Keep your eyes peeled for a particular interpretation of the Pope’s intention expressed in his Letter of 12 March to bishops about the SSPX excommunications.
An assumption will now be advanced that the Pope is checking the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" with which His Holiness is displeased.
For example, John Thavis in his CNS piece writes: "Third, [the Pope] put the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" on a shorter leash. By placing it under the control of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the pope effectively limited the commission’s ability to freelance agreements with traditionalist groups without proper attention to doctrinal differences."
Now I read that George Wiegel has predictably chimed in saying: "…there will be no more free-lancing from Ecclesia Dei, which had become a loose cannon careening around the ecclesial deck. The reining in of Ecclesia Dei and its subordination to the Catholic Church’s principal doctrinal office also sends an important signal to the Levebvrist leadership,…"
It looks as if the talking points have been distributed.
I am not convinced that this is an accurate picture of what is happening, coordinated through it may seem to be.
Remember that the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" was set up as an "ad hoc" commission, with a task and faculties. The task and faculties must be modified according as exigencies require. Changing the task or structure of the PCED is not necessary a check or a reining-back. The PCED exists at the pleasure of the Roman Pontiff for whatever purpose the Roman Pontiff aims it at.
The next step in the process with the SSPX is to set up a framework for discussion of the doctrine expressed in the Council’s documents.
Putting the PCED in closer alignment with the CDF would signal that the Holy See is serious about doctrinal talks, not necessarily that the Holy Father is displeased with the PCED.
Once Summorum Pontificum was in force in Sept. 2007 it seemed sensible to incorporate the PCED into the Congregation for Divine Worship. I even had some conversation about that when not long ago I revisited the offices of the PCED where I once worked, lo those many years ago.
However, PCED no longer needs to issue faculties for the older Mass. Summorum Pontificum took care of that. If there are liturgical questions, I suppose the PCED could still respond or a new desk could be created in the CDWDS. Summorum Pontificum designated the PCED as the reference point in disputes when priests don’t make the TLM available. Let us keep in mind that in Sept. 2010, the three year period Pope Benedict mentioned to access Summorum Pontificum will come. That may be the time for more restructuring. It is the right time of year also, given the Curia’s annual ebb and flow.
I see the Holy Father’s comments about the PCED as being practical and purposeful rather than punitive. The next step must be doctrinal talks. The Holy Father stressed doctrine not discipline as the distinct obstacle. It is entirely reasonable that the PCED should now work even more closely than it has in the past with the CDF, especially when Pope Benedict was still its Prefect. They are even housed in the same building, the Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio.
Furthermore, it is hard to say that a Cardinal retiring at 80 would be because of the Pope’s displeasure for what he did or didn’t do. All the Presidents of the PCED stepped down at 80 years old. That is the way things work. They lose their vote in the conclave and they don’t hold offices.
It is popular right now to scapegoat Cardinal Castrillon. Whatever his role in the mishandling of the steps leading to the lifting of the excommunications may be, he was not as lonely a wolf as he is portrayed by many. I understand that there was, in fact, some consultation of a group of curial heads before the lifting of the excommunication. If something went wrong, and a target was needed, it is not hard to imagine that someone such as, say, the sostituto might work to keep the blame focused on a single point to be burned.