USA Archdiocese for Military responds to inquiries about TLM

I received an interesting e-mail concerning the implementation of Summorum Pontificum for communities cared for my the Archdiocese for the Military Services.  This is something I have give some thought to and was left scratching my head.

What follows is a correspondence exchange.  Someone sent a letter to the Archbishop for the Military Services, and someone from the Archdiocese wrote back.

Here it is with my emphases and comments.

In January 2008 the following letter was sent to the Archdiocese for the Military Services, accompanied by a list of petitioners affiliated with the U. S. Armed Forces:

Your Excellency,                               

In the short time that has elapsed since the implementation of the Holy Father’s motu proprio Summorum Pontificum one reads and hears of more and more traditional Latin Masses being offered in most every diocese in the nation. This is indeed a happy time for the church as it marks the discovery for many of the rich treasure of the ancient liturgy and, with it, of a deeper dimension of Catholic spirituality. Most encouraging has been the response of the young, with whom the Tridentine rite resonates in a way that some find surprising.
Pope Benedict XVI has made it clear that he wishes the beauty and holiness of the extraordinary rite to be made available to all those who desire it. Enclosed please find a list of names, as well as comments, of active duty and retired military personnel, as well as their family members, who earnestly entreat you to act in accord with the Holy Father’s wishes and provide the extraordinary rite at major military bases, including the service academies. My son is a cadet at West Point and only one of several Catholic cadets who have grown up with the Tridentine Mass and sorely miss it.  This list of names was gathered over the internet* from Veterans Day, 11 November 2007, to the present.

Due to the fact that many service people who requested the 1962 Missal under the provisions of Ecclesia Dei subsequently suffered personal and professional consequences, we ask that you respect the confidentiality of these petitioners, particularly those in active duty.

We realize, of course, that implementation of the Motu Proprio cannot be accomplished overnight, but there are surely priests from traditional orders, such as the Fraternity of St. Peter and the Institute of Christ the King, as well as diocesan clergy offering the Tridentine rite, who would be willing to help. [I sure would!] There is probably no diocese that does not, or will not, have an active Latin Mass community.

We thank you for your kind attention to our request and hope that soon the joyful words, “Introibo altare Dei,’ will be intoned by our chaplains.

                                     Yours in Jesus and Mary,

                                     Mr. T.

(Enclosure)

Petition to Archdiocese for the Military Services

In keeping with the recent document Summorum Pontificum recently issued by our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, we request that the Mass of Blessed John XXIII be made available within each major command on Sundays and Holy Days.  This request is made in accordance with the provisions of paragraphs 5.1 and 5.2 of Summorum Pontificum.  We also request that priests from traditional societies be included in the Chaplains Corps.

With the understanding that it may take a period of time for arrangements to be made, we offer you any form of assistance possible in satisfying our humble request, and we assure you of many prayers on your behalf, as well as for our future bishop, and for the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI.

BRANCH       NAME                  GRADE          ADDRESS                                                                    STATUS
Army            TTT, TTT           Lieutenant    123  TTT Dr., Fort TTT                                                       Active
Air Force       TTT, TTT           Captain        45 Bigwing Road, TTT Air Force Base                             Active
Army Reserve TTT, TTT           SSG            67 Hometown Rd. Anytown, USA                                  Reserve

….            …           …                  …                                               …

 ———————————————————————————————————————-
 
RESPONSE

February 19, 2008

Dear Mr. T.,

Archbishop Broglio has received your kind letter of 25 January 2008, and has asked me to respond in his name.

We are grateful for your letter and we appreciate your sentiments and your fidelity to the Church and to our Holy Father.

I have read you [sic] letter with care and with great interest.  Permit me to make some observations regarding the Motu propio [sic] “Summorum Pontificum.”

The motu proprio of Pope Benedict XVI presupposes a stable community of the faithful who request the celebration of the Holy Mass according to the Missal of 1962 and a priest who is both willing to celebrate the Rite and can suitably do so.  This makes somewhat difficult the implementation within the military population since the community is constantly moving – with permanent change of station moves, deployments, and temporary duty.  In addition, the Archdiocese for the Military Services does not assign priests to military installations; by law that is the work of the Services themselves.  Therefore, the Archdiocese cannot stipulate as a requirement to those assigning priest-chaplains that a certain installation must have a priest-chaplain able to celebrate the Mass and the Sacraments according to the 1962 Missal.  [Even though this relies in part on that bad translation of Summorum Pontificum, he really has good points here.  First, it is the nature of military communities to be somewhat transient.  Second, the Archdiocese doesn’t make the assignments.]

This does not mean that I am unsympathetic to your request.  As a possible solution the Archdiocese will encourage each of our priest-chaplains to research the locations in the areas where the Tridentine Mass is being celebrated.  Anyone interested in attending the Mass, would thus be directed.  It would also be appropriate for a military installation, where the priest-chaplain and the community desire to do so, to have a celebration of the Mass, announced beforehand, with servers and choir properly trained, for the edification of the faithful.  [In other words, "While we can’t assure regluarly scheduled TLMs, we can make sure our priests know where they are and, if it can be worked out, you can have them ad hoc."  This is a good solution.  Those announced Masses could also be fairly regular, depending on the circumstances.]
Again, I am grateful for your commitment to your faith and love of the Holy Mass. I ask your prayers and offer mine for your common cause to build up the Body of Christ, the Church.
I would be happy to hear directly again from you on this subject with suggestions about how we can continue this great work.  [Open to more correspondence!]

With prayerful best wishes, I remain,

                                                                                    Sincerely yours in Christ,

                                                                                    Reverend Monsignor James R. Dixon
                                                                                    Vicar General

This is very good, in my opinion.  Given the particular circumstances of the Military Archdiocese, what the Vicar General wrote back at Archbp. Broglio’s urging, is very balanced and respectful.

 

I have been hearing some pretty good things about Archbishop Broglio. 

 

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23 Responses to USA Archdiocese for Military responds to inquiries about TLM

  1. Tim H says:

    “Mr. T”?

    “I pity the fool who don’t celebrate the Extraordinary Rite!”

  2. Recently Separated Army Officer says:

    Father Z,

    I do think there is a balance that has to be met but think the answer is wishy washy-and in a sense scary-from my point of view. Military communities are not as stable as local parishes, but they have a terrible time keeping their faithful in the Catholic community on base (Navy term but I’ll use this throughout). By pushing the faithful to look at other communities outside, the active duty body that attends mass is smaller than it needs to be. Any person who does get involved in their parish realizes how hard it is to have CCD,RCIA, small choirs, etc. filled in with interested, capable volunteers if the AMS openly shoves our military and dependent faithful out to St. X Church in the surrounding diocese. I didn’t plan on singing in the choir when I got to my last base but did it any way to help the chaplain and stay active for the sake of the commuity. That being said, there is no reason that the TLM could not-and should not-be offered atleast once a month. Given the operational tempo and often sharing of chapels with protestant worshippers asking for a more frequent mass at the jeopardy of the primary mass in the vernacular might be too much for poor (Fr) CPT Jones to ask for from his chaplain supervisor, (clergyman/woman) LTC Smith. Catholic chaplains almost always get the short end of the stick in chaplaincy politics: too much noise on base for some “silly Latin mass” by a small body of mass attendees should be hesitant to put their priest-chaplain in a tough position.

    When I saw the Archbishop in DC a week ago, he remarked about how there are only about a hundred priests serving all of Catholic soldiers in the Army on active duty. I know there is a priest shortage, but many of these servicemembers are coming out of many dioceses across the country. Bishops should consider “tithing” a priest or two out to a branch of service for three years…it is, after all, their faithful put under the watch of an Archbishop without a steady group of priests himself.

  3. Recently: I really think the response was good. I says that there can be celebrations, but without fixing a permanent schedule.

    Also, remember that these chaplains are not pastors of parishes. Given that Summorum Pontificum 5.1 applies to pastors this is pretty good!

  4. Antiquarian says:

    As a former military dependent who still has very strong ties to the Navy through active-duty family members, I am glad to note the willingness to hear suggestions on how SP might be implemented in the Military Archdiocese, and I think the response was a pretty reasonable one. I have also heard good things about the new Archbishop.

    Fr. Logan from the Naval Academy has posted here, hasn’t he? I think he told us of a weekly TLM there, where there in fact is a fairly “stable community” (sorry Fr. Z, you know what I mean). The Midshipmen, officers, and enlisted there are supplemented by a large number of miltary retirees who live in or near Annapolis and choose the Academy chapel for Mass. Perhaps the service academies are indeed a place to start– if the priests needed are available.

  5. Recently Separated Army Officer says:

    Fr. Z,

    You are correct: unlike many of the diocese in the US, the response is upfront and supportive. Again you are correct: the priests in the military are not pastors.

    One of the things driving me nuts now that I am out of the Army is the lack of timeliness and being held to that standard. This is a general observation and I think if you don’t give the people some standard to go by the whole issue of TLMs at most military installations will be a moot point. Once a month, even once every six weeks (we do, after all, work on a six-week training calendar) would be some basis of normalcy where circumstances permit and people desire the TLM.

    Pax!

  6. Diane says:

    Fr. Z,

    As a sidenote, would you agree that “Mr. T’s” letter is a pretty good model for how this matter should be approached by others?

    This was a humble petition, not a demand.

  7. Thomas says:

    Interesting. Our FSSP parish is located within 30 miles of 3 rather large military installations, and only a few miles from the largest of them. We have all of ONE active duty military family. Maybe we should make our presence better-known!

  8. Colonel G. says:

    The Vicar General did not address the issue of allowing priests from the FSSP or ICK or other traditionalist priests (those who will not offer the Novus) into the chaplaincy?

    I guess the priest shortage is not bad enough.

    I feel sad for that young private dying on the battlefield who, if not for this policy, would have an FSSP priest by his side hearing his last confession and annointing.

  9. Colonel G.A. says:

    The Vicar General did not address the issue of allowing priests from the FSSP or ICK or other traditionalist priests (those who will not offer the Novus) into the chaplaincy?

    I guess the priest shortage is not bad enough.

    I feel sad for that young private dying on the battlefield who, if not for this policy, would have an FSSP priest by his side hearing his last confession and annointing.

  10. RBrown says:

    I tend to agree with Recently.

    The response seemed to me to say:

    I am in sympathy with your request. Unfortunately, the military has a shortage of priests, and most of them–despite explicit directives from Vat II and the Code of Canon Law–couldn’t translate Insula est pulchra.

    This problem is someone else’s fault, and we will try to keep it that way by passing it on to nearby dioceses.

    With prayful best wishes,

  11. Fr Johnson says:

    All: I feel it necessary to defend Msgr. Dixon in this matter, a devout priest and a very conscientious one as well. As things stand in the chaplaincy at present, it is usually not practical to have a Catholic Chaplain (as we’re called) at a command who is unable to offer Mass for the ordinary Catholics in the military. What I mean is this: of course a traditionalist priest is certainly able to offer Mass for the faithful, but the majority of Catholics in the military (in my experience) expect the Novus Ordo Mass in English. If only one priest, and that a traditionalist priest (for lack of a better term), were assigned to a command, then the Catholoics there would have to attend the traditional Latin Mass. That would, I think anyone would agree, somewhat give the lie to the term “Forma ordinaria.” (I’m not saying that any true injustice would result, but that it would be considered unreasonable or a “stumbling block” to many of the regular Mass-goers.) For the present, I think, the more practical solution is for the priests already in the military to be able to offer the Ancient Mass (for which the Military Archdiocese has made very generous provision within their “Priests’ Manual”) for those who desire it (including the priest himself). I suspect that given time there will be an ever-growing number of younger priests who will be only too willing to offer Mass in either “form” of our rite. Msgr Dixon, it seems to me, is simply answering the request as generously as he can given the present circumstances.
    –Fr J.

  12. Fr Johnson says:

    All: I feel it necessary to defend Msgr. Dixon in this matter, a devout priest and a very conscientious one as well. As things stand in the chaplaincy at present, it is usually not practical to have a Catholic Chaplain (as we’re called) at a command who is unable to offer Mass for the ordinary Catholics in the military. What I mean is this: of course a traditionalist priest is certainly able to offer Mass for the faithful, but the majority of Catholics in the military (in my experience) expect the Novus Ordo Mass in English. If only one priest, and that a traditionalist priest (for lack of a better term), were assigned to a command (and often a command only has room, i.e. money, for one Catholic Chaplain), then the Catholics there would have to attend the traditional Latin Mass. That would, I think anyone would agree, somewhat give the lie to the term “Forma ordinaria. ” (I’m not saying that any true injustice would result, only that it would be considered unreasonable or a “stumbling block” by many of the regular Mass-goers.) For the present, I think, the more practical solution is for the priests already in the military to be able to offer the Ancient Mass (for which the Military Archdiocese has made very generous provision within their “Priests’ Manual”) for those who desire it (including the priest himself). I suspect that given time there will be an ever-growing number of younger priests who will be only too willing to offer Mass in either “form” of our rite. Msgr Dixon, it seems to me, is simply answering the request as generously as he can given the present circumstances.
    –Fr J.

  13. Colonel G.A. says:

    Fr. Johnson,

    I think that your fear is not appropriate. Having the soul-saving sacraments made available as widely as possible should be our no. 1 priority. This means welcoming priests from traditional orders (orders which are bursting at the seams with young, energetic and fully orthodox men). Also, we should welcome priests from the Eastern Rites — whether or not they are authorized to say the Latin rite Mass. Catholic priests are Catholic priests, and the Sacraments of the Church are the Sacraments. Our military men need priests and sacraments made available FAR more frequently than they currently are. I recently talked with one young (and traditionalist) infantry sergeant who went 6 months in Iraq without seeing a Catholic priest — simply unnecessary.

    I don’t think the Latin prayers, ad orientem, and incense are the real stumbling blocks. I think it’s the fact that these traditional priests are fully orthodox and full of holy zeal. Military chapel communities, with their aging hippy retiree staffs and poorly catechized young military families, would protest a priest sermonizing on sin, death, judgment, heaven and hell for a change.

    Father, I know you preach this way. So you know how that goes. Especially when priests are coming and going every 2 years, and you arrive having to replace Fr.(MAJ) Bob, the pastor before you, who was such a “nice guy” who never judges anyone and invites all the kiddies up around the altar, etc. etc.

    There comes a time when you just have to speak the truth – and if that means families leave the chapel, so be it.

  14. Antiquarian says:

    I’m puzzled by Colonel G.A.’s inference that the AMS won’t “allow” FSSP or ICK priests “into the chaplaincy,” or that there is any connection between the shortage of Catholic chaplains and a refusal to accept them. The notion that a soldier or Marine dying on the battlefield would have an FSSP chaplain there if it weren’t for some policy preventing it is not supported by anything stated in the Vicar General’s letter, nor by anything I’ve ever heard in a lifetime of attendance at military chapels.

    Now, don’t get me wrong– it’s true that a priest who was unwilling to use the OF might not be considered an ideal candidate for the Chaplain Corps yet– but what’s the basis for the implication that the AMS is ignoring a solution to the shortage of Catholic chaplains by refusing to commission priests from the FSSP or ICK?

    And it’s an outrageous insult to battlefield chaplains to imply that the sacraments they risk their lives to provide are somehow inferior because they ARE “willing to say the Novus Ordo.”

  15. Dan says:

    Antiquarian,

    I really don’t think that’s what the Colonel was saying. I think he was saying that it is a terrible injustice that there is no one to give these soldiers final absolution, not that it’s bad that some get the O.F. rites. If I read his comment correctly, he is trying to say that with more chaplains less soldiers would die without receiving the sacraments.

    I agree with some of the above posters that FSSP, ICK, and Eastern Rite Priests should be allowed to enter the Chaplain Corps. While people may have one form of the Mass which they find to be more spiritually uplifting, or that they are more comfortable with and like better, if Sunday rolls around is something they don’t like, they aren’t excused from their Sunday obligation. As long as it is a valid Mass, Missa est Missa. You should go to what is available for the love of the Sacrament, not for the accidentals which surround it.

  16. Antiquarian says:

    Dan, I think you’re right– and if so I apologize to the Colonel for the misinterpretation. But I am still wondering about the assertion the Eastern Rite, FSSP, and ICK are somehow not allowed to becaome chaplains. I emailed an FSSP priest I know, and he’d never heard of any such restriction, although he wondered if the FSSP itself would agree to it, and the AMS would insist on that.

  17. Dan says:

    Antiquarian,

    I guess I must confess my ignorance about the actual rules, but I would not be at all surprised to learn that the Military Archdiocese did not allow them in. And, I see the logic of the position, if it is indeed the case. Most people are Roman Rite, so the chaplains should be Roman Rite. I don’t agree, because I don’t think it is necessary, but I do follow the reasoning. As to whether priests from traditional orders would go, I would imagine that there would be at least an equal percentage who would want to as regular diocesan priests, maybe more, because of (and I’m generalizing here) their youth and having not grown up as hippies or flower children. lol. I would like to know what exactly the case is though. It’s an interesting and important issue.

  18. Antiquarian says:

    It is indeed interesting and important– I am going to dig for an answer! One thing that does occur to me, however, is the fact that there are circumstances where chaplains lead worship or prayer services for those of other religions. (More often aboard ship or in a battle zone, of course.)

    I wonder if a priest who was not willing or able to say Mass in the OF would be willing to take part in non-denominational services? That is not a requirement of the AMS, but of the Chaplain Corps itself.

    Of course, this goes both ways, and we could justly ask if a chaplain willing to say Mass in the OF and preside at non-denominational services would also be willing and able to say Mass in the EF. It might be best if all Latin Rite Catholic priests could, and would, celebrate both forms of the Roman Rite. But it might be best if I had a billion dollars, too.

  19. Dr. Joe Hoelscher says:

    Father Z… I am glad you have been hearing good things about +Tim Broglio…. here is Cleveland, we are quite proud of him.

  20. Recently Separated Army Officer says:

    My understanding of non-Latin Catholics that serve as chaplains is that they must receive faculties for the Roman rite prior to service. After all, most Catholics are Roman Rite, so the matter is one of practicality.

    In no way did I intend to say anything against Msgr. Dixon and feel his response is adequate if you are at your average small base/post. We do have a shortage of priests in the Military. My second to last chaplain was kindly asked to shut his mouth about the pro-life movement and suggested to consider being an Army Chaplain. For whatever reason he said yes, I praise God since his orthodoxy was welcomed in our chapel. The Diocese’s loss…

    Part of my concern, the part in my first post where I said the reply from the good Msgr. was scary deals with sending Catholics off post for sacraments. When we start to push our servicemembers off post because they want the TLM every weekend, yes, at the small posts we should offer them OF as much as possible and recommend other chapels/parishes off post that offer the EF. The OF has to be offered every Sunday since it is the norm. I don’t want to see poor Army CPTs getting hammered by their brigade and division level bosses for asking to say an additional mass and not be able to support it. Most Protestant chaplains want the best for the servicemembers and take their role seriously, but a sizeable number have no qualms with bashing and oppressing Catholics and their priest-chaplains. I’ve seen it more than a few times in my deployments and postings. At a post where there are two or more priests, such as Norfolk Naval Base, Ft. Bragg, Ft. Hood, I don’t see an issue with offering the EF as much as possible if the operational tempo has the priests in a position to say multiple masses on base/post on Sunday. That means promising little but keeping the option for a semi-regular EF open in small 4-8 week windows for the faithful to experience the EF on base/post.
    The big posts/bases have multiple chapels; the chapels are pretty plain, but they have a sanctuary layout that is more favorable to the EF than most Catholic parishes out in your normal diocese.

    We need the US Bishops help to support their brother bishop who looks out for their sheep albeit temporarily. If you do the math, when certain religious orders put their support into the active duty pool, most diocese are scantly offering a priest to the AMS.

    Let us pray about this with greater fervor.

  21. Colonel G.A. says:

    1. The Military Archdiocese will not accept priests who only offer the EF or only offer Eastern rites. This is their official policy and I don’t think it makes sense. Would they allow an Anglican-use rite priest? Why not? A little catechesis could solve the problem of acceptance. Heck, you’re dealing with some people who could stand a lot of catechesis. Most Catholics in the military regularly attend non-Catholic liturgies, especially while in the field, and when no Catholic priests are available, or when they have the mistaken idea that “it’s all the same anyway.”

    2. I talked to a very prominent FSSP priest a few years ago about the ecumenical dimension of the military chaplaincy and if this would be a stumbling block to an FSSP becoming a chaplain. Without missing a beat, he said it would absolutely not be a stumbling block. The ecumenical dimension of the military chaplaincy has been around since the inception of our armed forces. Pre-Vatican II Catholic chaplains ministered to non-Catholics, Jews, and Atheists, just like chaplains of today.

    3. Msgr. Dixon — PLEASE bring aboard one FSSP priest as a test case. See how he does. We could go a long way to solving the priest shortage.

  22. Antiquarian says:

    Here is the thread in which Father Logan, a chaplain at the US Naval Academy who celebrates a weekly EF Mass, responds, with some detail. He offers two lengthy, well-reasoned comments on the subject.

    http://wdtprs.com/blog/2007/11/petition-for-use-of-the-older-mass-in-the-us-military/

    I’m guessing “george” in the thread is “Colonel G.A.” in this one.

    I have as yet found no confirmation that an FSSP priest is not “allowed” by th AMS to becaome a chaplain, but there’s a comment in the linked thread that echoes what was suggested to me by an FSSP priest today– that the FSSP itself might not release a priest to serve as chaplain. I am, however, glad to hear that the ecumenical dimnsion of chaplainscy would not be an impediment.

  23. Carolina Catholic says:

    I’m just speculating, but my guess is that most military personnel would actually prefer the Tridentine Mass over the Novus Ordo. If you think about it, rigor and discipline are two hallmarks of both the military and the traditional Mass. The only reason most military personnel are not familiar with the traditional Mass is that it’s not made available to them.

    I went to a (Novus Ordo) funeral Mass where the deceased was a deacon in the Church and also ex-military. Thus the marines were there as well as several clergy. The difference between the two groups was startling. The priests were very casual and haphazard about the proceedings (as is, in my experience, typical for Novus Ordo priests); the marines, on the other hand, were very precise in everything they did.

    Just food for thought.