People ask for older Mass. Pastor says , “No.” Bulletin comments against the older form of Mass.

You know that from time to time I post items from parish bulletins.  I usually try to find good items, edifying pieces.  Parish bulletins are not always known for their edifying clerical commentary.

Sadly, it falls to me today to parse an unfortunate piece in the 5 August parish bulletin, Pastor’s Comments, of St. Peter’s Church in Mount Clemens, MI.

I really don’t like beating up on people, especially some hard working brother priest, doing his best to make things work. However, this requires some attention.  I suspect that some of you will read comments like like in your parish bulletins.

I preface what follows with citation of His Holiness’ Summorum Pontificum:

Art. 5, § 1.  In parishes, where there is continuously present a group of the faithful attached to the previous liturgical tradition, let the pastor willingly receive their petitions that Mass be celebrated according to the Rite of the Missale Romanum issued in 1962.  Let him see to it that the good of these faithful be harmoniously brought into accord with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the governance of the Bishop according to canon 392, by avoiding discord and by fostering the unity of the whole Church.

Kindly keep this in mind and note that in what follows you will see my emphases and comments. This is from the Pastor, Reverend Fr. Michael N. Cooney.

My dear friends,
    Over the past two weeks a few people have asked me about having the Tridentine Mass celebrated here. I must admit that I reacted. For that I apologize. [I guess his reaction was not very nice.] These are great, holy people. I know they were taken back by my response. However, since the question has been raised, I will give you my answer. No. You do have a right to my reasoning for this decision. [Okay… Father is saying "No, there will be no ‘Tridentine’ Mass here."]

    When Pope Benedict gave permission to the bishops and priests to celebrate the Tridentine Mass, he did so thinking that he was reaching out to a group of people who had formally broken away from the Church because of many things.  [Dear Father… he thought a lot more than that.  He was not aiming only at people of questionable unity.  He was aiming also at you, dear Father, and your parishioners.] In Canon Law this group would be called schismatic. [I won’t get into the quesiton of schism here.  Suffice to say that Father is off base here.] Heretics basically deny a teaching of the Church. Schismatics refuse to acknowledge or reinterpret the teachings and/or discipline of the Church to fit their own purposes. The perfect example are those who followed Archbishop LeFevre [sic] after the Vatican Council. These are all good people. For various reasons, they choose not to follow the direction the Vatican Council Fathers. The pope was trying to reach out to these people by allowing the celebration of the Tridentine Mass.  [Among others, yes.]

    This is the ritual we celebrated Mass by before the ritual of the Vatican Council. [And during… and after…] The Mass was celebrated facing the wall. [Cliche] It was celebrated in Latin. It had many other properties, such as women could not take a meaningful role in the liturgy. [ARGH!  Poor Father has a very limited notion of what "active participation" is.]  Communion could only be received on the tong, [sic… or would that be a "forked tong" … sorry, that’s clearly just a typo.] etc. My reasons for refusing to allow this ritual to be celebrated here are many.

    There is the practical reason. I do not believe that most of our Parish Family have any idea of the priest shortage. Fr. Cyr, Fr Zeeb, the other retired priests who help out, and myself try to keep everything as normal as we can. Baptisms are celebrated twice a month. Reconciliation is scheduled weekly. Marriages, anniversaries and funerals are scheduled regularly. We have not cancelled any Masses for the lack of a priest. Sometimes this means celebrating four to five Masses on a given Saturday, by way of example.

    If I were to allow the Tridentine Mass I would have to schedule it on Sunday afternoon. Please note that most of those who want the Tridentine Mass want it on the weekend so that they can fulfill their Mass obligation. I cannot physically schedule another Mass on Sunday because most likely I would have to be the one to say it. [Okay… there is a a point here.  Priests do need to have some time.  However, I know not a few priests who simply don’t want to do too much.] In addition, we would have to bring in our Minister of Music, altar boys, ushers, lectors, sacristans and etc. [Then work with the people to fill those roles themselves!  They’ll do it, Father!  They will!]  Please remember that only men or boys could serve at the altar for these Masses. If I moved the Mass to one of our scheduled Masses, I would be serving perhaps 100 people, [A guess.] and not serving 1000 people who normally attend those Masses and do not want the Tridentine Mass. [I think you might be surprised, Father.]

    It has been suggested that I get Msgr. Browne to celebrate the Tridentine Mass. The same problems occur as far as getting the musicians, lectors, ushers and etc. In addition, while Msgr. Browne does celebrate the Tridentine Mass occasionally at St. Josaphat Parish in Detroit, most of the time he and the other priests who do celebrate that Mass at the request of the Cardinal are helping out at three or four other parishes each weekend. How much can you ask of a retired priest who is serving the Archdiocese as best they can so graciously?  [A legitimate point.]

    I have other problems with the issue of allowing the Tridentine Mass. Celebrating Mass in Latin is not the problem. The Tridentine Mass, however, reflects an ecclesiology, a view of the Church, that is no longer the official ecclesiology of the Church. [Oh boy… here’s some real trouble.  What this immediately suggests is that there was a serious break between the pre-Conciliar and the post-Conciliar Church.  This is clearly FALSE.  "Official" ecclesiology, if there is such a thing, cannot have such a discontinuity.]  For example, those who left the Church of their own free will [This has nothing to do with ecclesiology.  And what about the poor people who thought the Church was leaving them?] do not accept the teachings of the Vatican Council on the role of the laity in the Church. They do not accept the role of women in the Church. They do not believe in a viable ecumenical outreach to those of other religions. They certainly do not believe or accept the interpretations of Scripture or the magisterium of the Church as they have been shared with us. [What "official" interpretations of Scripture are those?  What pronouncements of the Magisterium?] They believe that the Church is the pope, the bishops, the priests and then the people.  [Yah… well… so?  Lumen genitum did not say there is no more hierarchy, did it?] The Vatican Council taught that the Church is the People of God.  [Right… and that same "ecclesiology" was the specialty of Joseph Ratzinger, the Pope now asking YOU, dear Father, to open your heart to these folks.  I don’t think that the Pope is going to promulgate something as disruptive as you are suggesting it is] There is a lot more to the reality of the Church reflected by the Tridentine Mass than most people are aware of. [Or, dear Father, than you are aware of, I think.]

    Those of us who are old enough remember the Tridentine Mass very well. We have a great respect for its tradition and the role it played in history. We are also aware that people went to Church to "hear" Mass. [And what are they doing today?]  They really did not participate in the Mass as much as we do today. [B as in B.  S as in S.  This is simply condescending.] This was really the reason why people said the rosary or prayed their novenas during Mass. They were somewhat barred from entering into the Mass prayers because they were in Latin and were mostly said by the priest. This does not denigrate the beauty or history of that ritual.  It just says that for reasons that have been tested for over 40 years the "ordinary" ritual of the Church is the Mass as we have been celebrating it. [Which has been so successful.]  The Tridentine Mass, by the will of the pope, has become the "extraordinary" ritual for celebrating the Mass.

    I realize that this new permission could become a flash point here at St. Peter’s. [It could if you, dear Father, keep going like this!] Our church building was never renovated. The old altar facing the wall is still in place. The communion rail is still in place. It would be a natural place to celebrate the Tridentine Mass. As long as I am pastor, the answer remains "no" for the reasons I have given you plus a few more that I choose not to share with you. ["choose not to share"??]

    All of us are somewhat nostalgic. [Grrrrrrrrr] We remember with warmth the memories of our youths. There is nothing wrong with this. It is human and good. However, all of us once rode bicycles when we were young. I do not see anyone trading in their cars for bicycles now that we are older. The Tridentine Mass is celebrated at St. Josaphat Parish in Detroit. I suspect that it will be celebrated at a few other parishes. How many, where and when I do not know. For those who wish to attend those Masses there are opportunities.

    On another parish issue, all of you will be receiving a mailing at the end of August. In this mailing you will find a number of things. There will be a letter from regarding some parish business such as the purchase of the house on the corner or Market and Gratiot streets and the future of that property. There will also be a financial report for the fiscal year. I promised you that on a regular basis you would see the finances of the parish. There will be some literature regarding stewardship and possibilities for volunteering during this coming year. There will also be a form for those who wish to join those who have their parish contributions automatically deducted on a regular basis from their bank/checking accounts. [I love this.  After all that, he is effectively reminding people that they have to give moeny to the parish.] This seems to have been well received by those who have used it. There will also be an outline of the first few months of the upcoming St. Peter Adult Institute for Continuing Education. The program has grown so much that we now need to divide the program into two parts. I am sure that there are a number of programs and presentations that will fill needs of many of our Parish Family.

    As you can see, even in the summer our Parish Family is very much alive and active [except for the nutty aunt locked in the attic… (those of you who have followed my writing, understand that image…]. Have a great week.

God Bless.
Love, Peace, Joy,
Fr. Mike

Frankly, I understand the practical issues.  A priest has to say the Mass.  He is unwilling, and probably not able.  He also doesn’t want to sacrifice any free time, and he may actually need to protect it.  If this initiative would be for only a few people (though I don’t think 100 is a few and I bet there would be more), I can see why Father wouldn’t want to make changes.

That said, his other reasons, at least those he did not disdain to share, especially the "ecclesiologial" reason and the issue of "active participation" are simply ridiculous.  

And isn’t it ironinc that someone making an appeal to an post-Conciliar ecclesiology of "people of God" and calling this a "family", and invoking participation of the laity and women, blah blah blah would be so dictatorial about this matter.

Finally, after reading this through I couple times, though he is trying to use a "nice" approach, and explain things in simple terms at least he understands, you get the sense that this fellow really detests that older form of Mass.  His dislike pops out here and there.

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