Cardinal Mayer to US Bishops on the 1984 Indult

Letter from Cardinal Mayer to the Bishops of the United States

The following text is the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”
undated letter No. 500/90,
signed by Augustin Cardinal Mayer, Prefect,
which was delivered to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and which was further disseminated by a memorandum dated 19 April 1991,
from the Office of the General Secretary, National Conference of Catholic Bishops, to all the bishops in the United States.


Your Excellency:

I write to you as a brother in the episcopal college charged by the Holy Father to
carry out the provisions of his Apostolic Letter Ecclesia Dei of 2 July 1988. My
objective in addressing myself to you now is precisely to encourage you in the
exercise of your pastoral mission to those who legitimately request the celebration
of the Holy Mass according to the 1962 typical edition of the Roman Missal.

Perhaps a review of developments which led to the issuance of Ecclesia Dei would
be helpful in this regard.

1. On 3 October 1984, the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship issued Quattour
abhinc annos in which the Holy Father granted to diocesan bishops “the possibility
of using an indult whereby priests and faithful . . . may be able to celebrate
Mass by using the Roman Missal according to the 1962 edition.”

The following conditions were stipulated:

a) that those requesting permission do not “call into question the legitimacy
and doctrinal exactitude of the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Pius VI in 1970”;
b) that such celebrations take place only for groups requesting them, not in
parish churches (except with the bishop’s permission in extraordinary cases)
and under conditions laid down by the bishop;

c) that “these celebrations must be according to the 1962 Missal and in Latin”;

d) that there “be no interchanging of texts and rites of the two Missals”; and

e) that each bishop had to inform the Congregation “of the concessions granted
by him, and, at the end of a year from the granting of this indult, he must
report on the result of the application.”

2. A special “Commissio Cardinalitia ad hoc ipsum instituta” charged with
reviewing the use made of the indult met in December of 1986. At that time
the Cardinals unanimously agreed that the conditions laid down in Quattour
abhinc annos were too restrictive and should be relaxed.

3. As you well know, in response to the illicit ordination of bishops at
Econe on 30 June 1988 and wishing to uphold the principles which had been
established in the previous and unfortunately unfruitful dialogue with
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the Holy Father issued Ecclesia Dei, motu
proprio, on 2 July 1988.

While insisting that the root of the schismatic act of Archbishop Lefebvre

lies in an “incomplete and contradictory notion of Tradition” which fails
to “take sufficiently into account the living character of Tradition” (no. 4),
he also maintained with equal firmness that “it is necessary that all the pastors
and the other faithful have a new awareness, not only of the lawfulness but
also of the richness for the Church of a diversity of charisms, traditions
of spirituality, and apostolate” (no. 5, a).

Consequently, addressing himself “to all those Catholic faithful who feel
attached to some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of the Latin
tradition,” and not just to the former adherents of Archbishop Lefebvre,
he expressed his will “to guarantee respect for their rightful aspirations
(no. 5, c). In order to provide for these legitimate desires of the faithful
he established this Pontifical Commission and indicated his mind with regard
to its primary task, stating:

“. . . respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of those who are
attached to the Latin liturgical tradition, by a wide and generous application
of the directives already issued some time ago by the Apostolic See for use of
the Roman Missal according to the 1962 typical edition (no. 6, c).”

Consequently, Your Excellency, we wish to encourage you to facilitate the
proper and reverent celebration of the liturgical rites according to the Roman
Miss of 1962 wherever there is a genuine desire for this on the part of the
priests and faithful. This should not be construed as a promotion of that Missal
in prejudice to the one promulgated eight years later, but simply a pastoral
provision to meet the “rightful aspirations” of those who wish to worship
according to the Latin liturgical tradition as celebrated for centuries.

In the light of the Holy Father’s motu proprio, then, we offer the following
guidelines and suggestions:

1. There is no reason now why the so-called “Tridentine” Mass cannot be celebrated
in a parish church where this would be a genuine pastoral service to the faithful
asking for it. Care should be taken, of course, for a harmonious integration
into the already existing parish liturgical schedule.

2. The regularity and frequency of the celebration of this liturgy, whether to
be celebrated on Sundays, Holydays, and/or weekdays, will depend on the needs of
the faithful. Our recommendation is that, in places where the faithful have made
a request for the regular celebration for the Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal,
a weekly Sunday and Holyday Mass be scheduled in a central location and at a
convenient time on a trial basis for a period of several months. Afterwards
further evaluation and adjustment should be made.

3. Of course the celebrants of the “Tridentine” Mass should not fail in their
preaching and contacts with the faithful attending such Masses to emphasize
their own adherence to the legislation of the universal Church and their
acknowledgment of the doctrinal and juridical value of the liturgy as revised
after the Second Vatican Council. Under such conditions, it would seem unnecessary,
even unduly painful, to impose further restrictions upon those who wish to attend
such celebrations.

4. Although the Holy Father has given this Pontifical Commission the faculty to
grant the use of the 1962 typical edition of the Roman Missal to all those who
request it, while the Commission informs the appropriate Ordinary thereof, we
would much prefer that such faculties be granted by the Ordinary himself for the
sake of strengthening the bond of ecclesial communion between those priests and
faithful and their local Pastors.

5. Following upon the “wide and generous application” of the principles laid down
in Quattour abhinc annos and the directives of the Fathers of the Second Vatican
Council (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 51 & 54), the new Lectionary in the vernacular
could be used as a way of “providing a richer fare for the faithful at the table
of God’s Word” in Masses celebrated according to the 1962 Missal. However, we
believe that this usage should not be imposed on congregations who decidedly wish
to maintain the former liturgical tradition in its integrity according to the
provision of the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei. Such an imposition might also be less
likely to invite back to full communion with the Church at this time those who
have lapsed into schismatic worship.

6. Since a number of older and retired priests who have a deep appreciation of the
previous Latin liturgical tradition have approached their individual Ordinaries as
well as this Pontifical Commission to obtain the celebret for the use of the 1962
Missal, it would seem particularly suitable to utilize the services of such priests
where possible for the celebration of this Mass. It may well be discovered that even
retired priests who have not requested this faculty would nonetheless be willing to
provide this special form of pastoral care for those who request it.

Finally, Your Excellency, it is my sincere desire that this fraternal letter will
be for us who are members of the episcopal college an incentive to exercise that
manus episcopale described so beautifully in Lumen Gentium 23:

“Individual bishops, insofar as they are set over particular Churches, exercise
their pastoral office over the portion of the People of God assigned to them, not
over other Churches, nor the Church universal. But insofar as they are members of
the episcopal college and legitimate successors of the apostles, by Christ’s
arrangement and decree, each is bound to have such care and solicitude for the
whole Church which, though it not be exercised by an act of jurisdiction, does
for all that redound in an eminent degree to the advantage of the universal Church.
For all the bishops have the obligation of fostering and safeguarding the unity of
faith and of upholding the discipline which is common to the whole Church.”

“I am pleased to avail myself of this opportunity to extend my best wishes to you
in your shepherding of the flock entrusted to your care and to assure you of my
willing collaboration that, in all circumstances, God may be glorified in the
orship of His Holy Church.”

Augustin Card. Mayer, Prefect