BY SIMON CALDWELL
CARDINAL CORMAC MurphyO’Connor has invoked Church law to prevent a senior Vatican official from celebrating a traditional Latin Mass in Westminster Cathedral.
Archbishop Raymond Burke, the Prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest court, was invited by the Latin Mass Society (LMS)to offer Mass in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite.
The event was supposed to take place on June 20 after the LMS had held its annual general meeting. Archbishop Burke, the former Archbishop of St Louis, accepted the invitation. The LMS then sought permission from Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor – but he refused to grant it.
Instead the Cardinal used the Code of Canon Law to insist that the Mass was celebrated by John Arnold, one of his auxiliary bishops. To justify his position, the Cardinal invoked Canon 838 which says that “within the limits of his competence, it belongs to the diocesan bishop to lay down the Church entrusted to his care, liturgical regulations which are binding on all”.
This meant that the LMS was forced to rescind its invitation to Archbishop Burke while holding out the hope that he would attend the AGM and celebrate Mass in another Westminster church on Sunday June 21,“The Cardinal has made generous provision for those requiring Mass in the extraordinary form in his diocese and when approached by the LMS the Cardinal was keen for one of the local bishops to celebrate that Mass,” said the Cardinal’s spokesman. “He doesn’t want to give the impression that it is only bishops from abroad, foreign bishops, who come in and celebrate the extraordinary form and that’s precisely why he asked Bishop Arnold to do it. The Cardinal has subsequently spoken to Archbishop Burke. He has apologised for any misunderstanding and Archbishop Burke has understood the point.” He added: “Clearly this is a misunderstanding down to the fact that the LMS erroneously invited him in the first place – erroneously because it wasn’t their position to ask anyone to celebrate Mass in the diocese.” John Medlin, general manager of the LMS, confirmed that Archbishop Burke had accepted the invitation to celebrate the Mass.
But he said that at a “most friendly and useful meeting” with the Cardinal in early February the LMS later “gratefully accepted” the idea that Bishop Arnold should celebrate the Mass instead.
Mr Medlin said the LMS was “distressed” at any embarrassment caused to the Cardinal and Archbishop Burke but was pleased that Bishop Arnold would become the first English bishop to celebrate Mass in the extraordinary form to mark the group’s AGM.
He said it was a sign of progress because English bishops have recently confer confirmations in the older form and in 2007 – for the first time – offered an annual November Mass for the dead in the Tridentine form.
However, it is unlikely that the acceptance by the LMS of the Cardinal’s wishes will dampen speculation that the English hierarchy have sent a message of disapproval of the traditional Latin Mass.
The Pope liberated the use of the older form of Mass partly to lure back traditionalists who were angered by its suppression after the Second Vatican Council in the Sixties.
But liberals are wary because they associate those attached to the traditional Latin Mass with ultra-conservative groups, such as the Society of St Pius X, which oppose the radical reforms ushered in by the Council. The older liturgical form, which dates back to the 1560 Council of Trent has a different set of rubrics to the Mass of Paul VI, two readings from the Gospel, is always celebrated with the priest leading the people in facing east, the direction from which the Church believes Jesus will appear on the Last Day.
This means the priest has his back to the congregation, a practice that has widely fallen into disuse for the newer form of the Mass though never forbidden. The ordinary form of the Roman Rite is widely celebrated in the vernacular and in many instances with the priests face the congregations instead of East.
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor was among a small number of European prelates who tried to dissuade Pope Benedict from lifting the restrictions on the celebration of the traditional Mass.
He wrote to the Vatican arguing that the provision of the traditional rite was unnecessary and already adequate in England and Wales.
The Pope later that year published the Motu Proprio
Summorum Pontificum authorising the universal use of the traditional rite where groups of the faithful desire it and where a priest has been trained to celebrate it. The Pope said the Mass from the Roman Missal in use since 1970 remains the ordinary form of the Mass, while the celebration of the “Tridentine” Mass is the extraordinary form.
A year later, Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which works to help separated traditionalist Catholics return to the Church, said the Pope wanted the rite to be celebrated in all parishes.
Like Archbishop Burke, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos was invited to London to attend the LMS annual meeting and celebrate Mass in Westminster Cathedral afterwards.
He offered the first pontifical high Mass in the Tridentine rite in the Cathedral in 39 years.
Archbishop Burke, 60, was invited as the guest of the LMS because of his support for the traditional Mass.
The experienced canon lawyer was elevated to a Vatican post in June last year and is likely to be made a cardinal at the next consistory.
Archbishop Burke became the focus of international attention during the 2004 US presidential election when he said he would deny the Democrat contender John Kerry, a Catholic, the Eucharist because of his support for legal abortions.
He entered the political arena again last Septembertwo months before the US elections—by saying the Democratic Party risked “transforming itself definitively into a party of death” because of its anti-life position.