Rorate Caeli

Official communiqués on Universae Ecclesiae
3: Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X

2. International Una Voce Federation.
3. Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X [UPDATED: English version]

[Note: a very well-balanced commentary published by DICI today. On n. 19 of the Instruction, the Fraternity is quite clear, focusing on the recognition of the "prerogatives" of Papal primacy: according to the commentary, the words of n. 19 should not be understood as meant as if the Fraternity had been intended as one of those "groups". The commentary ends with an interesting note: the divergence that exists is rather between the traditional Mass and the new one than between the Holy See and the Fraternity.]

on the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae

19-05-2011 [English translation by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X - FSSPX/SSPX]

Announced as early as December 30, 2007, by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the InstructionUniversae Ecclesiae on the application of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum (July 7, 2007) was made public on May 13, 2011, by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.  Signed by Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and by Msgr. Guido Pozzo, Secretary of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, this Roman document is being issued after the bishops throughout the world had the opportunity to send to Rome an account of their experiences in the three years that have passed since the publication of the Motu Proprio, in keeping with the wish expressed by Benedict XVI in his accompanying letter dated July 7, 2007.
This major delay shows the extent to which the application of Summorum Pontificum has met with difficulties as far as the bishops are concerned.  So much so that the official purpose of Universae Ecclesiaeis “to guarantee the proper interpretation and the correct application of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum” (n. 12), but also and above all to facilitate the application thereof, to which the Ordinaries [generally speaking] only grudgingly consent.  The foreseeable discrepancy between the de jure right to the Traditional Mass, recognized by the Motu Proprio, and its actual, de facto recognition by the bishops had been foretold by Bishop Fellay in his Letter to the faithful of the Society of St. Pius X as early as July 7, 2007.
This factual situation obliges the Roman document to recall several points:
-       By this Motu Proprio, the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI promulgated a universal law for the Church, with the intention of giving a new regulatory framework for the use of the Roman Liturgy that was in effect in 1962.  (n. 2)
-       The Holy Father returns to the traditional principle, recognized since time immemorial and necessarily to be maintained into the future, that “each particular Church must be in accord with the universal Church not only regarding the doctrine of the faith and sacramental signs, but also as to the usages universally handed down by apostolic and unbroken tradition. These are to be maintained not only so that errors may be avoided, but also so that the faith may be passed on in its integrity, since the Church’s rule of prayer (lex orandi) corresponds to her rule of belief (lex credendi).” (n. 3)
-       The Motu Proprio proposes:
a)     To offer “to all the faithful the Roman Liturgy in the Usus Antiquior, considered as a precious treasure to be preserved”;
b)    To guarantee and ensure effectively the use of the Extraordinary Form “for all who ask for it”, given thatthe use of the Latin Liturgy in effect in 1962 “is a faculty… granted for the good of the faithful and therefore is to be interpreted in a sense favourable to the faithful who are its principal addressees”;
c)     To promote reconciliation at the heart of the Church.  (n.8)
Likewise, because of the legal disputes caused by the paucity of good will on the part of the bishops in applying the Motu Proprio, the Instruction grants the Ecclesia Dei Commission additional authority:
-       The Pontifical Commission exercises this power, not only by virtue of the faculties previously granted by Pope John Paul II and confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI (cf. Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, articles 11-12), but also by virtue of its power to decide, as hierarchical Superior, upon recourses that are legitimately sent to it against an administrative act of an Ordinary which appears to be contrary to the Motu Proprio. (Universae Ecclesiae, n. 10 §1)
-       In the case of a legal dispute or of well-founded doubt concerning celebration in the Extraordinary Form,the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei will decide. (Summorum Pontificum, n. 11)
Provisions are made, however, for a possible appeal:
-       “The decrees by which the Pontifical Commission decides recourses may be challenged ad normam iuris before the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.” (n. 10 §2)
It will be advisable therefore to watch carefully in the coming months whether these regulations prove to be effective and whether the de facto actions of the bishops really conform to the de jure regulations that theEcclesia Dei Commission is in charge of enforcing.
The diplomatic character of this Roman document is easy to discern, since it is attentive to cases of resistance and very careful to treat divergent viewpoints with respect.  Thus the reader finds several paradoxes which, despite the declared desire for unity, betray the dissensions that it had to take into account:
-       Oddly, the bishops interested in applying the Motu Proprio generously may not be able to ordain seminarians from their dioceses in the traditional rite.  Indeed, n. 31 stipulates:  “Only in Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life which are under the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei,and in those which use the liturgical books of the forma extraordinaria, is the use of the Pontificale Romanum of 1962 for the conferral of minor and major orders permitted.”
In this regard the document recalls the post-conciliar legislation that suppressed the minor orders and the subdiaconate.  Candidates to the priesthood are incardinated only upon entering the diaconate, but it will nevertheless be permissible to confer the tonsure, minor order and the subdiaconate in the old rite, without ascribing the least canonical value to them, however.  This point is directly opposed to the principle recalled in n. 3 concerning adherence to “the usages universally handed down by apostolic and unbroken tradition”.
-       Paradoxically, the Roman document excludes from its regulations those priests who are most attached to the Traditional Mass as a “precious treasure to be preserved” (n. 8), and who for that reason are not bi-ritual.  Indeed, n. 19 declares:  “The faithful who ask for the celebration of the forma extraordinaria must not in any way support or belong to groups which show themselves to be against the validity or legitimacy of the Holy Mass or the Sacraments celebrated in the forma ordinaria or against the Roman Pontiff as Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church.”
The reader will note here a nuance:  the Instruction speaks about “validity” or “legitimacy” in the same context in which the Letter of Benedict XVI to the Bishops dated July 7, 2007, called for “recognition of [the] value and holiness” of the Novus Ordo Mass and the non-exclusive celebration of the Traditional form.  Nonetheless this article n. 19 just might provide bishops with the opportunity to neutralize the Instruction effectively by paralyzing its stated wish for a broader application of the Motu Proprio “for the good of the faithful” (n. 8).
Certain rash commentaries led some to believe that the Priestly Society of St. Pius X was also excluded because of its opposition to the Roman Pontiff, which is not correct, since the “excommunications” of its bishops were lifted precisely because Rome considered them not to be in opposition to the primacy of the pope.  The decree dated January 21, 2009, in fact, adopted the terms used in a letter by Bishop Fellay dated December 15, 2008, addressed to Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos:  “firmly believing in the primacy of Peter and in his prerogatives”.
The paradoxes in this Instruction reflect the diplomatic compromises made in order to facilitate the hitherto laborious application of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, but they substantially rest on the oft-repeated affirmation that there is doctrinal continuity between the Tridentine Mass and the Novus Ordo Missae:  “The Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI and the last edition prepared under Pope John XXIII, are two forms of the Roman Liturgy, defined respectively as ordinaria and extraordinaria: they are two usages of the one Roman Rite, one alongside the other. Both are the expression of the same lex orandi of the Church.”
(n. 6)
Now, on this point we can only note the opposition between two Prefects of the Congregation for the Doctrine for the Faith, Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, in his Short Critical Study of the New Order of Mass [the “Ottaviani Intervention”], and his [remote] successor, Cardinal William Levada, signer of the present Instruction.
In his study, submitted to Paul VI on September 3, 1969, Cardinal Ottaviani wrote, “the Novus Ordo represents, both as a whole and in its details, a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass as it was…definitively fixed” by the Council of Trent.  And Cardinal Alfons Maria Stickler, librarian of the Holy Roman Church and archivist of the Secret Archives of the Vatican, wrote on November 27, 2004, on the occasion of the reprinting of the Short Critical Study by Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci:  “The analysis of theNovus ordo made by these two cardinals has lost none of its value nor, unfortunately, of its relevance….  The results of the reform are considered by many today to be devastating.  It was to the credit of Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci that they discovered very quickly that the change of the rites led to a fundamental change of doctrine.”
Indeed, it is because of the serious failings and omissions of the Novus Ordo Missae and of the reforms introduced under Paul VI that the Priestly Society of St. Pius X seriously questions, if not the validity in principle, then at least the “legitimacy of the Holy Mass or the Sacraments celebrated in the forma ordinaria” (n. 19), since it is so difficult, as Cardinal Ottaviani had already noted in 1969, to consider the Mass of St. Pius V and that of Paul VI to be in the same “apostolic and unbroken tradition” (no. 3).
No doubt the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae, which continues along the lines of the Motu ProprioSummorum Pontificum, is an important stage in recognizing the rights of the Traditional Mass, but the difficulties in applying the Motu Proprio which the Instruction strives to address will be fully resolved only by a study of the profound divergence, not so much between the Society of St. Pius X and the Holy See, as between the Traditional Mass and the Novus Ordo Mass.  This divergence cannot be the subject of a debate about the form (“Extraordinary” or “Ordinary”) but about their doctrinal basis.  (DICI no. 235, dated May 19, 2011)


  1. Anonymous3:33 PM

    Is UE 19 descriptive or conditional? It is obvious that no one is permitted to reject the legitimacy of a properly promulgated rite of the Church. This applies to everyone whether they are interested in EF or not. It seems to me that this statement is likely just restating the obvious in order to calm down nervous bishops, not encouraging a witch-hunt.

  2. Calvin Hazelwood3:53 PM

    I'm not sure it is unambiguously correct to say that "no one is permitted to reject the legitimacy of a properly promulgated rite of the Church." That could depend on what is meant by "legitimacy." Maybe the distinction made by Michael Davies in relation to the possibility of the abrogation of an immemorial rite of Mass is relevant. He opined that a pope could have the "legal right" to abrogate such a Mass...but maybe not a "moral right" to do so. Can I accept the "technical," "legal" legitimacy of a particular rite of Mass but question its "moral legitimacy"?

  3. Anonymous4:19 PM

    It is an undefined term and, therefore, really does not bind under law until properly defined. Does legitimacy mean, for example, that it is legitimate to entire replace the Church's liturgical patrimony with a "banal, on the spot" liturgy? I think the answer to that by many theologians is "No".
    J Brown

  4. Anonymous4:52 PM

    While I have strong regard for SSPX, I fail to see how UE 19 does not apply against them.

    While I don't see that they reject the Roman Pontiff or the NO's validity, it's hard to see how they could contend they accept its legitimacy when they refer to it with terms like sin, sacrilege, poison, and attack on the faith.

  5. Anonymous4:52 PM

    Bigger problems ahead:
    CNS reported yesterday that Card. Koch said pope Benedict XVI is offering this "liberty" of the TLM in order to eventually take "the best of" both and combine them into one "common rite."
    If this is true; The "Pan-Religion" will be outside the scope of our own losses.
    Many Rosaries.

  6. That is an incorrect assessment of Koch's article at L'Osservatore Romano: though I disagree with him, he views this process as a long-term process, something that could develop historically, not as something that "Benedict" is "giving" in "order to" fashion something else.

  7. Anonymous5:01 PM

    I admit I am guilty of interjecting my own suspicions here; hopefully, IMHO, it will not come about at all.
    "By their fruits you shall know them."
    We'll have to wait and see...

  8. OK, PLEASE NO MORE discussion on n. 19. There has been enough of it in almost all threads. If you wish to discuss the exact contents of this commentary, that is great, but there really is nothing more to add on n. 19. If here the FSSPX news agency says that it does not apply to them, then we must take them at their word.


  9. The translation is actually available now:

  10. Oliver9:57 PM

    Of course Bp. Fellay knows that the indult excludes all those not under diocesan control. Rejection of the Novus Ordo and V2 are some of the main planks of the Society.

  11. Universae Ecclesiae is an Instruction, not an indult.

  12. Thank you, Jitpring. I assumed a translation would be available soon.

  13. Meanwhile, the loathsome "The Tablet" has this to say about UE:

    "...will encourage divisive tensions in the Church and a spirit of reactionary rebellion against local episcopal authority, not to mention the revival of a misogynistic and elitist clericalism?"

  14. If The Tablet hates it, it's probably something good.

  15. Anonymous4:50 AM

    But we all knew it would be misunderstood. I am sure quite a few read it looking for the misunderstandings in order to exploit them.

  16. Anonymous3:03 PM

    There are further calls for Bishop Fellay to resign as Superior General of the SSPX.Priests are in process of having him removed by applying canon law.The Post Fellay era is upon us.

  17. Anonymous3:45 PM

    My own opinion on UE for what it's worth is that neither paragraphs #19 nor #31 are necessary or prudent except to demonstrate the modernists' heavy-handedness in allowing the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for heaven's sake. It's like they're saying: "you have to admit that we are right and you are wrong before you can have your Mass." Of course, they will deny this and continue to act as though they are most benevolent in dealing with "wayward children" but their duplicity cannot be denied by anyone with an impartial mind.

    Bishop Fellay and other leaders of independent traditional groups have IMO been supremely patient and understanding in their dealings with Rome but the same cannot be said of the other side. If it were up to me and it's a good thing it is not, I would have told them to "take a hike" a long time ago.

    Let it be clearly understood by all that we are not the ones that made changes to the Mass and the catechesis that has served Holy Mother Church for over 20 centuries. We are not the ones who almost daily defy the holy father with absolute material heresy and outright disobedience in the celebration of the mass and the sacraments. We are not the ones who speak out of both sides of our mouths in presentations concerning doctrine and dogma. We are the ones who clearly and unequivocally maintain what Holy Mother Church has always held, taught and professed to be true from the times of the apostles 'til now. And, we continue to be marginalized and ostracized for doing so.

    LtCol Paul E. Haley, USAF(Ret)

  18. Gratias3:46 PM

    What would make a difference is for SSPX to join the rest of the Church now. No better moment. With 500 missionary priests they can do a lot of good.

  19. Anonymous4:43 PM

    What would make a difference is for SSPX to join the rest of the Church now. No better moment. With 500 missionary priests they can do a lot of good.

    Join the rest of the Church? Maybe it's the Church that has left them out hanging to dry. They cannot do anything unless Rome gives them jurisdiction and faculties.

    LtCol Paul E. Haley, USAF(Ret)

  20. Anonymous6:16 PM

    If here the FSSPX news agency says that it does not apply to them, then we must take them at their word.

    You cannot be serious. Just because the FSSPX news agency says so, we're supposed to believe it?

    The facts of the matter suggest otherwise.

  21. Wheat4paradise, your first comment was deleted because you insisted on the discussion of n. 19 (see my last comment).

  22. David,
    If you get all uptight when someone tries to support the SSPX in a salutary manner, as most commenters do on this blog, I would advise you to stay away from Rorate Caeli since it will always be a selfmade source of frustration to you.
    Though doth complain too much.

  23. Anonymous10:12 PM

    New Catholic,

    I don't understand why you have closed further discussion on "n. 19", when you lead with it at the outset of this post. It's your editorial prerogative.


    I'm not "all uptight". I'm just pointing out the contradiction in the FSSPX position. It seems to me that the Society's supporters get "all uptight" when anyone says a critical word about the FSSPX.

  24. Anonymous10:47 PM

    Actually, Cruise, maybe you're right after all. Does my constant sniping at the FSSPX contribute anything to the unity that the Pope desires? Surely not. Who am I to cast stones at the FSSPX? Let the Pope and the PCED deal with that situation. It's above my pay grade.

  25. Pascendi:

    Thank you for sharing that quote from The Tablet. Absolutely delightful. Sometimes you just have to sit back and admire such shameless demagoguery.

    Every time I read anything from that rag I am reminded of the wonderful suggestion made by a dear Irish lady (and wonderful defender of the undiluted Faith), who, after reading that paper's defense of contraception, suggested that "the Tablet" should change its name to "The Pill".

  26. ""...will encourage divisive tensions in the Church and a spirit of reactionary rebellion against local episcopal authority.."

    As if the NO has never done this.

    "the revival of a misogynistic and elitist clericalism?" opposed to a demoralised, deconstructed and horizontalised presbyterate.

  27. When the NO was being imposed on us in the 60s I recall our choir master being asked what he thought about all the changes. He turned and jokingly suggested that we would just have to keep on taking "The Tablet" in order to accustom ourselves to them.

  28. Anonymous9:08 AM

    In our SSPX chapel, the faithful have been advised not to fulfil their Sunday obligations at Traditional Masses offered by a valiant local priest exercising his rights under SP and UE. You see, as he still offers the OF, and is thus biritual, he is a modernist and not to be trusted. Our own experience is that he is holy, orthodox Priest - the kind the Church needs. But no, rather skip Sunday Mass than attend his TLM, says the local SSPX clergy. He is biritual and - horrors - young, and therefore ordained post-Vatican II. This has caused serious division among the SSPX parishioners. But it is clear that the "hardliners" - the "SSPX is the Church" crowd have the support of the priest.

  29. "In our SSPX chapel, the faithful have been advised not to fulfil their Sunday obligations at Traditional Masses offered by a valiant local priest exercising his rights under SP and UE."

    The same thing is advised at my SSPX chapel.
    Its ridiculous.

  30. Anonymous4:32 PM

    Indeed it is, Cruise the Groove.

    Even sadder is the fact that a couple of dear, sweet little old ladies from the chapel, who previously gladly fulfilled their Sunday obligations on these "between" Sundays at the TLM of the local priest have now been "persuaded" rather to skip Mass and go to the chapel for Rosary. They are the kind of simple faithful who hold to "Father knows best" - transferring that now to the SSPX. Our visiting priest is giving conference after conference on the matter, on the dangers of attending non-SSPX TLM's. The latest was attended by so few (those who insist on going to Mass have tired of the conferences) that he used today's Sunday sermon, inter alia, to speak on the issue. This lead to a heated argument between the faithful afterwards.

    One of the ladies is convinced that "Novus Ordo" priests are actually forbidden to offer any sacraments in the traditional rite, and nothing can persuade her that this isn't the truth. They maintain that younger priests not raised in the SSPX milieu cannot REALLY have the Faith and are not to be trusted.

    A few weeks ago I got into a discussion with the priest. I asked if, hypothetically, the Pope were one day to offer the TLM, could we attend. His answer? NO. The Pope is a modernist, we cannot go to him, even for a TLM.
    For these and other reasons, I believe those who have a benign view of the SSPX are not seeing the complete picture. And I say that as one who frequents an SSPX chapel.
    God bless

  31. Sounds like a strain of Donatist heresy may be infecting certain quarters of the SSPX.

  32. Mike Williams7:18 PM

    The comments about SSPX priests insisting that Catholics must avoid attendance at a TLM celebrated by any priest who also ever celebrates the NO is entirely in line with my experience as a past congregant at Society chapels. Is it every SSPX priest? No. But it is a widespread statement that can be found on the Society's websites.

  33. Picard4:49 PM

    No, it is not necessarily donatistic heresy to warn the easy/simple people in the pew to go to SP/(former indult)-Masses.

    There are enough objective reasons.

    After different bad experiences I also tend to say: better not to go there (or only if you are very shure that the priest is 100% Catholic and traditional. Most are not! That´s my own experience!)

    And perhaps academically educated people like you&me can go there - but for the easy/simple people in the pew it is realy dangerouse, could be confusing and be a bad influence.


Comment boxes are debate forums for readers and contributors of RORATE CÆLI.

Please, DO NOT assume that RORATE CÆLI contributors or moderators necessarily agree with or otherwise endorse any particular comment just because they let it stand.


(1) This is our living room, in a deeply Catholic house, and you are our guest. Please, behave accordingly. Any comment may be blocked or deleted, at any time, whenever we perceive anything that is not up to our standards, not conducive to a healthy conversation or a healthy Catholic environment, or simply not to our liking.

(2) By clicking on the "publish your comment" button, please remain aware that you are choosing to make your comment public - that is, the comment box is not to be used for private and confidential correspondence with contributors and moderators.

(3) Any name/ pseudonym/ denomination may be freely used simply by choosing the third option, "Name/URL" (the URL box may be left empty), when posting your comment - therefore, there is no reason whatsoever to simply post as "Anonymous", making debate unnecessarily harder to follow. Any comment signed simply as "Anonymous" will be blocked.

Thank you!