom Gérard [founder of the Benedictine monastery at Le Barroux who worked with Archbishop Lefebvre until 1988] and all those who thought they should break the unity of Tradition in order to negotiate a purely practical agreement. The crisis of the Church cannot be reduced to a spiritual or liturgical question alone. It is deeper, for it touches the very heart of the Faith and the doctrine of Revelation, Christ the King’s right to reign here below over men and over societies.”

Concern over the practical upshot of the matter for Ecclesia Dei communities remains high among traditional Catholics discussing the matter on social media, but it remains to be seen whether this is, as White’s source says, simply a matter of shifting “organizational charts.” As of this writing, neither the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter nor the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest — arguably the two most well-known PCED communities — have issued a statement in response to the pope’s letter.


NEWSNOTE #1 (link)

Papally Approved? Unexpectedly, a New Bishop for the Society of Saint Pius X

Just a couple of weeks ago, Rorate posted an analysis of Pope Francis’ moves regarding the Society of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX): The Vatican and the SSPX – Prospects for 2019.

In it, our guest contributor revealed that the Pope and the SSPX are fast reaching a full regularization, but “by installments.”

Along with the abolition of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, signed on January 17, and that also signals a path of “regularization by installments” of the SSPX, another piece of news dated from that same day also made clear what is going on.

From French magazine Monde & Vie:

SSPX school Institut Sancta Maria, Wangs, Switzerland

A New Bishop for the SSPX

It has been several months that Bishop [Vitus] Huonder, bishop of Chur (Switzerland), indicated his will to live out his retirement with the Society of Saint Pius X. This time, it’s official. Bp. Huonder, considered a conservative, is not only a friend of the SSPX, but close to Pope Francis, who had refused his resignation in 2017 [See Rorate’s post from the time.]. In other words, one can live out one’s retirement with the SSPX as with any other religious congregation! According to our information, Bp. Huonder would live in retirement in a school kept by the Society in Switzerland. In short, an example of this “statute by installments” enjoyed by the Society. With the agreement of the Pope of the peripheries. There it is, an additional evidence of the regularization of the SSPX. [Monde & Vie, January 17, 2019, n. 965, p. 19]

Bishop Huonder is 76, and has wished to retire for some time — his large diocese includes the largest city in Switzerland, Zurich, and his conservative views are not very popular with many of the more influential members of his flock.

Le Salon Beige reveals, and Rorate’s sources confirm, that the school in which Bp. Vitus Huonder will live when he retires is the Institut Sancta Maria, a boarding school for boys in Wangs, in the St-Gallen canton. Le Salon Beige confirms that, of course, the pope is well informed of Bishop Huonder’s choice, and tacitly approves of it.

(via Le Salon Beige)


NEWSNOTE #2 (link)

The Vatican and the Society of St. Pius X: Prospects for 2019 (Guest Post)

by Côme de Prévigny

The visit this past November of Father Davide Pagliarani, new Superior-General of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), to the Ecclesia Dei Commission in Rome has revived the everlasting matter of the relations between the Holy See and the society founded in 1970 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, raising speculations on the possibility of having this body officially recognized by the Vatican. Inquiring minds wonder if a tendency that wants regularization or not has assumed command of the SSPX.

Here and there, a commentator strives to know if doctrinal agreements should be reached before considering a practical agreement, reaching back to a configuration that resembles the situation of 15 years ago. But where, concretely, should these discussions lead? Should they wait until Rome has finally condemned Vatican II, or rather are mere safeguards enough? This point remains to be clarified.

Because the current canonical situation of the Society of St. Pius X is mostly normalized. The Mass that its members celebrate is the same that all priests of the world can recite or sing following the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, of July 7, 2007. The condemnations that weighed on the bishops of the Society were lifted by a decree signed of January 21, 2009. In 2015, the Holy See granted to its Superior-General the powers to judge on the first level of jurisdiction. The validity of the confessions heard by its priests was recognized by the Apostolic Letter Misericordia et Misera, of November 20, 2016.

In that same year, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei asked the bishops of the dioceses in which Society seminaries are situated to accept the ceremonies of ordinations that take place in them. Marriages celebrated before Society priests are at last fully recognized by Rome, as attested by a letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, of March 27, 2017.

This document goes even further: it tells Society priests to send registries proving the celebration of marriages to diocesan chanceries. These registries are to be organized along with the registries of all parishes and communities in fully regular situation. Implicitly, since the sanctions have disappeared and since its priests have received the canonical charge to administer the several Sacraments, the Society has found anew its original status, which had been abolished on May 6, 1975, and behaves, de facto, as a personal prelature.

Those who have become accustomed to reject all regularization, because they fear that bad influences would arrive through canonical links, have undoubtedly remarked that these branches have been almost completely re-grafted. Nothing is missing for the Society, except perhaps a Court of Ecclesiastical appeals for canonical procedures that a Prelature structure would allow.

One day, the Society will also have the need to renew its bishops. In the current context, one cannot see what would prevent the Pope from granting them to the Society. The SSPX has become, in the end, as an automobile that has all elements to move forward: a body, wheels, steering wheel, seats — all elements are brand new and nothing is missing. Due to a state of tension, both internal and external, on the subject of regularization, undoubtedly due to the current pontificate, all that is missing is a license plate bearing its status, but the highway patrols around the world know that the car can move as it pleases. Finding a church for a marriage celebration or for a pilgrimage stop poses no difficulty anymore: this is not where the problem is anymore. The Pope has decided it.

The faithful from all corners can visit the churches of the Society. Their conscience cannot anymore be subjected to distress and anxiety. These have been set aside by the pontifical texts. Now then, when will the regularization has been almost completely accomplished by installments become definitively official? Has it already taken place in pectore? Will it take place one of these days on the back of the envelope, as if to seal all that has been already granted? It is possible.

In any event, the Holy See has granted, on a practical level, all priestly functions to the members of the SSPX. The assessment of catholicity has been made on the long term, and not in view of conditions still to be fulfilled. And it is only a matter of justice to the work of Abp Lefebvre that it be thus recognized. Which is simply what he himself had always asked for.


Benedict XVI Admits Qualms of Conscience about Vatican II (link)

By Maike Hickson

September 26, 2016

After the German publisher Droemer Verlag first released it on 9 September 2016, much has already been deeply discussed and variously reported about Benedict XVI’s new interview-book, Benedikt XVI. Letzte Gespräche (Benedict XVI – Last Conversations) which so far has only been published in the German language.

It has been shown, for example, how the former pope supports whole-heartedly Pope Francis’ papacy and how he still defends his decision to leave his Petrine office, not calling it a flight, but, rather, a calm, fearless move on his part.

It has now also been reported that the former pope insists that the Church was in a good state when he himself decided to leave his office.

Another part of the book, however, will also be of much interest to the Catholic world, inasmuch as Joseph Ratzinger discusses in that section his own role at the Second Vatican Council and even the often destructive consequences of this Church event.

Only recently, in March of 2016, he had already made some critical remarks about the Council which soon attracted world-wide attention.

For, Ratzinger had described a “two-sided deep crisis,” especially with regard to the Church’s own missionary work following the Second Vatican Council.

Now in his new book, he seems to admit that he has qualms of conscience with regard to his own involvement as a peritus at the Council, even if he still insists that the Council itself was necessary.

In the following, I shall present some larger portions of the new book’s chapter on the Second Vatican Council, inasmuch as this Council still haunts the Catholic Church and still repeatedly stirs much debate.

This chapter is entitled: “Konzil: Traum und Trauma” (“Council: Dream and Trauma”) and can be found on pages 142-167 of the book. I will make intermittent references to some of the pages.

In the text, Benedict XVI admits to have been a “Progressive” at the time of the Second Vatican Council.

As the journalist Peter Seewald shows with the help of his somewhat leading questions, Ratzinger also had a leading role in the preparatory work of the Council.

He had gotten to know Cardinal Josef Frings of Cologne, Germany, who himself was member of the Preparatory Commission of the Council. Frings at some point invited Ratzinger to write down his own comments and criticisms on each of the schemata (drafts) that he himself had first received from the Commission. As Seewald points out, Frings even used Ratzinger’s own texts which he later presented during those sessions of the Council at which Ratzinger himself was not present.

Again, through Seewald’s searching questions, we learn that it was Fring’s speech on 19 November 1961 in Genoa, Italy – almost a year before the official start of the Council in October of 1962 – that thus “gave a new orientation to the Council.” (p. 143)

As Seewald says: “He [Frings] gave the speech, but it was your text.”

Pope John XXIII, as Seewald recounts it, invited Cardinal Frings for a conversation in which he told the cardinal: “Your Eminence, I have to thank you. This night, I have read your speech [of 19 November 1961]. What a happy concordance in the way we think.”

Ratzinger confirms that he heard of this meeting with John XXIII from Cardinal Frings personally. Ratzinger himself was not to meet the pope personally, because “then he [John XXIII] was already seriously ill.” (p. 145)

The former pope also recalls how he was always present at the meetings at the Villa Mater Dei which were organized by Bishop Hermann Volk.

Ratzinger says: “That is also where I then met de Lubac….” When asked, how this first personal meeting was with de Lubac, Ratzinger answers: “It was dazzling for me to finally see him in person. He was very simple, very humble, and very gracious. It was immediately as if we were old friends.”

Ratzinger adds that “he was always very heartfelt and truly brotherly. Daniélou also was a blithe and convival man (Jean Daniélou, a French cardinal).” In the former pope’s eyes, de Lubac was a very industrious man – just like the French Cardinal Yves Congar who “always continued to work without break at the Theological Commission.”

When asked whom of all the theologians he cherishes most, Ratzinger answers: “I would say de Lubac and Balthasar.”

He adds that it was “utmost exciting” to meet and speak “with such great figures” as Lubac, Daniélou and Congar.

He himself then participated at the sessions at St. Peter’s “from the moment when I became an official Council Theologian [appointed by the pope directly; Ratzinger was to become an official Council Theologian beginning at the Second Council Session (Sep.-Dec 1963) and remaining thereafter].”

When coming first to Rome in these years, Ratzinger admits to having had a sort of an anti-Roman sentiment. Not in the sense that we denied the primacy – the obedience toward the pope – but, rather, that one had, after all, a certain inner reserve with regard to the theology made in Rome. In this sense, there was a certain distancing. I myself, however, never went so far as my fellow student who said: “If at all, then I rather travel to Jerusalem than to Rome!”

However, Ratzinger admits to not having had “a special urge to go to Rome.”

When finally arriving in Rome on Easter of 1962 for the first time in his life, he stressed how much he was impressed with seeing the sites of “early Rome,” the catacombs, the Necropolis under St. Peter’s, the early churches – because “there was the origin palpable.”

Again, he stresses his attentiveness to the “continuity stemming from its origin.” This attitude will be found also in Ratzinger’s own work during the Council, namely: to return to the origins and to bypass the Thomistic theology. But, we shall come to that later.

First, Ratzinger describes how he was impressed with Pope John XXIII when talking about his first trip to Rome and about the Council itself:

There was already inherent in it the enthusiasm which John XXIII had awakened. He fascinated me from the beginning with his complete lack of conventionality. I liked that he was so direct, so simple, so human.

When asked whether he was a follower of John XXIII, the former pope answers: “Yes, that I was.” And he insisted on that when he was further asked whether he was a “real fan”: “A real fan, one can say that.”

Ratzinger recounts how it was “a moving moment” when the Council was announced, and it caused “great hopes.” He himself participated in all four sessions, from beginning to the end. Ratzinger admits to not having been too well-versed in Latin at the time of the Council. (Later, a priest friend assured us, Ratzinger was to become even an excellent speaker of Latin.) “I never studied theology in Latin,” says the German theologian, “we made everything in German.” (p. 153)

The former pope also tells Seewald that, during the Council, he himself was part of the “Progressives,” even though “then ‘progressive’ did not yet mean that one breaks out of the Faith, but, rather, that one learns to understand it better and lives it more correctly, out of the origins.”

Ratzinger continues: “At that time, I was of the opinion that that is what we all want. Famous Progressivists like de Lubac, Daniélou et cetera thought alike. The change was palpable already during the second Conciliar year [1963], but it became clearer only in the course of the following years.”

It is worthwhile at this point to quote another question by Seewald since it is, in itself, very informative.

The German journalist says: “New research shows that your contribution at the side of Cardinal Frings has been much greater than you yourself have shown it. We already mentioned the Speech of Genoa. Additionally, before the opening of the Council, there was a first speech for the the German-speaking bishops at the Anima [the Collegio Teutonico di Santa Maria dell’Anima, the historic Pontifical College for German Priests], as a kind of briefing. Then follows the instruction for Frings to torpedo the election of the [members of the] ten Conciliar Commissions which was planned for 13 October [1962]; and which would have favored the candidates chosen by the Roman Curia.”

Ratzinger responds with some reserve to this question, saying that this “instruction for Frings” was “fully his [Frings’] own initiative.”

He continues: “I did not enmesh myself in these bureaucratic, technical, or political things. That was truly his idea that the Council first should get to know each other in order to elect the members of the Commissions out of its own midst.”

The former pope also describes how people were surprised by Frings’ effectively “revolutionary” initiatives and leadership, saying that this cardinal was then certainly “known to be very conservative and strict.”

Frings himself explained once to Ratzinger that he considered that there is a difference between ruling one’s own diocese in obedience to the pope and being invited by the pope to “co-govern” the Church at the Council and thus “to take up one’s own responsibility.”

Ratzinger thinks that Frings did not have a clear plan of reform when arriving at the Council, but that he had shared all the schemata with Ratzinger ahead of time. The former pope comments on the schemata which he himself did not judge so negatively as they have later been assessed to be. I then had sent him [Frings] many corrections, but the structure as a whole – except for the decree on Revelation – I did not touch. We [Frings and Ratzinger] agreed that the fundamental orientation was there, but that there was still much to improve. That is to say, that the current Magisterium had to be less dominant and that the [Holy] Scripture and the [Church] Fathers were to have more weight.

Here again, Seewald’s own searching question is worth mentioning.

He says that Ratzinger is said to have had “a decisive role at the ‘insurrectionary assembly’ [Putschversammlung] at the German Priest’s College Anima on 15 October 1962.”

At that meeting, according to the German journalist, a text was produced as an alternative to the Roman Draft which then was 3000 times copied and distributed among the Council Fathers.

Ratzinger demurs somewhat in his response: “To call it an ‘ insurrectionary assemby’ is too much. But we were of the opinion that, especially with regard to the topic of Revelation, one had to speak differently from how it was then transpiring there.”

He continues, further showing his own intellectual distance from Thomistic Scholasticism: “The [original] draft had been written in the neo-scholastic style and it did not take sufficient account of our own insights.” Since Revelation was his specialty, Ratzinger admits to having played an active role in that debate, “but all of it was at the invitation of, and under the eyes of, His Eminence [Cardinal Frings].” When he was later accused of having “duped” Frings, he rejected it. “We were both convinced that we had to serve here the cause of the Faith and of the Church,” explains Ratzinger. He then adds: “Also, in order to clarify the true relationship between Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium – both with new notions and in a new way to approach the matter so that it can truly be more understood and justified. And that way was then also later adopted [by the Council].”

For the former pope, he – together with his progressive colleagues (mostly cardinals) – was merely developing new ideas. “I do not know how this then spread into the whole Council,” he admits. “Of course we were then to be showered with polemics. That this [innovation] was a typically freemasonic text and such things.” (p. 156) When asked whether this is true, Ratzinger confirms it even with some laughter, saying: “Yes, yes. Even though I really should not be under suspicion of being a freemason.”

Again, Seewald shows the continuation of Ratzinger’s influence on the Council: “They were your arguments and your text which Cardinal Frings thus presented on 14 November 1962” and which then “made everything tumble.” With it, the original draft and plan was “off the table,” the ones that would “have blocked everything”; and now “everything could be discussed freely” – according to Seewald.

In his additional response to Seewald’s question, the former pope describes how there was at the vote only a slight majority for the conservative schemata. He adds: “But then Papa Giovanni saw that this majority was too thin to be sustainable, and thus he decided that it shall be redone all over again.” Ratzinger makes clear that he was glad about this decision: “We were then all very interested in seeing what the pope would do [after the vote]. And very glad that he said we will start all over again, even though the pure legal situation would have allowed us to preserve the old state.”

Seewald’s own follow-up question shows once more Ratzinger’s own important role at the Council when he points out that only seven days later, on 21 November 1962, the Council Fathers rejected the schema on the “’Sources of Revelation’, which you [Ratzinger] had so heavily criticized.”

Seewald says to Ratzinger: “You wrote at the time that the text was ‘influenced by the anti-modernist way of thinking.’ It had a tone which was ‘frigid, yes, nearly shocking.’ You yourself then saw this removal [of the original schema on Revelation] as the real turning point of the Council.”

In a laughing tone, the former pope responds, saying that “I am now astonished myself with what boldness I spoke in those days.”

He confirms that “this was a true turning point – that is to say, it removed one of the presented texts and there was a complete new start of the discussions.”

When asked about his collaboration with Karl Rahner, Ratzinger reveals that it was easy to work with Rahner – who was twenty-three years older than he – because he was willing to encourage younger theologians.

The former pope adds: “When working with him [Rahner] on the text, however, I realized that we were coming from two different worlds of thought. He came fully out of Scholasticism, which was a great advantage for him, because he was thus able much more to enter into the common context of discussion. While I myself, after all, came from the Bible and from the Fathers.”

Ratzinger also explains that he mostly worked with Rahner in 1962 and that it was easy to write together their various texts because they had “a common basic idea and basic intention.” (This was left unspecified.)

In another context, Seewald asks Ratzinger about the incident in which he himself strongly contradicted Pope Paul VI when “he not only stopped the Old Missal, but also at the same time forbade it.” (An expression which stands in contradiction to Pope Benedict’s own words in 2007 according to which the Old Mass “never has been abrogated.”)

The former pope objects to this question, saying that “’strongly’ is a little bit too much.” He explains that the pope did not punish him for his criticism because “he was certainly convinced that I, all in all, followed fully his own line – which was true.” (What “his own line” was is again left unspecified.)

At the end of this important chapter which shows Cardinal Ratzinger’s own involvement in the Second Vatican Council in detail, Peter Seewald raises the idea that Ratzinger later started having doubts about those innovative developments during, and then right after, the Council; and he asks him whether “it is part of the tragedy of the Council that here started a new split within the Church which, essentially, continues even until today.”

The former pope confirms this description, saying: “I would say, yes. The will of the bishops was to renew the Faith, to deepen it. However, there were, more and more, other forces effective – especially journalists – who interpreted the things in a fully new way. At some point, people started to ask: ‘If the bishops can change everything, why can we not do the same?’ The liturgy started to crumble and to slide into randomness. In this regard, one could see that that which had been positively willed was then being pushed into another direction. Since 1965, I felt it to be my mission to clarify what we truly want and what we do not want.”

Seewald subsequently asks the former pope an important and piercing question: “As a participant, as a co-responsible person, did one not also have some qualms of conscience?”

Ratzinger answers: “One does indeed ask oneself whether one did it the right way. Especially when the whole thing went off the rails, this was certainly a question that one raised. Cardinal Frings later had very strong qualms of conscience. But I always had the consciousness that what we had factually said and implemented was right and that it also needed to happen. In itself, we acted correctly – even if we certainly did not correctly assess the political effects and the factual consequences. One was thinking too much in a theological way and one did not consider what consequences the things would have.”

When asked whether it was a mistake to convoke the Council at all, Ratzinger insists: “No, it was certainly right. Well, one of course could have asked whether it was necessary or not. And there were from the beginning people who were against it. In itself, however, there was a moment in the Church where one simply expected something new, a renewal, a renewal coming out of the whole – not only coming from Rome – unto a new encounter for the Universal Church. In this regard, the hour was simply there.” (p. 167)

The former pope also confirms that, later, when he was himself pope, he indeed tried to incorporate some special elements of the Council – such as (in Seewald’s words) “a new physiognomy of the primacy which should lead more to a ‘togetherness’ of pope and bishops,” and also the fostering of a “spirit of simplicity.” He then responds to Seewald’s implicitly interrogatory comment (“Is this description correct?”) with only two simple words: “Yes, absolutely.”

Thus the former pope again seems to show that, despite certain reservations, he is still essentially a man of the Council – though some qualms of conscience may yet remain.

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