Opinion: Pope's message is clear, says Potsdam, Colton pastor
To the Editor:
I write in response to Mr. Kevin Beary’s July 19, 2021, letter concerning the recent apostolic letter of Pope Francis, Traditionis Custodes, concerning the celebration of the “Traditional Latin Mass” (also known as the “extraordinary form” of the Mass).Mr. Beary stated: “There is nothing unclear or open to interpretation in this document.” I would sincerely and respectfully beg to differ. The Pope’s paternal concern for the “concord and unity of the Church” comes through quite clearly, as well as his insistence that the diocesan bishop is the “moderator, promoter, and guardian of the whole liturgical life of the particular Church entrusted to him” (art. 2). But having been trained as both a theologian and a canon lawyer, I would say that the text is anything but clear when it comes to the theological, canonical, and liturgical particulars that the Pope foresees as flowing from these principles.
This is one of the reasons why, in a statement released July 20, 2021, Bishop Terry LaValley of the Diocese of Ogdensburg announced: “Given that the norms were promulgated only a few days ago, it will take some time to study them, examine our local situation and seek counsel from within the Diocese of Ogdensburg, from other bishops, as well as from the Roman Congregation responsible for the document’s implementation. In the meantime, I am happy to grant the necessary faculties so that those priests who are already celebrating the rites of the Extraordinary Form (according to the 1962 Roman Missal) may continue to do so in those locations where they are currently celebrated.”
Similar statements, reflecting great pastoral prudence, have been issued by many Catholic bishops around the world. These bishops have taken such action in full conformity with the law of the Catholic Church, which lays down that, “whenever he judges that it contributes to their spiritual welfare, the diocesan bishop can dispense the faithful from disciplinary laws, both universal and particular laws…for his territory or his subjects” (Code of Canon Law, c. 87, §1). The norms of Traditionis Custodes are, in fact, such disciplinary law.
All of this is to say that the Mass offered each Sunday at St. Mary’s Church in Potsdam in Latin and according to the rites in use before the Second Vatican Council is completely “legal” and in no way an act of disobedience toward Pope Francis.
Other than as he himself has stated, I will not presume to know and judge the Pope’s motives in promulgating his new norms. I do, however, want my motives as the regular celebrant of these Masses, as well as the motives of the congregants who devoutly participate in them, to be perfectly clear: we remain faithful to our treasured Catholic faith, the spiritual riches of Holy Mass, the laws of the Church, and the authority of Pope Francis—for whose ministry we fervently pray.
Rev. Joseph W. Giroux
Pastor, St. Mary’s Church in Potsdam
& St. Patrick’s Church in Colton