Thursday, March 01, 2007

Paris archbishop condemns SSPX occupation of parish church [UPDATED]

Paris, Mar. 1, 2007 (CWNews.com) - Thirty years after members of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) occupied a parish church in central Paris, the city’s archbishop has issued a statement decrying the illegal occupation.

“The split continues," said Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris in his February 27 statement. He warned the faithful that the priests who now serve at the church of St. Nicolas du Chardonnet are not recognized by the Paris archdiocese or any other jurisdiction of the Catholic Church.

In 1977, members of the SSPX entered the parish church in the Latin quarter of Paris, ousted the pastor, and began an occupation that continues to this day. French courts have ruled on several occasions that the occupation is illegal, but declined to expel the traditionalists for fear of creating a greater disturbance.

Some public officials have argued that the occupation at St. Nicolas du Chardonnet is an internal matter that should be resolved by Church authorities, and the Archdiocese of Paris has not pressed for the eviction of the SSPX.

Archbishop Vingt-Trois did not press the legal issue in his February 27 statement. But he said that many Catholics might be misled into the belief that the St. Nicolas du Chardonnet was a normal parish church, and the priests members of the clergy of the Paris archdiocese.

Retracing the history of the occupation, the archbishop noted that the SSPX members who seized possession had “deprived the faithful of the use of their parish church.” In 1988, he noted, when Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre broke with the Vatican, the SSPX clerics at the Paris church allied themselves with that schismatic act.

Noting that his predecessor Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger had reached out to traditionalist Catholics by authorizing the celebration of the pre-conciliar liturgy in three parish churches in Paris, Archbishop Vingt-Trois concluded his message with a call for all Catholics to pray for unity within the Church.

The head of the SSPX, Bishop Bernard Fellay, has defended the occupation of St. Nicolas du Chardonnet, explaining that the traditionalists there were acting out of necessity, to preserve the faith from the “bishops and pastors who, since the Council, have suffocated Catholic life.”

[NLM Comment: Earlier I had made a comment on this story question the pastoral prudence of bringing up this matter at this time, while the Holy See seeks a "rapproachment." However, upon receiving more information from readers in France, it would seem there is a reason this may have come up, and it is not so out of the blue as it appeared. As such, I've also chosen to close down the comments on this section which pertained to the original commentary. Please note to all as well, while one might appreciate the particular liturgy at St. Nicholas du Chardonnet, it doesn't change the fact that there is a grave irregularity here that must be corrected. We must pray that the Holy Father's efforts to bring the SSPX back into full communion with the Church will be successful, and that all, bishops and others, will do what they can to assist the Holy Father in this efforts.]