To our knowledge, there is only one parish in the entire Diocese of Boise that has a weekly Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form (also known as the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM)), and that is St. Joan of Arc Chapel in Coeur d’Alene. At one time, there was a parish in East Idaho that had a monthly TLM. Unfortunately, circumstances have snuffed out that weak, burning ember of Catholic orthodoxy, not once, but twice. Today, there is no TLM in Idaho Falls.
I use the term “Catholic orthodoxy” in reference to the TLM, not because my wife and I have some lingering attachment to the pre-Vatican II Church or some misplaced sense of nostalgia. Rather I use it, because in East Idaho it is very difficult to find a Mass in the Novus Ordo that is not without abuses and distortions that were never the intent of Vatican II.
For the many of us who knew the Church prior to Vatican II and actually read the documents of that Council, we know what the shepherds and pastors were supposed to provide for their flocks. Yet, there is almost no refuge or safe haven in East Idaho from what might be termed “irregularities.” For us, the TLM was the only Mass where we could renew our spiritual strength and balance without being confronted by distraction and blatant irreverence.
In the case of the first “snuffing out,” the one retired priest who drove the 600 mile round trip to and from Idaho Falls a total of 214 times had reached a point where he physically was no longer able to come and read Mass for us. In essence, we were to find ourselves without to any recourse to a Mass as the Church has said it should be. We requested help from the Bishop multiple times. We met and spoke to the Bishop personally. In the end, help was not forthcoming.
The problems usually discussed by this blog deal with a single parish. The problems in Idaho emanated from the Chancery and totally surrounded us. The problems impacted nearly every parish to one degree or another.
We in the Diocese of Arlington have never had to contend with a situation of this scale and in such a spiritually devastating form. We have been insulated from many of the great abuses.
So, that brings us back to Rule No. 3 for the Church Militant – Develop the Proper Perspective.
Whereas the problems in a single parish might be solved within that parish or perhaps by going to the local bishop, in the Diocese Boise the problem was the Bishop and his staff. You can see how the perspective changes in this case. To solve this type of problem, groups of lay Catholics would literally have to go around a local bishop to the Vatican itself for any type of relief. And so we did.
To approach the Vatican as simple, lay people from Idaho Falls is a daunting task. We were seemingly insignificant parishioners from a backwater diocese. Who in the Vatican knows where Idaho Falls is and who cares?
We had to invoke Rule No. 1 for the Church Militant – Read the traffic.
We had to study. We had to learn how to do what we intended to do. We had to learn how to do it right the first time. Who could expect the Vatican to give us a second chance. And so we read. We read lengthy official documents. We searched for a correct and proper way to do what had to be done. That is when we found Fr. Z’s Blog and we found the post Tips for writing to bishops and to the P.C. Ecclesia Dei. Fr. Z’s help was invaluable.
So, a small group of us drafted a letter to the President of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” describing our request to the Bishop and noting “that our request has met with inactivity on the part of the Dioceses of Boise.”
In determining the “proper perspective,” we determined that some things, even if true, were better left unsaid. Following is one item that remained on the editing room floor:
Upon review of the official correspondence and anecdotal incidents, our sense is that there is a process of “attrition” at work within the Diocese of Boise. It is based on the premise – That which is not nurtured will perish and that which is old will die in due time. This “attrition” process wears down our:
- Knowledge – Knowledge of earlier liturgical forms is not taught to our young, thereby depriving them of their Catholic liturgical tradition. At the same time, information concerning the content and intent of Summorum Pontificum is neither declared from the pulpit nor promulgated in diocesan publications.
- Clergy – Those priests trained in Latin and the celebration of the Mass according to the Roman Missal of 1962 are aging and no longer available to meet the needs of the faithful; younger and newly ordained priests are not trained in Latin.
- Hope – Wrongly assuming interest in the Latin Mass is only held by the elderly, there is an almost glacial response by the Diocese to requests for assistance. When there is a response, its wording conveys a sense of cool disinterest. As a consequence, the faithful, especially seniors, are demoralized by the perception that there will be no satisfactory response in their lifetime.
Instead of including the above, we elected to let the Pontifical Commission read the correspondence between our group and various members of the diocesan hierarchy and we simply stated, “A total of 20 letters have been forwarded with this letter for you examination. An added document reflects the current environment in the Diocese and the attitude held by some senior clergy.”
It took more than seven months, but finally Ecclesia Dei responded and advised us, “This Pontifical Commission is making the necessary inquiries.” And so they did.
Meanwhile, on our own, we found another retired priest who lived nearly 700 miles away who said that he would be willing to come to Idaho Falls to offer the TLM for us. Our pastor said that he would allow it, providing we could work out the details and pay the expenses. Some time later, without explaining why, our parish offered to assist us in flying in the priest we had found and provide a place for lodging. It was never stated, but we suspected the inquiries of the Pontifical Commission were instrumental in the decision to make that gracious offer. We still had to provide a major portion of the financial support.
Proper perspective is important. Within the Church, all pains should be taken to ensure that you harm no soul and that you do not make enemies of those whom Jesus intended to be our brothers in the Faith. Only after we had followed the process outlined by the Church and exhausted all means available to us within the Diocese, did we call upon Rome for aid. It took a very long time. It took a lot of prayer. It took bolstering each others courage. Finally, help did come.
There was great joy. Once again, we could attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and focus on the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and not be distracted by irreverence and applause for “entertainment” provided by the guitars and aging singers at the weekly hootenanny.
Unfortunately, time takes its toll on even the most dedicated retired priests. And once again there is no priest available to come to Idaho Falls and offer the TLM. Because the former Bishop had done his best to repress the return of the TLM, despite the documents issued by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, there were only one or two priests in the entire Diocese of Boise who were able to fly under the episcopal radar and learn the TLM. Yet, we knew of several priest that were willing to learn the TLM and also were ready to bring the Novus Ordo back to the level that Vatican II expected. For the time being, however, the “weak, burning ember” was again snuffed out.
The legacy of abuse wrought by decades of foul work done by weak and misguided bishops in Idaho will take years to dismantle. Problems with the celebration of the Mass and the teaching of solid Catholic doctrine are pervasive throughout the Diocese. Their origins can be traced to the Diocese of Boise Chancery Office and to enclaves of liberalism and feminism such as the Monastery of St. Gertrude in Cottonwood, ID. The spiritual damage is extensive and is likely to be long-lasting. Newly installed, Bishop Peter F. Christensen will have need of the support of our prayers as he works to reclaim the Catholic identity of his diocese.
The divisions will be difficult to repair. Healing will be a process requiring great sacrifices and an outpouring of charity and Christian love by those who remained faithful over these decades. They will have to reach out to their neighbors in the pews and point them towards the reality of the Divine Presence on the altar and within the tabernacle.
Meanwhile, please pray for the return of the TLM to Eastern Idaho. Hope lives on in the blog East Idaho Latin Mass. Stop in at the blog and leave a comment for my good friend and let him know that you are praying for his cause and for his family. It’s been a long time since he posted his last article. He needs to know we are out here praying for him and the others who have benefited from his efforts.
Being Catholic, truly Catholic, means undergoing sacrifice and deprivation and holding out to the end. It means standing up and speaking with the prompting of the Holy Spirit and relying on the gifts of the Holy Spirit bestowed upon us at Confirmation. That is true in the Diocese of Boise and it is also true in the Diocese of Arlington.
St. Michael the Archangel come to the aid of our friends in Idaho and stand as a guardian beside Bishop Christensen!