Brian Mershon
February 1, 2006
Bishops Bruskewitz and Corrada expect 1962 missal to play important future role
By Brian Mershon

"We're in the middle of the disintegration of the Latin rite" — Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz.

Bishop Fernando Rifan of the Apostolic Administration of St. John Marie Vianney, Campos, Brazil, said there were four U.S. bishops who allowed their diocesan priests full approval to offer the Classical Roman rite of Mass while delivering the keynote address for an Una Voce America Conference held November 18-20 in Providence, R.I.

His words of encouragement to U.S. traditional Catholics at the conference, coupled with those of Msgr. Michael Schmitz, U.S. provincial superior, Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, made it clear that the growth of traditional communities in the United States is being recognized in important corridors in the Church. It is also perhaps of significance to note that Msgr. Schmitz was ordained a priest by Pope Benedict XVI, as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, in 1982.

Bishop Rifan specifically cited Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis; Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Neb.; Bishop Thomas Doran of Rockford, Ill.; and Bishop Αlvaro Corrada, SJ, of Tyler, Texas, as having been generous in the Ecclesia Dei indult application, as requested and emphasized repeatedly by the late Pope John Paul II.

As a followup to the December 1 issue of The Wanderer, which covered the conference in detail, both Bishop Bruskewitz and Bishop Corrada agreed to explain why they have been so generous to both their own diocesan priests and laity whose spirituality is centered in frequent access to the Classical Roman rite and sacraments.



Q. The December 1 issue of The Wanderer, had a quotation from His Excellency, Bishop Fernando Rifan of the St. John Mary Vianney Apostolic Administration in Campos, Brazil, citing you as being among four bishops who allow your diocesan priests wide and generous access to offer the Traditional Roman rite of Holy Mass. Is this accurate?

Bishop Bruskewitz: Bishop Rifan is a very wonderful bishop, and he has come to visit me. We are good friends. While I haven't given "blanket permission" for the celebration for the Tridentine Mass in the diocese, it is, however, a permission that I give very readily, and has never been refused for those who have requested it.

The reason I require a request is that, first of all, the priest has to assure me he knows the rubrics and knows how to celebrate the Mass in the Tridentine rite. And secondly, that he has some familiarity with the Latin language that would be adequate for celebrating in the Tridentine rite. And third, that there would be some pastoral need for it, either the people calling for it, or the priest's own personal devotion would be in that direction.

[To summarize], they have to know how to do the rite. Number 2, there has to be some familiarity with Latin. And number 3, there has to be some reason for it.

Now, a priest who wants to celebrate the Tridentine rite individually, personally or privately without other people present, I grant that readily. I have never refused any request [by a priest] to do this. I have several priests who do this quite regularly, the Tridentine rite, who don't belong to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), who do this regularly. We have their presence in our diocese as well. We have no difficulty with that.

Another provision I am always a little leery about is the mixing of rites — the Novus Ordo and the Tridentine rite. Priests are not authorized to use a little of one rite and a little of the other in the same liturgy. It has to be a clear, unequivocal celebration of the Tridentine rite or the Novus Ordo.

I do have a blanket permission for any priest who wants to celebrate the Novus Ordo in Latin, they can do that, just as they do in Spanish or Vietnamese and other languages in our diocese.

Bishop Corrada: I have given permission, and I will give permission, to any priest who wants to say the liturgy according to the 1962 missal. One thing that I would want to see would be, 'Are the priests ready to do so?' So I would require proper training for it in both the Latin and the rite itself — the Latin and the rubrics.

The reason is that I think the Mass according to the 1962 missal, especially with John Paul II opening it up, it should be a normal thing for any priest who wants to do so, and is trained to do so, to make it available to the faithful and for himself. So it [Bishop Rifan's statement] is accurate in that sense. I would be open to that. [This comes] from Ecclesia Dei Adflicta.

The Fraternity of St. Peter has the privilege to say Mass exclusively according to the 1962 missal. But my diocesan priests also are required to say the Novus Ordo because of pastoral reasons.

Q. You mentioned the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) having a presence in your dioceses. How long have they been there? What has been your experience with their priests?

Bishop Corrada: Yes, we have a mission that will eventually become a parish. As a matter of fact, next week [January 2], they will have a place of their own we are buying. It is a Baptist church we are converting into a parish. It is a mission, but it is their own place, and I want it to be arranged just for Mass according to the 1962 missal with the Blessed Sacrament on the altar and the Communion rail and everything else.

They have been here for two to three years. I am very happy with them. I came to that decision because when I arrived here, I met for several months with a group of families who wanted to have Mass according to the 1962 missal. After discussions with them, I realized that it would be better for them to have a priest from the Fraternity to come to establish a mission. I have the Mass in another parish in the southern part of the diocese by a priest who was ordained in the Novus Ordo, who most generously says the Mass, and knows how to say the Novus Ordo and the 1962 missal.

I also have a couple of other diocesan priests who have also been trained to say the Mass. They can back up the Fraternity of St. Peter priest when he is on vacation or on retreat, or if there is an emergency [and he is not available to say Mass].

It is a normal way of life. The priest from the Fraternity of St. Peter participates in all of the life of the presbyterate and the other priests in the diocese. As a matter of fact he doubles as a part-time secretary to me because we don't have many priests who have the skills necessary to help me. His name is Carlos Casavantes. [Editor's Note: Fr. Casavantes was ordained by Pope John Paul II].

Bishop Bruskewitz: In our diocese, we have St. Francis Chapel in Lincoln, where the Priestly Fraternity priests preside and they have the Tridentine rite entirely and totally and use the 1962 missal and calendar. They do have significant numbers who attend Mass there, which is fine. As a matter of fact, they may eventually evolve into actually being a full-fledged, non-territorial parish, but right now, they don't think they are ready for that step. I think they have 90 households or something like that, or 100 households.

But they also have people who frequent it who might not be registered, and of course this is not unusual.

In the Diocese of Lincoln, the Novus Ordo Mass is done with great care and rubrical exactness. And as a result, we don't have large numbers of people, as they do in some other places, who want to frequent the Tridentine rite. For instance, where I lived in Milwaukee, I think that huge numbers who attend Mass in the Tridentine rite are really refugees from liturgical abuses they have found in other areas.

There are some people who are antiquarian who like the ancient rite just for its own sake. There are others who are aesthetically inclined. They love the polyphony and Gregorian chant and the atmosphere of the Latin language, and other kinds of things. Then there are others who simply like the more quiet, restrained and devout and meditative, contemplative aspects that sometimes are absent in some of the celebrations of the Novus Ordo.

The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter has been a real blessing to our diocese, and we are delighted to have them in our midst. Their seminary appears to be flourishing and seems to be prospering quite well. That is — Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary — they own and operate here. It is a joy to have been able to welcome them here. I think they [FSSP priests] are very widely, and well, accepted by everybody in this area.

A Corrective To Abuses

Q. Bishop Bruskewitz: You mentioned there are few widespread abuses in Lincoln; so perhaps not as many Catholics have sought refuge in the Tridentine rite as in some other dioceses?

Bishop Bruskewitz: I am not opposed at all to the Novus Ordo. As a matter of fact, it is the other way around, I think there are many pastoral advantages to it. But like in every human enterprise, there is a lot of room for improvement. And I think the Tridentine rite can serve as a corrective to abuses sometimes [for the Novus Ordo].

Q. Bishop Corrada: How many families initially approached you for the Classical Roman rite liturgy and sacraments?

Bishop Corrada: Forty to 70 families. This diocese is comprised of 33 counties, so there are many other families we are not serving at the moment because we only have one Mass in the southern part of the diocese, and one here in Tyler, which is the center. We will have to open up one more in the north and also to serve other people [elsewhere], and I am open to that.

Q. How many diocesan priests celebrate the Classical Roman rite of Mass regularly either publicly or privately? Do you have any plans for training your diocesan priests or seminarians in the liturgy of 1962?

Bishop Bruskewitz: Of all the priests, there are at least three who offer the Tridentine rite with a reasonable amount of regularity. There are others who have done it sporadically when it has been requested or for a special occasion. But once again, I have never refused a request by any priest who wants to celebrate the Tridentine rite and have never found a reason to refuse such a request.

Bishop Corrada: I already have some of my priests who are learning the Mass. And I know of at least one seminarian who has trained himself to say the Mass. The vicar general is able to say the Mass now, and we have at least two or three other priests who are training themselves to say the Mass in order to substitute for the priest of the Fraternity.

Q. Why are you so generous in allowing the Classical Roman rite? Is it because of Ecclesia Dei Adflicta and "wide and generous application" requested of bishops by the late Pope John Paul II?

Bishop Bruskewitz: We are very happy, of course, to conform to what the Pope said about being generous and in making use of the indult. But there are other motivations as well as that. I have an affection for it. I was ordained of course in the Tridentine rite, and in my first years as a priest celebrated that way. So I don't have a disdain for it. I can see some pastoral disadvantages due to the language and some other areas. So I think the Novus Ordo does have some pastoral advantages.

On the other hand, people who find the Tridentine rite to be more devout — or a way for them to be more devout — I guess I would put it — that would be a way to accommodate such people.

I think also the fact there was present in the Diocese of Lincoln some time ago a schismatic group associated with Archbishop Lefebvre's group from Econe, Switzerland. They were in the diocese, and they had one of their priests come and say Mass at a pagan cemetery chapel. To make it possible to accommodate people who might be being led astray into schismatic — or separation — from the Church of Christ, it served its good purpose because these people have disappeared now, or they have come back into the Church of Christ through the Tridentine rite.

I think where the Novus Ordo is done reverently and correctly, and with the proper amount of devotion, and with proper aesthetics, it can serve a wonderful purpose. I think that especially the way this Holy Father offers Holy Mass provides a lot of wonderful and correct inspiration and example for the whole world. I think he recently spoke to the Sistine choir explaining how the Papal Mass must be exemplary because of television.

I think that once again, we have to be frank. For many young people, Latin is as strange as Chinese or something. They don't know anything about it. They don't really have an affinity for it. Unless you have done some studies and have some acquaintance with Latin and the classical and historical heritage of the Church and Western civilization, it doesn't mean much. The language is always a problem.

I'm not entirely delighted with the vernacular translations. Thank goodness there is some effort to improve them, both in the liturgical books as well as in the Lectionaries — in the biblical readings. I think these flaws are becoming more apparent as time goes on. There were flaws in the celebration of the old rite sometimes, but the people didn't notice them because they didn't understand the Latin and they didn't see the priest and they didn't know if he was saying the words clearly. So I don't think we can adopt just one thing or the other.

Divisiveness?

Q. What has influenced your thinking with regard to the sacred liturgy?

Bishop Bruskewitz: I think Msgr. [Klaus] Gamber's books about the reform of the liturgy and what the Holy Father himself has written, as Cardinal Ratzinger, about the liturgy, are extremely important.

There was a lot of paraliturgical stuff that was not part of the [Second Vatican] Council, but it sort of derived from it. I think a lot of those things lent themselves to distortions. Things that became possible in a short time became necessary, and then became imperative. So there became a sort of evolution in that direction [newness] that I don't think always was the best.

Q. Bishop Corrada: Many bishops and priests cite possible "divisiveness" as one of the primary drawbacks against traditional Catholics. Yours is a missionary diocese? What has been your experience in a region heavily populated by Protestants?

Bishop Corrada: I also encourage converts through the Fraternity parish. They are baptized and received into the Church to follow the 1962 missal. So we have some converts coming in because this is a missionary area. There are many Protestants. If they want to enter and go to the Tridentine Mass, the information is given for the sacraments of initiation there as well.

In this diocese, they are received, and every one is part of the Latin rite. And in the Latin rite, we can have the liturgy according to the Missal of 1962 or the Novus Ordo. I make no distinction with that. And all of the sacraments and everything should be equally received and participated in. Some families have more preference for this [1962 missal and sacraments], and I am very open to that.

Q. There was nothing in any document from the Second Vatican Council or after it authorizing the priest to offer Holy Mass versus populum (toward the people). But there are but a handful of places in the entire U.S. where Mass is offered regularly facing God in the Novus Ordo liturgy. This is simply amazing. What is your reaction to this?

Bishop Bruskewitz: It causes at least to some extent, a distorted liturgical view. The coram populo altars....[In Rome], they had both kinds. I was ordained a priest in Rome in 1960. The catacombs, some went this way and some went another way, and it made no difference. The major point is that they were oriented toward the East.

Facing coram Deo, before God, if you face that way, you have the correct impression — that the priest is standing in the person of Christ mediating between God and the congregation — exchanging words and gifts with God on behalf of the congregation. That is a clear thing. The temptation when the Mass is coram populo is that one thinks the personality of the priest has to come through or that somehow or another, a priest is talking to the people when he's addressing God. It's exacerbated because you have some of the prayers to God and then you are talking to the people: "Let us offer each other the sign of peace."

The people get the impression the priest is somehow entertaining them or addressing them, which is a misunderstanding of what is going on.

So I think there are a lot of difficulties in that regard. That is one good example, and with Msgr. Gamber, I think that stuck in his craw pretty high. And I can't disagree with him that it would have been better had there have been a more gradual evolution. There has not been a historical liturgical development — the sudden eucalyptus from Mt. Olympus that changes the whole element.

On the other hand, we have to live with where we are now. You can't cut down the oak tree to get back to the acorn. And so I think that is the major pastoral problem confronting the hierarchy of the Church — how to take what we currently have, and where do we go from here?

Q. What role do you think the Classical Roman rite can play in this regard?

Bishop Bruskewitz: I do think that adjacent to the Novus Ordo Latin rite, it is helpful to have the Tridentine rite as a sub-rite of the Latin Church. It calls us back to roots, and I think it has certain internal kinds of corrective possibilities to keep the Novus Ordo from going off the wall on the other side.

Q. What do you think the Pope will do? Universal indult, personal apostolic administration, territorial traditional bishops, or some other structure for traditional Catholics?

Bishop Bruskewitz: I've heard speculation about all those things and I have no special information about them because nobody has consulted me about them. There is talk about a kind of prelature like Opus Dei. There is talk about Bishop Rifan who has a floating diocese in Brazil, so there may be some indications along those lines.

Being a bishop myself, I can see where some of the bishops are nervous about divisiveness. As I said, you can go from virtue to necessity very fast. And people say suddenly something is permitted, and then all of sudden it becomes necessary, and then the other is not permitted. I think that is largely what happened with the liturgy on the other side. It was permitted to have a coram populo altar, and then all of a sudden, it was necessary to have it. And so I think this may be what some conscientious bishops might be nervous about.

There are those that are simply adamant about it. They feel we have discarded this and we shouldn't try to recover it. I would say that the bishops out in the trenches who might be a little bit more leery about a universal indult might worry about a divided presbyterate or people being at loggerheads with each other.

Once again, my reservations would be along the same lines of what I mentioned earlier with my priests. I would want to make sure whoever is celebrating Mass in the Tridentine rite knows how to do it. Because I have seen it done poorly, sloppily, and incorrectly. They would have to know some basic Latin on how to pronounce the words. I've heard them mispronounced frequently. And I could see where it could be very startling for people to go to Mass on Sunday and all of a sudden hear a priest speaking a language they never heard, and doing things they've never seen. "What is this?"

Without adjoining catechesis and very careful instructions to any kind of indult that is granted would pastorally be a mistake. People would say, "Obviously, they don't know what they're doing." I have a certain sympathy for doing whatever we're going to do very slowly and not precipitously.

Conciliation And Reintegration

Q. What do you think about the possibility of a canonical structure similar to the Eastern rite Catholic churches in U.S. dioceses for Traditional Latin-rite Catholics?

Bishop Bruskewitz: I think that could serve a very good pastoral purpose to have some kind of arrangement, where there would be in the words of the Pope, this generous opportunity.

I think part of it, though, is there is a lot of ideological division. There are those who feel that the Tridentine rite, Ecclesia Dei indult is merely a transitional stage until these people get over it. There are those people, including even in the hierarchy, who feel that this is just a temporary expedient.

I disagree with them. There are even other more conservative people who say that once we get the Novus Ordo cleaned up, we will have no need for this. This puts a heavy burden on the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter and others. I don't think the Church should be held hostage, for example to the Lefebvrite demands — "You must do this or else." I don't think that is very sensible in any way.

On the other hand, I think that conciliation and reintegration into the body of the Church for the Tridentine rite [is desirable and possible].

For years the Latin rite has had sub-rites. There is the Ambrosian rite in Milan. There is a Mozarabic rite in Toledo in Spain. The religious orders had all kinds of rites. The Dominicans had their own rite. And they were all little variants that arose because the evolution of the liturgy took place and these things were maintained in orders. So I don't see that it is not possible to have a sub-rite. As a matter of fact, it might be one of the reasons we don't understand what's going on right now.

We're in the middle of the disintegration of the Latin rite. You have drum beating in Africa and you have lots of bowing in Japan. This inculturation is really making a sub-rite division of the Latin rite. For centuries, rite depended primarily on language. You had the Byzantine rite divided into the Serbian, the Russian, and all the different [other languages]. I think the fact we have vernacularized means there is a division. The unification of the Latin rite, if it is going to be maintained as a unit, will probably depend largely on the Tridentine rite, indult-type celebrations.

Q. Your Excellency, isn't it ironic that as Catholics now frequently have the ability to travel more often throughout the U.S. and the world, where once all Catholics worshiped in unity universally, now a Catholic can walk into a church in any place in the world and not even recognize what is going on? What is your reaction to this?

Bishop Bruskewitz: You don't even have to travel. Sometimes in one major city you can you can go from one church to another. You have to wonder, "What is this about?" There are many people who are throwbacks to the 1960s who are making war against [what they call] rigid rubricism. They have never outgrown their initial distaste for this.

It is an American thing. People say, "If it is new, it is therefore better." And this kind of fallacy penetrates the culture. "We do it this way today which is so much better than it was done yesterday," which is kind of foolish.

It really comes from the commercialization of our culture; this is what we are told. People transfer this easily into the religious realm.

Q. Pope Benedict XVI has addressed this very issue in his writings on the liturgy. Liturgy is something that is supposed to be given by, and received from, our fathers in the faith, rather than something we create or innovate.

Bishop Bruskewitz: Absolutely. It is not created.

And furthermore, the laity has a right to a proper liturgy. Pope Paul VI emphasized this. It is not the priest's arbitrary bestowal upon the people, but it is the people who have a right to the Church's liturgy as it is supposed to be done. That certainly deserves emphasis.

Q. In view of the large Spanish-speaking segment in your diocese, do you see any advantage to having Mass in Latin, whether it is the Classical Roman rite or the Novus Ordo missal?

Bishop Corrada: The situation of so many Hispanic immigrants in the United States goes beyond the liturgy itself into welcoming the Hispanics, and all sorts of other immigrants, into the life of the parish. So that requires a lot of participation in Spanish programs, catechesis in Spanish, as well as in English. So that [Latin Mass] will not, in itself, take care of the Hispanics.

This article will be published in the February 9 issue of The Wanderer.

© Brian Mershon

 

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Brian Mershon is a commentator on cultural issues from a classical Catholic perspective... (more)

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