Thursday, July 12, 2012

Summorum Pontificum Five Years Later

Let's-All-Join-In-and-Use-Our-Own-Baked-Bread Mass
In December 1969, a new Mass was introduced to the Catholic Church by Pope Paul VI.  This was the first time in 1500 years that this happened in the Catholic church  Up to that time, the Church had basically celebrated the same Mass, now known as the Traditional Latin Mass, from the time of Pope St. Gregory the Great in the 6th Century.  This Mass produced probably millions of saints down through the centuries.  It had organically evolved over time, but was for the most part the same Mass celebrated  through the ages. 

Dancing-Girls Mass
But after Vatican II, some in the church thought the Mass had to be made more "relevant" to the people, that the lay people needed a more "active role" in the Mass.   Disregarding even the teachings of Vatican II, Latin was thrown out.  Gregorian chant became a thing of the past as lay people actually invaded the Sanctuary and guitars, drums and dancing became part of the New Mass.  People turned away from the altar and turned to each other.  The emphasis of the Mass was no longer one of Sacrifice but had become a "communal celebration." 

Gymnasium Mass
What was the result?  People left the church in droves.  Weekly attendance went from 75% of Catholics to less than 20% in many places in the US, and down into single digits in Europe and other parts of the world.  The number of priests, nuns and other religious dropped drastically.  Catholics began to pick and choose what they wanted to believe, e.g., artificial contraception, abortion and homosexuality.  The majority of Catholics even stopped believing in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  Participation in the Sacraments, especially the Sacrament of confession, became a thing of the past (although ironically enough, for those who did attend Mass, everyone received Communion - in the hand, of course).  Prior to this time, most churches had daily confession before Mass, and they all had weekly confession, with a couple of hours Saturday afternoon, again on Saturday night for a couple of hours, and once more before Sunday Mass.  The lines were long and continuing.

Confession Line - a rare sight in the Catholic Church today

Since the introduction of the New Mass, however, long lines to the confessional are rarely seen in the Catholic Church.  According to a recent survey done by Georgetown University:
Three-quarters of Catholics report that they never participate in the sacrament of Reconciliation or that they do so less than once a year.
How often, if ever, do you participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession?
                                                2005                            2008
Once a month or more                 2%                                2%
Several times a year                   10                                 12
Once a year                                14                                 12
Less than once a year                 32                                 30
Never                                           42                                 45

About one in eight Catholics (12 percent), participate in Reconciliation once a year and an identical proportion do so several times a year. Two percent report that they participate in Reconciliation at least once a month.
Many people in the Church, at least among traditional Catholics, believe the root of the Church's problem is Vatican II.  Although there were many problems at Vatican II, and there is no doubt there were subversive elements who attended Vatican II, I don't believe this council alone can be blamed for the problems in the Catholic Church.  I remember the time between Vatican II and the introduction of the Novus Ordo Mass.  The Church was still strong and Mass attendance and participation in the sacraments was high.  It was only after the introduction of the Novus Ordo Mass that we began to truly see the smoke of Satan, as described by Pope Paul VI, become apparent in the Church.  I think that while it is true that the Novus Ordo Mass would not have been created without Vatican II, the Novus Ordo Mass is apart and separate and, I believe, at the real root of the church's problems.  The Mass, which is the re-presentation of the saving Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, is the salvation of the church and the world, and the destruction, or attempted destruction, of the Mass is at the heart of the problems of both the church and the entire world.

Archbishop Lefebvre
In 1969, when the New Mass was instituted, it was close to impossible to find the Traditional Latin Mass anywhere.  But there was a good number of people who threw all their effort into saving the Traditional Latin Mass against seemingly insurmountable odds, the Society of St. Pius X being at the forefront.  Many feel that Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the founder of the SSPX,  is the one individual who can truly be said to have saved the Mass.  By founding the society, which says only the Traditional Latin Mass, he ensured that the Mass would never disappear.

In 1984, 15 years after the institution of the Novus Ordo Mass, Blessed John Paul II granted permission for use of the 1962 Roman Missal.  There continued to be widespread and strong opposition to use of the 1962 Missal, and in 1988,  with the added pressure from the then schismatic SSPX, Pope John Paul II issued a moto propio stating the following:
To all those Catholic faithful who feel attached to some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of the Latin tradition I wish to manifest my will to facilitate their ecclesial communion by means of the necessary measures to guarantee respect for their rightful aspirations. In this matter I ask for the support of the bishops and of all those engaged in the pastoral ministry in the Church. 
Despite this Moto Propio, many bishops still resisted the wishes of those who asked for the TLM, and on July 7, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI, despite much opposition, issued his Summorum Pontificum in which he stated that the TLM could be said without restriction and without need of the local bishop's permission.  The faithful would only need to say they wanted what was now known as the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, and the priests and bishops must comply with those requests.  From the Apostolic Letter issued by Pope Benedict XVI:
Art. 5. § 1 In parishes, where there is a stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition, the pastor should willingly accept their requests to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962, and ensure that the welfare of these faithful harmonises with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the guidance of the bishop in accordance with canon 392, avoiding discord and favouring the unity of the whole Church.
There is still tremendous opposition to this most beautiful Mass, and as noted in the following article from, many of those who love the Mass and wish to preserve it are often still fighting to implement it.  Fortunately, the Vatican is on the side of those who wish to preserve the Mass of the Ages.
For Cardinal Burke, restoring tradition is a work in progress  
Cardinal Burke in the chapel of his residence at the Vatican. (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Francis X. Rocca

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Five years after Pope Benedict XVI lifted most restrictions on celebration of the Tridentine Mass, a senior Vatican official says that much work remains to make the traditional liturgy fully accessible to the faithful, and to bring its influence to bear on the form of the Mass most Catholics attend. 
"There's no question that there remains in certain places a resistance to what the Holy Father has asked, and that's sad," says Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature and a former archbishop of St. Louis. "It's sometimes even an expression of disagreement with the Holy Father's discipline and even an expression that this is harmful for the church."   

 With his apostolic letter "Summorum Pontificum," issued July 7, 2007, Pope Benedict allowed priests to offer the Tridentine Mass without special permission from their bishops. The decree also provided for the establishment of "personal parishes" dedicated to the traditional liturgy, which had passed out of use amid the modernizing changes that followed the Second Vatican Council of 1962-1965.

"What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful," the pope wrote at the time in a letter presenting his announcement to the world's bishops.  [How could a Mass that is responsible for helping to create millions of saints over 1500 years suddenly become harmful to the Church?]
Pope Benedict made it clear that he was acting in part to promote reconciliation with the disaffected traditionalists of the Society of St. Pius X, who had broken from Rome to protest some of the teachings of Vatican II and subsequent changes to the liturgy.   [God bless our wonderful Holy Father]

Last month, following three years of on-again, off-again talks, the Vatican announced that the traditionalists had been offered formal terms of reconciliation. Though the SSPX has warned of persistent "doctrinal difficulties" that could prolong negotiations, Cardinal Burke has told Catholic News Service that he believes a reunion will ultimately take place.  [From the Cardinal's lips to God's ears.  The reunion of the SSPX and the Vatican is vitally important to the restoration of the Mass.] 
But satisfying the demands of the traditionalists was not Pope Benedict's only purpose in issuing "Summorum Pontificum." The pope wrote that he acted in order to "preserve the riches which have developed in the church's faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place."
New Mass
In the same letter, the pope also affirmed that the older and newer versions of the Mass could be "mutually enriching." For Cardinal Burke, such mutual enrichment is part of the so-called "reform of the reform," the process of repairing the deficiencies of the liturgy introduced under Pope Paul VI.
Old Mass
The reform of the Roman Missal in the period following Vatican II was "too radical," and "went beyond, and in some senses perhaps not completely coherently with, what the council fathers had set forth," the cardinal says.  [My feelings exactly.  If the Church had stayed true even to the Vatican II council, we would not have the problems in the Church that we are presently facing.]
Creative Liturgy - Soon to be a thing of the past?
"There was a stripping away, a changing of the form of the rite that in my judgment was too much," he says. "You can't take a living reality, the worship of God as God has desired that we worship him, and tamper with it without doing violence and without in some way damaging the faith life of the people."  [Here the Cardinal is confirming that the crisis of faith in the Church can be directly linked to liturgical abuse]

The use of Latin was far from the most important loss, the cardinal says, noting that even the newer form of the Mass is still regularly celebrated in the church's universal language. 
Can we please put a stop to this kind of travesty?
Among the other elements of tradition that Cardinal Burke hopes the church eventually will restore to the Mass in its newer version are the opening prayers at the foot of the altar, which he says provide an "immediate tie-in" to the liturgy's Jewish heritage: the psalms once sung by the high priest in the temple in Jerusalem. 

Prayers at the foot of the altar
Other features of the Tridentine Mass that the cardinal would welcome in the newer liturgy include the priest softly reciting the prayers before Communion, a period of near-silence that, he explains, "draws our attention to this most sacred part of the Holy Mass"; and the closing recitation of the prologue of the Gospel of St. John, a "hymn to the redemptive incarnation" that "sets in your mind once again the great reality which you have encountered and in which you have participated." [All of the constant talking in the Novus Ordo Mass makes it almost impossible to pray.  We are at the foot of the cross during Mass, there should be silence so that we can prayerfully meditate upon that.  And why did we ever dispose of the Last Gospel, which is the first chapter of the book of John?  It completely and thoroughly explains who Jesus Christ is and His mission to this world.  It is a beautiful way to end the Mass.] 
Consecration in the Traditional Mass
 On the other hand, Cardinal Burke says, the practice of reading scriptural passages in modern languages has been a "tremendous gift" of the post-Vatican II liturgy that should be incorporated in the Tridentine Mass. [But can we stop the laity from doing the readings (especially the women) and have only servers and clergy in the Sanctuary during Mass?]  And he says that the newer version of the Mass, in which the priest typically faces the congregation, can encourage a deeper appreciation of the "transparent devotion" with which priests should celebrate both forms of the liturgy.   [Here I have to disagree with the good Cardinal.  As our Holy Father himself has said, with the priest and people facing each other, it creates a closed circle.  I think it is much more edifying and prayerful to have the priest and people both facing the altar.] 
Of course, for the two forms of the Mass to enrich each other, both must be available. But after half-century of neglect, the cardinal notes, there is a shortage of priests with any knowledge of Latin, not to mention experience with the older liturgy, a problem which he says calls for revising seminary curricula.

In the meantime, the cardinal counsels patience to traditionalists who feel "embattled" when well-meaning bishops cannot satisfy their demands quickly enough.

"It would be improper and even offensive to our Lord," he says," to have someone offering the Mass who doesn't know what he's saying or doesn't even know how to say it."  [True enough, Your Eminence, but let's be honest, that is not always the reason why the bishops try to stop the Traditional Latin Mass]
This interview with Cardinal Burke gives me great hope for the future.  I must admit that it is actually painful for me when I attend a Novus Ordo Mass.  I find it very difficult to pray and to even concentrate on the fact that this is a re-presentation of Christ's sacrifice on Calvary.  It gives me hope that the Vatican realizes the spiritual vapidness that has occurred as a result of this Mass of the 20th Century. 

The times they are a changin' (finally!)

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