Pope Francis Suppresses Ecclesia Dei…

Pope Francis Suppresses Ecclesia Dei…

The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei Suppressed by Pope Francis
January 19, 2019 By fsspx.news

On January 17, 2019, Pope Francis suppressed the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which had been created in 1988 by his predecessor Pope John Paul II.

The Apostolic Letter in the form of the Pope’s motu proprio was published at noon on January 19 by the Holy See Press Office and inserted in L’Osservatore Romano. From now on, the Commission’s responsibilities will be placed entirely in the hands of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which will designate a special section to take over its activities. This transfer, explains the Sovereign Pontiff, comes in response to a need expressed during a meeting of this dicastery on November 15, 2017, approved by him on November 24, and validated in a plenary session in January 2018.

The pope recalls how, over thirty years ago, the day after the episcopal consecrations in 1988, John Paul II wished to facilitate the “full ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, religious communities or individuals until now linked in various ways to the Fraternity founded by Archbishop Lefebvre”. The goal was to help them “remain united to the Successor of Peter in the Catholic Church while preserving their own spiritual and liturgical traditions”. This preservation of the spiritual and liturgical traditions was ensured in 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.

This historical reminder of Pope Francis has the merit of showing how this Pontifical Commission was originally founded on the condemnation of Archbishop Lefebvre and his work. In its thirty years of existence, it mostly limited itself to liturgical questions, with the intention of responding to the “sensitivity” of conservative priests and faithful, and of countering the Society of St. Pius X’s growth throughout the world…

But after the supposed excommunications of the bishops of Tradition were lifted in 2009, Benedict XVI believed that the ongoing doctrinal issues were a good reason to attach the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The goal was to begin doctrinal discussions with the Society of St. Pius X.

The Primacy of the Doctrine of the Faith

Today, Pope Francis writes that the religious communities that belong to the Pontifical Commission have acquired stability both in their numbers and their activities; they ensure the celebration of the Mass in its “extraordinary form”. But, he points out, “the questions dealt with by the same Pontifical Commission were of a primarily doctrinal nature.” These objections and questions are clearly irrelevant to these communities. It is indeed with the Society of St. Pius X that they continue to be an issue.

This is what the cardinals pointed out on November 15, 2017, when they “formulated the request that dialogue between the Holy See and the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X be conducted directly by the aforementioned Congregation [for the Doctrine of the Faith], as the questions being dealt with are of a doctrinal nature.”

One conclusion is evident: as the so-called Ecclesia Dei communities have preserved “their spiritual and liturgical traditions”, they clearly do not count in this discussion. If they remain attached to a section of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it is incidental. They can have the Mass, the “spiritual and liturgical traditions”, but not the whole doctrine that goes along with them.

That has always been the Society of St. Pius X’s great reproach against Dom Gérard [founder of the Benedictine monastery at Le Barroux who worked with Archbishop Lefebvre until 1988] and all those who thought they should break the unity of Tradition in order to negotiate a purely practical agreement. The crisis of the Church cannot be reduced to a spiritual or liturgical question alone. It is deeper, for it touches the very heart of the Faith and the doctrine of Revelation, Christ the King’s right to reign here below over men and over societies.


Is this, as some commentators fear, anticipating this suppression, the beginning of the end for Summorum Pontificum?  Is the Pope about to attempt to suppress the ancient Mass?  

Comments (17)

  • editor


    Seems the Vatican is passing off this event as a mere “streamlining” or “re-organisation” but it does throw into sharp relief the difference between the SSPX and the other traditional groups. It’s clearly the SSPX that requires the attention of the Vatican, the hard work… The other groups are not causing any concern. Only the SSPX is focusing on the doctrinal problems with Vatican II. That’s interesting.

    I do wonder, though, if Summorum Pontificum will be next to be suppressed.

    Is this whole “re-organisation” a preparation for the end of the universal “permission” for priests to offer the TLM if they choose? Not that any permission is, or ever was, needed of course, but the Summorum Pontificum priests currently offering the Mass under the terms of that Motu Proprio are – some if not many or most of them – unlikely to continue if they perceive an issue of “obedience”. False obedience, remember, is nearly always preferable to fighting the good fight!

    January 19, 2019 at 11:07 pm
  • RCAVictor

    I’m puzzled by the tone of this SSPX response in a couple of places:

    1. Doctrinal issues are irrelevant to the other Ecclesia Dei communities. If this is saying what I think it is saying, it reveals an embarrassing ignorance about the traditional breadth of those other communities…who, in my experience, are far more outspoken about doctrinal issues than SSPX priests have ever been.
    2. The Ecclesia Dei communities do not count in this [doctrinal] discussion. That sounds like a little sour grapes pouting to me; perhaps some resentment that only the SSPX, out of all traditional groups, has been placed in a canonically irregular situation.

    Can anyone clarify these two statements? Are they merely responding to the limited scope of this Apostolic Letter?

    That said, it is difficult to tell whether this reorganization will result in a more frontal attack on Tradition, including on Summorum. According to my tea leaves, my crystal ball and my dowsing rod, this Pope is capable of anything.

    January 19, 2019 at 11:20 pm
    • Athanasius

      RCA Victor

      If I understood the SSPX report correctly, Pope Benedict XVI was first to circulate the idea of closing Ecclesia Dei and shifting doctrinal responsibility to the CDF.

      The premise seems sound enough given that Ecclesia Dei was neither commissioned nor competent to deal with doctrinal issues involving the SSPX. However, despite this absence of authority, the leading prelates of the PCED publicly weighed in on the doctrinal situation of the SSPX many times, and not always correctly or in a constructive manner.

      In this regard I would say, in answer to your points 1& 2, that the SSPX is merely stating the obvious, which is to say that these communities were set up initially as “counter-SSPX” entities whose general silence on conciliar reform was the price of their canonical existence. The SSPX refused that kind of a deal and was therefore castigated as canonically irregular, an unfair punishment that the Ecclesia Dei communities largely confirmed when discussing the SSPX.

      Like you, I believe there are many good priests and religious in the Ecclesia Dei communities, but it remains an undeniable fact that none of them has ever taken that dutiful public stand against the destructive Modernist poison that has afflicted the Church, primarily by means of liturgical revolution and liberal doctrine. Many of them may have wanted to speak out but found themselves unable to do so lest the local ordinary retaliate. The SSPX has no such restriction on doing its duty before God.

      Personally, I don’t think this change will alter anything as regards these communities. I do think it could be a positive move as regards discussions between Rome and the SSPX, in that the CDF alone will forthwith be the only voice in continued doctrinal discussions with the SSPX.

      January 20, 2019 at 12:41 am
      • Josephine


        So, do you disagree with those who think this is a step in the direction of suppressing the traditional Latin Mass altogether? I should say “trying to suppress” as they’ve failed completely so far, and won’t succeed now, either!

        January 20, 2019 at 2:26 pm
      • Athanasius


        Yes, I disagree with that view at the moment because of the Benedict XVI link to this latest move. I don’t see any indication that the Ecclesia Dei communities will be suppressed. I think the motive behind this move is to establish anew that doctrinal authority lies with the CDF, not the PCED.

        January 20, 2019 at 4:58 pm
      • RCAVictor


        Regarding stands against Modernism, my experience has been the exact opposite of what you describe, on both sides of the coin. That is, after almost 8 years in the SSPX, I rarely if ever heard public stands from the pulpit against Modernism/the doctrinal errors of Vatican II. On the other hand, in the few EC groups with which I’m familiar, including the one I presently belong to, the preaching against same is clear and often, along with a very high level of spiritual nourishment,

        I would hesitate to make a generalization about this, since my experience on both scores is just a narrow slice of the pie, but I also note that several bloggers have posted their dissatisfaction here with bland SSPX sermons.

        I tend to agree with your last paragraph, although there is still quite a bit of anxiety in the back of my mind about the next moves that Francis may be contemplating (or has already decided upon and is just waiting for the right moment to spring them). However, given the nature of the current pontificate and the current CDF Prefect, I seriously doubt whether anything will come of further doctrinal discussions in the near future. Doctrine, after all, is an utterly alien – and even reprehensible – concept to those currently in human control of the Vatican.

        January 20, 2019 at 7:15 pm
      • Athanasius

        RCA Victor

        I take your point about the SSPX not being as vocal today as they were years ago when the persecution of Tradition was at its height. Maybe it’s a Menzingen strategy designed to ease tensions with Rome while discussions are ongoing, I don’t know. Certainly the priests at a local level don’t say enough, that’s for sure.

        As I said in regards to the Ecclesia Dei communities, there are many good priests and religious who no doubt speak out in public against the Modernist poison. However, it has been the policy of the communities themselves from their foundation not to challenge the concilliar reform in any public way, and, as evidence shows, to criticise the position of the SSPX for doing just that.

        I see the point you’re making in the last paragraph and I agree that we have to always be suspicious of the motivations for anything in Rome these days.

        Now I wish I could discuss further but I’m just rushing away. I have a 3-hour drive ahead to Inverness, then, following a hotel stay overnight, a drive to Fort William and then back home. No mean feat, I can tell you!! No rest for the really, really wicked!

        January 20, 2019 at 7:42 pm
  • editor

    N O T I C E . . .

    It has been drawn to my attention that a couple of bloggers are unaware that they can receive emails notifying them when a new topic is posted.

    If you click on Follow Catholic Truth at the bottom of the page, end of the right hand column, WordPress will send you an email with the link to any new threads posted by me, as soon as they go online.

    Catholic Truth (not to mention WordPress) at your service!

    January 20, 2019 at 7:11 pm
  • gabriel syme

    Before I comment on the article proper, I thought I would post this news (perhaps worthy of it’s own discussion) which is relevant to the SSPX being discussed here:

    Bishop Huonder of the Diocese of Chur (Switzerland) has announced he will spent his retirement with the SSPX. He is 76 and has wished to retire for a while, Pope Francis having already rejected his resignation in 2017. I don’t know a lot about him, beyond the fact he seems quite solid and has previously been “in the wars” with the LGBT and secular movements.

    Presumably he will still be able to carry out the functions of a Prelate and so this could be a real boon for the SSPX. Rorate reports that Pope Francis is “well informed” about the Bishop’s choice and personally approves of it.


    January 20, 2019 at 9:27 pm
    • editor

      Gabriel Syme,

      Many thanks for that information. I agree that it’s worthy of its own discussion so I will keep that in mind for a new thread in the near future. It certainly should lay to rest, once and for all, the nonsense claims of “schism” against the SSPX for those slow learners who still hold to the myth.

      January 21, 2019 at 1:31 pm
  • gabriel syme

    Regarding the developments concerning Ecclesia Dei. I do not think this is a sinister move and I don’t think Francis is gunning for Summorum Pontificum either.

    Ecclesia Dei was brought into being for a specific purpose at a specific point in time and things have moved on significantly since then. I think the move just shows a recognition that that specific role is increasingly redundant, not least since both the Vatican and SSPX agree that their issues are doctrinal and so it makes clear sense that the Society should parlay directly with the CDF. Talk to the organ grinder, not the monkey (with apologies to ++Pozzo!).

    Francis has previously called Summorum Pontificum “prudent” and has made generous accommodations towards the SSPX. To take the legs from the moto proprio would be a reversal of these positions and would (i) make him look indecisive and (ii) alienate the Society. It would be a step backwards and I do not think he wants that, not least because his positive moves towards the SSPX represent pretty much the sole success story of his Pontificate, which is widely considered a failure in general.

    In any case, there are enough ropey Bishops who will illegally interfere with the rights of priests and lay people regarding the TLM anyway. And so, if there was a genuine desire to meddle, then it could be done via such men rather than openly via abrogating the moto proprio.

    Even if Francis did abrogate it, I do not think anyone would take the move very seriously. Prelates used to tell lies that the mass was banned, and Benedict later clarified it was never / could never be banned and so who would take a new supposed ban seriously? It would represent the Church taking a backward step into an acrimonious battleground that we all thought – with some relief – that we had seen the back of.

    January 20, 2019 at 9:37 pm
  • Laura

    I’m a bit surprised at the comments from Athanasius and Gabriel Syme because The Remnant seems to think this is a sinister move, there are some interesting comments on their blog about this, as well

    The Remnant says that the SSPX “holds its ground” so I’m just a bit confused about what this closure of Ecclesia Dei actually means.

    January 22, 2019 at 11:58 am
    • Athanasius


      I retain a lot of respect for Michael Matt at the Remnant but I can’t ignore the hardened tone it has developed over the past few years, especially since opening up to blog comments which are largely posted by “Resistance” types. As a result, I wouldn’t pay too much attention to opinions over at the Remnant.

      January 24, 2019 at 12:43 am
  • RCAVictor

    Father Z’s comments: http://wdtprs.com/blog/2019/01/whats-up-with-the-sspx/

    January 22, 2019 at 4:01 pm
    • editor

      RCA Victor,

      Hasn’t Father Z come a long, long way on the subject of the status of the SSPX. A VERY long way! Alleluia!

      January 22, 2019 at 5:31 pm
      • Petrus

        Yes, editor, I noticed that too. Thank goodness.

        January 23, 2019 at 6:49 pm
  • crofterlady January 24, 2019 at 2:36 pm

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