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Bishop William Michael Mulvey of Corpus Christi, TexasScreenshot/YouTube

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (LifeSiteNews) — Heartbroken Catholics deprived of the diocesan Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) in Corpus Christi say that their bishop’s excuse for suspending the rite is untrue.  

Bishop Michael Mulvey claimed in a letter that the primary reason for the suspension of the TLM in the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas was the recent resignation of Father Rodolfo Vasquez as pastor of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. However, Fr. Vasquez’s former parishioners told LifeSiteNews that the priest had submitted his resignation only after being told by the bishop that the TLM would be discontinued. They cited Vasquez’s March 30 communication to parishioners that Mulvey had decided to cancel both the weekday and the Sunday TLMs. 

“Those closest to Fr. Vasquez were informed that he had resigned because Bishop Mulvey had cancelled the Mass,” said Andrew Greenwell, until recently a parishioner at St. John the Baptist. “In our instance, the Traditional Latin Mass has been offered since 1985 under an indult granted to Bishop Gracida by Pope John Paul II.”   

According to Greenwell, Vasquez said during the Easter Sunday Mass that Bishop Mulvey’s letter had surprised him, that the Mass had not been cancelled due to his (Vasquez’s) resignation, and that he had resigned after the bishop told him that the TLM would be cancelled. 

“It was for reasons of conscience that Fr. Vasquez felt that he could no longer exercise his priesthood under the current regime without being allowed to publicly celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass,” Greenwell said. 

Parishioner Jennifer Johnson confirmed that Vasquez notified the congregation on March 31 that the bishop had told him that the TLM would cease.  

“Because Father Vasquez didn’t address anything the Sunday prior, many of us were confused by the wording of the bishop’s letter, as it said it was a ‘suspension,’ not a cancellation, and that it was due to the lack of having a priest capable of saying the Traditional Latin Mass,” Johnson stated.  

Johnson also testified that Vasquez confirmed on Easter Sunday that the bishop’s letter was not entirely true and that the priest said he had resigned only after the bishop cancelled the Traditional Latin Mass.  

“He said that he would never jeopardize the Traditional Latin Mass in that way,” she reported.  

A family who moved to Corpus Christi to attend the diocesan TLM

Libby Ibanez’s family moved to Corpus Christi from Austin about 2 years ago specifically to be able to attend both weekday and Sunday TLMs at St. John the Baptist. Her two sons served the Mass every Sunday and on weekdays, and her daughter sang in the St. John’s schola and even recently at the diocesan cathedral. 

“It was because of their daily Traditional Latin Mass, their homeschooling community, and the bishop invoking Canon 87 that convinced us to make the move,” Ibanez said. 

Bishop Mulvey had initially decided to protect the community from the strictures of Pope Francis’ motu proprio against the TLM, Traditionis Custodes, by using his right as a bishop to protect their “spiritual good.” Canon 87.1 states: 

A diocesan bishop, whenever he judges that it contributes to their spiritual good, is able to dispense the faithful from universal and particular disciplinary laws issued for his territory or his subjects by the supreme authority of the Church. He is not able to dispense, however, from procedural or penal laws nor from those whose dispensation is specially reserved to the Apostolic See or some other authority. 

However, after Cardinal Arthur Roche, Prefect of the Dicastery for Divine Worship, rebuked bishops for using Canon Law to protect Catholics who love the TLM, Mulvey seemed to change his mind. 

“The bishop released a public letter insinuating that Fr. Vasquez resigned and that we lost our Latin Mass for want of an able priest, which is 100 percent not true,” Ibanez said.  

“Father Samuel Medley from SOLT has often celebrated the Traditional Latin Mass for Father Vasquez when he was ill or on vacation, and the bishop could easily have granted Fr. Sam faculties if we had truly lost our Mass for lack of an available priest.”  

RELATED: Texas bishop suspends the only Latin Mass in his diocese, citing pastor’s resignation

To whom should we go? 

According to Andrew Greenwell, the lone diocesan TLM had been offered for 38 years at various locations. More than 400 parishioners regularly assisted at the Sunday Traditional Latin Mass before it was suspended.  

“I’ve been a parishioner of St. John the Baptist since 2016 and have attended the Traditional Latin Mass since I was 6 years old—so for about 33 years,” said Jennifer Johnson. She said that there had been a period in her “rebellious youth” when she wasn’t so devout, but the “Traditional Latin Mass always draws me back to God.”  

“My husband, who is not Catholic, has attended Mass faithfully with me since the beginning of our marriage of 15 years,” Johnson added. “When news of the cessation of the Traditional Latin Mass came out, he was devastated.” 

Greenwell said that there are a few other Traditional Latin Mass options available about 3 hours away. “There is no easy answer,” he said. “With such short notice of the cancellation, we have not had time to prepare for other options, but the group is resolved to keep the Traditional Latin Mass alive in some manner until better days,” he said. 

Greenwell has made public a letter he wrote formally withdrawing from the St. John the Baptist parish.

“If Bishop Mulvey and this parish find the Latin Mass under the 1962 Missal unworthy of celebration, then it follows that I am likewise unworthy to be a member of the parish,” he wrote, adding that he resigned from the Finance Council, too.

Not coincidentally, on Low Sunday, the Sunday following Easter, more than 200 Catholics assisted at the Traditional Latin Mass offered once per month in Corpus Christi by Our Lady the Blessed Sacrament Mission, a chapel of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), which reportedly has hitherto had about 30 attendees. 

Ibanez said that “roughly half of our regular Latin Mass community” attended the SSPX mission church at 4:30 on Low Sunday. 

“Father Reid said Mass for us and gave a homily specifically for us orphans on the mission of the Society. [He said] that we were most welcome to attend and that we indeed were fulfilling our Sunday obligation,” Ibanez said. 

“I’m glad he informed us in advance because many of us are confused and bewildered at the moment.” 

LifeSiteNews reached out to the Diocese of Corpus Christi for comment multiple times but has not received a response.  

To make your opinion known, please call office of the Diocese of Corpus Christi at (361) 882-619, ask to speak with Bishop Mulvey, and leave a respectful message explaining the spiritual fruits, graces and benefits you receive when you are granted what Pope St. John Paul II called your “rightful aspirations.”   

RELATED: Cdl. Roche says Latin Mass needs to be restricted because the ‘theology of the Church has changed’