SS. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Mission
P. O. Box 7352
York, PA 17404
December 19, 2005
Most Reverend Kevin C. Rhoades
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17111
Dear Bishop Rhoades,
I would firstly like to thank you very much for your kind and paternal reply to our last letter. It is in itself a great consolation to know that you understand that this matter for us is a question of conscience and that questions of conscience are taken seriously by you.
I agree with your position that it would be inappropriate to grant an Indult and not refer to it as an Indult. The 1962 Roman Missal, I grant, exists by virtue of indult. I can only presume that the reason for this is the fact that this Missal, which existed less than three years, constituted a break in the immemorial tradition and was not protected under any other norms than positive law. Although there is not a specific decree abrogating the 1962 Missal, the fact that every bishop of the Catholic Church exercising ordinary jurisdiction regards it as an indult constitutes presumptive evidence of its abrogation.
This is why Ss. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Mission embrace the pre-1962 liturgical traditions, which we hold by right as the patrimony of every Catholic. We fully understand and agree that rights can and must be duly regulated but, a regulated right and a privilege to do something that is held to be “illegal” constitutes a difference in kind and not simply one of degree. Once this right is acknowledged, should Rome then determine that the 1962 Missal is the normative liturgical usage for the traditional Roman rite, then we would embrace that Missal.
An Indult, being a privilege, is subject to the conditions imposed by the legislator and can be withheld, altered, restricted, or abrogated at his caprice and there are numerous examples of just such things having taken place with regard to the Indult. Further, we are not interested in the Indult because we are not interested in just the traditional Mass but in the integral practice of our Catholic Faith within the context of the entire complement of Ecclesiastical Traditions. Although you as a bishop may not have the authority to grant the Indult independent of the norms of the Ecclesia Dei Commission you do possess the authority and, in fact what we believe the duty, to protect Catholics under your jurisdiction who embrace the immemorial traditions of our Church.
As you may know, in 1986, the Holy Father appointed a commission of nine Cardinals to examine the status of the traditional rite of Mass, commonly known as the "Tridentine Mass". The commission of Cardinals, which included Cardinals Ratzinger, Mayer, Oddi, Stickler, Casaroli, Gantin, Innocenti, Palazzini, and Tomko, was instructed to examine two questions:
1) Did Pope Paul VI authorize the bishops to forbid the celebration of the traditional Mass?
2) Does the priest have the right to celebrate the traditional Mass in public and in private without restriction, even against the will of his bishop?
Alfons Cardinal Stickler on several occasions commented on the findings of this commission and confirmed the details of the commission’s findings. One such occasion was on May 20, 1995 at the Christi Fidelis conference in Fort Lee, New Jersey, where he gave an address entitled “The Theological Attractiveness of the Tridentine Mass”. During the question and answer session after his speech, His Eminence was asked about the Nine Cardinal Commission of 1986 regarding the Tridentine Mass. Cardinal Stickler addressing the issue of the Commission related that, “Pope John Paul II asked a commission of nine Cardinals in 1986 two questions: First, Did Pope Paul VI or any other competent authority legally forbid the widespread celebration of the Tridentine Mass in the present day?” The Cardinal explained, “I can answer because I was one of the Cardinals.” He continued, “the answers given by the nine Cardinals in 1986 was ‘No, the Mass of Saint Pius V (Tridentine Mass) has never been suppressed’.”
In answer to the second question, “Can any bishop forbid any priest in good standing from celebrating the Tridentine Mass?” Cardinal Stickler replied, “the nine Cardinals unanimously agreed that no bishop may forbid a Catholic priest from saying the Tridentine Mass.”
This question was recently addressed by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, President of the Ecclesia Dei Commission charged with administering the 1962 Roman Missal as an indult, when he stated during an interview, discussing the SSPX that was published in the September 2005 issue of 30 Days, that “the mass of Saint Pius V has never been abolished.”
Pope Benedict, the former Cardinal Ratzinger, was one of the nine cardinals on Pope John Paul II’s commission. He has a keen interest in and knowledge of liturgical history as evidenced by his writings and the liturgical books that he has reviewed. I am confident that he would justly agree with our position. You as a bishop have the right to present this case to him directly and personally, asking for his authoritative judgment regarding this question. It would be possible for you to establish our community as a confraternity in this diocese working for our stated purpose, making your own approval conditional upon Pope Benedict not judging the action to be null and void, and then submit the action formally to our Holy Father for his personal judgment.
Your recent procession with the Blessed Sacrament in an act of public adoration is really the same kind of thing that we are trying to do. It is the reestablishment of an Ecclesiastical Tradition that has largely fallen into disuse these past forty years. This act is a perfect outward expression of the Catholic dogma of the True Presence. The vast majority of Catholics no longer believe in the True Presence and we believe that it is because the Traditions that outwardly express this interior faith have been cast aside. Any tree cut off from its roots, like a Christmas tree in January, cannot grow; it cannot live.
I am the father of eight children who were raised in the traditions of our Catholic Faith, three of whom are married, the last only recently. I now have eight grandchildren being raised in the same traditions. My situation is a common finding among traditional Catholics. At Ss. Peter and Paul we have had five infant baptisms this year alone and we are currently looking for a facility to establish a school. Traditional Catholicism, although small in number, is growing exponentially. These Catholics are doing nothing more than what your parents and grandparents did before them.
Regardless of your decision I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to say that we remain faithful Catholics, faithful to the doctrinal and moral teachings of our Church, and to the received traditions that are the perfect outward profession of this faith. We also remain your loyal subjects. Your name is remembered in every Mass offered in our chapel and daily before the Blessed Sacrament in the Rosary of Reparation to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary.
May our Infant Savior and His Blessed Mother grant you every blessing this Christmas.
Sincerely in Christ,
Ss. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Mission