Monday, July 16, 2007

To Experience the Mass Anew

~excerpted from Papa Ratzinger Forum

In Germany, perhaps no one was a more engaged advocate of the traditional Mass than Berlin-born philosopher theologian Robert Spaemann, 80, a friend of Pope Benedict XVI who participates in the Ratzinger Schuelerkreise summer seminars. Last September, he was one of the presentors at the Schuelerkreise's seminar on creation and evolution. He is a conservative philosopher whose focus is Christian ethics and is known for his work in bioethics, ecology and human rights. He taught at the University of Munich until his retirement in 1992. Paul Badde of DIE WELT spoke to him about the Pope's Motu Proprio. Here is a translation.

Why was this step so passionately opposed and fought against?
Spaemann: Unfortunately, the reasons cast a bad light on many people who defend the new liturgy. If only these people could look with love, gratitude and awe, at the form of the Mass service in which they were raised, which their parents and grandparents celebrated, then that would also help them raise the standard of the new mass. But when their defense of the new Mass takes on the character 'patricide', then something is obviously wrong.

How did this come about?

Spaemann: Above all, for ideological reasons. Their violent defensiveness of the New Mass masks their desire to democratize the Church, but insofar as liturgy is concerned, I don't see how the New Mass is necessarily more 'democratic' than the traditional.

But even the fact that in the New Mass the priest faces the congregation instead of facing the altar like the congregation does, has been ideologized a s a greater communion between the priest and the people.

It's the opposite. In the traditional Mass, priest and people face the same direction - the tabernacle. Now, the priest gets up in front of the congregation like a teacher and prays before them, instead of with them, but leading them. So there are strongly ideological elements that have been at play here, what has made things irrational.

Do you think that tensions over the document can be cleared or minimized?
It all depends on the bishops and the parish priests. But it should not be a problem at all. Right now, we already see how it works out in our parishes where there are a number of Portuguese or Spanish immigrants. They attend our churches without fuss. They celebrate their rites in their own languages, in their own style, their own songs. That does not bother anyone. And that's exactly how it should work out, if there were no ideological baggage.

In some ways one could say that Paul VI's liturgicsl changes were a kind of cultural revolution. How can we describe this new step?
As a return to Christian Catholic normalcy. Because it was that cultural revolution that caused the rift. It wasn't from the Second Vatican Council, it was from afterwards. What Vatican-II actually said had little to do with what would be practised in the new liturgy.

It was an act of 'tyranny', to put it bluntly. The Greeks called tyranny anything that forced people to give up their old customs and follow something new overnight. Something was imposed from on top with brute force.

The old rite was suppressed...And now, things can return to a healthy state. That we now have two rites would never have been necessary. The traditional Mass could have simply been reformed.

But something else happened. At least now, the Pope has taken account of the consequences and has now brought things back to normal, st to speak.

Does that mean that Benedict XVI has somehow 'corrected' Paul VI?
Well, at the very least, he is correcting the draconian way that the intentions of the council were distorted. You don't need to read the tea leaves for that. Joseph Ratzinger was always clear about it. He never hid his criticism of the forms the new Mass had taken. He did not like turning the altar around. Above all, he pointed out that it was the first time in the history of the Church that a liturgy was manufactured from scratch, rather than an organic growth in which things were added, dropped or replaced over time. Liturgy has always been a development. But liturgy created overnight by so-called liturgy specialists and then forced through was something he always criticized loud and clear while he was a cardinal. Now he has made up for it.

Does the document hide any potential sources of further misunderstanding?
Maybe in its execution. When a bishop for example would gladly just block it or after three years report that it failed, then he can do that easily. Even now, there's a prominent bishop who has been saying that the number of people interested in the Old Mass has always been very low. Well yes, if 70-100 people write him to ask for permission to celebrate the Old Mass, then he answers No...By no means!...Forget it!...It won't happen!...Absolutely not! ...month after month after month, then yes, eventually, he can report that very few are now applying.

Just as with the indults from John Paul II, the Motu Proprio still depends on the good will of the bishops. That is why the Pope wrote this very beautiful fraternal letter to the bishops, that is meant to reach their hearts, and I truly hope he succeeds to move these hearts.

After three years, the Pope will evaluate how things are. In your experience, how do you think it will turn out?
Spaemann: It's always easy to manipulate reports of failure. But I can tell you that in Stuttgart, where we have the traditional Mass celebrated regularly, and the priests of the St. Peter Fraternity are able to do their work, the number of people attending has quadrupled since 1998 when we began. But here, the bishop was open and forthcoming - so things prospered.

I think there will be a sort of friendly competition between the two rites. That the free celebration of the Old Mass will give the New Mass a standard for what Catholic liturgy should be, and the New Mass can then be celebrated more in the sense that Vatican-II intended.

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