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Catholic World News

Ex-priest starts new congregation; newspaper coverage confuses readers

August 20, 2012

An article in the Charlotte Observer, on a former Catholic priest who has started his own religious congregation, illustrates the dangers of relying on religious reporting from secular outlets.

Tom Sanford, who left the priesthood “more than a quarter-century ago,” recently decided to open his own church, to welcome Catholics who are unhappy with recent changes in the Church.

The Observer story explained: “The final straw came early this year: the church’s decision to reinstate the original 1963 English translation of the Mass.” That single sentence contains several noteworthy errors:

  • The new translation of the Mass was introduced late in 2011, at the beginning of Advent, not early this year.
  • The current translation is new; it does not “reinstate” the older translation, but corrects and replaces it.
  • The previous translation dates back to 1973, not 1963.
  • Perhaps the reporter intended to refer to the 1962 Missal. But in that Roman Missal the Mass was in Latin, not in an official English translation.

The story continues to misinform readers by saying that the ceremony performed by Tom Sanford is not a Mass. Since he is an ordained priest, the ceremony is in all probability valid, albeit illicit. A spokesman for the Charlotte diocese explains that it is seriously wrong for a Catholic to “knowingly go to a Mass that’s celebrated by someone who doesn’t have the authority.”


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  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Aug. 20, 2012 6:14 PM ET USA

    Maybe when the USCCB is finished expounding on global warming and the social budget of the US government, they might publish some press guidelines for verifying sources on stories involving the Catholic Church.

  • Posted by: Ut videam - Aug. 20, 2012 4:52 PM ET USA

    The reporter may also have been (erroneously) referring to the 1964 or 1966 "transitional Missals," which began implementing Sacrosanctum Concilium by introducing vernacular into the 1962 Missal and (in the 1966) omitting some prayers or making them optional.