His Excellency Most Reverend Dolan, Archbishop of Milwaukee.
My emphases and comments.
Dear Friends United in Love and Service of Jesus Christ and His Church:
You remember Chicken Little? [?] This poor chick saw calamity in everything. Whatever happened was given the worst possible interpretation. The slightest event was cause for Chicken Little’s chant, The sky is falling!
Chicken Little appears regularly in the Church. [Folks, this is not deep historical-theological analysis, as you might have by now sensed. But let's watch where this goes.] Sightings usually happen whenever there is rumor of a new document from the mean-old Vatican, [or "the Kremlin on the Tiber" as some of the faculty of the USA sem I was in used to call it.] and the actual publication of those statements usually bring the premature shout the sky is falling even before anyone has the chance to read the thing.
That’s what happened last week. Two new documents came from Rome, each rather short, simple, hardly surprising or unanticipated, both, upon careful review, quite moderate and nuanced. [In a way, maybe, if you think from the right framework. However, these documents are part of a far larger vision.]
The first was from the Holy Father himself, a statement called Summorum Pontificum, issued July 7. All this did was allow more use of what is popularly, if somewhat inaccurately, called the old Mass, or the Latin Mass, or the Tridentine Mass, under careful conditions. [I think this is not accurate. The conditions are actually very loose, aren't they?] The Pope states that the new Mass, that we have all been used to since 1969, is still the way the Eucharist is to be celebrated, the ordinary rite, but that the old Mass — the proper term would be the Mass offered according to the Missal of 1962 [Now we know this is the proper term! seriously, it is a good way to talk about it. Other people have other good ways to talk about it.] – can be allowed: for instance, a priest can offer this Mass privately any time he wishes; a stable community [The Motu Proprio says something different in Latin. Remember that the word in the MP is continenter not stabiliter, and it is an adverb, not an adjective. For the thousandth time the MP says continenter and NOT stabiliter. And coetus does not smoothly translated into "community". "Community" is more structured than coetus.] of the faithful who has been attached to the Missal of 1962 can ask their pastor to offer one for them on given occasions, [More often than that!] and, if he knows how (and not too many priests, including this one, do), [I really like his honesty. Bravo.] the pastor should accommodate them.
The Chicken Littles came out: He’s destroying Vatican II!; Hes turning the clock back!; Hes catering to the right-wing fanatics! Next step is a return to fasting from midnight and hats for women! [Ehem... those might be good things, actually. Still, I like his style here. The Chicken Little thing is starting to work for me.]
For the life of me, [chatty] after reading the statement over and over, [Not in the bad translation I hope] and checking approved commentaries, [Are there any? Maybe he is thinking of WDTPRS? I approve these commentaries!] I cannot understand the fuss. It does not seem that the Holy Father has changed much at all. [Had the MP of John Paul II been implemented, we would never had seen Summorum Pontificum.] We already have here in the archdiocese a large community of good people who are attached to the extraordinary rite (the Missal of 1962), tended to by generous senior priests of the archdiocese, who meet every Sunday at St. Stanislaus for the Mass, with my permission and blessing. In fact, three months ago we moved them to this magnificent church to better accommodate them. And, if a priest ever asked me for permission to privately celebrate the Mass using the Missal of 1962, I gave it willingly, even before this instruction. [Good for him! Excellent!] And, those who moaned that this new permission was an insult to our Jewish friends, since the Missal of 1962 unfortunately contained language understandably offensive to the Jewish community in the Good Friday liturgy, obviously did not even read the document, since it explicitly states that the old Missal could not be used for the Sacred Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil). [WHOA! That is NOT what the MP says! The Good Friday liturgy can indeed be used when not in schedule conflict with the Novus Ordo. At a "personal parish" it can certainly be used.]
Hold on to your hats, because the best is yet to come.
On July 10, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — not Pope Benedict XVI — issued a succinct document called Response to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church. Apparently, thoughtful theologians had been in dialog with this Vatican congregation, and had presented five questions for consideration.
It seems as if the theologians who presented these questions, as well as the congregation, are worried that some have misinterpreted the teaching of the Second Vatican Council in such a way as to cause religious indifferentism. That’s not a bad thing to be worried about. [I should say we should be worried!]
So, this short, helpful document re-asserts the timeless teaching of the Church: that Our Lord established here on earth only one Church, and instituted it as a visible and spiritual community, that, from its beginning and throughout the centuries has always existed and will always exist, and in which alone are found the elements that Christ Himself instituted.
Noting the great teaching of Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, #8, the statement continues: This one Church of Christ, which we confess in the Creed as one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic . . . this Church . . . subsists in the Catholic Church, guided by the successors of St. Peter and the bishops in communion with Him.
Enter the Chicken Littles! [Okay... here I have a serious bone to pick with His Excellency. I think this should be "Chickens Little", not "Chicken Littles".] This Pope says Protestants are going to hell!; I guess ecumenism is dead!; Another sign of the arrogance of the Catholic Church!; Im embarrassed by the triumphalism of the Church!; All our progress is washed down the drain!; What an insult to those of other faiths!
Search as I might, I find none of that in the statement. All this pretty much sounds like what weve been praying in the creed the last seventeen centuries, We believe in the one, holy Catholic, and apostolic Church. [Yep.] As the Anglican Centre in Rome commented, theres hardly anything new in the document. Metropolitan Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church actually welcomed the clarification, commenting that all ecumenical dialog is based on each faith being honest about what it believes. As our own ecumenical director, Judith Longdin, and my friend the Most Reverend Steven Miller, the Episcopalian Bishop of Milwaukee, observed, this document hardly changes much.
Does the Catholic Church believe it is the one, true Church established by Christ? Yes, it does. Always has, always will.
Does the Catholic Church honor and respect other Christian faiths, believing that they, too, share in the life and truth of Christ. Yes.
But thats not what I heard on CNN! replies one of the Chicken Littles. Which brings up a great point. The media — with some notable exceptions — rarely gets it right when it reports on the Church. [They should read this blog more often.] We should not depend on TV or the secular press to always accurately present Church teaching or practice. That’s why our Catholic press — like The Catholic Herald — is so critical. As my old teacher, the great Church historian, Monsignor John Tracy Ellis, used to say: The big problem is that most people get their Church teaching through Walter Cronkite, not the documents themselves.
I sure hope this helps. By now, though, I’ve learned: anytime the Vatican releases a document, odds are it will be given the most unattractive, inaccurate, hysterical interpretation possible, and my e-mail will be jammed.
All I can say is, The sky is not falling.
Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan
A chatty back-slap from the Archbishop of Milwaukee. But it is simultaneously disarming and pretty much on target, no?
There are some mistakes about the MP, but this is not a statement that attempts to define norms.
A great read!