Rorate Caeli

Is a Vatican Plan Under Way to Prohibit Traditional Ordinations?

Rorate offers its readers a translation of the latest newsletter from Paix Liturgique.

Could Traditional Ordinations Be Banned?

Since the publication of the motu proprio Traditionis custodes on July 16, we know that, after a first assault on the liturgy as a whole, the Ecclesia Dei communities are to be targeted, and especially their seminaries.

In our Letter 816, dated August 20, 2021, we said, in effect, that, since Rome’s avowed intention is to stop the development of the traditional Mass and ultimately to suffocate its existence, the bringing to heel of the houses of formation of future priests should be a primary objective for the destroyers of liturgical peace.

An attack by the Congregation of Religious?

We have already mentioned (Letter 813, October 25, 2021) the persecution of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, who, since 2007, have favored the “Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.” Canonical visitations, followed by the appointment of a Pontifical Commissioner by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life—more commonly known as the Congregation for Religious—resulted in the closure of the scholasticate and various convents. The commissioner then suspended ordinations for a time, making it mandatory for candidates for ordination to subscribe to “a formal acceptance of the Novus Ordo as an authentic expression of the Church’s liturgical tradition.”

A process along the lines of the Franciscans of the Immaculate could be applied to Ecclesia Dei communities with a “commissarization” of these institutes for the purpose of introducing the New Mass in their seminaries. This would mean sinking them quickly by emptying them of their specific attraction for the young people who today flock to them: the Tridentine liturgy. Today’s Rome is playing with priestly lives and vocations in this way: when such lives and vocations were considered useful, they were stimulated, and now, under the belief that they must be got rid of, Rome does so without a second thought, with the Machiavellian oblivion of commitments made to these communities.

Recently, the German website Summorum Pontificum published a report, translated and distributed by the American website Rorate Caeli, according to which the Congregation for Religious is preparing to launch canonical visits to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, the Institute of Christ the King, and the Institute of the Good Shepherd as early as February 2022:

Apparently, Rome is of the opinion that the status of the communities as “societies of pontifical right” opens up immediate possibilities of access. For this purpose, “papal delegates” could be appointed who, although they would not replace the existing superior as would a commissioner appointed by the Congregation for Religious Orders, would nevertheless be superior to him. These papal delegates would instruct superiors to take all necessary measures to “reconcile their communities with the spirit of the Council” and, as a fundamental first step toward this, to order the general celebration of the reformed liturgy. On this basis, plans for its inclusion in pastoral care could then be developed in collaboration with local bishops.

Or, first, an attack by the Congregation for Divine Worship?

But another more recent rumor, which we share with our readers with all due caution although it comes from reliable and concordant sources, indicates that the blow could come first from the Congregation for Divine Worship, whose new Prefect is the English prelate, Archbishop Arthur Roche, and whose Secretary, the second most important figure in the Congregation, is Archbishop Vittorio Francesco Viola, 55 years old, a Franciscan, former Bishop of Tortona, and a former professor at the Pontifical University of St. Anselm.

It is well known that a letter from the Vicar of Rome for the Pope, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, dated October 7, 2021, took a number of steps more restrictive than the terms of Traditionis custodes. The letter was presumably written by Fr. Giuseppe Midili, director of the Vicariate’s liturgical office and a professor at the Pontifical University of St. Anselm, where plans to combat the traditional liturgy are concocted. It was decided that the ceremonies of the Easter Triduum could no longer be celebrated according to the traditional form, and that the celebration of the sacraments other than the Eucharist was no longer permitted. [According to this letter] it is now obligatory, in Rome, to give sacramental absolution, confer Extreme Unction or Confirmation, and, if necessary, do ordinations, only according to the books of Paul VI’s liturgy.

This decision, taken in the Pope’s diocese, had all the appearance of a trial balloon. And indeed, according to our sources, the regime it sets forth would be extended to all of Latin Christendom very quickly (before Christmas?) by a text (an instruction?) from the Congregation for Divine Worship. It is possible that this text, which is currently being prepared, will not be as rigid as the letter of Cardinal De Donatis, especially with regard to personal parishes (e.g., it might be possible to celebrate the traditional Easter Triduum there).

On the other hand, the prohibition of traditional Roman pontifical ceremonies could well be included. Everywhere? On all occasions? If this were the case, it would mean that confirmations or ordinations in the traditional form would no longer be permitted.

If this information turned out to be true, the attack on the seminaries of traditional communities would be more rapid and more radical than that envisaged by means of canonical visitations: the very specificity of these seminaries would be affected, as they would be forbidden to have traditional ordinations. One can easily imagine the devastating effect on the vocations that these communities attract.

The predictable resistance

Naturally, as long as a text has not yet been published, it can be transformed, delayed—even buried. Assuming that it is indeed published, and assuming that it contains the stipulations just mentioned, it will immediately meet with legitimate resistance on the part of bishops, community leaders, and the multitude of faithful attached to the traditional liturgy—a resistance proportionate to what is at stake, that of the very existence of houses of formation for priests specializing in the celebration of the traditional liturgy.

All things considered, and in spite of all the uncertainties surrounding this rumor, we thought it preferable to sound the alarm immediately and as it stands, hoping for only one thing: to be proved wrong by the outcome of events. 

[Comment from PAK: The author seems to assume, by his manner of speaking, that the Vatican or any bishop has the authority to prohibit the traditional rites of any of the sacraments. Nothing could be further from the truth. Regulate, yes, within certain limits; but not repudiate them altogether. Any such attempted negation of the immemorial and venerable sacramental rites of the Church of Rome would be null and void, worth less than the paper it is written on, and should be treated with a contempt proportionate to its absurdity. As the great scholastics teach, an attack on the Church's common good may and should be resisted, regardless of its source.]