Friday, December 03, 2010

Interview with Ecclesia Dei Secretary - Full Text

Wednesday I had mentioned an interview with Msgr. Guido Pozzo, the Secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, on the occasion of three years of Summorum Pontificum, and summarised a few salient points, inviting readers to help with a full translation. One of our readers was kind enough to provide just that. Here then is the full text of the interview:

The Old Mass, the SSPX and Tradition: A Conversation in the CDF

Translation by Daniel Lloyd

What is the status of the Old Mass today? More than three years have passed since the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum came into force, with which Pope Benedict XVI once again permitted the celebration of the Liturgy according to the old books. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith watches over the implementation of the motu proprio – or, more accurately, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. It is also responsible for the conversations with the traditionalists of SSPX. We discussed both themes – the old Mass and the SSPX – with the secretary of the Commission, Mgr Guido Pozzo. Last summer, Ecclesia Dei broached the subject in the dioceses of the worldwide church of whether it is now possible in every single one to take part in a mass in the EF of the Roman Rite. We began by asking Mgr Pozzo how the situation is now.

Three years after the publication of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, the PCED has asked all the bishops, via the nunciatures, to report on their experiences in these past three years, in accordance with what the Holy Father had written in his accompanying letter. A good third of the world’s bishops have sent us such a consideration. I must add that the majority of these answers came from those dioceses in which a desire for the mass in the Extraordinary Form exists. Thus, this return is very satisfactory.”

Concretly put, in which countries is there the greatest interest in the so-called old Mass?

“At the moment, the greatest interest and the most requests are found in Europe, in the United States of America, and also in Australia. Much less in Latin America, Africa and Asia.”

Pope Benedict asked for “charity and pastoral care” for traditionalist believers. And so the PCED are now watchmen of a sort for those cases in which that does not happen. Where have you found resistance?

“The expression “watch” translates the ancient Greek “episcopein”. The primary task of a bishop is to watch. In this sense the PCED exercises the office of oversight and watching over the application of the motu proprio. Certainly, there is still prejudice and resistance against the Mass in the old rite, whether it be on ideological grounds, or because the demand for mass in the old form is seen partly an expression of an antithesis – of an opposition even – to the reform of the liturgy as the Second Vatican Council wanted it. Clearly, these prejudices – still widespread – are to be taken on and overcome. Above all, we have to restore the unity of liturgical history, the unity of the lex orandi as an expression of the unity of the lex credendi, within the unique character of the liturgical forms of the one Roman Rite.”

To clarify, what barriers are erected by parish priests or bishops who do not esteem the old mass, in order to stonewall the demand for it?

“There are bishops and priest who see in the demand for the old rite above all the risk of a nostalgia for the aesthetic, the purely ornamental, the formalistic. I do not rule out that this is true in some cases, but, generally speaking, that shows a kind of prejudice. For the old rite of Mass has a deep richness, which must not only be respected, but also rediscovered, even to the advantage of the liturgy as it is celebrated today. This prejudice and resistance must be overcome through a change in the forma mentis, the disposition. There needs to be a commensurate liturgical education.”

How do you see the interest in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite: as growing, waning, or constant?

“I would say: growing, and that because we have observed that there is a particular interest in, and recourse to, the old form of the mass among the younger generation. And that is surprising news.”

Could you give an estimate of how many believers there are in Europe, for example, who are consistently interest in the old mass?

“The commission does not have really reliable figures, because the situation presents itself as very diverse, and as having many branches. We can say, though, that, in France, the number of believers attached to the old form of the Roman Rite is significantly higher than in Germany, Italy or Spain. It is also clear that a judgement about the worth of the Extraordinary Form of the Rite has nothing to do with numbers. Both Forms are equal in worth and honour. The Ordinary Form is that which is normal, usual, more widely spread; the Extraordinary Form is that which is special and different.”

The motu proprio says nothing about education for priests who wish to learn to celebrate the Mass according to the old books. Many regard this as a gap, insofar as the celebration of the old liturgy requires rigorous preparation. How would you advise interested priests?

“The problem of priests apt to celebrate the old rite is certainly important and urgent. I have to say that the reason why the bishops often have difficulty in fulfilling the desire for a Mass in the old form is, in fact, the lack of qualified priests who can properly celebrate this mass. Here, then, those faithful affected must have understanding and much patience. I am of the opinion that seminarians in the priestly seminaries should be offered the opportunity appropriately to learn to celebrate in the Extraordinary Form – not as a duty, but rather as a possibility. Where it is possible, one could call on those institutes who come under the jurisdiction of the Commission Ecclesia Dei and who follow the traditional liturgical discipline to assist in the training of priests. In any case, what is essential is a liturgical and theological education which decisively does away with the idea that there is a preconciliar liturgy in opposition to a postconcilar one, or that there is a preconciliar ecclesiology in opposition to a postconciliar one. Rather, there is a growth and a deepening in the history of the faith and liturgy of the Church, but always in continuity, and in essential unity, which can and may never be lost or narrowed.”

Pope Benedict wishes that both forms of the Roman Rite should enrich each other, but without mixing. What can the old liturgy “learn” from the new?

“Firstly, in the motu proprio’s accompanying letter to the bishops, Pope Benedict mentions on the one hand the necessity of updating the calendar of saints: that is, incorporating those saints canonised after 1962; and on the other the inclusion of certain prefaces from the missal of Paul VI., in order to enrich the collection of prefaces in the missal of 1962. The Commission Ecclesia Dei has initiated a programme of studies in order to fulfil the will of the Holy Father. We will soon come, I think, to a suggestion which will shortly be laid before the Holy Father for approval. I believe that one must also recognise that the ordinary form of the Roman Rite offers more extensive readings from the Holy Scriptures than the missal of 1962. Nevertheless, a change in this direction in the missal of 1962 is not easy, because one must always have in view the relationship between the individual scriptural readings and the antiphons or responsories in the Roman Breviary for the relevant day. We must also recall, though, that under Pope Pius XII a range of complementary readings for the commons of saints was added. Thus, one cannot exclude an eventual expansion even in the readings for Mass. That does not mean that, as the celebrating priest or the bishop, one can subjectively and arbitrarily change the order of the lectionary, or mix the two forms, such that the distinctiveness in each is lost.”

The Old Mass in St Peter’s: can it be celebrated with no strings attached?

“With the coming into force of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, the Extraordinary Form of the mass is no longer under indult, as before; rather, it is governed by the norms of the motu proprio. Therefore, in St Peters, as in all other churches, the norms of the motu proprio are in force.”

That means that even in the sacristy of St Peter’s, everything is set up for a celebration according to the Old Rite?

“Yes, as far as I know. In fact, each morning, many priests celebrate the Mass in the old rite, even with servers.”

Will Pope Benedict celebrate a High Mass in the Extraordinary Form one day?

“I think you’re asking the wrong person!”

On the subject of the conversations of the Holy See with the Lefebvrists, that is, with the FSSPX: can you say whether there has been any progress to date?

“Confidentiality is the ruling principle for the success of the conversations taking place between the specialists from the CDF and the SSPX, and I will not depart from this principle. But I can say that the climate of these conversations is positive, constructive, and characterised by mutual respect. Until now, the discussions have focussed on making the reasoning and arguments of each side known to the other, in order to clarify the basis or roots of the existing difficulties with the Magisterium. To get to the bottom of these roots, and the ultimate grounds for the difficulties with clarity is, in my view, progress.”

Since the motu proprio, the use of the old Mass is no longer a bone of contention between the Holy See and the SSPX. There remain, however, manyMmagisterial differences, on the lines of religious freedom, ecumenism, of the notion of tradition. Which is the really contentious issue?

“The disputed points are precisely those addressed in the question. It has nothing to do with a rejection of the authority of the Second Vatican Council per se, or the subsequent papal teaching office. Rather, it has to do with certain statements or teachings in the conciliar documents about religious freedom, ecumenism, relationships with non-Christian religions, the concept of the liturgical reforms, the unity of the Magisterium vis-à-vis tradition. In general, the SSPX’s difficulties have to do with the continuity or consistent development of certain of the Council’s teachings, and of the subsequent papal teaching office in view of the unchanging Magisterium of the Church and of tradition. It does not seem to me that the SSPX rejects in principle that it is possible or legitimate for there to be a development in, or a consistent, coherent deepening of, Catholic doctrine. What divides the SSPX from the position of the Holy See is the judgement made about the continuity or coherence between certain teachings of the Second Vatican Council and previous statements of the Magisterium. I think that Pope Benedict’s most recent statements on the hermeneutic of renewal in continuity with the tradition and the unchanging Magisterium of the Church provide a basic principle for the solution of the conflict. It revolves around applying this principle both in particular cases and in its whole scope – more than has hitherto been the case.”

Pope Benedict wrote that even priests in those communities which are attached to the old form of the Roman Rite cannot in principle exclude celebrating according to the new books. How does the SSPX see that?

“You would have to ask the SSPX. I think, as I said before, that the question of the liturgical books of Paul VI’s reform has to be addressed as part of the proper understanding of liturgical reform and of its consequent correct application. The basic question which the SSPX has to answer is whether the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, which Paul VI promulgated, is in and of itself valid and legitimate. There can be no doubt and no hesitation on this point. The answer must be an indubitable ‘yes’. Elsewhere, we have the ambiguities, shortcomings and also doctrinal errors which have spread in the period following the Council, be they in theological understanding, or be they in the application of liturgical reform. The then Cardinal Ratzinger, today Pope Benedict, spoke of a “disintegration” in the liturgy. From this viewpoint, one cannot say that many of those criticisms which were aired were wrong.”

If we put to one side for a moment the question of liturgical abuses in the ordinary rite, the ordinary form of the Mass, as it is celebrated for example by Pope Benedict himself, must be accepted by all those who wish to belong to the Catholic Church. So, also by the Lefebvrists. Is this the case?

“I do not think we are there yet. Even if, as has been said, the understanding of liturgical form as it is found in many renderings of the liturgical reforms, in liturgical theology, and in very many applications which prove to be abuses or to be in some way lacking, presents an objective problem. We have to rediscover the true sense and the true meaning of liturgical reform. The Pope celebrates according to the missal of Paul VI: that is an absolutely normative benchmark. We know, though, that there are many celebrations of the Mass which do not conform to the true teachings and the true spirit of the liturgical reforms and of the missal of Paul VI. Why has that happened? Why has there been this abusive application, these shortcomings, this false understanding? We have to answer this question.”

Bernard Fellay, the Superior of the SSPX, recently threatened Richard Williamson with expulsion from the Fraternity if he continued to allow himself to be represented in his German court proceedings by a lawyer with far-right connections. Is the SSPX on the brink of a split?

“Bishop Willamson’s case is an isolated incident, and it rests with the Superior of the SSPX to deal with him within the Fraternity, even with discipliniary measures, as circumstances dictate. The Holy See has already expressed itself with absolute clarity on the subject of Bishop Williamson’s views. In the book Light of the World, which has just been published, the Holy Father confirmed that the Williamson case, insofar as it has to do with his erroneous pronouncements with regard to the Holocaust, is a separate matter. It must be completely separated from the question of the relationship between the SSPX and the Holy See, which has to do with problems of doctrine and canon law.”

Where do you see the Lefebvrists’ real handicap: in doctrine or in politics?

“I am convinced that the questions which hinder the full reconciliation of the SSPX with the Holy See have to do with doctrine. Potential ideological-political implications which might reflect that could result from it, but they are not an overriding or decisive element of the discussions.”

Can the PCED advise the faithful to attend Mass celebrated by the priests of the SSPX or to receive the sacraments there, or would they advise against it?

“In his letter to the bishops after the lifting of the excommunications from the four bishops illegally consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre, the Pope clarifies that the lifting of the excommunications – that is, of heavy disciplinary punishment – does not mean that the SSPX is immediately canonically recognised; nor, as a consequence of it, do the priests of the SSPX legitimately exercise their priestly ministry. In light of these pronouncements it is clear that the Catholic faithful are urged to avoid participating in the Mass of a priest of SSPX, and receiving the sacraments from him, because they are canonically irregular. The same goes for every other priest who finds himself in an irregular canonical situation, or who is without a bishop.”

Can you estimate how long it will take for the Lefebvrists to return to the Catholic Church?

“We have no fixed date in mind. We are praying, working, and acting so that the re-integration of the SSPX into full ecclesial communion does not take too long.”

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