California Catholic Daily

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“Many were in tears”

Traditional Latin Mass in San Jose comes to an unexpected end


A High Latin Mass of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite at San Jose’s historic Five Wounds Portuguese National Church has been cancelled following a dispute among parishioners over Mass times.

The well-attended Sunday High Mass at 9:15 a.m. had been celebrated since September 2009 by Fr. Jean-Marie Moreau of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, an international society of priests founded in 1990 dedicated to preserving the traditional Latin Mass.

Over the year, attendance at Five Wounds’ traditional Latin Mass grew from around 90 to between 150 and 200 each Sunday. But on Sunday, Sept. 26, the last such Mass was celebrated. One observer told California Catholic Daily that the church was “filled to the rafters,” and that “by the recessional, many were in tears.”

Fr. W.D. Morgan, pastor of Five Wounds, declined comment when contacted by California Catholic Daily, referring inquiries to the Diocese of San Jose. A spokeswoman for the diocesan department of communications said she knew nothing about the situation, and suggested California Catholic contact the editor of the diocesan newspaper, who also serves as director of media affairs. Repeated attempts over two days to contact the department of media affairs were not successful, nor were several attempts to contact the office of the bishop. In each instance, California Catholic’s repeated phone calls at various times of the day were answered by voicemail.

Fr. Moreau, however, did agree to a telephone interview from his office in Oakland at St. Margaret Mary’s parish, where the traditional Mass is celebrated daily. (Fr. Moreau is Episcopal Delegate for the Rite of 1962 in the Diocese of Oakland.) He stressed that it was not San Jose Bishop Patrick McGrath who was responsible for the Mass’s termination at Five Wounds. Instead, he said, a dispute among members of the parish council over Mass times led to the end of Five Wounds’ traditional Latin Mass. ”It was not the bishop,” he said.

Several Portuguese members of the parish wanted to use the 9:15 a.m. time slot for a Mass in Portuguese, said Fr. Moreau, but the alternative replacement time offered for the traditional Latin Mass made it impossible for him to travel to San Jose to celebrate it.

And, while Fr. Morgan had gone to the trouble to learn how to celebrate the traditional Mass in Latin and was agreeable to celebrate it at the designated new time, “the diocese was not supportive – preferred to step back,” said Fr. Moreau.

One reason for the diocese’s reluctance could be the level of strife generated at the parish over the dispute. Sources close to the parish told California Catholic that a small but very vocal group of influential parish council members would disrupt meetings by yelling at Fr. Morgan, insisting on having their way. Apparently the chancery concluded the best means to bring peace to the parish was to eliminate the source of the controversy altogether – as Fr. Moreau said, “to step back.”

An alternative for the 200 or so who regularly attended the traditional Latin Mass at Five Wounds is Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a small oratory of the Institute of Christ the King in Santa Clara where the traditional rite is celebrated four times on Sundays, said Fr. Moreau. “We may add five Masses,” he said, to meet the demand.

In December 2006, Bishop McGrath agreed to allow the Institute of Christ the King to take over Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a small chapel capable of seating about 25 people, noting in a letter, “For some time now, I have received requests for the use of the 1962 Missal on a more regular basis -- on Sundays -- so that those individuals and families who are attached to the rituals in use in 1962 would be able to participate in the celebration of the Mass and the sacraments more frequently.”

But the small chapel – even with four Masses – is typically filled to capacity and unlikely to be able to accommodate all those who once attended the traditional Latin Mass at Five Wounds. Before the Latin Mass was offered at Five Wounds, reported one distraught parishioner in an email to California Catholic Daily, “Sunday after Sunday, various faithful and their families could be seen standing on the sidewalk, outside of the tiny chapel, due to the fact that there simply was no room.”

In the meantime, said Fr. Moreau, he has already begun looking for another suitable location to replace the Five Wounds Mass. “I’m talking to the diocese,” he said.

As for the internal situation at Five Wounds that led to the demise of the traditional Latin Mass, Fr. Moreau had this observation: “It’s very sad, very sad.”


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