Mass ad orientem on TV and the local norms of the D. of Birmingham, AL

I got this provocative little item via e-mail from a WDTPRSer.  It is a copy of a note he sent to the Bishop of Birmingham, AL, His Excellency Most Reverend Robert Baker.  My emphases:

Most Reverend Robert J. Baker
Bishop of Birmingham

Your Excellency:

I am writing regarding the recent broadcast of our Holy Father’s celebration of Mass on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, broadcast on EWTN on Sunday, January 13.  At this Mass, the Holy Father celebrated the Mass ad orientem.  I’m sure you are well aware of this.

Ironically,  the  "Norms for Televised Masses for the Diocese of Birmingham"  issued by your predecessor, Bishop David Foley, in February 2000  directed that all televised Masses in the Diocese of Birmingham be celebrated  versus populum, which EWTN has faithfully done.  While EWTN certainly has no control over what the Holy Father decides to do, there seems to  be an inconsistency here.  If it is acceptable to broadcast the Holy Father’s Mass ad orientem on EWTN, why is it not acceptable for EWTN to broadcast their Masses ad orientem?   If the Holy Father wants the faithful to experience the fruits of the Mass ad orientem, why would the Diocese of Birmingham continue to deny its broadcast by EWTN?

A very good question.

The liturgical environment has changed considerably since February 2000.

Perhaps His Excellency might find it opportune to review those local norms in light of present circumstances.

FacebookEmailPinterestGoogle GmailShare/Bookmark

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA. Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Mass ad orientem on TV and the local norms of the D. of Birmingham, AL

  1. Diane says:

    This is indeed a good point. In fact, we can only pray that His Excellency will use it as a positive, as in affirmative, reason to make the change – because the Pope did it, rather than giving the appearance of two bishops with opposite opinions on the matter.

  2. Papabile says:

    Look, the REASON why Foley had issued those norms had less to do with the issue of ad oreientem than it did with demands made by Mother Angelica.

    She was virtually demanding that the Bishop do the dedicatory Mass ad orientem. That was the initial faux pas. It was clearly within the Bishop’s realm to make the decision about how it would be done liturgically.

    Then, Mother followed it up with a demand that the Gregorian ashes be imposed. This is not found within the Ordinary Form, and it was not commonly understood at that time that the Extraordinary Form was permitted. In any case, that would have been the decision of the Bishop also.

    Then, the Bishop’s office responded with a heavy hand, requiring all Masses be said ad orientem. This was appealed directly to the CDWDS by Mother Angelica. The CDWDS found that it was not within the Bishops power to forbid ad orientem Masses , as they are actually the norm. However, itWAS within his power to decide how Mass said in his diocese would be portrayed by television to the rest of the world.

    There’s plenty of blame to go around on both sides. This never was just about an animus toward ad orientem Masses. It had a lot to do with a member of a religious order making non-negotiable demands to the Bishop.

  3. Pope Evaristus, Martyr says:

    Pretty amazing stuff! How dare they forbid the NORMAL and RUBRICALLY ASSUMED way for a priest to celebrate Holy Mass from being broadcast? WOw.

  4. Diane says:

    Papabile,

    I don’t see where anyone talked about blaming anyone about anything. Regardless of how it came about, it is a statement of fact, that the predecessor would not permit televising ad orientem celebrated masses.

    Besides, and perhaps I am naive. I would prefer to think that Bishop Foley had reasons other t han something vindictive to issue his statement and in light of how things are now moving, it is truly opportune for Bishop Baker to revisit that issue.

  5. Henry Edwards says:

    Papabile,
    There are many “non-overlapping” accounts of this episode. Your particular details have the ring of truth. However, you present it as an internal matter mainly between bishop and superior, whereas I have the impression that considerations and influences external to the diocese may have played the larger role, rendering these details more as pretexts for than determinants of the final action. So I would be be interested if you have any further comment about the larger context.

  6. Tom Seeker says:

    I watched the extraordinary rite about a month ago on EWTN… therefore, they can and have shown the
    Mass ad orientem.

  7. TNCath says:

    Raymond Arroyo’s biography of Mother Angelica documents the controversy from both sides of the fence. It seems that Bishop Foley was beginning to get a lot of criticism and perhaps was becoming an object of amusement amongst his brother bishops over Mother Angelica’s perceived “control” and influence in the Diocese of Birmingham and throughout the United States. No doubt the style of posture of EWTN Mass made the USCCB nervous because it was broadcasting a Novus Ordo Mass that (and reverence and beauty) was largely absent in the typical American parish. While Bishop Foley was indeed sympathetic to and supportive of Mother Angelica’s apostolate and efforts, there is a lot of speculation that he felt threatened by her and felt he had to exercise some “episcopal muscle” so that he could show Mother Angelica, his diocese, and his fellow bishops, just who was the Bishop of Birmingham. I’m not saying this was the right thing to do; rather, it was what he thought he had to do. Regardless, Bishop Foley is now retired (as is Mother Angelica) and the Holy Father is calling the liturgical shots these days. It’s time to let that conflict go and get on with the business of liturgical renewal!

  8. However the situation came about, it is time to review the norms.

    Do you all not see that is the truly important point here?

  9. Janet says:

    An interesting question to Bp. Robert, indeed. And many of us here in Birmingham are leaning toward the theory that the main reason this particular bishop was chosen for this diocese, is his good relations with EWTN, Mother Angelica\’s sisters, etc. A major goal at the Shrine in Hanceville seems to be getting the Bishop\’s permission to televise the Trad. Latin Mass which they are now celebrating daily. A priest friend of mine who was there for a retreat quite recently said they now have a priest there who does an impeccable job at praying the TLM daily at the Shrine. Next step is hopefully to get it televised daily on EWTN.

    As to Bp. Foley, I must say that he has at times been wrongly vilified, and that Papabile\’s acct just \’feels\’ quite close to the truth. Bp. Foley is a humble and unassuming man, and I know for a fact that he went to Rome and obtained their guidance and advice before making any decision concerning the televising of Ad Orientum Masses from the Shrine in Hanceville. (But this may be one of those \’rabbit holes\’ that Fr. Z dislikes, so enough said on that topic.)

  10. Mark says:

    I agree w/Papabile and TNCatholic about the complexity of the situation.

    I will add that the pressure on a bishop of BIrmingham from other bishops regarding EWTN is enormous. It is perhaps less now than it once was because more and more bishops are working with EWTN instead of against it (appearing on programs, and so on), but there is still pressure.

  11. Aelric says:

    Someone wrote: “It seems that Bishop Foley was beginning to get a lot of criticism and perhaps was becoming an object of amusement amongst his brother bishops over Mother Angelica’s perceived “control” and influence in the Diocese of Birmingham and throughout the United States.” and later ” … felt he had to exercise some “episcopal muscle” so that he could show Mother Angelica, his diocese, and his fellow bishops, just who was the Bishop of Birmingham.”

    Tell that to Bishop Bruskewitz or Archbishop Burke. Perhaps it is time we call our bishops to stand up to Mahony & Trautman & their ilk at the USCCB.

    Or consider this parody:

    “Gee Caiaphas, we can’t have this Jesus guy going around controlling and influencing Jerusalem and all Judea now can we? Time to show the Sanhedrin, those Essenes, Zealots and the Romans just who is High Priest this year.”

  12. brother says:

    what are gregorian ashes?

  13. Paul Murnane says:

    I do hope that Bishop Baker reviews and changes the norms established by his predecessor. I can’t imagine this topic hasn’t arisen in since the 1st ad orientem Mass televised on Sept. 14th. It is my hope that these norms will be revised and published around the same time as the PCED clarifications are issued – what a nice boost that would be! Meanwhile, I’ll continue to pray for all of those involved in the decision-making process.

  14. Papabile says:

    I agree with Father Z that the real issue is televising the Masses ad apsidem.

    However, I think people have made Bishop Foley out to be a bad guy, without knowing the full story.

    Yes, Bishop Foley DID go to Rome to seek guidance, after his initial general ban on ad apsidem masses (which the BCL contributed to) backfired on him.

    It was the romanita way to split the baby. That’s why the banon televising it stuck. Rome wanted to reinforce the Bishop’s authority, while not letting the Bishop set general liturgical standards contra legem.

    Ray Arroyo has some good political analysis in his book. And, yes, the Bishops were nervous about EWTN, because their effort at Catholic TV was failing miserably.

    But, in the end, the blame needs to be shared at the very least, equally on both sides.

  15. TNCath says:

    Papbile wrote: “And, yes, the Bishops were nervous about EWTN, because their effort at Catholic TV was failing miserably.”

    I’m not so sure it was so much that the effort at Catholic TV was failing miserably (although it was and did) as it was Mother Angelica’s commitment to presenting unapologetically orthodox programming and authentic liturgy, something the USCCB often comes across as reticent to do. In Mr. Arroyo’s book, Cardinal J. Francis Stafford was especially critical of the bishops’ efforts to launch a “Catholic network.”

    Regardless, that is all in the past! Let’s hope and pray Bishop Baker revises the norms. As television has had a culture altering role on American culture (both good and bad), EWTN has had a tremendously positive impact on the public face of the Catholic Church in the United States, arguably more so than the USCCB. Just think of the immeasurable influence a daily ad orientem Mass (either Novus Ordo or Extraordinary Form) might have on channel surfing John and Mary Catholic who may have never seen or attended such a liturgy.

  16. joe says:

    Fr. Z is right; the question is not “how did we get to this point?” but, rather, “where do we go from this point forward?”

    -J.

  17. Brendan says:

    Gregorian Ashes and Water are special sacramentals used in the dedication/consecration of a church.

    I\’ve never heard that this was a demand of Mother Angelica, only the ad orientem part.

    And the Nuns’ Conventual Mass continues to be the Novus Ordo, not TLM.

  18. Brendan says:

    Gregorian ashes and water seen here:

    http://www.francisdesales.com/consecration.html

  19. Matt Q says:

    Fr. John Zuhlsdorf wrote:

    “However the situation came about, it is time to review the norms.

    Do you all not see that is the truly important point here?”

    ()

    Yes, Father, I do very much see the importance of the matter. It does need to be reviewed. On its face, it’s ludicris and a hypocrisy.

  20. Matt Q says:

    Aelric wrote:

    “Tell that to Bishop Bruskewitz or Archbishop Burke. Perhaps it is time we call our bishops to stand up to Mahony & Trautman & their ilk at the USCCB.”

    ()

    Agree with you 100% on that, Aelric. Regarding Mahony, we just pray and bide our time. He’ll be gone in a few years. His age of retirement is coming up and I highly doubt the Pope is going to ask him to hang around.

  21. Maureen says:

    Why this nasty tone? Birmingham’s current bishop is by all accounts a nice guy who’s given permission for a lot of stuff the previous bishop wouldn’t. Writing him a nice letter is a good idea, as it would reinforce any negotiations EWTN is doing and his own probable inclinations to let ad orientem Masses be shown. I suspect he didn’t give everybody permission for everything right away, because he didn’t want to seem to be tearing down everything his predecessor had done and scare certain people. Slowly, slowly.

  22. Mark says:

    Baker has been bishop for about 4 months. 4 months. There are probably other matters that need his attention in the diocese aside from EWTN, as important as that is. I’m sure he’ll get to it. As Maureen said, and as the Northern Alabama Una Voce blog indicates, he immediately gave permission and encouragement for more celebrations of the TLM, and has indicated he wants them regularly in Birmingham and Huntsville.

  23. Matt Q says:

    Maureen wrote:

    “Why this nasty tone? Birmingham’s current bishop is by all accounts a nice guy who’s given permission for a lot of stuff the previous bishop wouldn’t. Writing him a nice letter is a good idea, as it would reinforce any negotiations EWTN is doing and his own probable inclinations to let ad orientem Masses be shown. I suspect he didn’t give everybody permission for everything right away, because he didn’t want to seem to be tearing down everything his predecessor had done and scare certain people. Slowly, slowly.”

    ()

    Maureen and Mark, there isn’t any “nasty” tone here. We’re just pointing out things on its face value, that’s all. It’s take-it or leave-it. As far as proceeding slowly, yes, slowly indeed, but also to let everyone know that any done by his predecessor which wasn’t according to Truth or Sacred Tradition needs to go.

    I just wonder what is going to happen when our Mahony is handed his retirement in a manila envelope. I can imagine the major public relations jack hammers and chisels needed to undo the silliness he’s implemented here over the years, i.e, standing during Communion, people come up for Communion beginning at the back first, so those up front receive last. Really brilliant. Makes it great, too, for those who like to leave Mass early. They can leave earlier and more anonymously because everyone is facing forward and don’t notice you walking out the door.

  24. TNCath says:

    No,no, not nasty at all. Bishop Baker has long been known as an ardent supporter of Mother Angelica and EWTN. I am confident that he will tend to it. There is a story that was told by Cardinal Silvio Oddi that Pope John Paul II called EWTN the “key

  25. Tomas Lopez says:

    The priest on the EWTN Mass this morning referenced the Holy Father’s ad orientem posture for the Baptism of the Lord. The priest also referenced the Pope’s “Turning toward the Lord” and also Jungmann in support.

    Things are really snowballing!

  26. TNAust says:

    Ad orientem will return to EWTN. I have no formal knowledge on the subject but I strongly suspect that Mother Angelica will sort the issue out. She is very much in favour of the TLM and I hope that in time we will see two Masses each day on EWTN – NO and TLM. Anyone who has bothered to carefully read Raymond Arroryo’s biography of Mother Angelica’s will know how much she has suffered, and continues to suffer, for her God and His network.

    On a semi-related matter – Fr Z do you have any sway on the Sydney Australia Archdiocese? We have asked the Dean for the TLM each Sunday but have been flatly refused. Some have approached Cardinal Pell and got nowhere. Rome has been approached. Still nothing happens

    Whilst on the subject of Sydney, I have been told that they are removing the pews from the Cathedral during World Youth Day and putting in plastic chairs! Entrance only via invitation only! I hope they don’t also have to count a large number of out of wedlock pregnancies which has been a big feature of past WYDs?

  27. Dav2 says:

    TNAust – you are talking about a regular TLM at St Mary’s, I take it? I know Card Pell celebrated one in Nov 07, and there’s always the FSSP somewhere in the inner west IIRC.

  28. Leaving on the Next Plane says:

    I love the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I love the Pope. I love Mother Angelica. I despise the USCCB and its lackeys. I am sick and tired of all the fighting just to gain a little reverence at Mass. There are no Eastern Catholic churches where I live and the parishes nearby are cesspools of dissent.

    I’ve had enough of it all and am going back from whence I came. When you lot decide you want to invite Anglicans and Protestants into the Catholic Church at least have the decency to provide that Church in your parishes.

  29. TNAust says:

    Dav2, You are correct. I’m talking about TLM at St Mary’s. There is one Mass each 1st Friday and every Wednesday (currently not on due to renovations – not wreckovations). I go to the FSSP Mass in the inner West of Sydney. It is at Maternal Heart of Mary Chapel in Lewisham. Regardless TLM should be at the Cathedral.

  30. Things will slowly get back into order, do not worry about that. :)

    As for Cardinal Mahony (I’m trapped in his Archdiocese any help?)…Feb 27, 2011 will be the happiest day of my life as a Catholic Trapped with the Cardinals “liturgical Reforms and Liturgical Disobedience” (even though I still kneel to receive Communion and after the Agnus Dei)…Please pray for my archdiocese as well as for me :)