31 May 2021

My Experiences with the Ecclesiastical Bureaucracy

Shortly after I became a Catholic, I became a member of the Third Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, or as they're called today, a Lay Carmelite. I wasn't yet a full-blown Traditionalist, so after formation, I made my Profession and took my vows in the terms of the New Rule.

After the issuance of the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei and as I became more and more Traditional I decided to see what I could do toward 'officially' following the Old Rule of the Third Order. So I wrote to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, only to have them reply that it wasn't in their remit and that I should ask the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.

So, I wrote to the PCED asking if I could follow the old, pre-Conciliar Rule of the Third Order. After a few weeks, I received a very nice letter from His Eminence Paul Augustin, Cardinal Mayer informing me that it was perfectly acceptable for me to follow the Old Rule since it was actually stricter than the new. Essentially he said that by following the Old Rule, I was doing more than required by the Rule currently in force.

Emboldened by my success with that endeavour, I wrote my Ordinary asking for my children to receive the First Sacraments in the Traditional Rite. As what I thought was an unnecessary courtesy, I copied the letter to the PCED in Rome.

Weeks went by with no answer. I wasn't actually that surprised, since my Archbishop was well known for not responding to the laity unless they were wealthy donors to his pet projects and he was no friend of Tradition.

However, after several weeks, I received a letter from His Eminence at the PCED. It informed me that if I would assure him that I 'accepted the 'validity' of the New Mass, he would 'encourage' the Archbishop to agree to my request. I had not, in any way, indicated doubt about the validity of the Novus Ordo.

A day or two later, I received a reply from His Grace. It was obvious to me that he had had no intention of replying until he realised that Rome was involved.

The letter itself was a classic example of modern liberalism in the Church. The first page (of four) explained how much he supported the Holy Father in his issuance of Ecclesia Dei and why he wouldn't grant my request. This, of course, was in direct opposition to the very words of the Holy Father in ED,

To all those Catholic faithful who feel attached to some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of the Latin tradition I wish to manifest my will to facilitate their ecclesial communion by means of the necessary measures to guarantee respect for their rightful aspirations. In this matter I ask for the support of the bishops and of all those engaged in the pastoral ministry in the Church.

He 'explained' that his Priests' Council had forbidden the use of Latin and the Old Rite, except for four TLMs per month, scheduled at inconvenient times in two separate cities on alternating weeks. No Holy Day Masses and if there was a fifth Sunday, Trads were out of luck.

The rest of the letter consisted of a screed accusing me of being a 'secret Lefebvreite' out to divide the Church. This, despite the fact that I had never mentioned Monseigneur Lefebvre or the SSPX in my letter.

To complete the irony, at the time we lived practically at the midway point between two SSPX priories. Had I wanted to have recourse to the Society (now, I undoubtedly would!), it would have been an easy drive to either.

I replied to him saying that I had obviously been badly catechised because I had learnt that authority in the Church originated in the Pope and descended to the Bishops. I said I had not realised that 'Priests Councils' had the power to usurp the Ordinary's authority in direct defiance of the Pope's decree.

That ended our correspondence. My wife said I would get myself excommunicated. Thinking of Msgr Lefebvre, I said I would be in good company!

My last brush with the bureaucracy did not involve Rome or my Bishop. I became involved in an FSSP Latin Mass Community near my home. Several members came to know of my membership in the Third Order of Carmel and asked if we could start a group in our Community.

Innocently I wrote to my Superiors, asking for help, and if possible copies of the Old Rule and related documents. Oh, how naive I was! I assumed that they would take the same attitude that Cardinal Mayer had taken earlier. Was I ever wrong!

In reply, I got a letter that mirrored the reply I had received from my Archbishop. First, they told me how much they supported the Holy Father in issuing Ecclesia Dei and how much they respected the Priests of the Fraternity of St Peter. Then they told me that they considered the motu proprio to have been a prudential mistake because they felt that those of us who attended FSSP Masses had a 'faulty ecclesiology'. In other words, we were all 'secret Lefebvreites' out to divide the Church.

After thinking about it, I wrote the Prior General of the Order in Rome, asking if this was the policy of the Order, and if not could he help me? 

After waiting several months for a reply, I wrote a letter to the Prior General of the Theresian Reform, the Order of Discalced Carmelites, asking for help.

Do you know, that after 20 years, I'm still waiting for an answer to either of those letters?!

1 comment:

  1. The word "Bishops" begins with "B" and ends with "S" and that's what they feed their flocks.


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