There are reports across the internet that three monks from Le Barroux have left to set up an independent foundation in Italy, in the diocese of Albenga-Imperia, dedicated to the exclusive celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass.
The establishment of a monastery dedicated to the Traditional Latin Mass in Italy is obviously a good thing, we need more traditional monasteries.
But I have to admit that, unlike most in the blogosphere, I have some reservations about this for a number of reasons. This is not an official foundation of Le Barroux.
So the first issue relates to the Benedictine vows of obedience and stability. Monks, unlike secular priests or members of apostolic societies of life (such as the FSSP and ICK) take vows of obedience to their superior, and in the Benedictine charism vow to stay in the house where their vows are made until death.
There are always exceptions of course - new foundations made by the motherhouse being one of them; and occasionally calls to new charisms. And on the latter point of course we can all applaud Dom Gerard Calvet's courage in remaining true to his vows and refusing to accept the watering down of observance that led to the foundation of Le Barroux in the first place.
At the time of the SSPX consecrations Le Barroux's Brazilian foundation cut its links to Le Barroux, and a few monks left Le Barroux itself. This latest move makes one wonder if we now going to see another round of disintegration in the traditional orders, even as some previously outside proper canonical structures are brought in?! Some shakeout is probably inevitable, as those who originally joined up had few choices, and that situation has now changed. All the same, this is an area where great care is needed.
The second (and related) issue is whether Le Barroux really has compromised its traditional orientation sufficiently as to justify a 'new' charism, as many traddies appear to believe is occurring under its current Abbot, and Rorate Caeli suggests is the motivation for this move.
Le Barroux (and Fontgambault and its foundations) have always celebrated a monastic use of the TLM for its conventual mass (frequently described as '1965 missal', but I'm not at all sure that is actually correct. In fact the particular variants are ones prescribed by the PCED specifically for the Benedictines). But any deviation from the 1962 missal (except perhaps for the earlier Holy Week liturgies) seems to be viewed as a mark of compromise by some who have forgotten that the Church once enjoyed a great diversity of uses and rites.
There has been some emphasis in the reporting on this subject on fidelity to Dom Gerard's 'original' charism to the TLM. Presumably this is a reference to the fact that Dom Gerard himself was severely criticized when he concelebrated a private mass with the then Pope - apparently he was supposed to say no to a specific request from Pope John Paul II! I would suggest that Dom Gerard's 'original' charism was in fact to a traditional understanding of monasticism (including obedience to the Rule he had made his vows to keep) above all - with the Mass a closely related but essentially secondary issue.
The particular issue at Le Barroux at the moment appears to be a willingness to entertain and engage on further reforms to the 1962 missal - something explicitly signalled by Summorum Pontificum.
Now I'm opposed to such changes myself, at least any time soon ('reform of the reform' needs to come first, with the TLM acting as a norm for that) - but I do think there is a pretty strong argument that traddies need to engage on this front and decide what calendar and other reforms we could live with rather than wait to have them simply imposed on us! And I suspect that is all Dom Louis-Marie is saying. But I'd be happy to be corrected if I'm misreading his comments and what is actually happening at Le Barroux.
More fundamentally, this development signals a serious need for traditionalists to think about what they really stand for. Is it really just about strict adherence to a particular missal?
And if it is, if, hypothetically, the Vatican did make further changes to the TLM (such as imposing the new calendar), does this mean that at some point we would all be prepared to defect to the SSPX? I certainly hope not!
I know that is not quite what is happening in this particular instance, since a stricter adherence to the 1962 missal is certainly permissible under current Church law, but there are some important issues at stake here. Liturgy is crucial - but so too is our understanding of doctrine and practice, and becoming obsessed with minor variations to the liturgy (as opposed to the major variants represented by the novus ordo) could jeopardise the bigger issue of working to restore lex credendi (what we believe) in the Church.