Rorate Caeli

On rumored rollback of Summorum, German website asks: “What’s in store for us?”

A pair of important articles appeared in recent days at the German traditionalist website Motu-proprio: Summorum-Pontificum (www.summorum-pontificum.de), the first on May 31st and the second on June 4. They are provided here in translation for readers of Rorate Caeli. Please note that some of the speculation in the first part is “corrected” in the second part, especially the rumor about Cardinal Braz de Aviz being placed in charge of traditional religious communities, which, for now, seems to be off the table.

 

What’s in store for us? (Part 1)


May 31, 2021

 

There is still no reliable information about the “interpretations” of Summorum pontificum announced by Francis, but there are numerous conjectures. Some of them are to be taken quite seriously.

 

Perhaps the most interesting consideration: Since there is talk of “interpretation,” the text of the motu proprio itself could remain untouched—the planned changes would be realized through a rewrite of the 2011 Universae Ecclesiae implementing regulations. Deeper interventions would thus not be necessary for the time being; yet one would have to accept certain incongruities between the Motu Proprio, which as such has the force of law, and the implementing regulations. This is precisely what one must expect in view of the increasingly demonstrated disregard for formal law and its norms in Rome.

 

Current practice would be to frame the changes not as generally binding prescriptions, but—under the pretext of decentralization and strengthening episcopal authority—as “extended possibilities,” or “options,” whose implementation would be left wholly or partly to the discretion of the local bishops. It is expected as certain that local ordinaries will be given full authority as to whether and when, and in what form, diocesan clergy may celebrate in the traditional rite. But priests of the old-rite communities could also be subjected to diocesan regulations for celebrating in churches of the diocese. In this context, it could come about that the previously valid prohibition of “mixed forms” would be relativized, so that, if necessary, readings according to the new lectionary and calendar, female altar servers, extraordinary ministers of communion, and other achievements of the Novus Ordo could be expected. Also the administration of the sacraments—above all, baptisms, marriages, and confirmation—are, according to rumors, to be regulated even more strongly than before. Even now, local ordinaries have considerable possibilities of influence over access to the liturgical rites in this regard—up to making (for example) confirmation according to the old liturgy impossible in their area of authority.

 

Not only in Germany but elsewhere, there are currently numerous dioceses whose bishops generally do not grant members of old-rite priestly communities permission to operate in their jurisdiction—which draws attention to a serious “birth defect” in the founding documents of these groups. Under the terms of Summorum Pontificum, however, a place is opened for diocesan priests who, as retirees, for example, are less dependent on episcopal benevolence to celebrate the traditional liturgy for the interested faithful. According to the expected new regulations, local ordinaries could completely prevent the celebration of Holy Mass and the administration of sacraments according to the traditional rite in their area of power and thus achieve the ideal of the “Trent-free zones” sought by the brutal liturgical reformers.
 

The expansion of episcopal powers or corresponding restrictions on the priests’ ability to celebrate are likely to be at the center of the “reinterpretation” of Summorum Ponitificum. However, considerable restrictions for the priestly communities dedicated to the traditional form—as has long been demanded by lobbies in the Vatican—are also conceivable and to be expected. It is very likely that they will be completely subordinated as communities to the Congregation for Religious Orders. This would then affect, to name only the larger ones, the Fraternity of St. Peter, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, and the Institute of the Good Shepherd, as well as the monasteries and monastic orders of the Tradition. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, perhaps also the Congregation for Divine Worship, would then be responsible for the regulation of liturgical questions; everything else, especially the “legal and disciplinary supervision,” would be in the hands of the team of Braz de Aviz, the tried-and-true smasher of religious.

 

This force would then not only have the possibility of appointing commissioners and, as it had tried to do with the Franciscans of the Immaculata (in vain, however), to lay hands on their property. It would undoubtedly also control the seminaries, shape them, or even dissolve them altogether and refer the seminarians to the tried-and-true diocesan seminaries. There, the already-existing highly qualified directors of studies and feminist soldier-sisters in the teaching body would already see to it that the candidates are made fit for the building up of the Church of the new springtime, so promisingly dawning.

 

Another already existing disciplinary issue for the old-rite communities, which is spoken about only behind closed doors (if at all), could be put to use more systematically [by the enemies of tradition]. For decades, such communities have been strictly deprived of a legal form that could provide them with “their own” bishops. For ordinations to the priesthood, therefore, they are dependent on bishops from outside—diocesan or curial bishops who are favorably disposed toward Summorum Pontificum. In recent years, bishops who have acted as bestowers of holy orders have been informally told by Rome (and thus not subject to appeal) that they should limit themselves to conferring holy orders on the next generation of priests of their own diocese. Through a conceivable legalization of this requirement, the communities loyal to Rome could effectively be restricted in the ordination of vocations flowing to them in abundance—or even blocked altogether.

 

With such instruments, the militant opponents of the traditional liturgy—whom we can identify without bad conscience as enemies of the Church of Christ—could practically liquidate the hated relics inherited from the ages and the spirit of the two-thousand-year-old tradition within the Church. Communities and congregations faithful to tradition could operate only where bishops allow them to do so—until the installation of a successor who has, as it were, better grasped “the signs of the times” [and who could then complete the liquidation]. In dioceses that are “tolerant and inclined to diversity,” there would then perhaps be a weekly Mass according to “the Missal of John XXIII” in two places without highway access on Tuesdays at 7:45am and on Fridays at 9:15pm. Never on Sundays, because then the diocesan priests are [so it is said] all needed for pastoral assignments or for concelebration at the cathedral. A true parish life for the traditional faithful would be effectively prevented. The appeal of the communities, whose seminaries currently register over 200 new entrants annually worldwide, could, with a few strokes of the pen, be reduced to the intake level of the seminaries of the modern bishops’ conferences....

 

That the Roman circles behind the “reinterpretation” of Summorum Pontificum intend exactly that is beyond doubt, and that Pope Francis, to whom the apostolic doctrine means little and his ecclesiastical-political dreams much, will ultimately indulge in this despite or even because of his uninterest in all things liturgical, is likewise beyond doubt. The congregations of traditional believers and especially the priestly communities of the tradition are facing hard times and terrible trials. In such circumstances, only trust in God’s help can give us hope. And there must be a renewed willingness to make sacrifices for the preservation of orthodox faith and for the salvation of one’s own soul and family, before which the efforts of the past pale.

 

What’s in store for us? (Part 2)

 

According to current information and rumours about the impen­ding restrictions on the use of the traditional liturgy, the Vatican is planning a two-step approach. In a first step, expected in weeks rather than months, the rules for the use of the liturgy in diocesan clergy and under the responsibility of local bishops are to be rewritten. In a second step, which is not expected before the autumn, the priestly communities of the old rite are to be urged, emphatically and if necessary by coercive measures, to orientate their pastoral work, their community life, and their priestly formation to the “guidelines of the Second Vatican Council.”

 

Such a division into two parts seems logical and also advantageous from the point of view of church politics for the forces that want to push back the traditional rite and traditional teaching and spirituality. The documents of Summorum Pontificum—that is, the Motu Proprio itself, then the accompanying letter to the bishops [Con Grande Fiducia], and finally the implementing regulations issued only after a four-year delay in 2011 [Universae Ecclesiae]—essentially deal with rules for the clergy or the faithful in the dioceses, and only in a few special cases (e.g., with regard to the conferral of holy orders) make reference to questions of practice in old-rite communities, which may not yet have been sufficiently clarified in their founding documents.

 

The advantage of such a division into two parts for the curial apparatus would be, above all, to split up the expected opposition and resistance with regard to the affectedness and the interest situation and to disperse it over a longer period of time.

 

As far as the expected rules for the diocesan clergy are concerned, there is no substantial new information beyond what we have already been able to communicate before. The bishops will be given virtually full supremacy for their priests and for the diocesan churches and congregations with regard to place and time and the number and definition of the participants, as well as the manner of celebration of the traditional liturgy. Any independent or even enforceable rights for clergy and faithful are apparently not provided for. It is uncertain whether—apart from the Holy Mass—sacraments [such as baptism, confirmation, or matrimony] can still be administered in the traditional form at all, and would in any case (think of parish registers) depend on the goodwill of the local Ordinary.

 

Only a little information is available on how the priestly communities, whose special charism is the cultivation of the traditional liturgy, will be dealt with. In outline, the following picture is painted: It is said that the superiors of the communities will receive a letter at the same time as the new diocesan rules are promulgated, which essentially contains two points. The first point would be a request to cooperate fully with the bishops in the implementation of the expected new guidelines and not to get involved in any attempts to circumvent or counteract them.

 

Secondly, the letter would contain the announcement or invitation to a meeting of the superiors planned for the autumn in Rome, at which they will be given new instructions for the use of the traditional liturgy in pastoral ministry. At the center of this would be a strict commitment to the decisions of the Second Vatican Council—insofar as anyone in Rome is able to distill an unambiguous “set of decisions” from the often ambiguous and contradictory texts of this Council, which, as we know, [is an effort that] has not succeeded in more than fifty years of chaos following the concluding ceremony. Skat players know how such things end: upper trumps lower. It would also be conceivable, as expected, to use “underemployed” priests of the communities for parish pastoral care after the new regulations go into effect, presumably according to the guidelines decided by local liturgy committees. Finally, there is also talk that at this meeting in autumn, visitations of the communities will be announced, with the aim of checking their fidelity to the Council. After the Pope’s repeated side blows against allegedly “rigid” forms of piety and formation in the seminaries, the seminaries are likely to be the focus of Roman attention.

 

So much for the Roman rumor mill, which is always fertile. Nothing is official yet, but the individual traits described give a thoroughly plausible overall picture. A discussion on how the congregations and communities of Tradition should deal with a new regulation of this kind will only make sense once the documents are available. On the other hand, this question may already be asked: how the agents of this relapse into the time of the reluctantly-granted indult can and want to reconcile their approach with the fact that tradition-oriented congregations (in the broader sense), especially in the developed Western industrialised countries, are often the only islands of growth in the desert of postconciliar confusion.


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