Saturday, July 21, 2007

Newsmakers I: The Motu Proprio

I understand that there are pockets of strong feeling about the pope's recent motu proprio, permitting a much more widespread use of the 'Tridentine' Mass. My instinct says that concerns about losing the Novus Ordo 'Paul VI' missal are unfounded. Pope Benedict expressly says in several places that the current missal is the norm and the 1962 missal in the exception, permitted out of sensitivity to the attachment to that 'use' among many of the faithful. There are significant obstacles to a widespread adoption of Pope John XXIII's missal. First of all, you need not only a priest who is competent to celebrate the Mass in a dignified manner (and the fact that the manner was not always dignified was one of the forces behind the sense of the need for change), but you also need an acolyte who can give the proper responses in Latin. It is not easy to find a young priest who is truly competent in Latin, much less an altar boy!

In all, I felt the strong pastoral concern of Benedict XVI coming through the accompanying letter. My own sense is that this move on his part is a no-lose situation. I have already heard from some an interest in using more Latin in the 'Novus Ordo'; could we imagine the Vatican permitting more vernacular in the Tridentine (the readings in translation are permitted with the use of the 1962 missal in the motu proprio). Surely if both uses are celebrated, they will exercise a certain attraction toward one another. This would accomplish the principal goal of the Holy Father, at least outside the desire to heal the Lefevrist schism. Often, as Cardinal Ratzinger, he lamented the radicalization of the Novus Ordo that gave the impression of a total break with the past. How can we as a Church, hold the divine liturgy as celebrated in 1969 to be the source and summit of the Church's life (that famous phrase of Vatican II was written in 1963--while the Mass at the Council was still being celebrated with the 'Tridentine' use!), and then virtually anathemize it a year later? Yet that was precisely the impression given by the wild adaptations that erupted in the West in the 1970's.

Someone asked me today, "When are you going to have Mass in Latin?" and before I could give my geeky, measured pastoral response, another guest blurted out, "They already do half the Mass in Latin!" So maybe we monks with our old-fashioned Gregorian chant and sometimes preference for ad orientem celebration of the Mass (with 'Father's back to you') ironically turn out to be ahead of the curve for a change.

I would be most interested to hear reactions to the motu proprio from any readers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

...deus haec fortasse benigna
reducet in sedem vice...

- Quintus Horatius Flaccus,
Epodon XIII



This blog is published with ecclesiastical approval.

If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
Locations of visitors to this page