VATICAN CITY – Superiors General of Apostolic Institutes that exclusively celebrate the holy sacrifice of Mass in the traditional form of the Roman Rite plan to meet next week to discuss Pope Francis’ new decree limiting older use of the liturgy sacred. The meeting follows the July publication of Traditionis Custodes (Guardians of Tradition), Apostolic Letter of Francis published motu proprio which limits the celebration of the older form of the Latin rite.
Father Andrzej Komorowski, Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP), said the superiors were meeting “to exchange views and see what we can do together”. He added that the idea came from local superiors of traditional institutes in France shortly after the publication of Traditionis Custodes.
While there has been speculation about further Vatican restrictions on institutes, Father Komorowski stressed that the discussion scheduled for next week was not based on the unconfirmed reports, but added that these made the meeting “more urgent and perhaps even expedited it”.
The priestly fraternity is the largest of the three traditional international institutes of apostolic life that celebrate Mass in the extraordinary form of the Roman rite – the form of Mass that was universally used before the reforms of Pope Saint Paul VI in 1970. The other two the institutes are the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (ICKSP) and the Institute of the Good Shepherd (IBP).
Pope Francis placed drastic restrictions on the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass when he released Traditionis Custodes on July 16, canceling the previous papal decrees which had liberalized the Mass celebrated before the liturgical reforms which followed Vatican Council II and limiting its practice. In particular, the bishops have been given “exclusive jurisdiction” to authorize Mass and have been tasked with finding alternative locations for groups that practice it without creating new parishes.
Under Traditionis Custodes, the responsibility for traditional institutes was transferred from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, whose prefect, Brazilian Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, was would have been considered an “enemy” of the old form of mass when he was Archbishop of Brasilia.
Pope noted he took the action because he believed that the liberalizing reforms of Pope Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI of the older form of Mass had been exploited to create division. He also said he was “saddened” that the use of the 1962 Missal had led to abuses, “often characterized” by a rejection of the Council and the liturgical reforms that followed.
Francis’ motu proprio caused consternation among adherents to the traditional Latin Mass who viewed the repression of the ancient sacred liturgy as unjustified and carried out in an unjustifiably swift and harsh manner. But to date, only a small minority of bishops have totally or partially suppressed the celebration of the traditional Latin rite in their dioceses; most have allowed them to continue without restriction.
According to recent speculation, the Vatican is considering banning traditional institutes from receiving candidates for the priesthood until each of them has received a canonical or apostolic visit from the Vatican.
Reviews of Traditionis Custodes allege that the Vatican will produce a document, possibly as early as next month, on the general application of the Traditionis Custodes which could worsen the restrictions on the celebration of the old mass.
In the August 25 comments to the Register, Father Komorowski said he assumed that a visit would take place “because it is a normal procedure” and because the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life “Doesn’t know our institutes and probably wants to get to know us better.
But on the possible restriction on accepting new candidates, he said it was “so far only internet rumors”, not “an official source”, so he said that ‘It was “very difficult to have a clear strategy on how to respond” at the moment. He also stated that, anyway, the motu proprio had “no immediate effect so far” and he did not expect any change under bishops favoring the traditional Latin Mass.
He added that he and his senior colleagues at the ICKSP and IBP were not summoned to the Vatican as some have speculated. “We were not informed of such a meeting in Rome. We have had no official (or informal) contact with the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life so far.
The Holy See’s Press Office and Cardinal Braz de Aviz did not respond to requests from the Register asking if they could confirm or refute the information. But a senior Vatican official told the Register he believed such restrictions on candidates for the priesthood were unlikely, that the release of a document dealing with the matter would be “too soon,” and attributed the reports to “an unfortunate speculation”.
Concerns over Pope Francis’ possible measures to restrict traditional institutes date back to 2016, when a new Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis – fundamental principles of priestly formation – has been published by the Congregation for the Clergy.
The then prefect of the Congregation, Cardinal Beniamino Stella, said the document only proposed priestly formation which was to apply to all institutes of apostolic life, including traditional ones “of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei– the commission that Pope Saint John Paul II founded in 1988 in part to host these institutes.
Further indications emerged in 2019 when Francis abolished the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. Its secretary, Archbishop Guido Pozzo, was fired to become treasurer of the Sistine Chapel choir and was not replaced, while the functions of the commission were subsumed into a “special section” of the Congregation for the Church. doctrine of faith.
Following the publication of Traditionis Custodes, three of the four officials working in this section were dismissed and work began on the transfer of responsibilities, records and archives from the section to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and the Congregation for the divine worship and the discipline of the sacraments – a process to be completed by October.
Counter the trend
Pope Francis’ motu proprio came at a time when traditional institutes have experienced significant growth over the past two decades, going against the trend of the Church as a whole with an increasing number of vocations and increasing attendance at Mass.
In November 2020, the Fraternity Sacerdotale Saint-Pierre, founded in 1988, had 330 priests, tripling in number since 2001, and 162 seminarians. In May 2020, the Institute of Christ the King, founded in 1990, had 120 priests, 100 seminarians and a presence in 12 countries, while last year, the Institute of the Good Shepherd, founded in Rome in 2006, had 48 priests in 10 countries.
“Each institute has a strong attendance of young people and young families,” observed a traditional priest based in Rome. “These people of all origins and ages are immediately drawn to the pure and transparent catholicity of the Mass in all its simplicity, for the simple purpose of praising God and promoting the interior life, aware of the need to abandon sin and to live in a state of grace and reparation in the company of the saints of God.
But Pope Francis published Traditionis Custodes after “carefully considering” the results of a nine-point survey that the CDF sent to bishops last year to assess the implementation of Summorum Pontificum (Of the Sovereign Pontiffs), 2007 of Benedict XVI motu proprio liberalize the traditional Latin Mass.
This investigation, supposed to contain some accounts of the abuses and exploitation that François mentions in his cover letter to the motu proprio, has not been made public and is unlikely to be placed in the public domain. The senior Vatican official told the Register that the investigation is “in the possession of the Holy Father, it is under-secret [under the Pontifical Secret] and we don’t have access to it.
Father Komorowski called the abuses and misinterpretations mentioned by Pope Francis “presumed” because he personally had not had much experience of them.
“I can understand that there are always and everywhere faithful and even priests who do not always speak in a very diplomatic way,” he said, but added that the Brotherhood had “in no way been asked to give our opinion, so it’s a very unfortunate situation.
Likewise, he said the Vatican should consult with traditional institutes to see if they have any ideas on how to implement the motu proprio. “If we are asked to come and give our opinion on all these things, we would be happy to help you,” he said.
In the meantime, Father Komorowski declared that the priestly fraternity was trying to keep hope.
“We have to stay positive,” he said. “We just want to live our charisma and remain attached to our Constitutions and remember that our Constitutions have been approved by the Holy See, so if there is something that comes from there to change our charism and our Constitutions, it must be done the right way. by a general chapter and respecting the will of the founders and members.
“We should really try to stay focused on our apostolic activities,” he added, “and pray and hope, as we have done so far, that divine Providence will help us through this crisis.”