Editor’s note: Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann sent the following letter, dated July 27, to the priests and deacons of the archdiocese. It concerns the apostolic letter recently issued “motu proprio” (on his own initiative) by Pope Francis regarding the celebration of Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal, commonly referred to as the Latin (or Tridentine) Mass.
Dear brother priests and deacons
At the heart of our Catholic faith lies the most holy Eucharist, the font and summit of the church’s life and mission. In the celebration of holy Mass, we hear God speak to us through his word, we share in offering the paschal sacrifice of Our Blessed Lord to the Almighty Father, and we receive the body and blood of Christ himself, that we may dwell in him, and he in us.
In light of last week’s apostolic letter “Guardians of Tradition,” issued “motu proprio” (on his own initiative), by Pope Francis regarding the celebration of Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal, I wish to express my gratitude to each of you for your untiring love of the Lord Jesus, for your faithfulness to his Gospel and to the magisterium of his church, and for your deep desire for holiness. The apostolic letter was a reminder to me and my brother bishops of our special responsibility to be vigilant in protecting the integrity of the celebration of the Eucharist in accord with the liturgical norms of the universal church.
It also encouraged me to do everything possible to foster an environment where the Mass is always celebrated with care, devotion and beauty. In this responsibility, I rely heavily upon you, my brother priests and deacons. With ordination came the privilege but also the responsibility to lead the eucharistic celebration in a manner that helps to inspire the faithful to recognize the miracle in which they participate.
At this time, I am especially aware of the apprehensions of some priests, deacons, religious and laity who are concerned about the implementation of the apostolic letter in the Archdiocese of Kansas City and its impact on the future use of the 1962 Missal. I have already communicated with the St. John Vianney Latin Mass Community in Maple Hill and the St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Parish in Mission Woods, assuring them of my continued desire for them to be entrusted to the pastoral care of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. I respect and appreciate the devotion of these communities to what is often referred to as the Tridentine Mass and to the other liturgical rites which existed prior to the Second Vatican Council.
In light of the apostolic letter issued by Pope Francis requiring me, as the moderator and guardian of the liturgical life of the archdiocese, to establish a framework for the celebration of Mass according to the missal promulgated by Pope St. John XXIII in 1962, and to continue to promote the liturgical renewal set forth by Second Vatican Council through the celebration of the Mass and sacraments according to the 1969 missal of Pope St. Paul VI and the other sacramental rites revised after the Council, I issue the following directives:
• The pastoral and sacramental ministry offered at St. John Vianney Latin Mass Community in Maple Hill and St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Parish in Mission Woods will continue without interruption and will continue to be served by the priests of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.
• Those priests of the archdiocese, and other priests presently ministering stably in the archdiocese, who wish to celebrate at times the Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal may continue to do so for the present, in fidelity to all relevant liturgical and disciplinary norms, with the understanding they must contact me by Oct. 1 to request continued permission.
• Priests ordained in the future who may wish to celebrate at times the Mass according to the 1962 missal of Pope St. John XXIII will be required to seek permission from me. I shall then consult with the Apostolic See regarding their request.
• The use of the 1962 missal for the celebration of Mass for Sundays and holy days of obligation is not permitted in parish churches — with the exceptions of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Parish and St. John Vianney Latin Mass Community — as part of the parish’s regularly scheduled Masses, and its proposed use in parish churches in all other instances should be discussed with me or my delegate well in advance of any such celebrations.
• At celebrations of the Mass according to the 1962 missal, “the readings are proclaimed in the vernacular using translations of the Sacred Scripture approved for liturgical use by the respective Episcopal Conferences” (“Guardians of the Tradition,” Art. 3 § 3); in the dioceses of the United States, the New American Bible constitutes this approved translation.
• The celebration of the holy Mass and the sacraments of the church is always to be done in a manner which ensures fidelity to the directives, norms and rubrics of the sacred liturgy. The people of God have a right to expect to receive nourishment and formation from the eucharistic celebration as well to have the Mass celebrated faithfully according to the norms and rubrics of the church.
• Priests, deacons, religious and lay catechists, regardless of their personal liturgical preferences, are obligated to teach and form people in such a way that they understand clearly that Jesus himself becomes truly present — body, blood, soul and divinity — regardless of whether the Mass is celebrated according to the Pope St. John XXIII 1962 missal or the Pope St. Paul VI 1969 missal. It is a grave error and injustice to communicate to God’s people a superiority of either the Tridentine or the Novus Ordo Mass.
• Finally, in accord with the apostolic letter, I am appointing Father John Riley as my delegate to assist me with overseeing the celebrations of the Mass according to the 1962 Pope St. John XXIII missal and the pastoral care of those who participate in those celebrations.
Once again, I am grateful to you, my brother priests and deacons, for all that you do to lead the celebrations of the Eucharist in our parish communities. Thank you for your conscientious efforts to celebrate the Mass faithfully, according to the liturgical norms, as well as beautifully, in order to elevate the hearts of your people to give true worship to the God who has revealed himself in Our Lord Jesus Christ, who in turn makes himself uniquely present through the most blessed Sacrament. May we never grow dull to the amazing miracle of grace in which we are privileged to participate!
Sincerely yours in Jesus, the Lord of Life,
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas