Cleansing Fire

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Bishop Clark on the Traditional Latin Mass

March 14th, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

In 1991, Bishop Clark outlined five reasons why he was not inclined to permit the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass in his Diocese. In order, they are as follows:

1) There is a grave concern about offering the Mass according to one ritual while not offering the other sacraments according to that same ritual.

2) I do not see that granting this permission would be a unifying act, but on the contrary I see it as divisive to our Catholic community

3) The necessity of designating a priest (or various priests) to celebrate this Mass only at particular churches at a particular time seems to signal something different or odd about the celebration. it seems that the Holy Father’s permission indicates this should be an exception and not the norm which can cause confusion for the faithful.

4) While at various times I have received request for this Mass, I have never found a large number of people who wish to celebrate it. If there were a large number of people, I would have to question their acceptance of the liturgical changes which have already been authorized.

5) We are still in a period of transition from the Second Vatican Council. People have not yet discovered the richness of the liturgical changes. I fear to grant this permission now would further inhibit the development of the faithful’s experience of this liturgical richness.

Of course, since the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum was released by Pope Benedict in 2007, these excuses are officially irrelevant. However, they betray the one-way street that is Bishop Clark’s liberalism as regards the Holy Mass.

In the first point, Bishop Clark says that he is not comfortable with having Latin Mass without all the other sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, etc.) in the same ritual. There is a simple solution – offer the ritual in its entirety. Many dioceses have parishes dedicated solely to the Extraordinary Form of worship, from Mass to Vespers, from Benediction to Marriage. It would take practically no effort to designate a parish in the Diocese as the “Traditional Latin Mass Parish,” which would be staffed by a priest and run as an individual parish, not a “community” reliant on the generosity of a mother parish. God knows there’s a multitude of abandoned churches in our diocese which would serve as suitable homes for such an endeavor. Again we see in this first point the same flawed logic we see in almost every decision which comes from Buffalo Road. Rather than address a problem head-on and in a proactive way, the Diocese takes the route of least resistance, making no effort to save a damaged limb, and instead, just hacking it off “for the good of the whole.”

The second point Bishop Clark makes is that he thinks the Latin Mass serves as a divider, not a unifier. The only reason this point would have any validity is because of the campaign disobedient bishops took in the years after the Council. They read the documents, not with the intention of understanding them, but with the desire to twist and manipulate them into what they wanted. People who were still inclined towards the older forms of prayer were labeled as reactionaries, as angry conservatives, as superstitious morons, and as Catholics standing in the way of progress. After almost thirty years of this brainwashing, Bishop Clark came out with this argument, that the Latin Mass causes discord. No, the Mass does not cause division and scattering of the flock – inept leadership does that. I can guarantee you that more people are angry with the Bishop over closed schools, closed parishes, forced clusterings, and the like, than over the possibility of attending a Latin Mass. A genuinely pastoral bishop looks at the needs of his flock and meets them. He does not dismiss their needs as being detrimental to unity. Does the Bishop not realize that it isn’t the liturgical preferences of “traditional” Catholics that causes division, but the childish and blasphemous tinkering they see with the Mass in almost every single parish, diocese-wide? Can the bishop honestly think that more people will be offended over ad orientem worship than a flamingly gay liturgical dancer parading around the sanctuary of the cathedral? That’s rubbish, and you can bet that Bishop Clark knows this. Each of these points stands, not as a logical opposition to a minority, but a fearful oppression of a movement bigger than any one man, whether or not he is blessed to wear the miter.

The third point continues the pattern of Bishop Clark’s fear-made-policy. “The necessity of designating a priest (or various priests) to celebrate this Mass only at particular churches at a particular time seems to signal something different or odd about the celebration. it seems that the Holy Father’s permission indicates this should be an exception and not the norm which can cause confusion for the faithful.” Is it really that confusing to Joe Layperson if he is given the choice of going to Mass in English or Latin? God forbid someone in the pew actually be confronted with a choice and ability to think for himself! The Bishop is right, though, that the setting aside of a specific priest, time-slot, and worship space could mark something as unique, different, and odd. Let’s recall the African Mass, the Carribbean Mass, the Rainbow Sash Mass(es), the various LifeTeen Masses around the Diocese, the Lithuanian Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes, the Korean Mass at St. Anne, the Vietnamese Mass at St. Helen, the Spanish Masses at city parishes, the Italian Mass(es), and the Latin Mass. Oh, yeah, that last one really stands out, doesn’t it?

The fourth of Bishop Clark’s theses is “While at various times I have received request for this Mass, I have never found a large number of people who wish to celebrate it. If there were a large number of people, I would have to question their acceptance of the liturgical changes which have already been authorized.” As one of the CF staff members mentioned, this is just ludicrous. The Bishop doesn’t recognize the needs of several hundred Catholics wanting traditional liturgy, but if he does recognize that there are, in fact, hundreds, he would have serious doubts about their being non-schismatics. The whole point here is that people are entitled and encouraged to ask for the Traditional Latin Mass, and they were (and are) entitled and encouraged by none other than the late Pope John Paul II and our current pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI. If a pope allows something, a Catholic who pursues that “something” can in no way be a schismatic or some sort of liturgical reactionary. It’s like saying that if people go to Starbucks and ask for tea instead of coffee, they wouldn’t be served tea until enough people asked for it, and then when enough people asked for it, they’d be ushered out the door because they’re obviously not in-line with the current coffee-drinking regime. Anyone who’s ever gone into Starbucks knows that they serve coffee and tea, and there are no bitter debates between customers as to which is better, which is more stimulating, or which is more edifying. It’s called “mutual enrichment.”

The fifth point is like the other four. “We are still in a period of transition from the Second Vatican Council. People have not yet discovered the richness of the liturgical changes. I fear to grant this permission now would further inhibit the development of the faithful’s experience of this liturgical richness.” Yes, we are in a period of transition. It’s just like the period of transition we saw after Trent, the period of transition after Nicea, after Ephesus, after Constance. Every Council of the Church results in a period of implementation which isn’t sorted out until around 100 years after the close of the particular Council in question. However, we need to realize that the Church does not change quickly. After all, it’s a 2,000 year-old institution, and the only form of governance not to have been changed or toppled since its creation. For 1,500 years, the Mass was in Latin. And then, over the span of less than a decade, we saw changes which completely re-created Catholic liturgical life. Masses were turned around, altars pulled forward, tabernacles put to the side, prayers translated into the vernacular, and so on. That is not organic growth. Nor is it an “experience of liturgical richness” as Bishop Clark calls it. It was a rush to do away with something seen as too archaic to be relevant. Why did it not seem archaic to our ancestors in the 1800’s?

But that’s not the point. Rather, the issue in this fifth point is that Bishop Clark sees the return of the Latin Mass as a step backward, not forward. This mentality is stuck in 1970, whereas the Church has universally kept advancing towards a proper implementation of the Second Vatican Council. Pope Benedict is a champion of this, offering solemn Masses in the Ordinary Form, Masses where reverence is the norm. Bishop Clark’s Masses have innovation as the sole norm, with women in albs replacing priests, with “inclusive language” which includes everyone except God Himself. There is so much one could say about all of this, but in closing, I’ll quote Pope Benedict XVI on the importance of the Traditional Latin Mass. Let’s just compare this with the five reasons Bishop Clark gave for denying the Mass all those years ago.

“In some regions, no small numbers of faithful adhered and continue to adhere with great love and affection to the earlier liturgical forms.”

“The Roman Missal promulgated by St. Pius V and reissued by Bl. John XXIII is to be considered as an extraordinary expression of that same ‘Lex orandi,’ and must be given due honour for its venerable and ancient usage. These two expressions of the Church’s Lex orandi will in no any way lead to a division in the Church’s ‘Lex credendi’ (Law of belief). They are, in fact two usages of the one Roman rite.”

“In parishes, where there is a stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition, the pastor should willingly accept their requests to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962.”

“It is known, in fact, that the Latin liturgy of the Church in its various forms, in each century of the Christian era, has been a spur to the spiritual life of many saints, has reinforced many peoples in the virtue of religion and fecundated their piety.”

That’s what a pastor sounds like.

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9 Responses to “Bishop Clark on the Traditional Latin Mass”

  1. avatar Anonymous says:

    After the bishop’s 5 theses against the Latin Mass, the lay faithful of Rochester sought recourse to the Vatican through the St. Joseph Foundation. The Vatican agreed with the faithful of Rochester, and told Bishop Clark that to assign a priest to offer the Latin Mass in this diocese.

    Our bishop did not permit the Latin Mass out of the kindness of his heart after some miraculous conversion, but rather after feeling pressure from Rome. That’s the only way we have been able to get anything done in this diocese; by going over his head. Think Corpus Christi.

  2. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    credit also goes to the LLA (Latin Liturgy Association) from whence we dug.

  3. avatar Anonymous says:

    So, what’s so great about Latin. It was the language of the conqueror–and once Constantine got involved Roman traditions and language became de riguer as Church. Jesus Himself would not have known Latin, except in its most rudimentary form. Greek would be more appropriate..or Hebrew…or Aramaic.

  4. avatar Matt says:

    Anon,

    1) It’s not really about the language. There’s nothing inherently superior about Latin. We just happen to be members of the Latin Church, which is one “church” in communion with the bishop of Rome (along with 22 Eastern Churches!) The point is that we are not the English Church, and down the street, we don’t have the Spanish Church. We are all members of the Latin Church, praying the Mass in translation (most of the time). Latin Catholics ought to be able to travel to any Latin Catholic Church in the world and understand what is happening. With the rise in the use of the vernacular over the past half-century, this is not the case.

    2) Our Lord also wouldn’t have had Crest Toothpaste at his disposal, so I assume you’ll stop brushing your teeth now? This is not a useful argument.

    3) It’s more about the form of the rite than the particular language. The Extraordinary Form Mass is a fundamentally different liturgy than the Ordinary Form. If you’ve never gone, I suggest you check it out (Tomorrow, 1:30 PM!) Compare the order of Mass to the new order of Mass (Novus Ordo Missae). You will see that they are in many ways quite different. There’s a greater depth to the Tridentine (EF) Mass. Even if it were prayed in the vernacular, it would be quite a bit more dignified.

  5. avatar Anonymous says:

    Never gone? Excuse me, I grew up on the Latin Mass. I was an adult when the Mass started to be celebrated in the vernacular. So…The reasoning seems to be the “rite” rather than the language. I still say that Our Lord ( Crest toothpaste notwithstanding) would hardly recognize the “Latin rite” because it was virtually created centuries after His Resurrection and the early Church’s worship “rite”. The Church has evolved and changed–its rites, rituals,prayers over the last 2000 years. It is just that many Catholics today feel comfortable in their post-Tridentine Church..There were many years BEFORE the council of Trent when the Roman Church was changing and adapting. It is justifiable to fight for the return of the Latin rite only if that rite had been with us from the beginning. In the 4th century the Church truly became the Roman church because of Constantine, his successors and their concept of the Caesaro-Pontiff.The Roman emperors ( until 476)chose the Bishop of Rome and elevated his secular status so that he would be co-leader of the Christian Church. The Roman emperor called all the shots. Latin became the main Church religion ( rather than Greek, which was the evangelists’ written language of choice); churches were built based on the Roman courthouse style,and the papacy took on trappings that were more suited for a king than a servant of the servants of Christ.
    When we talk “traditional” Catholicism, what does that really mean?? The Catholicism of the first 900 years when there was a married priesthood? The Christianity of the first 300 years when adults came to the faith and received their sacraments of initiation on Easter Vigil; when small communities of faith gathered at the homes of their leaders and imitated the Last Supper with songs of praise, prayers, stories and the consecration of the Lord’s Body and Blood? Or maybe traditional Catholicism is the Church of the 19th century when children were not allowed to receive Holy Communion until they were 14years old? What exactly does traditional Catholicism mean? Maybe we need to look at the Apostles and the teachings of Jesus and the practices of the early Church to get a handle on the fact that TRUTH is not dependent on what “rite” we use because throughout the centuries as the “rites” have changed, the “right” has lived on–Jesus is Lord, His Body and Blood is offered in love; the Church is the child of the Apostles and therefore we have a responsibility to carry on and protect the Truth –but “truth” does not lie in ritual ( which indeed can help us in faith) but in the essential acceptance of our role as Christ’s 21st century disciples and the courage it takes to live that message.
    And just in case anyone is wondering…Church history is my academic field, and I am a devout, Church-going, Mass attending Catholic who is very much moved by the beauty of the Mass and its prayers ( whether said in Latin, English or Chinese!)–and I happen to attend and am a very active member of what this diocese might call a “traditional” parish. But I can’t abide the lack of understanding of our own Church’s history by many who write posts on this Blog.

  6. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    anon,
    Matt said, “if you’ve never gone”. He never assumed you’ve never been. Why such offense at that?

    I can’t abide the lack of understanding of our own Church’s history by many who write posts on this Blog.

    if you’re going to make such a claim, could you please provide some examples?

  7. avatar Anonymous says:

    Actually I didn’t take offense. I was simply clarifying. As far as examples..there are plenty. Mixed in with the earnestly inquiring are those who talk about the Church as if it were always frozen in time and that somehow since the 1960’s everything has fallen apart. That is just plain ignorance and lack of objective historical knowledge.
    Given enough time I can cite plenty of examples from various posts. It is interesting to me, Ben Anderson, that the only parts of my post that you commented on both had in them a defensive tone. Why didn’t you comment on the substance of what I wrote?
    It strikes me that there are those who really can’t understand the turmoil that our Mother Church has been through and yet has survived! There are a number of ups and downs and evolutions in our Church–let’s not pretend that it’s been all wonderful. Let’s also realize that our Church has been a living growing community united by the Father, saved by the Son and energized and enlightened by the Holy Spirit. We have nothing to fear from Matthew Clark,Joe Hart, laymen and women, and pedophile priests..The Holy Spirit holds us all in the shadow of His Wings.
    God Bless You

  8. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    It is interesting to me, Ben Anderson, that the only parts of my post that you commented on both had in them a defensive tone.

    ok – let’s drop the “tone” debate.

    Why didn’t you comment on the substance of what I wrote?

    quite honestly, I don’t have time. You’re the one claiming that we’re wrong. The burden of proof is on you. Show us that we’re wrong.

    It strikes me that there are those who really can’t understand the turmoil that our Mother Church has been through and yet has survived!

    not sure what you mean by we “can’t understand”.

    There are a number of ups and downs and evolutions in our Church–let’s not pretend that it’s been all wonderful. Let’s also realize that our Church has been a living growing community united by the Father, saved by the Son and energized and enlightened by the Holy Spirit. We have nothing to fear from Matthew Clark,Joe Hart, laymen and women, and pedophile priests..The Holy Spirit holds us all in the shadow of His Wings.

    sure – I somewhat agree, but the Holy Spirit uses people to do the work. It isn’t all just magic. It has been holy people who have been the instruments of the Holy Spirit over the centuries who have fought to protect the Church. That’s all I strive to be – an instrument of the Holy Spirit (I understand that those who oppose us make the same claim). It certainly doesn’t make sense to just sit back and relax and let God work everything out.

  9. avatar Anonymous says:

    The Holy Spirit protects us–it doesn’t mean we “sit back and relax”, but rather that we continue the work of salvation.But there is a fine line between doing God’s Work and doing God’s Job.


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