Posted By: Damian Thompson at Feb 17, 2009 at 11:56:00
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has invoked Canon Law to justify banning Archbishop Raymond Burke, a senior Vatican prelate, from saying the traditional Latin Mass at Westminster Cathedral in June.
As I reported last night, the Latin Mass Society has been forced by the Cardinal to rescind its invitation to Archbishop Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura and one of Benedict XVI's right-hand men, to celebrate its annual Mass.
A spokesman has just told me: "In accordance with Canon 838, it is the Cardinal who lays down in the church entrusted to his care the liturgical regulations which are binding on all." Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor was keen to have one of his own auxiliaries say the Mass, and Bishop John Arnold will now do so, he added. Archbishop Burke "is welcome to attend", but "it wasn't really the position of the Latin Mass Society to invite him in the first place".
My contacts in the Society are horrified by what they regard as a insult to Archbishop Burke, a former Archbishop of St Louis who is expected to be made a cardinal soon. They say they had no idea that the Cardinal's permission for the Archbishop to celebrate would be anything other than a formality.
Even if the LMS slipped up, the decision to force them to disinvite Archbishop Burke is extraordinary. "It seems like a declaration of war - an incredibly petty piece of point-scoring," says my source.
By refusing Archbishop Burke permission to celebrate the sacrifice of the Mass for the LMS annual event, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor is giving the impression that the Catholic Church is not truly universal, but rather a patchwork of local fiefdoms with their own liturgical preferences.
Ask yourself: what damage would have been done by alowing +Raymond to celebrate in Westminster Cathedral? None at all. On the contrary: forging links between the cathedral and such a dynamic prelate, close to the Holy Father, would emphasise the loyalty of the English Church to Rome. As it is, that Church now looks small-minded and vindictive.
One interesting point: Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor should not assume that his decision will be welcomed by priests, staff and worshippers at Westminster Cathedral, who are considerably better disposed to the traditional Mass than he is. The Archbishop of Westminster now has a PR problem on his hands.