Saturday, 15 May 2010

Orkney - Little Splinters from the Cross

''On Friday the news broke - courtesy of Damian Thompson of The Telegraph - that the Bishop of Aberdeen, the Right Reverend Peter Moran had blocked Una Voce Scotland's plans for a Solemn High Mass in St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall. St Magnus Cathedral dates back to 1137! For readers abroad: St Magnus Cathedral is one of those beautiful pre-Reformation Churches up and down Scotland, which are now in the care of the (presbyterian) Church of Scotland.

Father Z soon picked up the story too, as did even 'Anglo-Catholic' bloggers! Having known about this setback for a while, and conscious that stories often grow arms and legs, I worried that the truth might not necessarily 'out', but rather be confused by what people think the truth is.

Let's sum up the facts:

Una Voce Scotland, as a group dedicated to preserving the Gregorian Chant and the traditional form of the Roman rite, often arranges for Masses in pre-Reformation sites - they must be pre-Reformation, because that means they were once consecrated Churches of Catholic worship;
In this instance, and indeed as in others, Una Voce Scotland approached the venue to see if there was indeed any possibility at all. Those who sneer that we ought to go to the local Ordinary first should remember that it's harder to go without any details at all;
Having secured the agreement in principle that it may be possible to celebrate Holy Mass at St Magnus Cathedral, Bishop Moran was then contacted.

Now, there's plenty precedent for this method, as Father Z notes: there was a fine Solemn TLM in the Cathedral of Winchester which had the permission of the Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth. And even, happy reports closer to home, e.g. 'Historic Homecoming for Knights of Malta' and 'Sing Out in Praise at Abbey Mass in Stirling' (both Scottish Catholic Observer).

What happens next is confusing, and can divert attention from the real issues: Una Voce Scotland had suggested - to make things easier - that the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer provide Priests, rather than the Bishop having to find Priests. However, he didn't like this one, writing "they have as yet only limited faculties to celebrate Mass in this diocese". Fair enough, though he could have granted them specific faculties for this particular Mass. His Lordship then continues, "like all priests of the Church they are at liberty to celebrate the forma extraordinaria privately without specific permission, and to have some people with them when they do, but for public celebration the local bishop’s permission is needed". Now, this is where confusion can set in:

the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum provides that a Priest does not need any special faculty to celebrate the traditional form of the rite;
however, the Bishop is still correct in a manner of speaking. Why? Because he has ordinary jurisdiction - it's his Diocese. More importantly so, because it's not in a Catholic Church (CIC Canon 933).

So, the letter of the law does not allow the Bishop to forbid the old rite, but he cannot forbid the Mass entirely, especially due to the venue not being a Catholic Church nowadays - it requires his express permission. But this is where the Bishop might wish to set an example by taking a leaf out of Cardinal O'Brien's book: the Cardinal has been gracious and open to Una Voce Scotland, allowing them to make pilgrimage and celebrate Holy Mass in pre-Reformation sites.

Christian Campbell reminds us: "Whenever and wherever the Christian faithful ask for the older form of the Mass, every reasonable accommodation should be made. Even where congregations do not think to petition for the older use, the Holy Father suggests that pastors should introduce their people to its treasures." So why does Bishop Moran use the choice of celebrant, and a legal technicality, to summarily dash the hopes of those in his diocese attached to the old rite? Truly sad. And as to saying to the reporter, "I've no knowledge at all of what you're talking about. I'll make inquiries and get back to you" - curious? My Lord, you really ought not to sign things without looking!

The upshot? The upshot is that whilst Damian suggests complaining to the CDW, and Father Z corrects him - stating its PCED, i.e. CDF - there's no use complaining because the Bishop has exercised his ordinary jurisdiction in a matter of his competence. Also, this was private correspondence between the Ordinary and a member of Una Voce Scotland, already eight months old. Why didn't Damian contact him?

Whilst people grouse in comment boxes saying 'this is an outrage!', it's what many have had to put up with for forty years. The situation is changing slowly, and for the better. But setbacks do happen: each year Historic Scotland refuses us permission to finish the St Margaret Pilgrimage with a Mass in Dunfermline Abbey - do we beef about that? As a friend once said to me: "little trials, little pains, little splinters from the Cross". Grin and bear it - it's just a pity Moran couldn't be more gracious about this all! But let's not blow this out of all proportion!''

I was asked if I could publish this piece. Unfortunately, this is what we often have to suffer to have the Old Rite offered, so let us keep praying for a return to the traditional expression of our Catholic Faith.

On a side note, I have wondered if we could get enough people to take back these beautiful churches, maybe smoke them out with incense....

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