Thursday, February 02, 2006

... more on the Una Voce Conference

This was an original commentary on the Conference

Providence brings Bishop Rifan to Una Voce conference


Brian Mershon

November 30, 2005


From the December 1, 2005, edition of The Wanderer

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Amidst buzz in Catholic circles about the possibility of an imminent freeing of the classical Roman rite of Mass, Bishop Fernando Rifan offered a Solemn Pontifical Mass from the throne and delivered the keynote address, highlighting the tenth anniversary conference of Una Voce America in Providence, R.I., November 18-20.

And on Saturday morning, he treated Mass attendees with his musical playing ability by slipping down from his chair near the altar to play the organ during the communion of the faithful, as well as for the recessional — to the delight of those assisting at Holy Mass.

Bishop Rifan is currently the sole bishop in the world with the permission from the Holy See for his diocesan priests to offer the Holy Mass and sacraments exclusively according to the Missal of 1962. He said that the cause of tradition was very hopeful in the new pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI and is currently much brighter in the U.S. than perhaps many realize.

"You have four bishops who allow all their diocesan priests to offer the Traditional Mass [privately] at any time," Bishop Rifan said. He specifically cited Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Neb.; Bishop Thomas Doran of Rockford, Ill.; and Bishop Alvaro Corrada, SJ, of Tyler, Texas, who have been generous in the Ecclesia Dei indult application, as requested and emphasized repeatedly by the late Pope John Paul II.

A spokesperson from the Diocese of Lincoln explained that Bishop Bruskewitz requests a "courtesy" from his priests prior to offering the Mass publicly, as it is traditional for the bishop to have jurisdiction over the Masses offered in his diocese. For instance, Spanish, Vietnamese, and all regularly scheduled public liturgies must be offered with the bishop's knowledge and consent.

Bishop Rifan, the superior of St. John Mary Vianney Apostolic Administration in Campos, Brazil, offered the Holy Sacrifice from the throne with the permission of Bishop Thomas Tobin, and gave encouragement to Una Voce leaders from all over the U.S. and Canada who attended the three-day conference at Holy Name of Jesus Church in downtown Rhode Island.

"Una Voce is a force in the Church now," Bishop Rifan said to an audience of 200 laymen and women and 10 priests in his keynote address on Saturday, November 19. "We have many hopes with the new Pope, and we must pray for the Pope," Rifan said.

And perhaps due to the uptick in rumors about a possible pending universal indult for all priests to offer the classical Roman rite, Bishop Rifan emphasized the need for patience. He said that sometimes bishops know things, but the laity must understand they cannot disclose everything confided to them by the Pope.

"I will defend you always, especially Una Voce, when I speak to the Pope," Bishop Rifan said.

The newly elected president of Una Voce International, Fra Fredrik Chrichton-Stuart, president of Una Voce Holland, gave attendees reason for additional hope. He said that Bishop Rifan meets with the Pope often to discuss the concerns and spiritual needs of traditional Catholics, and quoted Msgr. Camille Perl, secretary of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, who recently told Una Voce International leaders:

"There is a new wind blowing in the Church," with Pope Benedict XVI in office. Msgr. Perl also told the Una Voce leadership in an October meeting in Rome that the Ecclesia Dei Commission has been shown a new level of respect since the new Pope has been in office.

Fra Chrichton-Stuart also added that he is aware of many younger priests in the Church who are attracted to the classical Roman rite of Mass. But he also emphasized the need for patience and for praying for the Pope during these early stages of his pontificate.

Both Pope Benedict XVI and Dario Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation of Clergy and president of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, have told Bishop Rifan that traditional Catholics such as the Campos apostolic administration, priests and lay faithful, as well as Una Voce members, are seen as a model for the rest of the Church.

"You are the example in preserving the tradition in full communion with the Holy See," Bishop Rifan stated Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos told him.

Bishop Rifan said that Catholics had the right to criticize certain problems with the new rite of Mass, and developments after Vatican II, but "with charity and from within the Church." He also cautioned against a tendency toward over-criticism, especially toward bishops, who represent the apostles and are vested with authority from Jesus Christ.

The Search For Holiness

Fr. Joseph Wilson, associate pastor from St. Luke's Church of the Diocese of Brooklyn, began the conference with some hard-hitting analysis and questions. "Forty years ago, there were a lot of optimistic books looking for the golden age of the future," he said. "If the past 40 years has been a renewal, I would really like to see what a disaster looks like," he said.

Fr. Wilson explained that perhaps in the pursuit of attempting to become more palatable to the world, the Church lost track of its primary mission. He suggested that self-affirmation and the search for sexual autonomy replaced the search for holiness, then this helped to contribute to the current crisis in the Church.

"The Orthodox fast for nearly half the year," he said. "We have taken many traditions and have decided to ignore them — to take the easy way out," he said. He recommended a return to reading the fathers of the Church, and to recapture many of these lost traditions, which the Orthodox have maintained. "We decided the old wisdom no longer applied," he said.

He explained that the Church leaders, many laity, priests, bishops appear to "have lost the ability of self-reflection." The "signs of the times" that Gaudium et Spes emphasizes, have not been read well in the past 40 years, according to Fr. Wilson. He encouraged people to read an article headlined "The End of Gaudium et Spes," by Dr. James Hitchcock, from a previous issue of Catholic World Report.

"How did we lose the ability to criticize ourselves?" he asked. He also said that an accurate reading of "the signs of the times" is necessary in order for the Church to find its way out of the current crisis.

Bishop Rifan indicated that in recent meetings with both Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, he stressed the importance of providing Catholics the full use of the traditional sacraments and devotions so they could conserve the traditional Catholic way of life. "Personal parishes [traditional] are needed," Bishop Rifan said.

Become A Saint

Other highlights of the conference included Bishop Rifan outlining numerous points on what it means to be a traditional Catholic, as well as an emphasis on the centrality of devotion to the Holy Eucharist. He repeatedly stressed the theological virtue of charity.

Reaffirming the proper and rightful place of traditional Catholics within the Church, Bishop Rifan quoted Pope Benedict XVI from the Cologne World Youth Day: "Only saints can restore mankind. The Church does not need reformers — it needs saints! We will reform the Church by becoming saints," he said.

"Martin Luther tried to be a reformer," he said. "St. Athanasius was a saint," and through the process of becoming one, he reformed the Church.

He also cautioned attendees from paying too much attention to rumors and conspiracy theories. "In my 30 years in the priesthood," Bishop Rifan said, "I have offered only the Traditional Latin Mass." He said that because he is a bishop in the Universal Church, he sometimes must attend Masses offered using the Missal of Pope Paul VI.

"However, just because I attend these Masses occasionally, does not mean that I necessarily agree with everything that goes on," he said.

This may be a reference to some Catholics associated with Society of St. Pius X, currently in dialogue with the Holy See in order to possibly resolve their canonical irregularities (but "not in formal schism," according to Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos). Some Catholics and web sites sympathetic to the Society of St. Pius X have repeatedly accused Bishop Rifan of "selling out" traditional Catholics due to his occasional attendance at concelebrated Masses with other priests and bishops.

Among other suggestions to Una Voce leaders, he encouraged them to defend "correct ecumenism." According to Bishop Rifan, this means that with charity in our contacts with non-Catholics, we should "ask them to return" to Christ's Church, and also pray for their conversions. He said that in Campos, as part of the New Evangelization, his priests and laity engage in door-to-door missions while handing out tracts, and they politely invite those they encounter to consider the truth of Jesus Christ through His Church.

Focus On The Supernatural

Msgr. Michael Schmitz, the U.S. vicar general and provincial for the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, gave a rousing closing talk Sunday afternoon on the importance of tradition. "Many times people have come to me and told me, 'Father, I know I must become Catholic because I have been to Mass,'" he said.

Msgr. Schmitz also agreed with Bishop Rifan's positive assessment of tradition in the United States. "American society is much more traditional than European society," he said. "In Europe, the traditions have been almost destroyed."

"Tradition in the Church is supernatural, and therefore, we should not speak of the Traditional Latin Mass," he said. Instead, "we should speak of the Mass because it is God's Mass; it is the Mass God wants us to celebrate," Msgr. Schmitz said.

"Many believe that tradition is something dusty — that the word should be avoided," he said.

He explained that all people, regardless of their religious, or even political, leanings, have a routine, a custom, a tradition they follow on a daily, weekly, and even monthly basis.

Simply speaking, according to Msgr. Schmitz, tradition is "some worthwhile learning that is received by us by someone who gives it." This "handing on," is traditio — the Latin root for tradition. All learning takes place through the use of tradition.

"Education at every level is traditional — even if sometimes the contents are not worthwhile," he said. But when tradition is applied to divine Revelation, then tradition's importance is increased — "in the realm of God." Msgr. Schmitz said that Catholics should try to permeate their daily life with tradition through the use of sacramentals, devotions, holy water, and other things to keep the focus on the supernatural.

With regard to Tradition and divine Revelation: "Everything is reception. Everything is gift. Everything is Tradition," Msgr. Schmidt said.

Bishop Rifan emphasized this same theme during his keynote address the previous evening. "To be a traditionalist means to defend the doctrine of Christ as King!" Bishop Rifan declared. "To be a traditionalist means to be attached to the Traditional Latin Mass because it better expresses the Catholic doctrine on the Holy Eucharist," he said "To be a traditionalist is a Catholic way of life: It is not just the Mass," he said.

The Reform Of The Reform

Fr. Thomas Kocik, from the Diocese of Fall River, Mass., and author of The Reform of the Reform, published by Ignatius Press, said he believed the 1962 Missal must be the starting point for any reform of the 1970 Missal of Pope Paul VI. "When you are doing a complicated math problem, and it comes out wrong, you go back to the original place where you began to go wrong," he said. Fr. Kocik said he believed the coexistence of the classical rite of Mass was vital for a proper reform of the current normative rite of Mass.

Fr. Kocik also raised the question as a possibility of the Campos, Brazil, apostolic administration being used as a model diocese, and possibly eventually applied to traditional Catholics throughout the entire Church.

When asked if he thought Pope Benedict XVI would publicly offer the classical Roman rite as Pope in St. Peter's Basilica, he said he "did not know." When asked if he thought the Pope should offer it, he said that based upon the Pope's own positive previous writings about the classical rite, "I think he should."

Brian Mershon is a commentator on cultural issues from a classical Catholic perspective. His trade is in media relations, and his vocation is as a husband to his beloved wife Tracey and father to his six living children. He attempts to assist his family and himself in attaining eternal salvation through frequent attendance at the Traditional Latin rite of Mass, homeschooling, and building Catholic culture in the buckle of the Bible Belt of Greenville, South Carolina.

© Copyright 2005 by Brian Mershon

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