The Letter of his Eminence Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, President of the Papal Commission Ecclesia Dei since April this year (2000) is attached to this Defence of the Novus Ordo Missae of His Holiness Pope Paul VI as a postscript. This letter forms an integral part with the Disclaimer read out by the Secretary of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, Monsignor Camille Perl, to the Delegates of the International Federation of Una Voce International (FIUV) at that organization’s meeting in Rome, November 17, 1999.

Extract From Monsignor Perl’s Statement to FIUV, November 1999

“Those who maintain that this is an abuse of power do not understand the true juridical situation: that the Commission exercises the full authority of the Holy See over the aforementioned Fraternity. To state that there is an intention to modify the traditional orientation of the Fraternity is not only absurd, but it gravely offends against the truth and the members of the Pontifical Commission.

4. At the heart of this crisis is the problem of the concelebration of priests who are attached to certain forms of the Latin liturgical tradition at a Mass celebrated according to the rite presently in force. (The Novus Ordo Missae). This possibility has been requested and occasionally carried out by some priests in Masses with the diocesan bishop, but categorically refused by the majority. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, after having consulted the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts and requested the advice of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, has published “Official Responses” pertaining to this matter in Notitiæ, and has explained its reasons to the superiors of the institutes concerned. These responses constitute a statement on the juridical level:

those who have the privilege of celebrating according to the liturgical books in use prior to the reform of Paul VI do not lose for that reason the right to celebrate according to the Missal of Paul VI - a right which belongs to every priest of the Roman rite. It is nowhere stated that these priests are obliged to do this, but that they have the right, and that no superior can forbid them from doing what the general law of the Church allows them to do. An exclusive right to celebrate according to the 1962 books does not exist and has never existed, and no official text makes such a mention. The texts of the Congregation for Divine Worship are very clear and leave no room for doubt on this point. It is then utterly false to talk about taking away from the Fraternity its exclusive right, because such a right never existed. On the other hand, it should be underscored that there is no intention of taking away the privileges conceded to the priests and to the institutes attached to the Latin liturgical tradition.”

As can be learned from Card. Hoyos’ Letter of June 29, 2000, Rome is now fully aware that the sole stumbling block with the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter is their insistence that an exclusive right to say the Tridentine Rite does exist and that the members of the PFSP possess it. No wonder the patience of Rome is wearing thin ...

Letter of Dario Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, President of the Papal Commission Ecclesia Dei, to the General Chapter of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter

My very dear Brethren:

Your Fraternity is holding at the moment its General Chapter. In my position as the new President of the Papal Commission Ecclesia Dei, I would gladly be with you, in order to speak to you personally. Because this is not possible, due to obligations which I assumed quite some time ago, I am writing you this letter.

The General Chapter of your Fraternity is a privileged moment [in which] to look, together as brethren, upon the exalted Person of our Redeemer and only Lord, Jesus Christ. It is a privileged moment of Trinitarian communion, in which the unity of the Church of Our Lord and the unity among us as brethren strengthens itself. As disciples of Jesus, we must strive for perfection, but with the priorities which the Master has Himself revealed to us. The absolute priority is the love of God and the love of our brethren, as distinguishing characteristics of our Family of Faith. The love of God expresses itself in prayer, in the celebration of the Faith, in holding firm to certainties which concern the moral life, and in the disciplinary manifestations which protect and guarantee them. This is the special field of your particular place in the Church. Holding fast to the noble traditions in the celebration of the Divine Cult is its characteristic mark.

Since my appointment last April, I have studied the acts [or: archives] of your Institute. I have spoken with several of you, and I have read numerous letters which have reached me. Likewise, I have informed myself through people in Rome who have been familiar with your situation for years. After all of this, I would like to communicate to you my reflection and my decisions.

One cannot possibly deny that your Institute has been living through a severe crisis for a certain amount of time. A first attempt to solve this crisis was undertaken in February with the General Convocation held at Rocca di Papa. This [Convocation], as you know, worked out a compromise, which attempted to reconcile the demands of the General Law of the Church with the particular character of your Institute, and so to overcome your divisions. This compromise, unfortunately, has become the object of new controversies between those who accept it, and those who reject it.

In spite of this, the Superiors requested that the Papal Commission approve this compromise, and to make it a particular law for you. After mature reflection, and questioning of the experts, I ascertained that this is not possible.

The ground for this is the clear circumstances of the legal situation in this matter, namely:

A priest, who enjoys the privilege to celebrate the Mass according to the old Missal of 1962, does not lose the right, likewise to use the Missal of 1970, which is officially in force in the Latin Church. No Superior beneath the Supreme Pontiff can hinder a priest from following the General Law, which was promulgated by the Supreme Legislator, namely, to celebrate in the reformed Rite of Pope Paul VI.

A limitation of the exercise of this right can be freely decided upon, perhaps, by a priest, but it can never become the general rule of an Institute.

It [i.e., the limitation or restriction] also cannot be imposed upon seminarians, or be the reason for denying them ordination. You know very well, that this last point is of great importance for you in this moment, when not a negligible number of seminarians and even priests have the intention to depart from your Institute, if this rule were imposed upon them - which, however, is in fact not possible.

It is therefore urgently necessary to render certain decisions, in order to avoid the falling apart of your Fraternity, and [to avoid] the loss of vocations, which are so precious in our time.

1. The first decision is of juridical nature. Your Constitutions, which were approved ad experimentum [i.e., experimentally, temporarily], leave open the question of the possible number of terms of appointment for a Superior General. It appears appropriate to restrict these to two terms of six years each - that is, a maximum of twelve years - to bring the Fraternity into harmony with the majority of other religious Institutes. The competent authority of the Holy See hereby limits the term of office of the Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter to two successive terms of six years each. This Papal Commission thanks Father Bisig, who has exercised this function for twelve years, for everything which he has done for the Fraternity, which owes to him its consolidation and its expansion into several countries during the initial period of its history, as the fruit of his burning zeal and his desire for personal and collective sanctification. He will always be, through his experience, a pillar and support for your Fraternity and will, I am certain, help his successor through his good advice.

2. The second decision is the following: It is known to you that in 1991, Cardinal Innocenti, who was then President of this Papal Commission, named Fr. Bisig to a further term of three years as Superior General, despite a differing vote of the General Chapter. The conflict-ridden situation of your Fraternity presently demands a similar intervention of superior authority, in view of the danger that an election could become the source of even more profound divisions. For this reason, I name Fr. Arnaud Devillers as Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter for a term of six years. Fr. Devillers fulfills the necessary conditions and knows your Fraternity well from the inside. He has long experience as the one responsible for the North American District, which he founded, and which he has firmly implanted in several American dioceses - always in good cooperation with the respective bishops. His first assignment will be to re-establish peace in your Fraternity, by working to maintain your common spirituality, and even to strengthen it; likewise to reinforce your family spirit.

3. The third decision concerns the Seminary at Wigratzbad. Together with the one in the United States, it is the cradle of future vocations. One must therefore give it the possibility to form priests in all peace and calm, and to provide a solid theological and pastoral formation. For this reason, a new Rector will be named for the International Seminary of St. Peter at Wigratzbad. He will dedicate himself to the task of priestly formation, together with the college of professors, whom he will select with the consent of the Superior General. It is important that the seminarians find here a spiritual atmosphere, a good spirit, professors adequate to their assignment, and an exemplary ecclesial spirit, which carefully avoids all extremism. You know quite well that your Seminary is observed by many people in the Church, and that it must be exemplary in all respects.

In particular, it is required to avoid and combat a certain spirit of rebellion against the present-day Church, which spirit easily finds followers among the young students, who - like all young people - already incline to extreme and rigorist positions. It is necessary, on the contrary, to cultivate love for the Church and Her Supreme Pastor, and to listen to Her Magisterium. One cannot live in the Church and at the same time distance himself from Her.

The Superior General will likewise select a Rector for the American Seminary, for which the same findings are valid as for Wigratzbad.

I wish that all members of the Fraternity accept these decisions with submission and humility. May they all keep themselves from again forming pressure-groups or groups of resistance against the line of the Superior General.

I promise that the Papal Commission will be from now on more present in the Seminaries and other Houses of the Fraternity, and will watch more diligently over their good condition. It may also come about that the Commission will intervene anew, if this is necessary.

What concerns the Liturgy remains as it should: Your Fraternity has the privilege to celebrate according to the liturgical books from 1962 in its own chapels and churches. The priests of the Institute normally celebrate according to this Rite, but they have the right - it is unnecessary to repeat - to celebrate also according to the books presently in use, in particular cases which will not be frequent, but which nevertheless remain dependent upon the reasonable and tactful decision of the priests. I encourage you to concelebrate with the diocesan bishop, particularly on Maundy Thursday.

In this way, you will visibly demonstrate your unity with the Pastor of the local Church - who is also your Pastor - and with his clergy, to whom those priests also belong who are members of Institutes of Consecrated Life or - as your Fraternity - of Communities of Apostolic Life, which have a pastoral charge in the diocese.

On the other hand, it is clear that no priest is obliged to make use of this right. In this way, an atmosphere of freedom and trust can arise in this area, which stands in opposition to every exclusivity and every liturgical extremism. The “Fraternity of St. Peter”, as its name already says, can only be a family of brethren, who mutually accept each other with fraternal love, and who are united wholly into the great family of the Roman Catholic Church, where there is a legitimate place for Catholics with a traditional sensibility, which I will defend with all my power.

I entrust to you one more personal reflection:

You must not view the aspect of the Rite [of the Liturgy] as the central point of the whole Church, or place this aspect on the same level as the fundamentals themselves,

such as unity in the true Faith, common discipline under the Apostolic Hierarchy, and the Liturgy, which is the celebration of the Mysteries of the Faith.

The Rite is not the celebration itself, but it is only one of the possible forms of the latter. Apart from that, do not forget that the Rite reformed by Pope Paul VI is the common Rite of the Church. It is not your task to alter this state of things, or so to speak about this Rite, as if it were of lesser value;

but rather to aid the Faithful who have an attachment to the old Rite better to find themselves once more in the Church. If it is true that the aspect of the Rite is an important help for the permanence of the Sacred, which in today’s Church is so threatened by secularisation, this occurs not only through one single form of the Rite, as some might like to believe; but one must preserve the Holy in all relations with God. It is your task to do this, in that you celebrate according to your aptitudes. Nevertheless, you must not assign a priority to the form of the Liturgy, in which you have the privilege to celebrate. But rather, it is much more necessary to see this as the particular contribution of your Institute to the common work of the Church. Your contribution must fit itself into the harmony of the sanctity of the Church, where there is certainly a place for that which completes - not, however, for that which contradicts.

Insofar as you behave thus, you contribute at the same time to the New Evangelization, to which the Holy Father calls all of us.

I invoke upon all of you the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Queen of the Apostles, and the plenitude of heavenly graces, which God wishes to confer upon you: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Rome, the 29th June 2000
Dario Card. Castrillon Hoyos