Rorate Caeli

Two Years after Summorum Pontificum: The Situation in France

We present here the translation of a report (with important statistics) on the post-Motu Proprio situation of the Traditional Latin Mass in France. I would like to apologize for the delays in posting this as well as many other translations and notices in the "pipeline" (including a number of submissions), and I would like to ask for the understanding of our readers.

On the 7th of July, it would be exactly 2 years since our Holy Father published the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum on the usage of the Roman liturgy prior to the Reform of 1970.
This text reminded the Universal Church of the legitimacy of the Tridentine Mass and gave permission to all Catholic priests of the Latin Rite – be they secular or religious – to celebrate it freely.
In the weeks following this publication, a journalistic hammering, and declarations from clerics that were said to be “authorized,” tried to circumvent the range and the signification of the motu proprio.
Thus, “they” insisted on the “theoretical” character of this decision, on its inopportuneness … “they” explained that the motu proprio was the dream of an old man completely out of rhythm with the Church of his time… Moreover, the same “they” explained without a blush that in France the liturgical reform had been well digested and that for a long time now the parishes have had no liturgical problems.

In short, as the “unofficial-official” organ of the French Episcopate (Fr. organe officieusement officiel de l’épiscopat français) La Croix in its edition of September 13th 2007 summarizes so perfectly: “the motu proprio does not cause an upheaval...” (Fr. “Le Motu proprio ne provoque pas de raz de mare…")
Two years after the prophetic decision of Benedict XVI, what is there to say?
1 – The increase of places where the extraordinary form of the Roman rite is celebrated
On the evening before the decision of the Pope, the Traditional Mass – since then designated by the term “extraordinary form of the Roman Rite” – was celebrated in France in 132 churches or chapels with the consent of the Ordinary of the place on the basis of the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei by John Paul II.
In addition to these 132 “authorized” places of worship, there were also 184 places served by the Society of Saint Pius X and its affiliated communities.

Two years after the publication of the motu proprio there has been an additional number of 72 new chapels and churches in which the Traditional Mass is celebrated added, with the consent of the Ordinary of the place.
Thus, in two years, the number of “authorized” places has increased from 132 to 204, an increase of 55 %.
During this time, the number of places served by the Society of Saint Pius X has remained at a stable 184.
2 – Multiplication of demands (for the TLM -- CAP)
Spectacular as it may seem, when one knows that between 1988 and 2007 the annual increase was between 2 and 5%, this figure is without connection with the number of demands and celebrations that are gently but firmly beginning to be implemented in the territories of the "Hexagon" ("l'Hexagone" an old name for France as it looks like a hexagon on the map - CAP).
Actually, without mentioning all the families who would wish that what has been given them generously is not conceded them parsimoniously –- let us for example think of the 250 faithful in Rambouillet (just outside of Paris), to whom the Bishop did not concede more than one single traditional celebration a month, or of those faithful living in Sens (120 km south-east of Paris) who will not be able to assist at such a Mass more than five times a year –- at present there are in France a great number of demands for the application of the papal text.
According to information we have received from friends on the territory, the situation of the number of applicants for the summer of 2009 is the following:
- 350 groups of Catholic families, spread over all the dioceses of France, who “formally” demand the possibility of living their Catholic faith in their parishes at the rhythm of the extra-ordinary form. "Formal demand" means that it has more often than not been done in the form of one or several letters
- More than 600 groups have taken similar measures, mostly in a more informal way –- discussions outside the mass with the parish priest or his assistant, a discreet mention during a dinner among friends -- with the hope that the first steps will then be taken by their own parish priests.
- At last, and we may affirm this today in an exact way, we have the existence in the 4 500 French parishes of numerous faithful who, even if they have not constituted themselves in groups, yearn for an application of the motu proprio in their parishes.
This certainty is based on a survey realized on the 24th and 25th of September 2008 by the Institute CSA asked for by Paix Liturgique (Survey CSA 08 01 153 B). The survey was made under the usual professional conditions: a sample of 568 persons adhering to the Catholic faith, taken out of a representative sample selection of 1001 persons of the age of 18 or more and formed by the method of quotas (sex, age, profession of the head of the family), after stratification per region and agglomeration category.
The results of the survey are to be consulted on the web-site of Paix Liturgique (letters by the Paix Liturgique n° 145, 145 bis and 146). We have also reached this certitude by reading the hundreds of replies received every week in response to the large survey undertaken by the initiative “Motu Proprio France” ( among the faithful in various parishes.
Thus there seems to be a profound change taking place in the bosom of the Church of France, and those responsible for her had better get to grips with reality sooner or later, and accept dialogue, sharing and coexistence with the roughly 34% practicing Catholics, of whom there are some living in every parish, who all long to put an end to the liturgical apartheid that has victimized them.
3 – The generosity of the Bishops
In the columns of Paix Liturgique we have often implored our Bishops, asking them to be good and generous to their children desiring to live their Catholic faith in their own parishes to the rhythm of the Traditional Mass…
Often, it seems that we are not listened to.
And yet, the signs of hope and peace are multiplying. Here are two examples:

A – Since the 7th of July 2007, 25 % of the French bishops have themselves celebrated or presided in their own diocese over a Mass according to the extraordinary form … thereby giving a clear answer to those who only yesterday said: “but what is it that the Pope wants?” … if he wishes to propagate the extra-ordinary form, he should really celebrate it himself”
It is not necessary to be a great expert to see what the Pope wants on the subject of Liturgy. To see our fatherly bishops celebrate or preside over celebrations in the extraordinary form is a real encouragement and an undeniable consolation for all the faithful who from then on will feel respected and loved.
B – As of the 7th of July, 2007, the French diocesan seminary in Toulon is open to those wish to become priests in France, remaining at the same attached to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite.

This possibility, as commonplace as it may seem, is however to such a high degree “extraordinary” that many people find it to be a true miracle, all the more so when one learns that at the start of the seminary year in the autumn of 2009 a second French diocesan seminary – this time in Lyon – will receive other young men desirous to become priests in the traditional spirit.
Finally – oh, wonder of wonders! – we have received some information, not yet confirmed, that other diocesan seminaries in the near future are about to do the same, providing a place to seminarians attached to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite.
4 – The movement of priests
The prospect from now on offered to young boys that they can become priests in France and at the same time remain attached to the “traditional” mass, must not make us forget that this desire has existed for quite some time now in the Church of France.
Let us then not be surprised if tomorrow 10, or 100, or 1000 diocesan priests or even more will start to celebrate "Utroque usuas” as the Pope recently asked the Benedictines of Norcia to do, which means using both the extraordinary and the ordinary forms of the Roman rite.
When this will happen also in France, the number of chapels and churches where the extraordinary form will be newly celebrated will be counted not in tens but in hundreds and soon peace will be restored – not on an isolated little island, but in the totality of the parishes of France…
Thus, when remembering the declaration given by La Croix on the 13 of September of 2007 “the motu proprio does not cause an upheaval” comes automatically to our mind this passage from the Bible: “They have eyes but do not see”, which expresses an exact truth, today in the same way as yesterday, as “there is nobody more blind than the person who does not want to see”.
But with the help of the Spirit, we know that tomorrow peace and reconciliation will triumph for the good of the Church and of all of its children.