St. Augustine, FL: public meeting on older Mass with diocesan official

One of the faithful readers here sent me the following e-mail.  Apparently there will be a public meeting with an official of the Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida, about Motu Proprio.  As you may be aware, the Bishop of Pensacola-Talahasee said that all the bishops of Florida had adopted the less than optimal norms developed by the Bishop of St. Augustine

One wonders what this meeting will be about.  A call for a public meeting suggests that there is great interest in the older form of Mass.

Here is the e-mail I got:

While listening to the local Catholic radio station WQOP in Jacksonville, FL I heard an ad that there will be a meeting open to the public, about the use of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite in the Diocese of St. Augustine.  The guest speaker will be none other than Fr. Tom Willis, Director of Liturgy of the diocese who disseminated the memorandum to the clergy.  Since I am sure there are people who read your columns who are in this diocese and are attatched to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, I would appreciate it if you’d get the word out.  This would be THE opportunity for those who are trying to promote the extraordinary form and be faithful to tradition to get the word out.  This is a chance to challenge the restrictions that this diocese intends on imposing upon us in spite of the directives of the Holy Father’s motu proprio.  I have e-mailed WQOP to ask them to post this on their events column on their own webpage.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007
St. Joseph’s Catholic Parish- Cody Enrichment Center
11757 Old St. Augustine Road
Jacksonville, FL 32258
(904) 880-6404

WQOP Radio

Okay folks.  I want to make something perfectly clear.  If you are in that area and intend to go to that meeting, do NOT be belligerent or unkind to that priest or generally make an ass of yourself.

You can do more harm than good if you go to this meeting and are nasty. 

If you go, be courteous and level headed.

Do NOT get in anyone’s face.

Do not harden hearts by aggression.

If you think you cannot contain yourself, don’t go.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. jmgarciaiii says:

    Fr. Z.,

    Thank you for your relentless reminder to behave charitably and prudently. Those who might well attend should keep in mind that their actions, good or ill, will have repercussions that will reach FAR beyond the Diocese of St. Augustine. To those, who will attend, I will start a Rosary Novena to coincide with this meeting; perhaps if enough people participate…



  2. Well, Father, you’re a braver man than I am for leaving the combox open on this one, so I’ll be careful.

    If it were me, and I had an opportunity to attend that meeting, I would first read the best English translation I could find, then the Latin, with a good commentary series (probably that one I’ve been reading in The Wanderer by some very astute priest, I forget his name). Only then, upon attending the meeting, would I confine myself solely to the substance of the papal decree, and how it compares to the bishop’s letter on that decree. I would ask for an explanation of the discrepancies. I might ask in general, how a lower authority can restrict what a higher authority allows. Of course, I’d save that last one for last, if at all, because the speaker shouldn’t be able to answer it.

    The advantage to this approach is that it’s completely focused, it’s nothing personal, it doesn’t betray any axe-grinding, and it just might catch off guard those who honestly don’t expect anyone to have done any homework.

    I wouldn’t bring up how much more holy the Old Mass is, or how irreverent the other one is. Not because it isn’t true, but because it’s what they expect me to say, so they’ll be prepared to dismiss it. And if there’s one thing I don’t want to say or do, it’s what they are prepared to dismiss. I’d be better off staying home.

    Bottom line; clever as snakes, meek as doves.

  3. ellen says:

    The most logical thing would be to find other priests – diocesan priests – even two – who are willing to learn/say the Extraordinary Form (who are not already doing so at Immaculate Conception), to give a fuller picture, that this is something that some clergy are perfectly ready to meet and accept.

  4. Larry says:

    You know, looking at Fr Z’s posting, it seems to me that while Fr Z’s correspondent perceives a “chance to challenge the restrictions”, this isn’t likely at all how the director of liturgy perceives the meeting.

    It’s very likely that he will see this as an opportunity to explain what the document means, and how it (really, really) is meant to help the Catholic TLM community (or worse, how the MP was meant to address the SSPX’ers, not the TLMs).

    If that is, in fact, how he perceives the meeting, well… call me silly, but I’m betting that at the first suggestion that they’ve misinterpreted the MP, he’ll stop the public commentary with a line something like, “I’m not here to debate the validity of the statement, but rather, simply to explain how it fits the spirit of the MP and how we’ll proceed in this diocese”.

    Maybe I’m wrong… but that’s my bet what we’ll be reading here on 9/19…

  5. EDG says:

    I’m going to go to the meeting, but I tend to agree with Larry’s comment. However, I would like to go, sit quietly and see how they “explain” this inexplicable (or at least indefensible) set of guidelines.

    I doubt that the diocesan authorities are really interested in hearing comments, although the bishop must have heard some negative comments already or he wouldn’t have called out Fr. Willis, the diocesan liturgy director who was probably responsible for the memo, to “explain.” But overall, I suspect that it will be simply another attempt to intimidate and silence the TLM followers in the diocese, who are already nervous because the priest who celebrates the ONE old Mass in this sprawling diocese (a low mass at 8:00 a.m. in a downtown JAX church) is quite elderly and there are rumors of his impending retirement.

    Maybe I’m too pessismistic, but I doubt that any changes will come out of this meeting and I doubt that anything other than a direct order from some office in Rome will make the bishop seriously revisit this issue. He’s a lot more obedient to Rome than most of his clergy, by the way. But until it gets to that point, I don’t expect to see any changes. And then the modernist clergy here will just put on their thinking caps and find some other way to flout or simply evade whatever Rome says. That is an issue we’re not discussing much, but I think it really is a question not only of the Mass and the specific issue of the MP, but of the acceptance by the bishops and clergy of Rome’s authority.

  6. Sid Cundiff says:

    Thanks, Fr Z, for your rules. When people emote rather than reason, when “love” is judged to be only a sexual feeling, when caritas/agape is seen only as an secretion from a gland or a sensation in the central nervous system (thus not _virtus_ or _arete_), and when hate thinks it has a licence, charity is unduly burdened. I too have been so burdened.

    In my experience, people hate

    1. because they’ve been truly hurt, often not receiving affirming caritas
    2. because of so much self-esteem and affirmation that out of superbia they belittle others
    3. because they’ve denied what they want, be it for good or bad reasons
    4. because of short fuses and lack of premeditation
    5. because of premeditated fanaticism, be it political or religious
    6. because it’s fun.

    There are other reasons. The Seven Capital Sins are still a good rule of thumb.

  7. “You know, looking at Fr Z’s posting, it seems to me that while Fr Z’s correspondent perceives a “chance to challenge the restrictions”, this isn’t likely at all how the director of liturgy perceives the meeting.”

    No, I don’t suppose a director of liturgy would look forward to being challenged at all.

    A motu proprio is, by definition, to be interpreted generously. If a lower authority is imposing additional norms which can only be interpreted as having the opposite effect, it is more than reasonable to call this into question. I don’t recall anyone for whom this meeting is intended, as challenging the papal decree. The issue is the additional restrictions, which are at the least unreasonable, at the most illicit. It would be a disservice to any bishop for his subjects not to kindly bring this to his attention.

    If the bishop and his people wish to explain the decree in detail, all well and good. One would hope they read it themselves — preferably in its original Latin.

  8. mollie says:

    to EDG: i am also a parishoner at Immaculate Conception and attend the Latin Mass there regularly with my family. I am also involved with the Una Voce group that meets there every month. we have been discussing our attendance at this meeting with Fr. Willis. are you a member? If you would like to get in touch, my email is

    God bless,

    mollie garcia

  9. James W. says:

    Fr. Z – this bishop states that all Florida bishops have agreed with these guidelines. I wish somone could check this as the new bishop (Dewane) of Venice,Fl has been very accomodating to FSSP- bringing them in recently to staff a parish. I would be very surprised if he has gone along with his brother bishop to the north. James

  10. James W. Maybe you can find something out about this and send me the results.

  11. mwa says:

    Sent an email today to the Office of Liturgy in Palm Beach Diocese inquiring whether Bishop Ricard was in fact speaking for them regarding adopting the St. Augustine diocesan norms. Back on July 23 they told me that any questions regarding the promulgation or implementation should be referred to one’s pastor, and there has as yet been no official recognition, commentary, or publication of the MP here that I am aware of. I was thinking of putting together a questionnaire to send to each parish, asking whether any priest there is already trained to say the EF, if so would he be willing to train others, if not whether one would like to learn, whether they have missals, vestments, whether they would publish a contact for members of the diocese who are interested in any way in the EF, etc. Would this seem out of line coming from a lay group, with no official capacity?

  12. alan m. rees says:

    Dear Father Z:

    Yours is the best blog on the Internet!

    I offer some clarification regarding the meeting on September 18th with Father Willis to discuss the implementation of Pope Benedict’s Summorum Pontificum. As Chairman of Adult Education at St. Joseph’s, a large parish with some 4,500 families, I invited Father Willis to lead a discussion on the MP as we prepare to submit a petition to our Pastor as required in Article 5. Our parish has an historic church (in addition to the large main church) with altar rails, a high altar, and a pre-Vatican II priest. And we already have more than 50 signatures.

    The focus of our meeting is educational in that we wish to draw the attention of our parishioners to the MP and to clarify certain issues involved such as the meaning of “personal parish,” “stable group” etc. We recognize that any change has the potential of disruption, division, and discontinuity. Education can be most effective in facilitating change. I mentioned to Father Willis that the meeting might also be helpful to Bishop Galeone in offering some early evidence of the extent of interest on the part of parishioners in the diocese.

    It is not our intent to offer a public forum for debating Father Willis. Nor do we intend to challenge the restrictions contained in his Memorandum. Instead, we seek the diocese’s assistance in implementing the MP. We have invited those from other parishes by means of an announcement on Queen of Peace Radio Catholic Radio in Jacksonville to assist them in understanding the MP. Parishioners at Immaculate Conception in downtown Jacksonville, the only location of the celebration of the extraordinary form in the diocese, have also been invited.

    Of particular help to us, will be a clarification of the apparent lack of congruence between the MP (and the earlier Ecclesia Dei Afflictu of Pope John Paul II) and Father Willis’ Memorandum. We request from the diocese only respect and equal consideration. There is no rupture and neither form of the same Rite is superior to the other. The two forms can be mutually enriching. “It behooves us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer.”

    Several years ago, Cardinal Ratzinger commented:

    “It is important that the proscription against the form of the liturgy in valid use up to 1970 should be lifted. Anyone who now advocates the continuing existence of the liturgy or takes part in it is treated like a leper; all tolerance ends here. There has never been anything like this in history; in doing this we are despising and proscribing the Church’s whole past. I must say quite openly, that I don’t understand who so many of my Episcopal brethren have to a great extent submitted to this rule of intolerance, which for no apparent reason is opposed to making the necessary inner reconciliations within the Church.” [My underlining]

    We are not lepers! Certainly, we will act with charity and courtesy in welcoming Father Willis to St. Joseph’s. If we wish to dialog with Jews and Muslims, we can certainly communicate with equal respect and consideration towards each other?

  13. EDG says:

    Thank you, Allan M. Rees, for that explanation.

    Do you think it would be possible to send this notice to a few bulletins in the local area, with your explanation included?

    I don’t know how many would publish it, but it might be worth doing. In any case, I don’t think the meeting’s going to be particularly contentious. Most people in this diocese seem to be pretty resigned to being treated like lepers, so I think we’ll behave ourselves.

  14. J says:

    It is to your credit that you note that there is an “apparent lack of congruence” Mr. Rees. I too have corresponded with diocesean officials and it seems that there seems to be a lack of understanding on their part of the norms laid down by the MP. The issue of a personal parish in fact has been brought to the attention of the bishop in months past before the MP was issued. However, the diocese has pretended that no such prpposal has been made. This is absolutely not true! There is a church in Jacksonville that has tried to negotiate with the diocese in months past but their petitions have fallen on deaf ears. Will this change now that the MP has been issued? With the current diocesan norms that is hard to believe. This is not an impossible task for this diocese to implement or accept. There are some apparent concerns that CAN and SHOULD be addressed at this meeting if it is to be a truly fair meeting and the ordinary and extraordinary forms are to be treated with equal importance.

  15. Jim says:

    On meeting our Bishop at St Michael’s Gate Lourdes last month, I asked him for 7 parishes, dedicated to tradition, scattered throughout the largest geographic diocese in England, which at present has 108 parishes, some of which are marked for closure due to lack of Priests. The Bishop “hit the roof” the odd Indult Mass here and there, and these guys are “doing” their duty. All this keep the peace malarkey…..lets not be rude, after all we are dealing with a bunch of shrinking violets…..don’t make me laugh, my parents have been informed these last 10 years or more, not to bother arranging their funerals at their home parish for the last 50 years ( different diocese from mine)….because they “are not part of the Christian community” they are SSPX ers …… condemned by a Priest in the Diocese of Motherwell, Scotland, who would …never….never, even have the decency to grant them a Latin Mass, the Mass that I served in that same parish in 1968…..and my Father and his brothers served going back nearly 100 years….just who are the contentious ones in this “debate”….?????

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