The Next Logical Step: the Pont. Comm. “Ecclesia Dei” RESTRUCTURED

Because of the good progress of the last few years with the SSPX, His Holiness has now taken the next, logical step.

Pope Benedict has now implemented what he said he would do concerning the ad hoc Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei".  He has fused it into the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, making the Prefect of the CDF, ex officio, the Commission’s President and retaining the office of a Secretary and giving it also staff.

The Pope did this by means of a new Motu Proprio, Ecclesiae unitatem, signed on the anniversary of the establishment of the PCED in 1988. 

This was the next and logical step in a long process. 

Keep in mind that Cardinal Castrillon sent a letter to SSPX Bishop and Superior Bernard Fellay enumerating various point that the SSPX had to adhere to before any further dialogue could take place.  The SSPX effectively signed off on those points.  This signaled an attitude toward continuing dialogue. The next step could be taken. 

The Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum (which was right to issue regardless of the existence of the SSPX) was gesture of good will concerning a division over liturgy.  This was a relatively easy thing to do, despite the controversy, because it merely expanded the rights priests should have already clearly enjoyed. 

The Holy Father then did another relatively easy thing in lifting the excommunications incurred with the four SSPX bishops in accepting illicit consecration in 1988.  Censures are meant to remedy a problem.  The problem wasn’t being remedied.  It was clear that something else had to be done to remedy the situation.  Thus, despite the controversy, this was a relatively easy thing to do.

Once those relatively easy things were done, the really hard part begins.  The doctrinal discussions.  The Holy Father has now provided a structure in the Curia, in the proper dicastery, for those doctrinal discussion.

Keep in mind that no one in the Curia has a better handle on the issues surrounding the SSPX and their concerns than Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI.

Here is my fast translation of Ecclesiae unitatem, released in Latin and Italian only, with my emphases and comments.  I worked mainly from the Italian text, since surely that was the language of composition, checking against the Latin.  Thus, I included the papal "We" from the Latin (not the Italian) because … well… I like it.

Apostolic Letter
Ecclesiae Unitatem
of the Supreme Pontiff
Benedict XVI
given Motu Proprio

1.The task of guarding the unity of the Church, with the concern for offering to all the aids for responding in an opportune way to this vocation and divine grace, pertains in a particular way to the Successor of the Apostle Peter, who is the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of the unity both of Bishops and of the faithful[1]. The supreme and fundamental priority of the Church, in every age, of leading men towards an encounter with God must be promoted through the undertaking of attaining the common witness of faith of all Christians.

2. In adherence to this mandate, subsequent to the act by which Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, on 30 June 1988, illicitly conferred episcopal ordination on four priests, Pope John Paul II, of venerable memory, instituted, on 2 July 1988, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei "with the task of collaborating with the bishops, with the dicasteries of the Roman Curia and with the circles concerned, in order to facilitate full ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, communities or individual religious men and women until now in various ways connected to the Fraternity founded by [Archbp.] Lefebvre, who would wish to remain united to the Successor Peter in the Catholic Church, preserving their spiritual and liturgical traditions, in light of the Protocol signed on 5 May, last, by Cardinal Ratzinger and Mons. Lefebvre"[2]. [This was the Protocol which spoke of a canonical status for the SSPX and which said they could have a bishop.  That same night, Archbp. Lefevbre, for whatever reason, repudiated the Protocol and determined to consecrated bishops himself.  Pope Benedict is citing this old Protocol as a signal.  It is a reference to a moment when the Church and SSPX were very close to pulling the pieces together.]

3. In this way, adhering faithfully to the same task of serving the universal communion of the Church in her also visible expression and fulfilling every effort so that to all those who truly have the desire for unity it might be made possible to remain in it or to find it anew, We (Lat. voluimus) desired to widen and update, with the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, the general indications already contained in the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei concerning the possibility of using the Missale Romanum of 1962, through more precise and detailed norms[3].

4. In the same spirit and the same effort of fostering the overcoming of every break and division in the Church and to heal a wound felt in an ever more painful way in the ecclesial fabric, We desired to remit the excommunication of the four Bishops ordained illicitly by Mons. Lefebvre. With such a decision, We intended to take away an obstacle which could have jeopardized the opening of a door to dialogue and in this way invite the Bishops and the "Fraternity of Saint Pius X" to regain the path towards full communion with the Church. As We explained in the Letter to the Catholic Bishops of 10 March, last, the remission of the excommunication was a provision in the sphere of ecclesiastical discipline in order to free those persons from the burden of conscience represented by the gravest ecclesiastical censure.  But the doctrinal questions, obviously, remain and, so long they are not clarified, the Fraternity does not have a canonical statute in the Church, and its ministers cannot in a legitimate way exercise any ministry. [Again, the canonical status of the priests of the SSPX and the bishops has not changed.]

5. Precisely because the problems which must now be treated with the Fraternity are of an essentially doctrinal nature, We have decided – twenty-one years after the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei, and as We had planned to do[4] – to rethink the structure of the Commission Ecclesia Dei, joining it more closely with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

6. Consequently, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei will have the following configuration:

    a) The President of the Commission is the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

    b) The Commission has its own staff structure, comprising a Secretary and Officials.

    c) It will be the task of the President, aided by the Secretary, to present the principle cases and questions of a doctrinal nature to the study and discernment of the ordinary instances of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as well as to submit the results to the superior dispositions of the Supreme Pontiff.  [So... this seems to restrict the mandate of the PCED.  There will probably be some other document, probably not released to the public, which specifies the Commission's mandate.]

7. With this decision, We have desired, in particular, to display our parternal solicitude to the "Fraternity of Saint Pius X" in order to regain full communion with the Church.  We address a pressing invitation to all to pray to the Lord without ceasing, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, "ut unum sint".

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 2 July 2009, the fifth of Our Pontificate.

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI
__________________________
1. Cfr Conc. Oecum. Vat. II, Const. dogm. de Ecclesia, Lumen gentium, 23; Conc. Oecum. Vat. I, Const. dogm. de Ecclesia Christi Pastor aeternus, c. 3: DS 3060.

2. Ioannes Paulus II, Litt. ap. motu proprio datae Ecclesia Dei (2 Iulii 1988), n. 6: AAS 80 (1988), 1498.

3. Cfr Benedictus XVI, Litt. ap. motu proprio datae Summorum Pontificum (7 Iulii 2007): AAS 99 (2007), 777-781.

4. Cfr ibid. art. 11, 781.

Again… and this cannot be repeated often enough… this was the next logical step.

The PCED is now the the tip of the CDF’s spear for the doctrinal discussions with the SSPX. 

I suspect that because that in this new Motu Proprio the Holy Father was silent about the liturgical dimension of the work of the PCED, silent about its ability to reconcile individual priests and religious or resolve liturgial questions, the PCED may retain those functions for the time being.

Let us not forget that Summorum Pontificum states in its provisions that the PCED is the dicastery of competence in the Curia when there are problems in the implementation of its provisions.

I suspect that, in time, the liturgical dimension of the PCED’s work will be teased out of its mandate and given to the Congregation for Divine Worship.  Whether the reconciliation of priests and religious go to the respective dicasteries, I can’t guess at.  That is far more problematic.  In any event, the CDF is nearly always involved with those cases at some stage anyway.

FacebookEmailPinterestGoogle GmailShare/Bookmark

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The Next Logical Step: the Pont. Comm. “Ecclesia Dei” RESTRUCTURED

  1. Mantellone says:

    A brief aside on the Papal “We” – I noticed at the time that it featured in the translation of the Brief read at Archbishop Nichols’s enthronement in Westminster Cathedral. It made it look satisfyingly as though the bishop in question was translating it as he went along…

  2. Stephen M says:

    Our Holy Father is so clever; by this action he ensures that the doctrinal questions are clarified for the Church as a whole and not within some and more private and limited structure.

    What is clarified in terms of doctrine by the Prefect of the CDF (and one could really say by the Holy Father) will be binding as it comes from the very centre of the Church herself, the part of our Church charged with upholding the purity of the faith. No longer a side issue but a central issue. Let the dialogue begin.

  3. Toby says:

    Cardinal Castrillon has done much good, but his handling of the lifting of the excommunications was an unmitigated disaster. It’s good that he has left Ecclesia Dei, and that this issue will be given the responsible and careful oversight it deserves under the CDF.

    The Church’s standing in the world dropped significantly after the Williamson affair; how many souls will have been lost because of it?

  4. Jack says:

    I for one will be sad to Cardinal Hoyes go, a good man, we could use more of him in the Church, as for the williamson business, EVERYONE dropped the ball on that one, having said that, Felley acted extremely swiftly in damage limitation.

  5. Matthew says:

    There is an English translation on the Vatican’s website, though I am sure Father Z’s is better:
    http://212.77.1.245/news_services/press/vis/dinamiche/d1_en.htm

  6. Maureen says:

    ‘We address a pressing invitation to all to pray to the Lord without ceasing, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, “ut unum sint”.’

    I think maybe we better get on that.

  7. chironomo says:

    I have read so many hand-wringing comments elsewhere on this MP today and I just have to scratch my head. What were some people expecting from this document? Some kind of all-encompassing liturgical/ doctrinal/ theological directive revoking the problematic aspects of Vatican II and re-instating the SSPX Bishops and Clergy? From some of the comments (not here, but elsewhere) one would think so….

    Fr. Z is exactly on the mark here. This is a STEP in the process to get the structure in order to allow fruitful discussions on the Liturgical/ Doctrinal questions. That’s all. One of the above comments also has made an interesting point. Whatever issues are discussed and clarified in regards to Vat II will now apply throughout the Church, not only in specialized instances as might be argued if the issues were discussed in the context of the PCED. Very shrewd…

  8. Ted K says:

    According to a certain insider friend of Dr Robert Moynihan (Inside the Vatican, 25 June newsflash),

    “Behind the pretext of changing Ecclesia Dei, and merging it into the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Pope wants to reopen a theological dialogue concerning Vatican II.”

    There will indeed be interesting and significant doctrinal issues arising in these SSPX/CDF discussions related to Vatican II, and they of necessity will be of great importance for the whole Church. So while almost everyone is distracted by the latest encyclical, here is this little Motu Proprio of great importance that sneaks out underneath all this distraction without controversy, a document in which, according to Moynihan,

    “Benedict, knowing that the Second Vatican Council was a watershed in the history of the Church, and knowing also that the interpretation of the Council has led in some unexpected and erroneous directions, has decided to face the basic problem — the problem of the interpretation of Vatican II — by placing the Ecclesia Dei commission in the heart of the most important doctrinal office in the Church, in the CDF.”

    Brick by brick it is indeed if true.

  9. Matt Q says:

    Father Z wrote:

    “[So... this seems to restrict the mandate of the PCED. There will probably be some other document, probably not released to the public, which specifies the Commission’s mandate.]”

    )(

    Is this a good thing or a bad thing, Father, this restriction thing? How should this be interpreted?

    Also, this document is obviously administrative than pastoral. I was thinking there was going to be something a little more head-knocking in it but that was just my wishful thinking. :)

    It’s pretty heartwarming in that it shows the Holy Father is serious about unifying the Society with the Church, and even shows it by going to the point of restructuring a part of the Roman Curia to get it done. Awesome.

    = = = = =

    Stephen M commented:

    “Our Holy Father is so clever; by this action he ensures that the doctrinal questions are clarified for the Church as a whole and not within some and more private and limited structure.

    What is clarified in terms of doctrine by the Prefect of the CDF (and one could really say by the Holy Father) will be binding as it comes from the very centre of the Church herself, the part of our Church charged with upholding the purity of the faith. No longer a side issue but a central issue. Let the dialogue begin.”

    )(

    Agreed. This is will also inform the naysayers, doubters and all other manners of negativity and liberalism that Sacred Tradition and Truth and those who wish to uphold them are in the right and not just those of the Society.

    Yes, let the dialogue begin and soon. Now that the PCED and CDF have been integrated, I can’t imagine what any more holdups should be in getting the talks going. Both sides should have been lining up their ducks in the meantime.

  10. Prof. Basto says:

    It had been rumored that, with the incorporation of the PCED under the umbrella of the CDF (an appropriate institutional place for doctrinal talks with our brethren of the SSPX not yet fully regularized), the Liturgical competences of the PCED would be transferred to another body (perhaps the CDWDS or a special commission for the extraordinary form under the CDWDS).

    This motu proprio does NO SUCH THING.

    Therefore, the competences granted to the PCED by Summorum Pontificum and other pontifical acts seem to remain with the PCED, even after this “restructuring” (including competences of LITURGICAL NATURE, and competences related to the pastoral care of the faithful, communities and instututes attached to the usus antiquor that have already returned to – or who have never left – full communion with the Apostolic See.

    So:

    (1) I regard the wording of this Motu Proprio as unfortunate, given that it seems to describe the mandate of the PCED simply as a mandate to deal with people (especially the SSPX) who need to be “regularized”, or who have “doctrinal differences” with Rome that need to be squared off.

    (3) What about the liturgical governance of the extraordinary form (e.g. liturgical calendar questions)? Is the CDF the appropriate dicastery to deal with such questions?

    (4) What about question related to the enforcement of the rights granted by Summorum Pontificum (e.g. appeals, provided for by Summorum Pontificum itself, agaist episcopal decisions not to provide a priest to the pastoral care of faithful who request the usus antiquor; establishment of institutes, personal parishes, etc.)? Is the CDF the appropriate dicastery to deal with such matters?

    (3) This is a huge OMISSION of this Motu Proprio. By silencing about the LITURGICAL aspects of the PCED’s mandate, it seems to fail to provide for the faithful, the communities, and the institutes who are in NO NEED of doctrinal talks with Rome.

    (4) The true mandate and scope of action of the PCED was much larger than the SSPX question (think of the diocesan communities who now celebrate, or who will celebrate the TLM under Summorum Pontificum; think of the IBP, the ICKSHP, the FSSP, the Apostolic Administration of Campos, etc., etc., etc.).

    Or will the CDF now effectively assume LITURGICAL competences vis a vis the TLM? This Motu Proprio fails to make that clear. I think the Pope just created a need for a new motu proprio.

  11. MikeInFL says:

    Summorum Pontificum was issued two years ago, yesterday (July 7), taking effect September 14, 2007.

    In the letter accompanying the motu proprio, the Holy Father invited reports from the bishops on or about September 14, 2010.

    Furthermore, I invite you, dear Brothers, to send to the Holy See an account of your experiences, three years after this Motu Proprio has taken effect. If truly serious difficulties come to light, ways to remedy them can be sought.

    Will it be the CDF which reviews and responds to such reports?

  12. Ian says:

    Reverend Father,

    You wrote, commenting on the Protocol (of May 5, 1988):

    This was the Protocol which spoke of a canonical status for the SSPX and which said they could have a bishop. That same night, Archbp. Lefevbre, for whatever reason, repudiated the Protocol and determined to consecrated bishops himself. Pope Benedict is citing this old Protocol as a signal. It is a reference to a moment when the Church and SSPX were very close to pulling the pieces together.

    I agree, it is a good signal.

    May I, please, however, correct your comment, Father?

    The Protocol of Accord did not guarantee a bishop to the SSPX or indicate that they were to eventually have a bishop. It did provide the basic framework for a canonical structure, but the only mention of a bishop was the sentence that reads “for practical and psychological reasons, the consecration of a member of the Society as a bishop appears useful. This is why, in the framework of the doctrinal and canonical solution of reconciliation, we suggest to the Holy Father that he name a bishop chosen from within the Society, presented by Archbishop Lefebvre.”

    The Protocol only indicated that the Holy See was not, in principle, opposed to the consecration of one member of the Society as a bishop and the primary reasons for this were that it was helpful and useful, but not an essential matter.

    May I also suggest that the reasons for Archbishop Levebvre withdraw of his acceptance of the accord came when he read the draft letter Cardinal Ratzinger had asked him to address to the Pope. The draft letter has Cardinal Ratzinger asking that the Archbishop plead for the forgiveness for all wrongs done to the Holy Father and then asks the Lefebvre write:

    “Lastly, I wish to express my gratitude for the intention that you manifested to take into account the particular situation of the Society, proposing to nominate a bishop chosen from its members, and specially in charge of providing for its specific needs. Of course, I leave to Your Holiness the decision concerning the person to be chosen and that opportune moment. May I just express the wish that this be not in the too distant future?”

    The Archbishop replied to Cardinal Ratzinger: “Yesterday it was with real satisfaction that I put my signature on the Protocol … However, you yourself have witnessed my deep disappointment upon reading the [draft of the] letter which you have me… Practically to postpone the episcopal consecrations to a later undetermined date would be the fourth time that it would have been postponed. The date of June 30 was clearly indicated in my previous letters as the latest possible. I have already given you a file concerning the candidates. There are still two months to make the mandate …. In the case that the answer will be negative, I would find myself in conscience obliged to proceed with the consecrations, relying upon the agreement given by the Holy See in the Protocol for the consecration of one bishop … The reticence expressed on the subject of the episcopal consecration of a member of the Society, either by writing or by word of mouth, gives me reason to fear delays… In the hope that this request shall not be an insurmountable obstacle to the reconcillation in process, please, Eminence, accept my respectful and fraternal sentiments in Christ et Maria.”

    Later on May 30, after some letters, Cardinal Ratzinger proposes August 15th as the date for the consecration of a bishop, but indicated that all of the candidates presented thus far were not acceptable, and more candidates would need to be considered before the Pope would elect a bishop.

    This last point was the clear turning point for Archbishop Lefebvre, as he himself writes. He lays out a summary of the situation, asks for advice, and then indicates that he intends to proceed on June 30.

    Of course, Father, I am not trying to contradict you, but wanted to provide you with a clearer picture of why the Protocol was rejected by Archbishop Lefebvre, since by your comment you seemed to say you did not understand the reasons the Archbishop rejected the protocol.

    May God Bless you, Father.

  13. FranzJosf says:

    It is merely my opinion, but I think it a good idea for PCED to retain competence in liturgical matters of the TLM for a while, so that any potential changes don’t become a political football. It would be horrible if, before the new Prefect gets complete control of the CDW, some hack at that discastery made a change that would anger not only the SSPX but all lovers of the TLM. A real possibility. Again, only my opinion, but the Holy Father seems to be insuring that there are no disctractions from the doctrinal discussions.

  14. John Michael says:

    “But the doctrinal questions, obviously, remain and, so long they are not clarified, the Fraternity does not have a canonical statute in the Church, and its ministers cannot in a legitimate way exercise any ministry.”

    I am very pleased that our Holy Father was so clear with his language here. It should be hard for a faithful SSPX to hear it coming straight from the Vicar of Christ.

    Any thoughts?