Catholic group requests church where all Masses are in Latin
Although the plan would allow Diocese of Buffalo to save a church from closing, the issue is not without controversy
By JAY TOKASZ
Each Sunday, a small group of Catholics worships at a Tridentine Mass spoken and chanted entirely in Latin - the way of Catholicism for centuries prior to the late 1960s.
The lay group of traditionalists has quietly bounced among various city churches over the past 15 years. Now, group members believe they are large and stable enough to support a church of their own.
They think they can save a city parish destined for closure when the Diocese of Buffalo begins consolidating churches within the next year or two.
The unusual request would allow the diocese to save at least one of its many architecturally significant churches - and stave off criticism from city officials and residents who worry several big empty church buildings will be left behind in a diocesan downsizing.
But the scenario is also fraught with thorny church politics.
Some worry about a "parallel church" developing if a building is set aside for the traditional Latin Mass - a concern voiced by some clergy and liturgists since Pope John Paul II allowed the reintroduction of the Latin Mass in the late 1980s.
Catholicism for decades has weathered heated battles over how its liturgies are conducted.
The current Mass, celebrated in the vernacular language, has been the norm around the world since the church began implementing liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the late 1960s.
It has been a long, unhappy norm for those who cherish the Tridentine form - so named because it dates back to the church Council of Trent, or Tridentum in Latin, in the 16th century.
Some privately dismiss the validity of the new liturgy; others have taken their disdain of the current Mass more public, splitting off from Catholicism in favor of a dissident group, the Society of St. Pius X, founded by the excommunicated Archbishop Marcel LeFebvre. The society operates a church in South Buffalo, separate from the diocese.
Many mainstream Catholics view Tridentine Mass proponents as anti-ecumenical obstructionists of an evolving church. And some worry that a nod to the traditionalists could be construed as a subtle brushing off of the controversial Second Vatican Council that ushered in many church changes.
Members of an organization of traditionalists known as Una Voce Buffalo say they don't reject the modern church. Nor do they disobey Buffalo Bishop Edward U. Kmiec or Pope Benedict XVI.
"I think we all believe the same thing. We just express it differently," said Albert Huntz, president of the local chapter of Una Voce, or One Voice. "We can still be part of the diocese and just be a diverse member of it.
" Kmiec was unavailable to comment this week. Diocesan spokesman Kevin A. Keenan declined to comment about the possibility of a Tridentine Mass church, saying it is too early to speculate.
"Since decisions regarding the future of parishes are still more than a year off, it would be premature for the diocese to make any commitments regarding individual requests for churches or other parish buildings at this time," Keenan said.
Kmiec met in October with Huntz and other members of Una Voce. The bishop, too, expressed concerns during the meeting about a parallel church that could cause confusion among Catholics, according to Huntz.
Traditional comeback There are major differences between the Tridentine Mass, used throughout the world prior to 1969, and the new Order of the Mass.
The traditional Mass, celebrated in Latin and marked by long periods of silence and private devotions by the faithful, emphasizes a personal relationship with God.
"It's a whole different approach to the celebration of liturgy," said Monsignor Anthony F. Sherman, associate director of the Secretariat for the Liturgy at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The current Mass dispenses with most of the mystical features of the Tridentine form and invites parishioners into a more communal worship.
The traditional Mass began making a comeback in 1988 when Pope John Paul II tried to gather dissidents back into the fold by calling for the "wide and generous" use of the Mass for those who want it, as long as they do not criticize the new liturgical order.
In 1989, U.S. bishops granted "indults," special permission, for 23 parishes to offer weekly Tridentine Masses on Sundays, in addition to their regular Masses. That number has grown to 194 parishes today, including St. Anthony of Padua in Buffalo and Our Lady Help of Christians in Cheektowaga.
But Una Voce Buffalo hopes to occupy a property where the Tridentine Mass is offered exclusively - a much rarer situation in the U.S. Catholic church.
And a murkier one, as well.
"That's somewhat of a hazy issue right now," said Sherman.
Nonetheless, discussion about the Latin Mass has increased since the election last April of Pope Benedict XVI, who has long been viewed by traditionalists as a steady supporter of the Tridentine form.
The pope met with Society of St. Pius X leader Bishop Bernard Fellay in August, although the group still hasn't reconciled with the Vatican.
Una Voce Buffalo wants to add a priest from outside the diocese, trained in celebrating the traditional Mass, to serve as pastor. Group members say they'll take just about any church the diocese offers,although they would prefer one with Old World architecture.
Group has grown
The Una Voce group at St. Anthony has grown from a handful of people to an estimated 200, including many younger families and middle-aged worshippers.
With a permanent parish, they believe they could attract even more parishioners.
"There are ways to evangelize, and this is just another way. That's all this really comes down to," said David Blackley, an attorney who attends the Tridentine Mass. "We're an option.
" Huntz downplayed any potential political significance that might be associated with allowing a different type of liturgy.
"When it comes to worship or prayer, it's really a personal thing. You can go to any parish in the Diocese of Buffalo and notice a difference in the way things are done," he said.
"We are Catholics in good standing. We're part of this diocese. We're not giving [Bishop Kmiec] a hard time. From a pastoral point of view, there should be some sort of accommodation for us," he said.
Proponents of the traditional Mass tend to lean conservative on social issues such as promoting pro-life causes and condemning birth control and same-sex marriage.
For its congregation, the Una Voce group wants to bring in Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro Carambula, a native of Uruguay who serves as director of the Rome office of Human Life International, a worldwide pro-life advocacy organization based in Virginia.
Human Life International was one of the religious groups that took a leading role last year in fighting the removal of a feeding tube for Terri Schiavo.br>
Barreiro Carambula, who is incardinated in the Diocese of Anapolis, Brazil, confirmed in an e-mail interview with The News that he was interested in being pastor of a Latin Mass community in Buffalo.
For years, I have done a work that hopefully I cannot be reproached for, but at the same time it has been mostly intellectual and administrative, so as my life enters into its declining years, I would want to offer to the Lord some real priestly work," Barreiro Carambula said in the e-mail.
Others have tried
There is already precedence for a Latin Mass community.
In August, Bishop Robert W. Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri, established a home for the traditional Mass congregation inside an historic Kansas City church, with a full-time priest from an order dedicated to celebrating the Tridentine Latin Rites.
he Diocese of St. Catharines in Ontario has a Traditional Latin Mass Apostolate at its Queen of Angels Oratory. Although not technically a parish, the congregation has two chaplains assigned to it and offers two Tridentine Masses on Sunday.
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