Monday, May 07, 2007

A friend's response to the Slate Motu article

On the 4th, Slate published an article on the incoming Motu Proprio. Better folks than I have commented on it, but I though you might appreciate a comment on it posted by a priest friend.

Thirty years ago, I celebrated my First Mass in Latin - perforce in the New Rite promulgated (and effectively made mandatory) by Pope Paul VI in 1969. Like most Roman Catholic priests, I have since celebrated the vast majority of my Masses in this rite. When the Indult came (the special permission to celebrate the old Latin Mass), I gladly said the old (“Tridentine”) Latin Mass for congregations who had requested it. I have been doing this on a pretty regular basis since 1990. This (Sunday) morning, I said an 8am Tridentine Mass at another church, and then presided at a New Rite “Gospel” Mass at my predominately African-American parish. I don’t know if that’s “conservative” or “liberal,” but it’s very literally “Catholic.”

One thing of which I have become convinced is that there is not much of a constituency for the New Rite Mass in Latin. If people want a “Latin Mass,” they overwhelmingly prefer the old one. There is probably as much of a demand for the New Rite Mass in Latin as for the Tridentine Mass in the vernacular. Why might this be?

Well, the New Rite in Latin is essentially artificial. It is not an organic outgrowth of anything. It was put together by Vatican approved liturgists in the 1960’s, following the Decree on the Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council. Yes, I know, it was based on the outlines of the classical Roman Rite – plus some ideas that the liturgists were really dying to try out. The Latin original (the “editio typica”) was primarily considered to be the template from which vernacular translations were to be made. Aside from a few Papal Masses or Masses in great cathedrals (and, admittedly, occasional Masses celebrated by priests like myself), the “Novus Ordo Missae” celebrated in Latin has existed primarily in the world of ideas.

What became the Tridentine Mass (or some slight variants), on the other hand, has been celebrated in the Western Church for at least 1000 years. It was officially promulgated as the normative Mass for the Roman Rite by Pope St. Pius V in 1570, following the decrees of the Council of Trent (In Latin: “Tridentum”). However, it was not anything new or unfamiliar to 16th Century Catholics. Trent basically “canonized” the existing liturgy of the Roman Curia, which was already spread throughout Europe. (There were and are other Latin rites in the West, and they were not suppressed if they could prove at least 200 years of existence.)
I do not wonder that those Catholics who wish a Latin Mass would prefer one that has a real history, one which formed the spirituality of a millennium of Catholics, and was offered by hundreds of canonized saints. (Canonization not being an option for me, I’m just happy to be able to say it.)

As indicated above, I say Mass in both modes, although you can probably figure out my personal preference. Why? “Salus animarum suprema est lex.” – the salvation of souls is the highest law.

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