Those who know me know that I am not a traditionalist but I am a lover of tradition. I do not celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass, but I have always been sympathetic to those who are devoted to it.
It cannot be denied that certain elements within the traditionalist movement have exacerbated the divisions in the Catholic Church. When traditionalists continued to despise everything about the Second Vatican Council they were not doing their cause any favors. When they mocked and dismissed not only Pope John XXIII and Paul VI but also John Paul II and Benedict XVI they promoted a sectarian mentality. When they made snide, self righteous attacks not only on the apparent abuses of the Novus Ordo, but also on those priests who celebrate the Novus Ordo reverently and traditionally, they made enemies of their allies.
Today’s restrictions on the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass were imposed by the Holy Father in an attempt to quash this sectarian attitude and foster unity in the church, but unity is not the same thing as uniformity. The advantage of the Novus Ordo Mass is that it recognizes the need for, and allows variations in the styles of celebration which are obvious in a universal church. I wish the pope and his allies had not seen fit to quash this particular alternative, but that he would have encouraged traditionalists–the vast number who are good, devout faithful Catholics. I wish he had seen fit as a good pastor to critique the sometimes sectarian aspects while recognizing the strengths of the traditionalist movement and encouraging it to expand in joyful unity with the whole church.
But the deed is done and now we should ask what is next.
I have no doubt that some traditionalists will tootle off to an Eastern Rite Catholic congregation of some sort.
Others will be disobedient and continue to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass or we may see a resurgence of the Society of St Pius X or the emergence of a new schism. Not good.
I hope the priests and people who are devoted to the Traditional Latin Mass might decide to follow the way of “subversive obedience.”
Celebrating the Novus Ordo Mass does not mean everyone holding hands and singing Kumbayah.
Remember the flexibility of the Novus Ordo is a two way street. Sure, Sister Sandals and Father Fabulous might celebrate with sock puppets giving the homily and singing happy clappy folk music, but Father Biretta can also use the flexibility to his advantage.
He may celebrate the Novus Ordo in Latin. Ad Orientem. He can use all the Gregorian chant he likes. Wear fine vestments. Have well trained altar boys. Include some of the “extras” like the prayers at the altar, the Prayer to St Michael etc. Administer communion to the faithful kneeling and on the tongue. Encourage traditional devotions in Latin.
In other words let’s celebrate the Novus Ordo Mass joyfully, reverently and obediently fully informed and guided by the Traditional Latin Mass.
I realize this is an unsatisfactory solution for those who are 100% devoted to the Traditional Latin Mass. I understand that some folks believe the Novus Ordo Mass to be theologically defective. Despite asking several TLM priests, I have never had anyone explain just how this is so, but I’ll take their word for it. At least they discern theological problems, but I guess that is something they will have to get their heads around.
Maybe in the Spirit of Dialogue so beloved by the Holy Father some further dialogue would be of some help?
I wish Pope Francis had not taken this step in this way, but he has, so as faithful Catholics we shall have to live with it and try to understand his thinking and see what is best in what he has decided.
Pope Leo XIII said something interesting in his encyclical on Americanism that I always thought the radical traditionalist movement should consider more seriously: “Nor can we leave out of consideration the truth that those who are striving after perfection, since by that fact they walk in no beaten or well-known path, are the most liable to stray, and hence have greater need than others of a teacher and guide. Such guidance has ever obtained in the Church; it has been the universal teaching of those who throughout the ages have been eminent for wisdom and sanctity-and hence to reject it would be to commit one’s self to a belief at once rash and dangerous.”
The radical traditionalist movement often seems so focused on their own piety and so sure they’re part of “real” Catholicism that they tend toward a schism of sorts. The TLM has become a weapon with which to beat the Church, and has not been the unity hoped for in Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum. So it seems to me that the radical traditionalists brought this on themselves.
My wife and I found it encouraging that in his letter Pope Francis also called out abuses in the Ordinary Form and called on bishops “to be vigilant in ensuring that every liturgy be celebrated with decorum and fidelity to the liturgical books promulgated after Vatican Council II, without the eccentricities that can easily degenerate into abuses.” Anyone who wants to use this to snub the TLM needs to be consistent and be sure their own Mass is as proper as possible.
Personally, my favorite Mass has always been a reverent “novus” one, with Latin, chant, longer periods of silence, etc. The Mass described in your book “Letters on Liturgy” is right up my alley. The TLM has never really been my preferred cup of tea, and I’m not sure it speaks to today’s culture: long periods where one can’t follow anything because one can’t hear the priest or understand the words; one must be an expert at the missal to follow anything. I don’t think that sort of Mass would have helped me convert to Catholicism. I needed to know what was happening and to hear the prayers.
But as a friend of mine said, we may not prefer a particular style but if we receive Christ in the Eucharist, then it was a good Mass. That’s a good perspective to have too, I think.
Completely agree with you father. I have never attended a latin mass but find the modern one to be largely very reverent, and like you say, layers of tradition can be added to it.
Father, your second paragraph seems to be the Pope’s primary reason for restricting the use of the TLM. Apparently, there are some groups centered around the TLM that strongly disagree with Vatican II. So the Pope is requiring Bishops to ensure the TLM is used properly in their dioceses.
Seems like a proper thing the Pope should address. Or am I missing some element?