Friday, July 27, 2007

The Latin Mass...cutting through the misinformation

~Here is a Ruthenian Catholic priest's take on Summorum Pontificum. From The Priestly Pugilist. (ha! images of Rocky Balboa with a Roman collar)

Now, here’s how what you’ve heard is probably wrong:

Misinformation #1: Pope allows Latin Mass. Wrong because Mass in Latin was never disallowed. In the back pages of every Paul VI missal (the so called “new Mass”) is the text of that Mass in Latin. No priest ever needed permission to say the “new Mass” in the Latin Language. In fact, Pope John Paul II, before he died, reminded everyone that Vatican II, while it allowed Mass in the language of the people, emphasized that Latin was still the “normal” language of the Mass, and encouraged it’s use. To quote Vatican II: “...the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites” (cf. the entry for 2/6/07 for the complete citation). The Language of the Mass was never the issue. Every Roman Catholic priest has always had the ability to offer Holy Mass in Latin, either in whole or in part.

Misinformation #2: The motu proprio rolls back the reforms of Vatican II. Wrong because Vatican II never said anything about forbidding one Mass and using another. The missal of Pope Paul VI wasn’t composed until long after the Second Vatican Council was over, and the bishops attending the Council had little to do with it. Prior to becoming Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger often questioned whether the missal of Paul VI was the kind of reform the Council Fathers were asking for. At one point, he even called the missal of Paul VI a “manufactured, on-the-spot product.” He has not repeated those words since becoming Pope, but he has repeatedly said that the Missal of John XXIII was never forbidden by Vatican II or anyone else.

Misinformation #3: In the “old Mass,” the people don’t participate. Wrong because that’s what the revision of Pope John XXIII was all about. One of the most important ways that the missal of Pope John XXIII changed the missal of Pope Pius V was in allowing for the active participation of the faithful in singing the responses - which is why Vatican II said, “...the faithful should be able to sing or say in Latin the parts of the Mass which concern them” (cf. the entry for 2/6/07 again). And if you’re inclined to say, “How can we participate if we don’t know Latin?” the answer was given by Pope John XXIII at the time of his revision: get yourself a missal that has the English text in it next to the Latin, and you’ll know everything that’s going on. And that’s exactly what most people did for many years.
Misinformation #4: The Pope only did this to try to win over those kooks who left the Church over Vatican II. Wrong because, as I said, Vatican II had little to do with the “new Mass.” Anyone who left over Vatican II per se isn't going to come back anyway, since denying the authority of an ecumenical council is heresy. But many so called “kooks” didn’t leave over Vatican II; they left because a form of worship that was near and dear to them had been forbidden to them by overzealous reformers who didn’t bother to read Vatican II before they started to destroy things they didn’t like. Pope Benedict, in his motu proprio, acknowledges those mistakes, and says he wants to make things right. But more to the point, the Pope goes on to say that this decision isn’t intended just for them, but for everyone. Far and wide, the Pope acknowledges, the Mass of Paul VI has been celebrated poorly because those who celebrate it have ignored it’s rubrics. Exposure to the Mass of John XXIII, he hopes, will help to instruct both priests and lay people about how the Mass should always be celebrated, regardless of which missal is used.

As you can guess, anti-Pope reactions are ringing from shore to shore in this country, in statements ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. The Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal O’Malley, wins the prize for the most non sequitor comment: “This doesn’t apply to our country.” Of course, nothing in the motu proprio says that, but I guess Cardinal Sean is hoping that enough simple minded folk who don’t know how to read will believe him. Why is there so much consternation? Check back the entry for 02:30 PM 5/11/2007, in which your Priestly Pugilist made this unusually lucid remark:
The Liturgy is, after all, the expression of what people believe; so, if you want to change what people believe (especially if you no longer believe anything yourself), control of the Liturgy is essential. By changing the Liturgy, you can change, over time, what people believe.
The missals of Popes Pius V and John XXIII incorporated a sly knowledge of human psychology: even if the priest celebrating the Mass had lost his faith completely (let’s hope not, but what if...), the rubrics of the missal still made the Mass seem solemn, beautiful, uplifting and mysterious to the faithful. The missal of Pope Paul VI, while in itself a harmless “watering down” of the Mass into something that needed a particularly devout priest to do properly, became a playground for those who had lost their faith but who couldn’t admit that to themselves, choosing instead to redefine the faith as they saw fit and using the Mass as it's expression. As a consequence, people walked away from Mass thinking that it was all about togetherness and warmth and the like, and not about God and Christ and salvation and heaven and hell. Check out the entry for 3/31/07.

To use words used by Pope Benedict in the motu proprio itself, lex credendi (the law of faith) and lex orandi (the law of prayer) have to be saying the same thing. If people don’t believe anymore, maybe it’s because the current Mass as celebrated in many parishes isn’t asking them to.

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