3 June 2004
After 14-years...
Cardinal Maida OK's Tridentine Mass for Detroit

Detroit's Adam Cardinal Maida (left)

Special to

DETROIT – ( - Citing his "very solemn responsibility as a bishop to try and preserve communion in the Church," Cardinal Adam Maida has approved the celebration of the Tridentine Mass in the Archdiocese of Detroit.

The cardinal announced his decision during the April 19 meeting of the Presbyteral Council, a consultative group comprised of a cross-section of priests in the archdiocese.

According to minutes of the meeting, which are compiled and mailed from his office, "The bottom line on this matter is that Cardinal Maida has come to the conclusion that unless he allows the Tridentine Mass, he would be shirking his responsibility as a bishop."

In his explanation for the decision, Maida cited the growing influence of schismatic groups within his archdiocese.

"We have much activity by schismatic churches in the Archdiocese. We have children in our Archdiocese attending schismatic schools and being drawn away from the Church. Some of our faithful are crossing the border to go into Windsor or other dioceses for the celebration of this Mass," the cardinal is quoted as stating.

The minutes of the meeting also paraphrase Maida as saying that he "has a responsibility as a bishop to reach out and seek to embrace the whole flock in this way. Within the context of what the Church allows, we must try to reach out. This is a very serious responsibility."

Maida did not mention at the meeting that in addition to laity joining schismatic groups, he is also faced with a major emigration of seminarians from the archdiocese, and the crisis shows no signs of abating. In the year 2007 there is only one man scheduled to be ordained for the Archdiocese of Detroit, a native-born Filipino.

During the meeting Auxiliary Bishop Walter Hurley said the Tridentine Mass may be allowed in two parishes before the fall, but neither the parishes nor the frequency of the Masses has been decided.

Hurley is quoted as stating, "We are not looking to catechize new generations into the Tridentine Rite, but we are seeking to respond to those people who have identified this as a pastoral need In moving in this direction, there are certain things that must take place as we proceed. The first is that Vatican II, its authenticity, and its liturgical reforms have to be accepted as a legitimate work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church. We do not want to set up something that would be divisive. We are not seeking to undermine or unravel the reforms of the Council."

The celebration of the Tridentine Mass will be coordinated under the auspices of the Archdiocesan Worship Office. "We do not want to see this as a work of a specific group of people, but rather an extension of Cardinal Maida's ministry as chief shepherd of the Archdiocese," Hurley is quoted as saying. "… All of our regional auxiliary bishops have indicated their willingness to celebrate this liturgy. The framework here is pastoral. We will not identify this as a "specific niche" of a parish; rather, this is simply something that would be offered at a parish."

The decision has been met with guarded optimism by those who have worked for the Tridentine Rite in the archdiocese, mainly because the rite – until now -- has been bitterly opposed by Maida and his chancery since Maida arrived as archbishop in Detroit in 1990. Additionally, the auxiliary bishop and chancery staff who are implementing his new decision are long-time chancery veterans who have no track record whatsoever of embracing traditional initiatives.

Many suspect the Tridentine Mass may be sparingly offered at small parishes in inconvenient locations, perhaps even in parishes hostile to traditional aspirations.

For at least the last 15 years there have been hundreds, if not thousands of requests to Maida to grant permission for the Tridentine Mass. A group of Catholics in the early 1990s filed a canonical lawsuit in the Signatura, the Vatican Court, to force Cardinal Maida to abide by Eccleiasia Dei, in which Pope John Paul II pleaded with the world’s bishops to allow a "generous application" of the indult for the Tridentine Mass. The St. Joseph Foundation assisted in that effort.

Maida opposed the lawsuit vigorously, and the legal effort ended when the Vatican ruled that with the death in 1994 of Thomas Marshall, the main signer of the complaint, the rest of signers of the petition to Rome had no standing to pursue the case.

It is noteworthy that the primary opponent of the Tridentine Mass at that time was Fr. Gerald Shirilla, professor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary and director of the Worship Department. Fr.Shirilla told a reporter for the Michigan Catholic that, regarding those who want the Tridentine Mass, "We have to fight them tooth and nail."

Fr. Shirilla was relieved of his post in 1993 when he was identified as a serial child molester, who favored young altar boys, going back more than 20 years. He never quite lost favor with Cardinal Maida, however, and was secretly re-assigned seven years later as pastor of a parish in the Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan.

Meanwhile, as the cardinal and his priests argue about the merits of the Tridentine Mass, the Detroit chapter of gay organization Dignity continues to hold its weekly Masses at Marygrove College every Sunday, and openly advertises that priests of the archdiocese celebrate its Masses. Priests of the archdiocese have never been forbidden to celebrate those gay Masses.

Cardinal Maida has always had different standards for different groups throughout his tenure in Detroit.

Related: Fr. Burns Seeley comments on the Traditional Latin Mass

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