22 July 2021
St. Lawrence of Brindisi
I want to thank you for asking consultation from both priests and seminarians after the latest Motu Proprio from Pope Francis. I found it disturbing, cruel, and unnecessary. Let me explain.
My first real encounter with the Traditional Latin Mass was when I was studying liturgy at the Liturgical Institute at Mundelein Seminary. A class was offered on its theology and included a practicum. Learning the theology of the Mass and celebrating it often, even daily, changed my priesthood for the better. In time, being lonely at school and desiring to have a regular parish to carry out pastoral duties, especially on the weekends, the parish that welcomed me was a parish that offered both forms of the Roman Rite. Every other week I was afforded the privilege of offering a Missa Cantata. On the other weeks I offered the ordinary form. I also heard literally hundreds of confessions each weekend. It was the single most blessed opportunity while in Chicago. It made me understand the Mass more fully, and no doubt prepared me for the sacrifice I am now making in my suffering from ALS.
Then, comes this bombshell out of the blue, which seems to negate the experience I had and what I learned. It has caused me deep sorrow. To think, if this Motu Proprio is to be taken at face value, I will have to have my funeral, which I desire to be a Solemn Pontifical High Mass in the Extraordinary Form in a gym or other non-parish setting. I’m sorry, your Excellency, but that is cruel to me and my family, and all at the hand of someone who I am supposed to call Holy Father. No, he has shown himself something less than that. Fathers ought not give his son a snake when he asks for a fish.
The supposed excuse for this all, is unity. My time at Mundelein taught me that never did I find disunity there among the standing room only flock that filled the Church every Sunday. What I found was unity in the perennial teachings of the Church. I found unity in the reception of the Sacraments regularly and with devotion. I found unity in devotion. And I found unity in fraternity among parishioners. It is, bishop, your vision for this diocese in miniature. Would that this parish would spread like wildfire! Instead, in so many parishes we see disunity all around. Catholics not believing in the Eucharist, confusion about divorce and remarriage, and the elephant in the White House, should or should not Joe Biden receive Holy Communion? Let me assure you, there is no such lack of unity of faith or confusion in the parish I helped in Volo, IL.
I also can’t help but think of our seminarians, who themselves have come to love the richness of the Traditional Latin Mass, or the newly ordained who were confident that this Mass would be part of their lives? And now to have it so suddenly taken away. Will we lose them to orders whose charism it is to offer the Holy Mass according to the older rites? I think this is not out of the realm of possibility.
So, as you have gathered, I beg of you, on my knees, to not implement this Motu Proprio in our diocese, or to do so as liberally as you can. Do not alienate good faithful people, in our diocese, including priests and seminarians.
I would encourage you as part of your discernment to visit our Latin Mass community to see if you find there what Pope Francis expects you will find. Also study The Traditional Latin Mass yourself, and maybe even offer it. I think you will find there what I found, namely, rich prayers, healthy reverence, and unity among believers.
I also recommend that your discernment include canon 87§1. A diocesan bishop, whenever he judges that it contributes to their spiritual good, is able to dispense the faithful from universal and particular disciplinary laws issued for his territory or his subjects by the supreme authority of the Church. He is not able to dispense, however, from procedural or penal laws nor from those whose dispensation is specially reserved to the Apostolic See or some other authority. At least one bishop had already used this canon, because of the spiritual good of his diocese, dispensed his diocese from this Motu Proprio, so there is precedence in the United States for at least considering this.
This canon gives you a way to see the spiritual good of the flock entrusted to your care is able to go on as normal, as under Summorum Pontificum, by dispensing all laity, priests, deacons, and seminarians from this novel Motu Proprio from Pope Francis. Not to put undue pressure on you, but this canon gives you the ability to do something that will draw seminarians and priest who no longer feel welcome in their own diocese or religious order so you can better see your vision for the diocese fulfilled! What an opportunity to see many St. John Vianney’s who himself was daily nourished by the Traditional Latin Mass, the Roman Breviary, and The Roman Ritual.
If you would like to discuss this further, or if you have follow up questions, please let me know.
Praying for you as you discern, as well as for Pope Francis, that he would in mercy rescind this cruel document,
I remain yours in the Hearts of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
Fr. Dana Ambrose Christensen, Obl. OSB