DECEMBER 16, 2015
The Somerville Letter: ICEL priest who helped translate the liturgy from Latin into English abjures his contribution
PRESENTING BOTH SIDES OF THE PICTURE TO THE READER
Fr. Stephen F. Somerville
An Open Letter to the Church Renouncing my Service on I.C.E.L.
By Father Stephen F. Somerville, STL, November 2002
Dear Fellow Catholics in the Roman Rite,
1 – I am a priest who for over ten years collaborated in a work that became a notable harm to the Catholic Faith. I wish now to apologize before God and the Church and to renounce decisively my personal sharing in that damaging project. I am speaking of the official work of translating the new post-Vatican II Latin liturgy into the English language, when I was a member of the Advisory Board of the International Commission on English Liturgy (I.C.E.L.).
2 – I am a priest of the Archdiocese of Toronto, Canada, ordained in 1956. Fascinated by the Liturgy from early youth, I was singled out in 1964 to represent Canada on the newly constituted I.C.E.L. as a member of the Advisory Board. At 33 its youngest member, and awkwardly aware of my shortcomings in liturgiology and related disciplines, I soon felt perplexity before the bold mistranslations confidently proposed and pressed by the everstrengthening radical/progressive element in our group. I felt but could not articulate the wrongness of so many of our committee’s renderings.
3 – Let me illustrate briefly with a few examples. To the frequent greeting by the priest, The Lord be with you, the people traditionally answered, and with your (Thy) spirit: in Latin, Et cum spiritu tuo. But I.C.E.L. rewrote the answer: And also with you. This, besides having an overall trite sound, has added a redundant word, also. Worse, it has suppressed the word spirit which reminds us that we human beings have a spiritual soul. Furthermore, it has stopped the echo of four (inspired) uses of with your spirit in St. Paul’s letters.
4 – In the I confess of the penitential rite, I.C.E.L. eliminated the threefold through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault, and substituted one feeble through my own fault. This is another nail in the coffin of the sense of sin.
5 – Before Communion, we pray Lord I am not worthy that thou shouldst (you should) enter under my roof. I.C.E.L. changed this to … not worthy to receive you. We loose the roof metaphor, clear echo of the Gospel (Matthew 8:8), and a vivid, concrete image for a child.
6 – I.C.E.L.’s changes amounted to true devastation especially in the oration prayers of the Mass. The Collect or Opening Prayer for Ordinary Sunday 21 will exemplify the damage. The Latin prayer, strictly translated, runs thus: O God, who make the minds of the faithful to be of one will, grant to your peoples (grace) to love that which you command and to desire that which you promise, so that, amidst worldly variety, our hearts may there be fixed where true joys are found.
7 – Here is the I.C.E.L. version, in use since 1973: Father, help us to seek the values that will bring us lasting joy in this changing world. In our desire for what you promise, make us one in mind and heart.
8 – Now a few comments: To call God Father is not customary in the Liturgy, except Our Father in the Lord’s prayer. Help us to seek implies that we could do this alone (Pelagian heresy) but would like some aid from God. Jesus teaches, without Me you can do nothing. The Latin prays grant (to us), not just help us. I.C.E.L.’s values suggests that secular buzzword, “values” that are currently popular, or politically correct, or changing from person to person, place to place. Lasting joy in this changing world, is impossible. In our desire presumes we already have the desire, but the Latin humbly prays for this. What you promise omits “what you (God) command”, thus weakening our sense of duty. Make us one in mind (and heart) is a new sentence, and appears as the main petition, yet not in coherence with what went before. The Latin rather teaches that uniting our minds is a constant work of God, to be achieved by our pondering his commandments and promises. Clearly, I.C.E.L. has written a new prayer. Does all this criticism matter? Profoundly! The Liturgy is our law of praying (lex orandi), and it forms our law of believing (lex credendi). If I.C.E.L. has changed our liturgy, it will change our faith. We see signs of this change and loss of faith all around us.
9 – The foregoing instances of weakening the Latin Catholic Liturgy prayers must suffice. There are certainly THOUSANDS OF MISTRANSLATIONS in the accumulated work of I.C.E.L. As the work progressed I became a more and more articulate critic. My term of office on the Advisory Board ended voluntarily about 1973, and I was named Member Emeritus and Consultant.
As of this writing I renounce any lingering reality of this status.
10 – The I.C.E.L. labours were far from being all negative. I remember with appreciation the rich brotherly sharing, the growing fund of church knowledge, the Catholic presence in Rome and London and elswhere, the assisting at a day-session of Vatican II Council, the encounters with distinguished Christian personalities, and more besides. I gratefully acknowledge two fellow members of I.C.E.L. who saw then, so much more clearly than I, the right translating way to follow: the late Professor Herbert Finberg, and Fr. James Quinn S.J. of Edinburgh. Not for these positive features and persons do I renounce my I.C.E.L. past, but for the corrosion of Catholic Faith and of reverence to which I.C.E.L.’s work has contributed. And for this corrosion, however slight my personal part in it, I humbly and sincerely apologize to God and to Holy Church.
11 – Having just mentioned in passing the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), I now come to identify my other reason for renouncing my translating work on I.C.E.L. It is an even more serious and delicate matter. In the past year (from mid 2001), I have come to know with respect and admiration many traditional Catholics. These, being persons who have decided to return to pre-Vatican II Catholic Mass and Liturgy, and being distinct from “conservative” Catholics (those trying to retouch and improve the Novus Ordo Mass and Sacraments of post-Vatican II), these Traditionals, I say, have taught me a grave lesson. They brought to me a large number of published books and essays. These demonstrated cumulatively, in both scholarly and popular fashion, that the Second Vatican Council was early commandeered and manipulated and infected by modernist, liberalist, and protestantizing persons and ideas. These writings show further that the new liturgy produced by the Vatican “Concilium” group, under the late Archbishop A. Bugnini, was similarly infected. Especially the New Mass is problematic. It waters down the doctrine that the Eucharist is a true Sacrifice, not just a memorial. It weakens the truth of the Real Presence of Christ’s victim Body and Blood by demoting the Tabernacle to a corner, by reduced signs of reverence around the Consecration, by giving Communion in the hand, often of women, by cheapering the sacred vessels, by having used six Protestant experts (who disbelieve the Real Presence) in the preparation of the new rite, by encouraging the use of sacro-pop music with guitars, instead of Gregorian chant, and by still further novelties.
12 – Such a litany of defects suggests that many modern Masses are sacrilegious, and some could well be invalid. They certainly are less Catholic, and less apt to sustain Catholic Faith.
13 – Who are the authors of these published critiques of the Conciliar Church? Of the many names, let a few be noted as articulate, sober evaluators of the Council: Atila Sinka Guimaeres (In the Murky Waters of Vatican II), Romano Amerio (Iota Unum: A Study of the Changes in the Catholic Church in the 20th Century), Michael Davies (various books and booklets, TAN Books), and Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, one of the Council Fathers, who worked on the preparatory schemas for discussions, and has written many readable essays on Council and Mass (cf Angelus Press).
14 – Among traditional Catholics, the late Archbishop Lefebvre stands out because he founded the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), a strong society of priests (including six seminaries to date) for the celebration of the traditional Catholic liturgy. Many Catholics who are aware of this may share the opinion that he was excommunicated and that his followers are in schism. There are however solid authorities (including Cardinal Ratzinger, the top theologian in the Vatican) who hold that this is not so. SSPX declares itself fully Roman Catholic, recognizing Pope John Paul II while respectfully maintaining certain serious reservations.
15 – I thank the kindly reader for persevering with me thus far. Let it be clear that it is FOR THE FAITH that I am renouncing my association with I.C.E.L. and the changes in the Liturgy. It is FOR THE FAITH that one must recover Catholic liturgical tradition. It is not a matter of mere nostalgia or recoiling before bad taste.
16 – Dear non-traditional Catholic Reader, do not lightly put aside this letter. It is addressed to you, who must know that only the true Faith can save you, that eternal salvation depends on holy and grace-filled sacraments as preserved under Christ by His faithful Church. Pursue these grave questions with prayer and by serious reading, especially in the publications of the Society of St Pius X.
17 – Peace be with you. May Jesus and Mary grant to us all a Blessed Return and a Faithful Perseverance in our true Catholic home.
VIDEO: Priest who translated the New Mass Publicly REPENTS!
Published on June 13, 2013
Fr. Stephen Somerville is a priest who, for over ten years, collaborated in the official work of translating the new post-Vatican II Latin liturgy into the English language, when he was a member of the Advisory Board of the International Commission on English Liturgy (ICEL). In this audio you will hear him publicly apologize before God and the Church renouncing this evil he took part in. You can read the entire letter at this website:
[Angelus Press was founded in 1978 in Dickinson, Texas by Fr. Carl Pulvermacher, OFM. It began as an apostolate of the Society of St. Pius X to promote Catholic literature. Since its conception, Angelus Press has published a monthly magazine – The Angelus — “A Journal of Roman Catholic Tradition.”
Angelus Press is the premier source of information on the Traditional Latin Mass and the practice of an integral Catholic Faith in today’s world.
As an apostolate of the Catholic press, we have the mission of spreading the Catholic Faith through the printed word by our Traditional Catholic books and magazine publications. We offer resources ranging from the promotion of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the spiritual life, and lives of the Saints, to the crisis in the Church, theology, liturgy, and catechetics – anything that will help the Christian save his soul.
Angelus Press aims to promote the immemorial Tradition of the Catholic Faith and the Tridentine Rite of the Mass with an unswerving commitment to orthodoxy and the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. As an apostolate of the Catholic press, we have the mission of spreading the Faith through the printed word by our books and magazine publications. We pray that the Good Lord will continue to bless our apostolate of bringing the integral Catholic Faith to modern men, some of whom, by the grace of God, still seek Him Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6).]
Liturgiam authenticam, Part II
By Fr. Stephen Somerville, Catholic Insight* Issue of October 2001
In our July/August edition we introduced what we headlined as the “Vatican crackdown on translations“* (pp. 10-11), referring to a new document entitled, in Latin, Liturgiam authenticam**
(March 28, 2001), readily translated as “Authentic Liturgy.” Now liturgy refers to the forms and language which the Church uses to guide worship.
Needless to say, worship is all-important. Consequently, nothing elevates the mind more to the adoration of God than a beautiful liturgy, and nothing infuriates the faithful more than bishops or priests who take it upon themselves to introduce changes in the words and execution of the Liturgy, especially that of the Holy Eucharist. In this article the author provides more details about the expected changes. – Editor *I could not locate the referred online article- Michael
The recent Vatican document called Liturgiam authenticam is an “instruction,” being the latest of five major instructions from the Vatican liturgy office. The first appeared in 1964, a few months after the major Vatican II Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. The others came in 1967, 1970, and 1994, treating of changes and adaptations in the Mass, duties of the bishop, and inculturation of the Liturgy. The fifth concentrates on matters of translation and appeared on 28 March 2001.
Liturgiam authenticam is 52 pages long. It begins with two pages of background, and then a seven-page overview, being a handy summary of the whole. The instruction itself follows for 35 pages, divided into 133 sections (almost four per page). Sections 19 to 33 are on general principles for all translation; 34-45 give norms for translating Scripture and preparing lectionaries; 46-62 give norms for translating the non-scripture prayers, prefaces, etc.; and 63-69 cover norms for “special types of text,” such as the Creed, the Eucharistic prayer, and rubrics. If one is too busy to read all this, the overview presents a handy summary in just seven pages and is available on the Vatican internet (http://www.vatican.va).
Directives for ICEL
We have often heard criticisms of the English translations done by ICEL, the International Commission on English in the Liturgy. ICEL and all similar bodies round the world are spoken of by Liturgiam authenticam as “mixed commissions.” The ICEL began in 1963 (this writer was an active member from 1964 to 1973, and therefore a consultor) and it gradually came to be dominated by a radical, progressive, and untraditional approach. Meanwhile, in the 1980s, the Vatican began to demand a more faithful approach. Liturgiam authenticam implicitly recognizes the shortcomings of our present ICEL version, and calls on the bishops to be personally responsible for “perfecting” or “thoroughly revising” (n.77) the texts in a “timely manner.”
Liturgiam authenticam speaks of the “intensive activity” of revising and translating the liturgy around 1970 into all the major languages of the world (p.1). There followed a “period of practical experience,” and then, in 1988, Pope John Paul II marked the 25th anniversary of the Vatican II Liturgy Constitution with an Apostolic Letter (4 Dec.) which “began a…process of evaluation of the liturgical renewal.”
In 1977, the Pope asked his Congregation for Divine Worship to “codify the conclusions of its work regarding translations.” This fifth instruction, Liturgiam authenticam, is precisely that, a treatise on translation. To say it simply, the gigantic and revolutionary task of changing the liturgy was too much for the Vatican and the bishops to do in a short time without letting mistakes slip through, particularly in the surrounding climate of cultural and religious and sexual revolution.
To be honest, we must acknowledge that some Catholic leaders actually embraced some of those mistakes. They helped drive exasperated Catholics to demand the retention of the old Latin Mass. We can now hope that L.A. will help turn us decisively toward a more faithful English Catholic liturgy.
The authentic liturgy
Liturgiam authenticam is called “authentic liturgy,” a term obviously chosen deliberately. The two words are the very first in the opening sentence in Latin. Here it is in English:
“The Second Vatican Council strongly desired to preserve with care the authentic liturgy, which flows forth from the Church’s living and most ancient spiritual tradition….”
This reminds us that liturgy is not manufactured but received, handed down to us from our sacred past, and so demands reverent fidelity when it is translated. Many traditional Catholics think that the authentic liturgy has in fact not been preserved.
The sentence goes on to say, “and to adapt it with pastoral wisdom to the genius of various peoples….” This is the progressive side of the Catholic penny. It begs many questions. Do we adapt the liturgy to the people, or rather the people to the liturgy? For that topic, see below.
About four years ago, Catholic Insight discussed six (then still secret) Vatican “norms” for translating Scripture in the face of feminist “inclusive language” demands. These norms are given in Liturgiam authenticam (nn. 34-45, as noted above), but the word feminism is not used, rather, “pressure and criticism on ideological or other grounds” (p. 7).
Liturgiam authenticam calls for stability and uniformity in the Bible across a language territory (n. 34, 35). Stability will foster memorization of Bible texts, where different interpretations or readings exist; the Latin New-Vulgate Bible is the norm to be followed (n. 37). The Vulgate’s numbering of Bible verses is also preferred:
Biblical words in popular devotional prayers (e.g., the Angelus) should be retained in the liturgical version of the corresponding passage.
The Greek “Septuagint” translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, used by Christians “from the earliest days,” is to be consulted in variant readings.
The divine name Lord (Latin, Dominus) is to be used as usual, in place of the sacred Hebrew name Yahweh. Attention must be paid to interpretations by the Fathers of the Church, and those frequently found in Christian art and hymnody (n. 41, a-c).
Concrete (anthropomorphic) words for God and related concepts-such as walk, arm, finger, hand, face, flesh, horn, mouth, seed, and visit-are to be retained, and not replaced by some abstract or personal term. [Example: “The just man will live on the Lord’s holy mountain,” not “in the presence of the Lord” (Psalm 14:1) (n. 43].
Terms such as soul and spirit for an individual are to be retained, not rendered by a pronoun [Example: “My soul,” not I, “shall be healed,” before communion at Mass, based on Mt. 8:2). The translators are to avoid terms that have a confusing or ambiguous sound. [Example: grasped, pronounced “graspt,” but the “pt” is almost inaudible, and only “grass” is heard. (See Philippians 2:6, Jerusalem Bible)]. In preparation of a Lectionary, the “title” of a reading (which gives its theme) is to use the actual wording of the reading itself, if the Latin Lectionary does this. Likewise, the “incipits,” that is, the L.L. words prescribed for the beginning of a reading, are to follow the Bible version being used, and if these are not actual Bible words, they are to be translated exactly as in the Latin Lectionary, unless otherwise specially permitted by the Vatican Office of Divine Worship. [Example: “At that time, in those days,” and such like (n. 45)].
The present Lectionary in Canada (the NSRV translation) labours under a disqualified feminist translation and numerous other shortcomings. Liturgiam authenticam states clearly how the Lectionary should be prepared. It remains to be seen how long this task will take, with willing and not grudging editors.
Most of the existing Canadian liturgical books violate various requirements of Liturgiam authenticam. It is arguable that the Vatican should take in hand the Englishing of the Bible, as well as the Liturgy, and promote a common Bible for the English-speaking Catholic world. Canada has shown its untrustworthiness going feminist, and the U.S.A. almost did the same. The “New American Bible” (Catholic) is so confused that it has gone through several revisions already.
Most major modern English bibles have lapsed into a “New” (that is, feminist) version. The old Catholic Douai Rheims Bible has lasted over 400 years with one major revision (Bishop Challoner’s Bible) in 1752. Were this to be emended conservatively, exactly as the Vulgate in Latin has recently been, it might well prove to be the best English Catholic Bible, and long-lasting as well.
Some specific changes
Nicene Creed: “I believe,” not “we believe.”
Instead of “what we have done” etc., return to “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.”
Not “and with you,” but “and with your spirit.”
Not “I shall be healed,” but “my soul shall be healed.”
Use long-standing sacral terms: Chalice, not cup; priest, not presider. The law of praying and the law of believing Liturgiam authenticam treats of the Catholic theological axiom lex orandi, lex credendi (the law for praying sets the law for believing). It argues that the “lex orandi” (that is, the official liturgical prayers) must be in harmony with the lex credendi,” here meaning “the faith” and “the wealth of Catholic doctrine” in the Latin prayers. It further states that the prayer language (in the vernacular) must be “adapted to the dogmatic reality that (the Latin wording) contains” (n. 80).
The basic strength of the lex orandi is that it sets the lex credendi, declares and establishes it. This means that to know what a church believes, listen to what it says when it prays. This is a more dynamic answer than a list of statements on a piece of paper. It is all the more true, the older the prayers. A new prayer may not survive long usage. But Catholic prayers that have withstood the test of time are firm indicators of Catholic Faith.
We have seen wholesale changes made in our Catholic Liturgy since Vatican II, starting in 1964. All those old prayers dropped, or shortened, or changed! Does this huge program of change in the old lex orandi not mean a huge change in believing?
Yes, it does. And in fact, we have seen a colossal loss of faith among Catholics since the new Liturgy began. Liturgiam authenticam, if faithfully implemented, will certainly improve our Liturgy. But a further reform is still needed, a fuller restoration of the lex orandi, especially the ancient collects, prefaces, and eucharistic prayers.
**See LITURGIAM AUTHENTICAM AND COMPILED INFORMATION-FOR THE RIGHT IMPLEMENTATION
OF THE CONSTITUTION ON THE SACRED LITURGY OF THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL
Fr. Stephen Somerville suspended
*(Courtesy Catholic Insight, post-July 2004), Toronto, by Father Alphonse de ValkCSB, a priest of the Congregation of St. Basil and editor of Catholic Insight, October 1, 2004
On July 15, 2004, Fr. Stephen Somerville was suspended from the priesthood by Toronto’s Archbishop Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic. It is a sad, but not surprising, occasion for us at Catholic Insight.
Fr. Somerville was associated with Catholic Insight magazine from its start in November/December 1992 until the end of 2001. He was listed as Associate Editor in our first edition of January/February 1993. His special responsibility was to educate our readers about the nature and meaning of the liturgy and forms of worship, and to inform us about the latest developments.
In the spring of 2002, I asked him to withdraw his name from our masthead. He readily complied and agreed that he could no longer write for us in the same manner as before because his views on the liturgy within the Catholic Church had changed.
Father Somerville’s contributions
Recently, Father Somerville (now aged 73) became known across North America as the chaplain who celebrated Mass for Mel Gibson and his crew while they were on a film-shoot in Italy in the fall of 2003. He was there for them in December 2002 and January 2003. The Passion of the Christ became the film sensation of 2004 and that fame rubbed off on him. What also filtered through was that Fr. Somerville celebrated the Latin Tridentine version of the Mass. Mel, it was suggested, was at odds with the Church about the current liturgical norms (“Mel Gibson’s spiritual advisor,” Ottawa Citizen, Sunday, September 21, 2003).
The Somerville family is well-known in Ontario because the father, Henry Somerville, was the editor of the Canadian Catholic Register weekly newspaper from the mid-thirties to the mid-fifties. Later on, both Stephen and his older brother Peter, now deceased, were associated with the well-known St. Michael’s Choir School, next to Toronto’s St. Michael’s Cathedral. It educates boys who are musically gifted in the Church’s great heritage of classical church music, hymns, and choral singing. Ordained in 1956, Stephen was a teacher of Latin and music, while his brother became director of the school. Stephen is also a composer and musician; over 20 of his hymns of arrangements made it into the first national Canadian hymnal, the Book of Worship, together with a number of psalm canticles. Several compositions of his are to be found in the four-volume North American Liturgy of the Hours, perhaps best known as “the (priests’) breviary.” It had been hoped, after the Second Vatican Council, that the laity might come to use it as well. In brief, Fr. Somerville’s special qualifications as a Catholic priest, pastor, and scholar centred on the liturgy.
In 1964 Fr. Somerville became the Canadian representative member on the newly constituted ICEL, the International Commission of the English Language, set up to translate the Latin Missal (the Mass book on the altar) into English. At 33 he was its youngest member but “soon felt perplexity before the bold mistranslations confidently proposed and pressed by the ever-strengthening radical/progressive element in our group. I felt, but could not articulate, the wrongness of so many of our committee’s renderings” (Apology, 2003).
One example of a wrong translation he provides is the answer to the priest’s saying, “The Lord be with you,” which in Latin is “Et cum spiritu tuo” (“and with your spirit”). But ICEL rewrote the answer to say, “and also with you.” This, he points out, “besides having an overall trite sound, has added a redundant word (also). Worse, it has suppressed the word ‘spirit’ which reminds us that we human beings have a spiritual soul. Furthermore, it has stopped the echo of four (inspired) uses of ‘with our spirit’ in St. Paul’s letters.”
Changes like the above, he points out, are very important because the Liturgy is our law of praying (lex orandi) which, in turn, forms our law of believing (lex credendi). In 1973, he voluntarily resigned from ICEL when he felt himself becoming more and more critical of the ongoing translations. After that he served seven years in Ottawa as editor of the Living Christ missalettes and then became a parish priest in the Toronto archdiocese. He maintained his interests in liturgy and Gregorian chant, and tried to retain a little bit of Latin in his celebrations of the Sunday Mass, after its wholesale abandonment by the Canadian and American bishops.
As the years went by, it became clear that much of what was ordained by the on-the-spot liturgical and architectural “experts,” male or female, was neither authorized nor intended by the Vatican Council. Fr. Somerville was keenly aware of that.
He was also aware, however, that help was on the way, not least because he followed its progress in articles for Catholic Insight throughout the nineties. Rome now criticized ICEL translations, as did many people; opposition to local liturgical abuses was growing; the Vatican issued new instructions about the rues for translation (Liturgiam authenticam, May 7, 2001); some translations were disallowed; so-called authoritative, mandatory, architectural instructions were shown to be neither mandatory nor authoritative; a new missal in Latin was produced and set as the model for translations into the vernacular. Fr. Somerville wrote about all this for Catholic Insight. See the annual indexes in the December issues under “Liturgy,” especially the years 1996 and following. His last contribution appeared in November 2001, written during the previous summer.
Most recently, in 2003 and 2004, ICEL itself was completely re-organized and given new statutes and new members. The Holy Father re-emphasized the meaning and nature of the Eucharist (2003); the Congregation for Divine Worship provided a specific list of abuses to be corrected (2004); and a new international English translation much more sensitive to the sacred character of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is in the making for 2005-6. But, alas, it seems to have come too late for Fr. Somerville, as, again alas, it has also for a number of Catholics. They decided to find solace elsewhere.
Today Fr. Somerville says that he would have written these articles in a very different way if he had to do it again. That, no doubt, is so, but we are proud of him that he wrote them when he did; that is, still as a Catholic in full communion with the Church and hopeful that under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the Church would overcome these irritating, often deeply hurting, abuses.
Forty years, surely, is not so long a time for the Church to prepare the necessary change-over in translating all its rituals in a multitude of languages, even though forty years may appear to be a lifetime to any one individual.
Fr. Somerville steps out
As usual, Fr. Somerville attended our editorial board meeting, held in Oakville, in early September 2001. He told us that he had just returned from Texas where he had substituted for five weeks for a Canadian priest, Fr. Louis Campbell, formerly of the Augustinians at Marylake north of Toronto, in order to allow him to go on vacation. He then passed around a couple of books which alarmed us immediately. They were written by sede vacantists, those who believe that the Chair of St. Peter is vacant and is presently occupied by impostors. There were photos of the ears of Pope Paul VI, sharply pointed, presumably just like the devil’s, and of the present Pope as a young priest in Poland with a child on his shoulder and a young woman at his side, the kind of thing enemies of the Church such as Communists or Freemasons have often used in the past in attempts to discredit a local bishop or priest, suggesting he has a mistress on the side.
Upon inquiry in what parish he had substituted for five weeks, it turned out that it had lay directors who had themselves purchased a church building and set up their “church” without either knowledge or permission from the local bishop. In other words, it was a schismatic congregation not in communion with the Catholic Church (St. Jude’s Shrine, Stafford, Texas). Here Fr. Somerville offered up daily Mass, heard confessions, distributed Communion and did all the things a parish priest does. Above all, he told us, he had fallen in love with the Latin liturgy and its 1962 Tridentine Missal all over again.
From then on, it was all downhill. No number of earnest conversations could convince him that, by celebrating the Eucharistic Sacrifice with a congregation not in union with the Catholic Church, he had placed himself in a sinful situation. The Masses, of course, were valid, but not licit.
Fr. Somerville’s ICEL apology
Throughout 2002 and 2003 many of his friends continued to pray and hope that Fr. Somerville would draw back from walking on the edge of a precipice.
But in the fall of 2002 he circulated a three-page document, illustrated with photos, entitled Renouncing My Service on ICEL. It was printed by Angelus Press in Kansas, a press of Catholic “traditionalists” who support the schismatic Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), followers of Archbishop Lefevbre who refused to accept the Second Vatican Council’s Decrees on Liturgy, Ecumenism, and Religious Freedom. The Archbishop was excommunicated in 1988 (see Letters to the Editor in this edition).
Around this time Fr. Somerville also resigned his position as Catholic chaplain to Philippino Charismatics of Toronto. The Toronto Chancery, mean while, requested that he halt the circulation of his ICEL apology.
Many people spoke with Fr. Somerville, but without success. He had read, or re-read, all the criticisms made against the 1970 Liturgy by the Lefebvrists, and others such as Michael Davies, in his three-volume history of the liturgy changes since 1960. He adopted the view that many Novus Ordo Masses (i.e. Masses in the vernacular or in Latin celebrated according to Pope Paul’s 1970 missal), perhaps all of them, were either sacrilegous, or invalid, of both, because of changes made in the text. “Such a litany of defects,” he writes in his ICEL apology, “suggests that many modern Masses are sacrilegous, and some could well be invalid. They certainly are less Catholic, and less apt to sustain Catholic Faith.” In recent months traditionalists have circulated this apology in North America and in Europe (The Tablet, July 31, 2004), and it is also available on the SSPX website.
Readers will note that words such as “suggests,” “could well be,” “less Catholic,” and “less apt,” indicate a lack of precise theological definition on the part of the author. Either the Mass is valid or it is not; it cannot be both at once.
In the spring of 2004, Fr. Somerville forwarded a copy of a nicely printed book entitled Seventeen priests tell why they celebrate the Latin Mass to every priest in Toronto or perhaps also to priests throughout all of Ontario. The mailing address was that of an SSPX affiliate in Toronto. It was accompanied by a letter penned by Fr. Somerville in which he told the story of his 2001 “conversion” to the old Mass.
The book’s title is deceptive because it deals with seventeen priests, including some Canadians, who celebrate Mass in Latin after first breaking their relationship with the Catholic Church. None of them are SSPX members.
The cover-letter proved that Fr. Somerville now rejects much of the Second Vatican Council, because, he says, it began “introducing modernist, liberal concepts into Catholic thought, at variance with traditions we had grown up with prior to 1960…. These ideas had been conveyed in enticing, vague, and ambiguous language, apt for simultaneous or traditional interpretation, so that a good majority of the Council Fathers would vote their approval, but in fact open a door for revolution.”
The truth is that most of them were approved by overwhelming majorities, not just by a “good majority,” and that while there are some ambiguities, these should not be attributed to plots of conspiracies.
The Church takes action
Fr. Somerville’s determination to continue on the path of open defiance of Church authorities becomes even clearer when we consider that by this time he had already received a formal warning from Archbishop Ambrozic. In December 2003, he was sent a letter to cease and desist from serving “traditionalist” congregations associated with the Society of St. Pius X.
When, six months later, he received the formal note of suspension dated July 15, 2004, after his return from a brief speaking tour in the U.S., he immediately forwarded it to The Remnant in Wyoming for publication with the rest of his correspondence which he had sent earlier.
The Remnant is a bi-weekly American national traditionalist newspaper that does not accept the 1970 Missal and Mass of Pope Paul VI. They promptly printed what he had sent and placed everything on their website. The article “Mel Gibson’s chaplain suspended” includes the text of the correspondence and the note of suspension which we print below.
The gist of the correspondence below is straightforward: the Archbishop’s warning is dated Christmas Eve, 2003. Father Somerville’s reply of January 12, 2004, denies that the Society of St. Pius X is schismatic and therefore “no longer in full communion,” a term he questions. (N.B.: It is used today to indicate other Christian bodies which have one of more beliefs in common with Catholicism but which are not legally or canonically part of the Catholic Church). Msgr. John Murphy, Vicar General of the Toronto archdiocese, responded (March 24) by sending Fr. Somerville a letter from the one authority within the Church who should know the status of the Society of St. Pius X: the secretary of the Vatican Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. (N.B.: this Commission was set up in 1988 when Pope John Paul II gave permission for the Tridentine Mass of 1962 again to be celebrated for faithful Catholics, after obtaining permission from the local bishop. He also gave permission to some two dozen or more Lefebvrist priests, who wanted to return to the Church, to form the Fraternity of St. Peter with the purpose of being able to celebrate again the Latin Tridentine Mass in the Catholic Church–as before 1962. This Fraternity has received many vocations since. In 2004, it ordained nine priests in North America alone.)
Fr. Somerville replied again on May 29, 2004. He continues to quibble, and now says he was acting “out of necessity,” under Canon 1382; moreover, the followers of the excommunicated Archbishop Lefebvre are still in communion with the Catholic Church, he argues, just not with “the present Vatican.”
I have taken much space to set this matter before you, our readers, in the belief that the details of this sad development are important to understand. Already I have one printed report which attacks Toronto’s Cardinal for supposedly harsh and undue treatment. Faithful Catholics should be very clear about the issue: the Cardinal is right, Father Somerville is wrong.
The Pope is the sign of unity in the Church. The 4,400 Catholic bishops around the world in union with him form the hierarchy of the Church. We have to be in union with them. Rejection of the Pope’s authority in matters of faith and morals means that one is cut off from the Church. One cannot be in communion with the Catholic Church, yet “just not with the present Vatican.”
Today, many people, including Catholics, seem to think that one can change “churches” as one can change parishes of, worse, one’s clothes. This is a mistaken and truly disastrous notion. It may apply to other Christian denominations but not to the Catholic Church. Saint Peter was given the power to bind and loose for all time (“whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19). The Christian faith is a revealed religion. It must stay unified. The Church should not be understood as a body put together as we do with governments or other organizations. Rather, it is uniquely instituted by Christ, our Lord, who guarantees that “the portals of hell will not overcome it” (Matthew 18:18).
Letter to Father Somerville from Cardinal Ambrozic, Archbishop of Toronto (December 24, 2003)
Dear Father Somerville,
It is high time that I wrote to you in light of my recently acquired knowledge of your extra-curricular activities. It has come to my attention that you are celebrating Mass for congregations affiliated with the Society of St. Pius X.
As you well know, this group is not in full communion with Rome and any further ministry exercised by you on their behalf would force me, as your Bishop, to take remedial action.
With this letter be informed that I order you to terminate your association with the Society of St. Pius X, or face the prospect of suspension and/or further canonical action.
If you have any question about this, please contact me at your earliest convenience.
Wishing you a peaceful and blessed Christmas,
In Christ, Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic Archbishop of Toronto
Father Somerville’s response to Cardinal Ambrozic (January 12, 2004)
I hereby acknowledge receipt of your letter of Christmas Eve, which expressed displeasure at my having said Masses for Catholics “affiliated with the Society of St. Pius X,” and which threatened me with canonical suspension for this.
I am puzzled that such a serious penalty should be invoked for assisting the three hardworking priests of that Society in Toronto, who must serve nine churches in Ontario and New Brunswick, seven of which are in dioceses other than yours. I am also puzzled by your phrase “not in full communion with Rome,” to describe the SSPX. Does this mean partial communion? Can there be such a thing? Although there is a divergence in thinking between the Vatican, as presently and confusedly manifested, and the clear position of the SSPX, I consider that the SSPX is simply in communion with Pope John Paul, and, after considerable reading on the subject, I rejoice to understand that they are not excommunicated, not even their four bishops. The Vatican authority has affirmed that Catholics attending SSPX Masses truly fulfill their Sunday obligation, and are justified in making a suitable contribution in the collection.
I know that many persons seem to share the slanderous notion that the SSPX is in schism, but this is clearly contradicted by various authorities. If there is any division, it has been brought about by the Vatican itself in the last four papacies. And if Pius XII or the Fathers of Trent were to return, they would recognize the Catholic Church much more clearly in SSPX than in the post-Vatican II Church. Here I refer to doctrine and piety, as well as to liturgical rites.
In the light of the foregoing considerations, I think you should commend me for publicly sustaining the Catholic Faith and Liturgy, and I respectfully request that you drop your threat of suspension. If I have not yet been able to persuade you of the Catholic worth and validity of SSPX, I do earnestly ask you to indicate to me in writing the precise nature of my alleged crime or wrongdoing and where it is spelled out in Canon Law, and where the penalty of suspension is provided.
Your letter of 24 December 2003 seems clearly to be a consequence of my visit with your Chancellor John Murphy on 28 November 2003, whereat I candidly indicated the places where I was celebrating the traditional Mass. On that occasion, I offered a gift to Msgr. Murphy, Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre (Vol. I) by Michael Davies, the distinguished and prolific English commentator on the liturgical changes of the last forty years. Mr. Davies perceives better than I can say, and with searching detail, the powerful contribution of the late Archbishop Lefebvre to the survival of Catholic Faith and worship, and some of his canonical sufferings at the hands of high persons in the Vatican. I hope you will find time to read at least some of this work.
Respectfully yours in Jesus and Mary, (Rev) Stephen E Somerville
The Archdiocese responds (March 23, 2004)
Dear Father Somerville,
Thank you for your letter of January 12, 2004, in response to Cardinal Ambrozic’s letter of December 24, 2003. Clearly the concerns outlined in Cardinal Ambrozic’s letter appear not to be concerns to you. Please read the enclosed letter signed by Rev. Msgr. Camille Perl, Secretary of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei.” You will note that the Society of St. Pius X is deemed by the competent ecclesial authority as not being in full communion with the Holy See. Therefore you are not within your canonical right to collaborate with the Society of St. Pius X by offering your priestly services.
Please make yourself available to see the Cardinal at your earliest convenience.
With every good wish, I remain Fraternally yours in Our Lord,
Rev. Msgr. John K. Murphy, V.G. Chancellor of Spiritual Affairs
Msgr. Perl’s letter (February 6, 2004)
Dear Monsignor Murphy,
I wish to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 27 January 2004. First, for your general information, I am including the responses to the most frequently asked questions about the canonical status of the schismatic Society of St. Pius X. Following those, I will make a more specific response regarding the situation which you have presented.
1. The bishops of the Society of St. Pius X are excommunicated according to the prescription of canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law which states that “A bishop who consecrates someone a bishop without a pontifical mandate and the person who receives the consecration from him incur a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.” Archbishop Lefebvre was duly reminded of this before his conferral of episcopal ordination on 30 June 1988 and the Holy Father confirmed that this penalty had been incurred in his Apostotic Letter Ecclesia Dei, #3 [cf. AAS 80 (1988) 1495-1498; English translation in L’Osservatore Romano English edition of 11 July 1998, p. 1].
2. The priests of the Society of St. Plus X are validly ordained, but suspended; that is, prohibited from exercising their priestly functions because they are not properly incardinated in a diocese or religious institute in full communion with the Holy See (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 265) and also because those ordained after the schismatic episcopal ordinations were ordained by an excommunicated bishop. They are also most probably excommunicated since it is quite likely that these priests, after more than fifteen years in a society whose head is now an excommunicated bishop, adhere to the schismatic act.
3. Concretely this means that the Masses offered by the priests of the Society of St. Pius X are valid, but illicit; i.e., contrary to Canon Law. The Sacraments of Penance and Matrimony, however, require that the priest enjoys the faculties of the diocese of has proper delegation. Since that is not the case with these priests, these sacraments are invalid. It remains true, however, that, if the faithful are genuinely ignorant that the priests of the Society of St. Plus X do not have the proper faculty to absolve, the Church supplies these faculties so that the sacrament is valid (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 144).
4. While it is true that participation in the Mass at the chapels of the Society of St. Plus X does not of itself constitute “formal adherence to the schism” (cf. Ecclesia Dei 5, c), such adherence can come about over a period of time as one slowly imbibes a schismatic mentality which separates itself from the teaching of the Supreme Pontiff and the entire Catholic Church. While we hope and pray for a reconciliation with the Society of St. Pius X, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei cannot recommend that members of the faithful frequent their chapels for the reasons which we have outlined above. We deeply regret this situation and pray that a reconciliation of the Society of St. Pius X with the Church may come about, but until such time, the explanations which we have given remain in force.
Following upon the above-stated principles, it is clear that the Society of St. Pius X is not in full communion with the Holy See. The priest to whom you refer [Father Stephen Somerville, MJM] then is not “within his canonical right” to collaborate with the Society of St. Pilus X by offering his priestly services. We would suggest that this information should be communicated directly to the priest. Quite evidently, he has accepted the interpretation given him by the priest members of the society and it will probably require some time and patience to dislodge these ideas.
If he is given the required canonical admonitions and refuses to abide by them, it may be necessary to suspend him a divinis according to the provisions of the Code of Canon Law. We sincerely hope that that will not be the case.
With cordial best wishes I remain Sincerely yours in Christ, Rev. Msgr. Camille Perl Secretary
Father Somerville replies again (May 29, 2004)
Dear Monsignor Murphy,
Belatedly, with regret, I reply to your letter of 23 March 2004 regarding the threat of suspension against me for collaborating with the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). In addition to ongoing business and various travel commitments, I have striven to do considerable further reading on our problem. Thank you for your letter, and special thanks to you and to the Archbishop for having secured the two-page letter (6 Feb 2004) on our topic from Msgr. Camille Perl, Secretary of Ecclesia Dei in the Vatican.
I do have some difficulty with the explanation of Msgr. Perl. In his paragraph 2, he speaks of the Episcopal ordinations of the four SSPX bishops as “schismatic ordinations,” and of these as a “schismatic act.” But nowhere does he explain or justify this negative view. On the contrary, I have read of several canonical authorities declaring–precisely in our context Cardinal Lara, Neri Capponi, Prof. Geringer, jcd (Munich), Fr. Gerald E. Murray, jcd (New York), and more) that the ordination of a bishop without papal authorization does not constitute a schismatic act. Indeed, my readings relate that large numbers of bishops in the past have in fact been ordained without clearance by the Pope and received Vatican recognition at a later time. The desire of Archbishop Lefebvre and his community to remain firmly and fervently attached to “traditional Rome” and the Holy See is patent and manifest in his writings and utterances and actions. Courrier de Rome, of September 1988, concluded after a detailed study (Is Tradition Excommunicated? A collection of Independent Studies, chapter 1, p. 36, of pp. 1-39; Angelus Press, Kansas City, MO 1993) as follows:
“There does not exist a ‘schism’ of Archbishop Lefebvre; it has been decreed with superficiality, bad faith, and a suspect eagerness.” (The whole article and book is well worth reading and a powerful vindication of the SSPX.)
Throughout Msgr. Perl’s letter, I count possibly a dozen allusions, almost mechanically made, to the schism and excommunication and non-full comunion of SSPX persons. But these allusions are not substantiated, except for the mention of excommunication in canon 1382 of the 1983 Code. Yet here Msgr. Perl fails to mention what he surely knows, that canon 1324 exempts from all penalties one who breaks a law out of necessity, even if the person disobeying is mistaken. Now it is surely clear in the deplorable state of the Church today that a profound and widespread necessity for holy Catholic sacraments and faithful Catholic teaching is pressing upon us. I hope that the Chancery staff in particular can see this spiritual necessity. If you cannot see it, I do not point an accusing finger, because I myself, priest of 48 years and beneficiary of various serious appointments and studies, could not see this clearly until about three years ago (2001), when I went to serve a traditional, independent Catholic community of about 175 persons in the USA for five weeks (they were my summer holiday) and I read the many stimulating, eye-opening, thorough theological books and articles which my new Catholic friends made available to me. It was no mete nostalgia trip. It was a discovery and summons leading back to the Catholic Church of my youth, of my early priestly years, and of ancient Tradition.
May Jesus lead the bishops and priests of the Toronto Archdiocese to make this rediscovery, as urgently as possible; the salvation of multitudes depends on it. May the thought of an awesome Judgment Day add compelling motivation to this most pressing task. I urge you to follow me and SSPX and all Traditional Catholics in this increasingly joy-filled and reverential and inspiring clarification of Catholic Truth. Will it lead to painful regret over many facts, going back to 1962 Rome and the Second Vatican Council? Will it suggest that Archbishop Lefebvre is the new Saint Athanasius of the Catholic twentieth century, with Modernism as the new and all-deceiving Arian heresy? Will it show that even popes can be deceived and deceiving without formally teaching error ex cathedra? Will it remind us that Jesus flatly predicted that many false Christs and false prophets will arise and deceive many, if possible even the elect (John, 24)? Let us not be afraid of incidental consequences. But let us return ardently and generously to the Faith of our Fathers.
Is the SSPX “not in full communion” with the Holy See? This wording is inappropriate. Rather, the SSPX is not in full agreement with the present Vatican. A highest-level commission of cardinals and theologians must undertake a thorough and public study of these disagreements. They are vital to the Faith and critical for salvation. The Roman Chancery thus likewise has an urgent, disturbing, and inescapable task. May the Cardinal Archbishop of Toronto, with his remaining time of service, contribute effectively to the Catholic Counter-Reformation in both justifications.
Have I persuaded you to lay down the unfounded threat of canonical action against me? Shall I still be forced into heresy by so-called obedience, or into so-called schism by fidelity? If I cannot move you to the right, with tears for my own past blindness, will you now shackle me in the wrong for clinging to Catholicism? Would I have to continue liturgical service to believers with presumed and alleged illegitimacy, as Archbishop Lefebvre had to continue his Catholic Seminary at Econe after its so-called suppression by Vatican edict? Will the visible Church authorities begin at long last to assert that the Post Vatican II Fabrication, the Neo-Church Emperor, has no clothes? Would you allow me to start a fully traditional, constituted Catholic community in Toronto (not in competition with the existing work of SSPX) so that I (and others with me) could make attractively real what I’m writing about?
I apologize for the lengthiness of this appeal. You will perceive, Monsignor, that the “you” is often plural. I hope you perceived that the concerns of the Archbishop (for communion, in the truth) are also mine. Yes, I will seek a meeting with him, and presume to copy this letter to him. Perhaps, you will copy it to Msgr. Perl. For all of us, I beg the Holy Spirit’s guiding and illuminating.
Sincerely in Jesus and Mary, Fr. Stephen Somerville
The Cardinal suspends Father Somerville (July 15, 2004)
Dear Father Somerville:
1. For the last several months, I have tried unsuccessfully to reason with you about your grave and persistent disobedience in continuing your association with and in celebrating the Eucharist for adherents to the schismatic Society of St. Pius X. Given your earlier and more recent communications with myself and with Monsignor John Murphy, Chancellor of Spiritual Affairs, it appears all our efforts to deal pastorally with your obstinacy in this matter have been in vain. In particular, your recent mailing to the priests of the Archdiocese of a form letter (over your signature) and a book entitled, Priest, Where is Thy Mass? Mass, Where is Thy Priest? can easily be interpreted as an apologia for your position and a further indication of your entrenchment therein. Moreover, such action contravenes both the letter and the spirit of my admonition to you dated December 24, 2003.
2. Father Somerville, on the day of your ordination nearly a half century ago, you placed your hands in those of the ordaining Archbishop and promised obedience to him and his successors, as laid down in Canon 127 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law (“All clerics, especially priests, are bound by a special obligation to show reverence and obedience each to his own Ordinary”), and reiterated in Canon 273 of the 1983 Code (“Clerics have a special obligation to show reverence and obedience to the Supreme Pontiff and to their own Ordinary”). It is regrettable that, of late, you apparently have lost your earlier zeal for the virtue just described.
3. It is my understanding that you have not “formally” affiliated yourself with the Society of St. Pius X already mentioned. Such formal affiliation to that Society, whose founder’s ipso facto excommunication was declared by the Apostolic See on July 1, 1988, would, as you are probably aware, according to Canon 1364, likewise result in your own immediate de jure excommunication from the Church.
4. On the other hand, your ongoing association with and celebration of the Tridentine Mass for members of the Society of St. Pius X give external recognition to their illegitimate claims and their lack of submission to our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, to bishops appointed by him, and to the teachings of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. Your actions are also a potential source of scandal to clergy and laity of the Archdiocese of Toronto.
5. In light of all the foregoing, with due observance of Canon 1342, 1, and Canons 1717-1720:
*Given your flagrant disregard for my previous warnings to cease and desist from your disobedient behaviour (fc. Canons 1330; 1347.1);
*Given the existence of the condition for grave imputability of your actions (cf. Canon 1321);
*Given the absence of extenuating circumstances (cf. Canons 1322-1324);
*I hereby decree, in your regard, the imposition of the censure of suspension .as laid down in Canon 1333, 1, 1-3. That is, as of this 15th day of July 2004, you no longer enjoy the faculties of the Archdiocese. To wit, you are prohibited all public and private acts of the power of Order and of the power of governance. Namely, you are forbidden to celebrate, either publicly or privately, any of the Sacraments, including the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation (this latter, outside the danger of death of a penitent [cf. Canon 1335]). You are likewise forbidden the faculty to preach or to celebrate publicly the Divine Office or the Liturgy of the Word. Thus, this censure of suspension is global (cf. Canon 1334, 1).
6. This censure does not prevent you from receiving the sacraments in the churches of the Archdiocese provided you are otherwise well-disposed. It does prevent you from offering the sacraments to members of the faithful of our Archdiocese and elsewhere, even to those legitimately asking, the sole exception being the absolution of a penitent in danger of death (cf. Canons 976 &1335).
7. In keeping with Canon 1355, 1, 1, the remission of this censure is to be in the external forum and is reserved to myself or my delegate. No remission will be possible without a clear indication you have withdrawn from your obstinate disobedience already cited, wish to be fully reconciled with the Roman Catholic Church, and return to the path of reverence and full obedience to the Roman Pontiff and your Archbishop Ordinary.
8. This censure of suspension is personal; that is, in keeping with Canon 1351, it binds you not only within the territory of the Archdiocese of Toronto, but everywhere in the world.
9. Notification of this suspension is being sent to the bishops of Ontario and the auxiliary bishops and priests of the Archdiocese of Toronto.
10. In keeping with Canon 1737, 1-2, recourse from this suspension can be taken to the Congregation for Clergy in Rome within a peremptory time limit of 15 canonical days.
Father Somerville, I regret having had to take the drastic measure of removing your faculties by way of the penalty of suspension.
It is the mind of the Church, as it is mine, that the imposition or declaration of penalties is a last resort when neither “by fraternal correction or reproof, nor by any methods of pastoral care, can the scandal be sufficiently repaired, justice restored, and the offender reformed” (Canon 1341).
With the assurance of my prayers, I remain yours in Christ,
Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic Archbishop of Toronto
Note from Fr. Somerville to the “Remnant:”
Further to my fax of 15 July 2004, correspondence regarding threat of my suspension. I write to you in haste and urgency since I have just this hour opened the attached letter from my Ordinary, Cardinal Ambrozic. As you will read, he has taken decisive action against me, and if you are planning to publish the prior correspondence, this item also should be made known to the readers, and I am hereby informing you of it immediately, as I had promised to do. The letter invites some response (including a possible canonical “recourse” within 15 days) and/or appropriate meeting of minds, and I have begun work on this. Of this course of action I will also inform you promptly. With thanks for your attention help and patience.
In Jesus and Mary, Father Stephen Somerville
Fr. Somerville responded to the suspension with another letter of the same kind as the previous ones. But, of course, he had already disobeyed the Archbishop’s instructions by sending the correspondence to the traditionalist press for publication.
Consequently he received the following letter dated August 18 from the Cardinal (again published by The Remnant).
Dear Father Somerville,
I wish to acknowledge receipt of your letter of August 12 in which you respond to my letter of suspension of July 15. I notice that, in the meantime, the letter of suspension and prior correspondence have been published on www.RemnantNewspaper.com.
The only manner in which you can persuade me to revoke the suspension is by fulfilling the following conditions and this without any kind of qualification:
1. You write all the priests who have been sent your letter endorsing the publication Priest Where is Thy Mass? Mass Where is Thy Priest? and recant your endorsation;
2. You sever all ties with the Society of St. Pius X;
3. You make a declaration of fidelity to Pope John Paul II and your Archbishop;
4. You affirm the authenticity of the teaching of Vatican II;
5. You affirm the validity of the Eucharist celebrated according to all the Canons approved by the Church.
The conditions 2 to 5 are to be fulfilled in writing and sent to my address by August 31. Condition 1 is to be fulfilled in writing to all the addresses by the same date. We wish to see the text of your message before it is sent. I am sorry it has come to this; we have known each other for a long time. But my fidelity to the Catholic truth gives me no choice but to suspend you. To all your pettifogging arguments I answer with St. Augustine’s chief reply to the selfrighteously pure Donatist sect, Securus iudicat orbis terrarum.
Wishing you all the best, I remain, Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic Archbishop of Toronto
Featured in the Star
On August 28, The Toronto Star published a “Saturday special” in its front section, featuring Fr. Somerville (“The Passion of the Priest”), while elsewhere in the paper Sheila Dabu used him to do a feature on Mel Gibson and other “traditionalists” in the Church, “That old time religion.” The Star’s Saturday edition is bought by well over half a million people.
In the first feature, Fr. Somerville repeated his disagreement with the Second Vatican Council, again denied that the SSPX is schismatic, reiterated that his suspension was “unlawful and without foundation,” and noted that “both Mel and I have made the fundamental decision to repossess traditional Catholicism” (when such things as rampant abortion and divorce in the Church were unknown).
The Passion of Fr. Stephen Somerville
The passion of the priest
By Sheila M. Dabu, Special to The Star
August 30, 2004
Priest Who Ministered to Gibson Disciplined
www.beliefnet.com (See also thread at http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=14244)
September 01, 2004, Religion News Service
A Toronto-area Roman Catholic priest who served as spiritual adviser to Mel Gibson during filming of “The Passion of the Christ” has been suspended by Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, archbishop of Toronto, for celebrating the Latin Mass for a conservative Catholic splinter group.
Father Stephen Somerville celebrated daily Mass in Latin, with Gibson acting as his altar server, when the movie was filmed in Italy last year, reports the Toronto Star.
Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in the film, also attended the 7:30 a.m. services most days before filming.
Somerville, who was a priest in the Toronto archdiocese for 48 years and who has strongly defended the movie against charges it and Gibson are anti-Semitic, was suspended by Ambrozic for celebrating Mass in Toronto for the Society of St. Pius X, a group that Ambrozic and the Vatican’s ecclesiastical commission consider “not in full communion with Rome.”
The Society of St. Pius X is one of several traditionalist Catholic groups that refuse to recognize changes ushered in by the Second Vatican Council of 1962-1965. “Your ongoing association with and celebration of the Tridentine Mass for members of the Society of St. Pius X give external recognition to their illegitimate claims and their lack of submission to our Holy Father Pope John Paul II, to bishops appointed by him, and to the teachings of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. Your actions are also a potential source of scandal to clergy and laity of the Archdiocese of Toronto,” Ambrozic said in a letter to Somerville.
Somerville has appealed the suspension to Rome. Meantime, he may not celebrate Mass anywhere in the world
Reprinted from Mirabile Dictu, the Mon-Fri e-newsletter of Corpus USA:
Rev. Stephen Somerville, of Queensville, north of Toronto, said daily mass in Latin, with Gibson acting as his altar server, when the movie was filmed in Italy last year. Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in the film, also attended the 7:30 a.m. services most days before filming.
Somerville has been a priest in the Toronto archdiocese for 48 years. He has appealed the suspension to Rome.
The Passion Of The Christ, which comes out on DVD on Tuesday, has made Jesus more popular than Spider-Man and put Gibson, its producer, on top of Forbes‘ list of the 100 most powerful Hollywood celebrities.
It is easily the most successful religious movie ever made. Since its release on Ash Wednesday last February, the movie has grossed more than $600 million (U.S.) worldwide.
In North America, its box-office gross is behind only Shrek 2 this year and is ahead of Spider-Man 2.
Somerville, who defends the film against critics, and who strongly denies that Gibson or the movie are anti-Semitic, was suspended by Ambrozic for celebrating mass in Toronto for the Society of St. Pius X, a group that Ambrozic and the Vatican’s ecclesiastical commission consider “not in full communion with Rome.”
“(Y)our ongoing association with and celebration of the Tridentine Mass for members of the Society of St. Pius X give external recognition to their illegitimate claims and their lack of submission to our Holy Father Pope John Paul II, to bishops appointed by him, and to the teachings of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. Your actions are also a potential source of scandal to clergy and laity of the Archdiocese of Toronto,” Ambrozic said in a letter to Somerville.
The Society of St. Pius X is one of several traditionalist Catholic groups that refuse to accept changes brought in by the Second Vatican Council, such as saying mass in the vernacular instead of Latin and having the priest face the congregation instead of turning his back to them.
Mel Gibson is a traditional Catholic, but not a member of the Society of St. Pius X faction. Somerville became his chaplain and spiritual director after they met through Gibson’s father.
Suzanne Scorsone, a spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, said yesterday that Ambrozic didn’t have a choice in the matter.
“Essentially it’s a situation where (Somerville) has chosen to take a position not in keeping with the faith body he has agreed to be a priest for. Since he’s taken a different position he can no longer speak for us,” she said. “He was given the opportunity, even after the suspension letter, to reply and say that he would agree with what the Church teaches.
“He declined to do that. The time period elapsed and so the suspension is now official,” she said. “This is an issue on which the Holy See already has a very clear position.”
A retired Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Toronto, Somerville said he respects Pope John Paul II for his “heroism and his office” as head of the Catholic Church. But, like other traditionalist Catholics, he has reservations about post-Vatican II doctrine.
Since 2001, he has been celebrating the pre-Vatican II Tridentine Latin liturgy, which has its roots in the 16th-century Council of Trent, using the 1962 guide to the mass. Masses are held in chapels and private homes, mostly in Toronto and Michigan, Montana, Indiana, Philadelphia, Minnesota, and Washington, D.C.
Being suspended by the Toronto archdiocese means Somerville is still a Catholic and can practise his religion, but is not officially authorized to say mass anywhere in the world.
“I regret that it’s come to an open conflict between me and my archbishop,” he said in response to the suspension. But, he believes, the suspension “is unlawful and without foundation.”
He said the St. Pius X society is not “schismatic,” as alleged by Ambrozic, and is not “out of communion with Rome.”
And under canon law, he said, “no one is to be penalized who disobeys a command out of necessity, even if he is mistaken about the necessity, even if it’s only a perceived necessity.”
Since The Passion Of The Christ opened in February, Somerville has been giving talks to traditionalist Catholic schools about the film and the traditionalist liturgy.
The emphasis of the movie, like the emphasis of the traditionalist Catholic mass, Somerville said, is the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The Passion of Christ on screen (“passion” translated in Latin means “suffering”) is mirroring the Passion of Christ that takes place during a Catholic mass.
Gibson ‘insisted on kneeling on that hard floor behind me and making, in perfect Latin, the responses to the mass by heart.’
Rev. Stephen Somerville
“I think it’s an act of evangelization. Mel is preaching the Gospel very powerfully in this movie…. It’s powerful enough to surely make a lot of converts together with the grace of God.”
Gibson has kept a low profile since the movie opened. The last time Somerville spoke to the director about the movie was in April. It was a quick phone call and Somerville said he got the impression that Gibson was under fire and that “life was not all peaches and cream.” But Gibson had also mentioned news of a criminal turning himself in after seeing the movie.
Somerville celebrated mass in an office space at Cinema City on Rome’s east side, where the filming took place.
While morning religious service is not the typical Hollywood practice, Somerville said the movie’s main message would have rung hollow without the celebration of mass, which he says is the true Passion or sacrifice of Jesus.
“Mel is a very different kind of director and he absolutely wanted to go to mass. I reminded them in my first homily that Mel and his company were spending $25 million … and I as priest could reproduce the real thing in half an hour for nothing.”
Gibson “insisted on kneeling on that hard floor behind me and making, in perfect Latin, the responses to the mass by heart.”
The service was held in a small room with a few chairs and a simple wooden table that served as the altar, with a crucifix hanging over it. Religious ornaments adorned the room, including a large picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Virgin Mary of Mexico.
Somerville always started and ended the mass with a hymn. Kneeling beside him was the Oscar-award-winning actor who was his altar server for the seven weeks.
Somerville said Gibson has a fine singing voice, although he sang an octave lower “as if shy of letting his voice be heard.”
The masses, said Somerville, were simple, the “old way” like before the Second Vatican Council. There were about a half-dozen from the movie crew who regularly attended. Caviezel usually came, but on mornings that required heavy makeup work, such as during filming of the scourging scenes, Somerville would save him a Communion host so that he could come later in the afternoon to receive it.
“I’m walking in that memory right now. I’m wearing the shoes that Mel Gibson gave me while working on the set for him. I was wearing an old battered pair of black sneakers that were extremely comfortable and that’s the reason I didn’t want to throw them out even though they were battered and worn out,” Somerville said.
He brings one leg up on the table and shows off one of the shoes.
“When a man kneels down behind you as you’re saying mass, facing God, he sees your feet and he could see my shoes, so he gave me these lovely pair of Reebok shoes. So, that’s my living memory of the Passion set,” he said.
Somerville met Hutton Gibson, the actor’s father, in the summer of 2001 in Houston when Somerville was asked to fill in as priest for a traditional Catholic congregation.
“Many Catholics no longer go to church. You know the story: Divorce and abortion are now rampant among Catholics. They weren’t when I was a young priest. It was entirely different and both Mel and I have made the fundamental decision to repossess traditional Catholicism, and that gives us not only something in common but something profoundly in common, so it was much more.”
Somerville served on the Advisory Board of the International Commission on English Liturgy for more than 10 years, charged with the work of translating the new post-Vatican II Latin liturgy into the English language.
He has since reconsidered his own role during the implementation of the post-Vatican II changes and renounced his work on the commission.
On Gibson’s faith, Somerville said, “It’s like the man, strong and rugged, and it has the traditional qualities which I believe are necessary, not an option, and I hope that the rest of the (Catholic) Church will recover the traditional faith before too long, before too many souls are lost.
“Mel is a well-informed Catholic. He talks intelligently about the faith. He’s a man of prayer; prayer, of course, is a breath of faith.
Somerville was not surprised by the film’s success.
“People resonate with the film I suppose because Mel was so inspired in his capturing of the experience of the Passion of Christ and we have so many Christians or recent Christians, ex-Christians in society, they’ve already heard about Jesus.
“They know that he’s the only Saviour, or at least I hope they know that. In other words, everybody needs Jesus even if they don’t realize it, so it’s not surprising that people are flocking to this movie which is such a vivid, inspiring portrayal of his last 12 hours of his life on Earth.”
Although many critics denounced the film for violence, Somerville disagrees.
He said while there was inevitably Gibson’s own artistic interpretation of the Passion, for the most part, the movie is an accurate, honest, biblical and historical portrayal of the violence that actually was done to Jesus.
(Concerning the suspension of Fr. Stephen Somerville)
By Fr. John Trigilio, September 23, 2004
Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic Archbishop of Toronto suspended Father Stephen Somerville 15 July 2004 as he himself has publicly revealed. He is currently appealing to Rome that suspension, however, the letter from his local Ordinary states:
“I hereby decree, in your regard, the imposition of the censure of suspension as laid down in Cannon 1333, 1, 1-3. That is, as of this 15th day of July 2004, you no longer enjoy the faculties of the Archdiocese. To wit, you are prohibited all public and private acts of the power of Order and of the power of governance. Namely, you are forbidden to celebrate, either publicly or privately, any of the Sacraments, including the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation (this latter, outside the danger of death of a penitent [cf. Canon 1335]) You are likewise forbidden the faculty to preach or to celebrate publicly the Divine Office or the Liturgy of the Word. Thus, this censure of suspension is global (cf. Canon 1334, 1). This censure does not prevent you from receiving the sacraments in the churches of the Archdiocese provided you are otherwise well-disposed. It does prevent you from offering the sacraments to members of the faithful of our Archdiocese and elsewhere, even to those legitimately asking, the sole exception being the absolution of a penitent in danger of death (cf. Canons 976 &1335). This censure of suspension is personal, that is, in keeping with Canon 1351, binds you not only within the territory of the Archdiocese of Toronto, but everywhere in the world.”
While Father Somerville has some notoriety as the priest who celebrated the Tridentine Mass for Mel Gibson during the filming of the movie The Passion, and as the priest who renounced his former affiliation and work in ICEL, he is canonically suspended of his priestly faculties. Since this was done by his own local Ordinary, they apply everywhere in the world, whereas if he had been suspended by a bishop from another diocese where he is not incardinated, then the suspension would only apply to that specific diocese and no where else. However, since he is incardinated in the Archdiocese of Toronto, then his suspension has universal application and is not limited to the archdiocese.
While suspended, he is NOT EXCOMMUNICATED and in cases of danger of death (IN PERICULO MORTIS) he can still absolve sins and anoint the sick. He is entitled by Canon Law to appeal his suspension since it prevents him from publicly celebrating the sacraments and his priestly ministry. Meantime, Catholics should not endorse nor show approval of his disobedience by attending talks or Masses he celebrates. On the day of our ordination, we priests place our hands into the hands of the bishop who ordains us and we make a solemn promise “to obey and respect” that bishop and his successors whether we always agree with them OR NOT. The only time a priest or deacon is exempt from that obedience is when it conflicts with obedience to a higher authority, namely, the Supreme Roman Pontiff, the Pope.
Resisting the Novelties of the Conciliar Church
By Fr. Stephen Somerville, Undated
A traditional Catholic is accused of disobedience to the Pope or to his Bishop because he refuses to attend the Novus Ordo or conciliar Mass. How can he justify and defend himself?
There are other manifold and alarming changes in the Catholic Church in recent decades. But it is right to focus principally on the changes in the Mass, because the Mass is the flagship of the Catholic Church. The Mass is also our greatest and holiest possession. Moreover, we are duty-bound to attend it every Sunday. Furthermore, it is during the Sacrifice of the Mass that there takes place the transformation of the bread and wine into true Flesh and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is offered to us in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the greatest of the Seven Sacraments and is served by these other Sacraments in ways that reveal them to be likewise essential to our salvation, that is, to gaining Heaven.
Now, the traditional Catholic may have studied the changes made by the post-Vatican II establishment in the other Sacraments, and may object seriously to their new mode of performing. He might also refuse to send his children to the local conciliar Catholic school with its watered down religion teaching (without the Catechism), with its notorious permissive “sex education,” and various bad examples.
These are some of the worst changes in the Conciliar Church. Our traditional reader may sincerely recognize in them dangers to the Catholic Faith and to one’s holiness (the life of Sanctifying Grace). His children would likely be in still greater danger of spiritual harm. They all run the risk of eventually dying not in the state of grace. This means in the state of mortal sin. It means eternal loss in Hell.
Reasons for resistance and disobedience
Under the circumstances, may the traditional Catholic resist or disobey the Pope or Bishop who orders him to conform to the progressivist Conciliar Church?
The answer is definitely, yes, he may and should resist or disobey the new teachings or customs insofar as they are clearly contrary to the previous Magisterium and worship of the Church. St. Robert Bellarmine teaches us that
“just as it is licit to resist a Pontiff who attacks the body, it is also licit to resist a Pope who attacks the soul or … above all, who attempts to destroy the Church. I say,” St. Robert continues, “that it is licit to resist him by not doing what he orders, and by preventing his will from being executed” (1).
Therefore, our correspondent may decline to attend or use the liturgy and schools of the Novus Ordo Church.
Why may he disobey? Because the new progressivist Hierarchy is dismantling the structure of Catholic Church as it was known for 20 centuries of history. This destruction has many facets, but here I focus on two points.
First, there is the infidelityof the Conciliar Church to her Catholic past. Think of the multiplied irreverences to Christ-God at Mass. For example, the Tabernacle set aside in a corner with few genuflecting to it; the Gregorian chant and other reverent chants to honor the Holy Eucharist no longer heard, but replaced by Protestant hymns and sacro-pop novelty songs; the Communion rail removed and little if any sign remaining of adoration at Communion time; 70 per cent of adults (says a survey) no longer believing in the Real Presence of Christ’s Body (corollary – no victim, therefore no sacrifice); the state of grace scarcely surviving and few, precious few, going to Confession; Protestant leaders applauding the New Mass for its Protestant conformity. I could go on. But these are some of the infidelities in the conciliar liturgical scene.
Do the authors of this sacral devastation, be they Bishops or even Popes, deserve our obedience? Hardly! In fact, most of them demand it as seldom as possible, because of the generalized breakdown of authority in the Conciliar Church. Open and uncorrected disobedience corrodes the authority still further.
John XXII receiving the Protestant observers to Vatican II
Informations Catholiques Internationales, October 15, 1972
Paul VI with the Protestant theologians who helped compose the New Mass
Secondly, after those infidelities, I come now to the new doctrines which were never taught before in the Catholic Church. Most prominent, it seems to me, are universal salvation (all are saved, none need be condemned) and religious liberty. According to it, the Conciliar Church abdicated from the Catholic doctrine that the civil authority should protect the true religion. From Vatican II onward, all men are free to follow or negate the true religion and to profess, without any legal sanction, whatever belief he wants.
Those two, major themes of Second Vatican Council and its aftermath are strangers to Catholic doctrine. They are not affirmed in black and white terms. They are presented rather implicitly and confusedly. For example, Hell is not mentioned in the new Rite of Penance, along with the old notion of “imperfect contrition.” The “hard” themes have been eliminated from the Collect Prayers. The prediction of the Great Apostasy (2 Thes. 2) is omitted from the new Lectionary (Old Lectionary: Sat in Ember Week of Advent) Persons are beatified who did not practice heroic virtue.
Should one obey or submit to this ecclesiastical structure of universal salvation and freedom? On the contrary one should resist and question it for the risk it poses to that very salvation and freedom.
All the changes were done to the Church, it is alleged, for “ecumenical” reasons, that is, to make Catholics to be “Protestant friendly,” less different even from Jews (less “anti-Semitic”), and less irritating to the secular, non-religious establishment. But these changes are actually destroying the Church. We are witnessing the auto-destruction of the Church (Pope Paul VI actually said this publicly). And this destruction is surely masterminded by Satan himself, whose smoke is in the sanctuary (these words were likewise uttered by Paul VI).
It is widely alleged that since the 1930s, clever young Marxists, Freemasons and Jews were infiltrated into the Catholic Church, posing as pious seminarians and aiming for ordination and various promotions so as to corrupt and destroy the Church from within. This infiltration is documented, but is curiously hushed up by the Catholic body politic. The book Memoirs of an Anti-Apostle is a remarkable testimonial to it.
Do the Pope and the Bishops, who are promoting these facts, have right to claim our obedience, genuine authority over us? It would seem not, or less and less as the situation worsens. The traditionalists may and should calmly disobey them, so as to obey God. The great Dominican theologian Francisco Vitoria teaches us:
“A Pope must be resisted who publicly destroys the Church. What should be done when the Pope because of his bad customs destroys the Church? …. He should neither be permitted to act in such fashion nor should he be obeyed in what is evil. Consequently, if wanted to destroy the Church or the like, he should not be permitted to act in that fashion, but one should be obliged to resist him. The reason is: he does not have the power to destroy” (2).
It is also Catholic truth that we should maintain the holy tradition of worship and doctrine from older times and the Popes of the past. To obey the new ways is to disobey the good old ways of Pope Pius XII, of St. Pius X (the only sainted Pope of the 20th century), of Blessed Pius IX , and of St. Pius V, who promulgated the Tridentine Mass in 1570. But the discipline and truth of those great Popes came to us through them from Our Lord Himself. St. Peter tells us plainly: It is better to obey God than men (Acts 5:29). Yes, indeed, the traditional Catholic may resist and disobey the recent Popes and Bishops when they order us away from serious Catholic Tradition.
Finally, let Canon Law of 1917 itself support our right to disobey the Progressivist Revolution. This great Code of Law says that the First Law to which all the others should be directed to is the salvation of souls. Well, the pro-Protestant liturgy, prayers and teachings of the Conciliar Church are leading or tending to lead souls to Hell. We must resist and disobey these evil standards so as the better to save our souls.
The specter of “disobeying the Pope” may actually be exaggerated or even falsely presented. Pope Paul changed the words of his edict Missale Romanumcommanding use of the Novus Ordo Mass. He used devious and vague language. And why did he do so? Because he knew the powerful argument that the Tridentine Mass was to be perpetual by the deliberate and firmest will of Pope St. Pius V. He knew that to violate the Tridentine Mass was to risk the anger of Saints Peter and Paul. Yet he deliberately proceeded to wrench the Catholic Church out of its holy tradition. It is said that he died not in the odour of sanctity, but in a hideous stench of foulness so great that no one could approach his catafalque.
Since then Pope John Paul II worked to make the Old Mass available, particularly by the priests of the Fraternity of St. Peter, as well as priests locally approved for this by their Bishop. This was intended to undercut the good work of Archbishop Lefebvre and his faithful followers. Sad to say, the Bishops have not made the Tridentine Mass easily and generously available. They have hedged it round with restrictions and evident contempt. And why do they act so? Surely because they fear that this holy flagship of the Catholic Faith will discredit and cast into a bad light the new Conciliar Church, the new Mass, the new Catechism, the new substitutes prompted by the Father of Lies for the shattered remains of the Bride of Christ.
Progressivist indignant reactions
At this point, I can hear some rising voices of conciliar indignation, of angry confrontation from zealous and deluded servants of New Church.
Who wants to return to that antique stuff?
One objection is this: “What downright nonsense you are speaking! Who wants to return to that stuffy, Latin, Constantinian, medieval Tridentine Church? Thank God for the wonderful reforms! Thank God for the Mass in English, for the enthusiastic participation of so many women, men and children in the Sunday celebration. Thank God for the freedom and creativity and inculturation!”
Yes, I have in the past been flagellated with words like these at church meetings. I know persons who could answer them soundly and roundly, with most telling testimony, with awesome words of faith and conviction and experience. These answers have been published in good books and websites. Let us continue our fight, our self-instruction, our Catholic education, in peace and charity, in light and with fidelity.
The “good” done by Novus Ordo parishes
I await one more objector. He is the one who tells me in serious calm: “Yes, but there are many choices in many parishes. I choose to go to a good parish that I know, where the priests are zealous and prayerful, where the liturgy is reverent and nourishing, where the lay groups are hard working and dedicated, where the recent Vatican instructions are taken seriously, were the choirs add beauty to the celebrations. This surely is the Catholic Church as it should be.”
Perhaps you have been to a church like that or heard of parishioners like the one above who testify to the balance, richness and spiritual profit of his Sunday church-going.
I am tempted to reply, “Thank God that there are some good things to report in the Conciliar Church out there.”
But I recall my own latter years in the Novus Ordo system. We did some creditable things: I always used the Roman Canon, or First Eucharistic Prayer, with its doctrinal strength. I corrected for long years the false translation of pro multis – “for all” – to the correct “for many” over the chalice. We used male altar servers. We injected a little Latin and Gregorian Chant into every Mass. We maintained reverence where we could. I tried (and yes, I failed) to persuade the people to come to Confession. Were Catholics glad to come to my Church? Yes, I know that many were. But in the end, the proponents of the New Church won the day, and I found myself in a situation ideal for re-discovering Catholic tradition. Deo gratias.
In the meantime, yes, some Novus Ordo parishes are not so bad. But let us remember that this revolution and apostasy in the Catholic Church was predicted by Jesus and by St. Paul and various non-biblical prophets: “Rome will lose the Faith”. The survival of some truth and holiness here and there may slow down the apostasy marginally. But the same survival of partial truth also helps the enemy to disguise the overall errors of the post-conciliar Church, to foster conformity, to let Satan appear as an angel of light.
Who is favorable to Protestantism?
Our reader reports that his criticisms of the Pope are held to be a slippery slope into Protestantism, that to trust in one’s own faith in Scripture and doctrine is to lapse into the Protestant error of private judgment.
This accusation is shallow and misleading. It is really the conciliar leaders who are Protestantizing the Catholic Church. All the liturgical changes are made along Protestant-friendly lines. Pope Paul VI invited six Protestant experts to “observe” the reform of the Mass so that Protestant feeling would not be offended by it. As for the past, Pope Pius V deliberately made the Roman Missal firmly Catholic and tamper-proof so that Protestant influence would be zero in future. Traditional Catholics intend to reclaim this genuine Catholic ground.
If one considers other non-liturgical concessions to the Protestants made by the Progressivist Church, he sees the diminishment of the prerogatives of the Pope as the Monarch of the Church and Teacher of Truth. He sees the increasing role of the Episcopal Conferences which reduce the central government of Rome to majority opinion; the introduction of women into the Sanctuary; the doctrine of justification – by Faith alone, sola Fides – accepted by Catholic and Protestant leaders recently in Augsburg, and so on. All these changes were made to please Protestants and to make the Progressivist Church more similar to them. To resist such conciliar leadership is to protect us from Protestantism.
Is everything that comes from the Pope coming from God?
Our reader quotes his critics: “we are to believe all things that come from the Pope are from God” and should submit to them even if it is contrary to the past teachings.
This is very misleading. All good and neutral things are from God, but sins and errors are from man. The current Vatican is prone to mistaken, sinful and harmful decisions, teachings and policies. After serious study and prayer we traditional Catholics can and should intervene respectfully and lucidly and strive to “admonish the sinner and instruct the ignorant,” two traditional works of mercy.
Should a non-theologian never question the Pope? Well, remember the Christological debates of the early Church such as during the Arian heresy of the fourth century. The people often took a vigorous interest in those theological arguments. Sometimes it was the Bishops, Emperors, Generals and wealthy classes who powerfully promoted the heresy in the face of the simple clear faith of the common folk.
Today we need to engage more minds in the public debate of fidelity to Tradition versus the acceptance of Vatican II novelties. We don’t need to become expert theologians, but we can discuss the themes based on that common sense of the faithful that the Holy Ghost never denied to His Church. It was this sensus fideliumthat preserved the Catholic Faith against the Arian heresy that had contaminated almost all Prelates and even a Pope – Pope Liberius. I am sure that with the support of the common sense of the faithful based on the perennial doctrine and liturgy of the Church the good cause will win, with the grace of God. Do the critics assert that “God will handle all things when and as He pleases”? Indeed he will, but He pleases to involve you and me in the work. Let us not fail Him.
1. Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice. Lib. II, chap. 29, in Opera Omnia, Paris: Pedone Lauriel, 1871, vol. 1, p. 418.
2. Obras de Francisco Vitoria, Madrid: BAC, 1960, pp. 486-487.
By Fr. Stephen Somerville
At the Good Friday trial of Jesus, Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” To this day, people are still wondering about truth, and where to find it.
When St. John the Apostle wrote the introduction to this Gospel, he said to us, “In the beginning was the Word, the Word of God … and (this) Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we (Apostles) saw his glory … full of grace and truth. Jesus, the Word of God, is full of truth. We must constantly refer to Jesus to know the Truth.
In the very first prayer of the traditional Roman Canon of the Mass, we pray God the Father to bless our sacrifice which is offered for the whole Church, including all right-thinking believers and teachers of the Catholic and Apostolic Faith.
Thus in every Mass, we recall that Jesus is full of truth, and has given us a faith that makes us right-thinking believers. Let me remind you of one article of our Catholic Faith. This article or truth is spelled out in the Secret Prayer of a Sunday Mass after Pentecost. This truth is that God has enacted one perfect sacrifice, that of Jesus His Son, in place of all the victims that were sacrificed under the Old Testament before Christ. We pray God to receive this one perfect sacrifice and to sanctify it in order to help us all to attain salvation.
So, briefly: Jesus, full of truth, has given us a right-thinking Faith that says the Mass is a perfect sacrifice of Jesus’ very Body and Blood, that replaces all the Old Testament sacrifices.
It is sad that the Protestants do not accept this notion that the Mass is a true, though bloodless, sacrifice of the real Body and Blood of Christ. For Protestants, the Eucharist is merely a religious meal that is a symbol and memorial of the Last Supper of Jesus. It is not a true victim-sacrifice offered by an actual priest. This contradiction of our Catholic faith means that we cannot expect Protestants to be right-thinking believers, even though we may pray for their conversion. What is more, you know that there are other notions or articles of the Catholic Faith that Protestants do not accept. Examples are the Seven Sacraments, the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Holy Mary, and the Infallibility of the Pope.
But let us return to the Mass. In 1969, Max Thurian, an important protestant theologian, who helped found the ecumenical Taizé community in France, made this statement: “It is now theologically possible for Protestants to use the same Mass as Catholics.” (1) Protestants offering the same Mass as Catholics? How is this possible? How can we all be right-thinking believers?
To answer these questions, remember that the Liturgy Commission set up by the Paul VI in early 1964 was mandated to prepare a reform of the Mass and all the other liturgy services of the Catholic Church. This commission, calledConsilium, did in fact reform the Mass, quite promptly, and the Pope did approve and promulgate this new order or novus ordo of Mass on April 3, 1969. We have the English version of this new Mass that is used in Catholic churches thencefroth around the world. It is quite different in many respects from the Tridentine Latin Mass. How should right-thinking Catholic believers evaluate this new Mass of Vatican II? What should we, as Catholics, think of the novus ordo Mass?
To answer this serious question, let us briefly describe the new Mass in the language of expert theologians and liturgists.
First, they describe it as ecumenical. This means designed to foster unity and agreement with non-Catholic beliefs. Thus it becomes important to “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.” One must emphasize what we believe in common, and tone down the beliefs we do not share. The new Mass has changed many prayers, especially the Collects, to speak less of Hell, less of eternal punishment, less of the world as the enemy of God, less of the need to fast, and so on.
The novus ordo Mass is next described as antiquarian. This means emphasizing the alleged early, original features of the Mass in the time of the Fathers, that is, the first four to six centuries of the History of the Church. It means recovering supposed early simplicity of worship, and other primitive qualities. It means diminishing or removing the enrichments of the Catholic Mass that were developed in medieval, baroque, and post-reformation times. It means a more austere, more bare-bones and elemental kind of worship.
Some of these simplifications include less bows or genuflections by the priest, shorter prayers, less use of bells and incense, less feasts of saints, less statues and holy water, and so forth. This then is the antiquarian aspect of the new liturgy.
The Cathedral of Los Angeles looks like an office building
The third quality is to be community-based. Now the community is the horizontal dimension, that is, around us. The alternative is the vertical dimension, that is, above us. It means pointing to God, to heaven, to the angels. The novus ordo tends to emphasize the community more than God, here more than hereafter, goodness in human society rather than in the mystical body of Christ. Notice that new churches, that is, mass buildings, are wider and lower, with little or no tower that points up. Notice the big entrance lobby for people to meet and chat, horizontally, rather than to pray to Heaven, vertically. Notice the new sign of peace, when the congregation has a surge of hand-shaking. The new Mass, then, is community-based.
The relaxed, community based “altar space” in San Francisco’s Most Holy Reedemer Church
The next quality is that of a democratic church. This means literally government by the people, rather than by priests and Bishops and Pope, which is hierarchic, not democratic. It means that the Mass should be led not just by the priest, but by many lectors or readers taking turns, by many communion ministers, including women and even teenagers, by many ushers or so-called ministers of hospitality, and above all by a parish liturgy committee that decides the style and structure of the various Masses. The cantor or song leader is another player on the team of the democratic liturgy.
In a chapel the Tabernacle is set off on a side wall
A fifth trait of novus ordo is to be desacralized. This means rendered less sacred. It means signs of reverence or mystery, of transcendence or heaven should be reduced to a minimum or removed. Some of these eliminations in the Mass were mentioned earlier, under the antiquarian quality of keeping the gestures of only the early age of the Church.
Other trimmings of the sacred: we see in no more communion railing, no more Latin language, simpler less ornate vestments, and in priests who do not even wear some of the proper vestments, but remain more casual. Many priests no longer wear clerical attire even outside the Mass. They celebrate Mass facing the people, not God. They act more as a chairman or president of a meeting, rather than as a sacred minister before God. This is the desacralized liturgy.
The sixth and last adjective to describe the Vatican II Mass is Protestantized, that is, harmonized more with Protestant views and practices. This is a theological area, that is, it touches on what we are taught and do believe about God, the Sacraments, the Church and so forth. Because of the ecumenical urge, and also the urge of the Modernist heresy, the designers of the new liturgy have certainly made Catholic worship more Protestant in tone and content. We could call this quality deviance, because liturgists are deviating from traditional Catholic belief. Here are some specific examples:
A doctrine that is toned down is that of the real presence, the reality of Our Lord’s Body and Blood under the appearance of bread and wine. Thus the Tabernacle is off in a corner or even in a separate room out of sight. One receives Communion not kneeling and on the tongue, but standing and in the hand. One must fast not three hours or from midnight, but only one hour. The word transubstantiation is omitted from documents on the Mass.
The practice and doctrine of Confession, almost unknown among Protestants, is surviving less and less among Catholics, and the risk of sacrilegious communions is now chronic, that is, Holy Communions received in the state of mortal sin or without prior absolution by the priest.
The ministerial role of the priest is much diminished as mentioned in the democratic emphasis in the new Mass. The priest is actually a man chosen apart and made sacred for a holy task of offering worship and sacrifice, even if only few faithful are present.
But the new concept of priest is more that of a functionary, an elected or appointed official, a president or master of ceremonies, even sometimes an entertainer. No wonder there are few young men today answering the call to such an uninspiring, humanist kind of priest.
We already noted that the sacrificial character of the Mass has been largely lost. The Mass is merely a “sacrifice of praise” now, an offering of holy words to God. One quality of true sacrifice is to be propitiatory, that is, appeasing God’s anger over our sins.
If we believe that God is too kind and loving to demand atonement for sin, or if we believe that God is too magnificent to be offended by our puny sins, then we have lost the Catholic Faith, and, in this case, a propitiatory sacrifice would make no sense.
These are the six qualities of the new order of the Mass: ecumenical, antiquarian, community-based, democratic, desacralized, and Protestantized. By contrast with Catholic tradition up to Vatican II, it features numerous changes, reversals, and opposites, and it is hardly a Mass for right-thinking believers. It makes us understand why a strong and holy movement to preserve and restore the traditional Latin Catholic Mass sprang up after Vatican Council II.
I hope the reader will follow up this short meditation by prayer and study, so that we all become or remain right-thinking believers, and faithful disciples of traditional, Catholic Truth.
1. D. Bonneterre, The Liturgical Movement, p.100. To this writer the present article also owes the schema of six marks of the new Mass.
Priest, Where Is Thy Mass? Mass, Where Is Thy Priest?
Seventeen Independent Priests Tell Why They Celebrate the Latin Mass
Paperback, April, 2004, Angelus Press
Seventeen Roman Catholic priests (none of whom are formally members of the Society of Saint Pius X) explain why they celebrate the old rite of the Latin Mass instead of the New Mass. In question and answer format, these priests tell their trials and triumphs over the Novus Ordo establishment. Inspiring and often heroic examples of fidelity to their priestly vocation. Who ever would have thought that it would come to this?
Students at the SSPX seminary in Winona, Minnesota, conducted interviews with priests who still say the Traditional Latin Mass as opposed to the Novus Ordo. THis little gem is the result of those interviews. None of the priests interviewed are members of the SSPX. Their numbers include both secular and order priests, those ordained before the Second Vatican Council and those who lived through the touchy-feely drivel inflicted on modern seminarians. All have come to the same conclusion, namely that the changes that swept through the ROman Catholic CHurch in the 1960s and ’70s have led to an unacceptable break with the Church’s history and her Sacred Traditions. All of them would break away from their Liberal Bishops and begin providing The Mass and the Sacraments to the Traditional Faithfull in what Traditonal Catholics refer to as “Independant Chapels.” SOme are cut off altogether from their pensions and have their faculties revoked by their bishops. Their interviews well reflect the bitterness of Traditional Catholics who have watched everything they love trounced in the years since the Revolution. One of them, ironically, tells how Archbishop Levada, the Pope’s new appointment as head of the Holy Office, once told him how Transubstantiation “is a long and difficult word and we don’t use it anymore.” Others tell of years of suffering in silence and fear of being “outed” as Traditionalists. The world of modern day Catholic Tradition is a highly fascinating one and is known to so very few. The SSPX seminarians of Winona deserve a round of applause for bringing these interviews to light.
Father Stephen Somerville – Requiescat in pace
December 15, 2015
Father Stephen Somerville passed to his eternal reward last night, (December 12, 2015) around 11:00 P.M. Father was a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Toronto. He recently suffered two serious strokes, he was 86.
Father Somerville was also a musician and composer. He wrote the Good Shepherd Mass for the English liturgy in 1965 which was adapted in 1970 for the bowdlerised Gloria and Sanctus and then corrected back by St. Michael’s Choir School in 2011 with his permission. I enjoy every opportunity to sing his Responsorial Psalms in CBWII which are finely crafted based upon his authority in chant at St. Michael’s Choir School. Last weekend was the 50th anniversary of his first conducting of the Tenor/Bass Choir of St. Michael’s at the annual Massey Hall Christmas Concert. I have great memories of singing Handel’s Messiah standing beside him in the Bass section a number of years ago in Etobicoke and singing his corrected Gloria translation (later modified by the Choir School) with him at the piano just a few years ago when visiting him at St. Bernard’s Convalescent Home. Father Somerville was also the Chaplain on the set of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.
The ICEL rebuke
He was well-known as “Canada’s liturgist” having participated on the International Committee for English in the Liturgy (ICEL) which translated the Missal of Paul VI into English from the original Latin. It is important to know that the English translation used from 1965 to 1969 of the modified 1962 Roman Missal was a faithful translation. The Novus Ordo Missae was translated by ICEL using a translation method called dynamic equivalence.
Father John Zuhlsdorf
began his blog from years of writing in The Wanderer highlighting the grievous textual errors in the Missal, now corrected, and which still exist in the Liturgy of the Hours.
In his later years, Father Somerville regretted his work on ICEL. He came to the conclusion that the virtual abolition of the Roman Missal of 1962 was a grievous error; but not only that, but the translation of the Latin of the Novus Ordo Missae was “damaging” to the Faith. He issued his rebuke of ICEL and an apology for his participation in their now repudiated and disgraced work in what is known as The Somerville Letter.
Father Somerville began assisting at the Holy Mass with the Society of St. Pius X in Toronto on a periodic basis to cover for their vacations. Following a much publicised series of communications with the then Monsignor and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Toronto, the now laicised banker and investment advisor, John K. Murphy, then Cardinal Archbishop Aloysius Ambrozic known for his over-eager suspensions of conservative and orthodox priests, suspended Father Somerville after consultation with the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. To be fair to Ambrozic, Father Somerville left him little room to proceed in any other direction. Summorum Pontificum was still five years away and the lifting of the excommunications on the SSPX bishops, even further.
To his credit, Cardinal Thomas Collins has brought back many of these good men, victims of the so-called “conservative” Ambrozic’s vengeance. Yet, even in Father Somerville’s retirement, this was not possible as he continued to refuse to follow the previous Cardinal’s demands, which had been made public by him, leaving Cardinal Collins with little room to find a solution to Ambrozic’s suspension.
I spoke to Father Somerville about it once. It saddened him greatly; but he insisted that he could “not retract what he fundamentally believed to be true.” Ironically, it was on our way to the lounge in the convalescent home where he would play on the piano as I sang his revised, revised Gloria in English for the corrected translation in 2011. The irony and contradiction were not lost upon me.
Funeral arrangements are pending but it is known that Father requested that his funeral rites be undertaken at the Society of St. Pius X Chapel in Toronto. Sadly, it will mean that the priests of the Archdiocese will probably not be able to attend.
If, magnanimity and mercy were to prevail, his funeral would be held at St. Paul’s Basilica with St. Michael’s Choir School so loved by Father Somerville (and his late brother Father Peter Somerville) with the Society of St. Pius X Toronto Pastor given “faculties” for a day to celebrate the funeral rites with the Cardinal in attendance, all in the spirit of the worldwide facilities for the SSPX from Pope Francis for the Sacrament of Penance. It is the Year of Mercy, after all.
Rest in peace good Father. I was happy to have known you a little, sang with you, sang Mass for you and visited with you. Thank you for all you did, your Responsorial Psalms are still the best!
This is the only recording of his beautiful L’arche hymn which I have been able to find. The lyrics follow:
Lord Jesus, of you I will sing as I journey.
I’ll tell all my brothers about you wherever I go.
You alone are man’s life and his peace and his love,
Lord Jesus, of you I will sing as I journey.
Lord Jesus, I’ll praise you as long as I journey.
May all of my joy be a faithful reflection of You.
May the earth and the sea and the sky join my song.
Lord Jesus, I’ll praise you as long as I journey.
As long as I live, Jesus, make me your servant,
To carry your cross and to share all your burdens and tears;
For you saved me by giving your body and blood.
As long as I live, Jesus, make me your servant.
I fear in the dark and the doubt of my journey,
But courage will come with the sound of your steps by my side,
And with all of my brother you saved by your love,
We’ll sing Your dawn at the end of our journey.
Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that the soul of Thy servant Stephen, Thy priest, whom in this life Thou didst honour with the sacred office, may rejoice in the glory of heaven for evermore. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.
O Lord, we pray Thee that the soul of Thy priest, Thy servant Stephen, which, while he abode in this world, Thou didst adorn with sacred gifts, may ever rejoice in a glorious place in heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
O God, Thou didst raise Thy servant Stephen to the sacred priesthood of Jesus Christ, according to the Order of Melchisedech, giving him the sublime power to offer the Eternal Sacrifice, to bring the Body and Blood of Thy Son Jesus Christ down upon the altar, and to absolve the sins of men in Thine own holy Name. We beseech Thee to reward his faithfulness and to forget his faults, admitting him speedily into Thy holy presence, there to enjoy forever the recompense of his labours. This we ask through Jesus Christ Thy Son our Lord. Amen.
Eternal Rest grant unto him O Lord and may perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace. Amen.
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WHY I NOW AVOID THE NOVUS ORDO MASS AND ATTEND THE TRIDENTINE MASS-MICHAEL PRABHU