Comment Opinion & Features

Dear Fr Rutler: Can my bishop discipline me for offering the old Mass?

(CNS)

Dear Father Rutler,

A group of young parishioners has asked me to begin celebrating the Latin Mass once a week, which would be a great pleasure for me. As I understand it, these are the only requirements set forth in Summorum Pontificum. However, some older pastors have suggested that I could be disciplined by my bishop for doing so. Is this not my prerogative? And, if I face some sort of penalty (official or not) for exercising it, what recourse do I have?
Father A, name and address supplied

I think you mean the Extraordinary Form, since the Ordinary Form may also be prayed in Latin. Under the provisions of the Apostolic Letter motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, a parish priest does not need permission of his local Ordinary to offer the Mass in the Extraordinary Form. This was reiterated 10 years later, in 2017, as a response of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. The bishop has the right to decide if the celebrant is “idoneus”, or knows what to do, and if there is a “coetus”, or a stable number of people desiring it.

Your description would seem to satisfy that without need for a petition, unless there were objections. This also requires the cardinal virtue of prudence which is “right reason in action”. An honest desire for the traditional form is different from youthful rebelliousness. Fifty years ago, teenagers enjoyed strumming guitars in the church just to shock the elders. The Extraordinary Form should not now be used to unnerve greying hippies still suffering PTSD from Woodstock.

The Extraordinary Form might be introduced simply, perhaps as a Low Mass, rather than going for baroque. Authentic tradition should be like a comfortable old shoe and not self-conscious – a natural evidence of supernatural grace. There may be an occasional bishop of a recriminatory nature, but the worst he might do would be to lock you in a dark room listening to recordings of “Eagle’s Wings” and “Gather Us In”.

My niece is marrying her girlfriend in a civil ceremony next month, and I don’t feel it would be appropriate for me to attend. But I love my niece, and I don’t want her (or the family) to be angry with me or call me judgmental. What should I do?
Catherine H from El Paso, TX

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). Tough love, as opposed to sentimentality, means helping your niece to avoid turning her life into an automobile accident. It may not seem to like that to your niece at the moment, but reality eventually impinges at the hour of death. To attend that charade of a marriage would be to give the impression that contempt for natural law and divine revelation is less important than a social faux pas. Those who are unwittingly judgmental by calling you judgmental do not know the difference between right and wrong judgment. If madness is the inability to make right judgments, they are morally certifiable.

I feel like I might have a vocation but I don’t know what to exactly – whether it’s a diocesan priest, a friar, or just a religious brother. What does having a vocation feel like?
Andrew P from Los Angeles, CA

A characteristic of the newest generation, is a fear of making decisions. You have a vocation, like everyone, and that is to serve the Lord. If He wants you to do that in Holy Orders, it will become inevitable. If you have to twist yourself into an emotional pretzel about it, remember: a vocation is a fact and not a feeling. Our Lord was peremptory when he commanded the Apostles to drop their nets and, by the standard of our therapeutic culture, that was insensitive.

I’m pregnant with my first child and my best friend is expecting to be named the godmother. However, I just don’t know if she’s the right person for the role. She doesn’t practise her faith regularly and she believes in a whole bunch of problematic ideas – women priests, gay marriage, things like that. What do I do?
Name and address supplied

Her expectation is presumptuous because a godparent (sponsor) promises to help rear a child in the Faith which they themselves profess. Your best friend may be a witness to the baptism but not a godmother since, as you describe her, she “obstinately denies truths which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or obstinately doubts the same” (Canon Law #2089). Even if she is a nice lady, she is a heretic. She could only be a godmother in the fairy sense of changing pumpkins into coaches.

Fr George Rutler is the pastor of St Michael’s Church in New York City. To seek his advice, write to [email protected]