Traditional Mass

Friday, April 30, 2010


Catherine of Siena (1347-80), the daughter of an Italian tradesman, made a vow of virginity, and thereafter endured patiently the reproaches of her disappointed parents. When she was 15, she joined the lay Third Order of St. Dominic, and became one of the Church's greatest mystics and apostles of charity. Inspired by the Holy Ghost, Catherine persuaded Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome from residence in Avignon and strove zealously to prevent a threatening schism within the Church. As she lay dying, at the age of 33, she recommended particularly to her grieving disciples the striving after Christlike charity. Her mystical Dialogues are widely read and quoted today.

Mass of a
VIRGIN, except

Almighty God, we celebrate today the birthday of Your blessed virgin Catherine. May her feast fill us with joy and may we profit by the example of her great faith. Through Our Lord . . .

O Lord, let this saving victim that we offer on the feast of blessed Catherine come before You with our prayers, breathing the fragrance of spotless purity. Through Our Lord . . .

O Lord, confer eternal life on us through the Food we have eaten at Your heavenly banquet, from which the blessed virgin Catherine drew support even for her earthly life. Through Our Lord . . .
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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Peter of Verona (san Pedro Martyr). {{mk|Св.
The Martyrdom of Saint Peter of Verona by Bellini (1509 A.D.)


Peter of Verona (1205-52) entered the Dominican Order and, after his ordination to the priesthood, converted multitudes of heretics in Lombardy. To the fame of his eloquence was soon added his reputation as a wonder-worker. Pope Gregory IX appointed him Inquisitor of the Faith for the greater part of northern Italy. One day as Peter was returning to Milan, two of the heretics waylaid the saint, struck his head with an axe, and then stabbed him to death. He died writing the Creed on the ground in his own blood.

O Almighty God, may we pay honor to the faith of Your blessed martyr Peter with fitting devotion, for this saint was found worthy of the triumph of martyrdom in spreading the faith. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ . . .

EPISTLE II Tim. 2:8-10; 3:10-12
Dearly beloved: Be mindful that the Lord Jesus Christ is risen again from the dead, of the seed of David, according to my gospel: Wherein I labour even unto bands, as an evildoer. But the word of God is not bound. Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, with heavenly glory. But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, patience, Persecutions, afflictions: such as came upon me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra: what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord delivered me. And all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

O Lord, look with kindness on the prayers we offer You through the intercession of Your blessed martyr Peter. Keep the defenders of the faith under Your continual protection. Through our Lord . . .

May the Sacrament that we have received safeguard the faithful, O Lord. Protect them against the attacks of their enemies through the intercession of Your blessed martyr Peter. Through our Lord . . .

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Another version of the passionist emblem



The central fact of the long life of Paul of the Cross (1694-1775) was his ardent sharing in the sufferings of the passion of Our Lord. Born in Piedmont of holy parents, Paul began at the age of 15 to engage in severe penitential practices. In 1720, inspired by a vision, he conceived the idea of a new religious order. Surmounting difficulties that would have finally discouraged a less humble and dedicated man, he established the Congregation of the Passion. The fame of the Passionists' missions and of their ascetical spirit soon spread far beyond the frontiers of Italy.

INTROIT Gal. 2:19-20
With Christ I am nailed to the cross. It is now no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me. I liver in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me, alleluia, alleluia!
Ps. 40:2. Blessed is he who has regard for the lowly and the poor; in the day of misfortune the Lord will deliver him.
V. Glory be . . .

O Lord Jesus Christ, You endowed blessed Paul with a special love to preach the mystery of Your cross and raised up a new community in the Church through him. May his intercession make us always mindful of Your passion so that we may share in its reward in heaven; who lives and rules with God the Father . . .

Commemoration of SAINT VITALIS
At Ravenna during the third century, under Marcus Aurelius, Vitalis was tortured for having confessed Christ, and then was buried alive.

O Almighty God, grant that we who celebrate the birthday of Your blessed martyr Vitalis may be made stronger in our love of You through his intercession. Through Our Lord . . .

EPISTLE I Cor. 1:17-25
Brethren: Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not in wisdom of speech, lest the cross of Christ should be made void. For the word of the cross, to them indeed that perish, is foolishness: but to them that are saved, that is, to us, it is the power of God. For it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise: and the prudence of the prudent I will reject. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For, seeing that in the wisdom of God, the world, by wisdom, knew not God, it pleased God, by the foolishness of our preaching, to save them that believe. For both the Jews require signs: and the Greeks seek after wisdom. But we preach Christ crucified: unto the Jews indeed a stumblingblock, and unto the Gentiles foolishness: But unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men: and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Alleluia, alleluia! V. II Cor. 5:15; Rom. 8:17
Christ died for all, in order that they who are alive may live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Alleluia!
V. But if we are sons, we are heirs also: heirs indeed of God and joint heirs with Christ, provided, however, we suffer with Him that we may also be glorified with Him. Alleluia!

GOSPEL Luke 10:1-9
At that time, the Lord appointed also other seventy-two. And he sent them two and two before his face into every city and place whither he himself was to come. And he said to them: "The harvest indeed is great, but the labourers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that he send labourers into his harvest. Go: Behold I send you as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say: Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon him: but if not, it shall return to you. And in the same house, remain, eating and drinking such things as they have: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Remove not from house to house. And into what city soever you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. And heal the sick that are therein and say to them: 'The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.' "

Walk in love, as Christ also loved us and delivered Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God to ascend in fragrant odor, alleluia!

O Lord, may the mysteries of Your passion and death stir up in us the same divine ardor that inspired blessed Paul to offer with the holy sacrifice of the mass his own body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to You; who lives and rules with God the Father . . .

Commemoration of SAINT VITALIS
Accept our offerings and prayers, O Lord. Cleanse us by this heavenly rite, and in Your mercy hear our petitions. Through Our Lord . . .

Rejoice, in so far as you are partakers of the sufferings of Christ, that you may also rejoice with exultation in the revelation of His glory, alleluia!

O Lord, we have received Your Sacrament which is a perpetual reminder of Your boundless love. May the merits and example of blessed Paul help us to draw from Your fountains the water that springs upward to eternal life. May they also engrave the memory of Your sacred passion on our hearts, so that it will show itself in the conduct of our lives; who lives and rules with God the Father . . .

Commemoration of SAINT VITALIS
O Lord our God, may we who now joyfully commemorate Your saints on earth rejoice one day with them in heaven. Through Our Lord . . .

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

‘Why celebrate the Mass in Latin?’

Archdiocese of Washington publishes essay on the subject on occasion of return of Tridentine Latin Mass to Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

(Editor’s Note: The following are excerpts from an essay by Msgr. Charles Pope published on the website of the Archdiocese of Washington on the same day a Latin Mass in the extraordinary rite was offered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The basilica, the largest Catholic church in America, “was filled to standing room only with nearly 4,000 people on Saturday afternoon for the first ‘old Latin Mass’ in the church in 40 years,” reported Robert Moynihan of Inside the Vatican. “The Mass was to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the day Pope Benedict XVI was installed as Pope.”)
Today beginning at 12:30 pm here in Washington at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, a Solemn High Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form will be celebrated in the Great Upper Church. For those unfamiliar with all the Church jargon of the previous sentence let me decode. The “extraordinary Form” of the Mass is the form of the Mass as it was celebrated prior to 1965 when Liturgical changes brought about the Mass as we have it today. Prior to these changes the Mass was celebrated exclusively in Latin with only the homily (and sometimes the readings) in English or whatever the local language was. The celebrant also faced in the same direction as the people which some have wrongfully described as the priest “having his back to the people.” To say this is a “Solemn High” Mass means that all the ceremonial options are observed. There is incense, extra candle bearers, and many of the prayers and readings of the liturgy are sung. The celebrant is also assisted by a deacon and subdeacon. To say this is a pontifical Mass means that it will be celebrated by a bishop and will include two extra deacons and an assisting priest. Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa is today’s celebrant.

For those who are unfamiliar or unappreciative with the splendor of the Latin Liturgy in this form some questions often arise.

1. Why pray in Latin or any language unfamiliar to the language of the people who attend?

Simply put, praying in Latin is to pray in what has been a sacred language for the Church. It is a common feature of cultures down through human history that they often prayed in a language other than the language of the home and streets. To pray liturgically is to enter heaven, a world apart from the every day world. To use another and more ancient language is a common way many cultures have underscored this.

At the time of Jesus, the synagogue services and the Temple liturgy used ancient Hebrew. Jesus and his contemporaries did not speak Hebrew at home or in the streets any longer. They spoke Aramaic. But when they prayed they instinctively used the ancient prayers which were Hebrew.

In the early Church it appears that the earliest years saw the use of the Greek language for the Liturgy. It seems to have been used even though many people spoke Latin throughout the empire. But many did not think Latin was suited for the Liturgy which required a more elevated language than what most people spoke. By the 5th Century however Latin came to be introduced in the Western Empire as it became an older and more venerable language to them.

Eventually Latin wholly replaced Greek in the liturgy of the Church in the Western empire (except a few remnants such as the Kyrie). It remained the language of worship until about 1965 when the local languages were allowed. However, it was not the intent of the Church that Latin should wholly disappear as it has largely done. Latin remains for the Church the official language of her worship.

So, why pray in Latin? Why not? It is for us a sacred language of worship and there is an instinct in human culture that liturgy is world apart where we enter heaven. It is not wrong to pray in the local language but, truth be told, it is not the usual practice in human history…

To read the rest of Msgr. Pope’s essay, 
Click Here.


Confessor and Doctor of the Church

Peter Canisius (1521-97) was drawn to the Society of Jesus by the preaching of Bl. Peter Faber, the first disciple of St. Ignatius. Peter Canisius realized that in the Germany where Luther had recently been preaching heresy, many Catholics had no clear knowledge of their religion. He wrote a catechism that was of incomparable value to the heroic missioners of the Catholic Counter Reformation. He was a pioneer of the Catholic press, and founder of many Catholic colleges in Germany, Austria, and Bohemia. According to the Catechism of Petrus Canisius, 'the veneration of the Virgin Mary, is the best way to Jesus Christ and His Church.'

Mass of a

O God, You made the blessed confessor Peter a bulwark of virtue and learning in the defense of the Catholic Faith. May his example and teaching lead the erring back to the path of salvation and strengthen the faithful in bearing witness to the truth. Through Our Lord . . .
O Lord, let the blessed confessor and doctor Peter always help us, and through his intercession accept our offering and pardon our sins. Through our Lord . . .

O Lord, may this sacrifice bring us closer to our salvation through the intercession of your blessed confessor and illustrious doctor Peter. Through our Lord . . .

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mass in the Basilica

The Mass at the Shrine
The largest Catholic church in America was filled to standing room only with nearly 4,000 people on Saturday afternoon for the first "old Latin Mass" in the church in 40 years. The Mass was to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the day Pope Benedict XVI was installed as Pope
By Robert Moynihan, reporting from America

Special Initial Note: I will speak at Georgetown University this Wednesday, April 28, 2010. All are invited.  For more information, see:

Benedict Honored
WASHINGTON, DC, April 25, 2020 -- Embattled Pope Benedict XVI, who turned 83 ten days ago on April 16, was honored in the United States on April 24, the 5th anniversary of his election in 2005 at the age of 78, by thousands of American Catholics who attended a Mass commemorating his installation.
(Photo, Mass in the packed Basilica at the moment of the homily. Bishop Slattery is seated to the left at the base of the column, and near him in red is seated Cardinal William Baum. There was standing-room only in the Basilica for this extraordinary Saturday afternoon Mass.)
The Mass was also the first celebration of the "old Latin liturgy" in the nation's largest Catholic church in 40 years, since the reform of the liturgy by Paul VI in 1970, and the large crowd in attendance is striking evidence that, despite the passage of four decades, there remains a considerable reservoir of devotion to the old form of the Mass among Catholics in America.
Despite some controversy associated with the choice of the celebrant, between 3,000 and 4,000 people filled the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC on Saturday afternoon for this double purpose: (1) to commemorate the installation of Pope Benedict XVI as Pope five years ago, and (2) to celebrate the return, after a 40-year absence, of the "old Mass" to this shrine dedicated to the Mother of God.
The pews in the basilica was completely filled, and there were several hundred people standing in the aisles. One of the basilica ushers told me that "though officially we seat 3,500, actually the capacity is  2,800 to 3,000." With the number of people standing, he added, it would not be exaggerated to say there were "more than 3,000" present in the basilica.
Paul King, a leading Washington business executive who also heads the Paulus Institute, a group dedicated to the renewal of the traditional liturgy of the Church, was the chief organizer of the Mass. He told me he thought the number of people who were standing, as well as considerable squishing together in the pews, meant that the number present must have approached 4,000.
(Photo, Paul King with his brother after the Mass. For more on King, see:
In the absence of an official count, it seems fair to say that there were between 3,000 and 4,000 people  at the Mass.
The Controversy Before the Mass
The Mass, a High Pontifical Mass sung in Latin and accompanied by an organ and choir, was offered by His Excellency Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
But Slattery was not the first choice as celebrant.
"We are pleased and honored to have His Excellency, Edward Slattery, come to Washington to celebrate what will be a historic event and a major step toward the restoration of sacred tradition," Paulus Institute President King, wrote in a mid-April press release. "The richness of our Catholic tradition will be visible to all the world on Pope Benedict's fifth anniversary."

But Slattery was a last-minute replacement for the originally scheduled celebrant, the Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, 81 (photo), famous for standing up at the risk of his own life to drug trafficker Pablo Escobar, the greatest Colombian drug lord, whose Medellín cartel once controlled 80% of the cocaine shipped illegally into the United States.
So Castrillon is regarded as a man with courage, who will not back down when faced with a challenge.
But Castrillon became too controversial for this event.
Several weeks ago, a letter he wrote almost 10 years ago concerning a case of priestly pedophilia in France was made public. In his letter, Castrillon praised a French bishop for not telling police about a French priest who had sexually assaulted children.
In mid-April, advocates for sexual abuse victims voiced outrage that Castrillon was planning to come to Washington to celebrate the Mass.
The "Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests" (SNAP) sent letters to Pope Benedict XVI and to Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl, calling on them to condemn Castrillon's remarks and to replace him in the Mass.
The Pope did not intervene. He didn't have to.
Instead, there was a dramatic conference phone call between Paul King and another organizer of the Mass and Castrillon in which the decision was made not to have Castrillon be the celebrant.
"A lot of things have been written about how the decision was taken," King said. "Some say I asked him not to come, others, that he took the decision not to come. But it was not as clear-cut as that. During a 40-minute-long phone conversation, a deep and profound conversation filled with much sorrow and pain, it became clear what the decision had to be. It was decided that, in order to maintain the solemnity, reverence and beauty of the Mass, we needed to have another celebrant."
A Homily about Obedience and Suffering
Bishop Slattery (photo) gave a thoughtful, moving homily which focused on how our sufferings in this world can be made meaningful, and so bearable, if we unite them with the sufferings of Christ.

(Here is an audio version of the homily; simply click on the icon to play the audio:
A Passing Phase?
It is right that the controversy over the celebrant, Cardinal Castrillon vs. Bishop Slattery, did not "up-stage" what was happening at this Mass.
For, in addition to the sacred mystery of the Mass itself (which was the most important thing of all, of course), something else was occurring on April 24 in Washington of considerable importance -- of importance for the future of the Church, and so also of importance for the future of the West.
That "something" is this: the interest in this Mass -- which was televised nationwide by EWTN (photo) -- reveals that, in the West, in the United States, and precisely in Washington DC, the capital of the US, despite a generation or more of "post-Christian" cultural pressure, there remains a desire, a hunger, to be connected with the Christian past, and to hand on to posterity what was handed down over the centuries, often in the face of much suffering.
In short, the celebration of this Mass, after 40 years, and in the midst of an admittedly profound crisis in the Church, suggests that American Catholics, like their counterparts in Europe and around the world, may yet turn to the riches and treasures of their tradition to find a way forward.
And this will not be pure archaism.
It will not reflect a flight from present reality.
Nor will it be a rejection tout court of everything that came with the Second Vatican Council.
Rather, it will be an attempt to pick up the threads of our past, and see if they may still be woven into the fabric of our present, in order to create the tapestry of our future.
It is our future that it looks toward -- not just our past.
Having just been in Rome, having been present three weeks ago at the papal liturgies during Holy Week, having talked recently with a number of Vatican officials about liturgical matters, and about the Second Vatican Council and its legacy, for me this liturgy reflected what Pope Benedict is trying ceaselessly to teach: that the Catholic tradition has not been lost, that it remains to be discovered, and lived.

How this will all work out, of course, is yet to be seen.
At least one Vatican official I talked to recently told me he believes the future of the Church's liturgical life will be a type of fusion between the old Mass and the new Mass of Paul VI.
This is the view of many.
But at least one Vatican official I talked to, also in the past month, told me he believes the future is solely and exclusively in a return to the old rite.
"The old rite is our past, and it will be our future," he told me. "The new Mass is a passing phase. In 50 years, that will be entirely clear."
"Lex orandi, lex credendi"

In this context, we must recall the words "
lex orandi, lex credendi."
That is, literally, "the law of praying is the law of believing."
To put it less literally: the way one prays, the way the Church prays, shapes and determines and establishes what a person, what the Church, believes.
Praying "becomes" believing.
And this is the fundamental reason that liturgy matters.
Some readers may feel the liturgy is a superficial matter, that time spent discussing or arguing or debating about the liturgy is wasted time, time that could be better spent in study, or prayer, or works of mercy and charity.
But the liturgy is not a superficial matter.
It is a fundamental matter.
It is fundamental because it determines and establishes the faith itself: lex orandi, lex credendi.
And this means that, for those who wish to change faith, or alter it, or destroy it, changing the liturgy is the first, essential step.
Likewise, for those who wish to keep the faith, and hand it on, and preserve it, preserving the liturgy is the first and fundamental aim of all their efforts.
Pope Benedict has written: "The Church stands and falls with the Liturgy. When the adoration of the divine Trinity declines, when the faith no longer appears in its fullness in the Liturgy of the Church, when man's words, his thoughts, his intentions are suffocating him, then faith will have lost the place where it is expressed and where it dwells. For that reason, the true celebration of the Sacred Liturgy is the center of any renewal of the Church whatsoever." 
And so Pope Benedict has been a Pope of liturgical reform, or of liturgical preservation, because he believes that only through the liturgy, through the prayer of the Church, can the Church's faith, that depositum fidei which was entrusted to him, be protected and handed on to his successor.
Lex orandi, lex credendi. In the Early Church there were about 70 years of liturgical tradition before there was any creed -- any formulated statement of what the Church believed -- and about 350 years before there was an accepted biblical canon.
The Church's prayer, her liturgy, provided the basis for establishing the other bases of the faith, the creeds and the canon.

Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "When the Church celebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles -- whence the ancient saying: lex orandi, lex credendi."
Now, this is not to say that the new rite of the Roman Mass, promulgated by Paul VI after the Council, does not draw on very early Christian traditions and prayers.
Nor is it to say that there was no need for some type of liturgical reform in the middle of the last century.
In fact, there can always be a certain need for liturgical reform, especially when social and cultural conditions external to the Church (like, for example, the loss of knowledge of the Latin language), make it necessary to change the form or praying in order to preserve the very essence of that prayer.
And this is what the Council Fathers were calling for in the 1960s when they asked for wider use of the vernacular language in the Latin liturgy -- the mystery of the liturgy does not need to be mystification, incomprehensible and impenetrable. (The liturgy can be comprehensible. It can be in English, or in Japanese, or in Swahili...)
And this is why, again, the Council Fathers called for greater "active participation" by the faithful in the liturgical action -- because they wished the faithful to be drawn more deeply the mystery of the Eucharistic sacrifice, not to be excluded from it.

And so the liturgy is of central importance to Benedict, and to the Vatican, today.
He and his inner circle see the liturgy as critical to the future of Roman Catholicism. But not only to Roman Catholicism. There is another reason for Benedict's focus on the liturgy.

The Orthodox Connection

It is well known that the Orthodox, in a profound way, share Benedict's conviction that the liturgy is fundamental for faith, and so also for practice of the faith.
For example, Eastern Orthodoxy's Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople quoted the phrase "lex orandi, lex credendi" in Latin on the occasion of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Istanbul in 2006, drawing from the phrase the lesson that, "in liturgy, we are reminded of the need to reach unity in faith as well as in prayer."
I believe that Pope Benedict's approval, a few months after that November 2006 visit, on July 7, 2007, of wider use of the old Latin Mass in the Latin rite, was intended to help prepare the reunion of the two great divided branches of Christianity, Catholicism and Orthodoxy.
The path toward this reunion must pass, in some essential way, through the liturgy.
Through a shared liturgy.
The liturgies of the two Churches must express the same faith if the Churches are ever to be once again in unity -- something Christ willed for his disciples in his prayer on the final night with them before his crucifixion.


Popes and Martyrs

[In some places]

Cletus was third in the succession of popes after Peter. He died a martyr about A.D. 91, during the reign of Emperor Domitian. Like Pope Cletus, Pope Marcellinus was a Roman. He was Vicar of Christ from 296 to 304, and acquired great glory during the stormy persecution of Diocletian, who ordered his beheading.

Mass of a

O Eternal Shepherd, who appointed blessed Cletus shepherd of the whole Church, let the prayers of this martyr and supreme pontiff move You to look with favor upon Your flock and keep it under Your continual protection. Through Our Lord . . .

O God, you have founded Your Church firmly upon the rock of Your apostles and defended her against the fearful powers of hell. May the intercession of the blessed martyr and supreme pontiff Marcellinus preserve her always unwavering in Your truth and keep her safe under Your protection. 

The devotion of Our Lady of Good Counsel originated at Gennazzano in Italy A.D. 1467. A picture of Our Lady originally at Scutari in Albania, was miraculously transferred to the Augustinian church, then in course of construction. This Church, in which is enshrined the miraculous picture, became a place of popular pilgrimage.

O God, who didst give us the Mother of Thy beloved Son for our Mother, and wert pleased by a wondrous apparition to glorify a beauteous picture of her, grant, we beseech Thee, that ever hearkening to her counsels, we may be enabled to live according to Thy Heart, and happily to reach our home in heaven. Through our Lord . . .

We have offered our gifts to You, O Lord. Let Your light graciously shine upon Your Church, so that this flock may everywhere prosper, and its pastors, under Your guidance, may be truly pleasing to You.

O Lord, graciously accept the gifts which we joyfully offer to You. May Your Church, through the prayers of blessed Marcellinus, always live in peace and rejoice in the security of her faith. 

Sanctify, O Lord, the Sacrifice we bring; and by the most salutary intercession of Blessed Mary Mother of God, Mother of Good Counsel, grant that it may avail us unto salvation. Through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth . . .
O Lord, govern the Church, which You have been pleased to nourish with Your heavenly Food. Guide her by Your powerful direction so that she may enjoy greater freedom and remain unshaken in the fullness of faith.
O Lord, increase the spirit of grace which You have bestowed upon Your Church. Let the prayers pf Your Martyr and supreme Pontiff aid her so that she may never fail in obedience to her Shepherd, and the Shepherd may never be wanting in His care of the flock. 

O Lord, may the venerable intercession of Thy glorious Mother, Mary ever Virgin, be our hope. May she who has showered upon us continual benefits ever make us see what it behoveth us to do, and strengthen us to fulfill the same: Who livest and reignest . . .


Sunday, April 25, 2010

"The Traditional Mass in D.C.--the bishop's homily"

Matt C. Abbott column
The Traditional Mass in D.C. - -the bishop's homily

Matt C. Abbott
Matt C. Abbott
April 25, 2010

The following is the text of Tulsa Bishop Edward James Slattery's homily delivered on April 24 during the Traditional Latin Solemn High Pontifical Mass at the National Shrine in Washington D.C. Bishop Slattery replaced the scandal-tainted Cardinal Castrillün Hoyos as the celebrant for the Mass, which was sponsored by the Paulus Institute. Many thanks to Monsignor Patrick Brankin, director of communications for the Diocese of Tulsa, for providing me with the text of the bishop's homily.

Solemn Pontifical Mass
Basilica of the Immaculate Conception
Washington, D.C.

Celebrating the fifth anniversary
of the ascension of Benedict XVI to the throne of Peter
- ad multos annos! -

We have much to discuss — you and I ... much to speak of on this glorious occasion when we gather together in the glare of the world's scrutiny to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the ascension of Joseph Ratzinger to the throne of Peter.

We must come to understand how it is that suffering can reveal the mercy of God and make manifest among us the consoling presence of Jesus Christ, crucified and now risen from the dead.

We must speak of this mystery today, first of all because it is one of the great mysteries of revelation, spoken of in the New Testament and attested to by every saint in the Church's long history, by the martyrs with their blood, by the confessors with their constancy, by the virgins with their purity and by the lay faithful of Christ's body by their resolute courage under fire.

But we must also speak clearly of this mystery because of the enormous suffering which is all around us and which does so much to determine the culture of our modern age.

From the enormous suffering of His Holiness these past months to the suffering of the Church's most recent martyrs in India and Africa, welling up from the suffering of the poor and the dispossessed and the undocumented, and gathering tears from the victims of abuse and neglect, from women who have been deceived into believing that abortion was a simple medical procedure and thus have lost part of their soul to the greed of the abortionist, and now flowing with the heartache of those who suffer from cancer, diabetes, AIDS, or the emotional diseases of our age, it is the sufferings of our people that defines the culture of our modern secular age.

This enormous suffering which can take on so many varied physical, mental, and emotional forms will reduce us to fear and trembling — if we do not remember that Christ, our Pasch, has been raised from the dead. Our pain and anguish could dehumanize us, for it has the power to close us in upon ourselves such that we would live always in chaos and confusion — if we do not remember that Christ, our hope, has been raised for our sakes. Jesus is our Pasch, our hope and our light.

He makes himself most present in the suffering of his people and this is the mystery of which we must speak today, for when we speak of His saving presence and proclaim His infinite love in the midst of our suffering, when we seek His light and refuse to surrender to the darkness, we receive that light which is the life of men; that light which, as Saint John reminds us in the prologue to his Gospel, can never be overcome by the darkness, no matter how thick, no matter how choking.

Our suffering is thus transformed by His presence. It no longer has the power to alienate or isolate us. Neither can it dehumanize us nor destroy us. Suffering, however long and terrible it may be, has only the power to reveal Christ among us, and He is the mercy and the forgiveness of God.

The mystery then, of which we speak, is the light that shines in the darkness, Christ Our Lord, Who reveals Himself most wondrously to those who suffer so that suffering and death can do nothing more than bring us to the mercy of the Father.

But the point which we must clarify is that Christ reveals Himself to those who suffer in Christ, to those who humbly accept their pain as a personal sharing in His Passion and who are thus obedient to Christ's command that we take up our cross and follow Him. Suffering by itself is simply the promise that death will claim these mortal bodies of ours, but suffering in Christ is the promise that we will be raised with Christ, when our mortality will be remade in his immortality and all that in our lives which is broken because it is perishable and finite will be made imperishable and incorrupt.

This is the meaning of Peter's claim that he is a witness to the sufferings of Christ and thus one who has a share in the glory yet to be revealed. Once Peter grasped the overwhelming truth of this mystery, his life was changed. The world held nothing for Peter. For him, there was only Christ.

This is, as you know, quite a dramatic shift for the man who three times denied Our Lord, the man to whom Jesus said, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

Christ's declaration to Peter that he would be the rock, the impregnable foundation, the mountain of Zion upon which the new Jerusalem would be constructed, follows in Matthew's Gospel Saint Peter's dramatic profession of faith, when the Lord asks the Twelve, "Who do people say that I am?" and Peter, impulsive as always, responds "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God."

Only later — much later — would Peter come to understand the full implication of this first Profession of Faith. Peter would still have to learn that to follow Christ, to truly be His disciple, one must let go of everything which the world considers valuable and necessary, and become powerless. This is the mystery which confounds independent Peter. It is the mystery which still confounds us: To follow Christ, one must surrender everything and become obedient with the obedience of Christ, for no one gains access to the Kingdom of the Father, unless he enter through the humility and the obedience of Jesus.

Peter had no idea that eventually he would find himself fully accepting this obedience, joyfully accepting his share in the Passion and Death of Christ. But Peter loved Our Lord and love was the way by which Peter learned how to obey. "Lord, you know that I love thee," Peter affirms three times with tears; and three times Christ commands him to tend to the flock that gathers at the foot of Calvary — and that is where we are now.

Peter knew that Jesus was the true Shepherd, the one Master and the only teacher; the rest of us are learners and the lesson we must learn is obedience, obedience unto death. Nothing less than this, for only when we are willing to be obedient with the very obedience of Christ will we come to recognize Christ's presence among us.

Obedience is thus the heart of the life of the disciple and the key to suffering in Christ and with Christ. This obedience, is must be said, is quite different from obedience the way it is spoken of and dismissed in the world.

For those in the world, obedience is a burden and an imposition. It is the way by which the powerful force the powerless to do obeisance. Simply juridical and always external, obedience is the bending that breaks, but a breaking which is still less painful than the punishment meted out for disobedience. Thus for those in the world obedience is a punishment which must be avoided; but for Christians, obedience is always personal, because it is centered on Christ. It is a surrender to Jesus Whom we love.

For those whose lives are centered in Christ, obedience is that movement which the heart makes when it leaps in joy having once discovered the truth. Let us consider, then, that Christ has given us both the image of his obedience and the action by which we are made obedient.

The image of Christ's obedience is His Sacred Heart. That Heart, exposed and wounded must give us pause, for man's heart it generally hidden and secret. In the silence of his own heart, each of us discovers the truth of who we are, the truth of why we are silent when we should speak, or bothersome and quarrelsome when we should be silent. In our hidden recesses of the heart, we come to know the impulses behind our deeds and the reasons why we act so often as cowards and fools.

But while man's heart is generally silent and secret, the Heart of the God-Man is fully visible and accessible. It too reveals the motives behind our Lord's self-surrender. It was obedience to the Father's will that mankind be reconciled and our many sins forgiven us. "Son though he was," the Apostle reminds us, "Jesus learned obedience through what He suffered." Obedient unto death, death on a cross, Jesus asks his Father to forgive us that God might reveal the full depth of his mercy and love. "Father, forgive them," he prayed, "for they know not what they do."

Christ's Sacred Heart is the image of the obedience which Christ showed by his sacrificial love on Calvary. The Sacrifice of Calvary is also for us the means by which we are made obedient and this is a point which you must never forget: At Mass, we offer ourselves to the Father in union with Christ, who offers Himself in perfect obedience to the Father. We make this offering in obedience to Christ who commanded us to "Do this in memory of me" and our obediential offering is perfected in the love with which the Father receives the gift of His Son.

Do not be surprised then that here at Mass, our bloodless offering of the bloody sacrifice of Calvary is a triple act of obedience. First, Christ is obedient to the Father, and offers Himself as a sacrifice of reconciliation. Secondly, we are obedient to Christ and offer ourselves to the Father with Jesus the Son; and thirdly, in sharing Christ's obedience to the Father, we are made obedient to a new order of reality, in which love is supreme and life reigns eternal, in which suffering and death have been defeated by becoming for us the means by which Christ's final victory, his future coming, is made manifest and real today.

Suffering then, yours, mine, the pontiffs, is at the heart of personal holiness, because it is our sharing in the obedience of Jesus which reveals his glory. It is the means by which we are made witnesses of his suffering and sharers in the glory to come.

Do not be dismayed that there many in the Church have not yet grasped this point, and fewer still in the world will even consider it. You know this to be true and ten men who whisper the truth speak louder than a hundred million who lie.

If then someone asks of what we spoke today, tell them we spoke of the truth. If someone asks why it is you came to this Mass, say that it was so that you could be obedient with Christ. If someone asks about the homily, tell them it was about a mystery and if someone asks what I said of the present situation, tell them only that we must — all of us — become saints.

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic columnist with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication, Media and Theatre from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, and an Associate in Applied Science degree in Business Management from Triton College in River Grove, Ill. He has worked in the right-to-life movement and is a published writer focused on Catholic and social issues. He can be reached at




In the year 47, the young John Mark aided St. Paul and St. Barnabas (Mark's cousin) in the evangelization of the island of Cyprus. Later Mark became the beloved companion and secretary of Pope Peter in Rome. He set down in writing Peter's sermons about the sayings and the public ministry of Jesus, and so composed the second Gospel of the New Testament. Its terse, picturesque language must have been very close to the words of the former fisherman of Galilee. The writings of both St. Peter and St. Paul show that John Mark evangelized many districts of Asia Minor. Tradition claims also that St. Mark was founder of the Church of Alexandria and won the glory of martyrdom in that Egyptian city.

INTROIT Ps. 63:3
You have protected me, O God, from the throng of the evildoers, alleluia! from the multitude of malefactors, alleluia, alleluia!
Ps. 63:2. Hear, O God, my prayer of supplication; deliver me from the fear of the enemy.
V. Glory be . . .

O God, Your grace raised up the blessed evangelist Mark to preach the Gospel. May we always profit by his teaching and find refuge in his intercession. through Our Lord . . .

Commemoration of the MASS OF ROGATION
In our difficulties, O Almighty God, we rely upon Your loving mercy. Let Your protection shield us from all harm.

Commemoration of the THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EASTER
Show us the light of Your truth, O God, which guides the sinner back to the path of justice. Let those who profess to be Christians avoid whatever will endanger their faith, and follow those things which will help it. Through Our Lord . . .
LESSON Ezech. 1:10-14
And as for the likeness of their faces: there was the face of a man, and the face of a lion on the right side of all the four: and the face of an ox, on the left side of all the four: and the face of an eagle over all the four. And their faces, and their wings were stretched upward: two wings of every one were joined, and two covered their bodies: And every one of them went straight forward: whither the impulse of the spirit was to go, thither they went: and they turned not when they went. And as for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like that of burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps. This was the vision running to and fro in the midst of the living creatures, a bright fire, and lightning going forth from the fire. And the living creatures ran and returned like flashes of lightning.

Alleluia, alleluia! V. Ps. 88:6; 20:4
The heavens proclaim Your wonders, O Lord, and Your truth in the assembly of the saints. Alleluia!
V. You have placed on his head, O Lord, a crown of precious stones. Alleluia!

GOSPEL Luke 10:1-9
At that time, the Lord appointed also other seventy-two. And he sent them two and two before his face into every city and place whither he himself was to come. And he said to them: "The harvest indeed is great, but the labourers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that he send labourers into his harvest. Go: Behold I send you as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say: Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon him: but if not, it shall return to you. And in the same house, remain, eating and drinking such things as they have: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Remove not from house to house. And into what city soever you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. And heal the sick that are therein and say to them: 'The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.' "

The heavens proclaim Your wonders, O Lord, and Your truth in the assembly of the saints, alleluia, alleluia!

O Lord, we offer You these gifts on the feast of Your blessed evangelist Mark. May the intercession of this illustrious preacher make us pleasing to You in word and deed. Through our Lord . . .

Commemoration of the MASS OF ROGATION
O Lord, may these offerings free us from the bondage of sin and win for us the gift of Your mercy.

Commemoration of the THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EASTER
 May this sacred rite help us to overcome our earthly desires, O Lord, and teach us to love the things of heaven. Through Our Lord . . .
The just man rejoices in the Lord and trusts in Him; and all the upright of heart glory in Him, alleluia, alleluia!

O Lord, may Your holy Sacrament always protect and shield us from all adversity through the prayers of Your blessed evangelist Mark. Through Our Lord . . .

Commemoration of the MASS OF ROGATION
Mercifully grant us our requests, O Lord, that the consolation we receive in our grievous troubles may increase our love for You.

Commemoration of the THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EASTER
O Lord, may the Sacrament which we have received strengthen us in spirit and comfort us in body. Through Our Lord . . .

Saturday, April 24, 2010

(For the Religious of the Good Shepherd)

Fidelis (1577-1622), a native of southern Germany, became a lawyer of such noble integrity that he was known as "The Advocate of the Poor." In the year 1612 he entered the Capuchin Order and was sent as a missioner to Switzerland. He had marked success in persuading Protestant Swiss to return to the Catholic Church. Eventually Father Fidelis was waylaid by a band of ruffians. One of them felled the priest with a violent blow, and as he struggled to his knees, another of the murderers stabbed the martyr. He died after uttering the prayer, "Lord, forgive my enemies!"

Mass of a 
O God, You set the heart of Fidelis on fire with a seraphic love, and granted him both the triumph of martyrdom and the gift of miracles in preaching the true faith. May his merits and prayers make us strong in faith and love, so that by Your grace we may be faithful in Your service until death. Through Our Lord . . .

By her enlightened zeal, Sister Mary Euphrasia Pelletier (1796-1868) developed the French Institute of the Religious of the Good Shepherd into a world-wide congregation. She was accused by her adversaries of ambition and disobedience; but her innovations were approved by Pope Gregory XVI, as being entirely in harmony with the spirit of the Gospel. During the 33 years that she served as mother general of her congregation, ecclesiastical authorities in every part of the world requested the soul-saving aid of her Sisters.

O God, by Your gift the blessed virgin Mary Euphrasia followed in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd. May we imitate her example on earth to gain the rewards of heaven promised to those who are merciful. Through our Lord . . .

Accept our offerings and prayers, O Lord. Cleanse us by this heavenly rite, and in Your mercy hear our petitions. Through our Lord . . .

We offer You this spotless host, O Lord, in honor of the virgin Mary Euphrasia. For the glory of Your holy Name may we be fired with zeal to save souls through her intercession. Through our Lord . . .

O Lord our God, may we who now joyfully commemorate Your Saints on earth rejoice one day with them in heaven. Through our Lord . . .

We are refreshed by Your divine Gift, O Lord. May the intercession of the blessed virgin Mary Euphrasia bring Your abundant blessing upon the sheep of Your fold. Through our Lord . . .

Friday, April 23, 2010

INSIDE THE VATICAN Letter #15, 2010 -- Introibo ad altare Dei

The Old Mass Returns
For the first time in 40 years, the old Latin Mass will be celebrated in the largest Catholic Church in America, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Time: 1 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, April 24, commemorating the 5th anniversary of the installation in 2005 of Pope Benedict XVI as Pope
By Robert Moynihan, reporting from America

The old Mass
In a way, I find the use of the term "extraordinary form" to describe the "old Mass" a bit unfortunate.
Because, after all, it was so ordinary, that old Mass -- ordinary in the sense that it was celebrated every day, every weekday and every Sunday, for centuries, in the Roman Catholic Church.
Ordinary in that it was the Mass of Newman, and Chesterton, and Pius X, and John XXIII, and of all those millions who came before us.
Why should the celebration of that old Mass, the Tridentine Mass, be considered something unusual, something astonishing, something arousing wonder, as if it were "extraordinary."
Why not just call it "ordinary?
For really, it is just the old, ordinary Mass, which our fathers and mothers attended -- the place and time where they asked forgiveness for their sins, and praised God for His holiness, and encountered Christ in the consecration, and entered into a type of real union with Christ through the mystery of communion.

But today we are astonished that the extraordinary rite of the Mass is celebrated, because it has become so rare.
For 40 years, it has been virtually banned, and only in 2007, with his much-discussed -- and  much-opposed -- motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, did Benedict XVI make clear to the Church that this Mass was truly, in some profound way, ordinary, even if he called it "extraordinary."
Ordinary, because legitimate.
Not banned, not despised, not condemned. Accepted, embraced, even honored.
Hence... extraordinary.
And, in fact, he was right: it is extraordinary.
It is extraordinary because it is rooted so deep in our tradition that it goes back even beyond Jesus, to speak to us in the moving, unforgettable poetry of King David of Israel...
Extraordinary because it goes back even beyond Scripture, beyond the New Testament itself, as its prayers derive ultimately from the prayers of the first Christians, who prayed them even before the New Testament canon was set with certainty...
Extraordinary because it was the school of sanctity for countless saints, century after century, in every nation of the world...
"Introibo ad altare Dei" -- "I will go up to the altar of God" (the first words of the Mass)
Tomorrow, this Mass, ordinary and extraordinary, will return to the largest basilica in America, the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
It would be a shame if the Basilica were not filled for this Eucharist. If you are in the area of Washington, and can take the time out of your day to attend the Mass, it might be a moment when past and future intersect, when old prayers are heard once again as if new.
It might be, in fact, something extraordinary.
Triumphant Celebration
Note: The following article appeared in the April edition of our magazine, which was a special 100-page collector's edition commemorating the 5th anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II and the 5th anniversary of the election of Pope Benedict XVI. The issue was praised two days ago in the Osservatore Romano, the Pope's own newspaper. (We urge anyone who would like to have a copy of this special issue to order one by calling our toll-free number, 1-800-789-9494, or by going to our web site:
Triumphant Celebration of the Catholic Faith
By George "Pat" Morse
Many felt in 2005 that, after long and noble service to the Church over his many years in the Vatican, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger would spend his remaining years as Sovereign Pontiff in the role of somewhat of a caretaker of the achievements of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, not choosing to take on all of the many interests and facets of crushing problems, even crises, brewing and existing throughout the Catholic world.

No way. Not for Pope Benedict XVI. Virtually from Day One, his agenda began to unfold and it was a powerful, courageous, no pussy-footing and little negotiating away of his obligations. Off to America soon after assuming the Chair of St. Peter and, while I was critical of what I considered his failure to lay into the bishops for lack of leadership against our deadly moral decline, his visit was a success for his agenda. He was not just the new Pope — he was clearly the leader of the world-wide Catholic Church, and he would lead. And he has.

Most notably was his courageous success with the failed effort of his predecessor to grant to every priest the right and privilege of celebration of the "Old Mass." In one fell swoop, the issue was settled with his dramatic issuance in 2007 of his Apostolic Letter, Summorum Ponti­fi­cum, granting to every priest the right to celebrate the historic Latin Mass without the necessity of approval by his bishop. Instantly, while not achieving expressions of delight, the overt opposition has been largely diminished and the increasing response by the priests and the people is proving the correctness of the action by His Holiness.

Also important is the impetus being generated by His Holiness to carry forward his oft-referred to "reform of the reform." The "New Mass" is being brought back into greater conformity and the "Protestant-satisfying" features are eliminated. Sacred music and the more generous restoration of appropriate use of Latin, will create a more beautiful Novus Ordo Mass pleasing to those devoted to that service.  

In an era of crisis for the Universal Catholic Church, Benedict XVI has al­ready proved himself and there is no reason to believe that he will not continue to lead with wisdom and courage. He is a gift of God in a time of great peril. Thanks be to God!

And that brings us to the subject of this reflection: the "Magnificent Gift" being brought to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception by the exceptional effort of the Paulus Institute under the leadership of its president, Paul King, and his Board of Directors.

On April 24 this year (a date perhaps divinely inspired because it is Benedict's  anniversary date as Supreme Pontiff), His Eminence Dario Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, President of the Ecclesia Dei Commission under Pope John Paul II and until recently under Pope Benedict, will be the celebrant of this Pontifical High Mass at the National Shrine, a superb selection because His Eminence devoted himself for years to the shared desire of the Popes for the return of the Traditional Mass to its proper role in the salvation of souls and the glory of God. [See below for a report on why Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos will not celebrate this Mass, but will be replaced by His Excellency Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa, Oklahoma.]

To describe further the magnificence and sacredness of this Mass and all its triumphant beauty and holiness, as it is offered to Almighty God, would only fail in comparison to what those who attend will experience. Wherever you are, if you can possibly attend, you will always be grateful for this invitation. Your faith will be inspired and strengthened and His Eminence will be pleased to meet and greet you. And, if you want to let us know you are coming, we will put you on a list that we will see he receives, probably for greeting after the Mass at the reception.

Now, to a very important acknowledgement:

This entire effort, over a period of several years, was the inspiration of the President of the Paulus Institute, Paul King, its president. Paul and his Board worked tirelessly to return this magnificent Pontifical Mass to the National Shrine after a lapse of almost half a century and they have done it with a splendor that will, I am certain, make His Holiness delighted and proud because he will, as will his Ambassador in the United States, the Apostolic Nuncio, be aware of this great celebration of faith. Paul is to be especially commended for the care which has been taken to obtain the cooperation of Church leaders, especially His Excellency, Archbishop Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, whose warmth and assistance is most gratefully received.

The Paulus Institute is also grateful for the warm and eager cooperation of the many organizations, the various Papal and other Catholic Orders of Knighthood, the bishops and clergy, the Latin Mass parishes in Washington and Baltimore and, as well, those Catholics who, thankfully, will be attending the "Old Mass" for the first time in years, or ever. It will be an exciting and spiritually invigorating experience.
And, thus, we express our gratitude to Paul and his colleagues and welcome the opportunity to learn more about the Paulus Institute as we share the great religious experience of the Pontifical High Mass. For our readers unable to attend, we shall report to you in the near future.

The Announcement of the New Celebrant

Tulsa Bishop Edward Slattery to Celebrate Latin Mass at National Basilica in D.C. Saturday

The Paulus Institute today is pleased to announce His Excellency Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa, Oklahoma, has agreed to celebrate the first traditional Latin Solemn High Pontifical Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in nearly 50 years. The Mass will take place this Saturday, April 24, at 1 p.m.

The Paulus Institute was formed for the propagation of sacred liturgy. The traditional Latin Mass planned for April 24th honoring Pope Benedict on his five-year inauguration anniversary is a historic liturgical event and all Catholics are invited to attend; no tickets are needed.

"We are pleased and honored to have His Excellency, Edward Slattery, come to Washington to celebrate what will be a historic event and a major step toward the restoration of sacred tradition," said Institute President Paul King. "The richness of our Catholic tradition will be visible to all the world on Pope Benedict's fifth anniversary."

In consultation with originally scheduled celebrant, Dario Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, the Institute yesterday agreed to seek another prelate in order to maintain the solemnity, reverence and beauty of the Mass.

The Latin Mass will feature several choirs singing sacred choral music and Gregorian chant, and will be aided by numerous priests from the region. It will be aired live on EWTN beginning at 12:30 p.m.

The Castrillon Controversy

Note: Here is a fairly comprehensive piece giving background regarding the decision not to have Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos celebrate the Mass. The piece is written by one of the leading Vaticanists today, John Allen, who writes for the National Catholic Reporter. The article is archived here:
Cardinal Castrillón must feel trapped

by John L Allen Jr on Apr. 23, 2010

Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos must feel trapped in a "Twilight Zone" episode, in which, in a flash, the whole course of his life has turned out differently. Now 80, not long ago Castrillón was a consummate Roman powerbroker, a man admired for the nerves of steel that once allowed him to stand up to drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. Novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez at one point hailed his fellow Colombian as "this rustic man, with the profile of an eagle."

Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos
For most of the last two decades, Castrillón, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy from 1996 to 2006, was widely considered a serious contender to become the first Latin American pope.
Today, even if he weren't almost 81, Castrillón would have about as much chance of becoming pope as Sinead O'Connor. As the then-president of a Vatican commission that deals with traditionalist Catholics, he took the blame for the Holocaust-denying bishop fiasco in January 2009. Now Castrillón has achieved global infamy in light of a September 2001 letter he dispatched to a French bishop congratulating him for refusing to report an abuser priest to the police.
Though the letter was actually published on the Internet in 2001, it languished in relative obscurity until a French Catholic publication brought it back to life a couple of weeks ago. Given the current media climate, it immediately became a cause célèbre. Outrage has made Castrillón such a lightning rod that he was forced to back out of a Mass tomorrow at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., over what organizers described as concerns for "tranquility and good order."
By way of background, Castrillón's letter was addressed to Bishop Pierre Pican of Bayeux-Lisieux, France, sentenced by a French court to three months in prison in 2001, though that term was suspended, for failing to denounce Fr. René Bissey, convicted in October 2000 for sexual abuse of eleven minor boys between 1989 and 1996.
"I rejoice to have a colleague in the episcopate that, in the eyes of history and all the other bishops of the world, preferred prison rather than denouncing one of his sons and priests," Castrillón wrote.

A stampede for distance
Over the last two weeks, the rush among church leaders to distance themselves from Castrillón has turned into a mini-stampede.
First up was the Vatican itself. In a rare case of "rapid response," the official Vatican spokesperson, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, had a statement out to reporters almost immediately after stories broke in France.
The letter, Lombardi's statement said, offers "another confirmation of how timely was the unification of the treatment of cases of sexual abuse of minors on the part of members of the clergy under the competence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."
In effect, that was a polite way of saying that Castrillón was part of the problem against which then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, had to struggle in streamlining Vatican procedures for dealing with sex abuse cases.
After Castrillón's appearance in Washington became a bone of controversy, Archbishop Donald Wuerl likewise put space between himself and the Colombian cardinal. Through a spokesperson, Wuerl let it be known that he would not attend Saturday's Mass due to a scheduling conflict. There was no statement of support for Castrillón, no complaint about unfair media coverage.
Wuerl's spokesperson also said that as a cardinal, Castrillón enjoys "universal faculties" -- an indirect way of saying that he didn't need, or ask, Wuerl's permission to show up.
Yesterday, Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the U.S. bishops' conference, posted a blog item bluntly saying that Castrillón's 2001 letter illustrates a "disconnect" between the American bishops and one Vatican congregation [presumably, she meant the Congregation for Clergy], as well as possibly inside the Vatican itself. Walsh went on to argue that there is no "wiggle room" in the American sex abuse norms when it comes to cooperation with civil authorities, and that counts for a lot more than a "buck-up letter" from Castrillón to a French bishop.
Needless to say, public talk of a "disconnect" between the American bishops and Rome, or inside the Vatican, is not the usual fare from an official spokesperson for the U.S. bishops.
Bottom line: At least as far as the Vatican and the American bishops are concerned, Castrillón is on his own.

A broader climate
On April 16, Castrillón spoke at a conference on the legacy of John Paul II at a Catholic university in Murcia, Spain, in which he asserted that he had shown his 2001 letter to the late pope who authorized him to send it. Far from being a previously secret "smoking gun," Castrillón said that he had posted the letter at the time on the Web site of the Congregation for Clergy.
According to media accounts, Castrillón draw warm applause from the audience, which included a couple of senior Vatican cardinals.
Given how far and fast many Catholic leaders are running away from Castrillón, it's tempting to conclude that he's a sort of rogue cardinal speaking only for himself. In truth, there's an element in his letter that does reflect a broader climate of opinion at senior levels in the church, even if there's also widespread embarrassment over how Castrillón expressed it.
In a nutshell, there is still considerable ambivalence about the idea of bishops turning their own priests over to the police.
For one thing, Castrillón asserted in Spain that he was congratulating Pican for defending the seal of the confessional. That's a bit murky, given that Pican has given somewhat conflicting accounts of how he learned of Bissey's crimes, especially how direct the connection was to the sacrament. (Under French law, confessional secrets are protected under a category of "professional secrets," though the law makes an exception for crimes committed against children.)
If the issue is truly whether bishops should be willing to go to jail rather than betray the seal of the confessional, then Castrillón would hardly be alone in suggesting that the answer is "yes."
Yet the 2001 letter seems to make a broader argument, which is that putting bishops in the position of reporting priests disrupts the family bond a bishop is supposed to have with his clergy. Traditional Catholic theology teaches that a bishop is both a "brother" to his priests, meaning a fellow member of the clergy, and a "father."
The objection to "mandatory reporting" requirements is therefore that just as a son should be able to share something in confidence with his father, a priest shouldn't have to worry that if he bears his soul to his bishop, the bishop's next phone call will be to the cops.
Some of that ambivalence came through in a recent interview with Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the Vatican's top prosecutor on sex abuse cases, in the newspaper of the Italian bishops. Scicluna said the Vatican's policy is that in countries where bishops are required by civil law to report abuse themselves, they should comply.
"That's a very grave matter," Scicluna nonetheless said, "because these bishops are being forced to take a step comparable to a parent who denounces his or her own child."
Where bishops are not required by law to make a report, Scicluna said, they should encourage the victims to make the report -- the idea being that the police need to know what happened, but the bishop should also protect a zone of confidentiality with his priests.
Beyond that concern, prelates such as Castrillón are also old enough to remember what happened in regimes hostile to the church -- whether police states of Latin America, or Communist governments in Eastern Europe -- where clergy were encouraged to inform on one another in order to weaken the church from within, and where refusal to do so was considered a mark of heroic virtue. (Bishops from former Soviet states and from Latin America have sometimes warned against an uncritical embrace of "mandatory reporter" requirements for exactly that reason -- it's a sort of Anglo-Saxon delusion, they say, to believe one can always trust the police and the courts.)
To be sure, even bishops inclined to share those concerns would hardly extol Castrillón's letter -- especially because there's no word of compassion in it for the victims of the French priest, and no condemnation of the broader phenomenon of sexual abuse within the church.
Still, the letter points to an important insight about where things stand in the church with regard to the crisis: By now, there's wide consensus that crimes by a priest should be reported to the police, but how and by whom remains contentious.

Ratzinger and Castrillón
Finally, a footnote about the impact of the Castrillón episode: Ironically, resurrecting that 2001 letter may have doomed Castrillón, but it could actually help Pope Benedict XVI.
Throughout the most recent round of media coverage, there's been a serious mismatch between Pope Benedict's actual record on sex abuse -- as the senior Vatican official who took the crisis most seriously since 2001, and who led the charge for reform -- and outsider images of the pope as part of the problem.
While there are many reasons for that, a core factor is that the Vatican had the last ten years to tell the story of "Ratzinger the Reformer" to the world, and they essentially dropped the ball. That failure left a PR vacuum in which a handful of cases from the pope's past, where his own role was actually marginal, have come to define his profile.
One has to ask, why didn't the Vatican tell Ratzinger's story?
At least part of the answer, I suspect, is because to make Ratzinger look good, they'd have to make others look bad -- including, of course, Castrillón, as well as other top Vatican officials. Lurking behind that concern is a deeper one, which is that to salvage the reputation of Benedict XVI it might be necessary to tarnish that of Pope John Paul II.
In this case, however, Castrillón has inadvertently licensed the Vatican and church officials around the world to use him as a foil, effectively waiving a cardinal's traditional immunity from criticism.
From here on out, when spokespersons insist that Pope Benedict fought inside the Vatican for reform, the world will have a much clearer picture of what his opposition looked like. At stake wasn't just the question of cooperation with the police. Castrillón was part of a block of Vatican officials who thought the sex abuse crisis was fueled by media hysteria, that "zero tolerance" was an over-reaction, and that removing priests from ministry without lengthy and cumbersome canonical trails is a betrayal of the church's legal tradition.
That's important to keeping the record straight, because the truth is that the real choice in Rome over the last ten years vis-à-vis the sex abuse crisis was never between Ratzinger and perfection -- it was between Ratzinger and Castrillón.

* * * * *

[John Allen is NCR senior correspondent. His e-mail address is]

"He that takes truth for his guide, and duty for his end, may safely trust to God's providence to lead him aright."Blaise Pascal (French mathematician, philosopher, physicist and writer, 1623-1662)


Note: We are now beginning to take preliminary requests for our Fall 2010 pilgrimage, which will include a visit to Assisi, Norcia, Rome and the Vatican. If you would like information about this trip, please email us at:

Special note: Three years ago, we participated in a concert in Rome (on March 29, 2007) in which a Russian choir and orchestra, flying in from Moscow, performed a new version of The Passion According to St. Matthew composed a few months before by the young Russian Orthodox bishop (now Metropolitan and "foreign minister" of the Russian Orthodox Church, Hilarion Alfeyev).
That moving concert, in which one or two of the exhausted women singers fainted on stage and had to be carried off, was broadcast live worldwide via a Vatican Television Center feed by EWTN.
No DVD or CD was ever made of that concert — until a few days ago. After nearly three years, we have finally produced the DVD and CD of that historic concert, and they aqre now available for sale.
I believe the sound of this music, and the sight of the performance, especially duing Holy Week, when we recall Christ's Passion, will bring tears to your eyes.
The DVD and CD of this historic concert are now available on at website at the following link:

Other Gift Ideas:

(1) Christmas Oratorio (Russian Concert) on DVD

On December 17, 2007, a leading Russian orchestra performed an exceptional "world premiere" concert of Russian Christmas music at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. Now you can order your copy of the concert on DVD, which includes English sub-titles.

The music is a completely new composition by a young Russian Orthodox Archbishop, Hilarion Alfeyev, 43. At the time, he was the Russian Orthodox bishop for all of central Europe, based in Vienna, Austria. He is now a Metropolitan and the head of the External Relations Department of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Makes a wonderful gift. Order one for yourself, one for a loved one and one for a friend... at three copies, the price is less! Click here to order
(2) A Talk by Dr. Robert Moynihan on CD

"The Motu Proprio: Why the Latin Mass? Why Now?"

To understand the motu proprio, one must know the history of the Mass. Dr. Moynihan gives a 2000-year history of the Mass in 60 minutes which is clear and easy to understand. Dr. Moynihan's explanation covers questions like:

— How does the motu proprio overcome some of the confusion since Vatican II?
— Is this the start of the Benedictine Reform?
— The mind of Pope Benedict: How can the Church restore the sense of the presence of God in the liturgy?

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