Bp. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph on Summorum Pontificum

Here is an article in The Catholic Key by His Excellency Most Reverend Robert W. Finn, Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph.  In the article, the questions at the beginning of paragraphs are in bold.  I have added my own emphases and comments.

Pope Benedict Affirms the Connections Between New and Old Mass

By Bishop Robert W. Finn
Kansas City-St. Joseph

On Saturday, July 7, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued an Apostolic Letter on the use of the Latin form of the Mass that existed before the Second Vatican Council. What the document directs goes into effect on Sept. 14, the Solemnity of the Triumph of the Cross. The Pope’s "Motu Proprio" – a type of document that he issues "by his own accord," is entitled "Summorum Pontificum," from the opening words of the document where he indicates that it has always been the responsibility of the Supreme Pontiffs to oversee the worthy worship of God.

What does the Pope’s letter direct concerning the Mass? Pope Benedict affirms the continuity of the Roman Rite of the Sacred Liturgy, and emphasizes the lasting value of the form of the Mass that existed before Vatican II. At the same time, he makes it clear that the Mass we use today is the Ordinary Form of the Mass for Catholics and that this form, celebrated in the vernacular or modern day languages of the people, will continue to be the usual way we experience the Eucharistic Liturgy and the other sacraments.  In the Apostolic Letter the Pope calls the 1962 Latin Mass the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite, and the English (vernacular) [let”s not forget that the Novus Ordo is Latin too] form we continue to use, the Ordinary Form. He said they are not two rites, but two different, valid, and lawful forms of the same Rite.

How and when may this Extraordinary Form of the Latin Mass be celebrated? The Pope says that, as of Sept. 14 of this year priests are free to celebrate the Extraordinary Form privately without any other specific permission. He is quick to add that they should be careful to do so only after they have learned this form of the Mass and are able to celebrate it correctly, reverently and faithfully. He reminds priests and bishops that, in fact, we must always celebrate the Mass, in either form, in faithful accord with the liturgical directives of the Church. No one, including the bishop, has the authority to modify the Church’s liturgical ritual, beyond the specific options indicated in the rites.  The Pope encourages pastors and bishops to respond to the legitimate requests of the faithful to be provided this older form of the Mass. I am pleased to say that, in our Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, my predecessors, Bishop John Sullivan and Bishop Raymond Boland have cooperated with earlier such directives of the Vatican to allow a limited use of the Latin Mass by "indult." It will take a while for other priests to be suitably trained in the celebration of the Extraordinary Form. [This has a positive ring to it.  Notice he doesn’t just say, "not many priests can do it".  Rather, he focuses on training, though it will take time.  Very nice.]  The fitting celebration of the older form of the Mass will also be practically limited by the need for a proper place or setting for this form.

The Pope says that it may be proper to establish "personal parishes" for the Latin form of the Mass. Do we have such a "parish?" About a year and a half ago, I made possible a broader use of the Latin Mass by establishing the Oratory of Old St. Patrick and allowing this group to exist as a kind of "personal parish" under the pastoral care of a wonderful group of priests called the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. Until they complete the restoration of historic Old St Patrick church – at Cherry and 8th Street in downtown Kansas City – the pro-rector of the Oratory, Father Denis Buchholz, celebrates Mass each day at Our Lady of Sorrows Church on Gillham Road. All are welcome to come to these Masses at any time. Indeed, I know the members of the Oratory would welcome the support of other Catholics in the Diocese as they, like other parishes, persevere in a capital campaign to ready St. Patrick.  [Very nice!]

Why did the Pope give this affirmation of the older form of the Mass? I have expressed a number of times my love for the "Novus Ordo," what we now call the Ordinary Form. Though as a young server I remember the "old Mass," I grew up with the Mass in English. It is the Mass of my priesthood and perhaps my greatest daily joy is to celebrate this Mass. When this Mass is celebrated reverently and in a manner faithful to the liturgical books, it is a magnificent gift and instrument for worship. It remains the Ordinary Form of the Mass.  At the same time, to those who have come to recognize the beauty, power and integrity of the older Latin Mass, Pope Benedict wants to assert that this form of the Mass is to remain part of the heritage of the Church.

Why did the Pope issue his letter at this time? In a letter to bishops accompanying Summorum Pontificum, the Holy Father expresses his hope for reconciliation with those who, since the Second Vatican Council, have broken with the Church in some ways, while retaining their veneration of this Latin form of the Sacred Liturgy. He has expressed his desire "to assist the Society of St. Pius X to recover full unity with the Successor of Peter." Just a few days after Summorum Pontificum, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a brief theological document (five questions and answers) that clarifies the definitions of what Catholics mean by the term "the Church." These questions have sometimes been at the center of the doctrinal dispute with some "traditional Catholics." The concise clarifications of the Congregation show the continuity of the doctrine on "the Church" – both before and after the Second Vatican Council, and provide a sort of mini-Catechism helpful to us all.  [While this is all accurate, it emphasises only those with questionable unity with the Church.  It doesn’t also speak of those who simply prefer the older form.]

How will we implement the directives of the Pope’s Apostolic Letter in this diocese? While we re-read and study this directive of Pope Benedict XVI, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, to whom the Holy Father has given competence to respond to additional questions about the use of these two forms of the Mass, will be issuing more detailed information about how best to proceed. I ask priests to keep me informed of their desire and plans to celebrate the Latin Mass, and to refer to me for evaluation particular requests to expand its public use. In the meantime, faithful who wish to renew their acquaintance with the older form of the Mass may do so readily at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish.  We will affirm all that the Pope presents by being more diligent than ever concerning the faithful celebration of the Ordinary Form of the Mass in every parish and religious community. In every instance the right of the faithful to experience the Mass in its integrity and in accord with the authentic liturgical directives, [Wonderful!] most recently the Revised General Instruction of the Mass and "Redemptions Sacramentum" should be safeguarded.

Extraordinary Form of the Mass at the Cathedral: At 10 a.m., on Saturday, Sept. 15, the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, I will preside [This is great!] over the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass at the main altar of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. In this way I wish to join with all of you in giving filial assent to the prerogative of Pope Benedict XVI in emphasizing the continuity of the Latin Rite of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. There we will lift our prayers with the Supreme Pontiff, through our Blessed Mother to the Eternal Father of Mercies for a meaningful reconciliation of Catholics. In this way we hope, with Gods’ help, as "the Church of Christ [to] offer worthy worship to the Divine Majesty for the praise and glory of His name and for the good of all His Holy Church."

All in all, this is a wonderful statement.  The Bishop makes himself clear about the need for reverence, no matter which book is used for Mass.  He shows himself to be supportive and warm toward the older rite and those who prefer it.  He even suggests helping support the efforts of the Institute of Christ the King with money!


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. jmgarciaiii says:

    Fr. Z.,

    I have extended family who belong to Bp. Finn’s flock and whose praise for him is clear and unambiguous. It bears noting that at the most recent March for Life, when the names of Bishops, Cardinals and Archbishops were being announced from the dais, it was — by a huge margin — Bp. Finn’s name that drew the loudest and most sustained ovation.

    Vox populi, vox Dei huh?


  2. danphunter1 says:

    God bless His Excellency Bishop Finn,
    He is surely a Bishop who is in union with our Holy Father The Supreme Pontiff Pope Benedict XVI.
    I wish all Diocesan Commanders would inform their sheep about plans to begin the Classical Rite,the way His Excellency has.It would ease some of the intense anxiety many feel at pondering the question,”will all the faithful have access to daily mass in the Classical Rite”
    God bless Bishop Finn,and God bless the Bishops of the United States of America.

  3. danphunter1 says:

    His Excellency’s suggestion to financially support the ICKSP is an excellent one.
    We regularly send the Institute donations and encourage everyone to.
    Speak with Father Heilman if you call the Chicago chaplaincy.He is a great priest.

  4. BethAlice says:

    Ah! I have been waiting on pins & needles in anticipation of my dear Bishop’s response! I thought he might make his statement through the diocesan paper the Catholic Key (which has changed a lot, for the better, under his direction). The last edition came out the day before the MP was released, so it has been a long wait, but patience is a virtue isn’t it? (One I struggle with often :oP )

    I am very blessed to have him as my bishop, to belong to the Oratory of Old Saint Patrick (named “old” because there is another Saint Patrick’s in Kansas City), and to also belong to a conservative N.O. with a priest already in training to say the TLM.

    God is so good!

  5. Denis Crnkovic says:

    We all need Bishop Finn. Let’s pray that his example is seen, heard and widely followed throughout the land.

    And here is a comment about the word “extraordinary” (Fr. Zuhlsdorf, I know I’m fudging by quoting from your next post, but I can’t resist pointing out an obvious irony).

    Sister Dominica is quoted thus: “‘The word used very specifically by the Holy Father is “extraordinary.” This definitely implies that it will be unusual to have this rite,’ Sister Dominica said in a written response to questions from The Catholic Spirit.”

    I wonder of the good sister also thinks that the practice of having “extraordinary ministers” distribute Holy Communion at virtually every Mass should be more “unusual”?

  6. Crnkovic: I wonder of the good sister also thinks that the practice of having “extraordinary ministers” distribute Holy Communion at virtually every Mass should be more “unusual”?

    Hmmm… given that documents of the Holy See call for restraint in the use of “Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion”, that is fewer, maybe the Sister has a point. I would like to see how this is applied.

  7. Augustine says:


    Are you from the Institute’s Chicago apostolate? I go there every week. Fr. Hellmann is great. Just curious.

  8. G says:

    Long Live Bishop Finn!

    Point of information in reference to a thread below where comments had to be closed — “Save the Liturgy, Save the World” was not minted here, (this wasn’t even the first blog operated by someone else where I used the phrase, mostly because your “anti-spam” feature used to give my Hewlett Packard the willies for some reason…,) but I am delighted that it has entered the public consciousness, (as well as “public domain,) through WDTPRS?

    Pax et bonum,

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  9. Hmm, I am wondering if I didn’t occasion the anti-spam word.

    Nevertheless, BethAlice, don’t wait on pins and needles – that is so…preconc- I mean, extraordinary!

  10. Michael says:

    To understand why Bishop Finn would devote an entire paragraph addressing the intent of the Motu Proprio with regard to adherents to the SSPX it is helpful to know that a very large community of the SSPX resides within his diocese and that opening the door to them with a goal of eventually bringing them fully back into the fold is clearly one of his priorities as bishop.

  11. Denis Crnkovic says:

    Fr. Zuhlsdorf et al.,

    I will also be interested in seeing how the term “extraordinary” is interpreted. Your comments on the Latin usage were both illuminating and very helpful. It is clear from what the Holy See has to say about “extraordinary ministers” and “extraordinary forms” of the Roman Rite Mass that the term must be interpreted in relation to what is ordinary in any given instance. In the case of lay distributors of Communion, Rome defines the ordinary distributer as an ordained clergyman. When such are available they are bound to distribute the communion before lay distributors are called upon. On the other hand, the question of offering the Mass using the extraordinary form of the rite does not hinge as much on “availability” as it does on the “desirability” of performing it. I wish I had more time to develop this thought, but I’ve got to run off to schola practice…


  12. Andrew says:

    It’s nice to read the positive comments from his Bishop Finn. On the other hand, if you want to set your teeth on edge, listen to Bishop Vasas’ comments on the MP on the 18th at http://www.catholic.com/radio/calendar.php.
    He claims the MP only requires pastors to provide the Mass of John XXIII to people who are already familiar with it. No newcomers, or those curious, or looking for something more reverent, or… you get the picture.

  13. craig says:

    I belong to the Cathedral parish here in Kansas City where His Excellency will be celebrating the TLM. Ironically just last week our Liturgy/Music Director said he highly doubted this would happen.

    This celebration, while showing Bshp. Finns commitment to the traditions of the Church, will also state that the older rite can be celebrated in even modern architectural types.

    The Cathedral went through a renovation a few years ago that gave us a centrally located Altar (the Altar is beautiful, carved limestone and very substantial, though I prefer a more traditional Sanctuary). Our space is quite beautiful, and Bishop Finn is improving it with new Stations and free standing confessionals, not to mention many donations of icons and such from parishioners this last year.

    Bishop Finn is truly a blessing, and I can say that he has helped me personally in many ways. He is committed to ensuring that all persons in his Diocese are served and nourished by the Church.

  14. I just noticed His excellency said “I will preside over the celebration of the extraordinary form…” I am guessing that means His Excellency will preside in choir and NOT celebrate as the priest-celebrant. The terminology mixes me up because of the use (in modern parlance) of “presider”. Also, because I was of the (perhaps mistaken) impression that His Excellency has not yet achieved facility with celebration according to the extraordinary form. Fr. Z, your help would be appreciated here.

  15. danphunter1 says:

    No,sadly we are not within hailing distance of Father Heilman’s Apostolate,but I have spoken with this good Austrian priest on several occasions and he has given me spiritual direction of a holy sort.
    Please pray for this, just and righteous Alter Christus, as he paves the way for countless men to glorify our Redeemer through the awesome Sacrament of Holy Orders.
    God bless you.

  16. Dr. Peter H. Wright says:

    Good heavens.
    Another Catholic bishop.
    Things are looking up.

  17. RBrown says:

    How and when may this Extraordinary Form of the Latin Mass be celebrated? The Pope says that, as of Sept. 14 of this year priests are free to celebrate the Extraordinary Form privately without any other specific permission.

    Bingo! A bishop gets it exactly right.

  18. RBrown says:

    The second part of my comment was omitted: In public masses the same permission generally exists with only a few stipulations.

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