Catholic Family News attacks US Military Archdiocese regarding Summorum Pontificum

Some time ago I posted about the response of the Archdiocese for the Military in the USA to requests to implement Summorum Pontificum.

In my opinion, as I wrote before, the Military Archdiocese responded in a pretty reasonable way.  Essentially they said that because military personnel are not, by definition, fixed in a place indefinitely, thus they are not "stable", and they cannot constitute a group that is present continuously or in a stable manner over a reasonable period of time, it would not be reasonable to established celebrations of the TLM on a fixed or regularly scheduled basis.  There is also the matter of shortage of priests.  However, the Archdiocese said, very reasonably, that TLMs could be celebrated ad hoc, which really could be quite often if you think about it.   

The traditionalist publication Catholic Family News has published its own reaction to the Military Archdiocese.  I am a little steamed about it.  I think we might look at this with my emphases and comments.

Military Archdiocese
Says No to Latin Mass [This title is duplicitous.  The MilArchd. did NOT say "no" in an absolute way.  As a matter of fact, it seems supportive of TLMs celebrated in an ad hoc manner.]

By Edwin Faust

     Since the publication of the motu proprio “Summorum Pontifcum”, [Pontificum] requests have been made to the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, to provide Tridentine Mass at military installations. To demonstrate the widespread desire for such a provision, a petition was briefly posted on a Web site during the Veterans Day holiday in the U.S. and more than 150 military personnel signed the petition and added their heartfelt comments. [WDTPRS also advertised this petition.   However, 150 people signed it… for how many military installations? I think there may be more than 150 installations in the USA alone!] This information was forwarded to the new archbishop, Timothy Broglio, who delegated the matter to one of his subordinates, Msgr. James Dixon, whose disappointing response appears (at the bottom) on this page. According to Msgr. Dixon, there will be no attempt made to implement the motu proprio in the archdiocese on the grounds that the military do not constitute a stable community. [Again, this is duplicitous.  The MilArchd. is implementing the Motu Proprio according to the circumstances faced on military installations!  If there can be no identifiable group continuously present at, say Fort Ipsidipsy, then it is hard to imagine how a Mass schedule can be permanently changed.  On the other hand, Summorum Pontificum has a specific provision for Masses celebrated "occasionally", which does NOT mean "rarely", as it might sound to some ears in English.  This means that Masses can be inserted into schedules without changing the permanent schedule of a base chapel.  That is a way to implement Summorum Pontificum!]

    We cannot accept such reasoning, as it would also preclude celebrations of the Tridentine Mass on college and university campuses, where students also come and go; [This is like comparing apples with oranges.  The military have an Archdiocese to see to the spiritual needs of their personnel and dependents.  There is no diocese for college students.  Also, students have a reasonable expectation of being at a school for a period of time according to their own choice, whereas military personnel are simply transferred.]  yet, we have seen several such Masses being offered on a regular basis and attracting large followings. The refusal of the archdiocese also appears to presume that no such Masses can be offered without a request by what it considers a stable community. [That is a false statement.  The MilArchd. said "the Archdiocese cannot stipulate as a requirement [NB: which does not exclude that it can be done!] to those assigning priest-chaplains that a certain installation must have a priest-chaplain able to celebrate the Mass and the Sacraments according to the 1962 Missal. … It would also be appropriate for a military installation, where the priest-chaplain and the community desire to do so, to have a celebration of the Mass, announced beforehand, with servers and choir properly trained, for the edification of the faithful."  That could be EVERY SUNDAY if they can make it work!  But priests get reassigned and the population of an installation is shifting.] This is simply not the case, as in many locales Masses have been initiated by priests, even with the help of their ordinaries, and drawn many of the faithful. [This opens up the question of whether, according to Summorum Pontificum priests can simply schedule Mass on their own initiative without previously having received requests.  I am inclined to think they can, but that opens up all sort of practical problems for the blow back the priest will probably get.]  The community request appears to require a response, but not to be a sine qua non.  [First, yes… according to Summorum Pontificum reasonable requests do require a response!  They can’t be ignored.  However, Summorum Pontificum also says that when the priest or bishop are unable or unwilling to acceed to the request… I repeat… unable… then everyone should contact Rome.   However, the MilArchd seems to have provided for this already by saying that if people who want TLMs can get their act together with the priests, they by all means can have celebrations with the older Missal whenever they want!]

    In any event, there is a demonstrated widespread desire for the ancient Mass in all branches of the military. [A couple things.  First, I don’t think that a petition with 150 names for the whole of the Catholic population reading blogs in the military constitutes "widespread" anything.  However, my personal experience of meeting  Catholic military personal here and abroad suggests to me that there could be very great interest, given some time and catechesis and careful attention to procedure, which is important in a military environment.] The previous ordinary, Archbishop O’Brien, refused implementation of the 1988 indult, despite repeated requests; his successor seems intent upon continuing this policy, [No!  I don’t think that is fair.  The MilArchd Vicar General wrote a pretty positive letter at the direction of Archbp. Broglio.  He even said, "I would be happy to hear directly again from you on this subject with suggestions about how we can continue this great work."] suggesting that those who want the Latin Mass look elsewhere. [NO!  That is not the whole story.  Sure the MilArchd said that priests should let people where in the area the TLM is being celebrated, but he also said that TLMs could be celebrated ad hoc if people can get their acts together.] But this is not possible in many cases. My son, a cadet at the military academy at West Point, is restricted to post most weekends and, were he not, there is no Latin Mass available within a reasonable distance. His situation is quite common.  [And let’s hope that, as more younger priests learn the older forms, cadets won’t face that in the future!]

     Despite its somewhat unctuous tone, Msgr. Dixon’s letter makes it evident that the military archdiocese has bent its mind, not to finding ways to provide Traditional Latin Masses, but to preventing them.  [This is unfair and whiny.  Nothing of the sort is "evident".] There is no provision in the motu proprio that allows an ordinary to send those who want the Tridentine Mass on a search through neighboring dioceses. [Nor is there any provision in the Motu Proprio that requires regularly scheduled TLMs outside of a regular parochial structure!  Some flexibility and reason are needed.] And many in the military, for one reason and another, cannot travel far from their duty station. [So rather than whine, people should get busy and work something out!  The MilArchd has said explicitly that TLMs CAN BE CELEBRATED.  What is hard about this?]         

    There have been generous responses to the Holy Father’s motu proprio, such as that of Archbishop Burke in St. Louis, who is providing training for those priests who wish to say the Tridentine Mass. [For priests who "wish" to do so.]  Several workshops have also sprung up in various dioceses and those orders specially dedicated to offering the Tridentine Mass have been providing help to the many priests who want to learn this ancient and beautiful rite. There is no reason that the military archdiocese should not take steps to conform itself to the mind of the Holy Father [a grossly unfair statement] and satisfy the legitimate aspirations of those in its spiritual charge. The problem is not the lack of a stable community, [um… yes… it is] but the lack of good will in high places.  [the writer simply desire to interpret the letter of the MilArchdVC in the worst possible light.  However he raised a good point: Could not the MilArchd also provide possibilities for chaplains to learn the older form of Mass?  Perhaps some thought could be given to that.  The MilArchdVC Msgr. Dixon said he was open to suggestions.  However, when people are determined simply to write unfair and poorly thought through attacks on the statement of the same MilArchd, one wonders just how long the MilArchd will keep that door open!]

    I would ask all of you who are reading this to please speak up for those members of the military who want the Tridentine Mass offered at major military installations.  [But don’t speak to them along the lines of this article!  Be reasonable, patient and prudent, not misreading the facts, but understanding that there is a lot of room to work in within that statement of the MilArchd for people of good will.] Below is the contact information for the Archdiocese for Military Services and the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. There is also an interactive Web site offering information, updates and comments on this situation:  I have also included a brief sampling of the comments we have received from members of the military.

    These brave people in our military are willing to lay down their lives for us. Surely, it is not too much to ask that their shepherds provide them with the spiritual nourishment they need in the legitimate form in which they request it.
  [No disagreement there!  The problem is how to get it for them without screwing everything up!]

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One Comment

  1. I got a rather lengthy e-mail taking me to task for this entry (short e-mails are better if you want me to read them to the end).

    Here it is with my usual emphases and comments.

    I read your observations about Ed Faust’s article with some concern.  As the Latin Scholar around here, you of all people would be the one to know that there has been a mistranslation (into English) of art. 5 par. 1 in the “unofficial English text” of the Motu Propio that has been circulating.  I’m sure your Latin is better than mine, so correct me if I’m wrong. [Perhaps you haven’t been reading WDTPRS very long.  I have hammered that issue quite a lot.]

    Is it not true that no adjective in the Latin text of the motu proprio modifies the word “coetus” (more or less correctly translated as “group”)?  If this is true, then the term “stable group” does not appear at all in the Latin text. 
    [I have explained this scores of times on the blog.]

    Would you agree that a correct translation of the entire phrase containing the word “coetus” would read:

    “Art. 5, § 1. In parishes, where a group of the faithful exists continuously adhering to the antecedent liturgical tradition, let the pastor willingly receive their requests for the holy Mass to be celebrated according to the rite of the Missale Romanum published in the year 1962. […]”

     ??  [This is how WDTPRS does it: “Art. 5, § 1.  In parishes, where there is stably 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.”  Notice that this refers to a pastor, not a military chaplain.]  

    This mistranslation, if it exists, provides a ‘loophole’ to deny or neutralize a request from the faithful for application of the motu proprio. 
    [Yes… we know.  This is why I have written about this a zillion times.]

    Maybe I’m wrong about all of this, and if so please correct me.  I was a bit surprised to hear you echo the “stable group” mistranslation (at least what I believe to be a mistranslation). 
    [I didn’t.  I wrote in my comments “identifiable group continuously present” and “a group that is present continuously or in a stable manner”.  I didn’t echo a mistranslation.  I echoed the accurate translation.]

    If it is indeed a mistranslation, then it would see that you’re doing a great deal of harm by repeating it, in which case I would ask you to modify your comments about the AMS on your web page. 
    [Nope.  I won’t.  Not because of a mistranslation.]

    Also, I can see that you admit to being “a little steamed,” and I hope that you are not misdirecting your anger and making some mistakes.  For example, wouldn’t a better title for your web page be “Father of West Point Cadet not Satisfied with AMS Reply….” ?

    And why can’t we comment on it publicly on your web page?  [Because I wanted to head off unreasonable comments by the half-informed who are rarely able to self-edit.  Sometimes I prefer to screen comments my day isn’t taken up with cleaning up less than helpful posts.]

    I served in the Army 20 years (finishing n 2001), and from what I can tell, the nearest thing we have to a scism in this country is the AMS.  There is a culture of disobedience among the priests currently serving in the Army, to the point that I’ve even seen them publicly reject the authority of the Holy Father.
    [All the chaplains I know, in every branch, are wonderful and faithful priests.]  It is not universal (but those exceptionally good priests serving as chaplains suffer quite a bit, I’m sure).  The Catholic priests almost seem ashamed of their Holy Faith…long conversation here, but there’s a great deal of indifference among these priests.  Anyway, if Mr. Faust is not satisfied with the answer he’s getting from them, then he has to pursue it because his son cannot.  Military personnel are not allowed to petition.  [Nor should they.]

    Rather than getting steamed over his article I would humbly suggest what I hope would be a more productive approach.  I don’t know where in the US you live, but perhaps you could offer your services… what if you were to announce that any group of servicemen who would like to invite you to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Ext. Form can invite you and you would travel to where they are and offer Mass on their military installation (perhaps even stipulate that it must be within the US.)….  I could help find funds for that if someone actually takes you up on it.  There are funds available for contract chaplains, and according to regulations they have to allow this if servicemen arrange it.  
    [This is a good suggestion.  If I were approached in this way I would seriously consider this if the details could be worked out.]

    This would do two things.  First, If there really is a shortage of priests hampering their ability to implement the MP, this would help resolve the problem for them; maybe other priests would step forward to volunteer to do the same once they see you volunteer to help.  Secondly, I think what you will see is that the AMS has no intention of ever allowing any such Extrordinary Form of the Mass. 
    [I don’t buy that.  I have it on very good authority that those at the top of the MilArchd are quite favorable about the TLM.  I don’t want to say with whom I have spoken, but my sources are solid.] They have always treated the Latin Mass (and that also means the Novus Ordo in Latin) as the one and only religious service that is to never be allowed under any circumstances on a military installation.  And they will go to any extremes to prevent it…..I could tell you some great stories.  The Catholic priests I served with went as far as to lie to the General Officers so as to prevent it….they told one that we were “Levebvrist Schismatics” even though I had never been anywhere around the SSPX and they knew it; they told a Jewish General Officer that we were an “anti-semitic cult…”  you get the picture.  They will lie if they have to.  [I think that is a pretty awful accusation.  I frankly have a hard time believing it.]

    This is probably what Mr. Faust is seeing.  Best not mis-direct your anger….I don’t think you quite see the whole picture here. 
    [I think I hit the nail exactly on the head, and the chaplains I have spoken with since I posted this have unanimously backed me up.]

    I would add only another note to this issue of a “continuously/stably present group”.  It could be that there is, in fact, a “group” which is stably present around chapels of military installations: retired military!  However, if they are retired military, then they are not subjects of the Military Archdiocese.  Nevertheless, the letter from the Vicar General Msgr. Dixon seems even not to exclude a certain measure of concern also for retired military who might be inclined to attend Mass at chapels of military installations.  Remember: Msgr. Dixon’s response was very supportive of having Mass ad hoc.  There is no reason why ad hoc can’t be often.

    Everything that I have heard so far tells me that the Military Archdiocese has in fact reacted in a way that is far more supportive than it is dismissive.  I think the invitation for more input should be considered positively.  Perhaps subjects of the Military Archdiocese could suggest that the Archdiocese provide training or support also for chaplains in the TLM.  I suspect there are more chaplains than one might imagine who would like to learn the TLM, based on my acquaintances.

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