Friday, October 1, 2010

Transalpine Redemptorists: ‘When we left, the stones came from behind’

By Brian Kopp

‘When we left, the stones came from behind’

Mark Greaves visits traditionalists in Orkney who are about to enter into full communion with Rome after decades of estrangement

By Mark Greaves on Friday, 1 October 2010

The Transalpine Redemptorists pictured with Bishop Peter Moran of Aberdeen

Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, was an attempt to end decades of division over liturgy: to bring the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), and all the groups affiliated with it, back into the Church. The older Latin Mass, the Pope said, had never been outlawed; it was, in fact, the “same rite” as the newer Mass, the Novus Ordo. The Church must make “every effort” to achieve unity, he said, adding: “Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows.”

Negotiations with the SSPX have indeed begun, yet so far no traditionalist group has taken up the Pope’s call – except, that is, for one small community based on a tiny, windswept island in Orkney.

The community, known as the Transalpine Redemptorists, have paid a heavy price for their decision. Four brothers and two priests have left, and about 1,000 supporters in Britain have broken off contact with them – only one or two families are still in touch.

They have not been ecstatically welcomed, either. It is more than two years since they first approached Rome, yet they are still waiting for their bishop, Bishop Peter Moran of Aberdeen, to grant them legal status within the Church.

Fr Michael Mary, who founded the community in 1988, is a kind man but no softie. Later, when he gives me a rosary as a present, he says “don’t blub”. He is a New Zealander: he left in 1987 to join Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre at his Econe seminary in Switzerland.

When I arrive at their island, Papa Stronsay, the waters are calm. A seal is bobbing its head by the shore. I sit down with Fr Michael Mary in the monastery guestroom – he tells me it was once a herring shed, where women used to gut fresh herring. Next door is the chapel, where office is now sung in Latin for several hours a day.

When Summorum Pontificum came out, he says, he was back in New Zealand. He read it first on the Rorate Caeli website – the “BBC of tradition”. Later he printed a copy for another priest, Fr Anthony Mary.
They had no thoughts, at that time, of becoming reconciled with Rome. It was only months later, at an SSPX conference, that doubts about their status began to creep in.

It started when Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the SSPX, mentioned that he would ask Rome to give the SSPX jurisdiction for marriages. Currently, their marriages could be automatically annulled by the Church if the couple wanted a divorce; that, clearly, was a problem. The remark made Fr Michael Mary wonder, though: if the SSPX has “supplied jurisdiction”, as it has always claimed, why does it need to ask Rome? (Bishop Fellay later claimed that he did not make this remark.)

Several weeks later, on New Year’s Eve, 2007, Fr Michael Mary went to bed early. As he was going to sleep, he was struck by a very strong feeling. It was, he says, a “complete turnaround”. He got out of bed and wrote these words on an envelope: “I, Fr Michael Mary, believe tonight that Pope Benedict XVI is the true Pope of the Catholic Church, and that I must now do everything possible to live in union with him.”

Fr Michael Mary rustles his rosary beads loudly as he talks. Occasionally, when trying to remember something, he takes off his glasses and holds them in the air, his eyes directed at the ceiling.
He says he was eager, then, to resolve the question of jurisdiction. It boils down to whether the SSPX founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, was right to claim “a state of necessity” that meant he could ordain bishops without permission from the Pope.

First, he contacted French Dominicans. These, he says, were the experts: they had huge libraries and produced dense periodicals. But when he asked them about jurisdiction, expecting them to have a treatise on it, they said they had nothing of the sort. He mimics their response to his question: a very knowing, drawn out, “Ah, bon…” They told him that to ask that question would be “the revolution” in his community.

After that he got in touch with Fr Josef Bisig, founder of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP), who broke from the SSPX in 1988. Fr Bisig said he would email over the FSSP study, and wrote: “Excuse me for saying my personal opinion, but I think you probably are schismatic.”

Reading the FSSP document, says Fr Michael Mary, was depressing. “I thought, ‘this is bad news’. We are actually in a difficult situation.”

He printed off the study for each member of the community, and suggested they read it three times, letting it filter through. They reached the conclusion that they should seek communion with Rome “at all costs”. In March 2008, they had a vote. Each member put a bead in a voting box: a white bead for “yes”, a black bead for “no”. All the beads were white.

Without Summorum Pontificum, says Fr Michael Mary, they “would not have dreamed” of becoming reconciled with Rome. They were struck by the graciousness, and courage, of the Pope, and by his admission that the old Mass had never been outlawed. “Because nearly everybody would tell you it had,” he says.

At first they kept their vote a secret. After all, they did not know who to tell. Their contact with the mainstream Catholic Church had, for 20 years, been “zero or negative”.

On the advice of Fr Bisig, they arranged a meeting with Fr José Monteiro Guimarães, a Redemptorist official in the Congregation for Clergy (he is now Bishop of Garanhuns in Brazil). They travelled to Rome, staying in a hotel. It was, he says, very daunting. “We had the feeling that we should go back, that we had made a big mistake. We were completely out of our camp.”

In the months that followed they met officials at Ecclesia Dei, the body set up to negotiate with the SSPX. They met its prefect, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos. Their priestly suspensions were lifted. Later they wrote a constitution, lifting parts of old Redemptorist constitutions from 1921 and 1936. That has been approved. All that is needed now is for Bishop Moran, their local bishop, to issue a “decree of erection” that will put them in canonical good order. (Last Friday Bishop Moran issued a statement which said he was waiting for guidance from the Congregation for Religious, to whom the matter has now been passed.)

The process, though, has not been smooth. Some in the community have family who are in the SSPX. Four Brothers left, two without saying a word to Fr Michael Mary. One priest, based on the next-door island of Stronsay, split off immediately, taking most of the parish with him. Another, Fr Clement, left more recently, for a traditionalist parish in Melbourne. “Nobody expected it to take this long,” says Fr Michael Mary.

Subscriptions to their monthly newspaper dropped by half, from 4,000 to fewer than 2,000. They received hate mail from people they thought were friends. They had to withdraw seminarians from an SSPX seminary in Australia after the rector told them they would never be ordained unless they defied Fr Michael Mary and started their own breakaway group. Fr Michael Mary is hurt by all of this. “When you leave the ghetto, the stones don’t come from the front, they come from behind you. If they can get you in the back with a good boulder – that’s how it felt.”

Despite all these hardships, the community has a joyful feel to it. At recreation there are roars of laughter. One brother, who wears Doc Martens along with his habit, has an apron that says: “Danger: Men Cooking.”

They are also very young – in their 20s and 30s, mainly. Two brothers are about to be ordained as priests; four more are seminarians. In total there are 15 in the community.

It is not an easy life here: in winter there are only six hours of sunlight, and the winds are ferocious — sometimes up to 120mph. “If you are small and frail,” says one brother, “you stay inside.”

Brother Jean-Marie, 32, and Brother Yousef-Marie, 35, are both from warmer climes. “When you first come here,” says Brother Jean-Marie, from India, “you feel like there’s ice on your face.”

Brother Jean-Marie was a student when he felt called to the religious life, but the orders he knew did not really impress him. He then came across a small leaflet about the Transalpine Redemptorists. “People were actually wearing their habits, they were not ashamed of it. I thought, this is something I feel inspired to give my life to.”

It attracted him partly because it offered what he describes as a masculine kind of Christianity. “You’re not just sitting on your thumbs. You’re mixing cement, slaughtering cows, handling boats and ropes. In monastic history, monks always did work, they built the monastery themselves. They didn’t have people to do it for them.”

Brother Jean-Marie and Brother Yousef-Marie, from Sydney, have an intensity about them. They have both just finished their studies and, once the community is canonically erected, they can be ordained. Right now they are in limbo. “It is not a pleasant feeling,” says Brother Jean-Marie. “But ultimately God is in charge.”

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ecclesia Dei: "no provision for the distribution of Holy Communion in the hand in this form of the Holy Mass"

By Brian Kopp



Dear Mr. XXXX

In reference to your letter of 15. June, this papal commission would like to point out that the celebration of Holy Mass in the extraordinary form envisages the reception of Holy Communion while kneeling, as the Holy Host is laid directly on the tongue of the communicant. There is no provision for the distribution of Holy Communion on the hand in this form of the Holy Mass.

With blessings,

WDTPRS has weighed in:

6 July 2010

Pont. Comm. “Ecclesia Dei” letter about Communion in the hand

CATEGORY: SESSIUNCULA — Fr. John Zuhlsdorf @ 12:43 pm

Even yesterday I had a conversation about the thorny issue of just what Summorum Pontificum (the 3rd anniversary of its release is tomorrow, blessed day) might have revived.

Take the situation of the distribution of Holy Communion.

In the old days before the conciliar reform of the liturgy it was unthinkable – unless you were a heretic or Protestant – that people would receive Communion in the hand. There was no need for specific decrees about such a normal practice as reception of Communion, which was always given on the tongue to people who knelt if they could.

Today, however, there is (sadly) legislation which permits Communion in the hand under some circumstances.

Summorum Pontificum did not revive the old decrees of the long-gone Sacred Congregation of Rites or automatically resurrect the practices of yore.

Or did it?

I have always held that priests need to respect the laws in force about Communion today, even in the celebration of Holy Mass in the older form. Of course they can also do all they might to discourage Communion in the hand and promote a more reverent manner of reception. At the same time, it is unlikely that many who go to the older Mass will want to receive Communion in the hand.

I received from a friend in England the following very interesting news. This is on

The Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" – remember them? – sent a response to a person making an inquiry about reception of Communion at the older, Extraordinary Form. Translation:

"Dear Mr. XXXX In reference to your letter of 15. June, this papal commission would like to point out that the celebration of Holy Mass in the extraordinary form envisages the reception of Holy Communion while kneeling, as the Holy Host is laid directly on the tongue of the communicant. There is no provision for the distribution of Holy Communion on the hand in this form of the Holy Mass. With blessings,"

I note from the graphic that there was no Protocol.

There is a stamp on the letter rather than a signature.

This is a form letter.

It is therefore more than a curiosity, but it is a great deal less than the final word.

We are still left with questions about Communion during the Extraordinary Form.

If people insist on receiving in the hand, are they to be denied based on the argument that in 1962 there was no permission to receive in the hand?

And on an additional note, keep in mind this and this.
• • • • • •

Friday, June 11, 2010

Vatican official: "The new Mass is a passing phase. In 50 years, that will be entirely clear."

By Brian Kopp

In the May 2010 issue of Inside The Vatican magazine, in an article entitled "The Return of the Latin Mass," Dr. Robert Moynihan discusses the first "old Latin Mass" celebrated at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in 40 years. The Traditional Latin Mass commemorating the fifth anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI's installation was held on April 24, 2010, and the Basilica, the largest Catholic church in America, was filled to standing room only, with nearly 4000 in attendance.

His article is well worth reading.

It appears that the future of the normative liturgy of Roman Catholicism is still in doubt, with an ongoing debate over which liturgy will emerge on the horizon, a hybrid liturgy between the Traditional Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo liturgy or a resurgence of the Traditional Latin Mass which will replace the Novus Ordo over the next several generations.

Here are a few excerpts worth considering.

A Passing Phase?

It is right that the controversy over the celebrant, Cardinal Castrillion-Hoyos vs. Bishop Slattery, did not "upstage" what was happening at this Mass.

For, in addition to the sacred mystery of the Mass itself (which was the most important thing of all, of course), something else of considerable importance was occurring on April 24 in Washington - of importance for the future of the Church, and so also of importance for the future of the West.

That "something" is this: the interest in this Mass - which was televised nationwide by EWTN - reveals that, in the West, in the United States, and precisely in Washington, DC, the capital of the US, despite a generation or more of "post-Christian" cultural pressure, there remains a desire, a hunger, to be connected with the Christian past, and to hand on to posterity what was handed down over the centuries, often in the face of much suffering.

In short, the celebration of this Mass, after 40 years and in the midst of an admittedly profound crisis in the Church, suggests that American Catholics, like their counterparts in Europe and around the world, may yet turn to the riches and treasures of their tradition to find a way forward.

And this will not be pure archaism.

It will not reflect a flight from present reality.

Nor will it be a rejection tout court of everything that came with the Second Vatican Council.

Rather, it will be an attempt to pick up the threads of our past and see if they may still be woven into the fabric of our present, in order to create the tapestry of our future.

It is our future that it looks toward - not just our past.

Having just been in Rome, having been present at the papal liturgies during Holy Week, having talked recently with a number of Vatican officials about liturgical matters and about the Second Vatican Council and its legacy, for me this liturgy reflected what Pope Benedict XVI is trying ceaselessly to teach: that the Catholic tradition has not been lost, that it remains to be discovered and lived.

How this will all work out, or course, is yet to be seen.

At least one Vatican official I talked to recently told me he believes the future of the Church's liturgical life will be a type of fusion between the old Mass and the new Mass of Paul VI.

This is the view of many.

But at least one Vatican official I talked to, also in the past month, told me he believes the future is solely and exclusively in a return to the old rite.

"The old rite is our past, and it will be our future, " he told me. "The new Mass is a passing phase. In 50 years, that will be entirely clear." (emphasis added.)

Dr. Moynihan concludes the article with an astute observation regarding Summorum Pontificum and the Orthodox:

And so the liturgy is of central importance to Benedict, and to the Vatican, today.

Benedict and his inner circle see the liturgy as critical to the future of Roman Catholicism. But not only to Roman Catholicism. There is another reason for Benedict's focus on the liturgy.

The Orthodox Connection

It is well known that the Orthodox, in a profound way, share Benedict's conviction that the liturgy is fundamental for faith, and so also for the practice of the faith.

For example, Eastern Orthodoxy's Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople quoted the phrase "lex orandi, lex credendi" in Latin on the occasion of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Istanbul in 2006, drawing from the phrase the lesson that, "in liturgy we are reminded of the need to reach unity in faith as well as in prayer."

I believe that Pope Benedict's approval, a few months after that November 2006 visit, on July 7, 2007, of wider use of the old Latin Mass in the Latin rite, was intended to help prepare the reunion of the two great divided branches of Christianity, Catholicism and Orthodoxy.

The path to this reunion must pass, in some essential way, through the liturgy.

Through a shared liturgy. The liturgies of the two Churches must express the same faith if the Churches are ever to be once again in unity - something Christ willed for his disciples in his prayer on the final night with them before his crucifixion.

Inside the Vatican magazine is an excellent publication, by the way. Please consider subscribing.

For more on Summorum Pontificum and the Orthodox, see this previous post:

Summorum Pontificum and reunion with the Eastern Orthodox

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

'For now, the Pope will not celebrate previous rites'

By Brian Kopp


From ROME REPORTS® TV News Agency:

The Liturgy of Benedict XVI according to Guido Marini, his Master of Ceremonies

June 8, 2010. Italian Monsignor Guido Marini is 45 years old and has been Papal Master of Ceremonies since October of 2007. It is a delicate job keeping in mind that the careful attention to liturgy one of the core elements of Benedict XVI's pontificate.

Mons. Guido Marini
Master of Ceremonies Benedict XVI

“I think the pope's attention to the liturgy, his lessons in this environment and his example, help many priests and many Catholics to rediscover the central value of the liturgy for the life of the Church and for the life of each person.”

According to the Papal Master of Ceremonies, the liturgy is not an area only reserved for experts. But he notes that Catholics need help to understand the full meaning of the liturgical symbols and gestures.

Mons. Guido Marini
Master of Ceremonies Benedict XVI

“The liturgy has a popular dimension that should be preserved because through the liturgy we find ourselves with the mystery of God. There the mystery of salvation it is made real for the life of each person. So it is important to prepare people so they can read the gestures and symbols of the liturgy.”

In recent years, Benedict XVI has brought back some traditional liturgical elements that were rarely used. For example, the presence of the crucifix in the center of the altar or the receiving communion on the knees. They are gestures the pope has explained as the so-called “hermeneutic of continuity.”

Mons. Guido Marini
Master of Ceremonies Benedict XVI

“The hermeneutics of continuity highlights that in the life of the Church there is an authentic growth in the way in which they don't cut the roots so that this development includes the richness of its history and tradition.”

He says that for now it is not expected that the pope will celebrate a mass according to rites prior to the Second Vatican Council.

Monsignor Marini regularly receives instructions from the pope, but the office of liturgical ceremonies also proposes elements
for each celebration.

Mons. Guido Marini
Master of Ceremonies Benedict XVI

“In addition to putting into practice the instructions of the pope, we suggest some liturgical elements. He decides whether to accept them or not. It's to say, in every ceremony there are instructions from the Holy Father and suggestions presented by our department.”

In any case, since the pope has written many works on the liturgy, from his time as a cardinal, for the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations, it is very easy to know what the pope expects of every celebration. In other words, that the celebration helps draw people closer to the mystery of God.

– WP