Skip to comments.Retirement Means an End to Ancient Mass
Posted on 05/10/2004 9:01:42 AM PDT by CatherineSiena
By Richard Fausset and Joy Buchanan, Times Staff Writers
Conservatively dressed Roman Catholics packed into a tiny wooden church a few blocks from the sand in Huntington Beach on Sunday to pray and chant in Latin, and to celebrate the priest who delivered them from all that they believe is lax, laid-back and touchy-feely in their religion.
They came to say goodbye to Father Daniel Johnson, the 75-year-old retiring priest who tripled the membership of this parish with his emphasis on the church's centuries-old traditions. Chief among them was introduction of the Latin Tridentine Mass, the ancient, highly choreographed rite that for hundreds of years was the only Mass celebrated by Catholics worldwide.
Because of Johnson's retirement, the Diocese of Orange has decided to stop offering the Tridentine Mass at St. Mary's by the Sea, saddening conservative Catholics who came from all over Orange County to experience the Eucharist the way it was celebrated for generations of sinners and saints: with all the pageantry and plainsong and traditional language of Rome.
Starting next week, St. Mary's will continue to hold Sunday Masses in Latin, but it will be in the form of the modern Mass, with different prayers from those of the Tridentine service.
The Tridentine Mass is "more holy somehow," said parishioner Georg Christa, 70, who learned the Mass as an altar boy in Augsberg, Germany. "The reason we have problems in the church is that we're getting step-by-step away from the holiness."
Parishioner James Lewis, 64, said he chose the Tridentine Mass because he did not want to be subjected to the modern Mass, with its "peace hugs," its "campfire music and hootenanny music."
"I think that stuff is distracting," he said. "It's inappropriate for a holy Mass."
The loss of the old Mass at St. Mary's does not spell its end in Orange County, where two churches, St. Michael's Abbey in Silverado Canyon and the Mission Basilica in San Juan Capistrano, still offer the service.
But the frustration of St. Mary's parishioners and their fondness for Father Johnson's conservative practices reflect a continuing tension in a religion seeking to maintain its relevance in the modern world without losing its reverence for tradition.
Believed to have existed since the 6th century, the Mass was officially standardized for Western churches by Pope Pius V during Rome's Council of Trent in 1570. For hundreds of years, it was the only Mass celebrated by Catholics worldwide. Then, during the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, a new service was introduced using familiar languages and allowing priests to face their congregations and has been in use ever since.
The point, reformers argued then, was for the liturgy to be adjusted to fit individual priests' styles and worshipers' needs. Some conservative Catholics, however, were outraged, arguing that the Mass should not have been changed. Some priests even continued using the Tridentine Mass against the Church's orders until 1984, when Pope John Paul II decreed that it could be celebrated with the permission of local bishops.
That was like a clarion call to Johnson, who introduced the Tridentine Mass at St. Mary's in 1992. Johnson considers the old Mass a sacred liturgy symbolizing the Passion of Christ.
"I'm quite traditional," said the man ordained in 1954 who calls himself a "simple parish" priest. "The greatest thing that a priest can do is the celebration of the holy Mass. Maybe the modern way isn't the only way."
Five years ago, Johnson who was born to devout Catholic parents in Michigan and grew up in Los Angeles, where he served as an altar boy developed a cancer on his ear that required multiple surgeries and more than 30 radiation treatments. More recently, he came down with Bell's palsy, which paralyzed the right side of his face and prompted him to turn his favorite golf putter upside down for a cane. He plans to retire in Torrance with his brother.
Johnson stopped leading the church's weekly Mass several weeks ago, when the disease began affecting his speech. But on Sunday, after altar boys helped him to his feet, he delivered a long, often passionate sermon in English summarizing the success he has had in bringing some of the lost traditions back to this church.
With his head listing to the right and his voice wasted with age, Johnson's words were sometimes difficult to make out. But it was clear that he was no fan of New Age influences that have crept into some church services.
In the early church, he said, pagans were attracted by Christianity because Christians showed their love for one another. They didn't say, "Look at how ecumenical they are, or look how they're dialoguing with non-Catholics," he said.
He also paid homage to the Tridentine Mass, which many parishioners say was a key to the expansion of St. Mary's from 500 families to about 1,600 under Johnson's 25 years of stewardship.
Johnson quoted theologian Frederick Faber, who once called the old Mass "the most beautiful thing this side of heaven."
"I would agree with him," Johnson said.
The 2 1/2-hour service was indeed a far cry from the "folk Masses" many U.S. Catholics have attended in recent decades. A sign at the door asked visitors to wear "proper dress," and women were encouraged to wear lace veils over their heads.
At the beginning of Mass, 11 altar boys, most in red satin robes, announced the entrance of a coterie of priests with candles and incense. Father Justin Ramos, who said the Mass, walked down the aisle in a gold brocade cape.
Their arrival at the altar was marked by unadorned male voices from the choir that delivered Gregorian chant. Then Ramos walked back up the aisle, sprinkling the congregation with holy water that prompted members of the standing-room-only congregation to bow in waves.
In Latin, Ramos led a prayer for mercy and salvation:
"Ostende nobis, Domine, misericordiam tuam."
"Et salutare tuum da nobis," the worshipers responded.
Some church members followed the Mass in a missal that carried the English translation. French native Liliane Rains, 63, followed with a tattered Latin and French missal that once belonged to her father.
"When we went to Spain or Germany or Italy, it was in Latin, and always the same," said Rains, who grew up in Bordeaux. "You went to Mass and you felt that you were home. It was a wonderful tie, and I think we should go back to it. It made Mass universal."
Rains said she could understand why the church translated the Mass into different languages. Others took a stricter stance.
"Is this your first time going to a real Catholic Mass?" James Scott, 59, of Tustin asked a St. Mary's visitor. "Well, this is what it really is. Everything else is garbage."
Damian Garcia, a layman at the church, said he would miss the elements of the Tridentine Mass that give it its "vertical thrust," or emphasis on the adoration of God.
Parishioner Thomas Chand- lee, 72, said he would miss the beauty of the old Mass. Chand- lee was one of the many people who packed into the building next to the chapel to bid farewell to Johnson. Eight years ago, Chandlee converted to Catholicism, and he has attended the Tridentine Mass ever since.
Now, he said, he plans to start his Sundays in San Juan Capistrano so he can keep hearing the echoes of centuries.
"There's no question," he said. "It's like comparing Andy Warhol with Michelangelo."
(Excerpt) Read more at latimes.com ...
The traditional Mass did go out with a bang, though. In the first place it was as crowded as I've ever seen it. This noon Mass was SRO by 11:30. There were people along the side walls, a few people standing in the center aisle, the back of the church was full, the vestibule was full, there were people on the porch and going down the front steps. It was a solemn Mass, with celebrant, deacon,and subdeacon, crowds of altar boys, and several priests attending "in choir". The schola was of professional quality, some of the singers having sung with the Los Angeles Master Chorale. All the chant propers were sung and I think I recognized the Missa Papa Marcelli. A string quintet accompanied Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus at communion time.
No bishop found time in his busy schedule to honor this priest for 50 years of service.
Father Johnson was not well enough to celebrate the Mass but he gave the homily which was more of a farewell sermon as this Mass was in celebration of his 50 years as a priest and of his retirement as pastor and, as I believe the phrase is now, "from the active ministry." The sermon was one of his stem-winders. He spoke of his early priesthood and being a bit out of step with the times even before the council. The powers that be kicked him around even then, avoiding giving him a pastorate under any (or no) pretext. His "popularity" didn't increase after the council. After the council his refusal to give communion in the hand was something of a last straw. They offered him a couple of choices. Father says they offered to "recycle" him. He didn't want to be "recycled". (Who would? It sounds like one of Mao's re-education camps.) Or he could go to this little out-of-the-way, one-priest parish on the verge of closure if he didn't take. Nobody much attended there and they figured he couldn't do any "damage". The priest who was leaving said he'd get about 17 confessions during the Christmas season. That was St. Mary's 25 years ago.
The first thing he did was install an altar rail and make the sanctuary look like a sanctuary again. And he was off and running. The second thing he did was begin an extra Mass, a Latin N.O. High Mass at noon, which he didn't need permission for, and petition the bishop to allow him to make it a traditional Roman Rite Mass. The number of parishioners has multiplied many times over from his first days. These days he gets 17 confessions on the average week day. Confessions are heard 7 days a week at St. Mary's. (Or they were up until today. Monday will be a new regime and time will tell what practices continue.) His converts are in the hundreds, if not the thousands. We heard many of them testify to his zeal at the celebration after Mass. Is there another priest in this country who has walked his entire parish and knocked on the door of every single residence within the boundaries, whether Catholic or not? And if there is, has he begun again as soon as he finished the last residence? Fr. Johnson has done it 5 times through and would still be doing it if his health had not let him down.
I don't mind admitting to a few tears. Fr. Johnson will be missed more than he will ever know. But there are a few silver linings. The first, and probably the greatest is, that now as "an elderly, retired priest" he will be able to celebrate the traditional Mass every morning, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, instead of just once a week. Even if I can't attend it, it's good to know this saintly man is celebrating it and bringing its graces down to our needy land. And, of course, it is not the end of every traditional Mass. There are others in the nearby Archdiocese of Los Angeles. They will mostly take a bit of driving to get to, but I did get new tires last week. Should be all set for a few long treks. And there are the Eastern Rite churches; always a glorious option.
There is one more option which was suggested by the diocese in an exquisite bit of smarmy cynicism. If we don't like the new rite, we can "always go to San Juan Capistrano". Yes, indeed, we can. How true. You may know there is an indult Mass at the Serra chapel in Capistrano. It's a magnificent setting for the old Mass. There is a glorious, gold-leaf Spanish baroque reredos and some wonderful old Spanish statues and paintings. The chapel is over 200 years old. But here's the rub: it is also very tiny. The people who currently attend there need to arrive by 7:30 in order to get a seat for the 8:00 a.m. Mass. If you don't arrive until 8:00, you probably won't even be able to stand in the vestibule. You probably won't be able to see the Mass at all. Suggesting another 2 or 3 hundred people attend San Juan Capistrano gives you an idea of the sort of diseased humor that masquerades as pastoral care in some quarters.
EWTN has revised its Sunday liturgy to a High Mass in Latin. It follows the Novus Ordo Rite but is now completely in Latin with incense, brocade vestments, 6 candles on the altar. Most impressive and quite beautiful! No contemporary music either.
Mother Angelica once again demonstrates that the new Rite can follow the norms established by VCII.
How fortunate you are! I attended my first Mass there last month for the Easter Vigil. It is such a beautiful church! I particularly liked Mary's side of the sanctuary, where they have the side altar to Our Lady, plus a statue of Our Lady of Fatima and the Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I actually went back on Easter Sunday, and the poor priest there fell ill after Communion, and Monsignor I believe had to finish the Mass.
It may look similar, but the prayers are different. And after all, that's what the Mass is made of, prayers. This kind of Mass is certainly preferable to what goes on in 99% of other places, but it's still a New Mass. Also, isn't it true that the local bishop forbade them to offer Mass ad orientem?
The Indult should be applied according to the express wishes of Rome.
APOSTOLIC LETTER OF JOHN PAUL II
(English translation: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, N. 28 (1047) 11 July 1988)
1. With great affliction the Church has learned of the unlawful episcopal ordination conferred on 30 June last by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, which has frustrated all the efforts made during the previous years to ensure the full communion with the Church of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X founded by the same Mons. Lefebvre. These efforts, especially intense during recent months, in which the Apostolic See has shown comprehension to the limits of the possible, were all to no avail (1).
2. This affliction was particularly felt by the Successor of Peter to whom in the first place pertains the guardianship of the unity of the Church (2), even though the number of persons directly involved in these events might be few, since every person is loved by God on his own account and has been redeemed by the blood of Christ shed on the Cross for the salvation of all.
The particular circumstances, both objective and subjective in which Archbishop Lefebvre acted, provide everyone with an occasion for profound reflection and for a renewed pledge of fidelity to Christ and to His Church.
3. In itself, this act was one of disobedience to the Roman Pontiff in a very grave matter and of supreme importance for the unity of the Church, such as is the ordination of bishops whereby the apostolic succession is sacramentally perpetuated. Hence such disobedience -- which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman primacy -- constitutes a schismatic act (3). In performing such an act, notwithstanding the formal canonical warning sent to them by the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops on 17 June last, Mons. Lefebvre and the priests Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tisser de Mallerais, Richard Williamson, and Alfonso de Galarreta, have incurred the grave penalty of excommunication envisaged by ecclesiastical law (4).
4. The root of this schismatic act can be discerned in an incomplete and contradictory notion of Tradition. Incomplete, because it does not take sufficiently into account the living character of Tradition, which, as the Second Vatican Council clearly taught, "comes from the apostles and progresses in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on. This comes about in various ways. It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts. It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience. And it comes from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth" (5).
But especially contradictory is a notion of Tradition which opposes the universal Magesterium of the Church possessed by the Bishops of Rome and the Body of Bishops. It is impossible to remain faithful to the Tradition while breaking the ecclesial bond with him to whom, in the person of the Apostle Peter, Christ Himself entrusted the ministry of unity in His Church (6).
5. Faced with the situation that has arisen, I deem it my duty to inform all the Catholic faithful of some aspects which this sad event has highlighted.
a) The outcome of the movement promoted by Mons. Lefebvre can and must be, for all the Catholic faithful, a motive for sincere reflection concerning their own fidelity to the Church's Tradition, authentically interpreted by the ecclesiastical Magisterium, ordinary and extraordinary, especially in the Ecumenical Councils from Nicaea to Vatican II. From this reflection all should draw a renewed and efficacious conviction of the necessity of strengthening till more their fidelity by rejecting erroneous interpretations and arbitrary and unauthorized application of doctrine, liturgy, and discipline.
To the bishops especially it pertains, by reason of their pastoral mission, to exercise the important duty of a clearsighted vigilance full of charity and firmness, so that this fidelity may be everywhere safeguarded (7).
However, it is necessary that all the Pastors and other faithful have a new awareness, not only of the lawfulness but also the richness for the Church of a diversity of charisms, traditions of spirtuality and apostolate, which also constitutes the beauty of unity in variety; of that blended "harmony" which the earthly Church raises up to Heaven under the impulse of the Holy Spirit.
b) Moreover, I should like to remind theologians and other experts in the ecclesiastical sciences that they should feel called upon to answer in the present circumstances. Indeed, the extent and depth of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council call for a renewed commitment to deeper study in order to reveal clearly the Council's continuity with Tradition, especially in points of doctrine which, perhaps because they are new, have not yet been well understood by some sections of the Church.
c) In the present circumstances I wish especially to make an appeal both solemn and heartfelt, paternal and fraternal, to all those who until now have been linked in various ways to the movement of Archbishop Lefebvre, that they may fulfil the grave duty of remaining united to the Vicar of Christ in the unity of the Catholic Church, and of ceasing their support in any way for that movement. Everyone should be aware that formal adherence to the schism is a grave offence against God and carries the penalty of excommunication decreed by the Church's law (8).
To all those Catholic faithful who feel attached to some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of the Latin tradition, I wish to manifest my will to facilitate their ecclesial communion by means of the necessary measures to guarantee respect for their rightful aspirations. In this matter I ask for the support of the bishops and of all those engaged in the pastoral ministry in the Church.
6. Taking account of the importance and complexity of the problems referred to in this document, by virtue of my Apostolic Authority I decree the following:
a) a Commission is instituted whose task it will be to collaborate with the bishops, with the Departments of the Roman Curia and with the circles concerned, for the purpose of facilitating full ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, religious communities, or individuals until now linked in various ways to the Fraternity founded by Mons. Lefebvre, who may wish to remain united to the Successor of Peter in the Catholic Church while preserving their spiritual and liturgical traditions, in light of the Protocol signed on 5 May last by Cardinal Ratzinger and Mons. Lefebvre;
b) this Commission is composed of a Cardinal President and other members of the Roman Curia, in a number that will be deemed opportune according to circumstances;
c) moreover, respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of all those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition, by a wide and generous application of the directives already issued some time ago by the Apostolic See, for the use of the Roman Missal according to the typical edition of 1962 (9).
7. As this year specially dedicated to the Blessed Virgin is now drawing to a close, I wish to exhort all to join in the unceasing prayer which the Vicar of Christ, through the intercession of the Mother of the Church, addresses to the Father in the very words of the Son: "That they all may be one!"
Given at Rome, at St. Peter's, 2 July 1988, the tenth year of the pontificate.
1) Cf. "Informatory Note" of 16 June, 1988: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 27 June 1988, pp. 1-2. 2) Cf. Vatican Council I, Const. Pastor Aeternus, cap. 3: DS 3060. 3) Cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 751. 4) Cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 1382. 5) Cf. Vatican Council II, Const. Dei Verbum, n. 8. Cf. Vatican Council I, Const. Dei Filius, cap. 4: DS 3020. 6) Cf. Mt. 16:18; Lk. 10:16; Vatican Council I, Const. Pastor Aeternus, cap. 3:can Council I, Const. Dei Filius, cap. 4: DS 3020. 6) Cf. Mt. 16:18; Lk. 10:16; Vatican Council I, Const. Pastor Aeternus, cap. 3: DS 3060. 7) Cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 386; Paul VI, Apostl. Exhort. Quinque iam anni, 8 Dec. 1970: AAS 63 (1971), pp. 97-106. 8) Cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 1364. 9) Cf. Congregation for Divine Worship, Letter Quattuor abhinc annos, 3 Oct. 1984: AAS 76 (1984), pp. 1088-1089.
Letter from Cardinal Mayer to the
Bishops of the United States
The following text is the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" undated letter No. 500/90, signed by Augustin Cardinal Mayer, Prefect, which was delivered to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and which was further disseminated by a memorandum dated 19 April 1991, from the Office of the General Secretary, National Conference of Catholic Bishops, to all the bishops in the United States.
I write to you as a brother in the episcopal college charged by the Holy Father to carry out the provisions of his Apostolic Letter Ecclesia Dei of 2 July 1988. My objective in addressing myself to you now is precisely to encourage you in the exercise of your pastoral mission to those who legitimately request the celebration of the Holy Mass according to the 1962 typical edition of the Roman Missal.
Perhaps a review of developments which led to the issuance of Ecclesia Dei would be helpful in this regard.
1. On 3 October 1984, the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship issued Quattour abhinc annos in which the Holy Father granted to diocesan bishops "the possibility of using an indult whereby priests and faithful . . . may be able to celebrate Mass by using the Roman Missal according to the 1962 edition."
The following conditions were stipulated:
a) that those requesting permission do not "call into question the legitimacy and doctrinal exactitude of the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Pius VI in 1970";
b) that such celebrations take place only for groups requesting them, not in parish churches (except with the bishop's permission in extraordinary cases) and under conditions laid down by the bishop;
c) that "these celebrations must be according to the 1962 Missal and in Latin";
d) that there "be no interchanging of texts and rites of the two Missals"; and
e) that each bishop had to inform the Congregation "of the concessions granted by him, and, at the end of a year from the granting of this indult, he must report on the result of the application."
2. A special "Commissio Cardinalitia ad hoc ipsum instituta" charged with reviewing the use made of the indult met in December of 1986. At that time the Cardinals unanimously agreed that the conditions laid down in Quattour abhinc annos were too restrictive and should be relaxed.
3. As you well know, in response to the illicit ordination of bishops at Econe on 30 June 1988 and wishing to uphold the principles which had been established in the previous and unfortunately unfruitful dialogue with Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the Holy Father issued Ecclesia Dei, motu proprio, on 2 July 1988.
While insisting that the root of the schismatic act of Archbishop Lefebvre lies in an "incomplete and contradictory notion of Tradition" which fails to "take sufficiently into account the living character of Tradition" (no. 4), he also maintained with equal firmness that "it is necessary that all the pastors and the other faithful have a new awareness, not only of the lawfulness but also of the richness for the Church of a diversity of charisms, traditions of spirituality, and apostolate" (no. 5, a).
Consequently, addressing himself "to all those Catholic faithful who feel attached to some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of the Latin tradition," and not just to the former adherents of Archbishop Lefebvre, he expressed his will "to guarantee respect for their rightful aspirations (no. 5, c). In order to provide for these legitimate desires of the faithful he established this Pontifical Commission and indicated his mind with regard to its primary task, stating:
". . . respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition, by a wide and generous application of the directives already issued some time ago by the Apostolic See for use of the Roman Missal according to the 1962 typical edition (no. 6, c)."
Consequently, Your Excellency, we wish to encourage you to facilitate the proper and reverent celebration of the liturgical rites according to the Roman Miss of 1962 wherever there is a genuine desire for this on the part of the priests and faithful. This should not be construed as a promotion of that Missal in prejudice to the one promulgated eight years later, but simply a pastoral provision to meet the "rightful aspirations" of those who wish to worship according to the Latin liturgical tradition as celebrated for centuries.
In the light of the Holy Father's motu proprio, then, we offer the following guidelines and suggestions:
1. There is no reason now why the so-called "Tridentine" Mass cannot be celebrated in a parish church where this would be a genuine pastoral service to the faithful asking for it. Care should be taken, of course, for a harmonious integration into the already existing parish liturgical schedule.
2. The regularity and frequency of the celebration of this liturgy, whether to be celebrated on Sundays, Holydays, and/or weekdays, will depend on the needs of the faithful. Our recommendation is that, in places where the faithful have made a request for the regular celebration for the Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal, a weekly Sunday and Holyday Mass be scheduled in a central location and at a convenient time on a trial basis for a period of several months. Afterwards further evaluation and adjustment should be made.
3. Of course the celebrants of the "Tridentine" Mass should not fail in their preaching and contacts with the faithful attending such Masses to emphasize their own adherence to the legislation of the universal Church and their acknowledgment of the doctrinal and juridical value of the liturgy as revised after the Second Vatican Council. Under such conditions, it would seem unnecessary, even unduly painful, to impose further restrictions upon those who wish to attend such celebrations.
4. Although the Holy Father has given this Pontifical Commission the faculty to grant the use of the 1962 typical edition of the Roman Missal to all those who request it, while the Commission informs the appropriate Ordinary thereof, we would much prefer that such faculties be granted by the Ordinary himself for the sake of strengthening the bond of ecclesial communion between those priests and faithful and their local Pastors.
5. Following upon the "wide and generous application" of the principles laid down in Quattour abhinc annos and the directives of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 51 & 54), the new Lectionary in the vernacular could be used as a way of "providing a richer fare for the faithful at the table of God's Word" in Masses celebrated according to the 1962 Missal. However, we believe that this usage should not be imposed on congregations who decidedly wish to maintain the former liturgical tradition in its integrity according to the provision of the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei. Such an imposition might also be less likely to invite back to full communion with the Church at this time those who have lapsed into schismatic worship.
6. Since a number of older and retired priests who have a deep appreciation of the previous Latin liturgical tradition have approached their individual Ordinaries as well as this Pontifical Commission to obtain the celebret for the use of the 1962 Missal, it would seem particularly suitable to utilize the services of such priests where possible for the celebration of this Mass. It may well be discovered that even retired priests who have not requested this faculty would nonetheless be willing to provide this special form of pastoral care for those who request it.
Finally, Your Excellency, it is my sincere desire that this fraternal letter will be for us who are members of the episcopal college an incentive to exercise that manus episcopale described so beautifully in Lumen Gentium 23:
"Individual bishops, insofar as they are set over particular Churches, exercise their pastoral office over the portion of the People of God assigned to them, not over other Churches, nor the Church universal. But insofar as they are members of the episcopal college and legitimate successors of the apostles, by Christ's arrangement and decree, each is bound to have such care and solicitude for the whole Church which, though it not be exercised by an act of jurisdiction, does for all that redound in an eminent degree to the advantage of the universal Church. For all the bishops have the obligation of fostering and safeguarding the unity of faith and of upholding the discipline which is common to the whole Church."
"I am pleased to avail myself of this opportunity to extend my best wishes to you in your shepherding of the flock entrusted to your care and to assure you of my willing collaboration that, in all circumstances, God may be glorified in the worship of His Holy Church."
Augustin Card. Mayer, Prefect
Letter of Dario Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos,
President of the Papal Commission Ecclesia Dei,
to the General Chapter of the
Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, June 2000
My very dear Brethren:
Your Fraternity is holding at the moment its General Chapter. In my position as the new President of the Papal Commission Ecclesia Dei, I would gladly be with you, in order to speak to you personally. Because this is not possible, due to obligations which I assumed quite some time ago, I am writing you this letter.
The General Chapter of your Fraternity is a privileged moment [in which] to look, together as brethren, upon the exalted Person of our Redeemer and only Lord, Jesus Christ. It is a privileged moment of Trinitarian communion, in which the unity of the Church of Our Lord and the unity among us as brethren strengthens itself. As disciples of Jesus, we must strive for perfection, but with the priorities which the Master has Himself revealed to us. The absolute priority is the love of God and the love of our brethren, as distinguishing characteristics of our Family of Faith. The love of God expresses itself in prayer, in the celebration of the Faith, in holding firm to certainties which concern the moral life, and in the disciplinary manifestations which protect and guarantee them. This is the special field of your particular place in the Church. Holding fast to the noble traditions in the celebration of the Divine Cult is its characteristic mark.
Since my appointment last April, I have studied the acts [or: archives] of your Institute. I have spoken with several of you, and I have read numerous letters which have reached me. Likewise, I have informed myself through people in Rome who have been familiar with your situation for years. After all of this, I would like to communicate to you my reflection and my decisions.
One cannot possibly deny that your Institute has been living through a severe crisis for a certain amount of time. A first attempt to solve this crisis was undertaken in February with the General Convocation held at Rocca di Papa. This [Convocation], as you know, worked out a compromise, which attempted to reconcile the demands of the General Law of the Church with the particular character of your Institute, and so to overcome your divisions. This compromise, unfortunately, has become the object of new controversies between those who accept it, and those who reject it.
In spite of this, the Superiors requested that the Papal Commission approve this compromise, and to make it a particular law for you. After mature reflection, and questioning of the experts, I ascertained that this is not possible.
The ground for this is the clear circumstances of the legal situation in this matter, namely:
A priest, who enjoys the privilege to celebrate the Mass according to the old Missal of 1962, does not lose the right, likewise to use the Missal of 1970, which is officially in force in the Latin Church. No Superior beneath the Supreme Pontiff can hinder a priest from following the General Law, which was promulgated by the Supreme Legislator, namely, to celebrate in the reformed Rite of Pope Paul VI.
A limitation of the exercise of this right can be freely decided upon, perhaps, by a priest, but it can never become the general rule of an Institute.
It [i.e., the limitation or restriction] also cannot be imposed upon seminarians, or be the reason for denying them ordination. You know very well, that this last point is of great importance for you in this moment, when not a negligible number of seminarians and even priests have the intention to depart from your Institute, if this rule were imposed upon them - which, however, is in fact not possible.
It is therefore urgently necessary to render certain decisions, in order to avoid the falling apart of your Fraternity, and [to avoid] the loss of vocations, which are so precious in our time.1. The first decision is of juridical nature. Your Constitutions, which were approved ad experimentum [i.e., experimentally, temporarily], leave open the question of the possible number of terms of appointment for a Superior General. It appears appropriate to restrict these to two terms of six years each - that is, a maximum of twelve years - to bring the Fraternity into harmony with the majority of other religious Institutes. The competent authority of the Holy See hereby limits the term of office of the Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter to two successive terms of six years each. This Papal Commission thanks Father Bisig, who has exercised this function for twelve years, for everything which he has done for the Fraternity, which owes to him its consolidation and its expansion into several countries during the initial period of its history, as the fruit of his burning zeal and his desire for personal and collective sanctification. He will always be, through his experience, a pillar and support for your Fraternity and will, I am certain, help his successor through his good advice.
2. The second decision is the following: It is known to you that in 1991, Cardinal Innocenti, who was then President of this Papal Commission, named Fr. Bisig to a further term of three years as Superior General, despite a differing vote of the General Chapter. The conflict-ridden situation of your Fraternity presently demands a similar intervention of superior authority, in view of the danger that an election could become the source of even more profound divisions. For this reason, I name Fr. Arnaud Devillers as Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter for a term of six years. Fr. Devillers fulfills the necessary conditions and knows your Fraternity well from the inside. He has long experience as the one responsible for the North American District, which he founded, and which he has firmly implanted in several American dioceses - always in good cooperation with the respective bishops. His first assignment will be to re-establish peace in your Fraternity, by working to maintain your common spirituality, and even to strengthen it; likewise to reinforce your family spirit.
3. The third decision concerns the Seminary at Wigratzbad. Together with the one in the United States, it is the cradle of future vocations. One must therefore give it the possibility to form priests in all peace and calm, and to provide a solid theological and pastoral formation. For this reason, a new Rector will be named for the International Seminary of St. Peter at Wigratzbad. He will dedicate himself to the task of priestly formation, together with the college of professors, whom he will select with the consent of the Superior General. It is important that the seminarians find here a spiritual atmosphere, a good spirit, professors adequate to their assignment, and an exemplary ecclesial spirit, which carefully avoids all extremism. You know quite well that your Seminary is observed by many people in the Church, and that it must be exemplary in all respects.
In particular, it is required to avoid and combat a certain spirit of rebellion against the present-day Church, which spirit easily finds followers among the young students, who - like all young people - already incline to extreme and rigorist positions. It is necessary, on the contrary, to cultivate love for the Church and Her Supreme Pastor, and to listen to Her Magisterium. One cannot live in the Church and at the same time distance himself from Her.
The Superior General will likewise select a Rector for the American Seminary, for which the same findings are valid as for Wigratzbad.
I wish that all members of the Fraternity accept these decisions with submission and humility. May they all keep themselves from again forming pressure-groups or groups of resistance against the line of the Superior General.
I promise that the Papal Commission will be from now on more present in the Seminaries and other Houses of the Fraternity, and will watch more diligently over their good condition. It may also come about that the Commission will intervene anew, if this is necessary.
What concerns the Liturgy remains as it should: Your Fraternity has the privilege to celebrate according to the liturgical books from 1962 in its own chapels and churches. The priests of the Institute normally celebrate according to this Rite, but they have the right - it is unnecessary to repeat - to celebrate also according to the books presently in use, in particular cases which will not be frequent, but which nevertheless remain dependent upon the reasonable and tactful decision of the priests. I encourage you to concelebrate with the diocesan bishop, particularly on Maundy Thursday.
In this way, you will visibly demonstrate your unity with the Pastor of the local Church - who is also your Pastor - and with his clergy, to whom those priests also belong who are members of Institutes of Consecrated Life or - as your Fraternity - of Communities of Apostolic Life, which have a pastoral charge in the diocese.
On the other hand, it is clear that no priest is obliged to make use of this right. In this way, an atmosphere of freedom and trust can arise in this area, which stands in opposition to every exclusivity and every liturgical extremism. The Fraternity of St. Peter, as its name already says, can only be a family of brethren, who mutually accept each other with fraternal love, and who are united wholly into the great family of the Roman Catholic Church, where there is a legitimate place for Catholics with a traditional sensibility, which I will defend with all my power.
I entrust to you one more personal reflection:
You must not view the aspect of the Rite [of the Liturgy] as the central point of the whole Church, or place this aspect on the same level as the fundamentals themselves, such as unity in the true Faith, common discipline under the Apostolic Hierarchy, and the Liturgy, which is the celebration of the Mysteries of the Faith.
The Rite is not the celebration itself, but it is only one of the possible forms of the latter. Apart from that, do not forget that the Rite reformed by Pope Paul VI is the common Rite of the Church. It is not your task to alter this state of things, or so to speak about this Rite, as if it were of lesser value; but rather to aid the Faithful who have an attachment to the old Rite better to find themselves once more in the Church. If it is true that the aspect of the Rite is an important help for the permanence of the Sacred, which in todays Church is so threatened by secularisation, this occurs not only through one single form of the Rite, as some might like to believe; but one must preserve the Holy in all relations with God. It is your task to do this, in that you celebrate according to your aptitudes. Nevertheless, you must not assign a priority to the form of the Liturgy, in which you have the privilege to celebrate. But rather, it is much more necessary to see this as the particular contribution of your Institute to the common work of the Church. Your contribution must fit itself into the harmony of the sanctity of the Church, where there is certainly a place for that which completes - not, however, for that which contradicts.
Insofar as you behave thus, you contribute at the same time to the New Evangelization, to which the Holy Father calls all of us. I invoke upon all of you the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Queen of the Apostles, and the plenitude of heavenly graces, which God wishes to confer upon you: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Rome, the 29th June 2000
Dario Card. Castrillon Hoyos
Pray for the soul of Roger Wagner, KCSG, first director of the LAMasterChorale, and for the continuing health of Paul Salamunovich, KCSG, immediate-past-Director of the LAMC.
BOTH of them taught the LAMC about how to sing Chant, and both used Chant in their Parish choir-directing assignments.
I consider that remark a slappable offense. Any time in purgatory, would be time well worth spent over giving a slap.
It is PRECISELY this attitude that will turn off many from seeking to attend a Tridentine Mass. "Our mass is perfect, while your mass is crap." The implication is that "Only OUR Eucharist is validly confected." This is PRECISELY why many bishops do not allow for more Tridentine masses.
The hell with Scott. Can't say I like hand-holding during the Our Father but at least the people who do it aren't conceited, as a general rule and have some sense of charity.
Naturally, there are NO CATHOLIC EDITORS at this newspaper, otherwise they'd have a clue that the "Roman rite" isn't the ONLY catholic rite. To say this was the "only way" for "hundreds of years" is plainly wrong.
Ouch. I don't mind the sign of peace, but as for the music...
At the beginning of Mass, 11 altar boys, most in red satin robes, announced the entrance of a coterie of priests with candles and incense. Father Justin Ramos, who said the Mass, walked down the aisle in a gold brocade cape.Who can argue that there isn't more of a sense of the sacred here? I think Mother Angelica has done the best at capturing the sacred in her version of the new Mass.
Their arrival at the altar was marked by unadorned male voices from the choir that delivered Gregorian chant. Then Ramos walked back up the aisle, sprinkling the congregation with holy water that prompted members of the standing-room-only congregation to bow in waves.
In Latin, Ramos led a prayer for mercy and salvation:
"Ostende nobis, Domine, misericordiam tuam."
"Et salutare tuum da nobis," the worshipers responded.
I knew it.
The priest who said the Indult I used to attend is now in a retirement home. A younger priest tries to offer it but is not that familiar with the Old Mass. He ends up saying half the Mass as Novus Ordo.
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