Rorate Caeli

Frontline report: New rounds in the war against tradition

Otto van Veen, Valentinus Taken Prisoner 
Can we speak of a “report from the front” when it comes to the current dispute over the traditional liturgy of the (no longer) Latin Church? We are afraid so: Yes!—and judging by the unspeakable outbursts of the papal court theologian Grillo, one not only may speak of “war”, one must.

But let’s take the news of the last few days in turn. First of all, there is the case of the “Missionaries of Divine Mercy”—a small community of diocesan right founded by the (now virtually deposed) Bishop Rey of Frejus-Toulon for the care of the old rite. If we understand correctly what we have learned about this hitherto unknown community, Bishop Dominique Rey founded this community years ago and also endowed it (at least to some extent) with its own seminary in order to take over the training of diocesan priests in the old rite. It sounds like news from another world, but Bishop Rey was striving for a “liturgical peace” in his diocese under the pontificate of Benedict XVI, in which both the faithful and candidates for the priesthood would be free to choose one of the “two forms of the Roman rite” or even to celebrate in the one or the other. And it was precisely this that drew the wrath and revenge of the new rulers after Benedict’s abdication. (see our article from 2022).

This week it has become known that a total of five seminarians from this seminary have been waiting for two years to be ordained to the diaconate—all attempts to obtain the necessary authorization from Rome have been unsuccessful. And as the superior of the community, Jean-Raphaël Dubrule, has now announced, the Roman refusal is based on two reasons: One is Rome’s refusal to allow ordination according to the books of the traditional liturgy, the other because apparently there is no prospect that the candidates for ordination will also receive permission to celebrate in the traditional liturgy after their subsequent ordination to the priesthood (should this ever take place).

This is a serious blow to Bishop Rey and his vision of “reconciled diversity” as well as to the candidates for ordination. They are faced with the choice of either taking a path that they consider wrong in conscience and reason—or turning against the obedience owed to the authorities. The “spiritual abuse” of obedience to achieve power-political goals continues.

On the other hand, there seems to be a certain easing of tensions on the Roman side in the situation of the ex-Ecclesia Dei Institute of Christ the King and High Priest (ICRSS/ICKSP), which had been named in recent weeks as the preferred object of expected repressive measures. On Monday the 24th, the Pope received the Institute’s leadership in a private audience. The communiqué subsequently published on the Institute’s website sounds hopeful:

The audience was an opportunity to thank the Holy Father for his beautiful Apostolic Exhortation “Totum amoris est” , dedicated to St. Francis de Sales, our patron saint. Afterwards, Monsignor Wach presented the pastoral work that the priests of the Institute carry out worldwide in the service of souls. On two occasions, the Pope insisted that we continue to serve the Church according to our own charism in a spirit of unity and communion that favors the harmony and balance of the Salesian spirit.

So has the Institute of Christ the King now also escaped the immediate danger zone, at least for the moment, even as the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter seems to have done? And how does the stick wielded against the seminarians of Frejus fit in with the carrot that the people of the ICRSS were allowed to taste?

Well, in all despotic regimes, carrots and sticks go very well together: They ultimately feed unfulfilled hopes, strengthen the readiness and will to submit, and cause division where unity and communal action would be appropriate.

The always well-informed Vaticanista Diane Montagna today publishes an article on The Remnant that convincingly ties together all the actions and rumors that have come to light about Rome’s future policy of suppressing the liturgical tradition.

The starting point is Montagna’s observation that a document (or several) with this objective actually exists and, after many years of to-ing and fro-ing, is now lying on the Pope’s desk, full of signatures and awaiting his. Montagne’s very detailed and—since it is based on facts and detailed insights—extremely credible description of this back and forth also largely confirms the account we have given of the origin and general thrust of this document, so that we can spare ourselves the trouble of reproducing it in more detail at this point. What is more important is what Montagne has to say about the content of the measures.

According to the document, all priests of the (once appropriately entitled) Latin Church—with the exception of members of the ex-Ecclesia Dei (EED) communities—will in future be prohibited from celebrating Mass in any form other than the Novus Ordo. This prohibition also binds the bishops, who may neither celebrate the traditional liturgy themselves nor allow their diocesan priests to celebrate it. Existing dispensations and special permissions shall be revoked.

The EED communities themselves and the personal parishes they look after will continue to exist (for the time being at least), but it is not yet known whether and to what extent the priests of these communities will be allowed to administer sacraments such as baptism, confirmation and marriage in the traditional form. It is also unclear—and here we are very close to the Frejus-Toulon case—whether they will continue to be permitted to conduct diaconal and priestly ordinations in the traditional form.

This is the current status according to Diane Montagna. We suspect that this does not yet cover the full scope of the forthcoming measures and we may possibly expect further restrictions, especially for the seminaries of the EED communities and the freedom for ordination, in documents to be published later. The thrust is unmistakable: the traditional liturgy is to be pushed out of the life of the Church and “museumized” in a few ghettos, in order then to be brought to extinction step by step—the expected ban on the administration of certain sacraments would already be a first such step. This is the Roman roadmap, or rather battle plan.

The chances of success are, of course, zero. Even Paul VI did not succeed in completely suppressing the practice of tradition within the Church, and the more unrestrainedly the coercive mechanisms within the curial sphere of power are used, the stronger and more numerous the efforts to escape this sphere of power become.

Much of this will end in a regrettable and ultimately unsustainable uncontrolled growth [i.e., a proliferation of unconnected traditionalist endeavors, many underground]. But the Society of St. Pius X shows that such a development does not necessarily have to happen. In one way or another, there will probably develop a nucleus around which priests and congregations loyal to tradition will gather, while the Roman center sinks into chaos—until the Lord puts an end to this situation in one way or another.

Michael Charlier
June 26, 2024
(source in German)