In the old days, a prelate would put a region under prohibition, or whole groups of people under interdict when things got so out of hand he needed to get people's attention. It's long past time to do that in Massachusetts. Sure, it would be a hardship on the faithful Catholics in Massachusetts, but it isn't like they're in Texas. Everyone else can catch Mass just across the state line on the weekends, and that's . . . . what . . . . twenty minutes in any direction?
Pope Leo XIV has declared that, in response to events over the last decade within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States, and particularly in response to events in the last three months, the entire Commonwealth will be placed under prohibition, beginning on the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, July 31, 20xx. Beginning on that date, no sacraments of the Church may be celebrated in the Commonwealth, except for the benefit of those in danger of death.
The prohibition is not personal to most residents of Massachusetts, who will still be able to attend Mass and receive the sacraments at any place outside the state; however, officials and employees of the Commonwealth itself and any contractor who derives more than a de minimus amount of his or her personal income from goods or services provided to the Commonwealth are under a personal interdict as well, and are forbidden from receiving the sacraments during the period in
which they retain their positions, again with an exception for those in danger of death.
The bull, which was personally delivered on Saturday to Cardinal Charles Chaput by the Papal Nuncio and directed to be read in all churches of the Commonwealth this past Sunday, states that the prohibition and the interdicts shall continue until, in the determination of the Holy Father, who remains in consultation with his advisors in his matter, the civil government of the Commonwealth has corrected certain legislation which serves to undermine the family and the moral foundations on which society must be built, and certain more recent legislation which subjects the Church and its members to onerous restraints in the practice of their faith. Once the legislature has repealed the so-called Open Families Act and the so-called Welcoming Institutions Act, and the Church is again free to pursue its mission within the Commonwealth without interference or imposition from the civil government, the statewide prohibition shall be lifted; although certain of the personal interdicts may continue until the affected individuals have met with the Archbishop or his officials and manifested repentance.
The bull urges individual Catholics in Massachusetts to take whatever steps are necessary, short of physical violence or property damage, to bring about the needed reforms. These steps include the withholding of tax payments, the refusal to do business with the Commonwealth or its officials and employees, and similar forms of resistance. It also provides that those Catholics who for financial, health, or other serious reasons cannot travel outside Massachusetts for Mass are excused from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation during the continuance of the prohibition.
The bull further provides that any priest or deacon who celebrates the sacraments, except for the benefit of a person in danger of death, is thereby suspended latae sententiae and stripped of all offices and faculties he may have to preach, hear confessions, officiate at marriages, or perform other actions reserved to clerics with recourse reserved exclusively to the Holy See. Persistence by a cleric in refusing to abide by the prohibition or the interdicts beyond the feast of St. Lawrence, August 10, will result in the cleric's excommunication, latae sententiae, with recourse reserved to the Holy See.
Numerous Catholics, including Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, have expressed their outrage at the Pope and solidarity with Massachusetts Catholics. Although Senator Kennedy has been in a persistent vegitative state as the Beacon Hill Convalescent Center since the October before his last election, his aides have released a statement denouncing the interdict and stating that neither the Kennedy nor other citizens of Massachusetts "will let the Pope or Cardinal Chaput tell them how to be Catholic." The Episcopal bishop of Boston, Chip Charmboy, has invited Boston Catholics to Episcopalian churches, assuring them that there is plenty of room in the pews for them. Dozens of Catholic priests, including those at the Boston Paulist Center, have vowed to continue to celebrate Masses and other sacraments in defiance of the prohibitions and the interdicts. The board of governors at several Catholic institution, including Boston College, have convened emergency meetings. The president of Boston College stated that the college would likely end its affiliation with the Catholic Church in response to the Pope's actions.
However, there are some Massachusetts Catholics who approve of the move. "It's an inconvenience, but it's a small one, compared to the serious problems that exist in this state," said Joe Schmo, a parishioner at St. John Fisher in Boston. "The people who think they know better, and who pull the strings in this state, have made this Hell on earth. And they don't have Mass in Hell."
Rev. Clark Smith, pastor of St. Edmund Campion parish in Springfield, said, "Parishioners are, by and large, saddened by the prohibition, but understand it. They recognize that for too long, the so-called 'separation of church and state' idea has meant the subjugation of the church, and the glorification of the state. They think it's time we turn that around. Accommodation and cooperation have failed, and finally, we have a Pope who's standing firm, whatever the odds."
Rev. Paul Shepherd, SSPX, a pastor at Holy Trinity in Boston, the church which was reopened a few years ago by the recently regularized order of priests which says the Latin Mass, was happy about the unusual disciplinary moves. "We've made arrangements to accommodate our parishioners and other Catholics just across the state line in Rhode Island. All my parishioners are supportive of Pope Leo and, even though we don't answer directly to Archbishop Chaput, we're behind him, 100 percent. If the Holy Father is being this direct with the problems here, I can't wait to see what the he has in the works for Spain and France."
Cardinal Chaput has released a brief statement urging prayer for the conversion of the Commonwealth and obedience to the directives of the Holy Father. Requests for interviews have been denied by the Chancery office with the message that the bull of the Holy Father speaks for itself. Chancery officials have stated that, while the Blessed Sacrament will be removed from all tabernacles at the commencement of the prohibition (with reservation for emergencies in various private chapels) sermons will be preached and prayers held in each of the churches of the Archdiocese on Fridays and Saturdays during the continuance of the prohibition, but there will be no communion, confessions, baptisms or other sacraments for the time being. Watches and patrols are being organized among Catholic men to protect churches and other property during the prohibition.
And sure, in a way, the pro-buggery crowd would love to see the Church out of business in Massachusetts, even temporarily. But I think decisive action would do more good than harm. It would be a wakeup call for faithful Catholics, and even some tepid Catholics, everywhere. And it would drive the scoundrels who are already in material heresy out of the Church once and for all.
Let's do it, your Holiness! And let's not wait for a mythical Leo XIV and a Cardinal Chaput to pull the trigger. Let's do it now!
(Thanks to one correspondent who inspired me to actually get out of my chair and pull out the 1983 JCL, reread Book VI, Title IV, and get my terminology right).