Vatican Sources: Latin Mass to be Freed by Easter

Cardinal Castrillón Not Granting Interviews "Until it is Necessary”

by Brian Mershon

Posted March 9, 2007


Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos

Rome, Italy – Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro, Rome-based consultant to Una Voce America, confirmed that his Vatican sources have said the long awaited and much-rumored motu proprio easing restrictions on the Traditional Roman rite of Mass should be issued by Easter.

“I have information from a serious high level source that it is likely the motu proprio will be published before Easter,” Msgr. Barreiro said.

“The fact that the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis, will be published on March 13, 2007, may pave the way for promulgation of the motu proprio,” he added.

PCED Interview Moratorium

The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei (PCED) would neither confirm nor deny this timetable when contacted on Friday, March 9, 2007. The spokesman answering the telephone said that Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos was not available for any more interviews until it was necessary for him to be available for such interviews.

Those readers not well-versed in the language of “Romanitas” can come to different conclusions as to the meaning of such Vatican-speak, but it is important to confirm that the spokesman did not rule out that a document would be forthcoming soon. And with the apparent PCED interview moratorium coming just a couple weeks after two different interviews in the secular media, it would not be a big leap to conclude that the document easing restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass would be issued very soon. However, again, the PCED spokesman would neither confirm nor deny this.

Msgr. Barreiro also said that the expected timing of the Traditional Latin Mass document’s promulgation is consistent with an opinion he heard from several other sources several months ago. He emphasized it would be important to carefully study Sacramentum Caritatis to determine if it holds any keys to understanding the expected motu proprio.

Msgr. Schmitz of the Institute of Christ the King, in a February 19 talk to TFP at their Washington, D.C. headquarters in McLean, Virginia, suggested that the March 13 document may include an encouragement for priests to offer Mass facing God (ad orientem) and to use Latin, especially in the Eucharistic Prayer (Canon) of the Mass in the Novus Ordo. Other experts have said that an emphasis on the use of Gregorian chant and an option for using the Traditional offertory as an option in the Novus Ordo may be forthcoming in Sacramentum Caritatis or following.

Confirms Rheims Report from Msgr. Perl

This news is also consistent with a recent report from some lay members of the “Committee for Liturgical Peace of Rheims” in France after a recent meeting in Rome with Msgr. Camille Perl, Secretary, PCED.

In this broadly distributed internet account, Msgr. Perl reportedly told members to expect the document to be promulgated prior to Easter Sunday. While the French lay group was meeting with Msgr. Perl to present him with their petitions for allowing at least one Traditional Latin Mass in the diocese of Rheims (which now has none), their 1-hour-plus meeting included the news about the promulgation of the motu proprio, as well as some other items of particular interest summarized in the bulleted items below.

The web account said that Msgr. Perl assured them that “the motu proprio will have the force of law” and that Pope Benedict XVI considers it regrettable that the July 1988 [Ecclesia Dei Aflicta] document did not have the force of law, but merely invited bishops to accommodate the requests of the lay faithful attached to the Latin liturgical traditions.

·         The lay writer of the Rheims account also said the following about the contents of the text: “It will be obligatory!”

·         Any priest wishing to say the Tridentine Mass will be able to do so privately. [Editor’s note: This affirms a recent statement by Msgr. Michael Schmitz, U.S. Provincial Superior for the Institute of Christ the King, who said that every Latin-rite priest currently has the right to offer the Traditional Latin Mass privately. See]

·         Any group of faithful attached to the Rite of Saint Pius V will be able to approach a local parish priest or some other priest to request this rite. The priest will be able to accept without deferring to his bishop.

·         If the diocesan priests do not want to celebrate in "the old rite", they will be able to accommodate any priest from a traditional community (such as the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, the Institute of Christ the King, or others) wishing to do so.

It was unclear according to the report whether or not the priest would need to secure permission from his diocesan Ordinary to have recourse to a priest from a community which celebrates the Traditional rite of Mass and sacraments exclusively. And finally:

·         If a group of faithful requests the rite of St. Pius V, but cannot find a priest or a place to offer the Mass, nor a member of a priestly community, as being able to respond to their wishes, then this group will be able to write to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which will work directly to find a solution, a priest, or a community to assist them.

Upgraded Canonical Status for Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei?

Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei (PCED), recently resigned as Prefect for the Congregation for the Clergy. His resignation was accepted in short order by Pope Benedict XVI. This may be an indication that his responsibilities, workload and importance of the PCED may soon be upgraded.

In light of the looming motu proprio and Cardinal Medina Estevez’s comments after the 4-hour December 2006 PCED meeting, in which he said they discussed two documents (one being a canonical structure for the reintegration of the Society of St. Pius X), there is speculation in Rome and at the Vatican that the status of PCED might be upgraded to that of a Congregation or at least be enabled to facilitate lay faithful, priests and bishops who are interested in attending and offering the Traditional rite of Mass unencumbered by the customary diocesan roadblocks.

In any event, the recent regularization of the priests of the Institute of the Good Shepherd in France, with full permission by the Holy See and in cooperation with Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos and the PCED, is a sign for priests, lay faithful and bishops who have not been granted “wide and generous” access to the Traditional Mass and sacraments.

SSPX Excommunication Decrees Lifted Next?

How all of this plays out with the leadership of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) remains to be seen. It is good to recall that the SSPX has repeatedly emphasized since the 2000 meeting between Bishop Bernard Fellay, General Superior, and Pope John Paul II, that their two preconditions to re-establish trust with the Holy See include acknowledging the right of all Latin-rite priests to offer the Traditional Latin Mass and sacraments and for the lifting of the decrees of excommunication against the four bishops of the SSPX. After this, the SSPX would like to engage in theological discussions regarding what they see as problematic texts from the Second Vatican Council. Bishop Fellay and other SSPX leadership have repeatedly said that to accept “Vatican II in light of Tradition” as a formula for regularization is too vague and not unacceptable to the Society.

Unlike the rumors and news about the motu proprio, the canonical document for the SSPX that Cardinal Medina said was discussed for 4 hours, has not generated much attention in the Catholic or secular media. This could be an unexpected “hand grenade” and/or “nuclear bomb” as Bishop Fellay previously characterized the looming Latin Mass document that could happen sooner than most expect.

In his regular monthly letter to friends and benefactors, Bishop Fellay explained in broad terms a recent letter he had sent the Holy Father late in 2006, along with a spiritual bouquet of 2.5 million rosaries by Catholics worldwide, both from those Catholics who attend SSPX chapels regularly, as well as others.

In his letter to benefactors, a most interesting and thought-provoking statement was made by Bishop Fellay. In his February 27 letter to the Holy Father presenting the 2.5-million-rosary spiritual bouquet, he said the following:

Our [General] Chapter had set the goal of offering a million rosaries by the end of October. The harvest was abundant indeed, as we were finally able to send the pope a spiritual bouquet of two and a half million rosaries. In our letter [to the pope] accompanying the bouquet, we indicated that we had wanted to show by this concrete act of our will to collaborate in the rebuilding of the Church and Christendom.

Coming on the heels of two recent interviews in secular newspapers granted by Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, where the Cardinal repeated that the Holy See views SSPX priests, bishops and lay faithful who attend SSPX chapels as Catholics and not as schismatic, this “concrete act of our will to collaborate in the rebuilding of the Church and Christendom” is quite a humble, deferential statement by the General Superior of this much-maligned priestly society. Could the second condition, the lifting of the decrees of excommunication, be far off?