If a visiting priest comes to a parish, or a visiting bishop comes to a diocese, there are formalities to observe. Visitors need approval, tacit or formal. For the most part this approval is truly a mere formality: the visitor is welcomed, Masses are celebrated and talks are given. Every one is happy and everyone looks good in the end.
From time to time, however, you hear of bishops or parish priests refusing to let visitors celebrate public Masses. I remember a story about the Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles being disinvited from saying Mass in another diocese in the Archbishop’s own province. Shocking!
Remember: group of lay people cannot simply invite a priest into their parish for Mass without consulting and get permission from the pastor. A group of lay people, or even priests, cannot simply invite a visitor bishop to speak or say Mass without consulting the local bishop.
Priests and bishops understand this. I get that all the time: "O Father! O Father! Come to Black Duck! You have to come say Mass for us at St. Ipsidipsy! That would be great!" I respond: "If and when the parish priest there invites me, I will consider it."
The usual reason for refusal of permission or an invitation is that the formalities are not followed and the organizing group and local bishop or priest are not on good terms.
Since the locum tenens has all the power, reasonable or goofy the group is hosed.
We are hearing that His Eminence Cormac Card. Murphy-O’Connor, the lame-duck Archbishop of Westminster has refused permission to His Excellency Archbishop Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Signatura, to celebrate a Pontifical Mass organized by the Latin Mass Society.
I know Archbishop Burke personally. He would not have accepted an invitation and confirmed it had he thought formalities weren’t going to be observed. He would have wanted a "nihil obstat", as it were, from the local bishop, in this case Card. Murphy-O’Connor. Archbp. Burke is precise. I can see him saying "Sure, that date is good. But I will need a letter from the Cardinal, just to be sure." Heads of dicasteries also usually have to consult with the Secretariat of State when they are going to leave Rome and do something high profile… just to be sure.
Formalities are not important.. until they are.
Card. Murphy-O’Connor is fully within his rights to make the determination about a visiting bishop coming to celebrate a Pontifical Mass in his cathedral or anywhere else in his diocese.
That doesn’t mean he should have exercised them now, and in this way.
Who knows if this could have been avoided? Maybe. Maybe not. Yes, the Latin Mas Society ought to have been more diligent in the formalities. Had they been, the formalities could not be an excuse for saying Archbp. Burke couldn’t sing the Mass.
The real reason would have been more obvious than it is.
Frankly, I think we are seeing here a pretty blatant smack-down from the Cardinal. I suspect he doesn’t like any of this Latin stuff. He used his power to spoil something that would have been a great event. He slammed the door on someone dear to the supporters of the TLM and close to Pope Benedict’s vision.
That is what happens when you have hostility on both sides and one side has the power.
People are genuinely and reasonably upset.
Nevertheless, though I marvel at this decision of the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster to stick his thumb in the eye both of the Prefect of the Signatura and the LMS, including many of his own flock who are no doubt badly hurt, no matter that this is a brutta figura before the whole world, can I say it is a surprise?
When the former papal MC Archbp. Piero Marini, liturgical uber-progressvist and spiritual son of Annibale Bugnini, wanted to have a splashy party for the book that came out under his name – a clear rebuke to Pope Benedict and defense of Bugnini – the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster rolled out the red carpet and welcomed him.
When a musical piece entitled the "99 Names of Allah" was slated for Westminster Cathedral, the Cardinal rolled out the carpets – not prayer rugs exactly, for it wasn’t openly a service of false worship – and welcomed the event in his cathedral, despite the fact that many of his subjects wondered at the move.
So… we ask: Would it have been such a terrible thing to have welcomed Archbishop Burke?
For them? Yes. It would have been terrible!
The progressivist establishment smells some blood in the water around the Holy Father’s little boat. The Pope is presently being tossed about, so they are helping a little more water wash over the gunwales.
On my planet, things might have gone a little differently.
Okay… so the formalities were not followed. In that case, the Cardinal Archbp. might have had his secretary call the leadership of the LMS and ask them to present themselves at a certain time. Over a nice soothing cup of tea, the Card. Archbp. would then graciously but firmly let them know that Archbp. Burke will be welcomed, but if they should ever invite someone of his status without consulting again, permission will be denied. Let the LMS know that he will host Archbp. Burke and that the staff of the cathedral will cooperate: but they are also to cooperate and consult.
But this isn’t my planet.
It is time to regroup.
The outgoing Card. Archbishop of Westminster isn’t going to pay any attention to what I say, that’s for sure. I hope that some of the members of the LMS will.
My advice is to embrace whomever the Card. Archbishop of Westminster delegates to celebrate that Pontifical Mass. Embrace him warmly, with the charm I experienced from some of the folks in the LMS when I have visited London. If it is one of the auxiliary bishops, make this experience be for him both pleasant and edifying. He will still be auxiliary when the new Archbishop of Westminster is assigned. He will no doubt give his impressions of what it is like – really – to work with the LMS, etc.
No matter what offense was offered to the Holy Father in this graceless move, no matter what kick of sand at the Prefect of the Signatura, the best way forward is to be cheerful, charming and enthusiastic about having a Pontifical Mass in Westminster Cathedral.
Make it stunning. Make it memorable.
After all, it is no small thing to have a Pontifical Mass in Westminster no matter who the bishop is.
Sadly, and I see this happen time and time again with traditional Catholics as individuals or as groups, when there is some setback or disagreement, rather than close ranks and work to overcome, someone gets his or her nose bent out of shape, takes his bat and ball, and goes home in a huff.
Unfortunately, we more conservative, traditional Catholics can be our own worst enemies.
And the libs count on that.
Whatever else might happen, I urge the membership of the LMS to take this very calmly, with grace, and make the best of things no matter how bad this hurts or offends.
Everyone is watching.