Rorate Caeli

A few additional questions
on the Traditionalist moment

A few days after we published our interview with Professor Luc Perrin, a small storm troubled the French Catholic hierarchy, and befuddled the clergy of Bordeaux, when Pope Benedict XVI ordered the foundation, through Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos and his Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" (PCED), of the Institute of the Good Shepherd. It seemed appropriate, in order to keep an up-to-date version of the events, to ask Professor Perrin a few further questions -- a demand to which he graciously acquiesced.

1) Professor Perrin, what do you make of the events leading up to the foundation of the new Institute of the Good Shepherd?

It is only partly a surprise. A handful of former SSPX priests, four of whom were expelled from the Society, have restored a full communion with Rome but ... were kept in quarantine by the French bishops. Even Archbishop Simon, who initially incardinated Father Aulagnier, without giving him any apostolate in his diocese, gave him recently a celebret , restricted to private masses only! I think it speaks volumes on the dominant episcopal mindset in France.

So in a French Church where the lack of priests is year after year more desperate, traditional priests, well ..., cannot find any place. That is the genuine meaning of the April 2006 statement of the French bishops conference.

On the other hand, the reconciliation with SSPX is, once again, stalled or delayed. The Good Shepherd Institute is another proof Christian charity isn't an empty word at least in one diocese... Rome. Fervent ultramontane Catholics, baptised, clergy, religious orders and bishops all united, knew that very well in the XIXth. Our neo-gallican era is quick to forget this basic tenet of Catholic faith expressed by Vatican I in a dogma.

We can also tell that, by creating on September 8, 2006 a new traditional institute the Holy See fears the consequences of a much greater act of charity: providing not only traditional faithful but every Catholic and, beyond that, every Christian with the formidable stream of grace that the Traditional Latin Rites are.

The Ecclesia Dei canonical regime has been a major gift from John Paul the Great and nobody can forget that. But the baby is growing and his clothes are staying at the same 1984-1988 size... It's more than time to upgrade the canonical status of the trad. communities worldwide. Is the Good Shepherd Institute the appropriate structure for that? Only very marginally, for a few priests, and very few lay people in one country.

2) Were you surprised by the strong reaction of the French hierarchy and clergy, considering that the new institute does not include any clear canonical improvement, as compared with, for instance, the previously existing Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney, in Campos, Brazil?

As far as I know, there isn't anything decisively new in the new institute's status. But we have just the decree of erection and limited quotations of the Statutes: even "some affirmations" of the decree signed by Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos and Msgr. Perl are called a "disinformation" by ... Fr. Jean Rouet, Vicar-General of Bordeaux in a September 15 public statement published by the official website of the archdiocese of Bordeaux! So the details of the canonical status of the Good Shepherd Institute are still wrapped into some clerical thick fog. Who is disinforming whom? The Cardinal-archbishop? The Cardinal-President of PCED? Father Laguérie or Father Jean Rouet? Future will tell, when the fog of contradictory statements vanishes with the sunrays of published documents.

With the present informations, the new Institute is a FSSP bis with the same rights and the same limitations. Its members are just safe from being forced to celebrate NOM because they have TLM as a "proper rite": it is a response to concerns raised in 1999 by a protocol by Cardinal Medina Estevez that could have lead the Ecclesia Dei societies into bi-ritualism.

Otherwise, Cardinal Ricard made it crystal clear from the start the Good Shepherd is under the standard canonical rules and so the bishop's permission is requested to have any apostolate in a diocese. Father Laguérie spoke also of a "convention" to be signed for them to stay in Bordeaux, though the Roman decree is naming Bordeaux as the mother house location for this institute.

For what has been made public, the status of the new Institute is very far from the S.S.J.V Personal Apostolic Administration in Campos. We are watching the limitations of these standard provisions already: there is a growing rebellion within the clergy of Bordeaux; rather than rejoicing to be able to work alongside with new priests, rather than beginning this "true work of communion" (French bishops' declaration of April 2006), we hear a tempest in the modern clerical cup of coffee or ... glass of Bordeaux wine.

A former Catholic magazine had its cover last week with a picture of Father Laguérie and this ominous warning : "Why this man should have been kept outside"! Is he a Bin Laden in disguise? When Hans Küng chatted with Pope Benedict for hours, did you read similar statements?

3) What do you think of the surprising announcement by Father Laguérie of a document, to be issued "certainly in November"?

Wait and see !

In 1978 such a document was to be released after the meeting of Archbishop Lefebvre and the Pope but the result was the restrictive 1984 indult; in 1986, the ad hoc cardinalitial Commission concluded in favor of freedom for Traditional Latin Mass in the Latin Rite Church, but these conclusions are still waiting to be published; in 2001, this was officially requested by the SSPX, but John-Paul II declined after Curial and episcopal opposition; in 2003, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos claimed the Traditional Latin Mass to be "a legitimate rite" in a publicized homily in Rome but the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum (March 2004) is silent on this topic. After the election of Benedict XVI, the rumor mill never stopped...

If the document recognizing freedom for the Traditional Latin Mass is published one day, canonical provisions to regulate the use of various missals will be necessary. These provisions will have to be put under scrutiny. However, a symbolic recognition of the Traditional Latin Rites (Roman rite and the others) would be a significant step forward: it would show this Pope is not only embittered by the liturgical chaos that followed the last council but that the Successor of Peter is not afraid to lead the whole Church back on the right track. Isn't he the Vicar of the ... Good Shepherd?