His Excellency Most Reverend John T. Steinbock of the Diocese of Fresno has made a statement about the application of the provisions in the Pope’s Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.
My emphases and comments.
Mass in Latin
Pastoral Message aired on KNXT-TV during October 2007
Bishop John T. Steinbock, Diocese of Fresno
My Dear People of God,
The document Pope Benedict XVI issued on July 7 regarding the use of the Latin Mass, reformed and published with the authority of Pope John XXIII in 1962, took effect in the Universal Church on September 14 of this year. The Holy Father declared that both this 1962 Latin [grrrrr] Mass, referred to as the Tridentine Mass, [I know people recognize this term, but… grrrrr] and the Mass we now celebrate, [Well… there are those for whom the older Mass is "the Mass we now celebrate". Hey wait a minute… as of 14 September, the older is really is "the Mass we now celebrate" just as much as the newer form.] the Mass of Paul VI published in 1970, form one and the same Rite.
The Holy Father has given permission to a priest, [This is incorrect. The Motu Proprio is not constitutive. It does not give permission. It declares that priests have the use of either form if he already has permission (faculties) to say Mass at all. The Holy Father is declaring a fact rather than giving a permission. This stems from the fact that the older form was never abrogated and it forms, at least juridically, part of one unified Roman Rite.] in Masses celebrated without the people, to celebrate the extraordinary form of 1962 in Latin, on his own authority. He does not need permission of the Bishop. Masses celebrated without people are private and non-scheduled Masses. The Holy Father states that Christ’s faithful, with due observance of law, who spontaneously request it, may be admitted to these celebrations.
In parishes where a group of faithful attached to the previous liturgical tradition exists stably,[this is still not a great translation, but it is better to say "exists stably" than to say "stable group"] if the pastor is able, he is asked to accede to their requests [this is well put] for the celebration of the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962. If a group of lay faithful does not obtain what it requests from the pastor, it should inform the diocesan Bishop. If he cannot provide for this celebration, the Holy Father says that the matter should be referred to the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei.”
As the Bishop of our Diocese, I have always allowed a Sunday Mass in Latin according to the 1962 Missal, both in the South and the North, the Bakersfield area and the Fresno area, for those people, coming from many different parishes, who have an attachment to the Mass in Latin. [grrrrr… I really think we need to make better distinctions.] I thank those priests who have provided this Mass through the years. [You’re welcome. I was one of them for a short time when I was in Bakersfield.] It is a reality that there are very few priests left that are able to celebrate the Mass in Latin either in the ordinary or the extraordinary form. [There will be a lot more real soon!]
I cannot foresee, at this time, a regular Sunday Mass in Latin in any other parishes, unless the pastor of a parish is personally able and willing to celebrate this Mass in Latin. [This is the key, of course. It is the pastor who deals with this question.] Most priests are already celebrating two, three and sometimes four Masses, both on Saturdays and Sundays. As the Bishop, I also have to tell everyone, quite frankly, that because of the shortage of priests, we are now preparing to have some of our parishes staffed, not by a priest, but by a Permanent Deacon, a Religious, or a Lay Person, who will be called a “Parish Life Coordinator.” [Ouch. This is a sad reality in some places. In these cases, it is understandable that it would be very hard indeed to implement a regular celebration of the older Mass in a parish without a pastor.] This person will be in charge of leading the parish community, with a priest coming to celebrate Mass and hear Confessions when available.
Hopefully, the document of the Holy Father will have a significant impact in Europe, where relatively few faithful are coming to Mass on Sunday. [Yes… we hope it will have a big impact on Europe. We also hope that it will have an impact everywhere else too. The Church everywhere needs renewal.] Here in our Diocese, our parish churches, with multiple Masses, are filled with people, who experience a vibrant and devotional Sunday Liturgy. [So wonderful that there can be no benefit from the provisions of Summorum Pontificum? This makes it sound as if everything is just right in the Diocese of Fresno. I suspect there are also issues there also.] We are blest, in so many ways, but we are in great need of priests. Let us pray for vocations especially from within our parish communities. +
In the balance, this is a very good statement. The bishop acknowledges that the pastor is the one who makes determinations about regular public celebrations in his parish. He doesn’t seek to impose restrictions outside the provisions of the MP. At the same time, he underscores the hard reality of things: there is a shortage of priests.
At the end, he makes an odd observation. He seems to be saying that the MP is really intended for Europe, and doesn’t seem to be very relevant for the Diocese of Fresno. He seems to be saying that the situation is great in the parishes there, which are full and vibrant. This suggests that the reason the Holy Father gave us the MP was to help Mass attendance in those places where it is low (i.e., Europe, but not the San Joquin Valley). However, in the previous paragraph the bishop explains that they are actually facing a dire situation: there is a shortage of priests. It seems to me that things are decidedly un-wonderful where there are not enough priests for parishes. Things are actually precarious if parishes have to be entrusted to lay custodians in the absence of priests.
I am convinced that the Motu Proprio is very much focused on the priest, his role and his identity. The priest builds up the Church around himself at the altar. He shapes the laity who then shape the world. By renewing the identity of the priest by the derestriction of the older form of Mass, the Holy Father is also offering, I think, another way to increase priestly vocations.
In any event, it is not my intention to pick at this statement, which is really pretty good.
Let us hope the people of that diocese will encourage vocations to the priesthood and give support to the priests they have.