Implementing the MP

I remember when Bishop Kenneth Angell took over as bishop of Burlington, Vermont. One of his first acts was to declare that churches had to stop using girls as altar servers, until the Vatican ruled on the matter. Some people got upset with the bishop, but one priest friend of mine, who had just returned from a sabbatical in Rome, was more pacific.

“Well, you know,” he said, “the Romans think we Americans are just too legalistic, always jumping at every pronouncement from Rome or a bishop. The Roman approach is quite different. ‘Ah, the bishop has a new decree that some people seem to think might affect us. Let’s appoint a committee to study it to make sure we understand it right. That committee can then present its study and its recommendations to the pastoral council (church board). Then the council can study the matter and ascertain what recommendations they would make to me, the pastor. Then I will need to study it, consult with folks in the chancery, and decide on how best to implement what we understand to be the bishop’s desire.'”

And so now diocesan bishops and bureaucracies are starting to think about what the motu proprio will really mean for the local church.

Bishop Tod Brown of the Diocese of Orange has written a letter to his priests which begins, “I urge all pastors to join me in a common pastoral approach.” A key requirement will be

The availability of a priest, in good standing, who can demonstrate a minimum rubrical and linguistic ability to celebrate the extraordinary form.

He defines what it means for a group to “exist stably” in the parish (and what it means for them to be in the parish). He says, further,

it remains for the Bishop of the Local Church in his role as moderator of the liturgy in his own diocese, to insure peace and serenity in the implementation of the universal norms of the Church regarding the worthy celebration of the liturgy as well as to intervene to prevent abuses from arising with regard to liturgical celebrations in his diocese.

Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany needs to study to see how to implement it.

He said he would consult with various groups in the diocese to “assess how best to implement this new instruction in keeping with the intent of the document to bring about unity in the church.”

Bishop Donald W. Trautman of Erie, another one who will be studying,

said he would be issuing “diocesan norms to help apply and order the specifics of the pope’s letter” and would ask priests who want to celebrate the Tridentine Mass to take “a rubrical and Latin exam” before doing so.

“Further, there will be need to ascertain that the common good of the parish prevails and to ascertain what constitutes a stable community of those requesting the 1962 missal,” he added in a statement.

Some Bishops are less inclined to study and more inclined to celebrate:

… Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz “occasionally celebrates” the Tridentine Mass himself and planned to do so July 16 at the Carmel Convent Chapel near Agnew, Neb.

Bishop Salvatore R. Matano of Burlington, Vt., said he would celebrate the Tridentine Mass Aug. 15 at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral to mark the feast of the Assumption and to ask “that all we do to celebrate her son’s presence among us will bring glory to his name and harmony and peace among his people.”

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.