Catholic World News News Feature
Vatican approves new traditionalist institute September 08, 2006
The Vatican has established a new religious institute to accommodate priests and seminarians leaving the schismatic Society of St. Pius X, the I Media news agency report.
The new group, the Good Shepherd community, will be located in Bordeaux. Members will be allowed to celebrate Mass using the traditional liturgy exclusively.
Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, signed the decree establishing the Good Shepherd community on September 8. The institute will be a "society of apostolic life," under the supervision of the Congregation for Clergy and the Congregation for Religious.
The Vatican has approved the canonical statutes for the new institute, as well as the first superior: Father Philippe Laguérie, a priest who was dismissed from the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX).
Informed sources at the Vatican report that Pope Benedict XVI personally approved the settlement that will allow members of the Good Shepherd society to use the traditional liturgy, following the Missal of St. Pius V. Members of the new institute point out that by authorizing this move, the Pope has fulfilled one of the major demands made by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre before his break with the Vatican in 1988.
The new fraternity will include five priests and a number of seminarians, including several who are in line for ordination to the priesthood shortly. Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos will celebrate the group's first ordinations. All of the members have already left the SSPX.
By establishing this new community, the Vatican has chosen to pursue talks with priests who have left the breakaway traditionalist group, rather than with the SSPX itself. In that respect the move might signal a decision by Vatican leaders that reconciliation with the SSPX is unlikely, after years of unfruitful negotiations. The creation of the Good Shepherd institute could provide an incentive for other priests to leave the SSPX. Talks between the Holy See and the SSPX intensified in 2000, when Pope John Paul II asked Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos to make a special effort to achieve reconciliation with the traditionalists who split from Rome in 1988. Those talks gained even more momentum with the election of Pope Benedict XVI, who was widely seen as sympathetic to the traditionalists' concerns.
In August 2005 the Pope met with Bishop Bernard Fellay, the SSPX superior, for private talks at Castel Gandolfo. However, the talks between traditionalist leaders and Vatican officials eventually cooled, and Bishop Fellay-- who was recently re-elected as the head of SSPX-- has told journalists that he sees little likelihood of a reconciliation in the near future. Father Laguérie, the leader of the new institute, expressed the concerns of traditionalists in March of this year when he wrote that the Vatican should remedy "the scandals of the years 1960- 2000," and insisted that traditionalists should have "total freedom for the liturgy" and the liberty to question the teachings of Vatican II. He argued that Pope Benedict, in a December speech to the Roman Curia, had acknowledged the damage done by popular interpretations of Vatican II.
In April 2006, speaking at Lourdes, Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard told the bishops of France that "the question of relations with the SSPX" deserved special treatment. He added that Pope Benedict was particularly anxious to find a resolution after years of division. The French hierarchy, he said, should be prepared to welcome traditionalists back into full communion.
The priests who will compose the Good Shepherd institute have all found themselves in conflict with the traditionalist group to which they once belonged. Father Paul Aulangnier was the superior of the SSPX in France until 2003, when he was dismissed from the group after defending an agreement between the Vatican and another traditionalist group, the Brazilian Society of St. John Vianney. Father Laguérie, the group's superior, was expelled in 2004 after he openly criticized the formation at SSPX seminaries.