1999 November/A Crumbling Fence


There are rumblings in the wind again. The accusations that this or that approved traditional institute or priestly fraternity will-`eventually be , forced to offer the new Mass have beers floating around ever since 1988. Indeed, some claim that a few priests are already bi-ritual, especially in their centres in Europe. Representatives of the Fraternity of St. Peter and the Institute of Christ the King, among others, have long insisted that the provisions in their constitutions, calling for the exclusive use of the 1962 Missal, make such accusations not only utterly false, but quite impossible as well.

However, as of July 3, 1999, a new development has arisen that does not bode at all well for the future of the traditional Orders, at least in regard to their status of being exclusively pre-Conciliar in their liturgical life. We are referring to Protocol Number 1421 of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, which came out this month and which was signed by Cardinal Medina Estevez.

Last Spring, when it was learned that the Traditional monastery at Le Barroux had made concessions with the Benedictine Federation concerning the celebration (and concelebration) of Mass in their monastery. The Remnant was told by priests of the Fraternity of St. Peter that the precedent had been set, and that pressure would now be applied to all the traditional Orders to follow the “New Mass-friendly lead” of Le Barroux.

It is now being alleged that a small number of liberal-minded priests of the Fraternity of St. Peter have gone over the head of their Superior, Father Bisig, directly to Rome, in order to solidify their right to offer the New Mass whenever they desire. Allegedly, as a result of this most unfortunate move, the Vatican’s Sacred Congregation of Rites has acted in a way that, it seems, seriously undermines the ability of the Superiors of the traditional Orders to prohibit use of the New Mass by their priests. While it is certainly true that all priests, as far as Rome is concerned, have the right to offer the New Mass, this Protocol effectively arms every priest from every traditional Order to say whatever Mass he likes, regardless of what his Order’s constitutions (or Superior, for that matter) might say to the contrary. This Protocol makes it impossible, it would seem, for the traditional Orders to claim to be exclusively “Tridentine” in their liturgical lives.

Regardless of what (or who) triggered this development, it does appear that Protocol 1411 is apt to become a divisive force within the approved traditional Orders. “Bi-rituality” will surely become the demon of discontent within the walls of traditional priestly enclaves. Priests within the Fraternity of St. Peter have expressed their concern to be that this Protocol binds and gags all of the approved Orders, especially in their ability to oppose the ongoing Modernization of the Catholic Church. As one good Fraternity priest put it, “When this happens, it’ll be 1988 all over again!”

We at The Remnant are making no judgment, especially since we are praying that there may be still time for, the Fraternity of St. Peter and the Institute of Christ the King to reverse what seems to be a colossal setback to their apostolate and to the movement for the restoration of the Traditional Mass in general: Before quoting (in its entirety) “Responsa Officialis,” Prot. 1411 from the Congregatio de Cultu Divino: et Disciplina Sacramentorum, we would like to stress that this report should not be constructed as an attack on the approved Orders, especially since our sources suggest that this action was the result of a few troublesome priests, who acted without the knowledge or consent of their superiors. If our information is wrong, or if our concerns over the ramifications of this Protocol are unfounded, we happily invite representatives from any of the approved Orders to issue a statement of clarifications, which we will certainly print in The Remnant.

If no such clarification is forthcoming, then, once again, it does seem that the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre knew full well what it was that he was doing in 1988. Depending upon how Protocol 1411, is interpreted it may be that his fraternity now—the
SSPX—-is likely to become the only non-sedevacantist priestly fraternity in the world to be able to say: “We offer the Traditional Mass and Sacraments ONLY and EXCLUSIVELY!”

In the meantime, we reproduce Protocol 1411 for our readers to consider, and we pray that the dire ramifications of this development which we have envisioned turn out to be utterly unfounded and absolutely ridiculous.

Prod. 1411/99

After the Liturgical Restoration mandated by the Second Vatican Council, a certain group of the Catholic faithful appeared, strongly attached to the preceding forms of the Roman Liturgical tradition. This group—that is, those who are in communion with the Catholic Church—manifested the desire of using the Roman Missal (so called) of Saint Pius V. The Supreme Pontiff, John Paul II, moved by his paternal desire to meet the liturgical and religious sensitivities of these groups, conceded to them the use of the Roman Missal of 1962 with the authorisation of the bishop of the place. This same Supreme Pontiff also asked of the bishops that they would freely and generously receive those faithful attached profoundly to the preconciliar rite and at the same time manifesting a sincere assent to the magisterium of the Church and obedience to her legitimate pastors. The desire of the Roman Pontiff was made known by the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei adflicta (2 Jul. 1988. AAS 80/1988 pp. 1495-98).

A series of questions arrived at this dicastery concerning the possibilities and impediments connected to the use of the 1962 missal canceled by indult by the legitimate authority. After proper consultation and with the approval of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of legislative texts, and the Pontifical Commission Ecctesia Dei, we communicate the response to the questions asked, as follows.


Can a priest who is a member of an institute which enjoys the faculty of celebrating the rite in force before the liturgical restoration of Vatican II freely use the Roman Missal promulgated by the Supreme Pontiff Paul VI when he celebrates the Eucharistic Sacrifice for the good of a community in which the Mass is celebrated according to this missal—even if occasionally?


Affirmative and “ad mentem” (according to the following reason)—”Mens”. Since the use of
the preconciiiar missal is conceded by indult, it does not remove the common liturgical right to the Roman Rite, according to which the missal in force is that promulgated after the Second Vatican Council. Moreover, the above-mentioned priest must celebrate with the postconciliar missal if, by chance, a celebration takes place in a community which uses the modern Roman Rite. This in order that there be no wonderment (confusion) or inconvenience for the faithful adn also that he might be a help to his brother priests who ask this service of pastoral charity. In communities accustomed to the modern missal the use of the preceding missal gives rise to several difficulties for example: the differences in the liturgical calendar, the discrepancies between the biblical texts for the liturgy of the word, the variety in liturgical gestures—in the mode of receiving Holy Communion—the variety in the duties of the ministers, etc., etc.


Can superiors of whatever rank of institutes enjoying the indult to use the Roman Missal of 1962 for the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, prohibit priests of these same institutes from using the post conciliar Roman Missal when such priests celebrate for the good of any community (even if only occasionally) in which the modern Roman Missal is used?


No. The use of the Roman Missal of 1962 consists of an indult for the use of the faithful who are joined by the special bond to the preconciliar Roman Rite. Its use cannot be imposed on communities which celebrate the Holy Eucharist according to the missal renewed by order of the Second Vatican Council, in virtue of whom the superiors of such institutes have no authority.


Can a priest, a member of an institute which enjoys this indult, concelebrate Mass according to the modern order of the Roman Rite without any impediment?


Affirmative, because the indult does not take away from priests the liturgical Rite common to all (clergy) of the Roman Rite or celebrating according to the current Roman Missal in force. Moreover, he cannot and MUST NOT be prohibited from concelebration by his superior or by the ordinary of the place. Indeed, it is praiseworthy that the above-mentioned priests would concelebrate especially at the Mass of Holy Thursday with the diocesan bishop presiding. Although “each priest has the faculty of celebrating an individual Mass, not however at the same time in the same church nor on Holy Thursday” (cf. Vat. II Sacrosanctum Corrcilium #57, pars 2. 2). The sign of communion inherent in concelebration is so particular that it must not be omitted in the Chrism Mass unless for grave reasons (Saerosarrctum Concilium#57. 1. la).