Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Bishop Fernando Rifan says traditionalists must show perfect communion with Pope, tradition

Brian Mershon Brian Mershon
June 20, 2006

(From the June 22 edition of The Wanderer)

The great expectations of a pending "freeing of the Classical Roman rite of liturgy" have dissipated like April showers. It is now in the heat of summer, and a well-respected consultant to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith was interviewed by the Mexican newspaper, Milenio, where he mentioned the possibility of a document freeing the Classical rite may be promulgated in October, a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, following the October 2005 synod on the Holy Eucharist.

Whether this was merely speculation on the part of Nicola Bux, or an informed opinion, remains to be seen.

As the spiritual father of many traditionalist Catholics worldwide, Bishop Fernando Rifan is the sole bishop in the world in full canonical communion with the Holy See who offers the Classical Roman liturgy exclusively.

Dario Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, president of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, and Pope Benedict XVI have told Bishop Rifan (whose apostolic administration is a "floating diocese" in Campos, Brazil) that he and his priests stand as models for the Church to continue her 1,700-year-old liturgical traditions, within the full communion of the Church, but with full rights to continue to pursue the theology of showing the Second Vatican Council's teachings "in light of Tradition."

Bishop Rifan kindly granted this recent interview to The Wanderer, and we present it here in full to affirm that despite the recent absence of media and blog attention, it is most likely that the Pope, in consultation with his Curia, has already decided upon a specific course of action on the traditionalist front. It most likely will begin a systematic plan by first bolstering the spirits and "rightful aspirations" of traditionalists Catholics who are in full communion with not only the Church's doctrine and liturgical traditions and devotions, but are recognized as such by the Holy See.

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Q. What would a "universal indult," "the freeing of the Classical Roman rite," or "reaffirmation of Quo Primum" mean for Catholics worldwide?

A. A universal indult for the Old Form of the Roman rite, conceded by the Holy Father, I think would benefit Catholics worldwide.

But it would not be a real reaffirmation of the bull Quo Primum. It would be a concession of this Pope, who has the power over the liturgy of the Church. But it is dependent exclusively upon the Pope to judge about the benefit to the Church.

Q. One of the two preconditions the bishops of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) have requested since 2001 was a public affirmation that the Classical Roman liturgy has never been abrogated. If this first step is eventually granted, what do you predict will happen next?

A. I think that it is very true that this affirmation of the cardinals that the Classical Roman liturgy has never been abrogated. The continuation of this usage, allowed by the Holy See, is a proof. But this universal indult has nothing to do with this precondition of the Society of St. Pius X; it will be a realization of the personal will of the Holy Father, independent of this good request.

Q. Do you think there are sufficient grounds for the Pope to grant the second precondition — lifting the decrees of excommunications (or declaring them null and void) against the bishops of the SSPX and Archbishop Castro de Mayer?

A. The Pope can lift the decree of excommunication, as a sign of benevolence, in order to facilitate the conversations with the SSPX. That was my suggestion [to the Pope] during the conversations.

But it is not all. After this lifting of the decree of excommunications, they will be in the similar condition of the Greek Orthodox, from whom the Pope [Paul VI in 1964] lifted the decree of excommunication too. Afterwards, they will need the canonical regularization and the correction of doctrinal mistakes.

Q. How do you think a freeing of the Classical Roman rite will aid in the restoration of the Church worldwide?

A. I think that the Classical Roman rite is a paradigm, a model of a very good liturgy, with a wonderful sense of reverence and [the] sacred, and so can help all the priests, even those who say the Mass of Novus Ordo. But as I have written in my first pastoral letter, "Let's conserve the Traditional liturgy in union with the hierarchy and the living Magisterium of the Church, and not in contraposition to them." Let's use the Classical Roman rite like a form of demonstrating our communion with the Church because it is a rite of the Catholic Church and approved by the Church.

Q. What role do you believe the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (ICKSP), the traditionalist priests of Campos, Brazil, and a canonically regularized Society of St. Pius X can play in restoring and reforming the Church?

A. With this good spirit as I said, I think all the traditional groups can play an important role in restoring and reforming the Church, with their different characteristics and charisms, in perfect union with the Holy See.

Q. How will the FSSP and ICKSP and other traditional priests and laity be affected by any possible canonical guarantee (apostolic administration) that Bishop Bernard Fellay of the SSPX said Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos supposedly has ready and has presented to the Holy Father?

A. I think that the religious institutes already canonically erected will conserve their same structures and independence as now. Perhaps they will gain the possibility of more apostolates in the dioceses.

Q. Based on your knowledge of the younger diocesan clergy, do believe that many of them are interested in offering the Classical Roman rite? Do you have any evidence of this? Can you quantify it?

A. Cardinal Castrillon [Hoyos] has stated this. Here [in Campos, Brazil], we know many young priests interested in learning the Traditional Mass. We have received many priests here wanting to learn the Traditional liturgy. We even produced a didactic DVD to teach the priests the way of saying the Traditional Mass, with a good diffusion.

Q. I have been told by a reliable source, that at one orthodox pontifical college and seminary in the U.S., more than half of the students and seminarians desire to offer the Traditional Latin Mass. Would this surprise you? What do you think this might mean for seminary training in the future?

A. I know of other seminaries and non-traditionalist groups wanting to know the Traditional liturgy, with great interest. Sometimes they have invited our priests to say the Traditional Mass there, and they love it.

Q. The Pope and other notable priests and scholars have repeatedly emphasized the importance of having the Classical Roman rite of liturgy more widely available as an "anchor," so to speak, to measure the "reform of the reform" of the Novus Ordo in order to bring it more in line with the true organic development. How much importance do you think the Pope gives to the Classical Roman rite's role in assisting in a true "reform of the reform" in accord with the Latin liturgical tradition?

A. I think that this is the thought of the Pope, as he has written many times in his books. We have a great hope.

Q. Dario Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos' influence has obviously been great. When the new Pope was introduced a year ago by Jorge Cardinal Medina Estevez, there stood the last two cardinals who were voting age for the conclave who were active at the Second Vatican Council. What do you think Cardinal Medina Estevez's influence on returning the Traditional Latin liturgy to its rightful place has been?

A. I think that the Holy Spirit really has demonstrated the good direction for the Church in this conclave. Let's pray for the Church, our family, our Mother.

Q. Do you think Pope Benedict XVI will offer the Traditional Latin Mass from St. Peter's Basilica? Do you think he should?

A. I don't know, but it would be a wonderful thing.

The Real Reasons

Q. As a closing note, is there anything you'd like to discuss or elaborate upon further?

A. I would like to explain the incorrect and the correct reasons of conserving the Traditional Mass, as we have previously published, [as follows]:

Why do we love, preserve and prefer the classic liturgical form of Roman rite, The Traditional Mass?

Would it be only because we are nostalgic or sentimentally attached to past forms of liturgy? This reason alone would not be enough.

Would it be because we deny the power of the Pope to modify and promulgate liturgical laws? This would be against the Pope's supreme power dogma!

Would it be because we just consider the New Mass, or Paul VI's Mass, invalid, heterodox, sinful, sacrilegious, or not Catholic? These statements would be against Church's indefectibility dogma and unity of cult dogma, and they have already received the Teaching Church's anathema. Therefore, it [the Novus Ordo's promulgation] is a universal liturgical law, promulgated by Church's supreme authority 34 years ago and adopted unanimously by the whole Teaching Church.

The real reasons we love, prefer, and preserve the Classical liturgical form of the Roman rite are:

- for a better and more precise expression of our faith in eucharistic dogmas,

- for safety, for protection against abuses,

- for the good of whole Church, in contribution for liturgical crisis' reform,

- for wealth and solemnity of rites,

- for better precision and clarity of rubrics (giving no space to "ambiguities, liberties, creativities, adaptations, reductions, and instrumentalizations," as complains Pope John Paul II in Ecclesia de Eucharistia, nn. 10, 52, 61),

- for the sense of sacredness,

- more wealth and precision of prayers' formulas, in reverence,

- for personal and ritual humility

- for elevation and nobility of ceremonies

- for respect, beauty, good taste, piety, sacred language, tradition, and legitimate right recognized by Church's Supreme Authority.

Brian Mershon is a commentator on cultural issues from a classical Catholic perspective. His trade is in media relations, and his vocation is as a husband to his beloved wife Tracey and father to his six living children. He attempts to assist his family and himself in attaining eternal salvation through frequent attendance at the Traditional Latin rite of Mass, homeschooling, and building Catholic culture in the buckle of the Bible Belt of Greenville, South Carolina.

© Copyright 2006 by Brian Mershon

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