Friday, April 13, 2007

My Contribution to the Motu Proprio debate

There has been a lot of talk and rumor recently in the news and on blogs about a supposed upcoming Motu Proprio from Benedict XVI regarding the use of the Tridentine Rite of Mass. So called "Traditional(ist) Catholics" will be praising its coming, and indeed have been anticipating it for a long time.

Though most such reflections on the liturgy start with the Vatican II Council, I will step back a bit to the Council of Trent. At the time of Pope Pius V, there were many different liturgical traditions which had come down through time and were being practiced in Europe. On top of that, the Reformation was in full force, and some of the protestant ideas had crept into the Liturgy. The solution was to eliminate Rites that were less than 200 years old, and the Promulgation of a Roman Rite in 1570. The various other rites mostly disappeared, with the exception of the Rites of religious orders, and a couple other rites (notably Ambrosian).

This leads us to the Vatican II Council. We are primarily concerned with Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. This was a document I read after having experienced the Tridentine mass a few times, to understand what had happened in those days. It was interesting, and I will note what I think. The Council saw the need for some sort of Liturgical reform, because there were plenty of problems in the way the Mass was being practiced. Yet, the reform they envisioned (at least according to the text) seems to the casual observer to be different than the reforms that took place.

This leads to one of the most compelling arguments against the Mass of Paul VI, namely that it was a drastic and dramatic change in the Liturgical practice of the Church. The Church doesn't change in revolutions, or based on the whim of the times, so clearly this argument cannot be true, but yet the evidence supports this position.

stated they weren't in formal schism. For my money, if you don't accept the teachings of the These ideas were too much for a number of groups, which came to a head with groups like the Society of Saint Pius X, who passed into schism with the Church in or around 1988. People can argue all they want about this, in fact, my friend made sure to inform me that Cardinal Arinze stated they weren't in formal schism. For my money, if you don't accept the teachings of the Magesterium, the Councils, the Pope, and even go so far to set up your own ecclesial tribunals, you may as well be in schism, formal or not. And so, the SSPX celebrates Mass illegitimately with the Tridentine Rite.

Queue up the Indult offered by Pope (soon to be Saint) John Paul II. In a final act to prevent the schismatic group from breaking away, he extended the offer that priests could celebrate the Tridentine Rite of Mass with permission from the local Bishop. Since the SSPX was already set on disrespecting the Hierarchy of the Church, and so submitting to a Bishop would not be acceptable.

So, where does this leave us all? There are schismatics who celebrate the Mass illegitimately, there are groups who celebrate this Rite legitimately, in some Diocese, and the widespread use is the Mass of Paul VI.

Where, then, does this Motu Proprio fit in? What has happened since the Indult was offered by John Paul II is that some Bishops refuse to give permission to their priests to say the Mass in the old Rite. Therefore, there has been rumblings for a couple years at least that there would be a Universal Indult offered, essentially allowing any priest who wants to celebrate the Tridentine Rite of Mass.

Now comes the part of this posting that makes people disagree with me. I oppose this measure.

I fully support the use and extension of the Tridentine Mass, because of its historical/traditional value. As a young(er) Catholic, to experience Mass the way my parents did when they were children, and their parents, and theirs, back and back and back until before the family was Christian, is an experience that is incredibly moving. The Latin Canon, handed down nearly unchanged from Gregory the Great, is actually quite beautiful, and I still enjoy hearing it (in English or Latin).

I also firmly believe in the role of Bishops in our Church. The bishops are the shepherds of their particular flocks. The priests in a Diocese are helpers of the Bishop, and they celebrate the sacraments with the permission and in unity with their Bishop. This is why I cannot support a universal indult, as it is envisioned by certain Traditionalists. I believe it would be bad to introduce another area of strife between Priests and their Bishops. The old Indult is too young to be discarded, first issued in 1984, it is barely a blip on Church history. For now, I don't see too much of a problem with keeping the power of Bishops, and disallowing Tridentine Mass in Diocese where the Bishop feels that is the correct course of action. At the very least those Bishops must eventually die or reach retirement age, and be replaced.

I do, however, see some direct harm in a Universal Indult. Such a decree will only serve to embolden groups such as the SSPX, who are at schism. The Pope clearly stated that adherents to the group were subject to an excommunication, but if the Indult is offered, the group will have more power to argue that they are not in schism to their members. This could be harmful to the faithful, participating in Masses that are sacrilege because they think that these masses were legitimized by the Indult. Technically, it gives SSPX no reason to exist, but they will, as they tend to deny much that the Church has taught since the Vatican II Council.

Another dangerous aspect of the Indult could be a deeper division of the faithful. If this meant a greater access to Tridentine masses, this could mean that there would be a much greater division between the Traditionalists and the regular Catholics and the Modernists. Division is not Catholic, and this is a Catholic Church.

There are counterpoints. The Indult might help make Paul VI masses more reverent, possibly. There have always been different Rites available, even now there are Eastern Rites around. This could expand knowledge about Rites, and encourage learning about the Liturgy. Also, it does, in a way, help to restore more of a connection with Tradition. The thing is, this is something that can be achieved under the old Indult, at least in Diocese where the Bishop allows the old Rite.

And so I have said my piece, I must also say that I think a universal indult will be offered, by years' end. Cardinal Ratzinger had a lot to say about the Liturgical renewal, much that wasn't good. But, if you read Sacramentum Caritas, he definitely states that we cannot roll back liturgical reform, and I have to agree. To do so would be a setback to the Church, and would be just as bad and unprecedented as the reforms of Paul VI.

I shall point you to a few articles related to this idea.

First, an Article by Msgr. Richard J. Schuler refuting the notion that the mass of Paul VI was a revolution.
Contrary to what many may think and many may have hoped, the liturgical
reforms of the Second Vatican Council were not a revolution. Indeed, far
from being a sudden explosion of new ideas, the decrees of the council were
rather the keystone that crowned the developments of the previous sixty
years, beginning with the "motu proprio" of Pope St. Pius X, "Tra le
sollecitudini" of 1903. The events that preceded the "motu proprio"
stretched back into the nineteenth century being rooted in the romantic
movement, the revival of monasticism, the rediscovery of Gregorian chant
and the Caecilian reform of church music.

Next, we have the Ottavini Intervention, a letter from Cardinal Ottavini to Pope Paul VI, underlining the problems with the mass he had just promulgated. This was an important document to me at one time, and even now, it is telling of the surprise of many on the newness of the new Rite. This is a well thought out criticism of the New Mass.

We have an article by Paul Likoudis entitled "Cardinal Ratzinger Blames Church Crisis on Liturgical Collapse", taking excerpts from the then Cardinal's autobiography.

Rather than being a force for unity in the Church, the new Mass has been the source of liturgical anarchy, dividing Catholics "into opposing party positions" and creating a situation in which the Church is "lacerating herself."

Formally imposed after a six-month period of "liturgical experimentation" in which anything —and everything—did go, the Roman Catholic Mass has never attained a universality, stability—or even an element of predictably—for most Catholics around the world; but instead has been a stimulus for never-ending innovations—from altar girls to dancing girls to women priests.

While the Missal of Paul VI "brought with it some authentic improvements and a real enrichment," the banning of the old Mass caused some "extremely serious damages for us," he wrote in La Mia Vita, released in mid-April in its Italian translation.

And finally, the article that was the straw that broke my back and mad me want to finally write this, from the Catholic News Service.
The move is aimed at ending a liturgical dispute which has simmered for more than 20 years. In the process, it could clarify how the pope intends to implement what he once described as a "liturgical reconciliation" in the modern church.

The pope will enunciate the new policy in a document to be released after more than a year of debate and discussion at the Vatican. The Roman Curia had mixed views on expanding the use of the Tridentine rite, and so did the world's cardinals and bishops -- all of which has lent a certain drama to the outcome.

I need not quote Sacramentum Caritas although one of the major themes through it is a devotion to liturgical reform, and an emphasis on following proper liturgical norms.

So, as I said, some document will be issued soon, and I believe it will be essentially a universal Indult, giving the power to priests to celebrate the Tridentine Mass without needing to seek permission from their Bishops. As I said, I worry that this will undermine the power of Bishops, and further divide the already fractured faithful. The Indult as it stands still needs time to show its fruits.

Peace, and everything good.

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