Statement on M.P. by the Bishop of Kalamazoo

Here is the statement from His Excellency Most Reverend James A. Murray, Bishop of Kalamazoo from the diocesan newspaper The Good News.

The first part concerns the recent CDF document.  I include it, because His Excellency makes a superb link.

My emphases and comments.

By now, you probably have heard about two brief documents recently released by the Vatican.  The purpose of the first was to clarify understanding about the unity and primacy of the Catholic Church.  The second allowed for wider permission of the celebration of the liturgy according to the 1962 Missal of Pope Blessed John XXIII, in addition to the Mass with which we are all familiar.  Despite their clarity, both documents have unfortunately caused confusion for many.  Pope Benedict XVI attributes this confusion, at least in part, to “news reports and judgments made without sufficient information.”  With this in mind, it might do us all well to take a brief look at the two documents and what they say.

The first document, “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church” was published by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on June 29, the Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul.  In a series of five questions and answers, it explains the nature of the Catholic Church and how it relates to other Christian communities.  In so doing, it reaffirms what the Catholic Church has always taught, and should therefore neither be surprising nor scandalous.  However, like so many other truths of our faith, there is a tendency for some to emphasize one aspect of the Church’s teaching to exclusion of others, thus resulting in confusion or error.

In clarifying the nature of the Church, the document includes two ideas that may seem at first paradoxical.  First of all, the document was intended to respond to some theological errors, which in recent years and in various ways have denied the uniqueness of the Catholic Church.  It therefore reaffirms that the Church established by Jesus Christ is a visible, spiritual community and only the Catholic Church possesses the “fullness of grace and truth” that Christ desires for it.  Secondly, it explains that “the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them.”  Several misleading news reports, unfortunately left out this affirmation of non-Catholic Christian communities, giving some the impression that Catholics are to believe that outside the Church there is merely a “churchless void.”

In truth, both aspects are important to avoid confusion.  On the one hand, the Church of Christ exists as a unique historical reality, which Christ promised to be with until the end of time, sending His Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth (cf. Mt 28:20, Jn 16:13).  The Catholic Church – with the Eucharistic mystery entrusted to her and governed by the successor to Peter and the bishops in union with him – is not just another Christian “denomination,” but rather contains all of the elements essential to the one, holy and apostolic Church.  On the other hand, although Christian communities that are not historically connected to the apostles and do not have the Eucharist cannot be called “Churches” in the proper sense, these communities are joined to the Church by baptism and still participate in the mystery of salvation through elements of the Church found outside the visible boundaries.

While non-Catholic Christians may not agree with the document’s assertions, [NB: Pope Benedict believes the Church has a right to her own document and language about it, and has the right to express them in the public square.  We must reroot our identity in our tradition and teaching if we are going to know who we are.  Only by knowing who we are can we contribute to and shape the world around us.] some have noted that honesty and clarity is favorable to fruitful dialogue between the Church and other Christian communities.  The Catholic Church’s differences with many Christian communities are closely associated with the Eucharist, which is dependent on the sacramental priesthood and apostolic succession.  Interestingly, at the same time, the Eucharist is also the foundation of the Church’s unity.  As the “source and summit” of our life and mission, the Eucharist is indispensable to the identity of the Church, to which all are ultimately called.  Indeed, both the Second Vatican Council and Pope John Paul II’s 1995 Encyclical “Ut unum sint” declared that non-Catholic Christians are oriented towards “a complete incorporation into the system of salvation such as Christ Himself willed it to be, and finally, towards a complete participation in Eucharistic communion.”

This one Eucharist of the one Catholic Church is also at the heart of the much anticipated letter by the Holy Father, issued July, 7, called “Summorum Pontificum.”  In the letter, he widened permission for the celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of 1962 – as well as for the celebration of other sacraments according to that Missal. [Probably "Ritual" and "Pontifical" are probably intended here.] The pope explains that the liturgy as it is commonly celebrated today will remain the “ordinary form” of the Latin Rite, while at the same time giving greater honor [a positive framing of the question through a careful choice of vocabulary] to the “extraordinary form” of the Rite – that is, as it was celebrated before 1970, with only minor changes from the Sixteenth Century onward.  Whereas Pope John Paul II encouraged bishops to generously respond when groups of the faithful asked permission to celebrate the extraordinary form, the new guidelines allow capable priests to celebrate it without first seeking permission from their bishop.

In his letter and an accompanying explanatory note, Pope Benedict provides some important distinctions and principles regarding the celebration of the earlier Roman Missal.  First, he makes it clear that this does not detract from the authority of the Second Vatican Council and the liturgical reform that followed.  The pope clearly explains that the current Missal must be seen as authoritative and remains the “ordinary form” of the one Rite.  At the same time, he explains, there is no contradiction in affirming the value of the Missal of 1962.  It was never abolished and “what earlier generations held as sacred remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.”  Furthermore, he says, this is not likely to cause divisions within parish communities, but rather is meant to provide “an interior reconciliation at the heart of the Church.”

Just as the document on the Church simply clarifies what the Catholic Church teaches about herself, the pope’s new apostolic letter simply clarifies guidelines about how the Church is to regard and celebrate the liturgy.  With regard to the extraordinary form of the Mass, very little will likely change in this diocese […] after the new guidelines go into effect Sept. 14.  Parishes will continue to celebrate the Mass as you know it.  And already, I have freely granted permission in this diocese […] where there have been requests to celebrate Mass according to the old Missal, provided the priest has adequate liturgical formation and knowledge of Latin.  In short, on a practical level, neither document changes much nor should come as a surprise, but they do help to clarify the importance of the Eucharistic mystery at the heart of the Church.

Note in that last paragraph two elements of what I call The Party Line, namely, "Not many people want that!  This won’t make any difference!  We are already doing enough for these people!"   Did you catch them? "…little will likely change…" and "… already, I have freely granted…".  Perhaps that "freely" make the difference?

In this case, because of the tone of the statement, while the bishop says things that are similar to The Party Line, they just don’t leave me with the feeling of being given the brush off.  The letter was respectful in tone and in presentation of the facts.  It treats the reader as important and intelligent.  The bishop makes distinctions.  There is an old Latin adage, Qui distinguit, bene docet… He teaches well who makes distinctions."  Frankly, other bishops and statements present those same two elements but you get an entirely different sense. 

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  1. Dogfoodlover says:

    That one was pretty pleasant. I suspect the statements toward the end may just have been intended to set minds at ease. I’m sure some of his flock have expressed worry that they won’t be able to play guitar anymore at Mass or will be forced to use Latin. It didn’t scream “party line” to me in any case.

  2. Marcus says:

    It seems that this bishop uses this language because, as has been pointed out, if generous permission had really been granted already, then little would change, no?

    Despite not having a bishop right now (our prior bishop was traditional Mass friendly), I would be delighted to see this letter issued by my bishop.

  3. Marcus says:

    The “link” is very good: everything should flow from and lead back to the Eucharist.

    It’s easy to become obsessed in “doing” many things for the Lord, but forgetting the better part: simply “being” in the presence of the Lord.

  4. Ignatius says:

    I thought it was a good, clear letter from the Bishop, while I agree that it is unfortunate that it had to end with the party line of “we already are generous and it won’t change much”. Perhaps if the good people of God where catechised and exposed to the extraordinary form of the Mass according to the mind of the Church, more people would want it…

    However, I am from the Diocese of Kalamazoo and know many of the priests there. There is a very solid core of younger priests who are very friendly towards the tradition of the Church and the extraordinary form of the Mass. Praised be Jesus Christ for all His blessings and especially for our Holy Father and the gift of Summorum Pontificum.

  5. dad29 says:

    Although characterized as a “party line,” I think that in a lot of cases, ‘nothing much will change here’ is true, or at least, “to-the-best-of-my-knowledge” honest speculation.

    In a lot of Dioceses the 1962 Use is already established and running smoothly, sometimes in more than just one location.

    It’s likely that Bishops will encourage people who are interested to go to the established 1962 Rite church rather than ‘in their own parish,’ and that for pragmatic reasons, not malevolent ones.

  6. Dogfoodlover says:

    Good point dad. Can’t hurt to keep a positive perspective. Thanks.

  7. Jeremy says:


    Paw Paw St. Mary Church 3rd Sunday: 1:00 PM

    As you can see, the bishop is EXTREMELY generous with the extraordinary form of Holy Mass.

    In response to DAD’s thought on “go to the established 1962 rite church”. In MOST dioceses, there is not CHURCH, only a Mass, in the case of Kalamazoo, offered ONCE a month.

    Even in the case of dioceses where there is a weekly mass, there is a major drawback when faithful must commute from the four corners of the diocese for one Mass on Sunday: many are unable to engage in a parish life. Due to the distance, they are unable to join the choir or their boys serve.

    The extraordinary form in the local parish is preferable.

  8. Gavin says:

    To be fair, I’m not sure how much demand there is for the extraordinary form in the K-zoo diocese. It’s mostly rural parishes, and there is not a whole lot of demand for Latin, chant, etc. from the faithful in the diocese. My parish, St. Michael’s in Kalamazoo, and St. Charles in Coldwater are the only ones I know of that do chant. I sincerely doubt that a ex. form Mass will pop up at my parish anytime soon, even though my boss is trained in it most parishoners wouldn’t want anything to do with it. Even though I’ve only been in the diocese a year, my impression of his excellence is that he allows anything reasonable. I’m not aware of any clown Masses, feminazi nuns, etc. within the diocese.

    Even if you could get a rural group here that wants the extraordinary form (I’m not holding my breath), the Mass would be somewhere out in Nowhere, MI, 40 miles away from any major city. The parishes in this diocese are just too far apart for strong Tridentine celebrations to pop up. We have plenty of good priests who will provide them on demand, I just don’t see them making a huge impact in the culture of the diocese.

  9. RBrown says:

    1. The Bp of Kalamazoo is past retirement age.

    2. When he says he doesn’t think much will change, I wonder whether he really knows whats in the minds of some of his priests.

    3. The lowest common MP denominator of some of the bishops makes me wonder whether the dioceses most friendly to 1962 Missal will attract more of the good seminarians.

  10. michigancatholic says:

    I’m in the diocese of Kalamazoo. This diocese was formed circa 1962 from the Diocese of Grand Rapids, so we only have modern history, thus it’s been pretty darned bleak around here for years. It’s been a very sad & barren place. *However,* it’s finally looking better now than it’s ever looked.

    We have a newly formed Oratory of St. Philip Neri and a new chapel that belongs to the St. John Cantius Society from Chicago. Both were invited here by Bishop Murray, in part I think, because of people he knows. Thus the new flow of tradition increases.

    The only order we ever really had resident here, which went berserk, is nearly defunct and so it’s not preaching so much nonsense anymore to confuse people. The outreach teachers and such from Holy Cross and a few other places that used to occasionally work here were called back home due to old age and lack of vocations. So our old Spirit of Vatican II guard is collapsing in slow motion.

    We *used to have* a very robust feminazi “weeder-outer of male seminarians” esconced in the chancery here, along with the usual suspects of days gone by. She’s gone now along with many of her ilk, replaced by people far far more orthodox, thank God. There are some funny local stories around that, actually. (Don’t kid yourself, Kazoo has a very healthy grapevine, and it’s reliable.) But anyway, the final consequence of her hard work is that we don’t have a priest shortage, after all. We recruited from Europe and rites in union with Rome, and as a result got a handful of priests who can say the extraordinary form of mass (not to mention the Divine Liturgy). ;) Uh, and Gavin, at least one of them is stationed in the heart of Kazoo. And he loves Latin, speaks it fluently. He was also one of PJPII’s students at the Jagellonian.

    Also, Kazoo has had, for the past 15 years or so a very interesting relationship with the Legionnaires and Regnum Christi. They’re in the woodwork around here as a consequence of laypeople’s desperate calls for help in years past. For some years during the reign of the feminazi, young men with vocations were joining new orders, including the Legionnaires and thus we have quite a few relatives/acquaintances of people in new orders here. We have loads of Regnum Christi members and people who associate with them fraternally.

    We also have 2 Perpetual Adoration programs which are in full swing and some partials–not bad for a little place like Kalamazoo. If a person does a little looking around, it’s not hard at all to find many very orthodox folks around here. We have a few less orthodox priests, but they’re kept pretty much in line by the laypeople, for the most part.

    Parishes vary a great deal here. It’s important, Gavin, to get a comprehensive picture. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Kalamazoo became quite the little leader in the next 20 years or so. People just haven’t seen the extraordinary form in years. When they know they can, some *will* gravitate to it. Particularly the young, and Kalamazoo is a university town. Watch.

  11. michigancatholic says:

    Actually, Jeremy, that once a month thing has been a problem here. It’s also skipped around a bit–it used to be in the cathedral at a weirder time.

    I think the extraordinary mass population is going to grow now. The dynamic of knowing that it’s perfectly all right to attend the extraordinary form will eventually work wonders, I believe. That’s what’s kept many people away.

    I also think that the fact that weddings, baptisms and funerals can be performed in the old form is absolutely & completely HUGE. I think many families will want the beauty of the extraordinary forms, formerly forbidden, for their children. As soon as it gets started, it will be on-ramp to the extraordinary form of Sunday mass.

  12. Fr. Stephen says:

    Michigancatholic and others: Correction re: foundation of Diocese of Kalamazoo. It was established in July, 1971 (not 1962) and was formed from parts of the dioceses of Grand Rapids and Lansing.
    Anyway, I am the pastor of one of the parishes in the diocese about 40 minutes away from the see city, St. Mary in Marshall. I am “in training” mode myself for the eventual introduction of the ancient use of the Roman rite which I grew up with and served until age 16. I have 4 adult men learning to serve – all of whom were just infants, toddlers, or unborn at the time of the “renovation”. They are very eager and interested. Demand in the parish? Don’t know. We will see. Supply is guaranteed even if just for a few.

  13. FormrKazooan says:

    I’m betting St Monica Parish will have TLM by the end of the year

  14. michigancatholic says:

    Maybe, but maybe not, FormrKazooan. There’d have to be a bit of altar moving at St. Monica’s. For those who’ve never seen it, it was built in the 60s sometime and it’s sideways. I’m not kidding. It looks like they got plans for a regular church and changed their minds at the very last minute about the orientation of the altar. I’m not certain if it’s ever been “turned around.” It’s a weird looking place with pillars in all the wrong places and gables on the sides. The stained glass looks like it was an elementary school project too. :p There’s one much like it in Benton Harbor, although a bit better looking (St. Bernard).

    Hello, Fr Naas. Thank you for the date correction on the foundation of the diocese. I’m glad to hear of another place in the diocese which will eventually offer the extraordinary form. Haven’t there been several vocations in the past few years from our your way? I think so.

  15. michigancatholic says:

    Okay, a web search doesn’t yield any photos of the inside, but I find one of a brand-new looking St. Monica’s exterior, dated 1958. So I don’t know what the deal with being “turned sideways” is. Curious. I wonder when it happened.

  16. FormrKazooan says:

    Hmmmm, I don’t remember it being sideways. It is in front of the west wall as I recall, but not up against it. Pretty “mod” decor, but Father L would be a prime candidate for doing TLM and doing it well. Plus, St M’s has a large “conservative” contingent. I remember families that drove to GR for TLM, before Father C went to St Mary’s and it was offered there. I understand he’s been moved again? Maybe Father L will celebrate it elsewhere.

    I’m in Fargo now and the Cathedral Parish, of which I am a member, will be having TLM on Sundays this fall. Pretty exciting

  17. michigancatholic says:

    I’m glad to hear that you’re going to be able to go to the extraordinary rite out there.

    Fr L has said the extraordinary form on occasion, when he subbed for the regular Ecclesia Dei priest, yes. Fr C has been moved but to a good place for the TLM.

    St. Monica’s does have a fairly large traditional contingent, but then so does St. Mary’s in Paw Paw, St Mary’s over by Borgess, St. Joe’s in St. Joe and quite a few other places. I’m hearing of several other places, large & small, that are gearing up for the extraordinary form, training servers and the like. And of course, there’s St. John Cantius’ chapel in Lawton.

  18. michigancatholic says:

    St. Monica’s congregation faces west, yes. And the altar sits on a semicircular platform, more or less, that juts out from the west wall. The altar sits on the east edge of that platform. At the very least, it will need to be moved back if the extraordinary form is said there.

    At St. Monica’s, if you look up overhead, you’ll see that the roof ridge is transverse to the congregation. The gables are at the sides instead of front and back. The church is wider than deep. The sacristy is on the north side, just exactly where you’d expect to find it looking at the exterior of the church, but the altar is on the west side instead of the north where the exterior and placement of the sacristy tells you it ought to be. The entrances are at the north and south.

    I don’t know if it’s always been this way, but it’s a modification of a more traditional layout–it’s got to be from the other structural clues, placement of pillars, etc. It has, at some point, been aggressively V2-ized, even if it was originally set up sideways. Thus the semi-circular seating arrangement. I suspect that St. Monica’s was a very trendy place in 1955-1975. The neighborhoods around it are 195x-1970 classics, large ranch houses in planned neighborhoods.

    St. Monica’s has an truly outsized crucifix suspended from the front which is interesting in the context of all the other very 1968 modern stuff. It also has carts of candles which are very much used and some statues. At one point a few years ago, when it was suggested the old statues of Mary & Joseph come down, there was a lot of complaining and they stayed up. They (and the crucifix) keep the place from looking like a suburban kindergarten classroom, with all that ash blond furniture and brick walls.

    And that reminds me, yes, the church is attached to a classic 50s-style catholic grade school, still in operation. I don’t know if there was an older church on the same site before this one was built or if there are things from that old church in this one.

  19. Chironomo says:


    You have touched on a subject which I believe could become of great importance, but which I have not heard ANYBODY talking about… namely Regnum Christi and The Legionnaires for Christ. These two groups have considerable following, and the power (both political and financial)to make themselves heard. The reason I believe that they will have a role to play in all of this is the fact that they have their largest following and greatest influence in regions where tradition has been systematically suppressed by the Church’s hierarchy, and as such they will be an already-existing and well organized base of Orthodoxy in those places where traditionalists are not able to be a part of the regular parish structures (I am thinking particularly in several Diocese in California, Pennsylvania…etc…). While so many people have been distracted by the SSPX and their reaction, I have yet to hear anybody from either Regnum Christi or the Legionnaires giving their response. Perhaps I just haven’t been able to find anything yet in the public discussion. Does anybody else think that these groups might “come out of the shadows” when the time is right?

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