Rorate Caeli

What Does “Full Communion” Mean? — Of Ecclesial Insults and Injuries

This article appeared in French as Letter 878 of Paix Liturgique. It has been translated for Rorate Caeli.

The ecumenism of Vatican II is based on the affirmation that our separated brothers and sisters are "in imperfect communion" with the Church and with Christ (Unitatis redintegratio, n. 3). This is a colossal novelty, for one is or is not in communion with Christ through faith, just as one is or is not in a state of grace through charity. By this subterfuge the separated become semi-Catholics, which is very nice for them: 10%, 20%, 50%? But now those who remain attached to the traditional liturgy are also said not to be — or not to want to be — "in full communion", which is downright insulting. In the following essay, Paul Grondin gives his thoughts on this monstrosity.

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Sacramental communion, the sign par excellence of communion or membership in the Church, is something that every baptized person who has reached the age of reason knows: it is the fact of receiving, devoutly and licitly, the Body of Christ that has come to substitute itself for the substance of the host by the powers of the priest who has celebrated the Eucharist for the Glory of God and the salvation of the faithful.

Communion is licit if the baptized Catholic faithfully perceives himself to be in a state of grace. If not, the Church requires the Confession of the faithful who, through the effect of this other sacrament, regain sanctifying grace, which makes communion licit, and profitable to the soul of the "reconciled".

Concretely, the faithful will receive communion, or not. It is factual, and even binary in logical-mathematical language. One either receives communion or one does not receive communion at the Mass one attends. It's yes or no. There is no third position.

It is true that the Church understands that a spiritual communion can be obtained when the faithful renounce sacramental communion for good reasons, that is, those that ecclesial discipline itself has established (such as fasting).

To refuse the Bugninian ritual is to refuse "full communion"...

The major tension of which the Church is the theater and the victim, especially since the papal motu proprio of the summer of 2021, Traditionis custodes, is due to the diagnosis formulated by the French episcopate concerning the French ecclesial situation, which diagnosis, relayed by the Curia, has become a Bergoglian mantra. 

The diagnosis is this: the traditional milieu which, in the French dioceses, with the agreement of the bishops, has access to the celebration of the 1962 Missal, called by them the Mass of St. Pius V, is abusing the generous hospitality granted to it, refusing the "full communion" that was expected from this concession.

So deep was the disappointment of the Ordinaries that the most radical means proposed to restore this "full communion" was simply to forbid any celebration of the divisive ritual, a means finally adopted by Rome. Those who believed that the motu proprio of Benedict XVI, on 07/07/07, restored "the Mass of always" (okay, of fifteen centuries; excuse the hyperbole), had evidently forgotten to read the text of the pope who was not an emeritus at that point. The Argentinean pope connected the trads' betrayal of the "generosity" of the German pope with the argument that the freedoms recovered under SP were only ad experimentum, for the purpose of burying the hatchet, and with a view to a deferred evaluation of the prudential character of the measure in view of Roman objectives.

Let us summarize the latter: let all finally agree to contemplate the riches of the Bugnini ritual, called the Mass of Paul VI after his approval was granted.

The new Mass, concocted to attract the world to itself, has only had the tangible effect of emptying the parishes that it was supposed to fill with people from all nations. This cruel failure should have led to a serious evaluation, one that any institution concerned with survival must carry out, for the good of both its clients and its shareholders. What we must resolve to call a stubborn denial of the disaster created by the Second Vatican Council and its protean Mass from the time of its conception pursues the chimera of "full communion" with the intensity of a heavenly inspiration for some, and the sthenia of a paranoia for others. If all the faithful of all Christian confessions had adopted the ritual invented by Bugnini in 1970, the Church of Jesus Christ would have been packed, thus gloriously erasing the ruptures of history. The "full communion" thus dreamed of was brutally withdrawn from the real world, the one where space-time weights the imaginary with its rigorous figures. In short, the fiasco was total.

Of what only the mitred can judge...

But the elusive concept of communion has kept its virtue, namely, to be irrefutable by the vulgar. One must be a mitred man to use it wisely! Where a mitred man says that it is absent, dumb John doesn't have a reply. Dysmetry in access to the sacred separates here the clergy from the laity who stand well beyond the sacramental powers. "Full communion" has no unit of measurement deposited in the knowledge of all in the premises of the pavilion of Breteuil in Sèvres. Intuition of it can only spring forth from under a mitre. Non-mitres, please abstain.

But even if it means changing the scale, bringing the whole world (out of reach) to the dimension of just a diocese, could we not conceive that at the level of a presbyterate that has adopted the new Mass, "full communion" would (all things being equal) exist by right? Where the new rite is generalized, what authorized priest would be justified in doubting that there, "all is order and beauty, luxury, calm and pleasure," in this invitation to a mystical journey?

Unfortunately, no French diocese claims this beatitude, because each of them has its "village" of diehard trads. The sectarianism of the latter is established by their language, the one by which they recognize each other. Of the new Mass, they contest the unity, and denounce the deliberate multiplicity: each one has the right to the one he likes, and to that one only. This infinite potential diversity has been balanced, it is true, by the mass defections of the faithful, the countless defrockings, the indifference of the many towards a Church denying its past and scuttling itself.

So be it, but let's be reasonable. How could a presbyterate in "full communion" around its Mass 2.0 not enjoy the beneficial effects of its beatitude, in the form of a Pentecost of love that would attract everyone as surely as Christ rose up from the earth? How could a parvulus grex, a tiny flock, however modest in the diocese, but united around the unique Bergoglian lex orandi, be deprived of the "full communion" which it would be sufficient for its Ordinary merely to decree so that the joy of the diocese would be perfect, and its attractiveness assured?

Well, let's open our eyes! The dioceses are rat races (lit. crab baskets), the good priests are targeted by an oligarchy of gerontes who have long since abandoned the priestly habitus (and habit). The persistence of the irreducibles of the historic traditional rite is used as an excuse to exonerate itself from its own fiasco, and to curse the migration of young people towards an outdated liturgy: that is the lament of a paranoid clergy. They have lost everything but their reason, as Chesterton said. Communion is not with them, but across the street, where the lex orandi and lex credendi are rooted in a liturgy polished by the history of the gifts of Divine Providence to Christ's Church. Is this communion "full"? Does it need to be full to exist? Can a mitred man indefinitely accuse baptized persons -- ones who are Catholics and eager to remain so -- of harming the full communion of which he reserves the right to be the sole judge?

From clear (Pius XII) to vague (Lumen Gentium): dogmatic progress...

In number 172 of Renaissance catholique (May/July 2022), our friend Maugendre puts us on the right track, by bringing together two texts of the Magisterium, the difference between which deserves careful development. Let's see.

- From Pope Pius XII (Mystici Corporis, 29/06/1943): "Only those who have received the baptism of regeneration and profess the true faith who, on the other hand, have not, in their misfortune, separated themselves from the whole Body, or been cut off from it for very serious faults by legitimate authority, are really to be counted as members of the Church."

To put it plainly, for the non-lawyers: All non-excluded disciples are members of the Church.

- From the dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium (Vatican II) (21/11/1964): "Those are fully incorporated into that society which is the Church who, having the mind of Christ, accept integrally its structure and all the means of salvation which have been instituted in it, and, in its visible organism, are united with Christ who directs it through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops united by the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments, the ecclesiastical government, and communion" (LG 14).

What does this conciliar text, with its insider's language, say? Only those who are fully, integrally united to Christ himself, according to the judgment of the high clergy, are incorporated into the Church. A too quick reading gives the illusion of the same idea written out in two equivalent forms. This is not the case.

Pius XII expresses himself in a normative way: all baptized believers who are not excluded are members of the Church. Analogously: all French people who have not been deprived of their French nationality come under the Civil Code as it provides for the rights attached to French citizenship. Let's vary the theme, and so much the worse for Knock: Any person who is not sick is deemed to be well until proven otherwise. Any adult is deemed to enjoy a sound mind and free will, until proven otherwise (expert opinion), etc... The Church, in short, is inclusive of all baptized persons who have kept the faith, except when sanctioned for a very serious fault by the competent court having ruled in its capacity. The "normal" Catholic is in the Church.

Lumen Gentium expresses the matter axiologically: only the saints are in the Church. Incorporation is a Marshal's baton. And who awards it, please? The holiest of all, namely the hierarchs! And according to what criteria? To be "fully," "integrally" us, that is to say, to Christ! Well, let's see! Only the saint is in the Church. Who is holy? The one we say is holy, and to whom we award the halo of "full communion". Q.E.D.!

We can illustrate this from mathematics with an asymptotic figure: the curve will only reach the graph at infinity. "Full communion" is only discernible by the mitred, who are saints among saints. All things considered, only the saint has the right to speak, and the saint, naturally separated from the plebs, always has the last word.

Psychoanalysis also reasons in an axiological way: only the one who lives a perfect balance, an optimal management of the relations with others, a total autonomy, a well-being without clouds -- only such a one is "fully" normal. Does such a person exist? As for the "normal" Catholic, he or she will be in the Church when the saints who lead it (with of course the approval of Christ) have decided to do so. That's the way it is. Period.

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The quotations suggested by Jean Pierre Maugendre and the perspective we propose measure to what extent the Church founded two thousand years ago is occupied by the supporters of another religion -- one that claims to allow "full communion" from here on down only by breaking with yesterday's prayer, by the abolition of the ritual that sanctifies by ordering all to Christ the Savior. In trying, by hook or by crook, to detach us from what gives us life, they rightly target for cancelation the rite and the faith it expresses.

But just imagine the deal we get! In exchange for our support, we will all become saints. For those who are tempted to doubt, look at their self-proclaimed saintly faces. Don't look at the suicides of priests, it doesn't count. Those absent from "full communion" will have caused their own misfortune!

Dear authorized clergy, do not fill us with the fullness of your priesthood, with your immanent holiness! Your sterility is your tragedy, but your mythomania is unmasked. What is "full communion" the name of? The name of your hubris, the name of the trap from which you are not about to escape, and into which we will not fall, thank God!