Card. Castrillón Hoyos interviewed about “Tridentine” indult

I tip my biretta to participant Steven  o{]:¬)  for the link to an article in Die TagespostRegina Einig interviewed His Eminence Darío Card. Castrillón Hoyos.  The text is in German.  I don’t have time to translate it for you, but here are some observations.

The interview doesn’t give us anything new or concrete about details or dates of an Indult.  You must read between the lines to get the little that is here. 

Einig, the interviewer, asks pointed questions which assume that there is an Indult coming. Card. Castrillón dodges answering the questions directly.  What you can get out of Card. Castrillón‘s non-answers is that the Indult exists and that Benedict XVI wants to do something.

For example, Einig asks pointedly about the Indult several times.  The Cardinal answers without in any way saying that there is no Indult.  He accepts the word Indult each time, but then says precisely nothing about it.

On the other hand, His Eminence does make a few puzzling statements toward the end. 

He states fairly strongly that, while Archbishop Lefebvre committed a schismatic act by consecrating bishops without permission of the Holy See, the bishops, priests and faithful of the SSPX are not schismatics. 

With all due respect to His Eminence, I would like to be instructed about how accepting ordination from a bishop (consecrated during an act of schism) who is suspended and excommunicated, taking orders from him and receiving money from him for your service is not, in fact, adherence to schism. 

Adherence to schism incurs excommunication.

Yet, Card. Castrillón says that priests and faithful are not excommunicated.

I remain bewildered.

I don’t think we can easily work out under what circumstances lay people adhere to schism, but I think it is somewhat easier to work that out in the case of their clerics for the reasons I mentioned.

In any event, while His Eminence says there is no schism, he does fear schism, and thinks there is danger of one: "Die Gefahr eines Schismas ist groß, etwa durch systematischen Ungehorsam gegenüber dem Heiligen Vater oder durch Leugnen seiner Autorität."  So, if you do not submit to the Roman Pontiff, you are in schism?

This begs a question: can we erase what John Paul II wrote in the 1988 M.P. "Ecclesia Dei adflicta" just because we are trying to change the tone?  Apparently.  Pope John Paul II thought it was a schism.*  Was it or wasn’t it? Benedict XVI has not pronounced anything new on the issue. 

Maybe that is what is holding up the documents we look forward too: if you are writing to prevent a schism you write one thing, but if you are trying to heal one that exists, you write other things.  Fundamental starting points must be hammered out before you can craft the proper response.  You don’t treat gangrene as if it were a sprain.

All in all the interview does not give us new information, but it signals Card.
Castrillón‘s desire to resolve the situation as soon as possible.  The fact that he is speaking to the press is very positive.

*"In itself, this act [the consecration by Lefevbre] was one of disobedience to the Roman Pontiff in a very grave matter and of supreme importance for the unity of the church, such as is the ordination of bishops whereby the apostolic succession is sacramentally perpetuated. Hence such disobedience – which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman primacy – constitutes a schismatic act." ["Ecclesia Dei adflicta" 3.]

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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


  1. David says:

    Die Bischöfe, Priester und Gläubigen der Priesterbruderschaft Pius X. sind keine Schismatiker. Erzbischof Lefèbvre hat mit der unerlaubten Bischofsweihe eine schismatische Handlung vollzogen. Daher sind die von ihm geweihten Bischöfe suspendiert und exkommuniziert. Die Priester und Gläubigen der Bruderschaft sind nicht exkommuniziert. Sie sind keine Häretiker

    The bishops, priests, and faithful of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X aren’t schismatics. Archbishop Lefebvre committed a schismatic act when he ordained bishops without permission. For that reason he and the bishops he ordained were suspended and excommunicated. The priests and faithful of the Fraternity are not excommunicated. They are not heretics.

  2. FranzJosf says:

    If I commit one disloyal act towards, say, my family does that mean my whole person and life can be labelled ‘disloyal.’ I don’t think so.

    One ‘schismatic act’ doesn’t, it seems to me, constitute full-blown schism.

    Especially in light of the fact that the SSPX bishops only confirm and ordain,
    they claim no parallel territorial authority to the Roman Catholic ordinaries.

    The Anglicans, Old Catholics, and Orthodox are fully schismatic.

  3. Tim says:

    I might be opening up a big can of worms here, but may I respectfully suggest that what the SSPX has been saying about the excommunications being invalid might have some credence? They have been screaming from the rooftops to anyone who will listen canon 1324, 7°, and canon 1324, §3; §1,8°, but no one in Rome in any place of authority will seriously address their objections. Even the Pope must obey his own Canon Law. Of course much deference must be given to any Papal motu proprio, but Ecclesia Dei Adflicta was not issued ex cathedra, and as such is not subject to Papal infallibility. That part is not an opinion. I know a lot of people don’t want to hear or consider this, but the Holy Father could have been wrong. And before I’m accused of declaring myself Pontiff, as has happened before, I fully submit myself to the authority of the Church, but I expect the Church (even the Pope) to follow her own laws as well.

    There is some historical precedent for what Archbishop Lefebvre did in the 1988 consecrations. Bishops were consecrated by deposed (and sometimes ‘excommunicated’) Bishops during the Arian heresy without Papal mandate, outside of their Sees, with at least one of the consecrators later being canonized (St. Eusebius of Samosata, for instance). St. Athanasius himself ordained priests while in exile, outside of the visible Church structure. Neither had any obvious jurisdiction for what they did, yet it was licit, although I’m sure many objected to it.

    From the Church’s divine constitution by Dom Adrien Grea, OSB (cited in Michael Davies’ “Saint Athanasius, Defender of the Faith, p. 74)

    In the fourth century St. Eusebius of Samosata travelled through Eastern dioceses devastated by the Arians and ordained orthodox pastors for them, without having particular jurisdiction over them. These are evidently extraordinary actions, as were the circumstances that gave rise to them.”

    The circumstances are not completely identical, but the SSPX certainly perceives a crisis in the Church. The Holy Father himself admitted during his audience with Bishop Fellay that a state of necessity (such as the SSPX has been claiming) could very well exist in France (listen to Mgr. Fellay’s talk at St. Isidore the Farmer Church in Colorado, from last year), in which he admits implicitly that there is a state of necessity (and if it applies in France, there’s a good chance of it applying in the Church at large).

    I pray that whatever the case may be, the situation with the SSPX may soon be resolved, but not by papering over the problems.

  4. Dan Hunter says:

    Thank you Tim
    Very interesting,I did not know some of this.
    God bless you

  5. PMcGrath says:

    I had a few hours to spare, so I took a crack at translating the article. I will happily take corrections to this [very rough] draft. I have taken the liberty of bolding the reporter’s questions:

    [Could you] tell me how the decontrol of the old Mass is going?

    The Holy Father has an enormous sensitiveness for liturgical spirituality and would like a treasure of the Church preserved — and certainly not for a museum, but for the living hertiage of the community, by which the people who have a longing for Tradition may partake of this wealth. I am always astonished that young people, who could never have known the old ritual, discover the peace and the mystery of the old Mass. It is a matter of importance, [that] both rites are not played off against each other, rather the beauty and holiness of both are seen.

    Many traditionalists complain, that the bishops [have] scarcely observed the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei and the old Mass has in no way been generously permitted. Is the indult a reaction to that?

    Above all, the Pope would like, as universal shepherd of the faithful, to show kindness to those who have a longing for the traditional liturgy. There is no giving in to outside pressure, and also no petition of signatures. It’s about a holy ritual, which the Church has celebrated for more than a thousand years. I don’t want to be hard on my brothers in the episcopate, many of whom have resisted the promotion of Ecclesia Dei. Many have few priests for Sunday Mass in the parishes, and are for this reason unwilling to authorize Mass for small groups. The motu proprio makes no numerical figures. Many are afraid of a liturgical split. But the Holy Father has already made it clear to the members of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, that the old Mass is neither bad nor divisive, but instead has many blessings.

    Could the indult promote new experiments and forms of liturgical “creativity”?

    It is critical how the believers and priests of the Church introduce this. Think about the Ten Commandments. Although they are clearly formulated, Christians do not always live them in their fullness. The Ten Commandments do not change that. That is the responsibilty of individuals.

    Cardinal Ratzinger had many times publicly celebrated the old Mass. Why hasn’t he [offered it] since the conclave?

    I know that the Holy Father loves the old ritual. About his preferences for personal celebrations I do not know and I prefer not to speculate.

    Does the indult promote an ecumenism ad intra?

    You know, that I reject the notion of ecumenism ad intra. The bishops, priests, and faithful of the SSPX are not schismatics. Archbishop Lefebre committed a schismatic act with the unauthorized episcopal ordinations. Through that, he and the bishops he ordained were suspended and excommunicated. The priests and the faithful of the society are not excommunicated. They are not heretics. I share the apprehension of St. Jerome, that heresy leads and reverses from schism. The danger of a schism is great, perhaps through systematic disobedience against the Holy Father or through disavowal of his authority. There is a duty of Christian charity, that through the priestly brotherhood the full society with the Holy Father is reconciled and the holiness of the new Mass is recognized.

    And the sacramental pastoral [document]?

    I see no problem there. The Holy Father had made it clear to the commission, that the bishops can authorize baptism, confirmation and marriage with the old Ritual. What goes for the Eucharist, goes also for the other sacraments.

  6. B. says:


    He accepts the word Indult each time, but then says precisely nothing about it.
    I don’t quite agree. Cardinal Castrillon says:
    Manche haben kaum Priester für die Sonntagsmessen in den Pfarreien und tun sich deswegen schwer damit, für kleine Gruppen Messen zu genehmigen. Das Motu proprio macht keine Zahlenangaben.
    That points out that the speculations about a certain number of faithful needed (IIRC this was also mentioned on this blog) was not correct.


    the subjective state of necessity law as I understand it (and I’m by no means a canon lawyer, so I could be way off) is not meant as the SSPX portrys it. I’ll give an example:
    A bishop in hiding in China feels that he’s getting older and needs a replacement but can’t contact the Vatican. So he consecrates a bishop without papal approval. But now, the Vatican had already sent in a young bishop, that means there was no state of necessity. Yet clearly the old bishop rightly thought so and therefore does not incur excommunication.
    In the case of the SSPX it is something completely different, because the Pope, the supreme judicative authority of the Church had already officially told Archbishop Lefebvre in no unclear terms that there was no state of necessity, which makes all the difference, because that means he set his judgement (there is a state of necessity) above the judgement of the pope (there is none).

    But, granted, today it is at least accepted to consider Lefebvres reasoning correct. The priests of the Institut du Bon Pasteur have made it abundantly clear that they still stand behind the decision of the Archbishop to consecrate the Bishops, and still consider themselves his loyal followers.

  7. Alex says:

    Father, your article mistakes the cardinal for what he says.

    He says there is no schism, which he affirmed before (cfr. 30Giorni), and he also says that nor are the faithful punished in any way, and only the priests are suspended due to lack of incardination. The Institut du Bon Pasteur priests were néver (néver!) re-admitted into communion, or in any way absolved from „schism”, in any way. That says a lot, Father Zuhlsdorf. You may not agree with it and with the President of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, because you have alleged for years that the SSPX is in schism, that the faithful cannot receive Sacraments there except in danger of death, and that the SSPX priests are also excommunicated and schismatic etc. etc.. But the bickering is not supported by Em. Castrillon. That is clear.

    I speak German very well, so trust me. There is no schism, only a „schismatical act” (which seems contradictory to me, as schismatic acts must evoke a schism, not merely disobedience), and there are no schismatics. Not even the SSPX bishops are schismatics, but they are considered excommunicated and suspended for the illicit episcopal consecrations. That is what Castrillon states, that is what he means, that is what he said (and has said for many times last years). And as he is the competent and highest authority on this matter in the Holy See apparatus, there is no need for you Father (with all due respect for you and your apostolate etc.) to reinterpret and „correct” the President of the Ecclesia Dei Commission.

  8. Steven says:

    I think you are right. The interview gives us something new: “Das Motu proprio macht keine Zahlenangaben.” Which means “The Motu Propriu does not mention figures.”.

    For a translation of the interview see:

  9. Alex says:

    Never has the Sacra Rota Romana considered the recourse the SSPX filed in 1989 against the excommunication decree. It never did. It never dared. To Prof Dr Georg May this proves that the Ecclesia Dei excommunication paragraph was a political act rather than a canonical act.

    Of course things complicated due to inner-SSPX things and the complete break of trust by the 1988 refusal to appoint an agreeable candidate by Rome.

    This is what Prof Dr. Georg May, Priest of the Diocese of Mainz, exclusively offers the Traditional Roman Mass, and fourty years long the top Canonist and Professor of Church Law in Germany, says on all the allegations concerning the SSPX answering a layman:
    Prof. Dr. Georg May
    Emeritus der Johannes Gutenberg Universität zu Mainz

    am 12. Januar 2003

    Sehr geehrter Herr xyz,

    besten Dank für Ihre Zuschrift vom 05. Januar 2003.

    Auf Ihre Anfrage antworte ich wie folgt:

    1. Die Priesterbruderschaft St. Pius X. ist n i c h t schismatisch, weil sie weder die Unterordnung unter den Papst ablehnt noch die Gemeinschaft mit den Bischöfen (can. 751). Vielmehr sind es die Letzteren, die die Gemeinschaft mit der Bruderschaft ablehnen.

    1. The SSPX is not schismatic, because she neither rejects the subordination to the Roman Pope nor rejects the communion with the bishops (can. 751). Rather the latter reject communion with the Society.

    2. Weil die Bruderschaft nicht schismatisch ist, sind ihre Mitglieder auch nicht exkommuniziert. Beides sind unwahre Behauptungen, die von jenen aufgestellt werden, denen der Spiegel lästig ist, den ihnen die Bruderschaft vorhält.

    2. Because the Society is not schismatic, its members are not excommunicated. Both are untrue allegations, made by those, whom the reflective mirror presented to them by the Society irritates.

    3. Erst recht zieht sich k e i n e Strafe zu, wer Gottesdienste der Bruderschaft besucht. Selbstverständlich kann bei ihr die Pflicht, den Sonntagsgottesdienst zu besuchen, erfüllt werden. Wer anderes sagt, verrät damit, dass er die Konkurrenz fürchtet.

    3. Absolutely nobody incurs ANY punishment by attending the Masses of the Society. Of course one can fullfil ones Sunday Obligation by attending a Sunday Mass in a chapel or church of the Society. Whoever alleges otherwise, reveals that he merely fears concurrence.

    Mit christlichem Gruß
    Christian greeting,

    Georg May

    (Es handelt sich um eine Abschrift. Der Verfasser lehrte 1960 bis 1994 kanonisches Recht, Staatskirchenrecht und kirchliche Rechtsgeschichte.)
    (This is a facsimile. The author from 1960 to 1994 was Professor of Canon Law, Law of Church-State Relations and Canonical History at Mainz University. He is since more than fourty years priest of the Archdiocese of Mainz.)

  10. Francis Regis says:

    Steven and B.,

    At first glance I also thought that when the Cardinal said: “The motu proprio mentions no numerical figures,” he was referring to the speculative document freeing the old Mass. But if you read it in context of the reporter’s question (and the answer) I believe His Eminence was referring to the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei, unfortunately!

  11. Folks: You are misinterpreting the Cardinal’s comment: “Das Motu proprio macht keine Zahlenangaben. … The Motu Proprio does not mention figures.”.

    The Motu Proprio he is speaking of is “Ecclesia Dei adflicta of 1988. This does not refer to a new, projected Motu Proprio. The context is all.

  12. Alex: “Father, your article mistakes the cardinal for what he says.”

    No. I understand perfectly what the Cardinal said. It might be that I am wrong in my opinion of whether or not the Cardinal’s opinions are correct or not. I understood him quite well, however.

    Furthermore, you are right about something: “Never has the Sacra Rota Romana considered the recourse the SSPX filed in 1989 against the excommunication decree.”,

    For whatever reason, they didn’t. You like to think they didn’t “dare”. Fine. Think that.

    I highly respect Prof. Dr. Georg May. However, May is not the Holy See’s Tribunal.

  13. Andrew says:

    Rather, with all due respect Fr. Z, this is Cardinal Hoyos who reports to the Holy Father on traditionalist matters. He has viewed the whole situation since he was elected to be the president of Eccelsia Dei since 2000. If he says they aren’t in schism, then there is weight in what he is saying.

    Th neo-conservatives/liberals will find it very hard to tap dance around this one. They blamed the first tme on “translation” – this has been the third time he has re-iterated that the priests and faithful are NOT schismatics. Excommunications aren’t infallible matters, because it is just possible that an excommunication is unjust – regardless of whether you like the person or not.

  14. Andrew: Yes, indeed, this is His Eminence Darío Card. Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei“.

    He has been staunchly in the correct corner in this boxing match for a long time now. I remember his gutsy celebration of a Pontifical Mass at the altar of the Major Basilica St. Mary Major. He is probably one of the strong figures supporting a new Motu Proprio against its opposition.

    So far he has spoken in interviews. I have not seen any of his statements, over his name, as an official response or act in his role as President of “Ecclesia Dei“. He has spoken in the press. 30 Days is not an instrument of promulgation. Neither is Die Tagespost.

    On the other hand, juxtaposed to the press we have a promulgated Motu Proprio, the official declaration confirming the excommunications from the Congregation for Bishops, and we have the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

    So, while Card. Castrillón’s comments to the press are welcome and interesting and hopefull, they don’t resolve anything.

    They don’t help me understand the status of members of the SSPX (who are clerics). They don’t help me understand the seeming conflict between what John Paul II said in his Motu Proprio, what canon law states, and His Eminence’s comments. This is really hard.

    I am not being coy or disingenuous about saying “I don’t understand”. I really don’t get it.

    And, quite frankly, if I don’t, none of of you who are pecking at this do either. Don’t pretend to. The only authority that counts in this is that of the Holy Father and those to whom he delegates it.

  15. B. says:

    Francis Regis, Father Zuhlsdorf,

    of course you are correct. Before writing I even hesitated and thought, perhaps he’s talking about “Ecclesia Dei”, but then I quickly glanced at it again and thought, “no he’s clearly talking about the Motu Proprio”.
    That just shows all the talk about *the* Motu Proprio is making my brain soft.
    Of course, your forcing me to type “INDULT NOW!!” doesn’t make that better. ;-)

  16. mto86 says:

    I’m with you on this one, Father…I wonder how one could reconcile his Emminence’s words with those of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts: “As long as there are no changes which may lead to the re-establishment of this necessary communion, the whole Lefebvrian movement is to be held schismatic, in view of the existence of a formal declaration by the Supreme Authority on this matter”. – Excommunication of the Followers of Lefebvre

  17. Matthew Robinson says:

    Father Z, with all do respect,

    If John Paul II didn’t regard pro-abortion Protestant Tony Blair as being in
    schism (he gave him Communion personally, in his very own Papal Chapel no less
    back in 2002), and our Holy Father Benedict XVI doesn’t regard Hans Kung as
    being in schism (He is a priest in good standing no less, despite publicly
    denying every Dogma a man can and encouraging others to do the same), then
    I don’t think it is such a “scandal to the faithful” to accept that the rank
    and file members of the SSPX are not schism either.

    In case, you haven’t noticed….there has been a little thing called
    “Aggiornamento”, since 1965 which has truly made “all things possible” with God.

  18. Matthew: I am sure that when you are Pope, you will do a much better job.

  19. Andrew says:

    Fr Z: “The only authority that counts in this is that of the Holy Father and those to whom he delegates it.”

    Of whom Cradinal Dario Hoyos is one, I presume?

  20. Andrew: So is His Eminence Darío Card. Castrillón Hoyos. o{];¬)

    Around these parts (Rome) he is usually referred to as “Cardinal Castrillón” rather than “Cardinal Hoyos”.

  21. RBrown says:

    If John Paul II didn’t regard pro-abortion Protestant Tony Blair as being in schism (he gave him Communion personally, in his very own Papal Chapel no less back in 2002),

    My understanding is that story turned out to be false. BTW, Tony Blair is not a Catholic.

    and our Holy Father Benedict XVI doesn’t regard Hans Kung as being in schism (He is a priest in good standing no less, despite publicly
    denying every Dogma a man can and encouraging others to do the same), then I don’t think it is such a “scandal to the faithful” to accept that the rank and file members of the SSPX are not schism either.

    Not to defend Hans Kung, but most like him have opinions more subtle than you seem to realize. They are more interested in obfuscating dogma rather than in denying it.

    But I agree that the SSPX has been treated unjustly, going back to Paul VI. It seems to me that generally the hierarchy has coddled liberal dissenters but persecuted the SSPX. For example, some years ago Fr Charles Curran was no longer permitted to teach Moral Theology in a Catholic faculty. But, as a priest/moral theologian friend asked: “If he’s unfit to teach MT, why do they still let him hear confessions?”

  22. Matthew Robinson says:

    My understanding is that story turned out to be false. BTW, Tony Blair is
    not a Catholic.
    Comment by RBrown


    However, the story was widely covered in Britain (not the US), and
    Tony Blair was forced to publicly state to the British press that receiving
    communion from the Pope in no way meant he was planning on becoming a
    Catholic. Ecumenism as its best!

    Besides, Blair has been receiving communion at his wife’s Catholic
    parish for years.

    “In Britain it is permissible for a non-Roman Catholic in a mixed
    marriage to receive communion under guidelines outlined in “One
    Bread One Body,” a 1998 Roman Catholic teaching document, but
    the document makes it clear that “eucharistic sharing can only
    be exceptional.”

    I have no reason to doubt that JPII gave him communion. (This was confirmed
    by high ranking Vatican officals by the way including Sec. of State
    Sodano who gave Blair the dispensation).

    John Paul II was the Pope who changed Canon Law in 1983 to allow precisely
    such a thing.

  23. michigancatholic says:

    Popes certainly can be wrong about their personal opinions, habits and preferences. They cannot be wrong when confirming the teaching of the Church by extending it with their own infallible “ex cathedra” words.

    This has to be the case unless one wants to canonize the preferences, habits and opinions of Alexander VI, the Borgia. History, people, history.

  24. Andrew says:

    Sorry Fr Z – us English! *tut*

Comments are closed.