Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Trojan Horse in the Tridentine Mass

Franciscans of the Immaculate
meeting with Pope Francis at
Casa Santa Marta June 10
I have written before on the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, a group originating in the Friars Minor Conventual (OFM Conv.) but becoming an independent Institute of Religious Life of Pontifical Right in 1998 with Father Stefano Manelli as their Superior General. Last year Pope Francis removed Father Manelli as Superior and put the community under the governorship of Capuchin Father Fidenzio Volpi OFM Cap.  It is not an extraordinary gesture for the Holy See to remove a Superior General and appoint a Vicar of the Holy See’s own choosing, but it is exceptional to bring in a superior from outside the congregation itself.  It seems that the fuss is because the Franciscans of the Immaculate—or their leadership—made the decision that henceforth they would celebrate only the pre-conciliar rite known as the TLM or “Traditional Latin Mass” or the “Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.”  But it turns out it is far more complicated and involves the issue of whether or not the friars accept the magisterial authority of the Church as expressed in the Decrees of the Second Vatican Council.
Of course, for a religious community entrusted with parish churches and public shrines to decide that it will no longer celebrate the “ordinary” Rite of the Mass, that is the Novus Ordo, is problematic for any bishop who knows the pastoral needs of his people require the ordinary form as the ordinary every-day rite.  The bishop must provide for those of the faithful who want the “extra-ordinary form” but even more he must provide for the far greater numbers who want Mass in their own language and according to the 1970 Missal.  But it turns out that the problem runs deeper than the rite.
The Holy Father met with a delegation of Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate on June 10.  The meeting was a bit tense on both sides though all remained cordial.  What is interesting though is that after the meeting with the Pope, a considerable number of young friars who were present—novices and those in temporary profession—applied to leave the Order.  One spilled the beans, saying that he left “because he (the young friar) does not accept the Second Vatican Council.”
This is the problem—not with the Franciscans of the Immaculate Conception, the majority of whom I am sure accept the Second Vatican Council, but with many who “hide out” from the Church in the TLM.  The problem is not the rite; it is the Council just as the Council is the sticking point with the quasi-schismatic Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X.  (I say “quasi-schismatic” because though the excommunication against them was lifted, they have still not been restored to the unity of the Church, and this is because they refuse to accept the teachings of the Council.)  We can no more accept in the Church those who reject the authority of the Council than we can accept those who reject the authority of the Pope.  One might disobey a Council (we do every time we kneel in a Sunday Liturgy or during the Easter Season) or one might disobey a Papal teaching (contraceptive Catholics, for example) but disobeying is not the same a rejecting the authority.  As regards the Second Vatican Council, for example, one might personally choose not to have anything to do with non-Catholics, but neither now can one deny the authority of the Church to enter into fraternal dialogue with Protestants or with non-Christians, or criticize a bishop or priest who permits non-Catholic Christians to use a church for their worship, or who participates in non-sacramental worship with them.  That, of course, is only one example but for the majority of those who reject the Second Vatican Councils, the rejection is on matters of Ecumenism or Inter-Religious Dialogue.  
The problem is not only with the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.  I know a parish in the Arlington Diocese which hosts a weekly TLM Mass and which permits parents to “home-school” their children according to the Baltimore Catechism rather than participate in the Religious Education program of the parish.  (The same parish does not have a Catholic School because the pastor does not want to provide an education subject to the diocesan guidelines which would require too many “concessions to modernism.”)  The Baltimore Catechism, a book which provided the basic religious education for many of us, has not been revised to bring it into accord with the teaching of the Church these fifty years since Vatican II and consequently differs from the magisterium on any number of points. 
If the TLM continues to provide an alternative Catholicism, a Catholicism without the Council, it will end up being suppressed.  There is room for a variety of Rites in the Church—we have always had a variety of Rites—but there is no room for rejecting the teachings of an Ecumenical Council.  Ultimately,  unless a conformity of catechesis is maintained across the Roman Rite, Pope Francis or one of his successors will end up suppressing the Rite and the secret schism within the Church will be forced into the open. 

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