Note: I am not jumping to any conclusions regarding the reasons for actions taken by Bishop Olson, since they are unknowable until he tells us. The questions posed below can be summed up thusly. How is this a banning of a legitimate rite of the Church a legitimate remedy to a legitimate problem? I believe it is incumbent upon the Bishop to publicly share this critical information.
In a shocking, largely unexplained, and possibly canonically illegitimate move, and just over three weeks into his tenure, the Bishop of Fort Worth has banned the daily Traditional Mass at Fisher More College. The only reason offered for the startling action that seemingly flies in the face of the rights established in Summorum Pontificum is that such a ban is “for the sake of your own soul.”
I wrote last week, about which there was some controversy, that traditional Catholics within the Church are feeling more and more marginalized. This is not going to help.
In a stunning and breathtaking letter, the Most Rev. Michael Olson, the newly-ordained bishop of the Fort Worth Diocese and the second-youngest bishop in the United States, has fully and totally banned the offering of the Traditional Latin Mass in the chapel of Fisher More College, where it has been offered for the last three years on a daily basis by chaplains all approved by his predecessor bishop according to the college. This blow comes after the students of the college raised $300,000 in about a week to keep the school open for the spring semester (see here).
Rorate has exclusively obtained — through a source who has requested anonymity — a copy of the letter sent last week by the bishop after a personal meeting with the college’s president, Michael King. Even more striking, the letter from Bishop Olson states that he’s doing this “for your own soul,” addressing Mr. King, apparently saying in some twisted way the offering of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form is a danger to Mr.King’s soul.
When asked by Rorate for a response to the letter from Bishop Olson, the school declined to comment.
February 24, 2014
Mr. Michael King
801 West Shaw Street
Fort Worth, Texas 761 l0
Dear Mister King:
Thank you for your visit today. I am writing you to state formally what I told you during our
meeting. These norms take effect immediately.
1. You do not have permission to have the public celebration of the Extraordinary Form of
the Mass at the Chapel of Fisher More College. This includes Sundays and weekdays.
The weekly celebration of the Extraordinary Form is available to the faithful every
Sunday at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church in Fort Worth
2. You may only have the celebration of ﬁre Mass in the Ordinary Form by priests who
explicitly have faculties for such celebration as granted by me as the Bishop of Fort
3. Failure to comply with the above-stated norms will result in my withdrawal of permission
to celebrate the Eucharist in your chapel along with withdrawal of permission to reserve
the Blessed Sacrament in the Chapel.
I make these norms out of my pastoral solicitude and care for the students of Fisher-More
College as well as for your own soul. I urge you to comply with them. Please convey to your
students my gratitude for their glﬁ of the spiritual bouquet. Please assure them of their presence
in my prayers.
Sincerely Yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Michael F4 Olson, STD
Bishop of Fort Worth
This move is made all the more shocking for the lack of justification. As if the daily offering of the TLM, by itself, could be the cause of injury to anyone’s soul. What he offers as a substitute is the one TLM in the entire diocese a few miles away at 5:30pm on Sundays only.
Rorate includes a letter from the Canon Law Centre which suggests that this action of the Bishop is beyond his authority and should be challenged.
I will also note that the Bishop made this decision just over 3 weeks into his tenure in the Diocese. Hardly enough time to address any underlying issues fairly with the college. As such, this seems directed at the TLM only.
Whether beyond his authority under Summorum Pontificum or not, this serious action with minimal justification directed at something so ancient and sacred, reverberates far beyond the confines of campus. This is reminiscent of other recent actions directed against the TLM with minimal justification and will likely be seen as very chilling by traditionalists within the Church, increasing that very dangerous sense of isolation.
Update: It is entirely possible that there are other legitimate issues with FMC, I do not discount that possibility. But how is canonically suspect banning the TLM supposed to address any other issue? If there are underlying issues, deal with them. The TLM is not the source of anyone’s problems. To use it as a punishment or a threat is wholly inappropriate. I would suggest that the Bishop owes the faithful a fuller explanation of the situation.