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 Lisa Bourne / LifeSiteNews

(LifeSiteNews) — A German Catholic website reported that, according to its sources, the Vatican is planning a crackdown soon on the traditional Ecclesia Dei communities, going so far as to implement “papal delegates” for them and suppressing the use of the traditional Roman missal and its sacraments.

LifeSiteNews found a source who confirmed that Rome is preparing for visitations of the three largest communities to take place in February 2022. These are the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, and the Institute of the Good Shepherd.

This development must be seen in light of the attempts by Rome to steer the traditional contemplative orders, such as the Carmelite nuns in Fairfield, Pennsylvania, away from their original and stricter charisms.

On November 30, the German website Summorum Pontificum posted an article (English translation on Rorate Caeli) with concerning news. Informed sources, they wrote, “expect the initiation of measures before the end of this year, which should lead these priestly communities ‘back to the only way of celebrating the Roman rite.’” According to this report, it seems that the people behind Pope Francis’ motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, which essentially aims at abolishing the traditional Roman rite, realized that they first need to crack down on these traditional orders before setting up a new law. The report continues by saying:

Apparently, Rome is of the opinion that the status of the communities as “societies of pontifical right” opens up immediate possibilities of access. For this purpose, “papal delegates” could be appointed who, although they would not replace the existing superior as would a commissioner appointed by the Congregation for Religious Orders, would nevertheless be superior to him. These papal delegates would instruct superiors to take all necessary measures to “reconcile their communities with the spirit of the Council” and, as a fundamental first step toward this, to order the general celebration of the reformed liturgy. On this basis, plans for its inclusion in pastoral care could then be developed in collaboration with local bishops.

Such papal delegates and commissioners are intimately related to visitations, as we know from the experience of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate and more recently of the traditional Carmelite nuns of Fairfield, where such a commission might be pending. LifeSiteNews reported in August that sources in Rome were convinced that Pope Francis and his collaborators aim at suppressing the traditional Roman rite and its liturgical life and that they will use spies in order to find out who is not in compliance with the new reform.

As LifeSiteNews was able to learn from a source in Rome, the visitation of the major Ecclesia Dei (ED) communities is being already prepared. Our source said that people are already being interviewed by members of the visitation team headed by Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo. The visitations of the three major ED communities are to start in February. Carballo, according to the source, is heading all of the visitation commissions for the ED communities. Carballo guided the visitation of the Fairfield nuns that took place at the end of September. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò commented on Carballo in a recent statement.

The Ecclesia Dei communities are those orders who received official approval from Rome to use the traditional Roman rite and live out a traditional Catholic life of faith, with several of them coming originally from the SSPX. They are still called Ecclesia Dei communities, even though Pope Francis suppressed the Ecclesia Dei Commission itself in January 2019. They now fall under the guidance of the Congregation for Religious Life. Among these communities are the Fraternity of St. Peter, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, the Institute of the Good Shepherd, and numerous other orders and institutes throughout the world. Because they are exclusively dedicated to the traditional faith and liturgy, they are now especially targeted thanks to the pope’s new July 16 motu proprio Traditionis Custodes.

One senior source in the Vatican told LifeSite: “The goal is the destruction of the Ecclesia Dei communities and of the contemplative orders.”

This morning, Father Andrzej Komorowski, the general superior of the FSSP, told LifeSiteNews that “up to today, no one from Rome has contacted us,” and he added that “I have not received any other information, neither concerning the planned visitation nor concerning other measures related to the motu proprio and the Ecclesia Dei communities.”

LifeSiteNews has repeatedly reported on the fact that Rome is currently trying to align the female traditional contemplative orders – such as the Carmelites in Fairfield, Pennsylvania and Valparaiso, Nebraska – with the Vatican’s new 2018 instruction Cor Orans, asking these orders to become organized under larger umbrella organizations, and thus to give up their independence and autonomy. The overall tone of these reforms is to urge these contemplative nuns to abandon their strict rule of life and seclusion and become more open to the world. Father Maximilian Dean, a hermit and chaplain to the Fairfield nuns, recently stated that the Vatican is out to “destroy” the contemplative orders.

Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, the editor of a newly published book on Traditionis Custodes, From Benedict’s Peace to Francis’s War, commented for LifeSiteNews on the impending measures taken by Rome against the Ecclesia Dei communities. He wrote:

If the people in charge of implementing the motu proprio actually dare to attack the constitutions of these institutes and their principled commitment to the liturgical tradition of perennial worth (which, as Benedict XVI reminded us, is a matter of doctrine, not merely of discipline), then it is fair to say that their efforts will significantly backfire. They may, at worst, blow these institutes into smithereens, but the various ‘fragments’ will remain committed to tradition, and will be even harder to regulate or moderate going forward.

Giving further insight into how such harsh measure will backfire on Rome, Kwasniewski added that from his “wide experience of the priests and religious of the former Ecclesia Dei groups, they are by no means prepared to just give up the tradition and to ‘transition,’ whether quickly or slowly, to the new liturgical books; rather, they will find clever ways to continue, even going underground if necessary.”

“In short,” the liturgy expert concluded, “the campaign against tradition will lose whether it happens slowly or quickly. I am pretty convinced that the authorities in Rome do not know what they are dealing with and feel that by an exercise of brute power they can uproot this ‘difficulty’ in the life of the post-conciliar Church. No doubt they can do a lot of damage, but uprooting a traditional movement that, at this point, numbers thousands of clergy and millions of faithful will prove to be mission impossible.

“The long-term consequence, however, will be positive: It will be impossible to doubt anymore that the modernists hate tradition and hate even the working of the Holy Spirit in the obvious good fruits of traditional parishes, chapels, monasteries, convents, and so forth. So the efforts of the modernists will poison all the more the entire program of ‘reform’ that they stand for, signing its death warrant.”

Another source in Rome gave LifeSiteNews a similar assessment. He said Pope Francis, at the end of his pontificate and in light of his growing physical weakness, is desperate to destroy tradition within the Church, but that he will lose this battle. “The Enlightenment and Vatican II are gone in the Church,” he stated. He is observing that, even since the publication of Traditionis Custodes, many more Catholics have found their way to the traditional liturgy, some of them even out of protest against Pope Francis’ harsh document. First the COVID lockdowns, and then the restrictions on the Latin Mass, both have effected the opposite of what might have been intended, the source said. Tradition is growing in the Church, and a future pope will have to deal with that fact.

Several prominent voices so far have urged the ED communities as well as the traditional contemplative orders to stay strong and to remain loyal to their original traditional charisms and life of faith, among them Archbishop Viganò, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, and German author Martin Mosebach. Cardinal Gerhard Müller recently criticized the Congregation for Religious Life – which is responsible for these visitations – with the words: “The danger that I see is this: that in the Congregation for the Religious Life, there are people who have no understanding [of] the vita contemplativa.” These people think that the contemplative life “has no practical sense,” Cardinal Müller told LifeSiteNews in October. “But the sense [purpose] of our human, Christian existence is the adoration of God without our own interests.” He added that it makes “no sense to destroy [it], to suppress [it],” and then added, “No Pope has the right to define the ecclesiastical life of this discipline once and forever.”

Mosebach, a famous German Catholic author, in a recent interview with LifeSiteNews supported the idea of resisting at all costs such unjust decisions of Rome against tradition, even if it means that such orders would have to live for a few years in “legitimate illegality.” The contemplative nuns, he added, would have to make sure they protect their properties. All these tradition-oriented groups and individual Catholics might have a difficult time ahead of them, he added, saying:

Canon law does not know positivism in essential questions — no “Hoc volo, sic iubeo [What I wish, I command]!” Only whoever resists [Traditionis Custodes] must expect that the church building will be taken away from the parish and that the priests will be suspended. It may also happen that some parishioners, for whom the Pope’s threatening gesture is still of spiritual significance, no longer dare to attend a ‘forbidden’ Mass. Whoever wants to resist must be prepared to pay a price for it. In my estimation, the price will not be too high — the left wing of the Church has long since stopped following instructions from Rome without having to fear even the slightest sanction. This does not apply to Tradition, however, but the weapons have become blunt — who takes the Church’s penal code seriously anymore?

But also remember that times of persecution were always times of many graces, and it is a true honor to be able to give witness to Christ’s Truth and Tradition. I am convinced that this time of trial is also a time of great honor and holy adventure. Let us remember here the great example that Bishop Schneider has given us through his own experiences in the Soviet Union as a child.

LifeSiteNews has also reached out to the Institute of Christ the King, asking them for comment. We will update this report should we receive an answer.

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Dr. Maike Hickson was born and raised in Germany. She holds a PhD from the University of Hannover, Germany, after having written in Switzerland her doctoral dissertation on the history of Swiss intellectuals before and during World War II. She now lives in the U.S. and is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.

Dr. Hickson published in 2014 a Festschrift, a collection of some thirty essays written by thoughtful authors in honor of her husband upon his 70th birthday, which is entitled A Catholic Witness in Our Time.

Hickson has closely followed the papacy of Pope Francis and the developments in the Catholic Church in Germany, and she has been writing articles on religion and politics for U.S. and European publications and websites such as LifeSiteNews, OnePeterFive, The Wanderer, Rorate Caeli,, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Notizie Pro-Vita, Corrispondenza Romana,, Der Dreizehnte,  Zeit-Fragen, and Westfalen-Blatt.