French clerics warn against return of Latin Mass traditionalists

Thirty-five French clerics have warned in a statement that they are not ready to receive the breakaway group Society of St Pius X over theological differences and the group's link with far-right political movements.

The bishops were among five French bishops and 30 priests to make public their fears over Pope Benedict's anticipated revival of the old Latin Mass, according to a Washington Post report.

"We can be charitable and welcoming but we also have to be honest," Besancon Bishop Andre Lacrampe told the French daily L'Est Republicain. "I'm not ready to receive them because one cannot erase Vatican II with a stroke of a pen."

"There are very deep and painful theological reasons behind this schism," Angouleme Bishop Claude Dagens told the Catholic weekly La Vie. "You can't pretend that Archbishop Lefebvre's break with the church was only caused by the liturgy."

Lille Archbishop Gerard Defois said some SSPX faithful were linked to far-right political movements and noted in a statement that some had "resorted to violent means to occupy churches."

The bishops say that unswerving loyalty to the old Latin, or Tridentine Mass, often goes hand in hand with a rejection of the Vatican II reforms, which opened the church to respect for and cooperating with other faiths and switched to a modern Mass conducted in local languages.

The protests printed in the Catholic press highlighted serious issues the Vatican faces if, as church sources have reported, it announces soon that priests are free to say the Latin Mass as an alternative to the modern liturgy.

"This could create grave difficulties, especially for those who have remained loyal to Vatican II," Toulouse Bishop Robert Le Gall told the Catholic daily La Croix.

In an open letter, the bishops and priests said Pope Benedict should encourage the SSPX "to work in the world as it is ... rather than plunge us back into the liturgical life of another age."

Dating back to 1570, the Tridentine Mass was dropped in the 1960s and can now be said only with a bishop's special permission.

But the SSPX, a Swiss-based group launched by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre to oppose 1960s reforms, has demanded a blanket permission, or indult, for the Tridentine Mass as a condition for its return to the church.

SSPX leader Bishop Bernard Fellay and other leaders were excommunicated in 1988.

In a different response to the latest events, Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, Bordeaux archbishop and head of the French Bishops' Conference, has urged French Catholics to welcome rebel priests who return to the church.


French clerics criticize Pope's Latin mass plans (International Herald Tribune, 23/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Holy See Congregation for the Clergy
Archbishop Gerard Defois (Catholic-Hierarchy)
Traditionalist Catholic (Wikipedia)
Society of St Pius X (Wikipedia)
Society of St Pius X

Benedict expected to restore wider availability of Latin Mass (CathNews, 12/10/06)
Pope's fresh attempt to build bridge with rebels (CathNews, 24/8/05)
Schismatic society lobbies Australian priests on Tridentine rite (CathNews, 3/2/05)
Schismatic group expels its own rebels (CathNews, 14/9/04)
Traditionalist leader attacks Pope's ecumenical vision (CathNews, 4/2/04)
Tridentine rite Mass for Roman basilica this month (CathNews, 5/5/03)


24 Oct 2006