Thursday, 21 August 2008

How Benedict XVI Can Restore Tradition and Save the World

by Peter Karl T. Perkins

A year ago, Pope Benedict XVI issued motu proprio his apostolic letter entitled “Summorum Pontificum” (S.P.). This instrument of the Holy See recognised that the Traditional Latin Mass or ‘Gregorian Mass’ had never been abrogated and, hence, in principle, every priest in good standing in the Latin Church is free to celebrate it by making use of the Roman Missal of 1962. A fortiori, his letter insisted that the Traditional Mass “must be given due honour for its venerable and ancient usage” (Article 1). This statement asserts that provision for that Mass is a sacred duty. Now a liturgical rite cannot be given due honour unless it be offered by competent authority. And the initial locus of ordinary authority in the Church is the diocese and its equivalent, “in which and from which the one and only Catholic Church . . . truly exists and functions” (Canons 368, 369; cf. Lumen Gentium, 23, ¶ 1). In fact, the diocesan bishops are not “to be regarded as vicars of the Roman Pontiff, for they exercise an authority which is proper to them” (ibid., 27) such that “every legitimate celebration of the Eucharist is regulated [but not solely regulated] by the bishop . . . for his diocese” (ibid., 26). Furthermore, given the supposed principle of 'subsidiarity' (cf. "Preface to the Latin Edition of the Code of Canons", no. 5), it is the bishops who are charged with the initial duty of acting for their local communities. It follows that it is the duty of each diocesan bishop to see to it that the Gregorian Mass be celebrated in his diocese even if no faithful request this. Moreover, the bishop must endeavour to offer this Mass or have it offered even daily, for the honour due to it applies equally to all its parts, and these parts vary from day to day. Such celebrations must also be regularly scheduled in order to benefit the faithful and provide for their participation as much as possible, for honour is public by nature: “Since liturgical matters by their very nature call for a community celebration, they are, as far as possible, to be celebrated in the presence of Christ’s faithful and with their active participation” (Canon 837.2). Of course, where it is found that the local bishops are unwilling or unable to do their duty, it becomes the duty of the Pope, who also enjoys immediate as well as universal authority, to take action to assist them. We shall come to that.

Now the one obstacle in principle to public celebration of the venerable and ancient Gregorian Rite of Mass is the inability of priests to offer it becomingly (cf. S.P. Article 5.4) or at all, should there be a shortage of priests. In order that priests be able to schedule regular Gregorian Masses, they need to have some facility in Latin and to learn the rubrics, and it is the duty of their bishops to train them for this, either in seminary (cf. Optatam Totius”, No. 13) or, in individual cases, afterwards. In fact, the Pope has actually foreseen a process by which a priest could learn how to celebrate the Gregorian Mass on his own. Bishop Fernando Arêas Rifan was astute enough to see this instantly and explained it in July of last year. He remarked that a priest could learn the Latin and rubrics on his own by celebrating ‘privately’ under Article 2 of S.P., that he could then invite some faithful to join him under Article 4, and would finally be ready to qualify for its regularly-scheduled celebrations under Article 5 (including the restriction of 5.2, which only applies to public celebrations, since it is only a part of Article 5, pertaining to regularly-scheduled Masses). We could add to this a preliminary step: the recourse of saying ‘dry Masses’ first (in which there is no Consecration).

“Summorum Pontificum” also recognises the legitimacy of the New Roman Mass, and various dicasteries have described it as the “normative liturgy” in the territorial particular churches of the Latin Church. It is argued that, therefore, faithful have a right to benefit from the renewed Eucharistic liturgy. If rights arise from both Masses, the Church may specify how to separate them. There are limitations on numbers of priests per diocese, numbers of hours in a day and sacred places in any territory, and also of numbers of Masses that any priest may celebrate in one day (vide Canon 905). It is for this reason that S.P. lays down certain norms to ensure that the rights pertaining to each Mass are respected so that the liturgical life of the faithful can be enriched by both.

Following publication of the Holy Father’s apostolic letter, there were indeed very encouraging signs that many bishops and priests would ensure that the faithful could benefit from celebrations of the Traditional Latin Mass. In the U.S.A., for example, the number of every-Sunday Gregorian Masses grew by one hundred and forty-eight per cent (148%) in the first twelve months, and every-Sunday Traditional Masses were restored in thirty U.S. sees in that same time. As a result, every-Sunday Gregorian Masses are now offered in eighty per cent (80%) of American dioceses, and about ninety-six per cent (96%) of American faithful live in those sees. In France, eighty per cent (80%) of the dioceses have the Gregorian Mass every Sunday, and eighty-five per cent (85%) of the faithful live in them. The rate of growth in the numbers of such Masses and the dioceses in which they are offered is even more impressive in the case of Germany. There were important improvements in other countries as well, including New Zealand, Italy, the U.K., Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Poland, and the Philippines. In many other countries, however, there were very few improvements. These include Spain, Canada, Australia, Ireland, and most of Eastern Europe. There are absolutely no Gregorian Masses on any basis in Catholic Portugal or in Catholic Malta or Catholic Croatia, and very few in most of Latin America, Africa, India, and other undeveloped areas, even where the Catholic population is substantial. Many bishops have simply ignored the motu proprio; others have actively and publicly opposed it. In numerous cases, bishops and priests simply do not have the resources needed to assure reasonable—even any—access to joyful celebration of the Roman Mass of Tradition. As a result, it is too often the case that access to this liturgical treasure is confined to the richer countries and peoples. Faithful who suffer material hardship are now being denied spiritual riches as well. This is a grave injustice. The Gregorian Rite of Mass is a work of God the Holy Ghost. It is not offered for the rich and the privileged alone. Moreover, “it must be given due honour” everywhere “for its venerable and ancient usage”, for the Latin Church exists throughout the world in the local dioceses, military ordinariates, and other particular churches.

The Solution: An Exempt International and ‘Personal’ Diocese

Campos, Brazil, 2002
The remedy has been considered before and even proffered to the Priestly Society of St. Pius X, and a canonical precedent has been set in Brazil to prove its usefulness locally. I propose that His Holiness create an international particular church dedicated to provision of the Gregorian Rite of Mass and other pre-conciliar disciplines and rites. A particular church is a diocese or its equivalent according to Canon 368. It is a diocese or archdiocese, a territorial abbacy or prelature, a vicariate or prefecture apostolic, a military ordinariate, or an apostolic administration; it is not a personal prelature, which has only clerics for members (vide Canon 294). The New Mass is the normative Eucharistic liturgy in over 3,000 dioceses; the Traditional Mass, in only one apostolic administration in a tiny territory in Brazil. Since the new structure would not comprise all the faithful of the Latin Church in a particular territory, let it be given the title of St. Gregory the Great after the name of the pope who is credited with giving it definitive form.

The new structure would be ‘exempt’, meaning that it would not belong to any ecclesiastical province but would be directly subject to the Holy See (just as the Campos structure is). It would be international in extent. This does not mean that it would cover the entire world. More likely, it would be excluded from some places for political reasons. No one but the Pope should be an ordinary in the See of Rome, for instance. Concordats with various countries might exclude it from some of them for the time being as well, something which could be rectified gradually. And it might be excluded from some countries for particularly serious reasons (e.g. China). But a diocese can have discontinuous territory, and some in Italy and Germany, for instance, do (the Diocese of Münster is a good example).

The jurisdiction would be ‘personal’ in the non-canonical sense that it would have as its subjects not all the persons of a defined territory but only those who are registered in it. This is possible under Canon 372.2, in which particular churches may be established in a given territory which “are distinguished by the rite of the faithful or by some other similar quality”. The Apostolic Administration of St. John-Mary Vianney already provides a model for this in Brazil. It has as its normative Eucharistic liturgy the Missal of 1962 and all the pre-conciliar forms of the Sacraments and other rituals. The difference is that it is confined to the territory of one diocese out of 266 in one country out of about 200, whereas this new structure would exist in most of the some 3,000 dioceses throughout the world. It might be considered expedient to require that those registering in the structure have a domicile or habitually live and worship in the territory of one of its parishes and missions, and that none of its parishes or missions be larger than the combined territory of three contiguous territorial dioceses. The structure would administer to its subjects the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Matrimony, and Holy Orders, and it would bury its own dead. Other faithful as well as its own would be free to receive the Sacraments of Penance, the Eucharist, and Extreme Unction from it, and they would be able, of course, to fulfil their holyday obligations at its Masses.

This particular church might start its life as an apostolic administration governed by a titular bishop chosen by the Pope to rule it in his name. This is a provisional structure equivalent in law to a diocese except insofar as it is limited in its constitutions (if at all), and governed either by a titular bishop or a simple priest. (A titular bishop would be expected, since the Campos has that for a tiny territory; the Campos structure is also not limited as a diocese.) Like any diocese, it could include vicariates (perhaps called 'provinces') and/or archdeaconries, and its parishes and missions could be grouped into deaneries. The vicariates could be superintended by auxiliary bishops or by episcopal vicars, all of whom would be completely subject to the proper ordinary of the structure. There could also be titular bishops working in the structure who are attached to some of its traditionalist societies. The intention would be to promote it into an exempt diocese and then into an exempt archdiocese. It would have its own cathedral (perhaps at Trent for symbolic reasons, or else at Paris, which is certainly the real capital of world traditionalism and which also has fairly close access to Rome) and could erect its own territorial parishes and missions and train and incardinate its own diocesan priests. Its bishop would share with his flock an attachment to the Latin liturgical tradition. He would know his sheep and they would understand and love their shepherd. He would be able to reconcile traditionalist chapels which are currently unaffiliated, as well as small societies of traditionalist priests who are currently not regularised. The thirty or so traditionalist societies of apostolic life and institutes of consecrated life might be invited to accept incorporation into the structure. This would impart a unity to them and need not affect current arrangements made between such societies and the local bishops, since the local bishops would maintain control of their diocesan property and its disposition.

The structure should be regarded as a provision which would grow in importance over time and which would supplement rather than replace the Masses currently offered by diocesan priests under the norms of S.P. In the earlier years, the new structure would mostly negotiate with local bishops the use of existing sacred places for celebration of its Masses. Gradually, however, it would come to acquire its own sacred places, appointed appropriately. As a gesture of friendship, the new bishop might, in some cases, offer local bishops the use of its churches and chapels for celebration of the New Mass at available times. This is already being done in some churches controlled by the F.S.S.P.

One advantage of the new structure would be its ability more efficiently to match available resources to demand for the Traditional Mass. Local bishops should regard it not as a limitation on their authority but as a help to enable them to accord the Gregorian Mass its due honour. Those bishops who would prefer to keep the new structure at bay could, of course, assign their own diocesan priests to offer the Traditional Mass under the terms of S.P. and at good times and convenient and beautiful places; they would also be able to refuse to allow the new structure to use their sacred places for the celebration of Mass. However, it would be in the best interests of these two parties to work co-operatively. The international bishop will want to foster goodwill with local bishops so as to acquire use of their churches; the local bishops will want to work harmoniously with the international bishop so that he might offer the services of his priests during a time when their number is few. Moreover, no local bishop wants to lose face by refusing to help the new structure only to discover that some local traditionalists have managed to fund the building of a new church for it right across the street from his cathedral!

The International Traditional Diocese and the S.S.P.X

S.S.P.X International Seminary, Ecône
I suggest that the Pope lift the declarations of excommunication against the S.S.P.X bishops and then erect the international structure and offer the S.S.P.X a place in it as a society of apostolic life; that is, the Society would be incorporated into it. During an initial period of discussions regarding doctrine, the Holy See could make this arrangement provisional, able to be annulled by either party. It could also allow the Society to keep its real property in civil corporations controlled by the current Society leadership and under its current rules of ownership; and it could stipulate as a norm that the Society always be granted one bishop from among its priests and one additional bishop for every one hundred of its clerics.

What would be the risk to the S.S.P.X of accepting such an arrangement? The only risk is that many Society priests might become comfortable in the new structure and might be unwilling to leave it should their leaders return to a state of separation after having some dispute with Rome. However, this would be a risk to a lesser extent even if Rome were to grant this new structure and then incorporate the Institute of the Good Shepherd (I.B.P.) into it (for example). The I.B.P. currently has the right to criticise Vatican II documents and is lead by former Society luminaries.

We might ask, on the other side, what risks might be entailed by the Society should it refuse incorporation into such a structure. While the growth of the Society was impressive from 1970 to about 2000, it seems to have slowed considerably in recent years. In contrast, under S.P., there is explosive growth. Most traditionalist faithful prefer tradition with the Pope’s blessing to tradition without it. Consider the situation in Latin America, where forty-six per cent of the faithful on this planet live. After having a free hand for forty years, there is not even one every-Sunday Society Mass for the entire Republic of Peru, including its huge capital city of Lima. The Society has finally acquired a chapel in Lima but still does not offer Mass there every Sunday. In contrast, after only three months under S.P., the Oratorian Fathers in Lima started offering the old Mass every Sunday. Looking throughout Latin America, the S.S.P.X has a stronghold only in Argentina, where its seminary lies. Elsewhere, it hardly exists. But regularised Masses are popping up all over the countryside in Brazil, Chile, and now Mexico. I shall provide a more detailed analysis of the numbers later. I can show without difficulty that regularised Masses are now taking over in most places. This will likely continue over the course of the next year and would be augmented should the Pope grant the international structure being advocated here. In other words, the current and future provisions for the Gregorian Mass which are controlled by Rome could assure the decline and then the demise of the Society of St. Pius X. Ironically, this has all happened at the behest of the Society itself, for it was the Society that demanded the declaration encoded in S.P. It brings to mind the old adage: Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.

But matters of principle are more important here because we trust in God. Because the salvation of souls is the highest law, disobedience to legitimate authority can sometimes be rightful. I agree that the Society engaged in rightful disobedience from 1976 until about 2000. It acted to protect the Faith against the conciliar and post-conciliar errors (even if the former are lethal expressive errors rather than dogmatic in character, they are still lethal), and to preserve a Mass which was being unjustly suppressed, for, as we now know, it had never been abrogated. But Rome offered the Society protection from the local bishops and from all the harmful reforms in 2000. At that time, by Bishop Fellay’s own admission, the S.S.P.X was offered incorporation into the very structure now being advocated here and granted locally, only one year later, to the Campos priests of the Union of St. John-Mary Vianney. Rightful disobedience can be prompted by necessity but not by convenience.

I point out, moreover, that what Rome offered the Society in 2000 was far more than what Archbishop Lefebvre was prepared to accept in 1988. He only rescinded his agreement because Rome delayed in appointing a bishop, not owing to any problem in the Protocol of Agreement, and 'the problem of a bishop' has been solved, because Rome, in 2000, was prepared to accept all four Society bishops, not just one. Some Society leaders have suggested that much has happened since 1988 to change the situation. Really? Has there been a substantive worsening of the situation since then (and, especially, since 2005)? One of the Society’s greatest complaints is the scandalous Assisi œcumenical event. But the Assisi scandal took place in 1986 and, the last time I checked my calendar, 1986 was two years prior to 1988. There is a difference between a reason for disobedience and an excuse for it.

The Society is now saying that, first, it will not accept regularisation until important doctrinal difficulties have been overcome, and it is adding that it cannot accept Vatican II doctrines “in light of tradition” because its conception of tradition differs markedly from that of Benedict XVI and his curia. But we might ask if faithful are required to adhere completely to non-infallible teaching interpreted by any mean. They are not, and the Pope has even granted the I.B.P. a right to respectful criticism of Vatican II documents. The Pope has not said that the Society’s position on tradition is incompatible with the Faith, or that it is disallowed. The Magisterium is free to rule on this at any time but has not done so. The problem is only that Benedict XVI does not feel that he can (or should, perhaps) make binding the Society’s interpretations on, say, Godfried Cardinal Daneels or Roger Cardinal Mahony or Bishop Remi De Roo of Victoria. Given how pervasive the ‘progressive’ wing of the Church is today, the Pope could only impose Society interpretations at the cost of dividing the Church in twain. It might even be worse than that. Who knows exactly what killed John Paul I? While a holy pope must be prepared to accept martyrdom, he is not called to seek it, especially when it would prevent him from doing his sacred duty. Benedict XVI seems to feel that he can allow but not impose the Society’s more controversial positions in the short term. I agree that it is worse than that, since, as a former peritus at the Council, this Pope probably disagrees with the Society positions on some things. But what future popes might think is uncertain. The question is whether or not any faithful has the right to wait until conditions are perfect before accepting the legitimate authority established by Christ. Surely, if the Society positions are all correct, they will eventually triumph. The question today is how to achieve that at the lowest possible spiritual cost. Our duty is to obey legitimate authority whenever this is morally possible, not to obey it only when the Pope and bishops act without error or fault.

The hardliners in the S.S.P.X seem to be men who prefer to play tennis, whereas Benedict XVI prefers to play chess. His Holiness has an expansive vision. He realises that terrible mistakes have been made in the Church over the past forty years. He may even suspect that he supported some of these mistakes himself. His recent words and actions suggest that he considers the problem to be very large and the remedy to be a series of steps which will take perhaps a century to implement. He considers it to be his duty to begin this process and steer the Barque of Peter back on course. For that reason, he has liberated the Gregorian Mass, begun the process of restoring sacred chant and traditional vestments and furnishings, imposed needed corrections to the stream-of-consciousness mistranslations of the New Mass, set an example in favour of Communion on the tongue and kneeling, and even begun a project (it is said) to traditionalise the Ordinary of the New Mass, for some precious texts were suppressed when it was adopted. But these sorts of changes are necessary but not sufficient remedies because the larger problem is philosophical and cultural.

The Larger Problem

The problem is that Western civilisation has lost the Faith. This disaster did not occur in a decade or even a century. It is the outcome of a process which began with the Black Death of 1348, which may have killed as many as half of all Europeans in only one year, making the Trade Center bombings in New York look irrelevant. The plague recurred locally about once a decade from then until 1490, and then much less frequently until its last visitation at Marseilles in 1720. The bubonic plague undermined faith because people could not understand why each recurrence wiped out sinless children (who had no immunity) but left alive many of the worst of the adults (who had developed immunity by surviving previous outbreaks). If this was a divine scourge for sin, why did it seem to target the innocent?

The Black Death heralded the end of the High Middle Ages and the coming of humanism, the Renaissance, the Reformation, and then other movements, such as seventeenth-century Lutheran pietism, eighteenth-century Deism, philosophical scepticism and subjectivism, the agricultural and then industrial and then scientific revolutions, nineteenth-century nationalism and naturalism, and then socialism and communism. These movements were all differing elaborations of a humanising influence: they all attempted to create a paradise on earth (or merely react against it) because people had come to distrust the future hope of Heaven. This new impulse led to the American and French Revolutions and replaced the Cult of God with the Cult of Man. Owing to a social Darwinism and a scientific revolution, people came to believe firmly in foolish notions, one being that ‘science had disproved Christianity’. The Christian order was finally smashed by two devastating wars in the twentieth century, separated by a Great Depression. The social and sexual revolution of the Age of Aquarius was the final blow before the descent into the utter decadence of the 1970s. After a brief respite, a new movement favouring sexual licence and economic irresponsibility has continued.

The hardliners in the Society of St. Pius X have a simple solution: condemn all the popular modern heresies and purge the Church of their adherents, starting with many prominent cardinals and then working down from there. Some of them would say that, in order to save what is left of the Church, restore her, and then convert the world, we first need a purification. Benedict XVI is aware that salus animarum lex suprema est, however. He knows that, should he expel all the heretics, they likely will not come back and will be irretrievably lost. He also knows that the Church would be reduced to a tiny remnant and, while that may be unavoidable some day prior to the Last Coming, we should not actually advance such an outcome. Martyrdom is good: suicide is bad. On the contrary, the Pope considers it to be his work to lead the sheep safely into the Lord’s pasture, to coax them in. Under that plan, any wholesale condemnation of post-conciliar error is out of the question. Correction of such error is a work of intellection, guided by the Spirit, and it must proceed carefully and thoroughly (no matter how much fun it might be to expel the liberal cardinals). What is ultimately needed is a re-presentation of the Faith in formulations which in every way preserve and proclaim dogma and tradition but which also take into account those popular misconceptions which have led people into the darkness of a contemporary secularism. This is a huge undertaking, and the correction of post-conciliar error is only a preliminary step to it.

Hardliners in the S.S.P.X such as Bishop Richard Williamson are fully aware that any demand for a papal condemnation of all contemporary errors in the Church is a deal-killer. He knows that, to insist on that is a sure way to prevent any rapprochement with Rome in the foreseeable future. There is just no way that this Pope or his successors will reach an agreement on all points of doctrine with the S.S.P.X over the next ten or even fifty years. The hardliners reason that, until the Pope himself renounces his errors and those of his colleagues, there is no hope that he can save the rest of the Church. As a result, it will not accept regularisation until all doctrinal issues are solved. It fears being subject to a hierarchy which is tolerating error, even should Rome agree that the Society is entitled to adhere to its current positions in their integrity; it fears being associated, even being tainted, with error. But His Holiness does not adhere to any heresies willingly (if at all), and he also realises that he does not have the time or the means to complete a counter-revolution. The Pope, for his part, wants the Society to be regularised because he knows that, as a recognised part of the Church, it can help move the faithful and the world back in the right direction.

If the Society will not accept what Bishop Fellay admits is the ‘Rolls Royce’ juridical structure, then the Holy Father should exert pressure on it to do so. The best way to achieve this is to create the structure first and then ask the Society to join it. When it refuses, the approved traditionalist societies could be incorporated into it (perhaps at their own request or when asked by the Pope). If the Pope cannot gain the co-operation of the S.S.P.X in his divine task, he can still raise up his own army to do this holy work. As the Society declines, many of its priests will simply join the Institute of the Good Shepherd, which has been granted the right to question post-conciliar ideas but is regularised. The I.B.P. would also be part of the new international structure for tradition. Sooner or later, Bishop Fellay must make a choice. Will he come to the assistance of the Vicar of Christ or will he stick it out with hardliners who will ‘nevah’ reconcile with Rome? The hardliners may have a bleak future. At the current rate of growth in approved Gregorian Masses, they could end up as a small sect worshipping in broom closets and callboxes. How can people in that condition help to restore all things in Christ? Those with more wisdom in the S.S.P.X need to realise that their present form has served its purpose and has proved to be absolutely necessary, but new circumstances call for a different approach.

Only Christ Himself can save this troubled world, and only his Vicar on earth can bring the people to their Lord and Redeemer, and only our Lady, the Queen of Heaven, can mediate all graces between Christ and man. But it is a game of chess, not a tennis match, not a quick exchange of thrust and counter. It must be done step by step; it is a work of mind and spirit. The first task is to restore the Mass. The Mass economically embodies and projects the essentials of the Faith, and its return will begin the process of restoring health to the Church, a feat which will also require a restoration of catechesis and a repudiation of modernist theological schools one by one. Once the Church is made whole, the world can be conquered. The good news is that secularism cannot bring peace to man and therefore cannot fulfil its promise. The bad news is that peace is not what man needs: I come not to bring peace but a sword. Yes, what lies ahead is a battle indeed but the general leading the forces of light needs to have sound judgement and not just a quick mind.

Following are a series of potential objections to my proposal, and some responses.


Local bishops will never accept a universal diocese for Tradition. It would infringe on their legitimate authority and divide the Church in every diocese. The local bishops would lose control in their own dioceses! They would threaten rebellion to prevent this and, should it be implemented, they would simply not allow the international bishop to use their sacred places to offer Mass at. This would make the new structure a dead letter.


Local bishops already have lost control of the Gregorian Mass. They simply do not know it yet. But they are about to find out, especially after the P.C.E.D. starts to define the norms of S.P. There is no reason that liturgical variety must mean disunity. Do the Eastern churches cause disunity? Do the military ordinariates? Do the abbacies nullius? Does the Apostolic Administration of St. John-Mary Vianney? By no means.

The erection of a new international diocese would not cause the local bishops to lose control in their dioceses. The main reason is that it will take decades for the new structure to acquire a network of its own chapels and churches. For many years, the international bishop will have to go ‘hat in hand’ to the local bishops to ask them for use of their churches to offer Mass. A gradual strengthening of the new structure will mean that it will grow in close co-operation with the local bishops, and become inextricably associated with them. Moreover, the international bishop cannot afford to antagonise local bishops in general because they are associated with one another. To provoke one is to risk alienating all the others—others who control most of the church buildings! Third, bishops who really want to keep the new structure out of their territory can simply offer their own priests and faithful good access to fitting Gregorian Masses under the terms of S.P.

No, on the contrary, the new international bishop will be able to offer the local bishops assistance in satisfying the legitimate rights of the faithful under S.P. The new structure will have an auxiliary effect, not a challenging one, and it will only have the authority to organise Masses in the Gregorian Rite, which are a tiny per centage of all Masses (less than one-half of one per cent in developed countries; less than one-tenth of one per cent elsewhere). It could be added that Masses offered by the new structure could, in some cases, take away support for local priests who are offering the Gregorian Mass merely to annoy their own bishops!


The new structure cannot thrive: it has not the means. Furthermore, how will such a jurisdiction take account of the differing laws over as many as 200 nations?


Many local bishops will assist the new structure because there are many who do not object to the Gregorian Mass but, at the same time, do not wish to be responsible for offering it. Some of them do not have enough priests to do the work of their dioceses, and they do not wish to waste manpower to offer a Mass which might not be very lucrative.

Secondly, the new structure need not be pervasive in the short term, during which period the number of diocesan Masses offered under S.P. will be increasing at a great rate. In the shorter term, the new structure can mostly provide unity of purpose to the traditionalist orders and societies. For example, its bishop or bishops can ordain its priests and deacons and administer Confirmation, while also allowing some local bishops to assist with this. The new structure will gradually reconcile independent chapels as parishes and gain parish property mostly in the larger cities, where resources allow for this. That is not a problem. The Church has some very limited structures even for a long-term basis, such as the prefecture apostolic for the Galapagos Islands.

Second Part of Response

The Church has some remarkably extensive jurisdictions as well. For example, the Armenian Rite Excarchate of Latin America covers thirty-five independent nations, seven British colonies, four French colonies, two Dutch colonies, and two American possessions: that is fifty jurisdictions in all, not counting internal divisions, such as the numerous states in Mexico. They seem to manage. There are other structures, especially in the Eastern churches, which cover several—even many—countries. The new international bishop need only e-mail his Armenian confrère to find out how to do it.


The new structure would marginalise tradition and create a ghetto.


First of all, this new structure would supplement, not replace, diocesan Masses offered under S.P. It would grow from a mustard seed to a tree over a very long period of time, during which there would be ample opportunity to foster good relations with those who prefer the New Mass.

Secondly, even where the new structure did have its own parishes, in the short term, it would mostly be using local diocesan churches for Mass. So it would not often be separate at first, and it would not gain separation all at once but at different rates in different places.

Thirdly, once it had acquired a network of its own churches, there would be nothing to prevent the international bishop from inviting local dioceses to use its own sacred places for the celebration of the New Mass, at available times. The F.S.S.P. does this in Scranton and in Vancouver and there are no problems with it.

Lastly, it will take time for traditionalists to forge good relations with progressives in the Church, if this is even possible. We have been at war for forty years. While we might stop firing our machine guns at one another, we are probably not quite ready for hugs and kisses--and certainly not for handshakes during the Communion. After all, let us be honest: many progressives simply hate us. Time heals all wounds. For too long, they have tried to take away our treasure. Once they get used to the fact that we are here to stay, relations will improve.


An international diocese could become a locus for imposed tinkering by Rome. Rome has already suggested that, over time, the two Roman Masses will likely influence each other. Even before the cat was out of the bag, Benedict XVI reformed the Good Friday Prayers. What is next?


Rome can just as easily tinker with the Gregorian Masses directly. Both with and without this new structure, the traditionalist societies (e.g. F.S.S.P.) would be protected by their own constitutions. We must remember that they offer Mass under the regime of laws particular to their constitutions, and not under the regime of “Summorum Pontificum”. Of course, these laws can also be reformed but then, the Pope does have supreme authority and there is no way around that! Ultimately, however, a Pope might hesitate to tinker if this could cause the S.S.P.X to leave the structure with its property intact or, should it have never joined the structure, other traditionalists could give up on Rome and repair to the Society. This risk will limit tinkering considerably and for decades to come. It is true that the time will come when we are all comfortable with a regularised internatioal structure. But, by then, it is progressivism which will be a dead duck, not traditionalism. Just look how fast the progressives are nose-diving their aeroplane into the Pacific Ocean!

We must also keep in mind that, whatever hopes current prelates might have to merge the two Missals, God may have other plans. Just because liberals like to scheme, that does not mean that they are reading the situation accurately. They got it wrong with Vatican II, after all: they expected wild success and were met by colossal failure. They are like the incompetent classmates the cheat should not copy from.


Will not this new structure be less flexible for the regularised traditionalist societies?

It might be objected that it is not in the interest of currently-regularised traditionalist societies of apostolic life to become incorporated into the new international structure. If they decline such incorporation, they can work either under the local bishop or under the international bishop in accordance with particular circumstances at a given place. It would be more flexible for them to remain aloof from the structure. Moreover, surely a bishop will be more likely to welcome the apostolate of a society if he maintains control over it, being able to remove it at will.


Well, that would certainly be a good argument before promulgation of “Summorum Pontificum”. (It is also an argument advanced by me before a listmember in another forum criticised it. I give credit to Mr. 'Dom Guzman'. ) These days, however, the presence of a Mass from a group of priests who specialise in its celebration is a great blessing for bishops, not a threat to them. We need to keep in mind that, should a bishop expel a society of traditionalist priests, he will not be able to prevent some of his own priests from offering that same Mass for the laics who once attended it, perhaps even as a challenge to his authority. Even worse, he is bound to find a priest to offer at least one daily Gregorian Mass, in order to give the ancient and venerable rite its “due honour” under Article 1 of S.P. Such an expulsion would make that harder to achieve and maintain. Thirdly, the local bishop cannot prevent a traditionalist society from founding an apostolate in the territory of his see if that society is incorporated in an international structure. Given that fact, he is more likely to welcome that society because, once it is celebrating Mass on diocesan property, he has a measure of control over it, for the acquisition of suitable property elsewhere might be difficult and expensive. In other words, it is precisely by offering the use of diocesan property to traditionalist societies that the local bishop acquires at least some influence in them.

Really, the only difference under an international structure is that it is now the international bishop who must go ‘hat in hand’ to the local bishops to seek the use of their churches, whereas, before, the superiors of the traditionalist societies themselves had to do this.

Lastly, an international bishop could see to it that the Masses of differing traditionalist societies be distributed appropriately so that faithful are well served.


There must be a catch here. It cannot be that an international structure will benefit everyone. How can it possibly benefit opposing parties? Actually, in current circumstances, it would. The catch is not in what is being proposed but in what Benedict XVI has already conceded. “Summorum Pontificum” is the catch: it changes the situation, and the beauty of this is that it mainly clarifies what was always the case in the law. Under S.P., every priest de facto gains a general right to celebrate the Gregorian Mass—a right he already enjoyed in law, even if Rome refused to admit it before. It becomes costly for a bishop to prevent a parish priest from exercising this right (it can be done only by restricting the number of Masses he says to one per Sunday—during a time when priests are not numerous) and legally impossible for any bishop to prevent a retired priest. That is a huge change. It means that no bishop can ever be sure he can stop a Gregorian Mass. By trying to do so, therefore, he risks losing face, which is the one thing that would be fatal to his authority. But there is more. Under Article 1 of S.P., it appears that every local bishop also has the duty to offer at least one Gregorian Mass on a daily basis. But there is even more than that. Smoke signals coming out of Rome suggest that the Masses of the S.S.P.X also fulfil the Sunday obligation as long as participants intend no schism—which they do not. No bishop can ever be sure to prevent the S.S.P.X from ‘moving in’ to his see either.

As a result, the bishops have already lost control. Provision of an international diocese does not achieve that: it merely responds to and takes account of it. It does not hinder local bishops or infringe on their power, a power diminished de facto only by S.P. On the contrary, it could help them to achieve two things. First, it may assist them in offering Masses which they must offer in law, Masses which laics may constantly clamour and lobby for until they are granted. Secondly, it helps them to avoid losing face. They cannot stop the Gregorian Mass from coming to town. But, by offering the use of their churches for its fitting celebration, they can make it look as if this is somehow a victory for them as well: they can support the change and explain away their past behaviour by saying that the situation has changed under this Pope and they simply followed the lead of all the popes when they were in office. As Sir Humphrey Appleby of “Yes, Minister” would say: Truth is irrelevant; only appearances count.

The real catch is not even “Summorum Pontificum”. It is the fact that priests have enjoyed the right to celebrate the Gregorian Mass all along: they simply did not know this. And the reason for the perdurance of this right is that Pope Paul VI failed to suppress the old Mass in law. And he failed to suppress it because he had not the power to suppress the Work of God the Holy Ghost. As St. Thomas explained in his Treatise on Law, an ordinance which violates a norm of Moral Law is not a bad law but, rather, no law at all (cf. S.T. II-II, Q. CIV, art. 5, ad. 3). And as Alfons Cardinal Stickler explained when commenting on the conclusions of the Commission of Cardinals of 1986, No Pope could “forbid a Mass which was from the beginning valid and was the Mass of thousands of saints and faithful" (“Latin Mass Magazine”, Vol. 4, No. 3 [Summer, 1995], p. 14). The real reason that an international diocese could work, then, is that it accords with the divine law, the law of God Himself. May His Vicar on earth realise its benefit to the entire Church Militant!

Peter Karl T. Perkins
Victoria, B.C., Canada