Action Alert!

wide and generous

By Diogenes (articles - email) | Jun 12, 2005

Bishop Joseph Adamec of Altoona, Pennsylvania, instructs the faithful-- in the unusual form of a Letter to the Editor of a local newspaper:

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has assured us bishops that the "traditional Latin Mass" is not to be considered as another rite that the faithful can choose at will. It has been allowed (with permission of the diocesan bishop) to facilitate the return of some to the Roman Catholic Church.

Let's be generous, and begin with what the bishop got right. It's true that the Vatican insists the traditional Latin Mass (we'll skip the scare quotes, if you don't mind) is not another rite, but a different form of the Latin rite.

OK, now moving along to the inaccuracies:

  • Bishop Adamec suggests that faithful Catholics cannot "choose at will" to attend the traditional Mass. That's true, to be sure, in a diocese where the bishop does not authorize a Tridentine Mass. (Want to guess anything about the Altoona diocese?) But the relevant 1991 directive from the Vatican instructs bishops to "facilitate the proper and reverent celebration of the liturgical rites according to the Roman Miss of 1962 wherever there is a genuine desire for this on the part of the priests and faithful." Thus if the faithful "choose at will," the bishop should oblige.

  • Technically the bishop's permission is not necessary; the Vatican could give permission directly. Again, from the same 1991 letter from the Ecclesia Dei commission:
    Although the Holy Father has given this Pontifical Commission the faculty to grant the use of the 1962 typical edition of the Roman Missal to all those who request it, while the Commission informs the appropriate Ordinary thereof, we would much prefer that such faculties be granted by the Ordinary himself for the sake of strengthening the bond of ecclesial communion between those priests and faithful and their local Pastors.
  • And don't miss that final phrase about helping people to "return" to the Roman Catholic Church-- with its astonishing implication that all those who prefer the Latin Mass have somehow been outside the Church! Again, the perspective from the Vatican is quite different; Cardinal Mayer of the Ecclesia Dei commission writes not about allowing the "return" of a few strays, but about "the rightful aspiractions of those who wish to worship according to the Latin liturgical tradition as celebrated for centuries."

Richard Cross holds a doctorate in psychology, who has taught at the university level, including at Franciscan University. He is currently an educational researcher and consultant in the field of psychology and related disciplines.
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