Thursday, July 17, 2008

Scottish traditionalist group nears full communion with Vatican

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A traditionalist group based in northern Scotland is on the road toward establishing full communion with the Vatican.

Though the Transalpine Redemptorists reported July 1 that all canonical censures had been lifted and their priests were in good canonical standing, one Vatican official clarified there were still "certain censures that have to be removed."

The official, who asked not to be identified, told Catholic News Service July 15 that the censures will be removed eventually and that the group and its members "are on their way" toward canonical good standing and full reconciliation with the Roman Catholic Church.

He said it still "will take some time" for the group to establish and get approval for its new religious community.

"They are aspiring to be a religious community" whose members take vows and, therefore, they will have to draw up a rule of life and follow other somewhat lengthy procedures, he said.

The Transalpine Redemptorists, who are not linked to the Redemptorist order, are based on the island of Papa Stronsay in the Orkney Islands, north of Scotland, and have a second monastery in Christchurch, New Zealand. The community has a total of 18 members -- priests, seminarians, brothers and postulants.

The community's vicar general, Father Michael Mary, wrote on the community's blog July 1 that he petitioned the Vatican in person June 18 before the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" for the group's priestly suspensions to be lifted.

The commission oversees the pastoral care of traditionalist Catholics and seeks to help regularize the canonical situation of traditionalist religious communities that already exist without recognition from Rome.

The group is linked to the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X which broke with the Vatican in 1988 when its founder, the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, ordained four bishops against papal instructions.

Father Michael Mary said in a July 16 e-mail response to questions by CNS that while the Transalpine Redemptorists are "an independent religious community founded with the approbation of Archbishop Lefebvre, we had a close link" with the Society of St. Pius X, and their seminarians studied in the society's seminaries.

He said Pope Benedict XVI's 2007 apostolic letter that allowed for wider use of the Mass in Latin using the 1962 Roman Missal prompted the community to seek full communion with the universal church.

Father Michael Mary said the community was concerned about the "lack of jurisdiction for the organization of religious life" if members remained outside the universal church and "the rock and jurisdiction of Peter."

"We found that we would be building on sand, not to mention burying our heads in it, if we continued to ignore try to live religious life in this way," he wrote.

"We were unhappy with the responsibilities and possible consequences we would be taking upon ourselves in commanding people without sharing in the authority that comes from Christ, through his vicar and through the delegated superiors whoever they may be. Continuing on in the face of these realities seemed to be like 'playing house,' and we didn't want to have anything to do with it," he added.

The priest wrote on the community's blog July 1 that the value of full communion with Rome "cannot be fully expressed in earthly language and, therefore, we hope that all traditional priests who have not yet done so will answer Pope Benedict's call to enjoy the grace of peaceful and undisputed communion with him."

Father Michael Mary told CNS the Vatican considers the group's priests to have been illicitly ordained and the censures that come with such ordinations still must be lifted.

Because the group is not associated with the Redemptorist order, it will have to change its name.

Father Michael Mary said the community's new name would be announced on its blog July 20.

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