Rorate Caeli

Dear Cardinal Cupich: At least obey the rubrics of the Novus Ordo Mass

 Dear Cardinal Cupich:

I write to you as a Catholic priest on the feast of St. Thomas Becket, who is commemorated in the Octave of Christmas.  St. Thomas Becket was certainly a complex man, but in the end—and the end is ultimately important to us all-- how he died so violently in the Cathedral at Canterbury at the hands of assassins driven to that terrible deed by King Henry II,   made him a saint, not by a proclamation from Rome, but rather because of the “common” Catholics who understood that he was a martyr for the Catholic faith. 

Your Croatian heritage surely must give you a deep sense of what it cost and still costs to be a Catholic in that part of the world.  And it must give you a deep sense of what it means to be the descendent of immigrants who made a place in the New World and whose Catholic faith was an integral part of their lives.  You are the Archbishop of the center of what we can call Mid-Western Catholicism, certainly different in ethnic ways from where I grew up in the Northeast.  Ethnic Catholicism is the historical basis for the presence of the Catholic faith in the United States.  In some ways the Catholic faith and practice  was a foreign body in the United States’ religious scene that was mostly Protestant. But it became a religious force in the United States by virtue of sheer numbers and the dogged faith of ordinary Catholics, who were not clergy nor intellectuals—but ordinary Catholics who were faithful to the teaching of the Church and who went to Mass as a solemn obligation, which understanding of obligation came from their deep faith.  

With this as a background, it is so very difficult to understand why you and many other bishops seem to have abandoned your God-given role of bishop of vigorously evangelizing this country and the whole world  to the Catholic faith whose center is the person of Jesus Christ.  You seem to have bought into the post-Vatican II embracing of the “modern” world, a world that no longer exists except in the Vatican.  You have joined those who became drunk not with the Holy Spirit but with the spirit of the 1960s, which years were a cultural watershed in the history of the West.  You refuse to let go of the 1960s. You have been and are living in the past and as such are irrelevant to the contemporary world  The Church, or at least those leaders of the Church after the Second Vatican Council –a valid Council but no less or no more important than any other Ecumenical Council-decided to become modern when the world became post-modern.  It is true that you were not around when the “spirit” of the Council set its course to a rapprochement with the post-1960s world, a world that has already vanished and is irrelevant today.  But you seem to be a product of those who have reinterpreted in a negative way(under the guise of “openness”) Jesus’ command to his disciples before his Ascension to evangelize the world in his Name, the world that we must love as Christ loved it, but the world which, in Johannine theology, is opposed to  the Truth of Jesus Christ. If I were in your presence, I would ask you how you understand the Great Commission given to the Apostles by Jesus Christ. The Apostles certainly took it seriously and paid the ultimate price for doing so.  How is the Great Commission being carried out today?  The Pachamama scandolon is the answer to that question.

 But all of this is a mere prelude to my deep horror at your recent decree of implementation of the Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes for the Archdiocese of Chicago. It shows a terrible lack of pastoral sensitivity--you are a Pastor not a lawyer-- and, among other things,  a lack of basic knowledge of the rubrics of the Novus Ordo Mass.  You cannot hide behind that “survey of the bishops of the world”  concerning the question of whether the liberal, in the Christian sense of that world, freedom given to the Church by Pope Benedict XVI, still living,  to celebrate the Mass according to the liturgical forms of the Tradition of the Church as a true exercise plurality in unity, was harmful to the unity of the Church. That that survey was never made public undermines any rational  basis for the negative and draconian measures promulgated in Traditionis Custodes. 

You certainly have a pastoral obligation to those in your Archdiocese who are attached to the Traditional Roman Mass, the essence of which may date in part to the first centuries of the Church.  But this obligation to your sheep is certainly not evident in your recent document of implementation of Traditionis Custodes in the Archdiocese of Chicago. I will comment on only one of your directives, one of the most egregious,  for it is based on ignorance of the rubrics of the Missal of Pope St Paul VI. Your directive that the priest must face the people in celebrating Mass has no basis in liturgical history and is a product of a sentimental and mistaken understanding of the relationship between the priest and the people in the Mass.  But to the point: Are you not aware of the rubrics of the 1970 Missal and the current version of the Novus Ordo Missal that assumes that the priest is facing East, that is, toward the God who is to come to judge the living and dead?  Have you ever read the rubric at the Orate Fratres that tells the priest to “face  the people”?  The same for the Peace and the "Behold the Lamb of God"? If the priest were facing the people throughout the Mass, these rubrics would make no sense. Obviously these rubrics, in place for nearly fifty years, are something you have never read.  If you have not done so, how can you possible decree that the Mass today must be celebrated facing the people? Furthermore, do you understand, as the Church has always understood until very recently, that unity does not demand rigid conformity in matters of liturgical rites?

In how many of your parishes is the express desire of the Constitution on the Liturgy of Vatican II that “Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites” as a living reality? Or that Gregorian chant be given “pride of place in the celebration of the parish Mass”?  One can go one at length about the radical discontinuity of the Novus Ordo Mass with the Traditional Roman Mass and the discontinuity between Sacrosanctum Concilium  and the Ordo Missae imposed on the Church by Pope St. Paul VI. Are you aware of this discontinuity? If you are, you have an obligation to address it. 

The question for you, Archbishop Cupich, is this: do you care about the real discontinuity between the Roman Missal of 1962 and the Roman Missal of 1970, whose validity is not in question?  Are you able spiritually to address the parlous state of the Catholic Church today  in which an increasingly small number of Catholics believe in the Real Presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and in which below twenty percent of Catholics in this country go to Mass regularly? Perhaps you would be able to be a true shepherd of your people if you at least obeyed the rubrics of the Novus Ordo Missal and faced God with your people instead of facing each other in a closed circle that shuts out the Transcendent God. That would be a good first step out of the miasma that afflicts the Church today. But even more importantly, I pray that you would understand that you have an obligation first of all to Truth, and not some contemporary understanding of truth that has been relativized, but rather to the Truth whose name is Jesus Christ, for whom, like St. Thomas Becket, we should be willing to die. 

Yours in Christ,

Father Richard Gennaro Cipolla