A reader questions me about bishop’s possible stalling tactics.

I received an interesting e-mail from a reader.  It concerns a "delay" in the implementation of the older form of Mass in a major diocese of the USA.  

Here is the letter.  I have edited out the identifying details.

My emphases.

Dear Fr. Z:

I am really bewildered and it was suggested that I contact you for some advice.  This evening I presented a letter with 25 signatures to our Priest Administrator requesting a Latin Mass.  …  Almost 2 years ago our "former" beloved Priest changed the orientation of our Church to where we now have the proper worship space conducive with the Latin Tridentine Mass.  With our new Priest, this is his first Church and he has told us we will have to wait until the November date (the one in the letter from our [bishop]) and we will know more then.  Well, I am concerned that this is just a way to stall us.  We didn’t present our request unprepared.  We already have a Priest with 31 years in the Priesthood who knows the Latin Mass. He has agreed to offer a weekly Latin Mass.

My question is, who should I appeal to next?  Our group is almost ready to go, but we feel pressured to wait.  I know you said be patient and kind and not prideful but we just want to begin our preparations to offer this Mass weekly and we are feeling this is exactly what is going to happen across the U.S., stalling, hoping we will go away, and that isn’t going to happen.  We could be ready MUCH sooner than when the [bishop] is planning on allowing a Parish to begin.  This is horrible and we want to move forward.

To whom should I appeal to next?

Friend, I know this is frustrating for you and the others involved.  However, I need to point out a couple important things.

First, the priest at your parish is NOT a pastor, not a parochus.  He is an administrator.  That means that he does not have the full abilities to make decisions according to the provisions of Summorum Pontificum.  The Motu Proprio says that pastors can make the decisions about public celebrations.

Second, be very careful with your priest, who seems to be well-disposed.  If you put him between your zealous group and your local bishop, you have effectively placed him between an anvil and a hammer.  You might want what you want, and you want it now, but you could really hurt that priest.  If he is pressured by you to do something against the prescriptions of the bishop, no matter how unreasonable they may be, you might delay that priest actually being appointed as pastor, rather than administrator.  I think you need a little charity and prudence here.

Third, a couple months seems like a long time, but after all this time… well.   Perhaps the time could be used for good training of a choir and servers for something big.  Perhaps you could invite the bishop to be the celebrant. 

Fourth, by all means save every scrap of correspondence.  If it will be necessary, and think it won’t be if you are patient, then you could have recourse to the Pontifical Commission in Rome, which will have competence to help in these situations.

Fifth, if you are talking about a regularly scheduled Mass with the usus antiquior at your parish, remember that no priest will need permission to Mass privately, that is not on the official parish schedule.  It might be that quite a few people might by chance be at church when Father intends to say Mass privately.  It might be that Father will have a soft heart and let a few extra fellows serve.  Maybe Father will consent to change his plans from saying a private low Mass because he just can’t say no to people who spontaneously asked to attend his private Mass, spontaneously to sing some parts of the Mass.  He might spontaneously decide to use the incense the servers in their enthusiasm spontaneously fired up in the sacristy.  All of this would be spontaneous, of course, and not scheduled in any way.

No matter what, friend, do not do anything to put this priest in a difficult situation. 

Be patient.

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17 Responses to A reader questions me about bishop’s possible stalling tactics.

  1. Pat Klass says:

    Father,
    I am forwarding a letter in the parish bulletin from Father James Hawker, pastor at St. Luke’s in Charlotte, N.C. (sorry to do this in comments but I couldn’t figure out how else to send it, the e-mail wouldn’t open).
    God Bless You,
    Pat Klass

    “Within the recent past, Pope Benedict permitted the wider use of the 1962 edition of the Missal of Pius V, the Tridentine Mass. He did state, however, that the Missal of Paul VI, promulgated in 1970, is to be viewed as the norm. That has been the rite employed during the past thirty seven years.
    As I noted in last month’s Pastor’s Notes, I have no interest in celebrating the Tridentine Mass, even though I am the only active priest in the diocese who did so during the 1960’s.
    It is important to observe that celebrating the Tridentine Mass involves much more than saying Mass in another language. It would require the priest to face the wall. The readings would be limited to one cycle, read year after year, rather than the three year cycle of readings implemented presently. The dates for the feast days of saints, in a number of instances, are different from the present rite. The role and involvement of the laity is diminished while that of the priest is highlighted. These are just a few of the factors to be considered prior to returning to “the rite of yester-year”. So, as you can observe, the Tridentine Mass, that pre-dated the Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Church and Constitution on the Liturgy, is reflective of an understanding of the Church and the Liturgy that preceded the insights, richness and pastoral sensitivity of the conciliar documents.
    It is imperative, then, that those persons who are looking forward to the celebration of the Tridentine Mass recognize that, while it is integral to the tradition of the Church, it is really time-bound. Even though it may respond to nostalgia, it is not in tune with the living tradition with which we have been gifted due to the spirit and documents of Vatican II.”

  2. Fr. Marc says:

    Dear Father Zuhlsdorf,

    Concerning Administrator / Pastor:

    Can. 540 §1. A parochial administrator is bound by the same duties and possesses the same rights as a pastor unless the diocesan bishop establishes otherwise.

    Thus I fail to see why SP does not also apply to administrators.

  3. RBrown says:

    It is imperative, then, that those persons who are looking forward to the celebration of the Tridentine Mass recognize that, while it is integral to the tradition of the Church, it is really time-bound. Even though it may respond to nostalgia, it is not in tune with the living tradition with which we have been gifted due to the spirit and documents of Vatican II.”
    Comment by Pat Klass — 6 September 2007

    Actually, it is just the opposite. As John XXIII pointed out, vernacular languages are constantly changing–thus time bound. On the other hand, but Latin is immutable–thus not time bound.

  4. David Kubiak says:

    What grotesque irony. This historical rite of the Roman Church is “really time-bound” but the NO is
    “living tradition.” This priest is the one living in the past (“with which we have been gifted…”); I would
    say that the “tradition” of the NO was pretty much limited to the lifespan of Annibale Bugnini.

  5. Father: I might combust, spontaneously, with laughter at your fifth set of
    points.

  6. Antonius says:

    Note on no. 5: If I’m not misinformed, it is not permissible to single out only some parts of the Mass to be sung.

  7. Mike in NC says:

    Regarding the ‘spontaneity’ bits, is this because of the ‘sua sponte’ in Summorum Pontificum?

    If yes, would not ‘sua sponte’ be better translated as ‘of their own free will’?

    . . . awaiting an official translation of Summorum Pontificum into English.

  8. Gloria says:

    Dear Father Z, we had a similar experience in our parish. Our administrator announced that he was made pastor. He then announced that we would have our first mass on Sept. 16. The following weeks bulletin, Aug 26, He made corrections to the bulletin stating he would countine to serve as Administrator, there will be no changes for the mass schedule, and that he would have to go on a two month mission out of the country. He said he was sorry and hoped to work things out. So, what recourse does the priest have and what recourse do we have? Just a note, we have been struggling with our Bishop regarding certain uncharitable and unyielding decisons in our area for many years. Thank you for all your wonderful work

  9. Ms says:

    So, if the priest is for it, the Bishop against it; we are patient with the priest.
    If the priest is against it, the Bishop for it; we write to the Bishop?
    If they are both not for it, ?
    Right now, we have other issues and concerns at our parish and to be quite frank, I don’t think I would want our priest to say or pray the older mass; he does the mass his own way.
    He also has his own take on the Bible and what Jesus really MEANT to say.

  10. Richard says:

    The letter posted by Pat Klass really needs to be looked at.

    That priest is refusing to say the Extraordinary Form not because he doesn’t have time, or can’t be bothered, but because he believes that the Extraordinary Form reflects the wrong understanding of the Mass!

    This is not just in opposition to Summorum Pontificum; it shows that this priest’s understanding of – and teaching on – the Mass is wrong. He seems to be caught up in the “hermeneutic of rupture”, and believes that Vatican II changed our “understanding of the Church and the Liturgy”.

  11. Brian says:

    I think that this is the de facto position in many areas wherein a Bishop (or Priest) does not want to appear dismissive toward the Tridentine Mass, but at the same time doesn’t want to see it in his diocese or parish. I feel as though this exact same thing is going on in my diocese; the Bishop wrote an article published in the diocese paper urging his priests not to perform the rite until much more detail is given by Rome about how or when it should occur – something which may take years. Privately, rumor has it the Bishop is adamantly opposed to seeing that Mass in his diocese and has threatened his priests with transfers if they do anything more or less traditional (e.g. having communion rails, having a center mounted tabernacle, etc). Since he is approaching retirement age, it seems as though his plan is to stall attempts at the Mass in his diocese until they go away or he has to retire and pass the “problem” on to a new bishop.

  12. I think this is a moment in which we are all called to exercise prudence and patience. There are many young priests (and many more who will be ordained in the coming years) who are enthusiastic and open to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite. The Holy Father has set the ball rolling with Summorum Pontificum, but he has also set a good tone – that of unity and charity. It is my thought that this WILL backfire if roving gangs bearing torches and pitchforks (and hand-illuminated copies of Summorum Pontificum) show up on the rectory doorsteps of sixty-something priests DEMANDING that Father say the Holy Mass this way. I have often said that the biggest turn-off for me has been the attitude often borne by those in favor of the extraordinary form. Even if groups succeed in forcing their reluctant (or recalcitrant) priest to use the extraordinary form, I don’t think they will be very happy with the results – will Father do it with great love, with great reverence or will he simply “go through the motions” which prompted so many of the reforoms prompted by the council?

    If a priest has a poor understanding of the aims of the council and of the Theology of the Mass (celebrated according to either form) then the most we can hope for is that a lively and charitable debate will cause us to open our hearts to the possibility that our assumptions are mistaken, that there is great value to be expressed in the usus antiquior.

  13. DoB says:

    Sacerdos,
    “It is my thought that this WILL backfire if roving gangs bearing torches and pitchforks (and hand-illuminated copies of Summorum Pontificum)… ”

    don’t you think this is EVER so slighly unrealistic!

    Love the medieval imagery :-)!

  14. fxr2 says:

    Father Z and Everyone,
    I attend St. Peter’s Church in Merchantville, NJ (stpeterrcc.com). Our Pastor Fr. Anthony J. Manuppella KHS is very disposed to the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite and announced he would offer an Extraordinary Form Mass on Sundays and holy days after September 14th. I became a little disturbed when Fr. Manuppella announced after consulting with the parish council he would be offering the first Extraordinary Form Mass on the first Sunday in Advent, and he would be offering a 12 part class on the Extraordinary Form of the Mass on Thursday Evenings that began tonight.
    I just left the first class and I am ecstatic. Fr. Manuppella stated he was expecting between 40 and 50 people to attend the class. By my count over 350 people attended the class and there was a mix of ages from 70’s to teens. The class was to begin at 7:30 PM and didn’t get started until after 8:00 because the participants had to set up additional tables and chairs in the hall.
    Fr. Manuppella also advised he had over 35 altar buys sign up to learn how to serve the Extraordinary Form Mass and has a Schola practicing as well. I believe Fr. Manuppella is a genius. He is taking his time and laying the ground work. He has a demonstrated group of faithful. What Bishop, administrator, or bureaucrat could argue with numbers like these? We may have to wait until the first Sunday of Advent but after 37 years what is three months.
    Perhaps Father Anthony J. Manuppella KHS should be held out as an example to all of the brave priests who wish to celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

  15. John Paul says:

    Just to second the comment on St.Peter’s, which is my parents’ parish. My
    father has been anxiously awaiting these classes, and the return of the
    Traditional Mass. As noted, this parish is already pretty tradition-minded.
    At one Mass offered by Fr.Manupella, he came out in a cope and biretta, and
    sang The Asperges from the Traditional Mass. He and his priests (which now
    includes Father John Perricone) incorporate many of the rubrics from the 1962
    Missal, including the genuflections before the elevation, and keeping thumb and
    forefingers together after the Consecration. This is quite a parish, and
    should be the model for all to follow.

  16. Federico says:

    Patience is good, but beware the time constraints for canonical hierarchical recourses. They are draconian and absolute.

    I know good priests who lost recourses because, in their charity, allowed too much time to pass before pursuing their rights.

  17. Pat Klass says:

    RBrown,
    Just wanted to correct you, I did not not make the comment that the Extraordinary Form was “time-bound” (first comment above). Rather I sent the parish newsletter in which Fr. James Hawker said it was “time-bound” and “the rite of yester-year”.
    Thanks for commenting Richard, I too would like to hear comments from others on this letter in St. Luke’s bulletin. I was particularly concerned with this priest’s attitude toward “involvement” of the laity. I keep hearing this from older priests in particular that this is what Vatican II brought us and that going “back”, and it’s always about going back in time they say, is bad because the priest will be the center of attention while the laity would no longer be involved. How is it that so many in the Church are at odds with the idea of silent prayer and the action of entering into the Holy Mystery of the Mass? He also said he doesn’t want to face the wall. If he only know he would be facing, at least symbolically, the direction where the Lord will come when He returns.
    Pat Klass