Latin Mass Motu Proprio
To Tell the Truth
by John Vennari
Pope Benedict XVI released his long-awaited Latin Mass Motu Proprio on July 7, 2007. The most important section of the new document is the Pope’s words: “Hence it is licit to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass in accordance with the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962 and never abrogated…”
For over thirty-five years, traditional Catholics insisted the Old Mass was never outlawed, and all Roman-Rite priests have the right to celebrate it. Books were written, speeches given, and associations formed to preserve this truth. For their dogged adherence to this fact, these Catholics suffered a kind of banishment and persecution.
Nonetheless it was this insistence of Traditional Catholics, the most influential of which was the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, which is primarily responsible for what is good in the new Motu Proprio. For over three and a half decades, these Catholics repeatedly asked the most reasonable request a Catholic can ask: “Holy Father, please tell the truth!”
And for over thirty-five years, the post-conciliar popes effectively answered this request as would a cagey politician: “I don’t think we need to bring the truth in at this stage!”
As of July 7, that is changed. The fact that the Old Latin Mass was never outlawed is now enshrined in Papal teaching, and this should gladden all Catholics.
Father Robert Pasley, pastor of Mater Ecclesiae, a diocesan approved Latin Mass parish in Berlin, New Jersey, threw a champagne party for his parish on Sunday July 8 to celebrate the document. He noted in his homily that those who worked for decades against seemingly impossible odds for the restoration of the Old Mass “have been affirmed and vindicated.”
The Motu Proprio also states all Catholic priests have the right to celebrate this Mass privately, and that all the faithful have the right to attend these private Masses. It goes on to stipulate for parishes that on Sundays and feast days, there may be one celebration of the Old Mass and weekday celebrations where a group of faithful attached to previous liturgical traditon "exists stably".
These statements, though a big step forward, do not quite harmonize with the “fullness of truth”. It will be left for a future Pope to admit that every Catholic priest has the right to celebrate the Latin Tridentine Mass publicly — at all times— in any parish or religious house without special permission from his bishop or religious superior. Father Paul Kramer, in his book The Suicide of Alerting the Faith in the Liturgy, argues that this is not only the right of the priest, but his Catholic duty.
“To all who desire it”
Before becoming Pope, Benedict XVI favored the liberalization of the Latin Mass. In his 1997 interview-book Salt of the Earth, he said, “A community is calling its very being into question when it suddenly declares that what was its holiest and highest possession is strictly forbidden and when it makes longing for it seem downright indecent.” He continued, “the old rite should be granted much more generously to all who desire it.”
Those who desired it knew full well the Old Mass as never forbidden, a fact confirmed in the mid 1980s.
In 1986, Pope John Paul II convened a commission of nine Vatican Cardinals to provide answers to two questions: 1) Did Pope Paul VI authorize the bishops to forbid the celebrations of the traditional Mass? 2) Does the priest have the right to celebrate the traditional Mass in public without restriction, even against the will of his bishop?
Vatican Cardinal Alfons Stickler, at a 1995 Christi Fidelis conference in Fort Lee, New Jersey, related that he was one of the Cardinals on the Commission. Cardinal Stickler said, “the answer given by the nine cardinals in 1986 was ‘No, the Mass of Saint Pius V (the Tridentine Mass) has never been suppressed’.”
The Cardinal went on to explain that Pope John Paul II had a decree drawn up relating this fact but did not sign it due to the opposition of various cardinals and bishops.
In answer to the second question, Cardinal Stickler said, “the nine Cardinals unanimously agreed that no bishop may forbid a Catholic priest from saying the Tridentine Mass.”
In 1989, The Fatima Crusader was the first to publish the report of the nine-Cardinal Commission.
Msgr. Perl from the Vatican’s Ecclesia Dei Commission publicly denied that such a Commission took place. The Fatima Crusader immediately responded that Msgr. Perl’s statement was not true. The controversy was finally laid to rest when Cardinal Stickler publicly related the truth about the Commission in 1993. The Fatima Crusader had reported correctly, despite Vatican denial.
Cardinal Ratzinger – now Pope Benedict XVI – was also a member of the 1986 nine-Cardinal Commission.
Not much has changed since 1986. Many bishops, particularly in France and Germany, are not well disposed towards the Old Latin Mass, and had voiced objections to the Pope’s Motu Proprio prior to its release. These bishops see the revival of the Latin Mass as a threat to their modern reforms – reforms that have emptied their churches.
In fact, on the 25th anniversary of Vatican II’s Constitution of the Liturgy, Pope John Paul II praised the Council’s liturgical reform claiming that it was welcomed by the overwhelming majority of the faithful. Michael Davies laughingly commented that this is not true because “the overwhelming majority of the faithful” don’t go to Mass anymore.
Ordinary and Extraordinary?
Earlier I made the qualified statement as to “what is good” in the Motu Prorpio because, sadly, all is not good.
The Motu Proprio contains numerous oddities, the most prominent of which is its claim that the Novus Ordo and Latin Tridentine Mass are two forms of the one Roman Rite: the Liturgy of Pope Paul VI is the ordinary form, and the Latin Tridentine Mass is the extraordinary form. (Does this mean that priests who celebrate the Old Latin Mass are extraordinary ministers?)
Pope Benedict’s letter to the bishops that accompanied the Motu Proprio goes on to say “There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal”
This is simply not true. Of the New Mass, Father Joseph Gelineau, S.J, one of the most influential members of Archbishop Bugnini’s Concilium admitted without regret:
“To tell the truth, it is a different liturgy of the Mass. This needs to be said without ambiguity: the Roman Rite as we knew it no longer exists. It has been destroyed!”
Clearly the New Mass represents a destruction of the Roman Rite, not an “ordinary” form of it.
So why does Pope Benedict XVI present a new “ordinary/extraordinary” formula that appears to defy reason? Does he really believe in it? Or did he present this novel dichotomy as the only way he perceived the world’s bishops would accept his document?
These are legitimate questions since Pope Benedict XVI in the past voiced his own reservations about Pope Paul’s New Mass.
Years ago, then-Cardinal Ratzinger lamented he had hoped the liturgical reforms of Vatican II would draw from the riches of liturgical tradition. Instead, he said, we “can only stand, deeply sorrowing before the ruins of the very things that were concerned for.”
Of the New Mass, Cardinal Ratzinger said, “in the place of liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living process of growth and development over the centuries and replaced it – as in a manufacturing process – with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product.”
The most notable contradiction between the Old and New Missal was pointed out in 1969.
In that year, before Paul VI released the New Liturgy, Vatican Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci sent Paul VI a letter that accompanied a famous Critical Study of the New Mass. It should be noted that this was a critique of the New Mass in its “purest form”, in the original Latin prior to bad translations and countless abuses. Here the Cardinals warned the New Mass “represents, both as a whole and in its details, a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass as it was formulated in Session XXII of the Council of Trent,” and would produce an agonizing crisis of conscience for numerous priests.”
The Critical Study also said the New Mass “would gladden the heart of the most modernist Protestant”.
Novus Ordo as “ordinary form”?
It is ludicrous to say a liturgy celebrated tranquilly by Catholic priests for centuries is equal to a liturgy that causes “an agonizing crisis of conscience”.
It is absurd to claim there is “no contradiction” between a liturgy that disgusts Protestants (the Traditional Mass, which Luther called worse than the most loathsome brothel); with a liturgy that delights Protestants (the Novus Ordo).
The New Mass was not constructed to be a clear expression of the Catholic Faith, nor was it designed for the proper worship of God that is His due. It was formulated, rather, as surrender to Protestantism for the sake of a bogus ecumenism.
Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, the architect of the New Mass, admitted this openly:
“We must strip from our Catholic prayers and from the Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren that is for the Protestants.” (L'Osservatore Romano, March 19, 1965).
Likewise, journalist Jean Guitton, a close friend and confidant of Pope Paul VI, confirmed that it was the direct aim of the Pope to Protestantize the liturgy. In a radio interview in the 1990s, Guitton said:
“The intention of Paul VI with regard to what is commonly called the Mass, was to reform the Catholic liturgy in such a way that it should almost coincide with the Protestant liturgy — but what is curious is that Paul VI did that to get as close as possible to the Protestant Lord’s supper ... there was with Paul VI an ecumenical intention to remove, or least to correct, or at least to relax, what was too Catholic, in the traditional sense, in the Mass and, I repeat, to get the Catholic Mass closer to the Calvinist Mass.”
Catholic author Michael Davies – as did other writers – demonstrated repeatedly that the New Mass, written with the help of six Protestant ministers, was a Protestant construct, and that the elements of the new liturgy mirrored those elements incorporated by the original Protestant revolutionaries in the 16th Century.
The New Mass is not truly a Catholic liturgy, but an ecumenical one. It was designed to accommodate those who reject the most basic tenets of the Catholic Faith; such as the sacrifice of the Mass; the sacrificing Catholic priesthood; and the real presence of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist.
Thus it is absurd to claim this protestantized liturgy is the ordinary form of the Roman Rite. Nothing is gained by pretending this absurdity does not exist.
Years ago, Columnist Joe Sobran said the reason conservatives are often on the losing side is that from the beginning, they let it be known they will settle for half a loaf.
Let that not be the case now. The Motu Proprio exists because many Catholics would not give up, would not compromise with the New liturgy, would not cease praying, would not surrender their adherence to the Latin Tridentine Mass which is their baptismal right.
The Motu Proprio is a significant step forward, but we can never lose sight of the massive amount of ground to be regained. A destructive ecumenism condemned by the perennial magisterium gallops though the Church as Vatican policy. A religious liberty and spirit of dialogue that militates against the traditional encyclicals on the Social Kingship of Christ is taught as “authentic” Catholic social doctrine. The countersyllabus of Vatican II still eclipses the true syllabus of Pius IX. We must step up our resistance to this liberal Catholicism and publicly oppose every aspect of the Vatican II revolution continually wreaking havoc upon the Church and the world.
Oddly enough, we can take a kind of lesson from the modernist Father Richard McBrien. His 1973 book The Remaking of the Catholic Church, included a call to battle for radicals, stating the gains they made since Vatican II should embolden them to further conquests:
“It is not enough to discuss problems. One must act. This means applying constant pressure from below. It has worked in the past. We have vernacular in the liturgy, changes in laws regarding mixed marriages, the approval of religious liberty, due process, and similar reforms because of such pressure. In the meantime changes at the official level can be anticipated...” (p. 146).
Traditional Catholics can learn from the enemy’s battle-plan: the more successes they win, the more they seek to achieve.
Let us do likewise. We now have a papal decree admitting that the Tridentine Mass is not forbidden, that all priests have the right to celebrate it privately and that all the faithful have the right to attend such a celebration. This has come about through the grace of God, our refusal to compromise, and our public resistance to post-Conciliar modernism.
Let this Motu Proprio — despite its imperfections – be a call to arms in a new stage of battle. Now is not the time to settle for half a loaf. Now is not the time to allow the slightest alteration of the true Mass. Now is not the time to relax vigilance or to compromise one inch. As the liberals push forward with their liberalism, we press ahead with the truth. Only a complete return to the traditional doctrine and liturgy of the Church can be the goal of any Catholic worthy of the name.
These goals concerning the Mass were restated by Msgr. Klaus Gamber the eminent liturgist who was admired by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, and who did not travel in “traditionalist” circles. In his 1993 Reform of the Roman Liturgy, Gamber said:
“In the final analysis, this means that in the future the traditional rite of Mass must be retained in the Roman Catholic Church...as the primary liturgical form for the celebration of Mass. It must become once more the norm of our faith and the symbol of Catholic unity throughout the world, a rock of stability in a period of upheaval and never-ending change.”
From the August 2007 issue of
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