Rorate Caeli

"Is it really time for hiding?" Why priests should openly refuse to stop offering the Latin Mass

I publish the following translation as a stimulus to further reflection in these difficult times. I do not personally believe that clandestinity and open resistance are incompatible: in situations where prudential decisions must be made according to a variety of circumstances, either course of action may be defensible. Nevertheless, I agree with the author that there needs to be, in many places and from many lips, a firm "non possumus" and a public resolve to continue on, in the teeth of pseudo-sanctions. What is unacceptable is rolling over to play dead while the enemies of the Faith and of the faithful trample on intrinsic elements of the Church's common good and of the "status ecclesiae." To this end I highly recommend, as a parallel reading to the present post, a model letter published elsewhere, as from 
a priest to his bishop. ~ PAK

In a recent video Prof. Giovanni Zenone, director of the Fede&Cultura publishing house, spoke about the alleged further restrictions on the celebration of the Mass commonly called the Mass of St. Pius V, resulting from Bergoglio's rescript following his audience with Cardinal Arthur Roche, prefect of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

In his speech, Prof. Zeno certainly describes very well and in a largely relatable way the situation in which we find ourselves: it is no mystery that the circumstances are increasingly serious, and it would be wrong to try to diminish the scandal by pretending to normalize, almost out of a sense of exhaustion, what is in fact not normal.

On the other hand, however, one cannot pretend to believe that the problems arose just yesterday: for the sake of intellectual honesty, we must all remember that the attack on the Mass of All Time by the hierarchy has been going on for over fifty years. There is no doubt that Prof. Zenone knows this, as a man of culture he is, and certainly not one of the latest arrivals within the milieu.

However, within his talk -- or, rather, at what was the heart of his talk -- I was particularly struck by the passage in which, after reading a letter from a faithful woman expressing her concerns about the situation of a priest dear to her, the director of the Veronese publishing house proposes some advice for priests and laity.

On the lay issue, Zeno rightly says that it is our duty to try to protect priests. This, in a broad sense, is certainly a good and right thing. In reference to priests, however, he says apertis verbis that it is "the time of hiding" for them. It is precisely on this point that I would like to pause to make a few, brief remarks.

It is evident that Zeno's reference to "clandestinity" for priests has as its purpose the defense and maintenance of that which is the celebration of the rite of all time, which he considers to be put to the test today by the will of the Holy See itself. Indeed, a certain fear echoes from his speeches regarding the possibility that from now on, its free celebration may be increasingly prohibited. For Zeno, the problem would seem to be related to the fact that anyone who wants to continue to celebrate it by openly opposing Rome's decisions will certainly be the target of canonical sanctions, such as suspension a divinis or, even, reduction to the lay state.

Such concerns undoubtedly find reason to exist, because that is what, certainly, could happen. For that matter, it is evident that it would never be right, in a normal situation -- that is, not this one -- to act in such a way as to risk canonical sanctions.

I think, however, that it is precisely the starting point that is at least questionable. Can one really believe in the validity of these possible sanctions? Can one really think that such acts, penalizing something that God certainly desires, targeting the tradition of the Bride of Christ, can have any kind of validity? And, again, does the supposed authority that issues them have the right or the power to issue something that goes against God's will and against the Church itself? It is evident that the answer is negative, which is why not only may it be assumed, but indeed it must be assumed that such acts find no objective right and no validity from the canonical point of view or in the supernatural sphere.

With this in view, does it become useful to invite priests to live their traditional ministry in hiding? Absolutely not, for at least three kinds of reasons:

1. The comparison cited by Prof. Zeno about the Christians of the early centuries is not, in my humble opinion, an adequate historical parallel. As serious as the situation today is in other respects, no one, at least for now, can be said to be in real danger of their lives for their Faith as the early Christians were -- at least in Europe (very different is the example of the Chinese underground church, where the risk of losing one's life is real). All this is closely related to one fact: the eventual "persecution" to which we are subjected does not come from the civil authority -- as occurried with the early Christians or, closer to us in time, the Catholics who lived under the "Reign of Terror " (think of the martyrs of Compiègne), but, as is well known, comes from the ecclesiastical authority itself, as Zeno himself rightly reports.

2. Because of what has just been said, as Catholics we have a duty to continue to affirm what the Church has always affirmed, continuing to do what the Church has always done and what, moreover, no one has ever totally succeeded or will ever succeed in abolishing. "Self-disclosure" does not involve any risk to one's life, or at least not to date. If the only "risk" is the one related to the alleged canonical sanctions, which, as we have already seen, by simple logic cannot have any validity because the authority that claims to exercise itself against the deposit and practice of the Faith loses de facto the same authority with respect to that proceeding, and is thus to be considered therefore totally null and void -- well, if the only danger were this, all the more reason, instead of inviting priests to clandestinity, would it be incumbent on them to understand that no possible canonical sanction should be considered in any way valid, for reasons already all too well expressed and I think also substantially simple to understand.

3. Less than ever is now the time for clandestinity. On the contrary, "You are the light of the world; a city placed on top of a mountain cannot remain hidden, nor is a lamp lit to put it under the bushel, but over the lampstand so that it may give light to all who are in the house" (Mt. 5:13-16). We need examples, we need courage, we need fortitude, all the more so at a time in history when -- reiterating that at least for now, we will see about the future -- it is not strictly the civil authority that has declared war on Catholicism, but much more those who should be the leadership of it. In front of these, there is no hiding and should be no hiding.

As Catholics we cannot forget that we are members of a Mystical Body: we are and must concretely be the militant Church. However much we may suppose that the situation is irreversible from a human point of view, we cannot resign ourselves helplessly in the face of the massacre of this Mystical Body of which we are members. Pius XII expresses this point very well in Mystici Corporis:

"That men should persevere constantly in works of holiness, that they should progress with alacrity in grace and virtue, that finally they should not only strenuously strive for the summit of Christian perfection, but also incite according to their own strength others to attain the same perfection, all this, the heavenly Spirit does not wish to accomplish, if men themselves do not cooperate every day with industrious diligence. For, as Ambrose observes, 'divine benefits are not passed on to those who sleep, but to those who watch.'"

We have a duty to aspire to holiness. We must preserve the good seed, in domestic hearths, in communities, not in order to hide it, but to make it grow still further. We have the duty to make holiness shine in the Holy Church, as members of it. And, in order to do this, in addition to humble example in our daily lives, we must courageously oppose the modern and modernist drift, precisely through visible example, accompanied by prayer and encouragement -- yes, toward priests too: let us help them to have courage to resist what is impossible for Catholics to accept. Let us pray for them so that they may not hide due to unfounded fears, but may draw strength from God to give back to Him what truly gives praise to Him: the Holy Mass of all times.

Cristiano Lugli