Ecclesia Dei Report to FIUV

  Report of Ecclesia Dei Ireland to Una Voce International

[The following report was presented to the delegates of FIUV at the General Assembly in Rome, November 12-14, 1999]

Soon after the promulgation of the Motu Proprio “Ecclesia Dei Adflicta “, the Indult was applied in several centres in Ireland. Sunday Masses were offered in Dublin, Sligo and Belfast, though the Belfast Mass alternated between two chapels in the west and south of the city, where the Catholic population is concentrated. Raphoe, Co. Donegal had a Mass every Saturday. Derry had a Mass on the first Thursday of every month. And Mass was offered daily in Islandeady, Co. Mayo. All were concentrated in the northern half of the island, in the geographical rather than the political sense of the term.

In 1992, the Bishop of Killala allowed the celebration of Mass according to the 1962 Missal in Ballina, Co. Mayo, on the third Sunday of the month, again north of the line between Dublin and Galway, which roughly divides the country in half >From 1992 to 1997, no noteworthy expansion occurred. In fact much of what was there was lost. The permission in Sligo was discontinued when the priest serving the traditionalists there died. In Belfast, deaths and retirements reduced the priests on the rota to one, and he can only offer Mass in the West Belfast venue, every Sunday of every second month. The Mass in Derry was discontinued due to the size of the congregation, and two bishops of Derry offered the Mass there at various times. The other centres were unaffected. At the same time, several petitions were treated with contempt by Episcopal Chanceries. In Dromore (Co. Down), a petition of 1730 signatures was ignored. In Kerry, four petitions in various parts of the diocese were rejected. In Kildare and Leighlin, a petition from Carlow Town brought about bureaucratic stonewalling, and some extraordinary behaviour from the Ordinary, to say the least. In Cork and Ross, the late bishop was quoted as saying the Mass would be allowed in Cork City “over my dead body”. Eventually, the Cork and Ross chancery settled on allowing an octogenarian priest of the Society of African Missions to say Mass in the oratory of the Society’s house in the Cork suburb of Wilton. Father Higgins is not in the whole of his health and can only say the Mass of Our Lady, as he finds reading difficult and he doesn’t find a lot of support for this activity from his confreres. And the future of the Mass in Cork is uncertain after Father’s eventual death, or further deterioration of health. So, the picture of the Indult Mass is one which shows how narrow and niggardly the application of the Indult has been, The provision of requiem and nuptial Masses has also been erratic, with such Masses allowed in dioceses with no Indult Mass, and prohibited in dioceses where it is allowed. Dublin in particular shows some have been granted permission and some have been refused – in the case of both requiem and nuptial Masses.

Pilgrimages have been organised to Knock, Holy Cross and St. Patrick’s Purgatory, Lough Derg and have often drawn large crowds, depending greatly on the advertising allowed. Since 1997, there have been a number of new developments which, though all fall short of the desirable, are significant. Firstly, two new Mass centres have emerged, a third is promised and permission has been extended in a fourth. The Parish Priest of Roundwood, Co. Wicklow, the highest village in Ireland in terms of altitude, developed an interest in saying the old Mass through the writings of Michael Davies and the Kieron Wood video. Following consultation with the Auxiliary Bishop for Wicklow and the Archbishop of Dublin, he began saying the old Mass at 11pm on Thursday nights. In spite of the fact access to the church was only possible through the sacristy, a congregation developed, so Father Smith secured permission to bring the Mass forward to 8pm on Thursdays, with the church doors open. At the same time, Father William, a Cistercian Monk of Mellifont came to appreciate the older rite of Mass through the same two sources, Michael Davies’ books and Kieron Wood’s video. The Abbot referred the matter to the Archbishop of Armagh, who first allowed the celebration of five Masses, without advertising and ten allowed it to take place four times annually, without advertising. Father William is in the process of petitioning for an extension of that permission, given he has proven there is a demand from the Mass in Cos. Louth and Meath I would see Mellifont as having a particular significance. In 1106, St. Malachy of Armagh founded Mellifont, the first Cistercian monastery in the country, in a move which signalled the real beginning of the reformation of the Church in Ireland in the Hildebrandine spirit. Secondly, it is psychologically important to our cause that the Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland and Successor of St. Patrick, has allowed an Indult Mass in his archdiocese.

The third new centre, where Mass has yet to be said is in the town of Newbridge in the Kildare and Leighlin diocese. This was a long and hard struggle, and at present, the parish priest of Newbridge is stonewalling this, though the Bishop has made the concession. I hope to have happier news soon. In the course of this year, the Raphoe Diocese established a weekly Indult Mass on Sundays. This centre has a significant number of younger clergy. Also in 1997, the St. Patrick’s Priests’ Society was founded, on the model of the Association of St. John Fisher in England & Wales. There are a number of gifted younger priests among the membership. In 1998, Father William Richardson was ordained to the priesthood in Ottawa; the first Irish-born priest of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. At present, there are no Irish vocations in any of the traditional fraternities or monasteries, but there is some interest. And one the simply professed students of the Fraternity of St. Vincent Ferrer served the Indult Mass in Dublin in the course of a summer in Ireland as an exchange student a few years ago. A final area that should be mentioned is Limerick, where the bishop seems favourably disposed towards allowing a regular Mass, if it can be demonstrated there is an adequate congregation. I am awaiting a report of the Mass that took place in Adare, Co. Limerick on 11 November -Thursday night, St. Martin of Tours – which was permitted to provide this necessary evidence. There are interested clergy and laity in the Limerick Diocese and, given the precarious position of the Mass in Cork, it is important to develop a more energetic centre in the southern province of Munster, which makes up one third of the surface area of the island of Ireland. The only other centre in Munster is Holy Cross Abbey, Co. Tipperary, where Mass is said once a year. More significantly, if one takes a map of Ireland marking the county boundaries, north and south, and draws a border around the 14 Irish counties which do not have a coastline, you find a huge central region. This Holy Cross Abbey Mass is the only Indult Mass permitted here. Yet, the Society of St. Pius X own a church in Athlone, in the centre of Ireland and run several chapels elsewhere in this region. Bishop Cox, who masquerades as a traditionalist and “ordained” Sinead O’Connor is based in Birr, Co. Offaly, also in this region. The Palmarians , from whom Cox derives his orders, are also here. Yet between the dozen bishops or so, with jurisdiction or so over the area described, there is only one Indult Mass here annually, on a Saturday in May. Much work remains to be done. Irish numbers attending the Paris-Chartres walk have grown from eight in 1995 to 60 this year, and last year we began our own walking pilgrimage which, though only 22 miles long (36.5km), involves climbing the 2550 foot (765 mete) Croagh Patrick. If I had a guarrantee of numbers from abroad, I would petition the Bishop of Clogher and the Prior of St. Patrick’s Purgatory, Lough Derg, to allow the traditional three-day pilgrimage of fasts and vigils go ahead with the traditional Mass. To sum up, the Island of Saints and Scholars is in a very bad way. I am encouraged by recent developments, but I would have to witness a thorough change in attitudes in ecclesiastical circles, before I could conclude the tide had turned in our favour.