The following is a letter sent to the priests of the Diocese on August 6, 2021:
Dear Brothers in Christ:
As you are most likely aware, on July 16, 2021 Pope Francis released his apostolic letter, motu proprio, Traditionis Custodes: On the Use of the Roman Liturgy Prior to the Reform of 1970. As the name of the document indicates, its focus is the use of the pre-Vatican II Missal, commonly called the Tridentine Mass.
In Traditionis Custodes, Pope Francis reimposes the limits on the public celebration of this form of the Mass, permission for which was expanded under St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Most important, he restores the diocesan bishop as the exclusive authority over the celebration of this Mass in his own diocese: "It belongs to the diocesan bishop, as moderator, promoter, and guardian of the whole liturgical life of the particular Church entrusted to him, to regulate the liturgical celebrations of his diocese. Therefore, it is his exclusive competence to authorize the use of the 1962 Roman Missal in his diocese, according to the guidelines of the Apostolic See."
There has been much conversation- and some consternation- following the release of this document. As we prepare to implement the motu proprio in Idaho, it will be helpful to keep in mind my own concerns and actions with regard to the integrity of the liturgy as celebrated in our Diocese leading up to this moment, as well as the concerns that Pope Francis found necessary to highlight in releasing this document.
It is important to understand that before Pope Francis wrote his apostolic letter, he consulted with all the bishops from around the world regarding the fruits of Benedict XVI' s expansion of the use of the 1962 Missal. I personally responded to this questionnaire sent by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as did most of my brother bishops. It was in response to these questionnaires that the document Traditionis Custodes was written. That is, Pope Francis was not operating solely under his own initiative in the creation of this document, but only after "having considered the wishes expressed by the Episcopate and having heard the opinion of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."
Notably, Pope Francis reiterated the pronouncement Pope Benedict made in Summorum Pontificum. Both Popes, in each of their apostolic letters on the topic of the use of the 1962 Missal, declared the liturgical rites' books promulgated after the Second Vatican Council to be the "law of worship" of the Roman Rite. Furthermore, Pope Francis, echoing the experience of the bishops around the world, voiced dismay for the divisiveness that has resulted from Pope Benedict's efforts saying, "An opportunity offered by St. John Paul II and, with even greater magnanimity, by Benedict XVI, intended to recover the unity of an ecclesial body with diverse liturgical sensibilities, was exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences, and encourage disagreements that injure the Church, block her path, and expose her to the peril of division."
My brother priests, these are not new concerns for me. I have also been troubled by a divisive energy rising from those who seek to "restore" the Church to the Tridentine Liturgy. Efforts I have made to provide the Extraordinary Form for those who wish it have often been met by greater demands and an expressed intention to attend churches that are in schism with the Catholic Church, such as the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), rather than attending a Novus Ordo Mass.
Of the concerns expressed by Pope Francis in a letter to bishops that accompanied the motu proprio is the proper celebration of the Novus Order, as well as the subsequent abuses of a narrowly interpreted understanding of the Tridentine Mass:
At the same time, I am saddened by abuses in the celebration of the liturgy on all sides. In common with Benedict XVI, I deplore the fact that "in many places the prescriptions of the new Missal are not observed in celebration, but indeed come to be interpreted as an authorization for or even a requirement of creativity, which leads to almost unbearable distortions." But I am nonetheless saddened that the instrumental use of Missale Romanum of 1962 is often characterized by a rejection not only of the liturgical reform, but of the Vatican Council II itself, claiming, with unfounded and unsustainable assertions, that it betrayed the Tradition and the "true Church." The path of the Church must be seen within the dynamic of Tradition
"which originates from the Apostles and progresses in the Church with the assistance of the Holy Spirit." A recent stage of this dynamic was constituted by Vatican Council II where the Catholic episcopate came together to listen and to discern the path for the Church indicated by the Holy Spirit. To doubt the Council is to doubt the intentions of those very Fathers who exercised their collegial power in a solemn manner cum Petro et sub Petro in an ecumenical council, and, in the final analysis, to doubt the Holy Spirit himself who guides the Church.
As Pope Francis has strongly alluded to in the above quote, there has been a tendency of some to depict the pre-Vatican II liturgy as being more reverent and "truly" Catholic than the Novus Ordo, and to imply that the liturgy as ordinarily celebrated in our parishes is irreverent and somehow less pure than the Extraordinary Form. I can assure you that as I travel through the state, I recognize that our liturgies are far from irreverent. Rather, by and large, our priests and the people of Idaho are themselves trustworthy custodians of our sacred liturgy, celebrating their public worship with attentive care and faithfully nurturing the Body of Christ. However, that being said, the motu proprio is a good opportunity for all of us to pay renewed attention to our celebrations, and to do all we can to ensure that our public worship is in accord with the current Roman Missal.
My concern has been, and remains, the unity of the Catholic Church in Idaho - particularly with regard to Her sacramental life. Much of what I have done since being named Bishop has been to that end: always after careful consideration, always with the good of the faithful in mind, and often in direct response to an expressed concern by them.
As you may recall, I restored the posture of kneeling at the Lamb of God. I have encouraged locating the tabernacle in our churches to a place of prominence. I issued an instruction in February of 2020, clarifying confusing practices that had been introduced into the liturgy in our Diocese. I have emphasized the integrity of our liturgies as celebrated at the Cathedral, as the model of liturgical excellence for all our parishes. I consecrated the Diocese to the care of Our Blessed Mother and have established initiatives to safeguard the spiritual life of our families, including the Marriage for Life movement and vigorous support for antiabortion and pro-religious education legislation.
Pope Francis ended his letter to the bishops by invoking the Spirit of the Risen Lord, that
"He may make you strong and firm in your service to the People of God entrusted to you by the Lord, so that your care and vigilance express communion even in the unity of one, single Rite, in which is preserved the great richness of the Roman liturgical tradition."
With this in mind, in accordance with Traditionis Custodes and Canon 381, 1, I decree that, effective immediately:
• It is determined that the priests of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, in situ at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Coeur d'Alene, do not deny the validity and legitimacy of the liturgical reform as dictated by Vatican Council II and therefore may continue to use the 1962 Roman Missal in that parish solely;
• It is determined that the St. Paul's Treasure Valley Latin Mass Society, which exists as an apostolate of St. Paul's Catholic Community in Nampa, is effective for the spiritual growth of the faithful and may therefore continue its current practice, solely under the conditions set forth in my memo to their pastor dated March 8, 2019, and again in my memo of April 6, 2021. As Pope Francis has also stated, the readings must be proclaimed in the vernacular language, using translations of the Sacred Scripture approved for current liturgical use by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops;
• Priests in this Diocese who are currently celebrating Mass according to the Roman Missal of 1962 and wish to continue must request permission from me in writing; and
• All priests who wish to celebrate any Mass, other than a private Mass, according to the Roman Missal of 1962, must request permission from me in writing.