DIOCESE OF HARRISBURG ‑ Office of the Bishop
4800 Union Deposit Road ‑ Box 2153 • Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17105‑2153 (717) 657‑4804
November 18, 2005
Dr. David Drew
P.O. Box 7352
York, PA 17404
Dear Dr. Drew,
Thank you for your recent letter and for your kind words, prayers, and generosity to Catholic Charities in our appeal for the hurricane relief efforts.
You mentioned in your letter your desire to meet with me if I believe it is possible to regularize your position within the diocese without compromising your conscience. I understand from your letter that it is a matter of conscience for you that the use of the Tridentine Mass be considered a "right", rather than something allowed by indult.
As diocesan bishop, I have the faculty from the Holy Father of using an indult on behalf of priests and faithful attached to the Tridentine Rite and may allow the celebration of Mass according to the 1962 edition of the Missale Romanum. I have done so and extended the use of this indult, allowing a weekly Sunday Mass at Saint Lawrence Chapel in Harrisburg according to the 1962 edition of the Missale Romanum.
As diocesan bishop, I do not have the authority to decree that I am not using an indult in this case. The fundamental issue, it seems to me, is that of the authority of the Apostolic See. According to canon 838, paragraph 2, "It is for the Apostolic See to order the sacred liturgy of the universal Church, publish liturgical books...". I do not honestly know how to resolve the conflict of conscience expressed in your letter. There is indeed an immutable part of the liturgy which is divinely instituted and which cannot be changed. The Church always has been and is the guardian of this immutable part. Yet the Church has the power to change other parts which are mutable. We see this throughout the history of the Roman Rite as it organically developed. Some may prefer the Tridentine Rite to the Roman Missal promulgated in 1970 by Pope Paul VI, but should not impugn the lawfulness of that missal (which I do not think you do) nor the Pope's authority to make that missal normative (which is your position as I understand it).
I believe the crux of the matter is obedience to the Roman Pontiff and acceptance of his authority to order the sacred liturgy. Pope John Paul II, in Ecclesia Dei, called for respect for the feelings of those attached to the Latin liturgical tradition by a wide and generous application of the directives from 1984 which allow the use of the Roman Missal according to the typical edition of 1962. Those directives mention the Pope granting this indult "as a sign of his concern for all his children." They also state that "the indult is to be used without prejudice to the liturgical reform that is to be observed in the life of each ecclesial community."
I would be open to discussing the use of this indult for the community in York, however, I cannot not refer to it as an indult. To do so would violate my conscience since I would consider it disobedience to the authority of the Apostolic See.
I share your deep concern about the lack of faith in the Real Presence among some Catholics and am deeply troubled by this. At the same time, I have witnessed the great faith of many Catholics during this past "Year of the Eucharist" and am filled with hope as I see throughout our diocese an increase in Eucharistic devotion and adoration. Let us pray that the Year of the Eucharist will continue to bear abundant fruit, especially increased faith in, and reverence for, the Blessed Sacrament.
I continue to pray for you and your community. I pray for reconciliation. The great gift and treasure of the most Holy Eucharist is to be the source of our unity as the Mystical Body of Christ. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, the woman of the Eucharist, intercede for us.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Kevin C. Rhoades
Bishop of Harrisburg