Last Sunday, May 7, seven dean priests from the district of France of the Fraternity Saint Pius X took public position against the last Vatican text on marriages celebrated in the Catholic Tradition. His statement read in the pulpit caused a great stir, especially in its immediate consequences. The priests in question were effectively suspended from their duties as deans and Fr. Patrick de la Rocque, considered to be the instigator of this action, has been removed from his functions as “parish priest” of St. Nicholas of Chardonnet. As we all know, this case is presented in a context of rapprochement between Rome and the Fraternity. How should it be analyzed?
Who is it about?
In the religious society founded by Monsignor Lefebvre, the priests’ apostolate is organized from a priory. A dean is a prior of experience, referent within a region that is part of a wider group called district (or country). The District of France comprises ten deaneries. The statement has been signed by seven of ten deans. In addition, all the traditional male religious communities present in France (Benedictines of Bellaigue, Capuchins of Morgon and the Fraternity of the Transfiguration) signed the document. Therefore, the statement is clothed with an undeniable moral authority. It would be imprudent to dismiss it simply, reducing the initiative to “some priests of the District of France” (” Regarding a letter of some priests to the faithful of the District of France “, May 11, 2017, published on the official news site of The General House of the SSPX). On the other hand, these priests are recognized in France for their seriousness, their pastoral zeal, their doctrinal and spiritual solidity. They are unanimously recognized, respected and loved by the faithful.
Have these priests acted without saying anything to their superiors? It is the reproach formulated in the article quoted above: “ some priests read recklessly from the pulpit and spread a letter addressed to the faithful, without the knowledge of the District Superior, calling into question the direction of the Fraternity Saint Pius X. “ This statement is manifestly false. For weeks, these priests alerted their superiors to the problems raised by the Roman text on marriages and, more generally, the dangers of a ralliement of the Fraternity to Rome in the canonical form of a personal prelature. But faced with the inertia they found, the dean priests assumed their responsibility. Father de la Rocque was to meet with the district superior of France on Wednesday, May 3, to make him aware of the text of the declaration. He was finally received on Friday 5 May, therefore before the publication the following Sunday, as Father Bouchacourt just recognized in the newspaper Présent dated yesterday . On the other hand, an attentive and loyal reading of the deans’ text does not allow the identification of words or expressions that call into question the general authority of the Fraternity.
What is it about?
Let us now turn to the substance of the matter raised by the letter. Behind an apparent benevolence, the Roman text of March 27, 2017 presents in fact a concrete form of ralliement in a precise domain, that of marriage. Until now, in the face of the impossibility of recourse to the official parish priests because of modernism, the faithful of the Tradition were married in the extraordinary form, which is perfectly foreseen in the canonical law of the Church. The Roman text places the diocesan bishop at the heart of the mechanism. The latter may delegate the priests of the Fraternity to receive the consents of the spouses, “ where it is not possible or there are no priests of the Diocese who can receive the consent of the parties.“ But the type of impossibility is not precise and, above all, it is a simple faculty given to the bishop. He could not exercise this power and impose on the spouses the diocesan priest of his choice. You can see the difficult situations that can arise. What will happen if the bishop does not give his delegation? Will marriage be considered valid if the faithful of the Fraternity ignore it?
More generally, accepting to submit our marriages to ordinary jurisdiction, is to accept submitting to the ecclesiastical courts that judge these matters. But these courts have a misconception of marriage, leaving Vatican II, which ensures the primacy of the second end (personal welfare of the spouses) on the first (procreation and education of children). In fact, these courts declare invalid marriages that are certainly valid, which is aggravated by the recent simplified procedure of Pope Francis.
Another lacuna of the text: the Roman text does not solve the validity of the traditionalist marriages celebrated before these new dispositions. It is a great injustice that could have been repaired, but that persists.
In conclusion, the text of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, although having received in its broad lines the endorsement of the General House of the SSPX (“so that these Roman provisions in favour of marriages in Tradition can be received without doubt or ambiguity By all the priests … “) presents a logic of its own which is that of ralliement to the council authorities and in this can not be accepted. For behind this legal question of marriage is a question of substance: can we deliberately put ourselves under a modernist authority without endangering our soul?
With their courageous action, these priests, our priests, have denounced the Roman trap. In doing so, they have safeguarded the essence of the Tradition’s combat. Honour and support to them.