Interview with Father de Tanoüarn the Good Shepherd Institute
The Good Shepherd Institute was created by the Holy See on the feast of The Nativity of Our Lady (Sept. 8th) as a traditional society of apostolic life. When it was founded less than two months ago, it began with five former French SSPX priests who had left or been expelled from the Society. It now claims at least nine seminarians from several countries with many others, including many priests, showing interest in taking up with the newly created institute. Although it is headquartered in France, the GSI is not in any way consigned to any geographic boundaries, and is already garnering interest many other areas around the globe.
According to their official charge, the GSI is authorized to administer any and all traditional sacraments. The churches under its control will be given official “parish” status, although this can only be done with the express permission of the local bishop. Also of note, not only are they permitted to critically analyze the documents of the Second Vatican Council, but they have a specific mandate - in fact a duty - to do so.
The creation of the institute took most by surprise, save for those few whom had managed to catch wind of it beforehand, but were sworn to secrecy.
When the “French Connection” and I were discussing the matter, he informed me that he was sure that he could arrange an exclusive with one of these priests. I told him I would put some questions together. For this interview however, being that he is the one on the scene in France and being that he is the one who has built a rapport with these priests, I insisted that in addition to my questions he should ask a few as well. French Connection agreed.
Hence we are blessed to have as our guest, Father Guillaume de Tanoüarn. In addition to being one of the “Bordeaux 5”, Father de Tanoüarn is the author of "Vatican II et l'Evangile" (Vatican II and the Gospel) and "L'Evidence Chrétienne" (Christian Obviousness). He is also founder of the Saint Paul center in Paris.
Please be mindful when reading the interview that it had to be translated into French and the answers had to be translated from French into English.
Father, you’re one of the five former SSPX priest who founded the Good Shepherd Institute. How did this happen? And who initiated the contact with Rome?
Well, we began as a group of 5 priests who already knew each other. The five included Fr. Héry – he and I were in seminary at the same time, where we had lengthy and deep discussions. Then there is Fr. Philippe Laguerie, who as my first superior I was under his orders for 7 years. Then there is Fr. Aulagnier, with whom I wrote the book “La Tradition sans peur” (Tradition Without Fear), in which he fully confides. Incidentally the book was prefaced by Fr. Laguerie. Then there is Fr. Forestier, who although I’ve known for shorter period of time because he is younger, we appreciate each other pretty much.
So we were a group of 5 priests, bound by sacerdotal friendship. It’s hard to say where the idea came from. It just came and grew.
Now, if you mean the chronology of how the Good Shepherd Institute was erected, I must mention the actions of Fr. Barthe who negotiated with Cardinal Hoyos. The result was an act of adhesion, which give us the right to constructive criticism toward the Second Vatican Council (“constructive”, as opposed to “polemical”) showing full respect for those involved. This in fact was always the position of Archbishop Lefebvre, who wanted to read the Council of Vatican II in the light of Catholic Tradition.
Paradoxically, Cardinal Ricard, the Archbishop of Bordeaux, also played a role by urging Fr. Laguerie to regularize his situation after he was ousted from the SSPX.
And we shall not forget the very nature of things: It was not possible to remain suspended for great a period of time. A Catholic heart can’t stand it too long. We found in Rome warm understanding, pastoral charity, and also great diplomatic skills by Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos.
I think that traditionalists can’t remain separated from Rome unless they want it so - either because they fear the episcopates or because they are eager to remain aloof, spiritually speaking.
You are answerable to the Ecclesia Dei commission – which has been in existence since 1988 – Why did you wait until 2006 to join up?
In 1988 and in the years that followed, the spirit in Rome was totally different than what it is today. In 1988, with the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei Adflicta, Pope John Paul II (bene volens male volens) set an attitude of tolerance toward traditionalists. They were allowed into the institutional Church, but only through the back door.
The FSSP was created at that time as a sort of “decontamination chamber” to help traditionalists transition toward the Church of Vatican II. Soon enough, it was clear the maneuver would not work - with most FSSP priests refusing this ecclesial prospect and not willing to play such a role. Many tensions resulted, such as the nomination of a non-elected superior in 2000.
Step by step, by the end of the reign of John Paul II, the mindset changed. The liturgical question became important, which had been considered insignificant until then. There was an encyclical (Ecclesia de Eucharistia) in 2003 and a pastoral letter (Redemptionis Sacramentum) in 2004. At first, the idea was to improve the way the Pauline Mass is celebrated – but it evolved and the idea of a liberalization or Tridentine Mass emerged.
Today, the election of Benedict XVI confirms this. The pope wishes a liberalization of the traditional rite – and even though the new motu proprio hasn’t been published yet, the Good Shepherd Institute benefits from that freedom. We’re no longer second class Catholics whose fantasies are merely tolerated – we’re the custodians of a liturgical treasure which benefits the entire Church by manifesting the glory of Her divine Spouse.
So there’s a new state of mind in Rome, and you become part of the Ecclesia Dei circle of influence. What’s you’re specific charisma there?
We’re not the fifth wheel of the Ecclesia Dei car, or the thirteenth wheel if you wish, as thirteen groups are answerable to that commission, the Good Shepherd Institute being the youngest one. We’re not serving a “circle of influence”; we’re fully in the Roman Catholic Church, which we wish to serve at a difficult time in Her history. We have a double specificity: From a pastoral point of view, and according to the name we choose for our Institute, we want to open personal parishes -traditional personal parishes - in France and elsewhere. Personal parishes are not much of a problem in the USA, but in Europe they are a new concept – a concept that raises deliberate hostility from French bishops.
Also, we want to contribute – as much as we are able – to theological work and aide in renewing Catholic intelligence. The time has come to definitively quit religious ideologies which were imposed in the sixties. Our age is one of uncertainty and fear, and we want to respond to this by proposing the traditional Roman Catholic forms of liturgy and theology.
You mention ‘religious ideologies’ – would you define this?
For example the ideas which fall under what the philosopher Jacques Maritain called “the “temporalization” of God’s kingdom” – in other words, an unhealthy mixture consisting of politics and religion, but also (and more subtly) those theologies which mistake therapy for spirituality or self development for eternal salvation. Faced with these tendencies, we feel it’s essential to show in the liturgy “God felt by the heart” as Pascal (the 17th century philosopher) said. We want to show, without any fear, the power of seduction the Catholic Faith has when it is in all of its splendor, and we want to appeal to everyone’s responsibility toward the truth of its destiny.
Today cultural challenges won’t be met unless Catholics stop considering Vatican II as the new tables of the law, and enthusiastically rediscover the richness of the great Roman Catholic Tradition.
How will you expand? You need altars, you need priests. What about bishops?
For the time being, the GSI has the Saint-Eloi church in the center of Bordeaux, where our headquarters are located. It’s a 13th century church, a magnificent building that had been abandoned, but was restored by a group led by Father Laguérie.
We have a seminary in Courtalain, 150 kilometers (93 miles) away from Paris, which was just opened. The seminary hosts 7 first year seminarians; one is a Pole, one is a Mexican, and one is Brazilian, the others are French.
In Paris, where I am, we opened a cultural center with courses and conferences that reach outside of the traditionalist circles. 300 people attend Mass here on an average Sunday.
Also, we opened a house in Rome (a “procuracy” is the technical name) with 4 students. Two are seminarians and two are priests. We’ve got contacts in Latin America – where some 10 priests around Fr Rafael Navas are on the verge of joining the GSI. We’ve also got some other contacts, here and there.
Last but not least, we’ll have three ordinations very soon.
Regarding France, I’m optimistic despite the bishops here. They are often hostile and seem to be laid back in the eighties, as if they didn’t take into account the evolutions of the Universal Church. But I’m optimistic, for a simple reason: demography. There are more churches than priests in France, and the ratio isn’t getting any better. Also, I feel the bishops will finally follow the pope’s will - even those who don’t hide their John Paul II nostalgia.
Some think (or fear) that the Good Shepherd Institute was erected in order to destabilize the SSPX.
We don’t intend to compete with the SSPX. The SSPX has created a stronghold to stay within until the crisis is over. That was their angle. Ours is different. We put ourselves at the pope’s disposal, without any delay, which is a less comfortable position, but a more exciting one. We don’t seek confrontation with the SSPX, but we wish to debate truly, in order to elaborate theological answers following Vatican II.
That’s the reason we’re organizing a large meeting in Paris on November 20, under the motto ‘Catholic Tradition – our Common Good’. The SSPX was at the top of our invitation list, we wanted them to take part in the debates. SSPX superiors decided they couldn’t accept, but I’m confident things will change with the passing of time – whatever personal wounds this attitude may conceal.
This is no time for division. All those who sincerely want to see traditional liturgy and traditional theology returned to the faithful must unite - as Catholic Tradition really is our common good.
Thank you Father for answering our questions. Is there anything you would like to add ?
Yes – I understand some members of your forum doubt the Good Shepherd Institute will succeed, or that it will even remain traditional. As you know: “By their fruits you shall know them”. I tell your readers: ‘Wait and see’. Would you agree on another interview, say by next year? By this time we’ll be able to draw a first appraisal of the Good Shepherd Institute.
By John Grasmeier and the French Connection