Malaga, the 19th April 2009
Your Excellency, Bishop Catalá,
We the undersigned, faithful Catholics belonging to the Diocese of Malaga, with due respect address ourselves to you with the following petition:
1) As you know, on the 14th of September 2007 there entered into effect the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, in which His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI gave permission to those faithful who wished it, to assist at the celebration of the Holy Mass in edition of 1962 of the Missale Romanum, promulgated by the Blessed John XXIII and which constitutes the so called extra-ordinary form of the Roman rite.
2) From this date and onwards, this form has expanded to the whole world and also aroused the interest of persons, who due to their youth could not know it beforehand. This development has taken place in many dioceses and has been peaceful and fruitful, enriching the life of Faith with its inestimable treasures (spiritual, cultural, historical) offered by the Liturgical Tradition of our Church. As the Holy Father says: “It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.” (See Letter of Pope Benedict XVI to the Bishops presenting the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum).
3) As His Eminence Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, has explained on many occasions, His Holiness wishes this extraordinary form of the Roman rite to be made known to as great a number of faithful as possible, including in places where there is no demand for it. This in order that these faithful may also participate in the immense treasure contained in the millenary Liturgical Tradition of the Church.
4) Various bishops in the whole world have promoted distinct forms of application of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, for instance with following measures: the creation of personal parishes, celebration of pontifical masses and administration of the sacraments (confirmation and ordination), appointment of delegated priests, designation of parish temples for the celebration, invitation to establish institutes connected to the older liturgical books, etc.
5) In the special case of the Diocese over which Your Excellency in such a dignified way presides, on the 6th of October 2007, in the Parish of the Holy Martyrs, took place a celebration of the Holy Mass in strict conformity with the mentioned motu proprio. In it participated a very large number of faithful, which on the following day the Press was quick to mention (this fact may be ascertained by consulting the newspapers of that date). This shows the interest presented by the rite and its positive acceptance by the faithful who do not meet it with any opposition or with polemics.
6) The minimum number for a group to be thus nominated according to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei is three persons, the same as that necessary to constitute a religious community.
Because of what has been said above, we, the undersigned, now have the honour of asking His Excellency to set up a regular celebration using the Missal of the Blessed John XXIII in the diocese and city of Malaga. We ask you therefore kindly to designate a priest who could assume the task of performing this Mass, without detriment to the right of any other priest of this Diocese to make use of the same Missal, as has been stipulated in the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum. Due to the experience of other Spanish parishes, we ask respectfully Your Excellency to designate a priest who shows interest in the usage of the extra-ordinary Roman rite, as well as a temple suited for the purpose, which could be for instance the parish church of the Holy Martyrs, the chapel of Santo Cristo de Salud, some chapel belonging to the Cathedral or other similar ones. It could start with a monthly mass, with the possibility of developing later into a weekly mass, once it has been consolidated.
We permit ourselves to indicate to Your Excellency that there exists a possibility that parish priests connected to traditional institutes, such as the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (the [Spanish] seat of which is in Madrid), may give some instruction in this diocese, in order that the priests so wishing may get a better understanding of the liturgical form. Or that such an institute may develop a permanent apostolate in Malaga.
Before concluding, we wish to emphasize our position as faithful members of the church, who take active part in the religious life of the diocese, adhering with total obedience and love to His Holiness the Pope and to Your Excellency, you who are the pastor of the special church of Malaga. We are also in full adherence to the Magisterium of our Holy Mother the Church, including adherence to all the ecumenical councils held up to now.
Asking you to take a favourable stand to our petition, and taking the opportunity to entrust ourselves to your pastoral benevolence, reiterating our respectful obedience to Your Excellency as your faithful sons and daughters, Q.B.S.P.A.
After a wait of some 2 months came the devastating episcopal reply to the traditional faithful of Malaga:
Letter from His Excellency the Bishop of Malaga (Spain), from the 17th of June 2009, refusing the petition made by a group of faithful
Malaga, the 17 of June 2009
I have studied the request made on the 19th of April this year by eleven laymen and yourself, where you ask me to “set up a regular celebration using the Missal of the Blessed John XXIII in the diocese and city of Malaga”, and also that I ”designate a priest who could assume the task of offering this Mass”.
Naturally I recognize the inestimable treasure that the Church and her liturgical tradition has owned in the celebration done in conformity with the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962 and I also value your interest in this extraordinary form of the Roman rite.
However, according to my knowledge of and positive assumption of the dispositions made in the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, as well as of the letter which the Holy Father sent to us Bishops and annexed to this document, and also in my role as Bishop for this Diocese, which is to see to its most urgent necessities, I consider that the adequate conditions for the regular celebration of the mass according to the extraordinary form of the Roman rite have not been met.
In the first place, the purpose of the mentioned document is to meet the concern of the Supreme Pontiffs “up to our times to ensure that the Church of Christ offers a worthy ritual to the Divine Majesty, 'to the praise and glory of His name,' and 'to the benefit of all His Holy Church.' "(1). Therefore, “there is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture" (2). In this sense, “the Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI is the ordinary expression of the 'Lex orandi' (Law of prayer) of the Catholic Church of the Latin rite”. (3) This is a fundamental principle which we must not forget.
In the second place, we are asked, all of us, to make an effort to look for the welfare of the faithful, “avoiding discord and favouring the unity of the whole Church” (4).Therefore, and also meeting the object of the document, there is no reason for us in this very moment to start to propagate the celebration of the mass according to the Missal of the Blessed John XXIII, because the ordinary form according to the Missal of Paul VI, promulgated through the Liturgical Reform, and the Second Vatican Council, has become well established in this Diocese and for the time being this ordinary form is well consolidated, extended and accepted.
In the third place, there is in the parishes of this Diocese of Malaga, except for a few persons originating from different regions and who keep a legitimate and lawful appreciation for this liturgical rite, no “stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition” (5). Moreover, there are neither parishes, nor pastors, who claim, or feel as a necessity, the celebration of Mass according to the extraordinary form, and this precisely for the reason that there are no stable groups who ask for it. In this respect, we may read in the eighth paragraph of the Explanatory Note regarding the Motu Proprio sent out by the Holy See on the same day as the promulgation of said document: “... when in that place is found a very substantial number of faithful who wish to follow the earlier liturgy...” (6).
Due to the reciprocal appreciation which unites us, among other questions concerning the Liturgical Tradition, I ask you to seek at the present time to promote the unity of the Church in those associations, parishes, groups, etc. where you habitually participate in the life of the Faith, and to do this as an expression and testimony of your baptismal vow. “The most sure guarantee that the Missal of Paul VI can unite parish communities and be loved by them consists in its being celebrated with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives. This will bring out the spiritual richness and the theological depth of this Missal" (7). Therefore, I invite you to always, wherever you are, to demand – with loving compliance – that the liturgical norms in vigour should be well celebrated, in order that our celebrations may shine in all their splendour as the supreme manifestation of the faith of the Church.
I take this occasion of greeting you and giving you my blessing with my affection in Christ.
Bishop of Malaga
(1) Introduction to the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum (7 July 2007).
(2) Letter of Pope Benedict XVI to the bishops of the world to present the “Motu Proprio” (7 July 2007).
(3) Summorum... Art. 1.
(4) Summorum... Art. 5. 1.
(5) Summorum... Art. 5.1.
(6) Explanatory note issued by the Press Office of the Holy See regarding the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum (7 July 2007).
(7) Letter of Pope Benedict XVI to the bishops of the world to present the “Motu Proprio” (7 July 2007).
Although dated June 17, 2009, the letter denying the petition of the Catholic faithful of Malaga was posted on the blog of Una Voce Malaga on July 2, 2009.
What followed was a concerted campaign by Spanish-language blogs to expose the situation to the whole Catholic world.
A 'clarification' was not long in coming.
On July 9, 2009, the official website of the Diocese of Malaga posted the following "Nota Informativa":
The Diocese of Malaga 09/07/2009.
Information from the Diocese of Malaga regarding the Extra-ordinary form of the Roman rite according to the Missal of the Blessed John XXIII
1. In various media has appeared the information that the Bishop of Malaga has refused the petition to celebrate the Mass in his Diocese according to the extra-ordinary form of the Roman rite.
2. Nothing can be further from the truth than this false notice. The Bishop has not refused the celebration of this extraordinary form to celebrate the Holy Mass. Among other things because this is something to which the believer has the right, which was confirmed by Benedict XVI, whom the Bishop values very highly and to whom he is bound by absolute loyalty and with whom he is in full ecclesiastical communion.
3. A small group of loyal faithful have made the followings special petition, referring themselves to Article 10 of the Motu Proprio. ”Because of what has been said above, we, the undersigned, now have the honour of asking His Excellency to set up a regular celebration using the Missal of the Blessed John XXIII in the Diocese and city of Malaga. We ask you therefore kindly to designate a priest who could assume the task of performing this Mass, without detriment to the right of any other priest of this Diocese to make use of the same Missal, as has been stipulated in the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum”.
4. The answer of the Bishop to this concrete petition has been that for the very moment it has not been judged convenient to respond to the request, due to Diocese of Malaga having difficulties to meet the adequate conditions for this. However, there has never been any question of prohibiting or refusing the celebration of the Holy Mass with the use of the Missal of the Blessed John XXIII in the Diocese of Malaga.
5. In order to celebrate the Eucharist using the said Missal it is not necessary to ask authorization from the Bishop, as can be seen clearly in the article 5 §1 of the “motu proprio”: “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”. Thus it is the parish priests themselves who have to decide how to handle the requests made by the Faithful.
Malaga, the 9th of July 2009
It remains to be seen what will come out of this. Let us note, though, that even as the Bishop of Malaga denied that he was forbidding the 1962 Missal in his diocese, he still threw the question of its availability to the faithful back to the parish priests, when the faithful had appealed to him precisely because of the apparent unavailability of the parochial clergy.
Let us pray for a satisfactory resolution to this situation.