Tuesday 7 June 2011

A quite Extraordinary Form of Pastoral Care!

Archbishop Mario Conti at his Installation in Glasgow.

The warm and generous response to those who would like the celebration of the Extraordinary Form is not always forthcoming. Witness to this a very mean-spirited Ad Clerum from Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow. When a bishop makes it clear to priests he doesn't approve of the Extraordinary Form it is a sure way of discouraging those priests from celebrating it. Damian Thompson has something to say about it here.

A similar lack of enthusiasm and an extraordinary lack of pastoral care for those involved can be detected in many a Curial Office and Bishop's House. Just yesterday I received a letter from author and lecturer John Beaumont, who resides in the Diocese of Leeds encouraging people to make requests to their bishops. (I've posted about his writing before here on converts and here on Newman.)

I think this is very important. There are priests willing and able to offer the Extraordinary Form but there is still a reluctance to take the initiative in doing so when you know the bishop doesn't like it. Good people of the laity, it is up to you, who cannot have your futures curtailed by the bishop, to get together and put pen to paper. This is what John Beaumont is suggesting in his own diocese and perhaps it is a clarion call to laity everywhere.

Here has written this letter to many of his friends. John is sincere in a straightforward desire to go to Mass in a way provided for all the faithful that he finds spiritually helpful and for a quiet man always astounds me in the breadth and calibre of the Catholics he knows. His letter follows with my own highlights as to the nub of his proposition towards the end:

6th June 2011

Dear Friends,

I hope you will not mind my writing to you. I call you friends and so you are. I'm particularly addressing those of you who share with me a love for the old rite of Mass. I write not out of any desire to pontificate, but as a result of my own reflections upon recent events in the Church. What I am about to say is not meant to usurp in any way those initiatives taken by other individuals or bodies, for example by the Latin Mass Society (In respect of the latter, by the way, I would ask for your prayers for Neil Walker, the LMS representative in the Leeds diocese, who has been ill recently).

I'm referring specifically to the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae issued on
30th April 2011 by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. This document provides a wonderful opportunity for all those who love the old rite of Mass (now known as the extraordinary form of the Mass) and wish to attend it regularly. Please bear with me whilst I make some general introductory remarks and please do not think that I am instructing anyone. Many of you know more than I do about these matters, but some general statements are necessary as a focus for what follows.

You will recall that Pope Benedict XVI promulgated Motu Proprio his Apostolic Letter, Summorum Pontificum on 7th July 2007. It came into effect on 7th September 2007.

With this Motu Proprio, the Holy Father promulgated a universal law for the
Church, intended to establish new regulations for the use of the Roman Liturgy in effect in 1962.

Among the statements of the Holy Father was the following: "What was sacred
for prior generations, remains sacred and great for us as well, and cannot be suddenly prohibited altogether or even judged harmful."

Summorum Pontificum contained a variety of measures intended to offer to all
the faithful the extraordinary form of the Mass as a precious treasure to be preserved and to ensure the use of this rite for all who asked for it.

However, there arose a number of difficulties (a) of interpretation and application of the document; and (b) of where exactly authority lay on such matters.

As a result the Pope has acted again. On the question of authority, he has now conferred upon the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei the power of monitoring the observance and application of the provisions of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum. Furthermore, the decrees by which the Pontifical Commission decides such matters may be challenged only by the Apostolic Signatura, not by the bishops as such.

On the question of interpretation, the Commission Ecclesia Dei, by virtue of this authority, has now issued the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae. This document is of crucial importance.

It states that diocesan bishops, according to canon law, are to monitor liturgical matters in order to guarantee the common good and to ensure that everything is proceeding in peace and serenity in their dioceses, but, and this is the crucial part, this must always be "in agreement with the mind of the Holy Father clearly expressed by the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum." It goes on: "In cases of controversy or well-founded doubt about the celebration of the extraordinary form, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei will adjudicate."

Furthermore, the document states that "it is the task of the diocesan bishop
to undertake all necessary measures to ensure respect for the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, according to the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum."

Notice how strong the language is in favour of those wanting the extraordinary form.

You will recall the specifics of Summorum Pontificum. Article 5(1) is the
important provision:

"In parishes, where there is a group of the faithful existing in a stable manner, the pastor should willingly accept their requests to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962, and ensure that the welfare of these faithful harmonises with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the guidance of the bishop in accordance with canon 392, avoiding discord and favouring the unity of the whole Church."

The new document, in paragraph 15, gives us a definitive interpretation of
the major terms used here:

"A coetus fidelium ("group of the faithful") can be said to be stabiliter existens ("existing in a stable manner"), according to the sense of art. 5(1) of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, when it is constituted by some people of an individual parish who, even after the publication of the Motu Proprio, come together by reason of their veneration for the Liturgy in the [Extraordinary Form], and who ask that it might be celebrated in the parish church or in an oratory or chapel; such a coetus ("group") can also be composed of persons coming from different parishes or dioceses, who gather together in a specific parish church or in an oratory or chapel for this purpose."

In paragraph 17(2) the document goes on as follows:

"In cases of groups which are quite small, they may approach the Ordinary
[i.e., bishop] of the place to identify a church in which these faithful may be able to come together for such celebrations, in order to ensure easier participation and a more worthy celebration of the Holy Mass."

Nothing could be clearer. It means that a group of people, of whatever size,
whenever they came together, from whatever parishes or dioceses, should have their request for the extraordinary form willingly accepted. It is clear that the Holy Father wants this provision to be available to such groups as of right, not simply as some sort of special privilege.

It is also the case that there are priests available who would be both
willing and able to say the Mass.

With regard to the extraordinary form of the Mass, the position at present
in the Leeds Diocese is that there is only one Mass that is celebrated each Sunday. This is at the edge of the diocese and at a very inconvenient time for most people (3pm). The only other celebrations are at Broughton Hall (first Sunday only), St. Peter's, Bradford (second Sunday only), and St. Augustine's, Harehills (third Sunday only). This minimal provision is not what the Pope envisages. Also, all except the first of these Masses are again at unsocial hours, yet the clear intention of the Pope, evident from other statements by him, is that the extraordinary form should be part of regular parish life, so that, as he himself has put it, "the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching."

What I'm proposing, then, is that a letter, signed by as many people as
possible, be sent to the Bishop of Leeds requesting, as a right that we now have thanks to the Holy Father, the provision of the extraordinary form of the Mass as a regular part of diocesan life.

Thanks to the Holy Father we have never been in such a good position in
order successfully to obtain our rights under canon law. I believe we must act now, so that the bishops cannot say, as they inevitably will if we do nothing, that there is no demand for the extraordinary form of the Mass. In addition, because of other provisions in the new document, our priests are in a much stronger position than ever before and it is also our duty to support them in this respect. Both those priests who wish to say the extraordinary form of the mass and those laypeople who wish to attend it need to act now.

I await your thoughts with interest. I should perhaps add that I shall be applying, whatever the response, for one very simple reason. This is that according to the new document there is no minimum limit to what is a "group", so that a single individual could well take advantage of this opportunity! I always was an optimist!

Please feel free to copy this letter to anyone whom you think would be likely to support it.

Yours in Christ,

John Beaumont

(e-mail: john.beaumont7@virgin.net)

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