Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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July 9, 2007

Cardinal Ottaviani redivivus*

A July 7, 2007 “motu proprio” of Benedict XVI decreed that the Latin Mass of 1962, authorized by John XXIII, can now be used without further permission by priests who so wish. Members of the faithful may request the availability of this Latin Mass and the local bishop is to see that such requests be accommodated. Should he be unable, for whatever reason, to carry this out, appeal may be made to the Congregation of the Liturgy. Although Benedict, in an accompanying letter, states that the local bishop’s authority is in no way diminished, these two considerations clearly curtail his authority and contravene the notion of collegiality stressed by Vatican II.

The pope, in his accompanying letter, speaks of a time of confusion after Vatican II and the 1970 introduction of the new Mass. He points out that the Church itself has been responsible for that confusion. This may suggest that the Church was too quick to carry out the new reform, thereby jettising entirely the older form, which is still desired by many of the faithful. Benedict’s act can thus be seen as a desirable correction in accommodating both those comfortable with the new liturgy and those attached to the older, more traditional form.

Having said this, however, the restoration of the Latin Mass can also be perceived as part of the efforts of John Paul II and by his successor to reverse many of the conclusions of Vatican II. Not only is the Latin Mass newly encouraged by Benedict but the former Latin rituals for all the sacraments are endorsed. Local bishops may even set up personal parishes for those devoted to the Latin Mass. Furthermore, the Council’s recommendations of collegiality and of subsidiarity have not been carried forward. The Church has become ever more centralized under John Paul II and under Cardinal Ratzinger as chief of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and now as pope. Some examples highlight this trend:

· National conferences of bishops had their authority thoroughly emasculated in 1998 by John Paul II’s requirement that unless their decisions were unanimous, the matter must be referred to the Vatican.

· The geographical and topical Synods of Bishops under John Paul II featured agendas formulated by the Vatican Secretariat, proposals of many bishops (as e.g. their many requests to ordain married men to insure greater access to the Eucharist) were not even presented to the pope by the Secretariat, and the post-Synodal “Exhortation” of the pope, supposedly his response to the Synod’s views, invariably presented, not the bishops’ views, but the pope’s vision for the Church.

· John Paul II in 1980 and Benedict XVI in 2006 strengthened the dividing line between lay ministers and the ordained by restrictions on the lay people as to their presence and what they were permitted to do in the sanctuary.

· Liturgical translations into vernacular tongues had to be made or passed upon by the Curia. The Japanese bishops vehemently protested this in the 1998 Synod for Asia, claiming that they knew the Japanese languages far better than did curial officials in Rome. The International Commission for English in the Liturgy (ICEL) was reorganized in 2002 when its translations did not meet Rome’s desires. The ICEL officers, who were removed by Rome, protested but their English-speaking bishops did not, as the Japanese bishops had done.

· In Australia, the practice of individual confession had become almost non-existent, while communal confession and general absolution, bringing hundreds of people to this sacrament in practically every parish, had become customary under their bishops. It was widely practiced in North America and especially noteworthy in Chicago and other US cities. The bishops of England, Scotland, and other countries strongly supported this practice. Nevertheless, John Paul II issued orders in 1998 and 2001 banning the practice. Benedict in 2007 has forcefully continued the prohibition.

· Ecumenical and interfaith comity, enlivened by Vatican II, was shaken by the then Ratzinger’s “Dominus Jesus” in 2000 and then as, Benedict at Regensburg, by a quotation in his address that enraged the Muslim world, and now by the prayer for the conversion of the Jews retained in the now revived Latin Mass.

Benedict brings back some of the transcendent reverence from the past. But is it part of other winds from the past, which are trying to extinguish the candles of hope, set on fire by the world-wide bishops in Council assembled 1962-1965?

*(Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani: a chief opponent of the reforming work of Vatican Council II throughout its deliberations.)


Blogger Pat Keane said...

Who's going to say all these Latin masses?? Do many priests still know Latin any more?

July 10, 2007 at 12:22 AM  
Blogger Christine Roussel said...

Wonderful summary of the backtracking of these last 2 popes!

Many of us tried to hope for the best when Ratzinger was elected Pope but he seems to be showing that he is still the extreme conservative he was during and after Vatican II. If he lives long enough to name a large number of cardinals, we might be in for more of the same in his successors.

Christine Roussel

July 29, 2007 at 11:39 PM  

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