Interview with Card. Barbarin on “Tridentine” Mass

MEANWHILE… also in France… In Le Figaro of 6 November there was an interview by Sophie de Ravinel with H.E. Philippe Xavier Ignace Cardinal Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon. It was very interesting.

Rorate, as usual, had something about it the other day, but here is the relevant from the interview text (my emphasis and comments):

You don’t seem to desire a derestriction of the Tridentine Rite…

That isn’t really the point.  In four years, in Lyon, I have never had any problems with the community at the Church of St. George where Mass is celebrated according to the rite of St. Pius V.  Card. Decoutray was the one who gave the authorization back in 1989.  Ever since, everything has gone well.  Last May, on the advice of the Pope himself, I also celebrated this Mass and confirmed the young parishioners.  [So, the "wide and generous" commanded in the MP "Ecclesia Dei" actually works.  Fancy that.] The problem rests in the trust one gives or does not give to the pastors who are the Pope, the bishops… It lies also in the internal rupture in the traditionalist communities, which spawn devisions and pointless sufferings. [Schism in the Body of Christ is a ghastly sin which brings nothing but suffering in the long run and the risk of hell for those who commit it.]

Does Benedict XVI, in desiring to resolve the schism, risk creating new divisions?

Of course, I detect great disquiet in my diocese.  But I respond: be not afraid! (n’ayez pas peur!)  [So, H.E.’s predecessor was not afraid to be generous to the trad. community, he himself is quoting JP2, he followed B16’s advice and went to the trads for Mass and confirmation.  He is having no problems with them and he is worried about their well-being.  How is this not good?] You can create a mountain of future texts; but, in my opinion, this reaction is founded more on our own fears (angoisses) than on the actual undertakings of Benedict XVI.  [Yep.  Quidquid recipitur…The Pope’s goal isn’t to divide the Church.  He wants to reach out a hand, before its too late, to those who strayed away.  I feel however that this business isn’t over.  When a schism is at its beginning, you can still reach some sort of understanding.  This is more complicated after several decades.  There are those who in breaking with Rome think that the Sucessor of Peter is not faithful to tradition.  The Pope would be a prisoner of a plot ravaging the whole Church since the last Council.  Clearly there are scads of impure people within the Church, but Christ, who entrusted His Church to a traitor – the Apostle Peter – , is not put off by our sins!

Cardinal Barbarin didn’t actually answer in a direct way the question of whether he wants a freeing up of the old rite or not.  His experience with traditionalists has not been as bad as that of other bishops probably because his predecessor was generous from the start and left him a good foundation to continue building on.  He took John Paul II’s advice, and that of Benedict XVI, and was not afraid to go to them and say Mass with them and confirm their children.  So, he has found a formula that is working fairly well and is wondering if making the situation more complicated (by a liberalization) won’y muddy the waters. 

His concerns are legitimate because the traditionalist "thing" seems to attract the sort of person who is happy only when he is unhappy.  Stir things up and you might create more conflict.

He rightly considers schism with horror, like the Fathers of the Church and all sensible people.  At the same time, he seems willing to reach outside the box and do what he can.  Also, he seems to see the roots of the divisions in sin rather than merely in the more facile issues of liturgical preference or even precise theological controversies. 

I am often struck by how much today’s schism resembles in important respects the Donatist schism of North Africa of the 4th and 5th centuries, which so troubled St. Augustine.  In his anti-Donatist labors, Augustine emphasized that our Church is not a Church only of the pure.  It is comprised also of sinners.  The Church is corpus permixtum malis et bonis… a body mixed through with bad people and with good.  Christ sorts things out in the only way which is definitive.  We, on the other hand, need to be compassionate and reasonable.

Really, I ask, what harm does it do to be happy that people can have the form of Mass which we Catholics have as our mutual heritage and which nourished the lives of saints for centuries?  Why is being happy for these folks, happy that they love Holy Mass, such a threat?

Let that be the starting point in our subsequent efforts to heal the more serious issues that arise.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Father: Did you see the online poll on the Corriere della Sera webpage?

    I found out about it via Georgette at Chronicle of a Meandering Traveller blog.

  2. David says:


    Do you personally consider the SSPX schismatic in the sense that the Cardinal spoke of? In light of the reactions from so many senior clergy at the prospect of a liberalisation of the Tridentine rite I find myself developing greater sympathy with those who felt the only way they could worship in a truly Catholic fashion was to worship in SSPX chapels.

  3. michigancatholic says:

    This assumes that the “spirit of V2 people” are happy and serene. They are not; they suffer in their excesses and confusions. One side is as misled as the other. We need the Latin mass regularized so that those of us who want to get on with being CATHOLIC can do so without the considerable political overtones on which the 2 extremes insist. Meantime, Christ is left in the lurch!

  4. RBrown says:

    “It lies also in the internal rupture in the traditionalist communities, which spawn devisions and pointless sufferings.”

    What about the internal rupture in the Novus Ordo community? It seems that’s OK.

  5. B. says:

    > I have never had any problems with the community at the Church of St. George
    Why then did he have the locks changed in the middle of the night, so that two priests of the FSSP arriving in the morning couldn’t say mass? And why did he incardinate the other priests of the FSSP there without asking their superiors?

  6. Somerset '76 says:

    In all the years I have been part of the scene, I have never seen one truly honest and exhaustively extensive analysis of the several internal dynamics that comprise the milieu of the Society of St. Pius X — only either polemical propaganda by partisans for or against, or else media and other outsiders’ reports that grossly oversimplify and thus distort what the Society is and what it wants.

    If I were more of a socially connected type I’d offer to write that analysis myself. But isn’t there anyone out there who has a real clue?

    Yes, it’s easy to see Donatist parallels in the SSPX milieu. There are those of its number who seem to think along such lines. But anytime I’ve ever seen that point made, it was in an effort to delegitimize the very good questions the Society raises, and that’s why I for one get my guard up whenever I see that argument.

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