Why were the Dominican Sisters of Fanjeaux denied the celebration of Mass in the Lateran Basilica during their pilgrimage to Rome?
We publish here a Le Seignadou editorial by Fr. Michel Simoulin, SSPX chaplain of the Dominicans of Fanjeaux. Fr. Simoulin comments on the behind the scenes denial of the celebration of Mass during the pilgrimage the sisters and their students made last February in Rome, which contradicts the recently assertions made by Archbishop Pozzo of the Ecclesia Dei Commission.
There is Rome…and then there is the Vatican and the Vatican officials, the guardians of the law and of the Temple! Alas, it is not always the same thing! The Vatican of our times very often manifests a spirit that is not the spirit of Rome, that Rome sung by Dante, Dom Gueranger, Louis Veuillot, Fr. Berto, Archbishop Lefebvre…and long before them by the Fathers of the Church: St. Clement of Rome, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Irenaeus of Lyon, Tertullian, Origen, St. Cyprian of Carthage…
Good old Corneille proclaimed in his time that “Rome is no longer in Rome; she is wherever I am” (Sertorius, III, I), and we are, alas, obliged to make a distinction between Rome and the Vatican, between what comes from Rome and what comes from the Vatican! And it was to Rome that our sisters led their schools, in thanksgiving and out of fidelity to Rome, under the astonished eyes of the Vatican officials.
Oddly enough, a small noisy group criticized this pilgrimage: it would seem that the children were forced, obliged against their will, forcefully dragged to the feet of the pope…outrageous fees were “extorted” from the parents…in short, meanness vies with stupidity, and those who say these things should take a look at, read and meditate on the accounts given by and about those who participated! When they threw their berets in the air at St. Peter’s Square, it seemed spontaneous and rather joyful to me!
And there are still some who consider that the Roman authorities acted as they should have. But there are also others who are enraptured by the Roman benevolence towards them. So it may be useful simply to recall the facts.
The houses spent two or three years preparing this pilgrimage, and all that time was dedicated to the many preparations and fundraising needed (concerts, plays, various sales…)
On August 28, 2014, a letter was sent to the four cardinal archpriests of the papal basilicas, requesting permission for processions with a sermon and the Credo, followed by the celebration of the Mass, and clearly stating that the priests would be priests of the Society of St. Pius X.
On the same day a letter of information was addressed to Archbishop Pozzo, secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. He did not acknowledge receipt of this letter.
On September 16, Cardinal Comastri, Vicar General of His Holiness for the Vatican City State, and therefore archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, gave a positive answer for everything and especially for “the celebration of the Eucharist at the altar of the Holy See!” Unexpected, but generous! Deo gratias!
On October 1, Cardinal Vallini, archpriest of St. John Lateran and Vicar of the diocese of Rome, answered that: "the Society of St. Pius X does not have a canonical status in the Church” and that he was “sorry to be able to grant neither the Basilica of St. John Lateran not any other church in the diocese of Rome for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.”
On November 1, the sisters sent a request to the pope himself asking for his help in the delicate and difficult situation they were in.
How can we tell our students that the churches of Rome are closed to them and that we do not know where they will have Mass? How can we explain to them that the priests who teach them their catechism and celebrate Mass for them, who prepare them for their First Communion and hear their confessions cannot sing Mass in the Roman basilicas? This Mass for which they have been preparing with such fervor for so many weeks and months? No one, neither they nor their families, will understand.
You alone, Most Holy Father, can resolve this difficulty of the celebration of Mass and make a smooth pilgrimage possible for our students and the members of our Congregation. It will thus be for all a providential occasion to grow in the love of the Church and the desire to serve her.
Confident of your understanding, Most Holy Father, we humbly ask your blessing.”
The pope, who seems interested only in the “outskirts”, gave no response, no understanding, no blessing!
On November 10, the brother in charge of the sacristy of St. Mary Major answered by email in the name of Cardinal Santos Abril, and granted 30 minutes to pray and sing, but without the celebration of the Holy Mass: there was not enough time, and the basilica was too small for so many people!
As for Cardinal Harvey, archpriest of St. Paul Outside the Walls, he didn’t answer.
On November 27, the secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei sent a letter in response to the request addressed to the pope, transmitted to the Secretary of State and from there to the Pontifical Commission: no problem for fulfilling the “pious acts of the pilgrimage” in the basilicas, but “the permission granted in very particular special cases, such as, for example, the Lourdes sanctuaries, are exceptional and therefore cannot apply in the case of the papal basilicas,” and therefore Mass absolutely cannot be celebrated by the Society priests. It would, however, be possible for Mass to be celebrated by a priest in full communion, etc., etc.; a familiar tune!
And on November 28, Cardinal Comastri wrote again to retract his permission and explain that “the celebrant must be in full communion with the Catholic Church and not a member of the Society.”
On December 13, the Mothers [as all of the sisters are called within their community—Ed.] went to Rome, saying that they were available for a meeting. The above-mentioned secretary was too busy to receive Mother General! It is true that Mother General had not addressed a request for an audience in three copies on stamped paper to the above-mentioned secretary of the above-mentioned commission! So they were received by an undersecretary, an official of the same commission. A very cordial meeting, in which the official offered to provide “appropriate” priests, and granted permission for the Society priests to be present in surplices in the sanctuary.
Period…? No, not period!
On December 15, the above-mentioned secretary, too busy to receive the Mothers, found time to write up and send a fax to Bishop Fellay concerning this pilgrimage.
A few simple remarks on these strange Vatican officials:
- I cannot but notice the above-mentioned secretary’s power and his eagerness to create an obstacle to the benevolence of the Vicar General of His Holiness for the Vatican City State and archpriest of St. Peter’s basilica, and to prevent Mass from being offered at St. Peter’s!
- I also wonder why the above-mentioned secretary sent a fax to Bishop Fellay, who had nothing to do with the organization of this pilgrimage! What was he hoping? For His Excellency to intervene with the Mothers? For His Excellency to make a concession? To provoke discord between the Society and the sisters (he who dreams of nothing but an agreement!)? Well, it didn’t work!
- When this same secretary spoke of exceptional cases, as in Lourdes, what did he mean by exceptional? Was there nothing exceptional about this pilgrimage? Doubtless they often see pilgrimages of the sort in Rome: 200 religious and almost 1000 children, parents and friends, in good order, clean and courteous, coming to proclaim their fidelity to Rome, their love for the Church and their gratitude! Once every 40 years …nothing exceptional?
- Instead of a “papal” basilica, couldn’t they at least have granted one Roman church for the Mass?
- From what I know of the life of the Church today, it seems to me that these things are granted to pretty much everyone …but there is one unforgivable sin, a sin committed only by the SSPX and the societies associated with them: that of not having canonical recognition!
So politics have replaced charity and the hearts of the Roman prelates and officials, high and low, know only the strictest rigor of the letter of Canon Law. Respect and enforcement of the law – that nobody cares about, not even the pope – have become the supreme virtue. The letter of Canon Law has become the norm and the rule of goodness!
And some dare to praise the benevolence of the Roman authorities! Yes, we really did read: “So under Pope Francis’ pontificate, the communities associated with the Society of St. Pius X are allowed to make pilgrimages to Rome in peace." I do not know if the person who wrote this still believes in the irreplaceable value of the Holy Mass; maybe for him it is an extra ceremony, and not the heart of a pilgrimage! Make a pilgrimage, but do not celebrate Mass…and he finds that admirable!
The pilgrimage was thus conducted with great fervor from February 9 to 14. Instead of a church, even a non-papal church, the Holy Mass was sung every day in a room rented out for the occasion, large enough and superbly decorated by the sisters of Albano.
The sisters sent their thanks to the cardinal archpriests on February 28, 2015.
As for the above-mentioned secretary of the above-mentioned commission, I do not know what to say, or rather, I have too much to say! The saddest part is that he is a priest, and even a bishop…and that he forgets that his priesthood was conferred upon him to open to souls the doors of grace, and not to close them, especially when it is children’s souls!
And he still dares to pretend to be generous! He dares to speak of benevolence and to boast of his good dispositions, when the only effect of his action has been to prevent good! He still dares to pretend that the Society needs to sort out their “internal problems" for the agreement he desires to become possible! He pretends not to know that the heart of the quarrel lies in the doctrinal differences, and he pretends to hold out to us a smooth hand in the hope that we will believe that all is well in the Vatican, and that everyone is waiting for us with wide-open hearts and no second thoughts! I am sorry, but besides the fact that the dialogue was broken off two years ago and that the discord is more and more obvious, I do not see how the acts of the above-mentioned secretary could inspire the slightest trust, when his softest statements are contradicted by his actions! “Soothing words are fickle; concrete facts are far more eloquent."
So we shall continue to wait, and when the Vatican officials find the path back to the eternal Rome, the Rome that loves children, when we can once again taste “the Roman tenderness for the young” (Fr. Berto), then maybe we will be able to go back.
- . Paix Liturgique #477 (February 2015): http://www.paixliturgique.com/aff_lettre.asp?LET_N_ID=2308.
- . Archbishop Pozzo to I.Media: http://www.dici.org/en/news/the-society-of-st-pius-xs-relations-with-rom....
- . Luc Perrin in Forum Catholique, March 20, 2105.