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Don George and Ecclesia Dei: The Pope Prepares a Clean Sweep

Various sources are being heard from the Vatican saying two pontifical maneuvers are imminent, which will take the form of two motu proprio.

The first will be to decree the elimination of the Prefecture of the Papal Household. The prefecture is the organism concerned, in general, with the appointments and audiences of the reigning pontiff, but in particular under the pontificate of Papa Bergoglio, a large part of the schedule is managed personally by the pope, or by his personal secretary, and other audiences are organized directly by the secretary of state. According to the sources, the Prefecture of the Papal Household will become an office of the First Section of the Secretary of State (which is concerned with general and internal affairs), thus losing its autonomy and its role.

The present prefect, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the former personal secretary of Benedict XVI and the person who still presently takes care of the daily affairs of the pope emeritus, would become, according to the sources, secretary of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. The present secretary of the Congregation is Msgr. Marcello Bartolucci, born in 1944 (he will turn 75 this coming April 9) and named to his post in 2010 by Benedict XVI; thus, he meets the requirements of age and term to be replaced. The prefect of the congregation is the former sostituto of the Secretariate of State, Angelo Becciu.

If what we have heard is confirmed, even the last shreds of the management of Benedict XVI will disappear. There are those who say  Joseph Ratzinger requested, at the moment of the passing over of power, that Müller be retained at the CDF and Gänswein at the Papal Household. Obviously, more than five years have now passed and those guarantees have lapsed, although it is probable that the person chiefly affected – that is, Monsignor Gänswein – would even be happy to be set free from a burden that perhaps has brought him more trials than gratification.

And the same voices are confirming what already emerged a few days ago, and that is the existence of a motu proprio that will decree the end of the Ecclesia Dei commission, the commission that has specialized in the dialogue with the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X (FSSPX) and has also been entrusted with overseeing bishops in the correct application of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which permitted the [universal] celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite of the Mass.

According to our sources, the motu proprio, which decrees the end of Ecclesia Dei as an independent commission and its integration as an office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has already been signed by the pontiff and was supposed to have been published before Christmas. The person who gave us this news has read it and given us a brief description.

It is a text written in a juridical style and rather short, which states that since the pastoral emergency of thirty years ago linked to the celebration of the Vetus Ordo which led to the creation of the Ecclesia Dei commission has ceased, there is now no longer any reason for the commission to exist in its present form.

We recall that the motu proprio of John Paul II that founded Ecclesia Dei on July 2, 1988, originated as a consequence of the consecration of four bishops by Msgr. Marcel Lefebvre. Other powers and functions of the commission were modified by Benedict XVI in 2009. The document of John Paul II gave the commission the faculty to “grant to anyone who asks the right to use the Roman Missal according to the typical edition in force in 1962, and to do so following the norms already proposed by the commission of cardinals ‘established for this purpose’ in December 1986, after having informed the diocesan bishop.” 

Over the years, the commission has been the point of reference for those who, because of the position of individual diocesan bishops, appealed to it to obtain the revision of episcopal decrees forbidding the celebration of the Mass according to the Vetus Ordo. 

Moreover, following the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum of Pope Benedict XVI (2007), the commission has had the duty of overseeing its application, and it has studied the possible updates which have come to be needed by the 1962 liturgical texts – for example, the presence of new saints in the calendar. Moreover, as we have said, the commission was the place of final appeal for the faithful who requested the celebration of the Mass according to the Extraordinary Form and who did not receive a positive response either from their parish priest or from their bishop. Even if with mixed results… 

It remains to be seen what sort of power will still be able to be exercised by the new Ecclesia Dei “office” within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where its top authority will evidently no longer be, as before, the responsible secretary – in this case, Msgr. Guido Pozzo – but rather the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 

And the initial affirmation stating that “the pastoral emergency has ended” gives rise to some more than legitimate doubts. Just at the moment when, during the [November 2018] Assembly of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, voices have been raised of bishops and “experts” claiming to negate the juridical validity of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum of Benedict XVI, and at the moment in which there are bishops opposing the celebration of the Mass according to the Vetus Ordo either directly or underhandedly, to say that “there is no pastoral emergency” appears fishy. In recent days, the new archbishop of La Plata, Argentina, “Tucho” Fernandez, has expressed a series of liturgical directives forbidding the use of Latin and the Mass of the Ages. Who should and could recall him to a greater equanimity and respect towards diverse ecclesial sensibilities?

If it is true that the FSSPX has expressed the desire of preferring to continue its dialogue with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith rather than with a mere commission, then it is evident that the problem of addressing traditional sensibilities within the Catholic Church requires firm stakes and a credible authority.

Translated by Giuseppe Pellegrino. Originally published at La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana

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