Editor’s note: The following is an open letter written by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò to Bishop Franco Giulio Brambilla regarding his decision to suppress the Old Mass in his diocese.
(LifeSiteNews) — Most Reverend Excellency,
Your recent decision to suspend the celebration of the Tridentine Liturgy in the church of Vocogno and in the chapel of San Biagio in the Ossola Valleys (Piedmont, Italy) has provoked a great bitterness in the thousands of the faithful and in the priests who are tied to the Traditional Rite. After years of application of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, the coldness with which you have executed Traditionis Custodes has aroused deep indignation, despite the fact that the Code of Canon Law gives diocesan Ordinaries faculties that would permit you to derogate from it.
I can understand how your role as bishop and Successor of the Apostles is being tested by the pressures of an evident authoritarianism exercised by Rome. I equally understand that, having to choose between obedience to the Roman diktats and the protection of the sacrosanct rights of the faithful, the most humanly simple choice is one that in other times led Don Abbondio to become complicit in the oppression of Don Rodrigo and the Innominato. This Mass does not have to be done, because that is what the powerful want.
The “church of mercy” finds itself exercising its power with the force of coercion, which fails when it ought to instead be used to heal situations that are much more serious: theological deviations, moral aberrations, sacrileges and irreverences in the liturgical ambit, The image of the Hierarchy given to the people of God is summed up in the adage: Strong with the weak; weak with the strong. Which, if you will permit me to say so, is the exact opposite of what you pledged to do as a bishop.
The multiple appeals to parrhesia and synodality are daily disavowed by authoritarian decisions, moved by that clericalism that is so often deplored in words. What hateful crime did the faithful of Vocogno and San Biagio commit to deserve being deprived of the traditional Mass, which was recognized by Benedict XVI as “never abrogated” and today is cancelled as divisive because it is contrary to the ecclesiology of Vatican II? Where did the famous hermeneutic of continuity go? Where is the attention for the people of God and the listening about which so many bishops speak at the Synod on synodality?
In the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed we profess that the Church is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic: she is one not only in her diffusion across the entire world, but also in the passage of time and in the unfolding of events. The faithful Catholic is in communion not only with the Church of his own time, but he must necessarily also be in communion with the Church of all times: with the Church of the catacombs, of Constantine, of Saint Bernard, of Saint Pius V and Blessed Pius IX. The lex credendi – and the lex orandi that expresses it – cannot be susceptible to adulterations dictated by the latest fashions or contingencies. But if the lex orandi born from the modernist mind of Annibale Bugnini is recognized as the only cultic expression of the “conciliar church,” this means that the doctrine it expresses is other than – is opposed to – the teaching of Our Lord to the Apostles, handed down over the centuries and faithfully guarded by the Catholic Church. If this rupture with the Tradition is recognized and admitted by the drafter of Traditionis Custodes himself, this places the “conciliar church” outside of Catholic Tradition, thereby eliminating any legitimate authority to promulgate laws in contrast with the purposes for which the Lord instituted that authority.
I do not know if Your Excellency shares this vision, and if you consider the Holy Tridentine Mass as irreconcilable and extraneous to the “synodal church.” It seems to me that your decision, beyond revealing an exercise of episcopal authority that has been unchained from the duty to guard the depositum fidei, demonstrates a worrisome distance from the ecclesial body, a victim of the volubility and idiosyncrasies of a hierarchy that follows its own ideological program without having even the slightest concern for the consequences that it may have. The result is a very unflattering image of Shepherds, in whom the rerum novarum cupiditas [greed for novelties] tramples with impunity the immutable Magisterium of the Church, the legitimate rights of priests, and the spiritual necessities of the faithful; who, as you know, ask nothing from their bishop other than to be allowed to be free to enjoy the use of a rite that for centuries has been the praying voice of the Church, and which sixty years of failures and aberrations cannot render illegitimate only because it brings to light deceptions and falsifications.
I wonder what teaching the faithful of the Diocese of Novara – and also the millions of traditional faithful around the world – will draw from this authoritarian use of power against the very purposes from which it draws its legitimacy. Whether they obey an order that they consider unjust or oppose it in the name of obedience to God rather than to men, the authority of the Shepherds is totally discredited, because that which yesterday the Church taught and recommended is today despised and prohibited by those holding roles of governance in the Church, while that which earlier was considered contrary to the teaching of Christ is now pointed out as a model to follow.
What reproach could ever be uttered against the priests and faithful tied to the usus antiquior who – almost all of them without conviction and merely out of conformism – have resigned themselves to the imposition of the Novus Ordo? The fact that they desire the adoration of God? Recollection and decorum in the celebration? The unparalleled richness of the traditional liturgical texts, compared to the deliberate equivocal vacuousness of the reformed rite? The yearning to see the glory of the heavenly Court anticipated here on earth? The pious contemplation of the Passion of Christ in place of a noisy fraternal agape in which the Lord is only the alibi for celebrating oneself? What is so intolerable, so deplorable in wanting to pray with the sacred words handed down to us by two thousand years of Faith?
The faithful and priests of Vocogno, like all Catholics scattered throughout the diocese of the world, will find a way to escape these diktats, just as happened at the time of the Arian heresy, during the Pseudo-Reformation or at the time of the Anglican schism. Their suffering due to the deprivation of an inalienable right is a test of fidelity that makes them pleasing to God, just like what the refractory clergy did during the time of the Terror in France. But do not believe that you are winning them over to the new rite, or that you are bending their determination to remain faithful to the religion of their fathers. At most, you will be able to impede them from having the consolation of daily Mass, or assisting at the liturgical functions on Sundays and Holy Days, but all this will not favor either harmony among the faithful or their respect for ecclesiastical authority.
Time will prove them right, as has always happened in the events that have contrasted Catholic orthodoxy professed by the simple against the heretical deviations imposed by a misguided or enslaved authority. The Judgment of God will also prove them right, to which you will have to render an account of your own work as bishop. The Bergoglian Sanhedrin will not judge you, nor will the presbyteral council, nor the false friends who self-interestedly support you in this already-lost battle to hold together the conciliar narrative that has now been discredited. I believe therefore that a salutary reflection on the Last Things and your eternal destiny is most appropriate, also considering your age and the inevitability of your meeting with the Just Judge. If you believe you have acted and are acting according to God’s will, you have nothing to fear: you may continue to consider the faithful and priests of the Val d’Ossola as rebels, you may prohibit traditional Masses and demonstrate all of your unconditional subjection to the power presently in place. But remember that the powerful of this world pass away, and those who support and follow them are destined to follow them into oblivion or unanimous condemnation.
With the hope that the awareness of the time remaining to you to merit eternal glory will spur you on to retrace your steps and perform an act of true charity towards the faithful entrusted to your care, I assure Your Excellency that I will remember you in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (of Saint Pius V, obviously), imploring the Paraclete to illumine with his gift of counsel your Most Reverend Excellency, to whom I am.
Most Devoted in Christ,
+ Carlo Maria Viganò, Archbishop
This open letter is also addressed to the brother Bishops of Bishop Brambilla and to all the Bishops who find themselves exposed to pressure from the Roman Curia to systematically nullify the beneficial effects of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.