On October 27, Pope Benedict XVI addressed a delegation from Christian World Communions, an organization of Christian denominations who meet to encourage ecumenism. The theme for the meeting was "Visions of Christian Unity." Catholic News Agency reported the event. The Vatican and Zenit have the address in English translation. From that address:
"It is clear to us all that today’s world is in need of a new evangelization, a fresh accounting on the part of Christians for the hope that is in them (cf. 1 Pet 3:15). Yet those who profess that Jesus Christ is Lord are tragically divided and cannot always give a consistent common witness. Herein lies an enormous responsibility for us all."
The address came at a time when unity faces pressure from within the Church. In the U.S., some debate will be anticipated over liturgical reforms. For example, Gerald at The Cafeteria Is Closed reports today that Cardinal Mahony in Los Angeles has responded to Bishop William Skylstad's letter of October 23, which notified U.S. bishops that Benedict XVI has discontinued the indult that previously allowed extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion to help cleanse cups. In response, if the letter is accurate as initially reported by Gerald, Cardinal Mahony has said that there will be no change in the practice in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles until he has a chance to discuss "the new recommendations" with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Perhaps a canon lawyer can explain how the termination of an indult is a "recommendation" if that language accurately reports the letter. Without using the phrase "new recommendations," the Diocese of Orange has also indicated that it will await the November meeting of the USCCB before making any changes in procedure, also as published by Gerald.
There has also been hope in the U.S. that improvement in the English translation of the liturgy will reduce some of the pressure for the Latin Mass.
While there is reason to anticipate some conflict in the U.S., it is in France where the conflict is presently most visible, involving both the concern of some French bishops over the potential wider use of the Latin Tridentine Mass as well as concern over the new Institute of the Good Shepherd, which was organized in September for Le Febvrists returning to the Catholic Church. Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, who is the Archbishop of Bordeaux and head of the French Bishops Conference, welcomed the concept of bringing LeFebvrists back into the Church several months before the Institute was created. However, he has been among those who have recently voiced concerns about the difficulties of welcoming LeFebvrists back into the Church despite their rejection of conciliar decisions of Vatican II, or at least rejection of the way those decisions are put into practice.
The issue of liturgical reform, the wider use of the Latin Mass, and the Institute of the Good Shepherd should be recognized as, indeed, three different but related issues.
This post will link to a couple of recent English language articles on the French situation and will provide some discussion about several French news articles to shed more light on that situation, and on how it may in time affect the Church outside of France. Where French language articles are quoted in English, all translations here are mine.
Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, who is the Archbishop of Bordeaux and head of the French Bishops Conference, was received in a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI on October 26 according to Vatican Information Service. The purpose of his visit is thought to have been the Institute of the Good Shepherd and the anticipated expansion of the Tridentine Mass. Cardinal Lustiger, the retired Archbishop of Paris, was received by the Pope earlier this month, at least partly for the same reasons. Also on October 26, Cardinal Francis Arinze (Prefect for the Congregation of Divine Worship) met with some opposition in Paris, where he denounced
liturgical abuse during a meeting of 200 liturgical experts
and about 20 French bishops (English translation here).
An article in The Tablet considered the French situation in an October 28 issue, and an article in the Washington Post considered the French situation on October 23. In an October 27 post, French blogger Lahire at Le Salon Beige called for prayer that the French Church will unite behind the Pope, linking to this article about the anticipated approval of the Latin Mass and reform of liturgical abuses. On the same day, Michel Janva of the same group blog wrote at more length about the conflict. On October 26, articles about the anticipated expansion of the use of the Latin Mass, and the related French issue of the LeFebvrists, appeared in Le Figaro and La Croix.
By way of background, although Cardinal Ricard, the Archbishop of Bordeaux is now at the center of attention for questioning whether Benedict XVI may be about to take a step too far in broadening the use of the Latin Mass, it is important to set that in the context of the fact that Cardinal Ricard previously spoke with support for bringing the LeFebvrists back into unity with Rome.
In an article from October 27, 2006, Eucharistie Miséricordeuse reported that:
"We should not forget that the bishops of France, meeting in their spring assembly had placed this question on the agenda on April 7, 2006, and that Cardinal Ricard had inter alia made a three-point declaration in which can be read: "We know that Pope Benedict XVI is concerned about that. In the weeks or the months to come, he should give directives to facilitate the path towards a possible return to full communion. We will welcome them into the faith and will faithfully put them to work. Evangelically, wrote the Cardinal, all must be done in order to carry out the word of the Lord: "That all may be one, like you, Father, are in me and I in you. That they too may be one in us, so that the world may believe that you sent to me "(Jn 17, 21). (...) Charity implies that we seek to know each other, to understand each other, to make false images disappear that we can have of each other."
On September 8, 2006 the Vatican created the Institute of the Good Shepherd for for five traditionalist priests - all former followers of Archbishop Lefebvre - which would answer directly to Rome and not to local bishops.In the article from The Tablet, linked above, it is twice suggested that the French bishops reacted as they did to the Institute of the Good Shepherd, and to the more recent news that wider use of the Latin Mass may be approved, because they felt snubbed. However, statements made by the French Cardinals, including those quoted by The Tablet, are not based just upon thinking that they should have been consulted more about that Institute.
On the other hand, among French Catholics who support Benedict XVI, there was concern that only French Catholic bishops were protesting. French blogger Michel Janva, in the post linked above, thus wondered if the reaction of some French bishops gave "the impression that the divisions from the post-conciliar years have not yet passed. At least at the level of the Episcopate. And of the French Episcopate, one must insist, for abroad, obedience to Rome (or at least a lack of violent criticism) seems to be the norm." As an example of a bishop with a contrary view, he quoted Bishop Alvaro Corrada of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, who stated that he considered the Mass according to the 1962 missel, especially with the encouragement of Pope John Paul II, to be a normal thing.
It might thus come as a relief to the French who share Cardinal Ricard's concerns (of course, not all French clergy share those concerns), and as a relief to the French who share the concerns of the bloggers at Le Salon Beige, to see that they have such American brethren as Cardinal Mahony, whose reaction to a much lesser matter may assure them all that the Vatican's concerns do not lie solely with the French Church.
Meanwhile, we might also recognize that Cardinal Ricard's concerns are being heard and considered by the Pope before the anticipated Motu Proprio on the Latin Mass is placed in final form and issued. If Cardinal Ricard had valid concerns, they were expressed to the Vatican in what might have been the last possible opportunity, as rumor has it that the document is almost ready for release. (Of course, we heard that about the Encyclical Deus Caritas for months before it actually was published, and even then many of the rumors about what it was expected to say proved to have been untrue.)
With so much precaution, here is the word on the street, according to a different October 27 article in Eucharistie Miséricordieuse:
"The document that Pope Benedict XVI is preparing with a view 'to encouraging the Latin Mass' will take the form 'of an Apostolic Letter – Motu proprio', a stronger form that an 'Apostolic Letter', is still being edited at the Vatican. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments is actually working on the text, as is Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy and president of the Commission Ecclesia Dei, in charge of the traditionalists in the Church. According to a Vatican source, the Pope has reviewed the text at least “two times” and the document is 'almost ready.'"
Also, for good or for bad, it has become apparent that the creation of the Institute of the Good Shepherd, to bring traditionalist priests back into the Church who formerly rejected the conciliar authority of Vatican II, could have implications outside of France. A former SSPX priest who is now in the Institute of the Good Shepherd expressed to the French news media just one week after the Institute was created that they intended to spread the Institute to other countries.
We might wonder whether this will be viewed as an opportunity by traditionalist Catholic clergy within, for example, the Diocese of Orange. The Bishop of Orange drew recent blogger attention for prohibiting a traditionalist parish from kneeling to receive communion and other such traditionalist customs.
A French news article from September 14 reported this potential in Chrétienté Info:
"Mr. L’Abbe Laguérie affirmed Wednesday that the new Institute of the Good Shepherd created last week by Rome wished to open parishes 'everywhere in France and elsewhere'.
"'It will not be a factor of division, on the contrary', the abbot Philippe Laguérie, superior general of the institute, declared to the press.
"The institute looks for unused or abandoned churches in the downtown area. 'It is not a question of arriving and warning the bishop afterwards', he ensured, 'the canon law makes compulsory a dialogue between an institute and the local bishop'.
"The convention which should be signed for the Saint-Eloi church in Bordeaux, that it has occupied since 2001 in the diocese of Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, president of the Conference of the Bishops of France, and where the institute will have its seat, "will be the prototype of what we want to make everywhere in France and elsewhere".
"According to the abbot, Mgr Ricard and Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos wish to carry out the first ordinations. Four seminarians are ready. The institute already counts six priests and will welcome ten South American priests.
"The Vatican decree creating the institute makes it possible "to take part in a serious and constructive criticism" for an "authentic interpretation" of the Vatican II Council and gives them the right to celebrate exclusively the Mass of St. Pius V."
Moreover, the Vatican's concerns about liturgical abuses, and wish to issue new requirements to reign in some of the abuses, surely will not be exclusively directed at France or directed toward reuniting the Catholic Church and the LeFebvrists. The La Croix article linked above quotes Cardinal Arinze, who has been working on the document, as saying (in a slightly different version of his address from the one I translated):
"I do not speak about France, which I do not know sufficiently", he specified, but these abuses led to 'this coldness, this horizontalism which puts man at the center of liturgical action, and sometimes with this overtly egocentric mannerism that our Sunday assemblies are sometimes obliged to endure'."
As many American Catholics will recognize their own concerns about liturgical abuses in the descriptions offered by Cardinal Arinze in that address, it may be reasonable to speculate that the expected November Motu Proprio may seek to reform abuses within the American Church as much as it responds to concerns of the LeFebvrists about the Latin Mass. If parishes of the Institute of the Good Shepherd begin to form in such places as the Dioceses of Orange and Los Angeles, we may soon find that what we thought was specifically a French reaction may also become an American issue.
In making final revisions to the pending Motu Proprio document, Pope Benedict XVI is no doubt taking all of those concerns into consideration. While that document may be in the final stages of review, and as we approach a November that may include its release as well as a meeting of the U.S. College of Catholic Bishops and the Holy Father's journey to Turkey, I hope that we will keep these issues in our prayers, with an eagerness to see God's will be done in the final outcome of these anticipated events.