Bishop expresses deepest reserve about Traditionis custodes; he voices out loud what many Bishops must be thinking

Towards the time of the saints?

Mgr Marc Aillet, Bishop of Bayonne, Lescar and Oloron, has just published The Time of the Saints, a fascinating, lucid and courageous essay, the aim of which is to strengthen the faith of the faithful sometimes troubled by the current situation in the Church. Interview.

La Nef – The figure of the priest was undermined in the 20th century, you say: why, and how can we reconcile the necessary defence of the greatness of the priesthood without falling into clericalism?

Mgr Marc Aillet – The Second Vatican Council rightly insisted so much on the place of the lay faithful in the mission of the Church, that there was a tendency to minimize the role of priests. The contestation of authority and the democratic demands which crossed the rapidly changing society, under the influence of Marxism, led to interpreting the teaching of the council in a political way, what Pope Benedict XVI designated under the name of hermeneutics of rupture, claiming to reduce the difference between clergy and laity and generating a competition of powers between them. Today, the same people use sexual abuse in the Church as a pretext to call into question the identity of the priest in his ontological configuration as Christ-Priest, Head and Pastor of the Church. We would have to deal with this “sacralization” of the priest which we denounce under the conventional term “clericalism”. We must hold to the identity of the priest that we receive from Holy Scripture and tradition, while remembering that if the priest is “set apart” to take the place of Christ, he is not “separated” . The Second Vatican Council has already answered the question very clearly, by considering the relations between the ministerial priesthood of priests and the common priesthood of the faithful, distinct not only in degree but in essence, under the sign of complementarity, as “as ordered one to another” (cf. Lumen Gentium n. 10). To escape clericalism, the priest will meditate on these words of Saint Augustine: “For you, I am a bishop; with you, I am a Christian”, in other words, I do not cease as an ordained minister to be a baptized person who must, with his brothers, resolutely commit to a path of conversion and sanctification. This is the best antidote to clericalism, without losing its identity, which makes it duty to teach, sanctify, and govern the flock of God with the very authority of Christ.

Why is priestly celibacy important? Why is the ordination of married men not a solution to the lack of vocations?

It has often been said that priestly celibacy is not a dogma! Certainly, but I maintain for my part, with regard to the history and Catholic theology of the priesthood, that it is the privileged expression of the identity of the priest. Celibacy was imposed in the Latin Church, certainly late (12th century), but it was to facilitate the continence of clerics which dates back to the apostolic era. This is, moreover, the form of life that Christ himself assumed, he who designated himself as the Spouse of the Church and who reserved himself entirely in perfect continence for the sole oblation of his body saving the world. It is more than appropriate for the priest to live perfect continence, because he is configured to Christ the Spouse of the Church, called to give his whole life for her, and to celebrate, in the very person of Christ, the Eucharistic sacrifice: otherwise, how could the priest truly pronounce the words of Jesus: “This is my body given for you… This is the cup of my blood shed for you…”

The shortage of vocations comes from a decline in faith within the Christian people, and therefore, from a lack of absolute confidence in God to whom one can devote one's entire life and who gives the strength to assume all of it. the existential consequences. The priestly vocation is a vocation to the total gift of oneself following Christ. The priest cannot have a divided heart: be the husband of the Church and at the same time of a woman. Young people who aspire to the priesthood, in the current context, do not want to give half of themselves. Which does not exempt us from human training that is worthy of such a commitment.

You explain that the “vocations problem” is first and foremost a “crisis of generation”: could you explain this to us and why it is important for you to have opened your own diocesan seminary?

A priest ordained at the end of the sixties confided to me one day, saddened: “Our failure is that we have not succeeded in getting young people to become priests like us. » No doubt this is linked to a time when many priests were in an identity crisis, under the pressure of a mentality of breaking with the past, sometimes to the point of "killing the father", which did not prevent them not to be generous. As a result, they had difficulty exercising paternity. On the other hand, how many seminarians, touched by the testimony of well-identified priests, rooted in the Tradition of the Church, given everything to the Lord and to men, have said to themselves: “I would like to be priests like them. » It cannot be denied that certain priestly personalities were able to generate vocations through attraction.

For me, opening a diocesan seminary meant allowing seminarians to grow in a close relationship with the bishop and priestly figures capable of exercising true fatherhood. If the person of the bishop could have been a trigger for the opening of the diocesan seminary, I am delighted to see that the young priests from the seminary have become facilitator relays of priestly vocations. A young person confided to me, talking to me about a young priest he met during WYD: “I would like to be a priest like him! »

How do you see the organization of parishes and evangelization in the current context of lack of priests?

The lack of priests is an opportunity, it seems to me, to revise the way of life of diocesan priests, which the seminary must take into account. When Jesus sent his apostles on mission, he sent them two by two, and to help each other and to exercise mutual vigilance over each other. The history of missions ad gentes shows that missionaries were most often sent in teams of at least three. My conviction is that the evangelization of a world increasingly distant from the Church requires that priests live their apostolate in common: they will draw on common life, strongly recommended by the Second Vatican Council to diocesan priests. (cf. Christus Dominus n. 30), which facilitates common prayer, fraternal sharing and the pooling of charisms, a new missionary audacity towards those who are far away, giving witness to their fraternal charity.

You address the crisis that developed after the Second Vatican Council: how do you analyze this crisis? Is the council itself the origin?

Joseph Ratzinger, then professor of theology, declared in 1969: “The crisis in the Church is only just beginning”! O how prophetic these words appear to us today. Under the pressure of cultural changes and post-war fractures, the crisis broke out in the 60s and 70s, like a crisis of faith which generated a profound moral crisis: the question of God faded in the face of excessive attention to man, to the point of espousing the immanentist humanism of modern culture and wanting at all costs to adapt the ecclesial institution to developments in the world, to the point of "kneeling before the world", according to the words of Jacques Maritain. The result was a “secular Christianity” from which the boomer generation found it very difficult to escape. Far from being the origin of such a crisis, the Second Vatican Council, certainly overwhelmed by these developments in its reception and application, nevertheless had the providential intention of launching a major internal reform of the Church, centered on the universal vocation to holiness and a new missionary impulse to transmit to today's secularized and neopagan world the treasure of Catholic faith and morality, in new ways. The post-council popes were its heralds, starting with Saint Paul VI and Saint John Paul II, until Benedict XVI's correction of the council's false interpretations and the apostolic exhortation The Joy of Gospel of Pope Francis. “Theological Christianity” brought back into the spotlight by Benedict XVI, by giving first place to God and adoration, today has a promising attraction on Catholic youth.

In the introduction to your book, you mention a “climate of great doctrinal and moral confusion which reigns within the Church”: how does this confusion manifest itself? Is it the continuation of the crisis mentioned in the previous question?

Thanks to the sexual abuse crisis in the Church, the tragic consequences of which cannot be minimized, particularly on the victims, a certain number of faithful doubt the Church and the priesthood, and pastors are tempted to keep a low profile in relation to the world. The Church, to which John Paul II had restored its visibility and the joy of being Catholic, is tempted to once again adopt a posture of self-effacement and doubts itself. Legitimate compassion for the victims, even beyond the question of abuse, pastoral attention to "minorities", which are increasingly imposing themselves on the majority, in the name of aggressive demands widely spread by complacent media, to the point of generating collective guilt, the opposition maintained, sometimes in high places, between doctrine and pastoral care, leads many pastors to renounce a word of authority which recalls the fundamentals of the faith in a clear and clear manner, without lacking in pastoral charity. In doing so, we leave the field open to all kinds of erroneous assertions and behavior, which generate serious doctrinal and moral confusion within the Christian people. In the name of an “inclusive” bias, turned almost exclusively towards the wounded world of our time, we become, according to the words of Isaiah, developed by Saint Gregory the Great (+ 604) in his Pastoral Rule, “dogs mute, incapable of barking. We are no longer attentive enough to guarding the flock and we risk no longer knowing how to offer the world the salvation of which the Church is the universal sacrament.

You devote beautiful pages to the liturgy pleading for peace on this question: how to achieve this in the new context of Traditionis custodes?

While understanding the intention which governs the Motu Proprio, Traditionis custodes of Pope Francis which is the same as that of Benedict XVI in Summorum pontificum, namely to preserve the unity of the Church in the face of certain liturgical tensions, I admit to being a little uncomfortable with this Roman decision. Perhaps because in my diocese, the liturgical diversity between the two forms is experienced peacefully and the priests and faithful attached to the vetus ordo live in good harmony with the life and pastoral orientations of the diocese. We have perhaps not taken enough into account that the permanence, even a certain success of the old Missal, is largely linked to the liturgical distortions bordering on tolerable which had sometimes governed the implementation of the new missal. Furthermore, we are forced to note that there are many young people who willingly move from one form of the rite to another without giving their approach the ideological weight that such choices could represent 40 or 50 years ago. It will be easy to discern the cause in a lack of deep formation in the liturgy and a misunderstanding of the conciliar constitution on the holy liturgy, Sacrosanctum concilium, which Benedict XVI invited to reread with insistence. It remains that these young people find in the vetus ordo a sacredness, a verticality which is decisive for their encounter with the Lord. My conviction is that we have not worked enough on the “mutual enrichment” between the two forms that Pope Benedict XVI called for. Also today, we must avoid any rigidity in the implementation of this motu proprio, demonstrate patience and pedagogy, insist on the liturgical formation of the faithful, which is precisely the subject of Francis' letter Desiderio desideravi . According to the principle so often hammered out by the Holy Father, according to which, "time is superior to space", and his recommendation of "paternal listening" to these wounded faithful, we must adopt the pastoral attitude, which he recommended in Amoris laetitia, namely: “welcome, accompany, discern, integrate. » Faced with the urgency of the mission, let us agree to create unity in diversity, as long as the meaning of the Church remains intact.

How do you see the place of the Church and bishops, the role of the laity, in a secularized world indifferent to religion, even hostile, while an unprecedented anthropological revolution is taking place which, for several decades, we have not Were we able to prevent any major “advances”?

The Church and the bishops must reclaim the prophetic place in society that God himself gave us, without settling, in the name of a misunderstood dialogue, for the relative and narrow position that the world is willing to concede us. Under the pretext that, in a secularised and neo-pagan society in the throes of an unprecedented anthropological crisis, our fellow citizens no longer have the codes of Christian culture, we no longer dare to proclaim the truth loud and clear, as if we were not convinced that man is by nature inclined to the Truth. I seem to believe that we must not be afraid to speak to people's consciences, that intimate sanctuary where God's voice is heard (cf. Gaudium et Spes n. 16). A word of authority, which does not apologise for having convictions, can break through the cultural gangue that obstructs the conscience, which is all the weaker because modern man is weakened by the prevailing culture of deconstruction, and truly touch the heart of today's man. Witnessing the truth undoubtedly requires coherent witnesses.



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