Vatican Insider Interview with FI Spokesman

Unofficial translation of the Italian original follows:

Vatican City
In an order whose predominant attention is to the traditional liturgy. A decree of the Pope appoints an apostolic commissioner

Alessandro Speciale
Vatican City

The Congregation for Religious, with the approval of Pope Francis, decided last July 11 to appoint a commissioner to the Congregation of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, a religious order in which the spirituality of Saint Francis of Assisi had, in recent years, been combined with a predominant attention given to the traditional liturgy.

The appointing of a commissioner, one reads in the decree of the vatican ‘ministry’ for religious orders, aims to “protect and promote the internal unity of religious institutes and their fraternal communion, their adequate formation in religious and consecrated life, the organization of apostolic activities “and” the proper management of temporal goods. ” Continue reading

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The FI’s and Pope Francis: Two Updates

It was reported in the Catholic online press today that our religious community, the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, has been assigned an Apostolic Commissioner by the Sacred Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated life.  Pope Francis has ordered the decree which goes into effect on August 12.

Pope Francis has also severely restricted our use of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, and this has been reported by a major italian journalist as a “contradiction” of Pope Benedict’s permission granted in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.  This is an unfortunate instance of an overeager journalist sensationalizing something he can only speculate about.

The restrictions on our community are specific to us and have been put in place for reasons specific to us.  Pope Francis has not contradicted Pope Benedict.  The visitation of our community began under Pope Benedict and the Commission was recommended by Cardinal João Braz de Aviz who was appointed to the Congregation by Pope Benedict.

What is being reported in the press and what has actually transpired within our community over the course of a number of years are two different things.

Many of us—I would hope most of us—Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, welcome the Holy Father’s intervention into our life and trust fully that Holy Mother Church knows exactly what she is doing, even when the journalists do not.  We entrust ourselves to her care, just as we do to the Immaculate.

Please pray for our Institute.

Update 1:

Many of the comments in the blogosphere about Pope Francis concerning his decision in regard to our Institute are simply disgraceful, and “justified” by the most tenuous rationalizations.  He is the Vicar of Christ.  It is less than twenty-four hours since this hit the Internet and so many think they have got it all figured out.  I have also seen sheer fabrications about the situation in our Institute within some of these comments.  May God have mercy on us.  Thank God for all the holy popes we have had for the past fifty years, who all have had much to suffer.

Update 2:

I am closing down the comments now on these posts concerning the situation in the Institute.  I left comments open to make a point, which the some of the commenters have made for me.  Either you get the point or you don’t.  There is no point in trying to explain it.

The contempt, disrespect and spirit of disobedience shown toward the Vicar of Christ, I repudiate.  May God have mercy on us.

The Art of Celebration

The liturgical difference between Francis and Benedict XVI has been one of the most noted contrasts between the new pope and his predecessor.  Since the day he was elected, when he dispensed with the mozzetta at his first greeting of the faithful from the loggia of St. Peters, he has opted for plainer liturgical style for papal functions.  His washing of the feet of girls, one of whom was a Muslim, on Holy Thursday, has been noted by some as the end of Pope Benedict’s reform of the reform.  Likewise, his choice to celebrate in parishes within his own diocese according the liturgical customs of the place, rather than impose the standards of his Vatican celebrations, has been noted as an undoing of Pope Benedict’s efforts to restore lost traditions.  But Benedictine Abbot Michael Zielinski, from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, sees the differences as complementary rather than contradictory.

I think it is worth noting here again that, both in the order of being and in the order of logic, two things or assertions that are different, or contrary, are not for that reason contradictory.  That there might be a greater or lesser degree of solemnity, magnificence, or ritual purity, does not mean that the greater end of the spectrum is reverent and the lesser end irreverent.  This is a distinction that seems to be lost on many who are inclined to be reactive against the differences, rather than responsive to the Vicar of Christ. Continue reading

The Postconciliar Moment

I wrote the following article shortly after the beginning of the new year.  At the time I was not sure what I wanted to do with it, but now, in the light of the negative responses to the Holy Father’s abdication, I think it is time for me to put it out.

Rather than revise it in the light of the recent events,  I am just going to leave it the way it is. It is long, but it provides significant research into crypto-traditionalism and why it is a pernicious problem that needs to be called out.

NB:  The links to the endnotes are not functioning at the moment.  I will try to fix them.

The Postconciliar Moment

The Year of Faith provides a backdrop for recent developments regarding the hoped for regularization of the Society of St Pius X (SSPX) and the ongoing controversy concerning the Second Vatican Council.  Not only have questions been raised about the doctrinal value of the Council itself, but also of what position Pope Benedict has taken on the matter of the Council’s continuity with Tradition.  I contend that those who denigrate the Council because they find major parts of it to be in rupture with Tradition do so along ideological linesand are therefore compelled either to publicly disagree with the Holy Father or to cherry-pick from his teaching.

Year of Faith

This Year of Faith, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the inauguration of the Second Vatican Council and the twentieth of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, might be characterized as the postconciliar moment.  We are beneficiaries of both the patrimony of the conciliar texts and a very problematic postconciliar implementation of them.  We have witnessed extremes of all kinds, but mostly those of the progressive wing.  All the while, the postconciliar popes have been patiently and consistently working to restore the interpretation of the Second Vatican Council to both Tradition and legitimate progress.  In a particular way, Pope Benedict has made it his task to bring about a reconciliation with our past, without, however, backing away from the legitimate aspirations of the Council indicated in its actual texts.[1]

I believe the Year of Faith may be the postconciliar moment for two reasons:  First, we are witnessing a very definite shift from progressivism to traditionalism.  This has been occurring for some time, but is now plainly evident.  Progressivism is slowly growing out of fashion and the trend, at least in some circles, is moving definitely toward traditionalism. Continue reading

A Year of Faith or a Year of Doubt?

This is the last installment of a series that I originally planned to be just two posts, but has turned out to be four.  I link to them, not in the order that I posted them, but in the order of their logical development.   First, there is a bit of background about my own experience and formation with the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and what I mean by the term “traditionalism,” and why I think a discussion of it is important (“Traditionalism and Liturgy”).  Second, is a an explanation of the stated motives of Pope Benedict XVI for having promulgated the Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum and what he means by the “reform of the reform” (“The Spirit of Summorum Pontificum”). The third installment is an examination of what the current debate over the “hermeneutic of continuity” is all about and why a statement of Pope Benedict has been used speciously as a pretext to question the continuity of Vatican II with Tradition (“Traditionalist Sleight of Hand”).  And lastly, here I wish to illustrate the current problem of sympathy for traditionalism by means of the contrast between traditionalist incursions and the responses to them from the Vatican over the last several years.

On October 11, 2011, Pope Benedict promulgated an apostolic letter, Porta Fidei, “the Door of Faith” in which he announced “A Year of Faith” to begin in exactly one year on October 11, 2012, the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and the twentieth anniversary of the publication of The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict tells us that he is following in the footsteps of his predecessor, the Servant of God Pope Paul VI, who in 1967 announced a year of faith to commemorate the nineteenth centenary of the martyrdoms of Saints Peter and Paul.

I believe that this announcement is both providential and calculated.  The Holy Father is taking opportunity of the providence of God in the arrival of these anniversaries to address a mounting “orthodox” contempt for the Second Vatican Council—a traditionalist sleight of hand that proposes to dissect the Council and analyze it according to contingent opinions about Tradition and then invoke Pope Benedict as the one who mandated the exercise.  For a growing number of traditional Catholics, in spite of fifty years of papal teaching, the problems of our times within the Church were not occasioned by disintegration of modernity hitting the Church at the time of the Council.  On the contrary, they tell us, the Council itself has been the cause of a great anti-dogmatic revolution.  And Pope Benedict is on their side, they say!

Continue reading

The Spirit of Summorum Pontificum

In this essay I continue to register my thoughts on traditionalism and liturgy, specifically with a discussion of the expressed motives for Pope Benedict’s promulgation of the Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum.  After this post I plan to take up where I left off with my “Traditionalist Sleight of Hand” essay.

The current biformity of the Roman rite, established formally by the Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, is a reality that has existed and has been spoken about as such by Joseph Ratzinger for many years.  He has said numerous times that the old form, that is, the Extraordinary Form, was never abrogated.  However, the Motu Proprio establishes by way of “universal law” this biformal liturgical discipline, presumably, attempting to stabilize, at least for now, this condition as the liturgical status quo:  two forms, one ordinary, the other extraordinary.  The motives for this have been variously interpreted, and it seems to me that something parallel but antithetical to what happened in regard to the interpretation of the documents of the Second Vatican Council has happened in respect to the text of Summorum Pontifcum.   I hope to make this clear as well as suggest a sound alternative. Continue reading

Traditionalism and Liturgy

In recent posts here on MaryVictrix, I have voiced my concerns regarding certain ideas associated with Catholic Traditionalism.  I have also promised to follow upon on my “Traditionalist Sleight of Hand” post. While this present essay is not exactly the next installment of that series it does serve the purpose of making my basic concerns clearer, and perhaps the motivation behind my taking issue with traditionalism.  In this post I define what I mean by “traditionalism” and its relation (or lack thereof) to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.  In the next post, appearing in a day or two, I will try to articulate the motivations behind Benedict XVI’s formalization of the biformity (two forms) of the Roman Rite and the reason why this is no way a capitulation to traditionalism.

Traditionalism Defined

I have given my definition of traditionalism before, but since it is so important, I am devoting a separate post to the matter. “Traditionalism” can mean many things depending on the circumstances.  I am not referring to the heresy condemned by Vatican I.  Nor am I talking about the philosophical trend of thought also known as Perennialism.  Both of these forms of “traditionalism” are anti-modern, not just critical of modernity, but fundamentally opposed to it.  One might argue that the traditionalism that specifically concerns me is also anti-modern and not just anti-Modernist, but I would not suggest that what I am talking about is essentially defined in relation to modernity.

I should also say that “traditional” Catholics are divided as to the use of the term.  Different people define it differently, and, depending on the definition, some willingly apply the term to themselves and others repudiate it.  As has been pointed out here by another before, some think the name “traditionalist” should be dropped altogether insofar as might be applied to Catholics.  I will not dispute that the use of the term risks misunderstanding.  I will not even claim of having any definitive response as to whether its use ought to be continued in the long run.  But I do believe the present status quaestionis makes the distinction necessary.

By traditionalism, then, I mean that ideology by which Catholics, in the name of conserving Tradition, take it upon themselves to determine what magisterial act does and does not belong to Catholic Tradition.  By calling traditionalism an “ideology” I mean to indicate that it consists of integrated assertions—in the line of contingent opinions—that come together to form an airtight and complete theory for the reconstruction of Catholic life according to the Tradition of the Church.  I argue that this ideology pretends to solve contingent problems by submitting the living magisterium to a scientific analysis and then insists that the magisterium, including the Holy Father, either prove the analysis wrong or conform to it.

It is very important to make clear that my position in no way implies a denial of the real distinction between fallible and infallible magisterial teaching, nor should it be thought to render pointless honest academic inquiry into the formulation of magisterial teachings and their historical context, thus helping to determine more accurately their relative value as part of the received Tradition.  My point in respect to what I consider traditionalism is that at this moment, in the context of current controversies, it represents an obstinate prejudice against an ecumenical council and fifty years of papal teaching.  According to this rupturist interpretation, the Council was not misrepresented and abused by those who have no regard for Tradition; Tradition was misrepresented and abused by the Council itself.  My insistence on the use of the term “traditionalism”—at least for now—is due to the fact that the current of thought here described is real and distinct, and not clearly acknowledged by a great many “traditional” Catholics.  This problem is not a matter reserved to the SSPX and more radical traditionalists and sedevacantists, but includes many who would not consider themselves traditionalists and who believe that they are perfectly faithful to the teaching of Benedict XVI.

I should also point out that my definition implies nothing directly about liturgical preferences.  A preference for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass does not by my definition make one a traditionalist, nor would a preference for the Ordinary Form in itself absolve one from the charge, since my definition formally has only to do with the relationship of the magisterium to Tradition.  It just so happens that the liturgical tradition is at the center of most disputes regarding the living magisterium’s fidelity to Tradition, and, therefore, the Extraordinary Form has become a kind of banner for a certain kind for crusade for the restoration of Tradition.  I have, in fact, met Catholics who, although they prefer the English Mass, have many questions as to whether the Church has been faithful to Tradition, and sometimes even subscribe to the same conspiracy theories promulgated by those sympathetic with the Society of St. Pius X.

A Bit of Background

In the past and due to my own failure to provide a context, my remarks concerning traditionalism have been misinterpreted as some kind of prejudice against the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.  I wish to dispel this idea.

My community, the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, is a “reform of the reform” community and has been long before this idea became popular.  More than twenty-five years ago I was attracted to the FI, in part, because of its reverent celebration of the novus ordo according to the rubrics, and its readiness to incorporate the use of Latin and Gregorian chant into the liturgy.  I know that many of our friars, sisters, tertiaries and members of our liturgical congregations have been attracted for the same reasons.  This attraction has helped to produce many vocations to religious life and continues to be a reason why people come to our friaries and attend our liturgies.

My experience of the novus ordo, in my religious community has always included the use of Latin and Gregorian chant, communion on the tongue with the use of communion plates, the reception of communion kneeling at an altar rail, and for the last four or five years, in most of our American communities, Mass is also celebrated ad orientem regardless of which form is used.  I realize that my experience of the novus ordo for more than two decades has been significantly different from the average Catholic, and that I have been spared a great deal of pain, frustration and scandal within the walls of my community.  But this simply confirms for me that the problems are fundamentally matters of abuse and not of the Ordinary Form itself.  The idea that somehow one is deprived of graces in the use of the Ordinary Form, or that vibrant Catholic communities faithful to Tradition cannot be formed on the basis of the novus ordo I know to be patently false.  The arguments to the contrary, I personally believe to be fundamentally ideological.  I appreciate the historical reasons why to many these arguments seem plausible and convincing, but I am still convinced that they are wrong.  The historical arguments are not free of a priori ideological underpinnings.

In respect to the Extraordinary Form I have a fair amount of experience.  I eagerly learned to celebrate the Mass according the Missal of Pius V, sometime between 1995 and 1998 for several reasons.  One reason is because I was attracted to it and believed it would be helpful to me as a priest, and the other reason—the one that was determinative, since at that time as a community we did not make use of the older form of the liturgy—was that there was a priest in the diocese in which I reside that needed a substitute from time to time to celebrate a weekly Mass for a group of traditional Catholics that had connections with a schismatic group.  The Mass was being made available as an indult alternative to the Masses being offered by the irregular community.  At the time when I learned to celebrate the vetus ordo, I was the only American priest that could do so, aside from the several older priests who had been ordained before the Council.  I was also one of the very few in our Institute worldwide that celebrated the old rite at all.  I simply have never had a problem with the old rite and I can say I fully appreciate Pope Benedict’s remarks about the two forms of the Roman rite having a “mutually enriching” influence on each other.

My experience also includes pastoral ministry to individuals with a traditionalist background and mindset.  I am very familiar with the arguments that are routinely presented, and with the alienation and isolation experienced by those attached to the old form because of complete lack of sympathy for Tradition and the Mass of Pius V on the part of priests and bishops.  I have seen a wide spectrum of beliefs and practices, some quite balanced and some bordering on the neurotic.  For, example I have known for many years families who attend the novus ordo during the week and the vetus ordo on Sunday, and I have known couples who refused to be married in a regularized Church even according to the old form, because they believed the even that would be a compromise.  And I have witnessed even more extreme positions than this.

When the Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum was promulgated in 2007, our institute received it with enthusiasm, as I did personally and as did all the friars in the United States.  We generally understood the Motu Proprio to indicate the venerable status of the vetus ordo and the legitimate aspirations of those who were attached to it.  Furthermore, as a means to promote the reform of the reform, Pope Benedict wished to make the celebration of what he now termed the Extraordinary Form more widely available.  This was a matter, he said, of “reconciliation at the heart of the Church.”  I have always supported this reconciliation.  I continue to do so and strive to conform to the mind of the Church, according to the teaching and directions of Pope Benedict.

More on this in the next post.

Roman Sacristan

On my last trip which took me to Australia, Texas and California–all of which my friends in here in New England believe are separate countries–I met a blogger who goes by the moniker of Roman Sacristan.  I had seen his blog before, but I would like to here mention it as a resource for things liturgical.  In an effort to explain the purpose of his blog, he says:

But getting back to the initial question of the “reform of the reform” vis-a-vis the extra-ordinary form of the Mass that has been placed back on an equal standing with the ordinary form by “Summorum Pontificum,” I can say that the motu proprio has actually put more “pressure” on the ordinary form to get it’s act together. I don’t mean that the Novus Ordo is to be changed to be more like the extra-ordinary form. That’s something for the Church to do with an organized reform of the liturgy. “Vigilante liturgical reform” is not the answer to the problems in the Novus Ordo Mass. What I mean is to get the Novus Ordo back on track and to start getting it said as it is supposed to be said. We’ll worry about actually reforming the ordinary use later. First we need to just get it said by the books.

My own experience tells me that knowledge of the extraordinary form of the Mass brings with it a context for the celebration of the ordinary form.  One can better percieve the logic of the reforms of Vatican II if one is familiar with the manner of celebration of the usus antiquus.

I appreciate the Roman Sacristan’s use of the term “vigilante liturgical reform.”  I think some of the more traditionally minded assume too much when their hopes for the future are defined by precise expectations about what the future holds in store. Sometimes this can translate into some liturgical adaptations that assume that now the traditional rubrics needs to be imposed on the ordinary form, with the hopes that the ordinary form will disappear altogether.

It seems to me that some of the promotors of Summorum Pontificum even assume that the use of the terms “ordinary form” for the novus ordo and  “extraordinary form” for the usus antiquus are a ruse used by the Holy Father to promote a kind of creeping traditionalism.  This goes too far.

In any case, I highly recommend the Roman Sacristan’s blog.  BTW, he is in the process of vocational discernment, so I know he would appreciate the prayers.