Friday, May 11, 2012


The Letter of Pope Benedict XVI (with two paragraphs presented below) was issued 7 July 2007 together with his Apostolic Letter "Summorum Pontificum" on the celebration of the Roman Rite according to the Missal of 1962.

"We all know that, in the movement led by Archbishop Lefebvre, fidelity to the old Missal became an external mark of identity; the reasons for the break which arose over this, however, were at a deeper level. Many people who clearly accepted the binding character of the Second Vatican Council, and were faithful to the Pope and the Bishops, nonetheless also desired to recover the form of the sacred liturgy that was dear to them. This occurred above all because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear. I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion. And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church...

I now come to the positive reason which motivated my decision to issue this Motu Proprio updating that of 1988. It is a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church. Looking back over the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have rent the Body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity. One has the impression that omissions on the part of the Church have had their share of blame for the fact that these divisions were able to harden. This glance at the past imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to unable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew. I think of a sentence in the Second Letter to the Corinthians, where Paul writes: "Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return … widen your hearts also!" (2 Cor 6:11-13). Paul was certainly speaking in another context, but his exhortation can and must touch us too, precisely on this subject. Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows."

My Comments: My experience of taking a tour of the SSPX community of believers in Roswell, Georgia on Wednesday,at St. Michael Roman Catholic Church, I realized that I was entering a parish Church that was celebrating the Mass and the Church as she was when I was a child and up until the Second Vatican Council affected my parish's liturgy around 1966. This parish in Roswell, with parishioners who live in the modern world, have chosen a form of worship and an ecclesiology of Church that sustained generations of Catholics since the Church came out of the catacombs with the edict of Constantine.

This is the first time I've been in either a SSPX parish or an FSSP parish ever. It was haunting for me! It was a part of me! There is no denying that to be politically or religiously correct any longer. There is continuity there in that church and in my psyche!

Some of the best Catholics I knew in my childhood were formed in the pre-Vatican II liturgy, catechesis and ecclesiology.

But we were told in the 1960's after Vatican II that all that stuff of our ancestors was rubbish and we had a new and improved way of doing things. We didn't know at the time, nor did we believe at the time, that what we were being told in the 1960's was rubbish. We trusted those teachers as we trusted our teachers prior to the Council to tell us the truth. We didn't realize they had fallen victim to the signs of the times, trendiness and modernism.

50 years later, a parish Church in Roswell, Georgia hangs onto pre-Vatican II traditions of liturgy, ecclesiology and catechesis. They are a tiny mustard seed. Along with the picture of Archbishop Marcel Lefevre, they also have pictures of the Archbishop of Atlanta and Pope Benedict XVI.

I think I'd enjoy pastoring a community like this in my old age and I wouldn't feel like I was ministering to those caught in a time warp of the time when the church was nasty and irrelevant, but rather in a parish desiring to know, love and serve Jesus Christ in this life in order to be happy with Him in heaven at the end of this life, which comes sooner or later for everyone (the end of life, that is, heaven we hope).



Marc said...

I'm coming out of commenting retirement to point you to the letter written by His Excellency Bishop Bernard Felley, Superior General of the SSPX, to the bishops of the SSPX. It is available online (already translated) at this address:

Having been to the SSPX Chapel in Roswell, I can attest to its beauty and the reverence of the community. The SSPX serves a valuable role in the Church - a haven for those who wish to step away from the controversy, error, and innovation that arose in the wake of Vatican II. It is a place where Catholicism can "breath" the fresh air that existed prior to the Council. It is Catholicism as it should be and, God willing, one day will be again. Catholicism that is not afraid to be Catholic. A community of people who recognize that, at least for them, it is important to live the Catholic life as if Vatican II had not occurred. The SSPX answers the question of whether the Church needed Vatican II and the answer is clearly and emphatically "no".

Are the SSPX going to save the Church? Perhaps, but first +Fellay will have to difficult task of preventing an actual schism amongst the bishops of the SSPX themselves. He has a difficult task, but it is a task in which the Holy Ghost is assisting.

Since I'm here, I'll suggest everyone read my continuing thoughts on this and other situations on my blog:

[back to my blog commenting retirement]

Henry said...

"We didn't know at the time, nor did we believe at the time, that what we were being told in the 1960's was rubbish."

Well, not all of us. Having first discovered the Catholic Church as a university student several years before Vatican II, I welcomed vernacular in the Mass as many or most Catholics did, but was mystified then, and still am, by those who swallowed hook, line, and sinker all that "rubbish", who so blithely abandoned their faith, simply because (initially, and largely) their priests and nuns abandoned theirs. Although I recognize now a partial explanation--that the faith of many priests and religious then was more grounded in obedience than was the simpler and more genuine faith of most laity at that time.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The inner healing the pope desires does work both ways. The deformation of the modern liturgy is mostly a result of its poor celebration and iconoclastic theology that accompanied its implementation. I still love the new liturgy celebrated properly and in the vernacular but have a great appreciation for Latin and our Latin heritage which the EF Mass will surely preserve. The way the Mass is celebrated at St. Mary's Church in Greenville, SC is an example to the rest of the Church of the continuity of the two forms of the one Latin Rite but it will take more prodding and direction from Rome for that type of celebration of the OF Mass to take root in most parishes.

Jacob said...

Marc, good point about the latest on the SSPX. It seems like the forces against us are working overtime. I pray the Pope is given strength to end the seperation and not give in to the opponents of Tradition. The pressure at the Vatican and at Econe must be tremendous

rcg said...

You are doing a remarkable thing with your explorations of the OF Mass, Fr M. I think you see now, what I mena when I say the EF is the 'adult's Mass'. Nothing against the OF at all and it is perfectly valid and can obviously be dignified and respectful. I personally like the readings in the vernacular. But when I am ready to really think about the Prayer that is the Mass, the EF speaks to me as an adult.

Templar said...

I love this post. That's all. I'm happy. God Bless you Father.

Carol H. said...

Beautiful post, Father!

I believe that this type of honest reflection of what was and what is in the Church, and your open struggle to reconcile the two for the benefit of our future, is what has so many following your blog from all over the world.

Marc, I'm not sure why you have "retired" from commenting, but it was nice to see your input again.

Joseph Johnson said...

You struck near and dear to my heart when you referred to SSPX parishioners who live in the modern world but prefer the liturgy and ecclesiology of the re-Conciliar era. Although I am also fine with a more traditionalistic "reform of the reform" version of the OF as well, I still would much prefer the Church to present itself in the frank and straighforward way (a la Baltimore Catechism) as it did 50 or more years ago. I also prefer the greater uniformity of this earlier era. Remember the FSSP priest in the video a week or two ago (shown on this blog)referencing the more military-like culture of the Church in the early to mid 20th century, (which showed old black and white footage of cassocked "clean-cut" young priests with their saturno hats).

I have always admired our protestant brethren, the Amish and, to a lesser extent, the Mennonites, for their willingness to separate themselves from the modern world, in which they still must live, as a part of the faith convictions of their Christian tradition.

To a more limited extent, there has always been some of this in Catholicism as well and it appears that we were more willing to be different in the pre-Conciliar era. To me, this willingness to be different, often in outward, external, ways (as well as the more important internal convictions upon which the externals should be based) is part and parcel of Catholic identity.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Thanks Joseph and your comment went to the normal place and not to spam!

William Meyer said...

I must say, I pray for the day when I can make that my parish church!

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Marc needs to hang around. I try to talk to him about it, but he remains very graciously mule-headed...

Anonymous said...

Father, it is a shame that you have not visited St. Francis de Sales in Mableton.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

A part of the Apostolate of the FSSP is to go out to other Churches and instruct/improve the saying of the TLM. Having attended Mass at St. Frances de Sales, I must say that it is flawlessly done and the rubrics are scrupulously followed. Why not have them visit St. Jo's and share some of their ideas and expertise? This is not said by way of criticizing the TLM at St. Jo's, which I love and always attend, however any opportunity to benefit from the expertise of those who are exclusively dedicated to something is well taken.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I have a well-done training video for the EF done by FSSP priests. What I don't like about their style is that it is that the priests movements are way to regimented and robotic for me. I remember the EF Mass in Augusta prior to the Council and our priests were not as robotic as the FSSP priests are. I think one of the areas that the EF Mass would benefit from the OF Mass is a more natural, less robotic preoccupation with scrupulosity in terms of exacting rubrics. I'm not advocating at all, though, an unscrupulous approach to the rubrics that some priests in the OF take to the extreme.

ytc said...

I think the best approach to rubrics is this:

There need to be very strict, controlled, precise rubrics, as in the EF, to preserve and ensure the integrity of the Rite.

But these rubrics need to be carried out in a very graceful--attentive to be sure--but very graceful and careful way. Not robotic, but graceful and careful.

Joseph Johnson said...

Since you've mentioned that part of the apostolate of the FSSP is to go out to other churches and instruct on the saying of the EF, wouldn't it be great if they could be invited to come into our Diocese and offer an EF workshop for our priests? This has been done in other dioceses around this country and in other parts of the world. What better way to "jump start" Summorum Pontificum in our Diocese!

I know an attorney who attends the FSSP parish in Mableton and he has told me that these FSSP priests are willing to come and offer Masses and instruction in the Savannah Diocese, if invited. I also once talked to a priest with the Institute of St. John Cantius (the offer both the EF and the OF, in a "reform of the reform" style). This priest told me that he would be more than willing to come to our Diocese and do something similar.

What do you think, Father?

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Joseph, I think that would be great. I guess a Church could do it without the Bishop's approval, but for a diocesan workshop I suppose it would have to come from him.

Henry said...

The fact that there are now EF Masses on various schedules in 5 East Tennessee parishes dates from the fact that in 2004 the priests at St. Francis de Sales (Mableton) agreed to drive after their Sunday morning Masses there to drove--with their altar boys!--to Chattanooga to offer a monthly 5 pm Sunday TLM. I know of similar stories in other dioceses. The FSSP priest I know are like Johnny Appleseed for the TLM. Of course, the missionary spirit is another thing that goes with the old Mass, and seemingly went out with the new.

Joseph Johnson said...

I also believe a Diocesan-sponsored workshop would require episcopal approval. I'm not sure, though, if a parish simply put on such a workshop and simply invited any priests who were interested to come--maybe it would be better to let the bishop know of the plans and then give him a chance to say "no" if he had a problem with it.

Anyway, as to my motives, I will be completely frank. I make some of the comments that I do knowing full well that you never know who might be reading them (When I'm working as a prosecutor in court, I often make comments just loud enough to be heard in the hope that the person I want to hear it, usually our judge, will pick it up and, hopefully, agree with what I think should happen in a case).

In the case of the TLM workshop, I can't make it happen, but maybe someone who can might take the idea and implement it!

Anonymous said...

I have a question. I live in Roswell, fairly close to the SSPX chapel. My son and I enjoy the Latin Mass and travel the distance to Mabelton when we are able. My question is, may we attend Holy Mass at the SSPX chapel and receive the Eucharist there? It is rather a hardship to drive all the way to St. Francis de Sales. I would prefer to stay closer to home.

Thank you!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Robin, I'm no expert on this, but I looked at Fr. Z's blog on this and he has grave reservations and the following seems rather explicit:
In 1995 the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" wrote:

"The Masses [SSPX priests] celebrate are also valid, but it is considered morally illicit for the faithful to participate in these Masses unless they are physically or morally impeded from participating in a Mass celebrated by a Catholic priest in good standing (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 844.2). The fact of not being able to assist at the celebration of the so-called "Tridentine" Mass is not considered a sufficient motive for attending such Masses."
Your local Archbishop has been ordained to "sanctify, teach and govern/rule" so he would be the last word in his own Archdiocese and I don't know what he has said about St. Michael's in Roswell and Catholics attending there. I'm sure, though, that the FSSP priests in Mableton know what the Archbishop's expectations or laws on this are. I hope this helps.