Providence and Peril
In 1997, in his book-length interview Salt of the Earth, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said that denying the Old Mass to those attached to it was "downright indecent." Ten years on, he has done the decent thing. With the publication of Summorum Pontificum on 7 July 2007 and its enactment on 14 September, Pope Benedict XVI has largely restored our liturgical birthright; finally responding to the "thousands of letters [that] arrived in Rome from those who asked for the freedom to be able to participate in the old rite," as Cardinal Hoyos informed Italian daily Il Giornale.
In one stroke, the Holy Father has liberated the clergy from the episcopal straightjacket imposed by previous motu proprios and reinserted the Mass of the saints and martyrs - the glory of the Church - into workaday Catholic life. Deo gratias!
Imagine, no more traipsing biretta-in-hand to snarling prince-bishops for special permission not to celebrate Bugnini's faith-sapping New Mass. No wonder the Mods are running scared.
Predictably, their reaction is wildly exaggerated, as if the mere publication of the document has prised loose their neo-Modernist chokehold on the Body of Christ. We wish! Nevertheless, like Bishop Luca Brandolini, whose histrionic response we reprint for your delectation, all Bugnini neophytes and fellow-travellers can see the writing on a not-so-distant wall.
Unlike gormless neo-conservatives, Liberal ideologues well understand the winner-take-all nature of liturgical conflict. They freely admit the far-reaching implications - spiritual, theological, philosophical and vocational - of letting loose the most precise ritual expression of Catholic faith in their Protestantised worship centres. Thus, while (sadly) not intended by the Pope himself, his unleashing of the Traditional Latin Mass for general consumption via Summorum Pontificum is rightly perceived in Liberal circles as a counter-revolutionary death warrant.
Monsignor James Moroney, the American Bishops' liturgy 'expert,' articulated this Liberal foreboding. While recognising that the impact of the motu proprio would not have a terribly significant impact in the short-term, he stated that in resurrecting and promoting the Old Rite, "by definition you are rejecting the judgment on liturgical matters of pontifical and episcopal development" over the last 40 years.
He echoed the belated bid late last year by the bishops of Strasbourg, Metz and Besancon to prevent the release of Summorum Pontificum. "Such a decision," they blathered in blind panic, "risks endangering the unity among priests as well as the faithful."
In similar fashion, Belgium's mega-Liberal Godfried Daneels, the 'Condom Cardinal', warned that increased celebrations of the TLM could polarize the Church and lead to the "negation" of Vatican II reforms such as support for religious freedom. "The rite is not the important thing, but what comes after," Daneels told The Associated Press. "We can't go back. Vatican II is a Council like all the others."
His Eminence surely meant to say, "a Council unlike all others": the one which preferred his spurious "religious freedom" to the Social Kingship of Christ; the one whose masonic liturgical concoction cut a swathe through Catholic populations like his own. Once a bastion of the Faith, the northern half of Belgium now boasts a derisory Sunday Mass attendance of 3.7% despite over 70% of all children attending Catholic schools run by Daneels and his episcopal brethren. And yet these failed and faithless ecumaniacs would rather continue on to oblivion than "go back" to packed churches through the agency of the dreaded Latin Mass. Why? Because this catechetical tool par excellence would teach the remnant Belgian flock more about the one true Faith in half an hour than they have gleaned from their bishops, priests and Novus Ordo jamborees in forty years. Make no mistake: Daneels & Co. would prefer 0.0% Mass attendance to that ecumenically-catastrophic Catholic awakening.
But let's not hack too close to the episcopal bone here. Basking in the triumphal afterglow of Summorum Pontificum, we can afford to be magnanimous. Let us, instead, excuse the 74-year-old Belgian Cardinal's self-serving ideological fudge. It must be increasingly difficult for ageing Modernist exemplars to admit their Liberal complicity in the godless chickens now roosting on their doorsteps. What a dreadful shock to witness in their dotage the early unravelling of a cherished Cranmerian revolution.
It is this realisation, of course, that has sparked immediate attempts to subvert the motu proprio. Prelates are seeking to impose novelties and restrictions on the TLM. Bishop Tod Bown of Orange County (recently shown on YouTube refusing Communion to a kneeling recipient during a Novus Ordo free-for-all) is insisting on the use of readings from the Novus Ordo lectionary. A blogger reported that "Bishop Brom in San Diego has apparently circulated a letter to his priests using the 'qualified priest' argument, and further mandating that requests for the Mass can only be made by residents of the parish where they are requesting it. This is not stated in the Motu Proprio, precisely because many people are attending parishes other than their own because of the lack of form in their local parish, and/or the inability or non-desire of the resident priest to say a reverent vernacular Mass, much less the extrordinary form. What is to become of these people, then? I guess they're out of luck, pending a clarification from Ecclesia Dei, at least in San Diego."
Indeed, wherever such abuse of episcopal power occurs, including demands for Communion in the hand and suchlike, it must be reported to Cardinal Hoyos at the Ecclesia Dei Commission in Rome. Hitherto renowned for packing about as much punch as a slap on the wrist with a wet noodle, His Eminence has intimated that his beefed-up Commission (SP art. 12) will now welcome the opportunity to right episcopal wrongs and put malicious prelates back in their box. We must be prompt and persistent, therefore, in notifying transgressions which allow him to do just that. So much will depend on it.
The modus operandi of other bishops and clergy is more indirect and less inflammatory, simply marginalising Summorum Pontificum either by damning the document with faint praise or pretending it hasn't happened. In this regard, Portsmouth is representative of countless dioceses at home and abroad.
"Nothing on the motu proprio was mentioned here in Basingstoke (my parish priest is now Vicar General) so I think like everything else from Rome they will try to ignore it," writes a Portsmouth subscriber. Bishop Crispian Hollis set the tone for his clergy and the local hierarchy in general, greeting the document with a peevish statement wrapped in a polite yawn. Faced with the greatest affront to England's Liberal hegemony since the anti-Modernist Oath, he waved away Summorum Pontificum as merely a "welcome clarification." Never mind that the Holy Father had just issued a new "Constitution" of the Roman Rite!
Famously miffed at being overlooked for the metropolitan see of Southwark and left to sulk and rot in Portsmouth for the rest of his life, Hollis was particularly careful not to mention the papal permission for Confirmations and other sacraments under the Old Rite (something he has not previously approved). As if to question the relevance of the motu proprio to his diocese, he also stated: "We already make generous provision in the diocese for Latin celebrations and I want this to continue to be the case within the norms laid down by Pope Benedict."
This is the bare-faced lie being regularly trotted out post-Summorum: shepherds who have never promoted that "wide and generous" availability of the TLM requested by John Paul II are now extolling their non-existent largesse! In Portsmouth, a diocese which extends from south Oxford to the Channel Isles, Hollis has provided only one regular Mass, each Sunday in Reading, and just several other Masses scattered here and there over the course of the entire year! In the Modernist lexicon, this Scrooge-like dearth constitutes "generosity."
Perhaps the blue-ribbon for Summorum-subversion thus far goes to Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow. He issued a four page document on the motu proprio to his clergy which Wanderer columnist Fr Zuhlsdorf considered "the coldest, most hostile" response of very many he had seen. Using the inaccurate unofficial English translation of the document rather than the original and definitive Latin text, Conti seeks to restrict the use of the Old Rite by erroneous interpretations of its provisions, in flagrant opposition to the episcopal spirit requested by Pope Benedict, and contrary to the principle of interpretation of Canon Law that laws which grant favours are to be interpreted as favourably as possible. Writes the finger-wagging Conti in respect of article 5:
"Notice that there is to be a 'stable group'. Moreover the group is to be identified as adhering to the earlier liturgical rite. A single request does not establish such a group. A vague hankering for the old days is not an adherence to the earlier rite; this document has been issued to attempt to address serious divisions, not a generalised longing for days past. The word 'adhere' is fundamental to the use of the extraordinary form. I find it difficult to envisage that there are any 'stable groups' in our diocese who 'adhere' to the 1962 Missal."
This is the belligerent tone of his error strewn text. Yet with the Latin original in hand, and hopefully an accurate official English translation in the near future, Glaswegian clergy will find their cranky Archbishop as easy to refute as Fr Zuhlsdorf, who writes:
"Notice that His Excellency seems not actually to have read the Motu Proprio in LATIN and is referring to an inaccurate, unofficial translation? There is no mention of a 'stable group' in the Latin! The Latin says 'coetus … continenter exsistit.' You can't get 'stable group' out of that. Nor does he take into account that 'coetus fidelium traditioni liturgicae antecedenti adhaerentium' in Latin need not indicate that they 'adhere' in a strict or juridical sense, but can simply mean 'faithful attached to the previous liturgical tradition'."
The Archbishop also misconstrues the very clear meaning of article 5.3, in order to negate the obviously intended usage of the Rituale Romanum for marriages, funerals and special celebrations; arrogates to himself powers of discernment as to what constitutes an acceptable 'qualification' for saying the Old Mass ("It is certainly clear that a one week course would be insufficient to so qualify a priest") when in fact the criteria for discernment is the Church's law and practice ("Idoneus means a minimum qualification," says Zuhlsdorf. "A priest ought to be able to pronounce the words and know the rubrics. That is it."); misrepresents article 9 on the administration of sacraments under the Old Rite so as to limit such use; ignores the authority vested in priests by Pope Benedict while seeking to maintain Ecclesia Dei-style episcopal control; and for good measure ends with an implied threat: "I look to you, the priests of the diocese to cooperate with me" - i.e. or else.
Mired in the murky past, charity demands that we liberate Conti the Crotchety from his recalcitrant and repressive Ecclesia Dei mindset and drag him, kicking and screaming, into the bright and youthful Summorum era of increased clerical autonomy.
To this end, his outrageous undermining of the letter, spirit and intent of Pope Benedict's legislation needs reporting to Cardinal Hoyos as a matter of urgency. The Ecclesia Dei Commission must be prevailed upon to correct such pig ignorant episcopal missives as soon as they appear. If it wavers or procrastinates, thereby emboldening hostile prelates everywhere, we are back to square one with little chance of substantial progress.
The good news, however, is that Summorum immediately elicited numerous positives which augur well. Consider this uplifting report from the Washington Times of 30 July, headlined "Old rite wins new Mass appeal":
"Priests from all over the country are signing up in droves for weeklong classes to learn the rituals and language of the Mass, named after the 16th-century Council of Trent. Monsignor Michael Schmitz, vicar-general of the Florence, Italy-based Institute of Christ the King, said he has received hundreds of calls from interested clergy.
"This is a nationwide phenomenon," he said. "Many more parish priests and younger priests are interested in learning to celebrate the Latin Mass. Whenever the Latin rite is celebrated, you get many young people," he added. "They are looking for something that speaks to the soul, and the beauty of the liturgy is awe-inspiring. The heartfelt presence of God really affects them."
The Elmhurst, Pennsylvania-based Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter trained 50 priests on performing the rite this summer at its Our Lady of Guadalupe seminary in Denton, Nebraska. Its September session is already full and its Elmhurst bookstore got a "big upsurge" in demand for priestly training materials within two days of the announcement, said the Rev. Carl Gismondi, a Fraternity priest studying theology at the Dominican House in the District.
[…] The Society of St. Pius X offers a "free Mass kit" along with a 120-minute instructional video for priests on its sspx.org site. Neal Kotlarek, manager of the Catholic bookstore near the Archdiocese of Detroit headquarters, is ordering reproductions by the case. "Usually, I just carry a few copies," he said.
Maureen Williamson, a manager at the Fort Collins, Colorado-based Roman Catholic Books, said 200 copies of its $155 deluxe edition priest's altar missal sold within two weeks of the papal announcement. She typically sells 20 to 35 a month. "We're projecting we are going to sell more than 700 by the end of the year," she said. "Now that this Mass is able to be said by anyone at any time, priests and parishes have been ordering it."
Priests from St. Mary's Catholic Church in Alexandria and St. John's in McLean are sending priests to Denton, Neb., in September. The Rev. Franklyn M. McAfee, pastor of St. John's, was trained in Denton four years ago and plans to implement the Tridentine rite in early October. It will replace his parish's noon Latin celebration of the Novus Ordo Mass.
"The people here really want it," the priest said. "All sorts of prominent people have asked me for it. They're not opposed to the Novus Ordo Mass, but they prefer the 1962 Missal," referring to the rules that Pope John XXIII drew up for the centuries-old Mass.
It seems that the motu proprio has tapped into a rich but hitherto dormant vein of Catholic faith. On 27 July the Angelus Press (U.S.) further reported:
"Since the release of Pope Benedict XVI's motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, we have been deluged with orders for missals and books on the Mass & liturgy and the crisis in the Church. Interest in the "old" Mass among conciliar priests is astounding. Two inside sources tell us that an East coast diocese has over 20 priests learning the 1962 Missal and their bishop is planning a group of Tridentine parishes. Additionally, the district office of the SSPX received 25 requests yesterday from priests wanting to learn to say the old Mass. We must pray for these priests and be sure that we are educated ourselves."
Even more surprising, given our Hollis-like hierarchy, is the local interest. Fifty priests - on average 20 years younger than the English clergy in general - booked in to a Latin Mass Society conference held at Merton College, Oxford, in August to learn how to say the TLM. This was ten more than anticipated. ("And, I should think, 50 more than the Bishops of England and Wales were hoping for," chortled the Daily Telegraph's Damien Thompson.) Archbishop Vincent Nichols, who unsurprisingly has never offered the Mass of the 1962 Missal, opened the conference with a Novus Ordo in Latin. It was closed with the Old Rite offered by the Bishop of Tulsa, Oklahoma, who attended the conference.
The wave of interest and goodwill extended to many Bishops not renowned for their Old Mass sympathies. Nor does it matter that many are fakers. Even the token gestures constitute progress of sorts, in contrast to the non-reaction to Ecclesia Dei.
For starters, Archbishop Conti's surly response was out of step with the statement released by the Scottish Bishops' Conference: "The Bishops of Scotland... intend to study the Holy Father's document thoroughly to ensure that its provisions are fully available to those Catholics in Scotland who may wish to encounter the mystery of the Eucharist through the form of celebration set out in the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal." Further, Cardinal O'Brien of St Andrews and Edinburgh, a Tablet-peddling arch-Liberal every bit as disinterested in the TLM as Conti, was present at a High Mass offered by priests of the Fraternity of St Peter on the Feast of the Assumption. So much window-dressing. But still.
More heartfelt and exuding the pastoral concern of a true shepherd of souls, Archbishop Vlazny of Portland, U.S.A responded as follows in his diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Sentinel. Although a full on Novus Ordo prelate, compare the fatherly spirit underlying these balanced, accurate points from his commentary with the negativity, inaccuracy and obfuscation of his lamentable Glasgow counterpart:
"… as one of the Lefebvrite bishops pointed out shortly after the publication of Pope Benedict's letter, the reasons for the [SSPX] break were at a deeper level, theological and even political. But the Lefebvrites were not the only ones who remained attached to the earlier Roman missal of Pope John XXIII. The Pope's intervention at this time is a genuine plea for the restoration of unity and a greater spirit of generosity on the part of all involved in making accommodations for those who see things differently.
[…] Some days ago I received an inquiry from a parishioner about special directives for the use of the extraordinary form here in the Archdiocese of Portland. I see no need for further clarification since the papal document is quite explicit.
Since 1989, the Archdiocese of Dublin has permitted the celebration of the Old Mass in a city centre church on Sundays and holydays as well as during the Easter Triduum and three Masses at Christmas. Yet Archbishop Diarmuid Martin promptly announced that he wishes to make a wider provision for those attracted by the extraordinary form. According to a local source, His Grace is establishing a chaplaincy with a resident priest to provide a daily Mass in addition to the existing arrangements:
"The priest will be assisted by the existing team of two other diocesan priests and two regulars (a Carmelite and a Marist, with a Dominican expected to join up shortly). He also announced that all the Sacraments will be available in the old rite together with funeral Masses. This enhanced service will involve a move to another city centre church, St Kevin's, Harrington St., which is something of a gem since it is Pugin designed and is in excellent condition. This is a great development and will add to the already large congregations of about 400 who attend Mass weekly at St Audoen's - always a Missa Cantata or Solemn High Mass with high quality choirs providing the music."
Down Under, in Melbourne, around 400 people attended an Old Rite Pontifical High Mass (which included Confirmations) offered by Archbishop Denis Hart at St Patrick's cathedral on 25 August. It was, said the Archbishop, "A Mass of thanksgiving for Summorum Pontificum of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, which has restored the classical, or ancient use, of the Roman Rite to a place of honour in the Church."
Interestingly enough and for what it's worth, even Cardinal Karl Lehman, the ultra-Liberal president of the German episcopal conference (denounced by his own orthodox brethren as a dissident disgrace), spoke up. The motu proprio, he said, was "a positive step for everyone who loves this kind of Mass and does not want to be swept into a corner as if they belonged to a sect or were doing something abnormal. It is not right to negatively label a Mass that the Church used for centuries."
Clearly, the response to Summorum is very "divergent", in the Holy Father's coinage. So, while we should expect the road ahead to be a rocky one, it is by no means all uphill.
Some contested points in the document will be easily sorted, such as the non-issue of what constitutes a "stable group," which the likes of Archbishop Conti have immediately seized upon to stymie the Pope's wishes. Some estimations in this regard are risible, such as that proposed by Australian Elizabeth Harrington, an education officer with The Liturgical Commission in the Archdiocese of Brisbane (a Protestantised wasteland). Like a Soviet apparatchik assessing a Five Year Plan, she coldly calculated that "The document does not specify how many parishioners constitute a 'stable group.' In the process of pastoral planning, the number 100 is often used as the minimum number for a viable celebration of Sunday Mass" [The Catholic Leader, 29/7/07].
Would a charitable Aussie reader do the right thing and inform this sterile functionary that the phrase "stable group" does not appear in the Latin original, and that Cardinal Hoyos, who followed the entire process which led to the final text, has publicly stated: "no minimum limit of faithful ever appeared in any draft, not of thirty, not of twenty, not of a hundred." [30 Days, 27/7/07]
Other points are less clear. To cite just one issue, there is already much debate about the implications of article 6 and whether it means that readings from the New Mass could possibly be used in celebrations of the Old Mass. Interpretations are decidedly mixed, although it should be noted that in 1991 the Ecclesia Dei Commission informed the bishops of the world that: "the new lectionary in the vernacular could be used as a way of 'providing a richer fare for the faithful at the table of God's Word' in Masses celebrated according to the 1962 missal." Reassuringly, however, it went on to say:
"We believe that this usage should not be imposed on congregations who decidedly wish to maintain the former liturgical tradition in its integrity according to the provision of the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei. Such an imposition might also be less likely to invite back to full communion with the Church at this time those who have lapsed into schismatic worship."
Only time will resolve such matters, which also include the (sensible) integration of new Saints and the (problematic) insertion of Novus Ordo Prefaces into the 1962 missal, as flagged by the Holy Father.
Yet it all seems so pointless. The liturgical impasse and all its conundrums could have been resolved with a one sentence motu proprio: "My dear Brother Bishops, Please run both Masses side by side in equal measure until the last Novus Ordo diehard lapses - at which time, ipso facto: 1) the Missal of Paul VI becomes redundant in your diocese; 2) the venerable Mass of Paul V resumes its ancient place as the ordinary form of the Roman rite. God Bless, B16".
Hardly rocket science. And after all, with Faith-destroying evolution in the Catholic classroom, why not Faith-enhancing natural selection in the pews?
Alas, since Modernist illogic and contradiction rule, this simple evolutionary solution is a non-starter. Instead, we must bunker in for years of Summorum argy-bargy. At the very least we might hope that the Vatican will promptly issue an accurate English translation of the original Latin text. The errors in the unofficial translation by the Vatican Information Service have already given the Mods a head start.
Two "Forms": Two Churches
In fairness to Liberals like Cardinal Daneels and Archbishop Conti, however, they at least demonstrate by their candid reaction a firm grasp of the defining issues at stake here. Realities the Pope would rather avoid.
During her aforementioned rant against the Old Mass, Elizabeth Harringon went to the heart of the matter: "The current Order of Mass is not so much one of language as of theology. Since liturgy is an expression of the Church's belief, my greatest concern is that having two quite distinct Orders of Mass in use suggests that there is division within Catholicism about the nature and purpose of the Church". Quite.
Writing in the Tablet on 7 July, the day Summorum was published, Msgr Basil Loftus of Sutherland accurately expanded on this theme, parading the Protestant outlook he has absorbed like osmosis through the Novus Ordo he extolls:
"The proposed reintroduction of the Tridentine Mass would not so much be 'seeds of division' as further bitter fruit of existing discord [in] parishes already bitterly divided. It is not altar that is set against altar in the vast majority of our parishes but altar against tabernacle, by those who see church buildings as primarily a shrine to the reserved sacrament rather than a space for the celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass. Until that mentality is overcome, the old rite, with all its cultural and architectural baggage, makes a lot of sense to a lot of people, and no one, Pope or priest, will be able to tell them otherwise. We must become a people gathered around the Lord in the Sacrifice of the Altar. We cannot achieve that if we have the mentality of an individual kneeling before the tabernacle. It is that mentality which is inimical to the new rite."
Voilá! that "non-Catholic thinking within Catholicism" which Paul VI lamented a few months before he died - telling his friend Jean Guitton that it would "become stronger in the future" yet would "never represent the Church's thinking" [CO, Feb. 1997]. And yet, to the very last, Paul VI failed to see the self-evident fact that the embodiment of that "non-Catholic thinking," which so alarmed him, was his New Mass! The ultimate Trojan Horse, it is precisely this Protestanising tendency of the Novus Ordo, exemplified by Msgr Loftus, that the precise Catholic expression of the Old Rite combats so thoroughly. That is why the Modernists decry the TLM and why in the End Times, as explained in last month's edition, it alone will sustain the Catholic remnant: the"small flock" which Paul VI insisted "must survive, no matter how small it may be."
Against this clear Modernist perception of the state of play, the Holy Father has preferred to teach that there is no contradiction between the Old and New Rites; a perversity which Pope Benedict in his role as Supreme Legislator has now institutionalised by deeming both Old and New Rites to be merely different forms of the Roman Rite. One thinks again of Jean Guitton, the confidante of Pope Paul VI, who freely admitted that the New Rite reflected the Pope's intention to Protestantise the Catholic Mass: "to reform the Catholic liturgy in such a way that it should almost coincide with the Protestant liturgy… to get the Catholic Mass closer to the Calvinist mass.…"
He succeeded beyond his wildest Liberal dreams. One Anglican weighing up the ecumenical scence recently noted: "The current liturgies used by the two Churches (certainly for the Eucharist) are very similar - in some respects almost identical. I suppose it all started when the Roman Church adopted the vernacular and the new form of Mass under John XXIII and more or less at the same time the Church of England adopted the "experimental" Series 1, 2, 3 from which the ASB and Common Worship with international texts evolved."
That the present pontiff finds nothing untoward in this diabolic convergence speaks volumes.
Reality vs. Realpolitik
But no matter. Popes are what they are and legislate accordingly. Essentially a Liberal Pope with competing orthodox convictions and traditional leanings, Benedict has great affection for the Old Mass, as an aesthetic rubrical corrective for the anarchic Novus Ordo. As a co-architect of Vatican II, however, he needed to rehabilitate the Old Rite while saving (ecumenical-liturgical) face and delaying the inexorable slide of his beloved Council into the annals of ignominy. Hence the bizarre labelling of the destructive New Mass - a failed 40-year experiment - as the "ordinary form" of the Roman Rite; and the perverse designation of the Traditional Latin Mass as the "extraordinary form," as if almost two thousand years of organic development counted for naught.
This is all expedient juridical nonsense, of course. which serves his restorative purpose without causing too many ructions. It is one way around an otherwise intractable problem, politically speaking. Despite its ominous Hegelian potential, as explained shortly, we can live with the manoeuvre.
In the same vein, we must grin and bear the Conciliar platitudes in the accompanying papal Letter - 'value and holiness of the New Mass' blah blah…. These fly in the face of tragic reality: workaday chaos and sacrilege of the type recounted in this mail, received from Australia even as I write:
"My husband and I attended our grandchild's first Communion Mass last night. My son still takes his children to Mass and is attempting to keep his faith. We think we must go to support him, hoping one day he will realize the difference between the Old Mass and the New, which I believe he did in a small way last night: noise like you wouldn't believe, little girls in immodest First Communion dresses in and out of the sanctuary, canned music accompanying the school choir, poor Father doing his best to get the message across, etc. etc. After the 'event', while still inside the church there was a photo shoot with all the proud mums and dads in the centre aisle flashing away. Oh! Just before that we had a display on the overhead screen of photos of each First Communicant, when they were babies…. You can imagine the oohing and aahing that went on then. All this, plus noise. I wanted to shout out "Be quiet and go home." But no, they would consider that against all charity!!"
All the papal special-pleading in the world about the "spiritual richness and theological depth" of the Novus Ordo cannot hide this ignorant rabble stripped of all Catholic faith and sensibility: the Protestant fruit of the "ordinary form" of the Roman Rite.
To reunite our hapless brethren with their Catholic birthright so perfectly illustrated and taught by the "extraordinary form" - thereby harmonizing their balkanised parishes - will be the work of generations. Summorum Pontificum provides a platform and opportunity for that daunting evangelical enterprise. But as Bishop Fellay, Superior of the Society of St Pius X, cautioned in voicing his great appreciation of Summorum:
"Nevertheless, this does not mean it is perfect - especially when we link the motu proprio with the letter [to the bishops]. The letter is, if I may say it, the usual Vatican language. It is very unfortunate. ... But nevertheless, this letter has to be understood as a political letter which most surely does represent his personal thinking. Nevertheless, it is more than unfortunate in many ways, especially where he insists upon the necessity to recognize the value and the holiness of the New Mass. He plays both sides against each other. And the modern bishops that are progressive - they will jump on that point immediately trying to dismantle the motu proprio."
This straddling of both sides of the gaping liturgical divide evokes our worst fear: Summorum Pontificum as a Modernist tool for reconciling irreconcilable opposites on the way to liturgical convergence. The kind of Hegelian dialectic which informs and shapes the post-conciliar revolution [cf. "The Making of John Paul III", CO, Nov. 2003], its liturgical equation would read: thesis (Old Rite) + antithesis (New Rite) = synthesis (a schizophrenic mix of Catholic majesty and New Church banality). In the current climate who would bet against such a pass?
Providence and Peril
And so, as the relentless Liberal juggernaut rolls on, levelling and laying waste to all we cherish, we better watch out. At the same time, however, it would be dead wrong to see only the difficulties and pitfalls - to dismiss Summorum as a futile exercise. In summary conclusion this is why:
On paper, to the naked eye as it were, the 1988 motu proprio Ecclesia Dei adflicta represented only a small step forward from the original 1984 Indult Quattuor abhinc annos. Pope John Paul's public affirmation of our "rightful aspiration" to the Old Mass and his plea to bishops for its "wide and generous" provision were notable advances. Yet Ecclesia Dei still conceded far too much discretionary power to local ordinaries to ever trigger a serious counter-revolt.
Nonetheless, despite this fundamental flaw which enabled Modernist prelates everywhere to ignore or subvert the expressed liturgical wish of the supreme pontiff, availability of the Traditional Latin Mass expanded steadily, if not dramatically, in the nineteen years which followed.
Yes, the winning over of hearts and minds to Catholic tradition, liturgically or otherwise, remains a hard and often heartbreaking slog. The TLM remains a fractional presence in Catholic worship. But it is all relative.
The fact is that the Old Mass was down and out before Pope John Paul II intervened. Today, on the other hand, more than 200 TLMs are offered each Sunday in the United States alone, with 105 of its 176 dioceses now offering at least one Sunday Mass. While in Ireland, where Bishop John McAreavey of Dromore is the latest bishop to allow the celebration of the TLM, there are now only four remaining dioceses (Clonfert, Cloyne, Kerry and Ossory) where the Mass has never been permitted. Forward movement is the general trend.
In addition, of course, the traditional seminaries are overflowing. "There is no vocation shortage at all," says Msgr Michael Schmitz of the Institute of Christ the King. "On the contrary, we have so many vocations we can't take them all."
Only Utopian dreamers in complete denial about the hegemonic Modernism of our day would dismiss such gains as insignificant. Moreover, if the deficient Ecclesia Dei bore such fruit, only the most dogged pessimist would not realistically expect a quantum acceleration in the traditionalist cause under the vastly superior Summorum Pontificum. The considerable interest/reaction stimulated by the motu proprio suggests as much.
It would, of course, be foolhardy and negligent to ignore legitimate concerns about the document: its 'progressive' pontifical author and some potentially compromising passages and 'time-bombs', as flagged herein. But these should not undermine our confidence. The overriding factor in the inexorable if painstaking traditionalist advance against all the odds is not the fine print in papal decrees, nor the personal theological and philosophical proclivities behind them. It is, rather, the invisible hand of Divine Providence which persists in writing straight with crooked lines, ever guiding Holy Mother Church both through and despite papal weaknesses. The current pontiff and his predecessor offer stark evidence of this Divine corrective at work.
John Paul II employed an ultra-Modernist to orchestrate papal "liturgies" involving Aboriginal smoking ceremonies and dancing Indian Jesuits, among other sacrilegious gems. Enough said. Obviously, he sparked the TLM revival despite himself. Even his collegial obsession, which neutered his motu proprios and saw him capitulate to episcopal pressures to restrict the Old Rite, could not prevent the traditional revival John Paul set in train.
Although 'John Paul III' in many respects, Pope Benedict is at least a liturgically savvy pontiff. Renowned for his scathing denunciations of modern liturgy, Summorum Pontificum was effectively heralded by the white smoke chugging out the Sistine Chapel chimney at
3.50 p.m. on 19 April 2005. Yet we might thank his Bavarian mother for instilling whatever genuinely traditional leanings he has. They certainly did not develop in the halls of academe which shaped his essentially Liberal orientation.
Along with his close colleagues von Balthashar, Rahner et. al., Benedict was one of the influential periti once suspected of heresy by the Holy Office yet allowed to shape the Second Vatican Catastrophe to their own image and likenesss. A proud and dogged champion of that Hegelian vehicle, this Pope's priorities and his understanding of Catholic Tradition are thus only superficially similar to ours (CO passim). His mere 20 minutes spent with Bishop Fellay at his Castelgandolfo residence, compared with over 4 hours of convivial discussion with his old academic colleague and arch-heretic Hans Kung, is indicative.
As a respected Catholic academic remarked to the present writer, "A lot of theologians have been blinded by Benedict's style and erudition." Indeed, just as some jubilant Traddies now seem a little dazzled by Summorum. Without wishing to rain on their parade, it is worth pausing to reflect that although clearly Providential, Summorum Pontificum represents liberty, opportunity and risk. We best pray, therefore, that its final liturgical product is shaped more by Bavarian Benedict than his Liberal alter ego.
Meanwhile, we rightly rejoice and thank God for His mercy and love so wonderfully manifest in the Holy Father's great gift. The Age of the "Indult" Mass is dead. Long live the Mass of Ages!