The devil hates concord among Catholics. Indeed, Pope Leo XIII had a vision during Mass one day late in 1883 of the Devil being let loose to have a veritable field day in the Church for about a hundred years or so. One of the ways the Devil has been sowing discord and rancor among believing Catholics, no less among fallen away or a la carte Catholics, is by the novelties introduced by the Church since the Second Vatican Council, including the Novus Ordo Missae of Pope Paul VI and the Mason who served as the Secretary of the Consilium that planned that monstrous sacrilege, Archbishop Annibale Bugnini. Catholics have been needlessly divided over whether the new Mass is good or bad, valid or invalid, and whether it is "divisive" and/or "disloyal" to promote the Traditional Latin Mass.
The devil loves revolutions of all kinds, civil and ecclesiastical. Revolutionaries wipe out the memory of the past. They go further, using their raw power to try to create a memory of a past that was so bad that it had to be replaced by their own enlightened designs. Revolutionaries pit friend against friend in their efforts to institutionalize novelty and an abject rejection of everything to do with the past as the norms of everyday living. Only a blind or dishonest man can refuse to see the wreckage that has been caused as a result of the theological and liturgical revolutions that have unfolded before our very eyes in the past forty years.
The liturgical revolution unleashed by Pope Paul VI and Bugnini has convinced a lot of believing Catholics that the Mass of our fathers, praised by Pope Pius XII in Mediator Dei just sixteen years before Sacrosanctum Concilium was released by the Second Vatican Council, was capable of being suppressed legitimately. Never mind the fact that a number of great scholars, including the late Monsignor Klaus Gamber, who was not a traditionalist, have written that the Church herself possesses no authority to suppress legitimately the traditional Roman Rite of the Mass. No, we are taught by well-meaning people that the "old Mass" was suppressed and that it is only the generosity of Pope John Paul II that has permitted us the "privilege" of having access to it since his Ecclesia Dei motu proprio of 1988. Thus, Catholics should be unfailingly grateful to a diocesan ordinary who permits the faithful to have the Traditional Latin Mass on a weekly basis, being careful not to antagonize him by any words of criticism lest he withdraws his favorable smile on the permission that is considered to be an arbitrary exercise of his episcopal powers.
Well, this is the line that is being spoken by many diocesan priests who are charged with the task of celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass in their respective dioceses. There are priests from one coast of the country to the other who scold traditionally minded Catholics when they plead for a daily offering of the Traditional Mass as a means of avoiding the sacrileges associated in most instances with the Novus Ordo. These priests warn attendees of indult Masses not to advertise the Mass so as to attract more people, fearing that the local bishop will take the Mass away. The faithful are also warned not to criticize a bishop for requiring children to complete courses in sex-instruction prior to the reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation (as well as permitting the horror of classroom sex-instruction in any level of Catholic religious programs, whether offered in a Catholic school or in a parish religious mis-education program). An evil bargain is thus struck: if you want the Traditional Latin Mass, be silent about anything and everything else in the diocese lest we take your beloved Mass away from you.
We are members of a visible, hierarchical Church. Bishops are Successors of the Apostles. Diocesan ordinaries are the heads of the dioceses entrusted to their pastoral care. The sheep are not the equal in authority of the chief shepherds of a diocese. Nevertheless, there are limits that exist in the nature of things beyond which bishops cannot go legitimately. They cannot exercise their powers unjustly, and they cannot exercise their powers arbitrarily. To threaten, for example, not to grant "permission" for the Traditional Latin Mass - or to remove an existing indult - because some of the faithful who seek it will not be silent in the face of doctrinal errors is a subject, arbitrary and unjust exercise of episcopal powers. It is analogous to a tyrannical father threatening to keep his family from going to Mass on Sunday in retaliation for criticism of his loud and violent ways. Those who exercise power have an obligation to do so justly. Thus, just as it is not a violation of a father's authority for his wife and children to plead with him to do his duty and take them to Mass, so is it the case that it is not a violation of a bishop's authority for his spiritual children to plead with him and do his duty to give them what is their right, not a privilege: the Traditional Latin Mass.
Although the Church herself has not said this publicly, several cardinals admitted a few years ago that the Traditional Mass was never suppressed. They went further. They admitted that the Traditional Mass is incapable of being suppressed. Many canonists and liturgists have said the same thing. As Christopher Ferrara and Thomas Woods point out in The Great Facade:
"Alfons Cardinal Stickler, the retired prefect of the Vatican library and archives, who serves as a peritus on Vatican II's Liturgy Commission, apparently also concurs in the 'private judgment' condemned by the neo-Catholics. After noting that he had never called into question the validity of the Novus Ordo, the Cardinal adds the juridical question was another matter. Basing his judgment on 'my intensive work with the medieval canonists,' the Cardinal points out that there certain things so essential to the life of the Church that 'even the Pope has no right of disposal' over them, as indeed the Catechism [of the Catholic Church] teaches. He suggests that the liturgy should be considered among these essential things."
The Traditional Latin Mass is not, as mentioned earlier, is not some sort of quaint "privilege" extended to the faithful as a result of the noblesse oblige of the Vicar of Christ and the bishops who are in full communion with him. It is the way in which God has been glorified and souls sanctified for the better part of 1,500 years. It reflects the permanence and stability of God, to say nothing of our need to offer to Him the perfect Sacrifice of the Cross in a manner befitting His ineffable beauty as God and His unsurpassed kingly majesty. The faithful have an absolute right, no matter the current "discipline" of the Church in this regard, to the Traditional Latin Mass.
There are bishops who recognize this fact, men who do have pastoral hearts and have listened to the sheep entrusted to their pastoral care. For all of the mistakes he has made with regard to the Society of Saint John, Scranton, Pennsylvania, Bishop James C. Timlin has been extraordinarily generous to the Traditional Latin Mass. Archbishop Charles Chaput was the first bishop in this nation to permit the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter to celebrate daily Mass when he was the Bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota. Bishop Thomas Doran, the ordinary of Rockford, Illinois, has written about the beauty of the Traditional Mass, extending a warm welcome to the Institute of Christ the King. Bishop Raymond Burke of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, has withstood great opposition from within the ranks of his own priests to permit the Institute of Christ the King and the new Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem into his diocese. Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz not only has the Priestly Fraternity offering daily Mass in Lincoln; he permitted the Fraternity to build their seminary in Denton, Nebraska, about twenty miles west of Lincoln. There are at least thirteen other dioceses that permit daily Mass offered either by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter or by diocesan priests (Paterson, New Jersey; Indianapolis, Indiana; Omaha, Nebraska; Little Rock, Arkansas; Kansas City, Kansas; Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma; Youngstown, Ohio; Atlanta, Georgia; Sacramento, California; Denver, Colorado; Dallas and Corpus Christi, Texas; Camden, New Jersey). Other dioceses permit the Mass of our fathers on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. Those bishops, who have permitted the Latin Mass and have understood their duties in this regard, are to be commended for their embrace of our living liturgical tradition and for their embrace of those Catholics who simply want to worship God and sanctify their souls in an ambiance appropriate for the setting that is the propitiatory Sacrifice of the Cross re-presented in an unbloody manner in every offering of Holy Mass.
The Traditional Latin Mass should be offered in every parish in every diocese in every country in the world. Alas, part of the chastisement Our Lady is sending us, I believe, is a withdrawal of her graces from the Church, especially in light of how she is being specifically dishonored and denigrated in the highest quarters of the Church. Our Lady, who is indeed the Mediatrix of all graces and the Co-Redemptrix, will not give graces to those who are obstinately proud in their attachment to the revolutionary novelties of the past forty years, those who are contemptuous of everything that happened in the Catholic Church prior to 1958 and are determined to recast everything in their own narcissistic image. Traditionally-minded Catholics must understand this. They must understand that they are called to offer up the sufferings and humiliations they are experiencing at present to Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart, understanding that it was perhaps part of the vision given to Pope Leo XIII that we in the first decade of the twenty-first century would be suffering the things we are presently experiencing within almost every segment of the Church.
That having been noted, however, it is nevertheless important for Catholics to continue to request diocesan ordinaries to grant them what it is their right, that is, the Traditional Latin Mass. Yes, they must do so respectfully, to be sure. Indeed, traditional Catholics are doing a great service for those bishops who are niggardly in their approach to the Traditional Latin Mass, or who just deny altogether "permission" for it to be celebrated in their jurisdiction. That is, traditional Catholics who petition their spiritual fathers for what is their right are simply reminding bishops that they have an obligation before God to be just to their subjects--and that part of the standard of their own Particular Judgment involves the measure of justice they meted out to their subjects. It is, therefore, an act of great charity, not disobedience, for traditional Catholics to respectfully but firmly remind bishops that they must be solicitous towards those who want to safeguard the Deposit of Faith in the best manner possible: by having daily access to the Traditional Latin Mass.
There are, however, not a few diocesan priests who celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass (and who do so very well), located from coast to coast of this country, who have been influenced by the semi-quietism that is the hallmark of both Opus Dei and the Legionaries of Christ. Some priests have taken to browbeating traditional Catholics from the pulpit during "indult" Masses that they should not be critical of their bishops and that they should not be doing anything to increase attendance at the indult Masses. As noted before, this is the equivalent of asking Catholics to keep their tongues silent about grave evils being promoted under the color of diocesan authority simply because they might risk losing the "privilege" of having an indult Mass. This attitude flies in the face of authentic Catholic tradition.
During the Middle Ages, you see, there was far more openness about the governance of the Church and decisions made by bishops than even some good priests want to admit today. While bishops have always been regarded as princes, there was, however, a good deal of healthy and quite open criticism of episcopal decisions in the Middle Ages, especially as those decisions related to matters of discipline. As I mentioned in last week's article Amazing Conclusions, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux was unstinting in his criticism of bad bishops, going so far as to warn a pope that he ran the risk of the fires of hell for not removing bad bishops. Saint Anthony of Padua once gave a sermon in the Cathedral in Padua, starting it by saying to the bishop, "You, the mitred one, it is about you that I am going to preach right now." Saint Thomas Aquinas noted that the faithful have an oblibation to rebuke clerics if they refuse to listen to private admonitions and concerns. And if the lay faithful have no role to play in the life of the Church by means of petitioning their bishops to do their duty, then the laity gathered outside of the church in Ephesus who were shouting, "Theotokos! Theotokos!" as the bishops were inside deliberating on whether to declare Our Lady to be the Mother of God were wrong to have done so. (Indeed, it is possible that the voices of the laity were the means by the which the Holy Ghost inspired the bishops there assembled in Ephesus to make the proclamation of Our Lady as the Mother of God. Some of them might have feared they would be killed upon leaving the church if they didn't do so.) The Arian heresy itself would have been far worse and lasted far longer if members of the Church Militant had not been militant in defense of the Faith against the infidelity of bishops and priests.
Are Catholics in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles supposed to be silent as a monstrosity of a cathedral is built, squandering millions of dollars of their contributions in the process, just because Roger Cardinal Mahony permits an indult Mass that rotates from one church to the next on each of the four Sundays of a month? Are Catholics in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles supposed to look the other way and be silent as speakers at a catechetical conference, held in the Diocese of Orange, incidentally, use profanity to undermine the received teaching of Our Blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ because of fear? Timidity is not prudence. Obsequiousness is not obedience. To fear the removal of a grant of permission that is needless to begin with is neither an act of prudence or obedience. It is a surrender of the truth to the forces of anti-truth, those who believe they can continue policies, such as sex-instruction, that are inimical to the Faith while they give a few crumbs to the poor saps stupid enough to have a "sentimental" and "nostalgic" attachment to some "past liturgical discipline" of the Church.
As if the browbeating of traditional Catholics into silence by priests who celebrate indult Masses is not enough, it is frequently the case that traditional Catholics are treated in a most condescending, dismissive way by those same priests. This is another source of needless antagonisms in the relatively small but growing Traditional Latin Mass movement. That is, there are more than a handful of priests who do not exactly have the pastoral zeal of the Cure of Ars. Oh, they love God and may be privately much more devoted to tradition than their public statements indicate. However, they view many, if not all, of the traditional Catholics they deal with as tightly-wound lunatics who must be treated as misguided children.
To be sure, there are traditional Catholics who are tightly-wound, people who are ready to pounce on any perceived mistake and to beat a priest over the head with their observations. There are others who believe that they have to resolve all of the problems of the Church in one conversation, concocting a litmus test for priests that is little more than a projection of their own schemes and plans onto others, including priests, as the ultimate proof of fidelity to the cause. Humanly speaking, it is quite true that some traditional Catholics do not have much of sense for things human, especially how many priests live in difficult circumstances and may not be able to say in conversations everything they, the laity, would like to hear. It is also true that some traditional Catholics have no sense of the physical toll the priesthood takes on a man, which is why they do not understand why a priest might be unwilling even to engage in a conversation after Mass.
Certainly, therefore, there are people whose personality traits are caricatured as representative of the entire Traditional Latin Mass movement. However, priests themselves have to be careful not to project onto all traditional Catholics the caricature of some traditionalists. Sadly, a lot of priests do this and virtually flee from anyone and everyone who they fear might take something they say out of context and post it on the Internet to make this point or that. The sheep have a natural need for a shepherd. Having been abandoned and persecuted in many instances by their bishops, traditional Catholics naturally look to a priest, who is, after all, supposed to be a spiritual father, to be a father to them. A father is supposed to be kind, patient, understanding, and solicitous of the legitimate needs of his children. Indeed, priests must understand the human elements of life just as much as the lay faithful need to do so. Priests must understand that their spiritual children feel rejected and unwanted, if not unloved, when they demonstrate by their words and actions that they do not want to have much (if anything) to do with them. Children want to spend time with their fathers. This is natural. It is part of the Order of Creation. And part of the supernatural Order of the Redemption is for there to be a respectful and warm relationship between the lay faithful and their priests. The fact that some priests who celebrate indult Masses (and who use sarcasm and/or arrogance to discourage meetings with the faithful to discuss logistical issues about the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass) flee from the scene at the mere sight of their flock is a needless source of discouragement, rejection, and antagonisms, all of which help to breed a further sense of alienation and marginalization among traditional Catholics.
The only antidote to all of this is for traditional Catholics to have a regular parish life with a priest who really wants to be their pastor, one who wants to shepherd them home safely to an unending Easter Sunday of glory in Paradise. This is what the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter and the Institute of Christ the King provide in the context of the diocesan structures. It is what the Society of Pope Saint Pius X and independent chapels provide. However, traditional Catholics need the support of the Chief Shepherd on earth, the Vicar of Christ, to help to have a regular parish life in every part of the country and the world. There needs to be an Apostolic Administration, an entity that will help to attenuate the needless antagonisms that have grown up in recent years and that will therefore help traditional Catholics concentrate on the sanctification and salvation of their souls in an environment of safety, security, and love.
Our Lady, Mediatrix of all graces and Co-Redemptrix of the world, pray for us!
Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.
Editor's Note: If you agree with Tom, go to Petition for Traditional Apostolic Administrations and sign it. It is a petition to the Pope for canonical protection so that priests may freely say the Mass that was never abrogated - the Traditional Latin Mass - without reprisal from their local bishops. A strong response to this petition could go a long way in the faithful being assured of assisting at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass universally without being deprived of the Gregorian Rite, which, for nearly a millennium and a half, was the approved rite of Holy Mother Church and which has produced the fruits of so many conversions; something the Novus Ordo after 33 years of novelty and innovation after innovation, has failed to do. One is a fruitful tree yielding abundant fruit; the latter a barren tree that needs to be cast into the fire as Our Lord affirms in Matthew vii: 15-20.
For past columns in The DAILY CATHOLIC by Dr. Droleskey, see Archives