Before embarking on an English resume of the recent Paix Liturgique letter about the Diocese of Angouleme, I'd like to express my thanks to Fr Michael Brown at 'Forest Murmurs' , who June 15th recounted his personal experience of serving under Bishop Ambrose Griffiths (RIP), who was bishop of Hexham & Newcastle from 1992 until his retirement in 2004. Father refers to his Emeritus bishop as 'a true liberal', in the sense that although he didn't personally favour what we now know as the Extraordinary form of the Mass, he always gave permission for its celebration under the terms of the then Indult. These permissions were acts of pastoral charity to the few 'nostalgics' who hungered for the old ways. He held the view that there was no need to oppose the old form because it would eventually die out in any case. I think we can safely say that he was right on the first count and that he showed himself not to be driven by an ideological 'liberal' agenda at the expense of concern for his entire flock. He used what the Church had given him to carry out his pastoral office. He seems to have been wrong on the second count but that is not relevant in the present context. I for one am grateful to Fr Brown for reclaiming the word 'liberal' and for using it in its true sense. Surely it should not be applied to people who are covertly or overtly in opposition to a free application of 'Summorum Pontificum' and who publicly display intolerance towards it.
Meanwhile in Angouleme...................
First a disclaimer:
The Paix Liturgique letter is critical of Bishop Dagens and although it expresses its views in terms of irony rather than direct attack, it does lay out the truth of what has happened to the EF 'on his watch'. Let it be understood that I am not anti my bishop, and I must say that liturgically, and at the ordinary parish level, things have improved vastly over the last five years. This is largely due, over the last three years, to Bishop Dagens' appointment to our Canton of about 24 (mostly rural) parishes, of a dedicated, reverent, holy, dedicated and energetic young priest. (There is no seminary in Angouleme so all Charentais candidates are formed at Bordeaux Seminary.) The letter does not make it clear enough that the Diocese is largely rural and therefore it is difficult for individuals in favour of the EF to get together and form a 'stable group'. Rather than argue the toss at local level, such people find it easier to drive to Bordeaux which is well served by the IBP (Institute of the Good Shepherd, an Ecclesia Dei Community). At the same time this enables one to think that there is no demand.
The PL letter is a 6 page document, the first two and a half of which constitute an examination of Bishop Dagens' reputation as a moderate and as a great intellect; the grounds on which he was elected as a member of the Academie Francaise, (two documents presented to the French Bishops Conference in 1994 and 1996 respectively); how his publicly stated views differ from those of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI; and finally how his actions as regards the EF display a fairly certain opposition to it. Whilst PL does not identify Bishop Dagens as a 'dishevelled progressivist', it judges that his belief that the Church must continue to adapt herself to the modern world, and his optimism for her future if she does so, marks him out as being fundamentally 'a long way from John Paul II's denunciation of the"culture of death" and that of Benedict XVI against "nihilism".
The remaining pages of the letter are arranged under the following headings:
1. The situation of the 'Extraordinary Liturgy before 2007
2. The False Application (of Summorum Pontificum) at the village of Genac (2008)
3. The Experience of Saint-Yrieix-sur-Charente (2008-2010)
4 And Now?
5 The pending requests for the EF at Cognac and Angouleme.
Translation of these sections to appear in next post.