In each case, notices published in the Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper said in almost identical language that “that free and willful participation” with each group and its sacraments implies “separation from the Roman Catholic Church. This is a serious matter that no Catholic should take lightly.”…
Bishop Zubik said it was important to clarify their lack of standing with the church. If people “become active participants, that would be a serious matter,” he said, but he doesn’t plan any formal excommunication proceedings.
A few months earlier, on August 29th, the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s newspaper had posted the following notice:
Recently, the Diocese of Pittsburgh was informed that the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) has purchased the former St. James church building in the West End of Pittsburgh. So that no confusion exists regarding the canonical status of the Society of St. Pius X and the former St. James church building, the following notification is issued by the Department for Canonical Services of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
The purpose of this notification is to assist Catholics in understanding that the Society of St. Pius X is not in full communion with the Catholic Church. The society does not have canonical status in the church. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI stated: “As long as the society does not have a canonical status in the church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the church.” The Society of St. Pius X is separated from the Catholic Church. The former St. James church building in the West End is not a Roman Catholic church. The Roman Catholic faithful are to know that free and willful participation with this group, including reception of the sacraments, implies an act of separation from the Roman Catholic Church. This is a serious matter that no Catholic should take lightly.
The Latin Mass in Pittsburgh Was Saved Through Resistance
To put these “notices” in perspective, some history of the Latin Mass in Pittsburgh is in order. A Mr. William Redic tells the entire story in riveting detail on the website of “Holy Wisdom Parish Latin Mass Community.” It is well worth a read. As it turns out, diocesan trouble began for Tradition-minded Catholics almost immediately after the Novus Ordo was de facto imposed on the faithful in 1970. Mr. Redic recalls:
Locally, Bishop Vincent Leonard acknowledged unhappiness and resistance within his own diocese with the issuance of a strongly-worded pastoral letter in January 1971. Bishop Leonard wrote:
It follows that priests who refuse to adopt the new rite or do so begrudgingly and perfunctorily are out of harmony with the church (sic) and disobedient to the magisterium of its head. What makes such an attitude sad is that these same priests seem to feel that they are obedient and loyal to what they call the traditional church while they refuse loyalty to the living church in the world today.
The letter concludes by threatening withdrawal of priestly faculties from those clergy displaying insufficient enthusiasm.
Yet those faithful to the Church’s Tradition in Pittsburgh, just like the faithful Catholics in the time of the Roman Empire, the Arian heresy, and the French Revolution, would not be deterred:
If refugee Catholics had no foreseeable hope of hearing the immemorial Mass with the sanction of the Church's hierarchy, they would have it by whatever means were necessary. The Stroynes were part of a small group of traditionalists that coalesced in the North Hills of Pittsburgh. Their resolve to have the old Mass found its locus on the sunporch of Joann Geibert's large home in the North Hills. There, using matériel rescued from dumpsters by Maryann Stroyne and Dorothy Hollinger, on a salvaged altar, with a priest from another state, a small group of families assisted in the earliest "underground Masses."
For these Catholics, the old Mass was literally a pearl of great price…
The Traditional Catholics of Pittsburgh started a novena for a holy priest to be able to say the Mass for them. Soon their prayers were answered as Father John J. Keane, a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston, agreed to fly down weekly to say the Mass. The group then found an abandoned Serbian Orthodox church which they rented at great personal cost. As Mr. Redic describes:
The church building was an empty shell, abandoned for years, and the Committee swung into action to clean, paint and furnish it for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Benches, an old altar, and a communion rail were found. Harry Dyga, who worked as a janitor at Holy Family Institute in Emsworth, rescued many liturgical items discarded from the Institute's chapel and returned them to use. The King family obtained the large crucifix which hung above the altar. By Fall of 1972, the newly-named Our Lady of Fatima Chapel was open.
The Diocese of Pittsburgh wasted no time in condemning this small group, causing Father Keane to publicly come to their defense.
In a Pittsburgh Press story about the Chapel on October 14, 1972, Father Keane is quoted:
If you say, 'I'm ecumenical,' be ecumenical for all religions, even your own and especially your own... [T]he bishop, priests and people of Pittsburgh condemn with a severity reserved for the worst of sinners a handful of good souls . . . What is their crime? They meet and celebrate a Catholic liturgy that up until a few years ago was the only one used by the Catholic Church for centuries.
Bishop Leonard was not pleased. On June 29, 1973 he printed the following on the front page of the Pittsburgh Catholic:
Dear Friends in Christ:
There have been many inquiries recently about the practice of permitting the celebration of Mass with a congregation in Latin according to the Missal of Pope Saint Pius V (commonly referred to as the Tridentine Mass). An inquiry addressed to the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship on this point has yielded the information that the Holy See continues to maintain the principle that the only text which may be used is that of the Missal of Pope Paul VI. The Sacred Congregation clearly reaffirmed that it is no longer permitted to use the Latin Rite of the Missal of Pope Saint Pius V in Masses celebrated with a congregation. . .
No permission to celebrate Mass in Latin according to the Missal of Pope Saint Pius V has been granted in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. . . Consequently, the obligation of hearing Mass on Sundays and Holy Days would not be fulfilled by attendance at a Latin Mass the text of which is according to the Missal of Pope Saint Pius V (Tridentine Mass). It can be easily observed that to continue such Masses would be harmful to the pastoral unity of the Diocese and the priest offering the Mass would be subject to canonical penalties.
With kindest personal regards, I am
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Vincent M. Leonard
Bishop of Pittsburgh
As we know from Benedict XVI’s 2007 Motu Proprio as well as Quo Primum, the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship was dead wrong on this point, as the Traditional Mass was never abrogated. However, this was of little practical consolation to those persecuted Traditional Catholics in 1973. But Father Keane did not go gently into that good night. He did not humbly submit to error and abandon his flock to the Conciliar devastation, as Neo-Catholic apologists would have counseled him to. Instead, as a true courageous pastor of souls, he stated the following in his next Sunday sermon:
I am very proud, very honored, and very much in awe of the courageous people who came here this evening after reading the Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper. . . In a world of intolerance, can't the Catholic Church be tolerant of their own? Even if they consider their own as misguided or worse, be at least charitable, kind and sympathetic to those they consider as lost sheep. . . Why bring cannons to bear on the unarmed? My intention in coming to Pittsburgh was on one hand to help the people who wanted the Tridentine Latin Mass and were denied it by their Bishop and priests and on the other to cool the heat of anger, bitterness, frustration and even worse, that these disenfranchised people felt toward all priests, bishops, cardinals and even the Pope himself.
The small Traditional community continued to grow. One would think then, that by 1984, the year of John Paul II’s first indult for the Latin Mass, the Bishop of Pittsburgh would have freely granted “permission” for the Mass and welcomed Our Lady of Fatima Chapel into the diocese. Hardly.:
There was no granting of the 1984 indult in Pittsburgh by Bishop Anthony Bevilaqua. Father Lawrence DiNardo recalls that there was no petition by a qualified group for an application of the indult here. At least one member of the Latin Mass Community, however, reports that he did in fact write a personal letter of request to Bishop Bevilaqua, who declined it.
The Diocese of Pittsburgh’s “Concession” of the Immemorial Rite
In 1988, after the call from John Paul II for a wider and more generous application of his 1984 indult, Mrs. Marie Handlow, wrote a letter requesting the Latin Mass in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. After incorrectly assuming Mrs. Handlow was a parishioner of Our Lady of Fatima, the chancery apologized when they found out she was not and invited her to a meeting in March of 1989. The implication here is that if Mrs. Handlow had been a parishioner of Our Lady of Fatima, the diocese would never have taken her request seriously.
After the meeting with Mrs. Handlow and numerous other Pittsburgh Catholics who requested the Latin Mass, the request was passed on to the then Bishop of Pittsburgh, Donald Wuerl. In a statement which may contain the most begrudging and reluctant “permission” for the Mass of All Time in history, Bishop Wuerl stated the following:
- the Mass was to be offered only twice a month, on the 2nd and 4th Sundays at 3 pm.
- no Latin Mass on Easter, Christmas or any other Holydays of Obligation
- no funeral Masses or other sacraments
Bishop Wuerl's letter also stated that "The use of the Tridentine Mass is intended as a concession to respond to the spiritual needs of particular individuals in the diocese" who "must be recognized as practicing Catholics who have active membership in one of the legitimate parishes of our diocese." They were expected to attend Mass at their home parishes the other 28 Sundays of the year.
The following anecdote demonstrates well the “enthusiasm” and “welcoming” of these faithful Catholics by the Diocese of Pittsburgh:
Realizing that attendance might grow if more people learned of the Latin Mass, the first advertising was done on WPIT radio in September 1989 using funds from the basket. Sis Pavlik describes how they also tried to buy a newspaper ad: "We tried to get an ad in the Pittsburgh Catholic. We actually sent them a check with an ad, and they sent the check back. They said we weren't allowed."
Due to neglect and restrictions from the Diocese and Bishop Wuerl, the Diocesan Latin Mass was all but finished in 1989. To add insult to injury, at least one priest who said the Diocesan Latin Mass actually expressed open contempt towards both the Mass and the congregation.
Many people who were present report that attendance at Sts. Peter & Paul was harmed most not by the modern architecture, but by an unfortunate incident at one of the first few Masses. The priest who had been assigned to say Mass that day chose to use his sermon to harangue the faithful for wanting to attend the Mass of the Ages. Bernice Hall of Beaver says that "He was more or less making fun of the people who wanted the Latin Mass, because they were going 'backward instead of forward.' After that, the people just kind of dwindled off." Witnesses report that people walked out during the sermon because of the words of the priest.
Only the efforts of a priest who had recently retired, Father Thomas Murphy, saved the diocesan Latin Mass in Pittsburgh:
Taking the initiative, he recalls, "I saw the bishop at some event, and I said 'Why don't you just let me take care of the whole thing? Not have this hit-or-miss thing in two parts of the diocese. We could have it over at St. Agnes.'" And what was the bishop's reaction? "He immediately said, 'Sure, go ahead, if you want it, take it.' He may have thought this was a good way to get it off his back. I don't think he anticipated it would be as successful as it is."
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Then in 1991, 70 parishoners of Our Lady of Fatima Chapel chose to transfer to the diocesan Latin Mass community at St. Agnes. This began meetings at the chancery between the Latin Mass Community and Fr. Lawrence DiNardo. The following report is very interesting:
Thus, in anticipation of what would be a heart-warming and moving example of lived out ecumenism in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, I hereby urge Pittsburgh Catholics to write Bishop Zubik and ask him to invite Bishop Fellay to Pittsburgh. Then Bishop Zubik, in emulation of our Pope, can attend Bishop Fellay’s Latin Mass at the newly acquired St. James Chapel, bow before the Superior General of the SSPX, and ask his Episcopal blessing.