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Options sought for Mass in Latin

Catholic group seeks greater access to traditional worship forms

Latin Mass societies are looking at options to bring the “traditional” style back to Blair and surrounding counties after the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown in July limited “old rite” Masses to Sundays.

Two meetings will be held in the area this week with a representative of The Society of St. Pius X, also known as SSPX, founded by priests in 1970 after changes to the Mass were made in 1969.

The new outcry over the loss of Latin services comes after Bishop Mark L. Bartchak limited “old rite” Masses to Sundays and instructed clergy to administer sacraments, including baptisms and funerals in English.

In a letter on the diocesan website, the change came after Pope Francis issued the Apostolic Letter Traditionis Custodes; On the Use of the Roman Liturgy Prior to the Reform of 1970.

“The letter contains new norms concerning the use of what has been referred to as the Extraordinary Form or the Traditional Latin Mass according to the Roman Missal edited by Pope John XXIII in 1962.” Pope Francis “essentially undid what Pope Benedict XVI did,” said Aaron Clouse of Martinsburg.

Diocesan spokesman Tony DeGol said via an email that Bartchak is aware of the “concerns and interpretations that have arisen locally from the recent directive issued by Pope Francis. The bishop is in contact with the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome for continuing guidance.

That congregation was designated by Pope Francis to oversee questions that come from the Holy Father’s directives.”

Local Latin Mass aficionados are working on their own to find options.

The visit by Father Richard Boyle of the Society of St. Pius X priory of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Warners, N.Y., is being sponsored by several local Latin Mass societies, including those in Spring Cove, Johnstown, State College, University Park, and from as far away as Indiana and Venango counties and Allegany County in Maryland.

Boyle will spend his two-day visit to Centre and Blair counties offering pastoral support and providing information.

The first meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at The Graduate Hotel in State College. There, Boyle will offer a presentation on the SSPX and a public question and answer session as well as private sacramental confessions and private spiritual conversations, according to Ryan Carey, president of the State College Latin Mass Society.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, at the Altoona Grand Hotel, Boyle will celebrate a sung Mass in the Traditional Latin Rite and hear sacramental confessions.

Clouse, 23, said he has found his spirituality enhanced through his participation in the traditional (Latin) rites that have been passed down through the centuries.

The traditional rite is more than celebrating Mass in Latin and includes additional traditional prayers, and rituals, such as the use of Gregorian chant, incense, bells and candles, as well as all-male altar servers, and the reception of the Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling at a railing.

The changes go well beyond what language Mass is spoken, he said.

“It’s very beautiful … there is more reverence,” Clouse explained.

Such reverence carries over to the young people and families who attend the worship services, he said.

Worshipers are “younger” and “more enthusiastic” and support parishes “generously” financially.

It also helps him, Clouse said, because female worshipers dress more modestly and reduce “distractions” and “temptations to sin.”

Clouse said he hopes the meetings encourage the bishop to “return things to the way things were (prior to July) and he doesn’t try to suppress us.”

Members of the Latin Mass societies, Carey said, requested the visit “to secure their access to the traditional rites and sacraments of the Catholic Church (and) is in response to the rigid, unjust, unpastoral and spiteful cancellation of all Old Rite sacraments in the diocese and the arbitrary limiting and suppression of the Traditional Latin Mass,” according to a letter inviting the faithful to attend the gatherings.

Carey said the public meetings are in response to failed efforts to speak with Bartchak about their concerns.

DeGol, director of communications, said the Bishop has “an ongoing dialogue with his priests” and “is not precluding the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass in the diocese. He is committed to following the directives of Pope Francis, while also caring for the spiritual well-being of all souls” in the diocese.

Carey said faithful who prefer Old Rite Holy Day Masses, baptisms, first Holy Communions, confirmations, marriages and Requiem Masses are traveling to faith communities in Harrisburg or Pittsburgh and want to see them continue locally.

In a public letter of invitation, organizers described the meetings with SSPX as a “defensive action of the faithful laity” and Boyle’s visit is “the first step in developing stronger ties, which will secure access to the traditional rites for Catholics in the diocese.”

When asked what the societies hope to gain by associating with SSPX, Carey said in a telephone conversation with the Mirror that “there are infinite possibilities. Whether that be a priest who will come to hold a funeral or to build a chapel with a school … every option is on the table.”

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