Michael Matt | Editor Frank Carleton, Victoria, Australia
On Easter Sunday, March 31, 1521, the “rad trad” Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, ordered the Traditional Latin Mass to be celebrated by Father Pedro Valderrama, the Andalusion chaplain of the fleet. Conducted near the shores of the island, the Holy First Mass marked the birth of Roman Catholicism in the Philippines.
Denying Catholics, both clerical and lay, recourse to the ancient traditional Latin rite of Mass denies them an inalienable right and is a gross offence against charity. Yet such denial has been the casual pastime of many bishops for decades. Notwithstanding Benedict XVI’s motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum of July, 2007, which made plain that the old rite had never been illegal, its inhibition continues. In this writer’s observation and experience, the most craven and incompetent episcopal nonentity can invariably screw his meagre moral courage to the sticking point of outright denial or manipulative and evasive arrangements for the celebration of Mass in the traditional rite. That has been my experience in Australia and in England and Scotland since the 1970s.
I had hoped for better in the Catholic Philippines in the course of a sixteen-day July trip to Manila followed by Cebu. The Magellan Expedition brought the Holy Mass to the Philippines when the Expedition’s chaplain, Father Pedro Valdemarra said Mass at Magellan’s behest on Easter Sunday, 31 March, 1521. Plainly that Expedition’s chaplain did not say Mass in the 1969 rite of Paul VI but in the then centuries old traditional Latin rite, albeit almost half a century before Pope St. Pius V’s codification of that rite.
Before my departure from Melbourne I found an internet list of the traditional Latin Masses in the Philippines entitled, ‘Veni sequere me’ dated 2013. This listed traditional Masses in 14 Philippine dioceses plus the Military Ordinariate, not all of them on Sunday. For Metro Manila there were listed Masses in four dioceses. None were near my hotel in Makati.
On Sunday, July 17 I took a taxi to Quezon City for a listed 2pm Missa Cantata at the Holy Family Church in the Roxas district in the diocese of Cubao. Arriving at 1 pm I spoke to a couple of women at the back of the large church where the sanctuary featured an altar flanked by two large candlesticks. They knew nothing of the 2pm Mass.
Seeking a priest at the parish office I was referred to the resident deacon in the absence of the parish priest. He knew nothing of the Mass and was apologetic. At my request he provided the name of the diocesan bishop, Most Revd. Honesto F. Ongtioco to whom I wrote a suitably outraged letter describing my disgust at a fruitless trip to a listed, but nonexistent, traditional Mass which deprived me of Sunday Mass. In it I wondered how many others had also been duped by obsolete information and demanded that the Mass list be corrected and the courtesy of a reply to my Australian address.
I don’t know if the (only) second Sunday of the month Mass at 1.30pm at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of La Naval de Manila, Santo Domingo Church, Quezon City continues or not.
At my return home I received a letter of July 23rd from Bishop Ongtioco which said, “We are sorry for what happened during the visit. Thank you for reminding us that we have to update our website about the Latin Mass, etc.” Not very helpful but at least polite and in that respect in contrast to the insolent indifference I have experienced from Australian bishops in the past. In response to his request for prayers for increased vocations to the priesthood and the religious life, in my reply I recommended that he institute a daily Tridentine Mass on a prominent altar in his cathedral. I pointed out that in more than one country young priests and laypeople unborn when the traditional Latin Mass was universal have come to that Mass by individual investigation.
On the following Sunday, July 24 while staying in a hotel in Lahug on Cebu I took a very long taxi ride to Talisay City for a listed 3pm traditional Mass at the Archdiocesan Shrine of Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno in the Monastery of the Society of the Angel of Peace, Cansojong. As the taxi driver had three times to ask for directions I strongly suspected that this location would be of difficult remote access for local Catholics. Remote locations for Tridentine Masses to inhibit access has long been a despicable episcopal ploy in more than one country.
On the monastery gate when the taxi reached it there were two notices with the same text signed by José S. Palma, the Archbishop of Cebu which announced the suspension of the 3pm Tridentine Mass. Disgusted by this archiepiscopal demarche I was too angry even to photograph them. Driving into the monastery grounds I entered the chapel to find no priest but a couple of laymen. Feeling like Charles I seeking the Five Members I said, “I came for the Tridentine Mass but there is none!” With no response I returned to the taxi for the long return trip.
I don’t know if the other Sunday Mass listed for the Archdiocese of Cebu at 8.30am in Cebu City in the monastery of the Discalced Augustinians, Talamban is still extant or not.
On Monday, July 24 I emailed a letter to a Cebu daily newspaper, The Freeman which was received at my hotel. In this I pointed out that since Pope Benedict’s 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum numerous bishops continue to inhibit the traditional Mass rite. And such inhibition is pastorally derelict and a gross offence against charity. Then I referenced the Mass list and described my fruitless trip to Quezon City the previous Sunday. Next I described my second fruitless Sunday taxi trip to Talisay City for a second nonexistent traditional Mass on the authority of the Archbishop of Cebu.
My letter did not appear in the July 25 issue of The Freeman, nor thereafter, but a report of a local exhibition of vestments worn by Pope Francis while in the Philippines and those of Jose Palma, Archbishop of Cebu did. This struck me as fatuously superstitious. In a second email to The Freeman noting my lack of surprise at the non-publication of my letter, I said, “Doubtless worship of the hierarchy who can do now wrong is more important than the worship of Almighty God”.
On July 28 I emailed my complaint about a second nonexistent traditional Mass to the Archbishop of Cebu firstname.lastname@example.org . In this I recounted my lengthy taxi ride to a difficult location only to find his notice on the monastery gate which suspended the 3pm Mass. I also recounted my experience of the previous Sunday in the diocese of Cubao. I referenced Benedict XVI’s motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, and pointed out that Catholics have an inalienable right to the old Mass.
I pointed out that when the Magellan expedition brought the Mass to the Philippines [in 1521] its Spanish chaplain did not say Mass in the 1969 New Rite. Finally, I asked, “If it is impossible to attend Mass in the Philippines under diocesan auspices as I have experienced in two instances would you advise me to attend the Masses in the traditional rite of the dreaded Society of St. Pius X?” His Grace of Cebu did not condescend to reply to this itinerant Catholic.
I may add that only particular adverse local logistical circumstances prevented me from attending an SSPX Mass in Manila and on Cebu.
When this article is published a copy will go to both the bishops here named and to the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines. Too many bishops have still to learn that the traditional Latin Mass is not for an occasional treat in a remote location but must be made available to those Catholics who seek it on a regular and stable basis.
Notwithstanding strenuous efforts of sundry bishops internationally to suppress it in the past and in many instances to maliciously persecute its celebrants and their laity, it should be apparent to the meanest episcopal intelligence by now that it is never going to go away. Bishops may have proposed but plainly God has disposed otherwise. Traditional Catholics must insist upon it, especially in dealing with those wretched international episcopal archetypes of these disordered and chaotic times in the Catholic Church: Bishop Flaccid Nullity, Archbishop Garrulous Negligence and Cardinal Evasive Balderdash. Their pastoral and liturgical derelictions should not be suffered any longer.
Finally, in my unnecessary peregrinations about Manila and Cebu in quest of a traditional Latin Mass I must admit I was not wearing the correct enhanced post Vatican II layman’s uniform: flat hat, clogs and straw in mouth.