Letter 64 published 4 October 2015


In early September the Bishops of Switzerland, considering their generally progressive orientation, made a surprising move: they elected as their new president Charles Morerod, bishop of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg. From 2004 to 2008, this very Ratzingerian Dominican theologian had handled the delicate exploratory mission of doctrinal discussions with the SSPX in an unofficial capacity. By 2009 he was General Secretary of the International Theological Commission and rector of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum). As such he was among the Roman experts during the doctrinal talks with the SSPX under Pope Benedict XVI. He has been bishop of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg since 2011 and will assume the presidency of the Swiss bishops’ conference on 1 January 2016.

On the previous 5 September, Pope Francis named the current nuncio to Ukraine, Archbishop Thomas Edward Gullickson, a 65-year-old American churchman, as apostolic nuncio to Switzerland. We’ve been following Abp. Gullickson’s blog for a few years; he’s been running it since he was posted to the Caribbean (see our French-language letter 296). In January 2014, he posted that the two papal texts that had had a significant impact on him up to that point were Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae and Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum. It’s hardly surprising to find him a few months later at the summer session of Sacra Liturgia that Dom Alcuin Reid organizes in the south of France. Such a nomination of an orthodox prelate, which seems intended to give a counterpoint to the orientations of the Church in Switzerland, is, when all is said and done, very much in Pope Francis’s disconcerting style.

So far these simultaneous nominations have not drawn much comment. Along with the recognition the Holy Father has granted to the validity of absolutions performed by priests of the Society of St. Pius X for the Year of Mercy they have been understood by the Spanish-language blog Secretum Meum Mihi as a sign of Rome’s desire to “render more fluid” relations with the Menzingen (Switzerland)-based SSPX. Yet, it is doubtful whether the Swiss bishops elected Bishop Morerod with a view to facilitating the canonical integration of the SSPX. Still, the Lord’s ways are unsearchable; in just a few weeks Bishop Morerod and Archbishop Gullickson will in fact be in two key posts for the pursuit of a rapprochement between Rome and Menzingen. Time will tell . . . .

In the meantime, in this newsletter we intend to take a look at the brief review Abp. Gullickson published this summer on the book that the current French Bishop of Bayonne, Lescar, and Oloron, Marc Aillet, wrote on the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum in 2007, when he was still Vicar General in Fréjus-Toulon.


Archbishop Thomas E. Gullickson’s reflections on The Old Mass and the New (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), translation of Bishop Marc Aillet, Un événement liturgique ou le sens d’un motu proprio (Perpignan: Tempora, 2007):

“I am convinced that the crisis we are going through in the Church today is largely based on the disintegration of the liturgy, which is even sometimes conceived in such a way —etsi Deus non daretur—that its intention is no longer at all to make it known that God exists, that he speaks to us and that he listens to us.” (Bishop Aillet, pp. 45-46).

On a periodic check of books on my Amazon wish list, to see whether in the meantime they have come out on Kindle and at a lower price, I came across this little book from 2007 (Kindle 2010). I am very glad I did. Bishop Marc Aillet is a faithful son of the French community of St. Martin, which promotes the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, celebrated in Latin and accompanied by Gregorian Chant. He is anything but a zealot about promoting the Extraordinary Form. Basically in this book, he writes in praise of Pope Benedict XVI and his wisdom, as demonstrated by Summorum Pontificum. The Bishop writes it for average folk, who want something short (minus notes and bibliography: 112 pages, including the motu proprio in English and the Holy Father's accompanying letter to bishops). I highly recommend the book even for the initiated on the topic.

The thing I liked best about his excursus was his take on "active participation" and how the concept has become skewed by popular sociology and psychology. Even so, I find the present state of Roman Rite Liturgy much more worrisome than what I pick up in the book. Granted, he can appeal to the motu proprio and claim we are in the same ballpark with these two missals, but in point of fact, we are not and that is the problem with the missal of Paul VI and why it cannot serve as a basis for the needed reset of the liturgical movement on the foundations of the tradition. As genial as his idea is that the hermeneutic of rupture can be identified in the hearts and minds of the reformers, the rupture also touches the substance and requires more than an attitude change.

I understand that restoring our liturgy in the face of the enduring resistance (often irrational) of those whose life story is coterminous with the half century of the Novus Ordo is a monumental challenge, but that is all the more reason for embracing the wisdom of Benedict XVI when it comes to promoting the mutual enrichment of the two forms. If priests and future priests were to discover our rich liturgical patrimony, I feel confident they would become our best allies in leading us as a Church to genuine Divine Worship.

My four years here in Ukraine have offered me a rich and beautiful acquaintance with Byzantine Liturgy. This experience is a great help as it has put me in living contact with, among other things: a liturgical calendar that thrives without "ordinary time", an essential lectionary of just epistles and gospels familiar to people, offertory and communion treasures to spark the imagination and devotion, and of course, worship which is thoroughly oriented. 

I want the Extraordinary Form to play a bigger role in my life, as soon as my circumstances permit. I finally have a bit more time these days for study and I have been working on familiarizing myself with the Extraordinary Form texts and memorizing them. Old eyes and bifocals, I am finally getting serious about memorizing the celebrant's prayers, which I absolutely cannot seem to read on the altar cards. If only there were a beautiful big print pontifical for us half blind!  

No doubt some would consider me less than tactless, but we really need to branch out of the present situation which offers especially our young people only meager fare.


Abp. Thomas E. Gullickson, August 19, 2015

Bishop Aillet with priests and seminarians from the Institute of the Good Shepherd in Bordeaux (2010).


1 – How nice it is to see an Apostolic Nuncio—a man more often perceived as a diplomat than as a priest—devoting so much attention to the liturgy! Especially when he does so to deepen his own ars celebrandi in the light of Joseph Ratzinger’s teaching. How nice too to see a diplomat from the Holy See keeping a blog in which he can peacefully state his personal opinion on a topic of this kind! Clearly this isn’t hurting his career and doesn’t bother Pope Francis, who appreciates straightforward men.

2 – In this eighth year since the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum, it is interesting that Archbishop Gullickson should exhume this little book that the future bishop of Bayonne, Lescar, and Oloron published when he was still Vicar General of the bishop of Fréjus-Toulon, Dominique Rey. Although the community he belongs to (Communauté Saint-Martin, founded under cardinal Siri's authority by a French priest in the 70's) only celebrates the ordinary form, Dom Marc Aillet was able to perceive the full significance of Benedict XVI’s motu proprio as soon as it came out; once he was made a bishop he was also able to follow it both in the way he led his diocese and in his personal availability for the celebration of the extraordinary form.

3 – The issue of the mutual enrichment of the two forms of the Roman missal—here meaning the celebrant’s “moral” enrichment, and it must be said that the extraordinary form does most of the enriching—is intimately connected to celebration in utroque usu (in both forms) at the parish level (whether by the same priest or otherwise). This issue continues to be one of the explanations for the ongoing success of Summorum Pontificum. We took the full measure of this success both at the Sacra Liturgia conference in New York and at the Summorum Pontificum congress in Santiago, Chile (July 2015). Archbishop Gullickson confirms this in his review.

4 – “Even so, I find the present state of Roman Rite Liturgy much more worrisome than what I pick up in the book.” Abp. Gullickson takes his review of Marc Aillet’s book as a springboard to go further than the French bishop and to state that “the rupture also touches the substance and requires more than an attitude change.” On 12 September the new nuncio to Switzerland continued his thought when he wrote: “I am not to be dissuaded from holding that the principal downfall of the OF is all its options, which continue to impress one with the arbitrary nature of what the ‘reformers’ did or produced following the Second Vatican Council.” This explains why he is convinced that the missal of Paul VI “cannot serve as a basis for the needed reset of the liturgical movement on the foundations of the tradition.” In fact, Archbishop Gullickson is calling for a change in substance, albeit a change “in all gentleness and humility” as he specified on 12 September. Such a change might begin like this: “I'd love to have a hand at Papal Liturgy for the major basilicas of Rome and the stational churches, at eliminating all the options and doing a new 1962 or pre-Holy Week reform missal for the Bishop of Rome.” What else?