Rorate Caeli

Explaining the "Traditionalist Question" in France and in the world
Countering the wave of misinformation

Last November, our favorite guest, Professor Luc Perrin, a Church Historian in the University of Strasbourg II-Marc Bloch, was interviewed by the popular French website of the "Liberté Politique" political journal, published by the Fondation de Service Politique. A translation of the interview is provided below. We then added a few of our own follow-up questions, which professor Perrin was kind enough to answer.


LIBERTE POLITIQUE – The announcement of a project to free the Tridentine rite has sown trouble in the French Church. Some bishops feel they must support those groups of priests who are worried by the questioning of Vatican II. The perspective of the existence of two rites in the Latin Church is strongly challenged: bi-ritualism would be contrary to the very principle of communion. It is surprising for such strong arguments to escape the theologian Joseph Ratzinger. Where then does the difficulty come from?

LUC PERRIN – There is a form of ignorance that is cultivated, if I may say so. First, the “Tridentine” rite is a linguistic deception which obscures the debate. The parallel, though false, was made by Paul VI himself: for the Council of Trent, the Tridentine rite (1570); for Council of Vatican II the Novus Ordo Missae (1969 and succeeding editions, we are now at the third). But there is nothing comparable between the liturgical work of Saint Pius V and the one Paul VI finished by capping with his authority. The alterations made in 1570 are very modest and the pontifical committee adopted on the whole the rite in use at the court of Rome. This missal of Saint Pius V has itself had a few slight alterations, by the addition of masses for new feasts and the prayers prescribed by Leo XIII; under Pius XII and John XXIII, a few minor reforms were introduced, in particular for Holy Week, to the extent that one must speak of the missal of Blessed John XXIII (1962).

It is to this type of reform that the great majority of the Fathers of Vatican II rallied, to the extent that Fr. Berto, Mgr Lefebvre’s theologian was able to write, after the vote of the conciliar constitution that it would add “very little to what is already in practice to date”.

But we must remember a fact, which is forgotten by the recent ritual unification of the Latin Church: with the generalisation of the Roman missal, the XIXth century witnessed a liturgical revolution. Before the reign of Pius IX and the movement for uniformity speared by Dom Guéranger, there was a jolly diversity of rites, in particular in France, with some masses in fact very similar to the Roman rite, but nonetheless different following the dioceses, and after the Concordat, within the same diocese composed of several dioceses under the Old Regime. Also we must not forget the rites of religious orders such as the Dominican rite, or the uses (Braga in Portugal, the pre-Reformation Sarum rite in England, the use of Lyon) or the rites proper as in Milan, the venerable Ambrosian rite, which cardinal Montini celebrated in 1962 in the presence of the Vatican II Fathers.

Better still, in the bull Quo primum. which promulgates “his” missal, Pius V paradoxically canonises multi-ritualism in the Latin Church by confirming the legitimacy of the Latin rites whose existence is certified for 200 years. Now in 1570 many dioceses could do this. As Nicole Lemaitre has explained, the very progressive unification around the 1570 missal was firstly an economic question. The Roman use spreads unevenly and never completely before 1870, with a movement in the opposite direction in France in the XVIIIth century. In reaffirming the legitimacy of the plurality of the rites, Vatican II is in fact absolutely in line with the text of Saint Pius V. It also affords the oriental rites a solemn protection, constantly increasing since Leo XIII. Saint Pius V proposed where Paul VI tried to impose without going the whole way in legal form.

The constitution Sacrosanctum concilium (1963) prescribes a reform of the Roman rite in force at the time, giving the general outlines and one firm order: that any innovations should fit into an organic and therefore homogenous development. No liturgist in good faith could maintain that the new Roman rite of 1969 represents an organic development as compared with the 1962 missal. This golden rule, proclaimed by the Council, was ignored by the experts who, more than the bishops and cardinal Lercaro, were the main animators of the Consilium set up by Paul VI in 1964; it is symbolic that a first edition of the new missal was published and not the edition revised under the authority of Pope Paul VI of the Roman missal in force up to the time.

Among the many breaks introduced into the Roman liturgical tradition, this new missal multiplies the “Eucharistic prayers” in place of the single Roman canon. Apart from Dom Guy Oury at the time, nobody really ran the risk of pretending that there was identity between the missals of John XXIII and Paul VI. I hope that in a not too distant future, everyone will be able to read the damning testimony of Fr Louis Bouyer, a member of the Consilium, who shows in plain language the extent to which the new missal is a “fabrication” as Joseph Ratzinger writes. The testimony of Cardinal Antonelli, secretary of the committee of the Council and a member of the Consilium, has been published in part: it too is edifying.

Let’s return to the main discussion. Mgr Raffin, who opposes “two rites at the same time very near and very different”, fears that the co-existence of the missals of 1962 and 2002 “would (according to him) finish by jeopardising the unity of the Catholic Church”. What do you think?

Odon Vallet, and others with him, say the same even more brutally: “It seems difficult to me to have two rites in a single Church” (Témoignage chrétien 2/11/2006). The bishop of Metz, who now refuses to apply John Paul II’s motu proprio Ecclesia Dei himself underlines the difference when he denies the historic precedent of multi-ritual co-existence, on the basis that the rites protected by Saint Pius V “were in fact only variants of the Roman rite”, which affirmation requires some nuance.” Let’s take an example that everybody knows: the Milan diocese has been celebrating mass in a different way to Rome for centuries: it has produced a Saint Charles Borromeo and several popes, without anyone complaining. So there is a reason for perplexity in face of these arguments. In the criticism, some ideology and a will to be controversial cannot be excluded.

How can the bishop of Angoulême be so frightened by a bi-ritualism which would make the communion of the Church impossible?

Fr. Gy op credited the new missal, of which he was one of the authors, with having loosened the uniformity of the Roman rite, by multiplying the possibilities and variations for the bishops’ conferences and the priests, according to the social, cultural age-group, etc… contexts. Liturgical diversity is now the norm all over the world. The “retrogrades” to quote the unfortunate term applied recently to the liturgical ideas of J. Ratzinger, are those who suddenly take umbrage over it. In Paris, there is the new mass in Latin, the traditional Roman mass, several masses in several distinct oriental rites and a quantity of new masses in the vernacular, one for each priest or community or very nearly. By the already very flexible norms of the Roman missal, we must of course add the endless innovations introduced by the fantasy of the celebrant and the local liturgical teams.

In the United States, the big cities even more than in Europe, have their “national” churches for the faithful of Latin-American, Chinese, Polish, Italian, Romanian, German… origin. If in 2006 a bishop is unable to be the bond of communion in his diocese on account of the priests and faithful attached to the missal of John XXIII, it is neither the liturgical tradition of the Latin Church or the pope that is to be incriminated, but perhaps the aggiornamento he should carry out in his ministry of unity.

Mgr Vingt-Trois shrewdly raises the question: “Is communion in the Church uniform and uniformising or does it allow for differences of sensibility and approach?

Diversity, regulated and between legitimate rites, unites the purest Tradition to our contemporary modernity. If it is implemented harmoniously, it does not give rise to the anarchy justly dreaded by the bishop of Angoulême as being contrary to Catholicism.

By astute distinction (1) but which may legitimately give rise to discussion, between the two forms of the Roman rite, Pope Benedict XVI, insofar as the leaks and announcements are accurate, would thus recognise “the differences of sensitivity and approach”, to quote the terms of the archbishop of Paris. [Note 1: The 1962 missal would become the extraordinary form of the Roman rite of which the 2002 missal would be the ordinary form. In this respect, as Mgr Robert Le Gall stresses: “ the rumours we hear are far less important than the conditions of application that would accompany such a measure (quoted by La Croix 26/10/2006). Too restrictive measures would make it too symbolic without answering the expectations of the faithful concerned.]

It would be nothing really new in the long history of the Latin Church, nothing revolutionary as compared with his predecessors. Paul VI had maintained a very limited possibility of celebrating according to the 1962 missal: he had, for example, granted Padre Pio an indult not to introduce the innovations of 1964-1965. In 1984 John Paul II granted a universal indult and exhorted the bishops in 1988 and again in 1998 to implement it with “generosity”. He had convened a commission in 1986, which concluded as vouched for by Cardinal Stickler, that the old missal had never been abolished and that any priest of the Latin rite could use it. In the face of opposition, in particular Cardinal Hume, the Holy Father had renounced publishing these conclusions, thus not giving them force of law. The projected motu proprio of Benedict XVI would thus complete what John Paul II had to a great extent undertaken.

What is your appreciation of the difference in treatment between 1988 (refusal of a schism by a minority for whom a statute has to be found) and 2006 (return to the flock of a few schismatics themselves on the fringe and in conflict with their community)?

As far as the welcome of the Traditionalist (or "Integris",t if you prefer, but the word is somewhat controversial and this is not very fashionable in our society) groups of priests and religious is concerned, I can see more continuity than differences. As far as we know, but they have been only partly divulged, the statutes of the Institute of the Good Shepherd founded in September hardly bring anything new as compared with the Fraternity of St Peter.

In this field, the real turning point was 2001-2002, when John Paul II set up the personal apostolic administration of St Jean-Marie Vianney on the territory of Campos in Brazil. For the last four years parishes with the new mass in Portuguese and parishes with the traditional Latin mass have lived together in complete peace, in full communion with Rome. We have never heard the residential bishop of Campos bitterly recriminate: no schism, no violence, Vatican II hasn’t been abolished in Campos, the bishops’ Conference of Brazil hasn’t exploded by having welcomed a traditionalist bishop. What is true in Brazil... couldn’t it be true elsewhere?

Do the French bishops have a common vision of the Traditionalist movement and a strategy to solve the problems?

To talk about “the bishops” is to go too fast in establishing a [cohesive] group. Catholics, many of the men and women who have taken an active part in the life of the Church, have for a long time ignored the fact that Traditionalists exist. The good old men and the dear old ladies set in their routine were going to die off gently. But in parallel with what has been called the “John Paul II generation” in the so-called conciliar Church, there was also a young, militant traditionalist generation. Tradition, even if reduced to the XIXth to mid-XXth century, has produced something new, including in France.

In his thesis, (Les Communautés nouvelles (the new Communities), Cerf 2004) Olivier Landron has demonstrated the great difficulty for the leaders of the Church of France to recognise and welcome the new movements. What was true, and sometimes remains so, of the Neocatechumenate, the Emmanuel, the Brothers of St Jean, or the Community of St Martin is even more so in the case of the groups of laymen and institutes of Traditionalist priests.

By contrast, the flamboyant Church of “renewal” or “spirit of the Council”, the Church for which certain bishops such as Mgr Noyer (bishop emeritus of Amiens) yearn, is dying for all those who wish to see empty pews, seminaries with hardly any seminarians, diocesan funds on a constant decrease, ageing parish teams and Catholic Action movements going slowly but surely to join the collections in the Gallery of evolution in the Natural History Museum, amongst the endangered species. This Church of “the Springtime” has reached its autumn and will soon reach its winter in Western Europe: from “pastoral readjustment” to “restructuring the parishes”, it is retreating steadily, but along lines prepared in advance, as it is said in times of defeat. Look at the achievements of the sixties, those concrete blocks of flats that are now being pulled down… Western society has moved on. In the Church, evolution is identical, but at its own, slower pace.

In this debacle, the vitality shown by little traditionalist groups with others we have already mentioned, contributes to the creation of a neo-intransigent Catholicism of the diaspora. This relative vitality rubs against the grain of the French Church, all the more so in that it is communicative: in the religious communities, the rare young nuns are not afraid of their veil: in Strasbourg on a day of ordinations an old-style priest from the working-class missions of the sixties/seventies, asked with the wit that never leaves the Alsatians: “But has the seminary burnt? It's all black!» The young priests were in a very large majority in black suits with a dog collar and whatever one may say, to some extent it is the habit that makes the monk.

Closing one's eyes to this vitality as the Annuaire (directory) de l’Eglise de France does, or fighting it openly in the name of a Council far removed from the texts of Vatican II, trying to confine it to a canonical straitjacket, which appears to have been attempted at the assembly of the Bishops’ conference last April, trying to attract to the diocesan clergy (new mass) as many as possible of the young priests whose vocation has been awakened by the traditional Roman rite, these are the dominant strategies of today.

We are a long way from John Paul II’s appeal for generosity, eight years ago already; we are also a long way from the developments on the ecclesiology of “communion”, to which the most violent opponents of free use of the missal of John XXIII always refer.

Yet we note that the resounding communiqués of the bishops do not say everything: in 2005, Mgr Rey in Toulon set up the first personal parish in the traditional Roman rite and Mgr Doré, co-signatory of one of these communiqués in his turn has just set up a quasi-personal parish in Strasbourg, thus the second in Europe. In Bordeaux Cardinal Ricard has also evolved considerably from the policy of his predecessor: he has put two places of worship in the charge of two traditionalist institutes, incardinated a priest who celebrates according to the two missals at Saint Bruno and negotiated an agreement over Saint Eloi administered by the Good Shepherd. Some of the French bishops, though still a minority, are coming round to the pragmatic approach adopted long ago by the majority of bishops on the other side of the Atlantic.

How much guilty conscience and how much legitimate suffering is there in this excessive reaction of the French Church?

Indeed, there is an overreaction. The uproar in the clergy over the recognition of the Institute of the Good Shepherd (five priests to begin, eight now) makes one wonder. What would happen tomorrow if Rome and Mgr Fellay were to find a road to reconciliation with more than 480 priests throughout the world? As for the suffering, in this business traditionalists and “conciliars” can be set back to back: to date each party has hit out at the other, each can alternately play the part of Cain and the part of Abel.

Among the reasons leading to this malaise, less clear cut in the more dynamic Churches such as the United States or Australia, there is no doubt an effect to do with the age of the clerical and lay élites in France, and this is aggravated by their ever decreasing numbers. Those who forgot their young years as priests in the years just after the Council are unable to accept that younger people today follow tracks which they have abandoned, whether joyfully or with painfully. Mgr Raffin hints to it: “When I was ordained a priest under the old Pontifical, it cost me a lot to have to utter the Canon of the mass secreto”. Many priests of his generation did not like the liturgy they had to celebrate. How can they understand that the young of today embrace with passion what “cost” so much to their elders in the past. In 1969, in the enquiry organised by the French bishops, a huge majority of priests opted for complete freedom to celebrate the liturgy: anti-rubricism, indifference to the rites was complete.

Paul VI unsuccessfully (1965, Mysterium fidei), and John Paul II, with more forcefulness (2003, Ecclesia de Eucharistia), made efforts to bring back the perennial liturgical doctrine in everyday Catholicism. It will be remembered that Mgr Le Gall, president of the bishops’ committee for liturgy, declared that the instruction Redemptionis sacramentum of 2004 did not concern our country: all the abuses had disappeared. How then has Rome continued to issue instructions calling on the bishops to repress liturgical abuses, as early as 1980 during the pontificate of John Paul II and up to the major texts of 1997, 2003 and 2004? Every historian knows that the frequency of the calls to order, in any field, indicates the persistence of events in breach of the prescribed norms.

In this idyllic France, the opinion polls tell us that nearly 70% of Catholics do not believe in the real Presence after forty years of liturgy in French, a liturgy that supposedly has every educational virtue. According to Eamon Duffy, the English faithful of the beginning of the XVIth century ran to see their Maker at the elevation of the Blessed Sacrament and fell to their knees with their hands joined in adoration: nothing was more important to them, and they sometimes did it several times a day. Latin had not been an obstacle to their deep understanding of what is the heart of the Mass for Catholics and oriental Christians. What the humblest peasant of the Middle Ages could understand, the highly educated majority of our contemporaries fail to manage. Nobody is deafer than he who does not wish to hear is.

Are the French bishops ready to exercise fully their right to inventory the pastoral options according to Vatican II?

Part of this work has been done. We read with bewilderment the texts of the early seventies: the ministry of the worker-priest was the future, today it is mainly a question for the historians; the Pope’s speech (on the understanding of the Council) of December 2005 calls for deeper analysis, determining in this heritage the elements that remain useful for our time, which is a far way from the triumphant Western optimism in which Vatican II was steeped.

French resistance seems to be influenced by a certain Gallicanism. Isn’t traditionalism a response to a general crisis?

I think nobody is more aware than Benedict XVI of the reticence and resistance in France on these questions, which he has followed personally since 1988. It will be remembered that the lack of understanding on the part of the French bishops in the seventies weighed heavily in Mgr Lefebvre’s schismatic moves, all the more so in that this refusal to understand was relayed and aggravated by Cardinals Garrone and Villot in their contacts with Paul VI. Cardinal Thiandoum would never have pushed his former archbishop out of communion: Cardinal Arinze would certainly have remembered this illustrious Cardinal, an African like himself, who was so active at Vatican II; Traditionalism and the liturgical question – as is also the case in other fields - are not a private French hunting ground. This notion is fairly widespread in France, but it is entirely wrong. Traditionalism is as much North American as it is French.

Mgr Pontier’s American counterpart, Cardinal George, archbishop of Chicago, vice-president of the bishops’ Conference, declared several years ago that the traditional rite was perfectly legitimate: in his diocese, there is one bi-ritual parish and another in the charge of the Institute of Christ the King. In several dioceses, personal parishes or quasi-parishes have been erected, as also in Canada: the Fraternity of Saint Peter has had to build a vast, new seminary at Denton (in 2000) to meet the demand.

Very slowly the traditional Roman rite is here and there recovering the right to exist among the peoples of Africa, Asia, Oceania and Latin America, who are able to claim it as their liturgical heritage just as much as the French.

Leo XIII was aware of the reticence of the French, but he nevertheless asked them to rally the Republic. Pius XI knew the leaning towards the Action française , but nevertheless required the French Church to abandon it. But it is still too soon to write the “Why Rome has spoken” of 2006.


Follow-up questions (December 2006)

1. Professor, since this interview was first published at Liberté Politique, several events took place. The most important was probably the sequence of visits of important French bishops (Lustiger, Vingt-Trois, Ricard) to Pope Benedict, followed by the Plenary Assembly of the French Episcopal Conference (November 4-9). What happened? Is the Pope a hostage of the Church in France?

We don't have all information that would be requested to answer your question: for example what was said, by whom, during the debates of the French Conference of Bishops. It is clear the final statement is a compromise, which is presenting, in a toned-down language, the obvious reluctance of a large majority of French bishops - I won't say from all - to honestly and fraternally welcome trads.

The hostile attitude, sometimes extremely violent, exhibited by some bishops before the Plenary assembly is shared by this majority of French bishops, but the wiser among the episcopate have quickly realized these outbursts of "anti-Roman complex" and rabid "hatred" against other Catholics were utterly damaging for the image of the episcopate and most of the French bishops have no intention to launch any "war" against the Holy See.

Many French bishops, just like the clergy, have developped their own - sometimes very weird - interpretation of Vatican II : when you read the responses given by Bishop Dagens (Angoulême) [interview published in "Courrier", Nov. 24, 2006], you are puzzled by his references to "Vatican II" because in the common edition of the Conciliar documents I have never, ever, read anything backing this peculiar interpretation. According to Bp Dagens, who is considered a key personnality within the French episcopate, "since the French Revolution, in our collective mindset, to be a Catholic means to be anti-modern, i.e. to be opposed to liberalism": the bishop then exposes the various faces of "liberalism" (primacy of the people and the state, independence of the individual, capitalism based on private interest and profit). Then arrives the "bomb" : "But the Council has provided a new orientation to the Church mission. The Church has come to a dialogue attitude with the modern world"... "there is no decisive struggle between Christian faith and the (secularist) modern world"!

Indeed this philosophy of welcoming liberalism is very well known in Church history: the dreadful errors of liberal Catholicism defined by Blessed Pius IX as a lethal disease for the Church! But the fraud is to paint Vatican II with the colors of these errors. In no way Vatican II, Paul VI, and John Paul II have applauded, as Bishop Dagens implies, liberalism: the post-conciliar Magisterium condemns the pretense of a democratic supremacy over the Gospel, it condemns the indifference of the secularist state to the Churches (everybody remembers the fight of John-Paul II to have the invocatio Dei in the European Charter of Rights and project of constitution), individualism is stigmatised in every conciliar text, Paul VI, and John Paul II documents; capitalism is severely judged by a permanent social doctrine from Leo XIII (Rerum Novarum in 1891) to John Paul II (Centesimus annus in 1991), not forgetting Gaudium et spes of Vatican II (1965).

The Dagensian vision is deprived of any magisterial reference: how can a bishop, even a French one, promote such a caricature of the faith? It is so absurd that His Excellency finds himself a few lines afterwards at odds with his liberal reshaped "creed" considering "the world is today weakened, dangerous"..., criticizing the failures of the French democracy.

This lethal fascination of a majority of French bishops and priests for the "modern world" - they forget who is the prince of this world according to Our Lord Himself - is the doctrinal root behind the present internal tensions within the Church. This is not, alas, specific to the Church in France: Americans could easily provide names of "Dagensian" bishops ready to reach compromises with the secularist ideology. Who was chasing the merchants out of the Temple of God? Who was vomitting the tepid? When confronting Evil, Jesus Christ promotes a "dialogue" on principles: no compromise. When the devil tempts Jesus with the "modern world" of his time, we have all in mind the "dialogal" response of our Lord.

In the same interview, Bishop Dagens made clear his intention to challenge the pope's own vision and to impose, through the soft technique of a "travail collégial de discernement avec notre Pape Benoît XVI" [a collegial work of understanding with our Pope Benedict XVI], a confrontation with ... Traditionalists.

As we can see through this example, the rift is dividing the Church from within: trads are just a pretext for liberal Catholics to resist to the Roman will to revive an active mission in the world. A will expressed already in 1975 in Evangelii Nuntiandi by Paul VI and always firmly restated by
John-Paul II.

2. After the events of the past year in the "Traditionalist" issue, we ask you, in a historical analysis: who is Joseph Ratzinger?

We can say who is Joseph Ratzinger rather easily, as much as the historical science can do, with all its limitations. But since April 2005, Joseph Ratzinger is somewhat "dead" : Benedict XVI is born. So the real question is, "who is Benedict XVI ?"

And this is a very difficult question! Who can give a documented answer? We can notice a very limited number of decisions and tons of rumors: I'm struck by the frenzy of the rumor-mills after the election of Pope Benedict. The contrast is sharp between this mass of conjectures and the rarity of the facts. The question of TLM freedom is typical: the rumor has been going on since ... the Summer of 2005 and we are in December 2006 without anything for real.

Mixed messages seem to be the pontificate orientation so far: audience to Bishop Fellay followed by another with Hans Küng in 2005; decisive speech of December 22, 2005 and a first encyclical everybody has already forgotten; appointments of cardinal Bertone and Archbishop Ranjith Patabendige Don on one hand, sudden and surprising promotion of cardinal Hummes in the middle of the French teacup-storm on the other hand; neutrality during the Synod of bishops (Fall 2005) when the topic was so close to J. Ratzinger's main concerns (the Eucharist); Regensburg speech and the visit in Turkey, etc.

With the noticeable exception of the December 22, 2005 speech, we don't have for the moment any significant decision or major intervention of the pope on the fundamental questions at stake for the Church. We can at least say he wants to depart from the style of the Wojtylian papacy: less travels, fewer Marinian shows.

3. The French bishops insist on their notion that the "Lefebvrist" question is mostly ideological, rather than liturgical. Is that historically accurate? Would the Traditionalist movement in France have ever developped so strongly for mere ideological reasons, without the liturgical developments of the post-Conciliar age?

It is partly accurate, but a source of blatant contradiction. Why being so opposed to any freedom for the Traditional Latin Mass if it were not a real problem? Why such a turmoil among French mitres if most of the bishops are so "open" to the liturgical question in theory? They should have praised the pope's idea if this was the truth.

The traditionalist question is somewhat doctrinal, not "ideological", or I would see ideology in many statements and not only those issued by the SSPX. But as I've developed above, and I fully agree with Bishop Dagens on that, the question of the relationship between the Church and the modern world is the core of the problem. Liberal Catholicism has deeply corrupted the French Church, like many Western European Churches (see the Austrian and Swiss Churches John-Paul II castigated several times for their dereliction), so the internal opposition to Traditionalism is stronger there.

But trads are just a part of a bigger picture: many young priests are inclined to Tradition even in Western Europe, the most vibrant communities are Trad-oriented or charismatic with a strong Roman attraction.

Naturally, without the dramatic liturgical chaos introduced by the NOM [Novus ordo Missae], trads would not have such an influence. However, the liturgy is a complex matter, involving complex reactions: some very liberal people like the late president [of the French Republic Georges] Pompidou are very traditional in liturgy, some very orthodox clerics are very much into the new liturgy...

As for the political interpretation which is very popular among the modern clergy in France, it is far from being a major cause. First, French Catholics tend to believe that the French Chuch is "The Church" herself; they quickly forget the rest of the world ... What does Charles Maurras mean for a Texan, a Trad from Québec, a Brazilian, or another Trad from Benin or Hong Kong? A dead French politician who is mainly forgotten in France has no relevance to explain Traditionalism in the world.

However, these political and religious networks played a part in the struggle between the initial "integrists" and their various Catholic opponents from the beginning of the XXth century up to the 1950's and early 1960's. The inner quarrels around Maurras' Action Française, then the battle between pro and contra Vichy regime, then the fight between "integrists" and "progressives" during the Cold War, then the rift between pro and contra French Algeria, all these struggles have opposed groups of Catholics.

When Vatican II partly set the Church on fire, several small groups, papers, underground networks were ready to be a support for an opposition. But we are in 2006: this is history for a large majority of those attending Mass in the Trad chapels in France, whether under the Indult or with the SSPX. A Chinese proverb reads that "When the Wise points at the moon, the Fool looks at the finger"; we should focus on the moon, religious reasons, rather than the political finger.

4. In his closing speech to the Plenary Assembly, Cardinal Ricard said, "A Church in which each one could build his own chapel following his personal tastes, his sensitivity, his choice of liturgy, or his political opinions would not still be the Church of Christ. It is necessary today to resist the temptation of a 'religion à la carte'." Is the current situation of the Church in France as strong as Cardinal Ricard would make it seem, in which only the Traditionalist affair could introduce divisions which would entail a "religion à la carte"?

I basically agree with cardinal Ricard on the fundamentals : cafeteria Catholicism cannot be a model when it comes to the basics of doctrine. I'm not sure this rule of banning "religion à la carte" is very strictly implemented by the bishops with say ... theologians, "Catholic" media, the homilies of their own parish priests.

However, I completely disagree with him in this excessive, rather totalitarian, representation of Catholicism. Adolf Hitler had this fantasy of a Roman Church as an army of robots with the same ideas, same uniforms, obedient like corps, and he claimed to have modelled his death Legions of the S.S. on such a "Church".

But neither cardinal Ricard's statement above nor Hitler's fantasy are true. The Church, and I'm surprised the cardinal-archbishop of Bordeaux is suddenly forgetting his classics like the "communion" theology, isn't an army of robots and has never been one: Deo gratias! Contrary to the Cardinal's too short sentence, it is perfectly legitimate in the Church to build our own chapels: you have thousands of examples throughout Church history, just think of the numerous religious orders. It is entirely legitimate to have personal tastes in devotion, for example, or in spirituality. It is perfectly legitimate, and Vatican II has been crystal-clear on that, to have personal artistic sensitivities: apart from some forms of art that are incompatible with the faith, there is no strict prescription on religious art, we have the freedom to like or dislike styles, paintings, sculptures, etc. It is perfectly legitimate to have our own political opinions: the freedom of political choice has been a tradition, especially in France, for a very long time now; the Church provides general guidelines, that's all, she can sometimes warn against certain parties opposed to the Gospel, like the Communist parties in the past, nothing else. It is naturally perfectly legitimate to have a choice in the liturgy: the Cardinal is here at odds with the very letter of Vatican II liturgical constitution which solemnly protects the diversity of the legitimate rites; moreover, the NOM [Novus ordo Missae] is precisely supposed to open adaptation possibilities to the diversities of communities and nobody is forced today to attend a specific church.

We have here another example, one among hundreds, of contradictory statements. When a bishop speaks to a Novus Ordo gathering, he praises adaptations, diversity, multiple choices, inculturation; when he addresses the Traditionalist question, he promotes a Stalinist vision of the Church, where absolute uniformity would be the rule. As a "hierarchical communion" (Vatican II), the Church combines great diversity with a hierarchy (the bishops with and under the pope) vested with authority: this offers a huge space for personal choices, under Canon Law (even there we have diversity between the Eastern Catholic Churches and the Latin Church).

Neither a totalitarian nightmare as described above, nor anarchy and chaos. The French bishops, in their own words, claim this question has to be solved under the auspices of "truth and charity". We need indeed some doctrinal truth, instead of these contradictory interpretations, and certainly charity as a general rule of pastoral orientation. Every party involved has to make a step toward this goal of "truth and charity".