Diocese clarifies policy on pre-Vatican II Mass


CHARLESTON — The Diocese of Charleston has clarified its policy concerning permission to celebrate the Mass of the Roman Missal of 1962. The information was released in a memorandum to priests and parish life facilitators on Jan. 10 through the Office of Prayer and Worship.

The existing policy was such that Catholics could make a request of the bishop for the celebration of the pre-Vatican II Mass which was approved by Pope John Paul II on July 2, 1998, with provisions.

According to the memorandum those provisions state that permission for the celebration of the “Tridentine” Mass cannot be interpreted as working contrary to the ongoing renewal of the Sacred Liturgy that was the result of the Second Vatican Council.

The celebrations of the traditional Latin Mass are to be harmoniously scheduled in relation to the schedule for the regular Novus Ordo Masses in parishes. Such celebrations will take place on a trial basis for a period of several months. After which, evaluations will be made concerning the efficacy and nature of these celebrations as well as the response of the laity.

The document also states that those who request celebrations of the Mass of the Roman Missal of 1962 must be clear in professing their adherence to the Magisterium of the Church and their desire for ecclesial unity.

Bishop Robert J. Baker also requires that any requests come to his office through the pastor of a parish, after the pastor has reviewed the requests carefully according to the concerns addressed in the Diocesan Norms of Dec. 5, 1994. The pastor must determine that the individual or group making the petition does not deny the doctrinal integrity of the Roman Missal of Pope Paul VI.

Since his ordination in 1999, Bishop Baker has received countless inquiries concerning the “Tridentine” Mass. He recently granted permission to Msgr. Lawrence B. McInerny, pastor of Stella Maris Church on Sullivan’s Island, who celebrated the Mass Saturday, Jan. 13. The bishop is also considering a request for the Mass in the Piedmont area.

As stated in his letter that accompanied the memo to the priests and parish facilitators, Bishop Baker can give permission under the specified conditions as a special pastoral outreach to “those who, for legitimate reasons, request opportunities for participation in exceptional liturgies celebrated according to the Roman Missal of 1962.”

In the letter, however, he called upon Catholics in South Carolina to join him “in enthusiastically supporting the blessed way that is the mystery of our salvation as celebrated in the liturgy of Vatican II.”

According to the memorandum, written by Father Steven L. Brovey, director of the Office of Prayer and Worship and pastor of Prince of Peace Church in Taylors, the permission will be granted “in an effort to maintain the unity of the church and recognizing the diverse cultural influences within the church.”

The memorandum also states that there must be concern not only for the potential of schism, but for actual schism. If diocesan permission for celebration of the traditional Latin Mass is denied, such permission can be granted directly by the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei.” For the sake of unity within a diocese, it is preferred that the local bishop not only be aware of such celebrations, but also have some degree of control regarding their scheduling and the priests who are leading the celebrations.

It is hoped, according to the document, that the pastoral decision to grant permission for the restricted celebration of Masses according to the provisions of the typical edition of the Roman Missal of 1962 under diocesan auspices will foster the authentic spirituality of the individual or group making the petition, lead to a fuller understanding of and appreciation for the continuing work of liturgical renewal, avert the danger of schism, and help foster the reconciliation of those already outside the visible union of the church.