June 21, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Following the statement by the French Archdiocese of Dijon, explaining why the Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) has suddenly been kicked out of its apostolate at the Basilica of Saint Bernard where it has offered the Traditional Latin Mass for 23 years, the FSSP published a firm response last Friday, countering the reasons given for its eviction. The Fraternity is clearly not merely taking Bishop Roland Minnerath’s move, and has countered the criticisms contained in the diocese’s statement one by one.
In the diocese’s communiqué, the eviction was justified by the refusal of the priests who are at present serving in Dijon to concelebrate occasionally in the Novus Ordo, and also by the fact that two priests instead of one are working at the apostolate since 2017, and that they are “providing all the services normally provided by the parishes.”
After the eviction of the FSSP is effective — in principle on August 31 — diocesan priests will offer the Traditional Latin Mass in the Basilica, but the dynamic group of several hundred faithful who attend there regularly will be expected to go to the local Novus Ordo parishes for other services, such as catechesis, preparation for the sacraments, youth clubs, scouting and so on.
The diocese’s online justification came several weeks after the curt letter dated May 17 by which Bishop Minnerath’s decision to dismiss the FSSP from his diocese was made known, without any reason being given. Since that day, the FSSP has asked in vain for a meeting with the bishop, and no other explanations have been offered than those in the diocese’s statement last Thursday.
The FSSP’s official website for the District of France has now published a new statement “about the eviction of the Fraternity of Saint Peter from the diocese of Dijon,” in which it recalls that the FSSP has always presented the priests it named in the diocese to the archbishop and that all these nominations were accepted — even gratefully accepted.
The FSSP also underscored that the issue of concelebration had been openly discussed with Archbishop Minnerath on the occasion of each new nomination.
As for the services offered by the FSSP, the Fraternity makes clear that there was never a written “list of requirements,” as the diocese’s statement alleged. There were “a few written exchanges” between the FSSP and the archbishop, in which the latter instead spoke about the “overall pastoral service of the Ecclesia Dei community” that its priests “must ensure.”
The FSSP’s communiqué concludes, “It seems anachronistic, at a time when the number of priests continues to decrease, to prefer to dispense with the services of two of them, on the grounds that they are not versatile enough (celebrating only one liturgical form), even if it means placing an even larger burden on the diocesan priests.”
The FSSP still hopes to obtain a meeting with the archbishop, who is only five months away from his 75th birthday, at which point he will be expected to tender his resignation to Rome.
Here below is the full text of the latest statement by the Fraternity of Saint Peter (LifeSite’s translation).
On the eviction of the Fraternity of Saint Peter from the Diocese of Dijon
Friday, June 18, 2021
The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) has taken note of the communiqué published on June 17, 2021 on the website of the Diocese of Dijon. It sincerely regrets that such a mode of communication is being used, but given the impossibility of establishing a direct dialogue with the archbishop of Dijon, it is now forced to use this same mode of communication in order to provide some clarifications.
Informed by letter on May 17, without any prior consultation or reason given, that its priests are being expelled from the Diocese of Dijon, the Fraternity of St. Peter cannot understand why Archbishop Roland Minnerath continues to refuse to receive its superiors or even to discuss matters with them.
The communiqué issued by the diocese implies that, in recent years, the priests of the FSSP have been imposed on the diocese by the superiors or that a second priest was installed against the will of the archbishop. The Fraternity wants to recall that all priests appointed to Dijon since 1998 have all been duly presented to and accepted, each time, by the archbishop. In his letter of March 22, 2017, Archbishop Minnerath wrote to the Superior of the FSSP for France: “You wish to appoint a priest of the Fraternity to assist Father Bruno Stemler in his mission and to lead with him a fraternal life in conformity with your constitutions. I can only approve your decision and am delighted to see, at the beginning of the school year in September 2017, another priest come to strengthen the priestly presence in our diocese.”
Each time a priest has been put forward to minister in the diocese, Bishop Minnerath has met with him beforehand and discussed the issue of concelebration with him. By accepting a priest of the FSSP in his diocese, the Archbishop knew and accepted the position of that priest regarding concelebration. Thus, the FSSP has not “excluded its priests from celebrating in the ordinary rite” but respects the will of its members in this matter and, with regard to the concelebration of Mass, intends to conform to the law of the Church which recognizes that “they are completely free to celebrate the Eucharist individually” (can. 902 CIC).
[Translator’s note: This is the official English translation of can. 902. The French translation of can. 902 says that “priests can concelebrate the Eucharist, with due respect for the freedom of all to celebrate individually.” This is closer to the Latin text, which says: “integra tamen pro singulis libertate manente Eucharistiam individuali modo celebrandi.” It would be more precise to translate this in English as follows: “provided however that for all the freedom to celebrate the Eucharist individually be upheld.”]
This question of Eucharistic concelebration, which is presented as absolutely indispensable as a mark of unity, would require a lengthy elaboration that is beyond the scope of this communiqué. However, the Society of St. Peter is deeply saddened to see the celebration of a sacrament (in this case, the Sacrifice of the Mass) instrumentalized to the point of becoming a condition for ministry in a diocese.
The diocese also implies that the Fraternity has not respected a certain “list of requirements;” unfortunately, the FSSP has no such document, but only a few written exchanges with Bishop Minnerath. In one of them, dated May 2019, Bishop Minnerath even mentions “the overall pastoral service of the Ecclesia Dei community” that the priests of the FSSP must ensure.
The communiqué finally emphasizes the attachment of the faithful to the priests of the Fraternity, which is quite understandable and even desirable. It criticizes the fact that some of the faithful are allegedly placing themselves outside the diocesan Church. The FSSP seeks to work for the good of souls in the one Church of Christ. It wishes to recall that it has always been committed to serving ecclesial unity, in its legitimate diversity, and this since its foundation by Pope John Paul II in 1988 to serve the communion of the faithful attached to the ancient liturgical forms. Until this communiqué of June 17, 2021, no remark has been formulated on the part of the Diocese of Dijon to put into question the service of unity accomplished locally by the priests of the FSSP.
The Fraternity wishes publicly to thank its various priests who, for more than twenty years, have devoted themselves to the what is being held against them, they have always taken care to maintain good relations with the diocesan priests, notably by participating in the various meetings that have been proposed. As elsewhere, they have taken to heart to offer to the faithful entrusted to them by the bishop, not only the Mass, but also all that follows from it and prepares the faithful to receive its graces with fruit. As in the 146 other dioceses around the world where members of the FSSP minister, these priests have sought to be faithful to the charism proper to the Society, which the Church has officially approved.
It seems anachronistic, at a time when the number of priests continues to decrease, to prefer to dispense with the services of two of them, on the grounds that they are not versatile enough (celebrating only one liturgical form), even if it means placing an even larger burden on the diocesan priests.
The Fraternity of St. Peter hopes that these next few weeks will allow for a discussion with the Diocese of Dijon, in order to return to an appeased situation.
“Now there are diversities of graces, but the same Spirit; And there are diversities of ministries, but the same Lord.” (1 Cor 12:4-6)