In July, we looked at some of the media coverage of a priest who was removed from his parish by Bishop Edward Braxton of Belleville, Illinois. He wasn't just removed from his parish. Braxton also removed his faculties. There were some problems with the previous story dealing with how those faculties were characterized and what, exactly, were his violations. We knew that he was improvising portions of the mass but we didn't get specifics. Anyway, Father William Rowe appealed his suspension. The Vatican returned a decision, which I read about in a piece in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Go Cardinals! Sorry, can't help it.). While the Vatican did say that Braxton hadn't followed proper procedure, they upheld Rowe's removal from the parish in any case. And they said that he could return to celebrating Mass, but only if he applies for faculties in a different diocese after acknowledging that he was wrong and formally promises to cut it out with the liturgical innovations.
But while I learned that from the story, here was the headline:
Vatican reverses priest's suspension
Clearly I'm missing something. Let's just look at the lede and the meat of the story and see if you can help me out:
An Illinois priest, forced out of his parish by Belleville Bishop Edward Braxton for improvising prayers during Mass, has had his suspension reversed by the Vatican.
The Vatican decided in favor of the Rev. William Rowe on one of three counts, saying Braxton had not followed the proper procedure.
The Vatican's reversal of Rowe's suspension means the priest can celebrate Mass outside the Belleville diocese, Rowe said, so long as he has the approval of the bishops' governing other dioceses where he would say Mass.
Others in the diocese dispute that interpretation of the decree. They point to a letter that accompanied the document in which Monsignor Antonio Neri, an undersecretary of the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy, said Rowe could only return to celebrating Mass “when you shall have acknowledged your error and formally promise to dispose yourself to adhere to the rights and rubrics of the sacred liturgy set down by the lawful ecclesiastical authorities.”
Indeed, the Vatican ruled against much of Rowe's appeal. Rome upheld his removal from the parish by Braxton, and agreed with the bishop's withdrawal of the priest's "faculties" — or his license to practice ministry under church law.
For the life of me, I can't figure out exactly what's going on. First, let's point out that "rights and rubrics" should be "rites and rubrics."
But I think we may need just more explanation of what the three counts were, which two went in Braxton's favor and which one went in Rowe's favor. I mean, if "suspension" doesn't relate to the two counts Braxton won -- the removal of the priest from the parish and the withdrawal of the priest's faculties -- what does it relate to?
Is the "reversal" of the suspension related to how Rowe can celebrate the Mass elsewhere if he repents and promises to reform his ways? If so, how is that a reversal?
Either way, shouldn't the story explain why Braxton being upheld on Rowe's removal from the parish and the removal of faculties from Rowe means that his decision was reversed?
Yes/No image via Shutterstock.