Rorate Caeli

The shadow of Ecclesia Dei

A guest-post by 
Côme de Prévigny

In Rome, the Traditionalist question is as intense as that of the commission that guides it, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, and the structural evolution of the latter would alone account for tens of pages. Appearing sometimes as a bureau attached to a congregation, it is at times guided by a Cardinal, sometimes by a simple monsignor, this time by an Archbishop. The hierarchy that is above it may reveal itself as coercive, or it may seem, in other cases, purely symbolic. What is the role played by the couple Müller - Di Noia in this commission whose goal is, on the one hand, to deal with the relations of the Holy See with the Society of Saint Pius X, and, on the other, to preside over the fate of the regularized traditional world.?

Ten years ago, everyone saw in Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos the true masters of these questions. Holding both positions of Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy and President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, this typically Latin prelate left the first one to be exclusively in charge of the second. The task was not small insofar as Benedict XVI had some weeks earlier received Bp. Fellay, superior general of the Society of Saint Pius X, in order to proceed "by stages" towards a resolution of the disagreement with Écône. Following the departure of Cardinal Castrillón, Mgr. Guido Pozzo, though a simple secretary, and under the tutelage of a Prefect, seemed to be, from 2009 onwards, the true contact of the Society. Pope Ratzinger entrusted this dossier that was very dear to him to those who were close, his former coworkers at the Holy Office, even though Cardinal Levada - officially President of Ecclesia Dei - was not daily in charge of the matter. Should we think that the balance has remained the same once these two prelates were replaced?

All seems to point in this direction. Abp. Müller is, as his predecessor, essentially overwhelmed by the enormous Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, of which Ecclesia Dei is but a satellite. On the other hand, the man responsible full-time for the dossier is not a simple priest anymore (as current Abp. Pozzo when in Ecclesia Dei), but an Archbishop. Moreover, he is not only the secretary, he has the title of Vice-President. Abp. Di Noia had been up to then the secretary of a dicastery almost as prestigious as Doctrine of the Faith, that of Divine Worship, and all seemes to indicate that he would be placed at the helm of a great Roman office - some seemed to see him even replacing Cardinal Levada. The fact that he was named only a few days before Abp. Müller seems to strongly indicate that the Ecclesia Dei dossier was conspicuously removed from the latter in order to be entrusted de facto to a person with the appropriate stature and to defuse the nomination of the bishop of Ratisbon, very badly viewed in the Traditionalist milieux regarding which he had made multiple blunders.

Since then, several signs seem to reflect the division of tasks.

  • 1. Throughout summer, Abp. Müller granted several interviews in which he mentioned the question of the Society. In one of them, he firmly foresees that "there will be no compromise" on the Council, adding that he does not "think there will be new discussions" with the Society. This firmness seems to be contradicted by the content of the communiqué of the Ecclesia Dei commission, dated from October 27, which contrariwise invites "to patience, serenity, perseverance, and trust" in the discussions between the Holy See and the work founded by Abp. Lefebvre. Apparently, the thinking of the titular president does not seem to have been considered in the writing of the declarations of the commission...
  • 2. On November 3, a group of associations attached to the Traditional Missal organized a Pontifical Mass in Saint Peter's, Rome. Evidently, faced with such an event, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei was particularly involved with it, and its members could hardly miss this gathering. Abp. Di Noia and his several assistants were in the long procession that marched towards the altar of the Chair of Saint Peter. However, a significant member was missing, because the titular president, Abp. Müller, was not present at this ceremony.
  • 3. On November 19, in the morning, Pope Benedict XVI welcomed in his private library all the members of the Ecclesia Dei Commission? All of them? Not exactly, because its president, that is, Abp. Müller, was missing, and one could simply forget that he was a part of it.

In the very heart of Ecclesia Dei, its president seems to be but a shadow. What consequence does this have for the work of the Commission? At the moment, nothing is written. The signs seem to contradict the facts. What is certain is that the autonomy of the Castrillón era at least had the merit of being clear.