Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Report of the Una Voce Conference

[From the December 1, 2005 edition of The Wanderer]

Providence Brings Bishop Rifan to Una Voce Conference


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

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

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

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

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

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 holds a Master's degree in Theology.

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