Saturday, April 27, 2013

STILL Sitting in the Back of the Bus: Diocese of Baker

In October of 2011, we didn’t realize it, but the EF Mass in the Diocese of Baker had pretty much met its demise. We’ve been trying to resuscitate it for a year and a half now.

A First Holy Communion at an EF Mass
Let me tell you the story; much of this is from my October 2011 post “Sitting in the Back of the Bus”; I’ve done a little updating to reflect the fact that nothing has changed in the last year and a half, despite the fact that we have a new bishop. And I haven’t tried to hide the increased level of frustration and resentment I feel.

First of all, let me introduce the Society of St. Gregory the Great (SSGG). The SSGG, centered in the Bend, Oregon, area, is a membership association of Catholic laity formed in 2008 to promote divine worship in accordance with the Supreme Magisterium of the Church; the Society has sponsored a monthly Mass in the extraordinary form at the historic St. Francis Church in Bend, since 2008. The past two years, the Society has had a very difficult time making that Mass happen. In fact, it hasn’t happened at all in well over a year.

Why? The primary reason is lack of a priest willing, able, and available to say the Mass.  

Wait. That’s not correct. The primary reason is lack of a bishop who is willing to implement Summorum Ponticum and take care of the faithful who desire the EF Mass.

The excuse given for the bishop’s failure is the lack of a priest willing, able, and available to say the Mass. Except that there are a handful of willing and able priests in the Diocese of Baker – and a couple more who would like to learn to celebrate the EF Mass. Unfortunately, they are spread far and wide. Oh, rest assured, once upon a time a priest or two did live in close proximity to the Bend area, and would have said the EF Mass once a month. But…gee…how do these things happen? Every priest who could say the EF Mass was transferred to another parish far, far away (that’s easy to do in this diocese which is large geographically, but sparsely populated).

In July of 2011, a priest traveled all the way from La Grande, OR (a 5-hour drive) to say the EF Mass in Bend on a Saturday evening, even though he was scheduled to say the same Mass in La Grande the very next day – along with his full complement of NO Masses for his parish and mission churches. His travel expenses were met only in part by the SSGG. It was a labor of love for this priest. A few months later, our Apostolic Administrator, Bishop William S. Skylstad (now replaced by Bishop Liam Cary), asked the priest to perform the same feat. The poor priest declined, not unreasonably; it was really too much to ask of him.

There are other important reasons for lack of a priest, however. The main reason has to do with administrative decisions made by Bishop William Skylstad in his capacity as Apostolic Administrator. These administrative decisions were: a) to capriciously restrict the exercise of the sacerdotal faculties of the priest who had been regularly offering this Mass in Bend; and b) as mentioned above, to transfer to a remote corner of the Diocese the only other local priest (at that time) willing and able to assume the responsibilities of offering these Masses for the SSGG. (This has happened in many a diocese across the country. Really, can our bishops really expect us to believe that it’s all just coincidence?)

In short, during his tenure, Bishop Skylstad's actions served to prevent these Masses and frustrate the legitimate spiritual aspirations of the faithful who desired the Mass in the extraordinary form. He expected us to believe that these actions were unavoidable. However, we are not stupid.

The SSGG attempted to follow the guidelines laid out in Summorum Pontificum and the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae in order to prevent the eradication of the EF Mass in this diocese. The Society repeatedly asked the pastor of Saint Francis of Assisi Church in Bend to provide Holy Mass in the extraordinary form at that church on a regular and frequent basis on Sundays and holy days of obligation. With no response forthcoming, the SSGG forwarded the request on to the bishop. The silence was deafening.

Once upon a time, we had an EF Mass in La Grande...
Meanwhile, the EF Mass had been offered in La Grande, Oregon, for almost a whole year on every Sunday, but suddenly it was also been curtailed. Why? Administrative decisions again cut into our [willing-and-able] priest's available time – he was asked to cover another parish when a priest was removed from priestly ministry there. We understood that our priest would have to cut something; sure enough the EF Mass was the first (and only) Mass to be "cut". No matter that there were 3 other NO Masses offered each week to fulfill the Sunday obligation of the faithful. Couldn’t one of those have been cut?

At this point, there are no easily accessible EF Masses for the faithful to attend in this Diocese (there is one available, though not in a convenient or easily accessible location –more on this below). This situation is directly the result of the actions taken by  Apostolic Administrator Skylstad, and the policy has been continued by our current bishop. The standard line is, “Gee, we’re awfully sorry, but there’s just no one to say the EF Mass for you.” Wink, wink. Shrug.

Back when he was the Apostolic Administrator of our diocese, Bishop Skylstad said he didn’t have anything against the extraordinary form of the Mass. Why, "we have one of those in Spokane," he told two members of the SSGG Board of Directors. Wow. Now that's saying something...

And Bishop Skylstad had nothing against Latin or Gregorian chant, he said. Of course, he told us, it's obvious that the participation of the laity cannot possibly be as complete in Latin as it would be in the vernacular. Hmmm. I objected when he told me this, and pointed out that the SSGG always provided booklets with the English translation of the Latin prayers. "People won't read it," he said dismissively. He also said that, well, some people think the extraordinary form know... "just a show". Yes. He said those things. Really.

Actions do speak louder than words. No matter what "positive" things Bishop Skylstad said about the "Latin Mass" (a term he used, but he meant the extraordinary form), his actions said that: a) it was not a priority for him to provide it for the people; b) he didn't believe it was a worthy celebration of the liturgy; and c) he had no intention of making the extraordinary form easily accessible, regularly celebrated, or a part of the liturgical life of the diocese.

St. Francis de Sales, pray for us!
Then, in May of 2012…alleluia! [cue the angel voices singing]… a new bishop was ordained for the Diocese of Baker. Bishop Liam Cary does know how to say the EF Mass, apparently. And he had “allowed” it, and even celebrated it himself in his previous parish.  Therefore, those of us who had been fighting to get our EF Mass reinstated were cautiously optimistic.
Well, forget it. Bishop Cary has made it very clear that he is going to follow in the exact footsteps of Bishop Skylstad, from whom he has sought guidance and advice. Nothing has changed for us regarding the EF Mass since Bishop Cary was ordained, except that he has perhaps become even more firmly entrenched in his opposition to the EF Mass.

Why do I say he is opposed? Why don’t I charitably accept his excuses? First of all, because, as I have already mentioned, I am not stupid; and secondly, because to allow him to make these excuses and think he’s fooled us would to be a disservice to him.

Bishop Cary is responsible for a lot of souls. He is even responsible for the souls of those who desire the EF Mass. He will be quick to tell you that there is an EF Mass available. It is in an out-of-the-way spot, an hour from Bend, and accommodates about 10 people comfortably. When more people show up – a regular occurrence – they squeeze in as best they can, even though there is a little church down the road that could be made available. But nooooo, says the bishop. All those people must be made uncomfortable in their little out-of-the-way chapel.  Some of those people drive 2 hours one way to attend this Mass!

And of course, there are a few of us way over here to the east, 5 or 6 hours away from Bend, who can’t go to that Mass in the out-of-the-way tiny chapel. We suffer. Yes, Your Excellency, we suffer, because the state of the Novus Ordo Mass in this diocese is unacceptably impoverished. Some of us dread Sunday Mass. And some of us have resorted to the SSPX chapel down the road, or the parish in the next diocese over where an EF Mass is offered twice a month. Either of those options also involves quite a bit of travel. But you seem not to care.

"Pleeeeeaaaase, give us an EF Maaaaaass."
Bishop Cary is being a very poor shepherd to some of his sheep – admittedly few in number – who want pastoral care in the form of the EF Mass. It matters not that there are only a few of us; we count as much as the other sheep. And, in fact, Bishop Cary is denying the opportunity to those other sheep – some of whom might  just learn to love it and to grow spiritually themselves by exposure to the EF Mass. He is depriving us of our Catholic identity and tradition. He is not acting in conformity with Summorum Pontificum or the Universae Ecclesiae (the Instruction on SP), which both strongly advise bishops to stop denying the treasures of the Church to the faithful who desire it.  He will be held accountable by THE Good Shepherd; that is a fact. And yes, I pray for Bishop Cary daily.

Many individuals, along with the SSGG, have written the appropriate letters to the appropriate persons and congregations in Rome. No action has been taken. We wait.

And why do I tell you this? Because it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to! Because misery loves company! Because I hope you will pray for us, even if we aren’t in your diocese, and even if you are experiencing the same thing in your own backyard. I’ll pray for you too!

Oremus pro invicem! Let us pray for each other!


  1. Those of us who live in a Diocese which has a pattern and practice of opposing the offering of Mass in the EF have a couple of choices. Keep beating our heads against a wall which only results in a headache, later a concussion, and finally a skull fracture or stop trying to do the impossible. If the opportunity to relocate to a EF friendly Diocese presents itself we might jump at the chance. In the meantime we pray for God's will. Continuing to fight will only make the opposition more firm in its resolve because they now look at the issue from a personal rather than Episcopal perspective.
    Bottom line is that they, not us who have tried, will have to eventually answer for their disobedience to Rome.

  2. I've begun to believe that we need to pray for the conversion of our bishops to the Catholic Faith. If they were truly Catholic, they could not be hostile -- and that IS the right word -- to the Traditional Latin Mass, because the Traditional Latin Mass is, if nothing else, an undeniable expression of the authentic Catholic Faith. To be hostile to the Traditional Latin Mass, therefore, is to be hostile to the authentic Catholic Faith. I can understand aesthetic discomforts, but I cannot understand hostility. That can only be of the devil.

    When clowns, or balloons, or tabernacles in closets, or banners, or any number of embarrassments are not only tolerated but welcome at so many Masses by these same bishops who are hostile to the Traditional Latin Mass, what other evidence do we need that such bishops are no longer faithful or believing Catholics (if they ever were)? It is no wonder that so many people question whether their Masses and other sacraments are valid: do our clergy even believe any more? Can they truly be said to "intend what the Church intends" when their words and actions suggest something else (can one truly be said to believe in the Real Presence and wear a cheesehead in the sanctuary?)?

    I don't live in Bend, or Oregon, so I have nothing to lose in saying that, from the outside, neither Bishop Skylstad nor Bishop Cary sound like there would be enough evidence to convict either of them of Catholicism. It's shocking when the only way you can preserve your faith in Bishops as Successors to the Apostles is to remember that Judas was an Apostle. So many seem to be Successors in his line.

    Prefer the Novus Ordo? Fine. An authentic, faithful Catholic can prefer the Novus Ordo. Show hostility to the Traditional Latin Mass? No, you are either too ignorant of the Traditional Latin Mass to make such a judgment, or you are not an authentic, faithful Catholic. If the former, then bless yourself and learn; if the latter, then repent and convert to the Catholic Faith.

    We are truly living in apocalyptic times. Your bishops better change direction or they'll wind up where they're heading. With you, I will pray for them, and all the others like them: shepherds in wolves clothing.

  3. Actually the more I think about it the more I am excited to live during this time of intra Church conflict. Just wish I were young enough to be around for the conclusion. It may be my naturally combative spirit but, just like with our current government, I am convinced that we are headed for a show down. It won't be pretty and we may wind up with two American Catholic Catholic and one catholic. And the Catholic Church might be much smaller than the other one. But like the Marines I prefer a few good, faithful, orthodox folks over the cinos any day.

  4. I am so sorry. I was so excited when Bishop Cary was named Bishop of Baker. I know about his background as a priest. I still have hope that he will come around. We have to keep praying.



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