Interview with a Spanish Priest
In this candid interview, Don Jose Miguel Marques Campo talks with REGINA Magazine’s Teresa Limjoco about his experience as a diocesan priest and the difficulties he’s encountered implementing Summorum Pontificum in his diocese in the northern coastal city of Gijon, Spain.
REGINA: How did you become a diocesan priest of Oviedo, where you are today?
DON JOSE: I entered the diocesan seminary of Oviedo, in Asturias, Spain, in September of 1989, just one month after the Apostolic Visit of St. John Paul II. My years there were mixed. I certainly got off to a great start, thanks to the Pope’s visit. But the seminary was at that time still reeling with remnants of the typical, liberal-progressive seminary after Vatican II. While there were, thankfully, orthodox professors, not all were so, to be sure. In fact, I unknowingly developed a certain reputation for staunch orthodoxy, which wasn’t exactly well-received by everyone. This in addition to my unhidden love for the Church’s authentic sacred liturgy, ended up getting me in some sort of trouble with the seminary rector.
“I WAS ORDAINED A PRIEST ON 26 MAY 1996, PENTECOST SUNDAY. My first appointment was in the western rural area of the diocese where I had to tend to six and then ten parishes. My second appointment was more to the northwestern coast of Asturias, tending three parishes in addition to being chaplain at an elderly residence run by the Hijas de la Caridad (Daughters of Charity, founded by St. Vincent de Paul).”
“MY THIRD AND CURRENT APPOINTMENT is the Basilica-Sanctuary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, coastal city of Gijón. This is not a parish; it is a Minor Pontifical Basilica where we take special care of the liturgy, confessions, diffusion of the Church’s Magisterium, host conferences and other cultural events.”
REGINA: Did you celebrate the extraordinary form of the Mass then?
DON JOSE: Since I was ordained before the rightful liberation of the Traditional Latin Mass that Benedict XVI would undertake in 2007 with his Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum and later Instruction, Universæ Ecclesiæ, I had up until late 2008 celebrated only the Novus Ordo Missæ. Since at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, I included some parts in Latin in the Novus Ordo— something perfectly licit and even recommended, especially in a Pontifical Basilica, but which some people liked while others completely abhorred—I was in fact chosen by some faithful in Gijón to be the candidate for a regular celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass.
REGINA: Where and how did you learn to say the TLM?
DON JOSE: My name was suggested to the then Archbishop of Oviedo, who asked me about my willingness to be appointed diocesan chaplain… I was of course absolutely delighted since my one of my deepest desires was to be able to celebrate the ancient Mass of the Roman Rite before leaving this world. So I accepted immediately and was trained by a priest of the Pontifical Institute of Christ the King, who kindly flew up from Madrid. It was a beautiful experience that took me practically no time at all to learn how to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass, I seem to have been born with it, in my blood, so to speak.
“I distinctly have a very deep appreciation for Roman Catholic liturgical music. In fact, I truly believe that this heightened sensibility—obviously one of God's finer gifts—has permeated my entire life so much so, that it has given me a sort of a universal criteria for music in general, as well as an outlook on all aspects of life.”
REGINA: Did you encounter any resistance in your desire to say the TLM?
DON JOSE: On the First Sunday of Advent 2008, we started celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass on the last Sunday of each month, at the main Chapel of the Augustine Sisters in Gijón. This had been arranged with the Archbishop. It was of course only one Mass a month, and we were not too keen about that. But since attendance was much larger than what anyone expected—always between 80 to 70 of all ages—it seems that this was just “too much” for the ‘ever-open and tolerant’ progressive liberal clerical establishment.
When we attempted to celebrate every Sunday, +Mother Superior simply would not have it! Obviously, she had been misdirected with bad influences, specifically of a clerical nature. This I know to be true. So before Holy Week of 2009, she simply expelled us from the premises.
REGINA: Wow, what did you do?
DON JOSE: I pleaded with the Archbishop, who called her. But it turns out that she believed that we had faked his call! Unbelievable! But by then he was being transferred to Valencia, so we couldn't expect a favorable resolution to this.
And so, since there was nothing to be done about it, I called the Carmelite Sisters in Gijón, since they already knew who I was, having been welcomed several times to their monastery.
Mother Superior told me she had to consult my inquiry… and of course I knew that that was a bad omen. Sure enough, she told me no, it would be better to celebrate the Mass… in parishes! It was ironically true in another way, but it was a lame excuse. Needless to say, I was very upset and sometime later, made that clearly known to the Sisters.
REGINA: What was your next move?
DON JOSE: Well as the saying goes, ‘where God closes a door, He opens a window’ — though true enough, this time it wasn't God who was closing doors to the Traditional Latin Mass. A priest friend of mine kindly offered one of his rural parishes, just outside the city limits of Gijón.
So we accepted his offer, but the parish was too far to go walking from the city, needing to go by car or bus line. But though it was a “solution” of sorts, we obviously lost a good portion of the faithful—we now average between 20-30 faithful—and I made it quite clear that despite this welcome, this was not in any way a satisfactory solution and we were to consider ourselves “in exile,” as a sort of “pestilential” group, because that's exactly how we were being treated.
And so, we celebrated each Sunday and feast day of precept at the rural parish from 2009 to 2013.
“And so, our bishop determined for us to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass in Gijón, in a Marian chapel near the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, which belongs to the nearby city parish of St. Peter's, whose parish priest is hardly sympathetic.”
REGINA: So how did you come to your current location in the city of Gijon?
DON JOSE: With the new Archbishop of Oviedo since 2010, I have had several opportunities to relate our traditional community's vicissitudes and mistreatment. He took the initiative to renew the former archbishop's appointment for my being the diocesan chaplain of the Traditional Latin Mass. I did respectfully mention that according to Benedict XVI's dispositions, no priest needs permission nor appointment from his bishop nor from the Holy See. And he acknowledged that but wanted to give my appointment a sort of official recognition.
REGINA: Hmmm, so what do you think about that?
DON JOSE: Obviously, the ideal place to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass in the city of Gijón is where I'm already appointed: the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, but the Archbishop did not see it as viable for the present. Grateful as I am to the Archbishop to get the Mass celebrated back in the city, this is of course a political decision which tenably can be viewed as a sort of “ghetto” for our “pestilent” group, which of course I regret, but it does go to prove that the two Forms of the Roman Rite— Ordinary and Extraordinary—really cannot peacefully co-exist, and it is not due to priests like myself who are bi-ritual… for the time-being.
Notwithstanding the trials and tribulations of our insignificant little traditional community, quite honestly, the apparent incompatibility of the two Forms of liturgy should be very serious food for thought for the Church. And more so if liturgical abuses are still rampant, such as the gravely illicit and invalid general absolutions which continue to plague certain parishes of the archdiocese, despite efforts of the local bishops to end that lamentable sacramental practice.
YET OUR LITTLE TRADITIONAL COMMUNITY IS A “PROBLEM” FOR SOME. And so, that is our situation since October 2013 until the present. We resist, we persevere, and with God's grace, will steadfastly continue to do so…
“GENUINE ROMAN CATHOLIC LITURGICAL MUSIC—specifically Gregorian chant and renaissance polyphony, which the church considers her own—is of critically decisive importance in the sacred liturgy, make no mistake! Music and singing are not secondary in the liturgy, they are an intrinsic part of the liturgy. They are not a mere adornment in order to entertain us, so that we are not overwhelmed from liturgical moments of silence, God forbid! They should accompany those indispensable liturgical moments of silence, by echoing the heavenly liturgy that is forever sung in the celestial Jerusalem.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium #116)
REGINA: How do you see the Spanish Catholic Church in its present state?
DON JOSE: Well, Spain has a Catholic soul, with good and very deep roots, going back as far as the apostolic era, graced by the presence of our patron saint, St. James the Greater, brother of St. John the Evangelist, quite possibly St. Paul as well, and the sublime presence of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. This makes Spain “tierra de María” / “land of Mary” as St. John Paul II referred in what was his last Apostolic Visit in 2003.
But as part of Western civilization, where the evils of secularization wreak havoc, the Church in Spain runs the same risks as the rest of Western Europe. It is true that Catholic charity and social activities are generally respected by all but the most radically opposed, but Catholics should understand that while temporal affairs form an essential part of evangelization, the essential mission of the Church is a supernatural one: eternal salvation.
There is a fascinating book published here whose author is a Jewish convert, and whose very suggestive thesis is that the Devil does not need to specifically deny the existence of God; much more efficacious is to secularize the Church so much as to establish a “Christian civilization” without Christ, that is, without God, a Church of solidarity, only. That is a practical atheism which blends in perfectly with the Western liberal sociopolitical mindset, thus is far more dangerous and suits Evil One's purpose quite well indeed, so we must be very wary about secularizing the Church even more, avidly looking for the applause of the world.
“I can honestly bear witness to this fact: in my nearly 19 years of priestly ministry, never in a Novus Ordo Mass, have I seen children and young adults receive Holy Communion—obviously kneeling and on the tongue in the Traditional Latin Mass—with such piety, reverence, and delicacy, as well as adults of all ages.”
“EXQUISITE COMPOSERS SUCH AS MY PERSONAL FAVORITE, THE SPANIARD TOMÁS LUIS DE VICTORIA—a very pious priest, referred rather aptly as “God's Composer” for the sublime polyphonic arrangements of his heavenly music—Giovanni da Palestrina, Francisco Guerrero, Thomas Tallis, and so many other polyphonic composers, provide an absolutely incomparable musical accompaniment to the venerable Latin liturgical texts of the Church. At the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Gijón, we have a children's choir, whose members are trained for some polyphonic music, in addition to an adult choir who specializes in polyphonic music, and provides for a sublime ambience during the beautiful Offices of Holy Week.”
“What we simply cannot do anymore, particularly regarding vocations to the priesthood and seminary formation, is what I call a “schizophrenic mentality,” whereby we claim to want seminarians and priests, but then put on the brakes, so to say, so that seminarians really don't think that they are seminarians, but rather young lay university students who must of course dress like laymen who simply happen to study philosophy and theology. And that priests should not dress like such, nor behave like such for that matter, and so on. Admittedly though, things in this regard were much more prominent in my seminary years, and before, than they are today, so thankfully, things have certainly improved somewhat but we still have a long way to go in order to finally let go of a paralyzing “traditional- minded complex.”
“FURTHERMORE, the Church in Spain is called to play a decisive role with being genuinely Catholic also in the political sphere, with a more generous application of her traditional social doctrine. Some regions suffer from a historical independence obsession and sadly, the presence of the Church in these areas has not been up to par for fomenting national union-in-diversity.”
“ONE FINAL THOUGHT: unless we shake off that “traditionalism complex” and bravely be Catholics in the best of our Spanish tradition, the revival of Catholicism will continue to limp on the way, in an increasingly secularized Western society. This includes a non-politically correct re-reading of our true history and cultural heritage and Catholic civilization, that was exported to our overseas provinces: in both North and South America, northern Africa, and the Far East (Philippines). We would do very well to heed St. John Paul II's apostolic exhortation during his visit to Santiago de Compostela in 1989, the year I entered the seminary: that Spain and the rest of Europe re-discover our Catholic roots… and be our true selves.”