At Catholica, editor Tom Zwitser shares some discouraging news. After two Masses, the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Latin rite of the Mass at the cathedral of St. Joseph is to be discontinued immediately. Sad news, and the reasons for this decision not only highlight the lack of communication (which I, in a different context, have also experienced) within the parish and the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, but also the contradictory position with the world Church taken by the diocese. Both the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum and the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae, issued by Pope Benedict XVI and Ecclesia Dei respectively, are quite clear in the duties that a diocesan bishop has towards a group of faithful who wish to attend the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.
Aforementioned texts are quite clear in the regulations surrounding the celebration of the Extraordinary Form in any given diocese or jurisdiction. Below a summary from the texts:
It is the task of the Diocesan Bishop to undertake all necessary measures to ensure respect for the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite, according to the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum. [UE 14]
In parishes, where there is a stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition, the pastor should willingly accept their requests to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962, and ensure that the welfare of these faithful harmonises with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the guidance of the bishop in accordance with canon 392, avoiding discord and favouring the unity of the whole Church. [SP 5.1]
A coetus fidelium (“group of the faithful”) can be said to be stabiliter existens (“existing in a stable manner”), according to the sense of art. 5 § 1 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, when it is constituted by some people of an individual parish who, even after the publication of the Motu Proprio, come together by reason of their veneration for the Liturgy in the Usus Antiquior, and who ask that it might be celebrated in the parish church or in an oratory or chapel; such a coetus (“group”) can also be composed of persons coming from different parishes or dioceses, who gather together in a specific parish church or in an oratory or chapel for this purpose [UE 15].
Three paragraphs only, which illustrate that priests and bishops are to generously grant the wish of a stable group of faithful (the size of that group does not factor into the occasion) to celebrate the Mass in the Extraordinary Form. These texts are not difficult or unclear.
But what is now happening in Groningen? After two EF Masses in April and May (announced as to take place on every first Sunday of the month, celebrated out of necessity by priests from outside the diocese, initially until summer, but with the implied possibility that they may continue after that if an average of 30 faithful would be attending at that point), a decision was made to limit the number of Masses to four per year. This, as Mr. Zwitser quotes, “not to encourage a division of spirits within the parish”. It must be said, at this point, that finding qualified priests, acolytes and volunteers willing to organise and celebrate these Masses is difficult in this diocese, with such a small number of clergy and faithful to begin with. This difficulty, coupled with, in his words, the lack of cooperation he received, led Mr. Zwitser to decide not to continue as the lone mandated organiser.
Maybe the diocese will continue offering EF Masses, but this first attempt can be considered a failure. It’s quite sad that there seems to be such opposition to the older form of the Mass, especially when Rome has been quite clear in this respect. Of course, lack of volunteers, clergy and personnel are hurdles to overcome, but Universae Ecclesiae foresaw in this:
In Dioceses without qualified priests, Diocesan Bishops can request assistance from priests of the Institutes erected by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, either to the celebrate the forma extraordinaria or to teach others how to celebrate it .
Again, this is not difficult, and it works: the two Masses in Groningen have been offered by qualified priests from the Diocese of Roermond and the FSSP. Travelling costs remain as the sole obstacle.
Rumours have it that EF Masses may continue at the church of St. Martin in Sneek. A place and church not as easy to reach for people as the cathedral in Groningen is, and also lacking a qualified priest. This is then a rumoured solution that only relocates the problem.
At this moment, the reintroduction of the Extraordinary Form in Groningen seems to be nipped in the bud. Promises seem to be broken, cooperation not given as much as it could, and the instructions from Rome and the personal wish of the Holy Father not given due consideration.I expressly say ‘seems’, because much of this is hearsay and second-hand information. As in the world Church, the local Church too has much to grow in communication.