Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Setting bad precedents

Most of us have probably never heard of Fisher More College, but Rorate Caeli put it on the map by breaking this story:
In a stunning and breathtaking letter, the Most Rev. Michael Olson, the newly-ordained bishop of the Fort Worth Diocese and the second-youngest bishop in the United States, has fully and totally banned the offering of the Traditional Latin Mass in the chapel of Fisher More College, where it has been offered for the last three years on a daily basis by chaplains all approved by his predecessor bishop according to the college. This blow comes after the students of the college raised $300,000 in about a week to keep the school open for the spring semester (see here). 
Many in the Catholic blogosphere told us to calm down, not to speculate, and to reserve judgment because we don't know all of the facts. Balderdash. Obviously we ought not presume to judge the internal movements of Bishop Olson's spirit in making this decision. But when we're talking about an objective action in the external forum, we can and ought to speak up if it is wrong. We seldom, if ever, know all of the facts about any given situation but we are still responsible for making decisions. Most of us are rather selective in calling for sober fact gathering, generally when we're defending a position or a person we already agree with.

With respect your Excellency, I believe you are wrong on the law in this matter. Summorum Pontificum made it clear that bishops no longer have the power to arbitrarily restrict the Traditional Latin Mass. If Fisher More College is becoming too radical in its Traditionalism (dare we say, crypto-lefebvrian?) then forbidding the TLM seems like it would only be pouring gasoline on the fire. Are we to believe that the Mass which formed countless saints, martyrs, and doctors of the Church is now something to be considered bad and harmful to souls?

Many Catholic bloggers are missing the forest for the trees on this matter. I don't know about all of the supposed problems at Fisher More College, but one school is not the issue here. The real issue is whether bishops have the power to suppress the TLM. According to Summorum Pontificum, they don't. Unless and until a pope explicitly abrogates it, SP is the law. What I'm afraid of is that Bishop Olson's action will stand. I'm afraid that SP will become a dead letter in practice as is much of the Church's traditions and disciplines is so many corners throughout the world.

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