The Bishop of Alexandria in Louisiana, His Excellency Most Reverend Ronald P. Herzog, has sent a Memorandum to his priests about the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.
My emphases and comments.
MEMO to Priests:
September 11, 2007
RE: Motu Proprio
As you know Pope Benedict XVI issue a Motu Proprio that becomes effect on September 14, 2007 allowing the celebration of an extraordinary form of the Mass, commonly called the Tridentine Mass, under certain circumstances. This does not require special permission from me. [A good strong statement of fact. Excellent.] However, the Holy Father is very clear that it is the BishopÂ’s responsibility to ensure that the liturgy is celebrated properly and that the priests who celebrate it are sufficiently knowledgeable in Latin. [Good. "Sufficiently" is correct. But this does not mean "expert".] Since very few of our priests were ordained while this form was in common use, it will be necessary to establish a process to train and/or evaluate this competency the Holy Father mandates. [Here we go!]
We do not yet have the details of this in place but hopefully we will have it in place soon. In the meantime, please do NOT presume such competency. Do not celebrate using the extraordinary form until you have been certified. [I think this perhaps does not adequately recognize the rights of priests. If a priest has faculties to say Mass at all, he automatically has the faculty to say the older Mass too, without any additional permission. Also, and I probably need education from this by a canonist, I assume that because at ordination someone stood up and publicly declared that candidates were suitable and suitably trained, therefore all priests ordained and having faculties are at least in the eyes of the law idoenei unless it can be proven otherwise. So, the priest shouldn’t be placed under undue burdens to prove himself beyond what is necessary. A canonist can help with this.]
Even after certification, please be aware that it may only be used for private celebrations (without people present, except for a properly trained male altar server) [This is also not accurate. The Motu Proprio clearly states that other people may attend if they desire.] or at the request of an established, stable group [here is that bad English translation rearing its inaccurate head again] of lay faithful who request it and with the pastorÂ’s [sic] approval. Such public celebrations are not at the initiative of the priest. [I can’t see that this is accurate either. First, I think the priest himself can be a member of the coetus… continenter existens in the parish. Second, the MP says that the pastor of the parish ought to receive favorably the petitions he received. However… and I think this is fairly important… I don’t think we can argue that that is the only condition for establishing a public Mass, that is, at the petition of a group. That is to say that when there is a petition of a group, the pastor should respond willingly. But even if there is no petition, the pastor is still able to have scheduled Masses with people, even if only occasionally (that is not having a permanent change to the parish Mass schedule. Favoribilia ampliantur, after all.] The proper liturgical books must be used as well as the vestments required for the 1962 rite. [Okay… I am pleased that the issue of vestments was brought up. And certainly in virtually every case adquate vestments will probably be available one way or another. However, even back in the day, if some piece or color was lacking life went on… and so did Mass. Also, it is not necessary that Roman style vestments be used. The fuller "Gothic" style can be used too.] Information about where you may acquire these will also be provided. [That’s very good! It is nice to see in these statements that resources and helps are available.]
To the best of my knowledge there are no groups that meet the conditions of the Motu Proprio. For the purpose of clarity, such groups would need to number at least 20 people. [This is where the whole thing falls apart in a serious way. First, the statement about his knowledge of groups is entirely irrelevant other than perhaps to convey his own like or dislike of this whole business. It sure puts a negative pall over the whole thing. Second, the Motu Proprio does not indicate any minimum size for a coetus, which can actually be quite small., certainly smaller than 20. It is understandable that a change to a parish’s Mass schedule might not be reasonable for a very small group. Nevertheless the Motu Proprio doesn’t indicate a minimum group. The pastor of the parish is the one who makes the decision. The bishop has the supporting role to help things work harmoniously when help is needed. That is clear in the Motu Proprio.]
Thank you for your patience as we continue to refine this option to avoid unnecessary confusion for our people. Consistency in the practice will help.
+Ronald P. Herzog
A couple things are manifest in this statement.
First, there is a willingness to provide training and information. This is very positive.
However, there are unreasonable restrictions about the number of people who might constitute a coetus. This is a common feature of some of the more hostile statements of dioceses. It is a kind of "red flag" item to watch for.
Also very troubling is the concept of "certification". This creates a double-standard.
It places an undue burden on one use of the Roman Rite. If there will also be a move to train or review the competence of all priests also in the newer use of Mass, then this is reasonable. Furthermore, that should apply especially to foreign born priests whose native tongue is not English, and native English speakers celebrating in, for example, Spanish, and maybe even older priests to see if people can understand them and if they can themselves understand what they are saying. Maybe it would be a good idea to test all the priests of the diocese in the normative form of the newer Mass, which is in Latin. If they cannot pass the test, they would not be considered idonei to say the newer Mass in either English or in Latin. After all, the norm is Latin and the vernaclar is the extraordinary form of the newer Mass. Right?