R. Michael Dunnigan of San Antonio, Texas has been named chairman of Una Voce America, according to an announcement today by the organization's board of directors. Una Voce is a lay Catholic group dedicated to ensuring that the Roman rite of Mass as codified by Pope Pius V is maintained as one of the forms of eucharistic worship which are honored in universal liturgical life.
R. Michael Dunnigan of San Antonio, Texas has been named chairman of Una Voce America, according to an announcement today by the organization's board of directors.
Una Voce (a Latin phrase meaning "with one voice") is an international federation of associations founded in 1966 in Rome, which now includes national associations in 26 nations on six continents. It is dedicated to ensuring that the Roman rite of Mass as codified by Pope Pius V is maintained as "one of the forms of eucharistic worship which are honored in universal liturgical life." In addition, Una Voce promotes increased access to -- and appreciation for -- two treasures from the Church's patrimony, namely, the Latin language and Gregorian chant.
That cause is familiar to Dunnigan. An attorney with degrees in canon law and civil law, he works full time as General Counsel to the St. Joseph Foundation in San Antonio. The Foundation is a lay apostolate that provides professional advice and assistance to Catholics regarding vindication and defense of their rights within the system of canon law. In addition to his legal training, Dunnigan also has a strong background in languages and theology.
Dunnigan received his undergraduate degree from the University of Dallas and his law degree from Georgetown University. He earned a Master's degree in theology at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, and went on to study canon law at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. He completed the two-year course of canon law studies in a single year and earned his J.C.L. (licentiate in canon law) summa cum laude in 2003. While studying canon law in Rome, Dunnigan also studied Latin at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
Dunnigan wrote both his M.A. and J.C.L. theses on the Second Vatican Council's declaration on religious liberty, and he currently is researching and writing his doctoral dissertation in canon law on the same subject. The question of religious liberty is perhaps the most controversial issue involved in the Vatican's current negotiations to reconcile the Society of St Pius X, which broke from the Vatican in 1988 under Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.
R. Michael Dunnigan will be Una Voce's first spokesman with no living memory of a time when the Latin Mass was the primary liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. He grew up in the period following the Second Vatican Council, during which time the traditional Latin Mass was replaced by a new Mass that generally is celebrated in the everyday language of the people. It was in this new rite that Dunnigan was raised.
Dunnigan first became interested in the traditional Latin Mass through his work at the St. Joseph Foundation, where he has provided canonical assistance to a number of Catholics attached to the traditional rite.
"I entered the cathedral through the side door, so to speak," he said. "My initial exposure to the traditional Mass did not come from the direct experience of assisting at the liturgy, but rather came indirectly through observing the dedication and charity of clients devoted to this rite. The enthusiasm of my clients was the impetus for the development of my own appreciation for the beauty of this Mass."
In 1984, Pope John Paul II issued an "indult," or permission, to the world's bishops to make the traditional Latin Mass available to those who desired it. In 1988 the pope strongly reiterated his desire that bishops grant this permission more generously. He made his wishes known in an apostolic letter called "Ecclesia Dei," a document with which Dunnigan is intimately familiar.
Dunnigan's work at the St. Joseph Foundation has involved him in taking liturgical issues and other matters to bishops and curial offices in Rome as a basis for obtaining justice. In addition, Dunnigan has delivered speeches and written articles on the rights of the faithful, the sex abuse crisis in the Church, parish closings, associations of the faithful, comparative law, capital punishment, and other subjects. He has appeared on EWTN and had been quoted in Our Sunday Visitor, Catholic World Report, Sursum Corda, St. Catherine's Review, National Catholic Register, and other publications.
UVA board members describe Dunnigan's appointment as a "bold move" for the traditionalist movement in the Catholic Church, which has sometimes been viewed as insular.
"Mr. Dunnigan believes, as we do, that Una Voce should reach out to bring people more knowledge about the traditional Mass, to raise the public consciousness, so that it can become more accepted and closely aligned with diocesan parish life," remarked board member Jason King of Seattle.
"The traditional Latin Mass, with its historic Gregorian chant, is part of every Catholic's patrimony," King added. "It is not reserved for a select few."
Another director, Byron Smith of Syracuse, agreed.
"Our new chairman can relate to the hierarchy as well as ordinary Catholics. He understands how the Church works, and has an orthodox understanding of what she teaches. His interest is in helping people secure their rights. Those are important and valuable qualities for us," Smith said.
The position of chairman in Una Voce was recreated last summer following a restructuring of the organization. The last person to hold the title was the philosopher and author, Dietrich von Hildebrand, who died in 1977.
Between 1978 and 1995, the organization was headquartered in California and was known as the Traditional Mass Society. In 1995 its office moved to St. Charles, Missouri and it was renamed Una Voce America. It has grown to over 60 semi-autonomous chapters across the United States and Canada.
As chairman, Dunnigan will report to, assist and collaborate with the board of directors. He will represent the American association at meetings of the international Una Voce federation on turf already familiar to him: Rome. The position of chairman carries a three-year renewable term.
"It will be his goal to communicate who we are, what we do, why we do it, and how traditional spirituality and traditional communities make a positive contribution in the Catholic Church," explained director William Basile, of Rochester.
Una Voce America recently marked its tenth anniversary in Providence, Rhode Island, with a conference sponsored by the state's chapter, headed by Allen Maynard, also a director of the organization. Keynote speaker at the event was Bishop Fernando Rifan of Campos, Brazil. Bishop Rifan is currently the only bishop in the world with permission from the Holy See for his diocesan priests to offer the Holy Mass and sacraments exclusively according to the Missal of 1962.
While in Providence, Bishop Rifan celebrated a solemn pontifical Mass with the permission of local bishop Thomas Tobin, and gave encouragement to Una Voce leaders from all over the U.S. and Canada. Copies of the Mass and talks may be obtained on the organization's website, unavoce.org.