Tuesday, December 19, 2006

My Opinion on the Universal Indult

My opinion on the possibility of the Holy Father granting a universal indult for priests to celebrate Mass in Latin according to the Missal of 1962 of their own accord, is that I am opposed. I oppose it for the reasons I gave in my first post on the matter and I oppose it because whatever progress Pope Benedict XVI has made in exercising the Petrine ministry in a more collaborative manner will be wiped out in one fell swoop. The last is even more important given the overwhelming opposition by the bishops, best articulated by the French bishops during their recent meeting at Lourdes. I have no burning desire to return to the missal of 1962 or to the Latin, especially given that for me and for most Roman Catholics it is not a return. On that same point and in a strange twist, many of the arguments made opposing introduction of the novus ordo can now be made against the reintroduction of the Latin, at least at the discretion of the parish priest. This seems to me a ready-made recipe for the acrimonious division of parishes and even whole dioceses.

It is easy to forget, or to never have known, how disconnected people were from the liturgy in the pre-Vatican II days. Of course, even before the Council, this was a matter of pastoral concern and liturgical renewal had been underway over the previous forty years or so. This renewal was aimed at bringing about more active and conscious participation in the Eucharistic liturgy on the part of the whole Church. Over the past thirty-seven years there has been a lot of silliness with the novus ordo, but much of that now seems passé. My preferred manner of reform has been articulated well by Monsignor M. Francis Mannion in such articles as Liturgy and Beauty. A nice, succinct articulation of one aspect of Mannion's thought, specifically on liturgical agendas in the Church, can be found in a book review of a collection of essays by Richard J. Mammana, Jr. in Touchstone magazine. Some resonance of his ideas still remain in the Statement of Principles of The Society for Catholic Liturgy, founded by Msgr. Mannion in 1995. The principles of the Society were originally composed in 1995. They were revised in December 2005. I prefer the original principles, as they were clearer on the need to celebrate the novus ordo Mass and all the newly revised rites of the Roman Rite with beauty, reverence, and dignity. The original principles were also clear in rejecting the agenda of "traditionalism and restoration". This agenda seems to be one the Society now embraces in their new principles, which is unfortunate. Monsignor Mannion, to my knowledge, played no role in the new statement, which is also unfortunate.

That being made clear, let me also write that I support Pope John Paul II's lifting of the suppression of the Latin Mass with his motu proprio allowing its celebration with the approval, permission, and under the pastoral oversight of the diocesan ordinary. While we certainly long for and work toward communion with the schismatic SSPX, I do not see the need for the Church to make concessions as the liturgy is the least of their gripes, which is the main point of the French bishops. Whether the novus ordo exceeds the liturgical reform called for by the fathers of Vatican II is a question of much contention, a contention I am not qualified either liturgically or canonically to weigh in on with much authority. However, SSPX rejects many of the decrees of that legitimate ecumenical council- religious freedom, to name just one. So, the liturgy is not the fundamental cause of their schism. The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, in full communion with the Church, has the correct idea as far meeting a legitimate, albeit small, pastoral need that has arisen in many local churches. Contra Monsignor Gamber, the novus ordo is here to stay, almost 40 years constitutes a long enough ad experimentum period. There is no great call for a return to the Latin Mass by the people, the clergy, or the bishops. In fact, most oppose it.


  1. Pardon my ignorance. Would the readings and homilies be given in Latin as well?

  2. No, the revision of 1962 and last revision of the Latin Mass, which occurred in 1965, as well as many in the Liturgical Movement prior to the 1962 revision, had the readings and homily in the vernacular.

  3. There is no danger of returning to the Latin mass. The only question is whether to allow its celebration to be determined by a local priest instead of by a bishop, which is currently the case. Not man priests or laity want the old mass. So, don't worry. I don't think the novus ordo will change much.

  4. Since you have "no burning desire to return to the missal of 1962" you are welcome to continue attending the novus ordo. By all accounts, the motu proprio will make the traditional Mass more available to those who want it; it will not outlaw the new one for those who want that. Some of us have been hoping for a restoration of the old Mass for a long time, especially in dioceses that make it pointlessly difficult to get to. (My diocese allows a Latin Mass once per month, in one location a long drive away, and in the past allowed it less often than that).

    One of the differences between the introduction of the new Rite of the Mass and the proposed partial restoration of the old Rite is that the new Rite was forced on people whether they wanted it or not; now the old Rite will be offered for those who want it, without suppressing the new.

    Why can't the new Rite and old co-exist? I have seen several parishes get along just fine with different Masses in different languages (e.g. English and Spanish, or English and Polish). The Eastern Catholics seem to cope with having more than one Divine Liturgy available without difficulty.

    I'm not convinced that people were more disconnected from the liturgy in pre-Vatican II days. Attendance has dropped off since the introduction of the New Mass. Maybe some that have voted with their feet will return if given the option of returning to the Mass of Ages.

  5. Michael, I appreciate your comments very much. I suggest, before you weigh in, taking the time to read all three of my posts on the universal indult. By doing so you would know that I am aware of all that you write, including the controversy surrounding the promulgation of the novus ordo and suppression of the ancient ritus Romanus and its problems. Further, you would know that I am in favor of John Paul II's 1984 indult allowing the Mass of 1962, but only by the bishop granting an indult of his own for a priest to celebrate it to meet a legitimate pastoral need in his diocese. The FSSP stands ready to assist in dioceses in which bishops determine there is such a need.

    By reading previous posts, you would know that I have already answered your question about the co-existence of the two rites. The two rites presently co-exist and, as mentioned previously, they did not between 1969 and 1984, when the Latin Mass was supressed. Currently they co-exist in a way that maintains good order in the Church. I have given several more reasons as to why I think a universal indult is bad idea.

    If you're not convinced that people were more disconnected from the liturgy prior to the novus ordo you do not know Catholics who were alive and old enough to remember the Latin mass and you are unfamiliar with Church history, especially the Liturgical renewal, which did not seek to do away with Mass in Latin, but tried to make it more participatory. Lastly, the novus ordo in many aspects is more reflective of a sounder, more biblical eucharistic theology in keeping with Vatican II's ressourcement, or return to the sources.

    I suppose returning to the Latin Mass would save many people time as the priest could enter, mumble his way through the Mass in 15 minutes because nobody knows what he is saying and need not as only the altar assistants are required to give the responses. That was normally daily mass in those days. It was not unusual for that t obe Mass on Sunday as well. I suppose one can pray 5 decades of the rosary in 15 minutes, or recite the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, or any number of other devotions, which is what people would regularly do during Mass, since they were not actually fully, actively, and consciously participating in the Eucharistic liturgy.

  6. I suppose one can pray 5 decades of the rosary in 15 minutes, or recite the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, or any number of other devotions, which is what people would regularly do during Mass, since they were not actually fully, actively, and consciously participating in the Eucharistic liturgy.

    I regret that our devotions scandalize you. We wish only to unite our prayers with those of the priest, to the glory of our Lord's Holy Name.

  7. Michael, devotions do not scandalize me. I pray the rosay frequently and each Friday pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, I recite the Angelus each day at noon and encourage others to do the same. I pray to my guardian Angel and my patrons, Sts. Stephen and St. Martin of Tours, as well as to to Sts. Francis and Clare, St. Therese of Lisieux. I also pray, as I committed to at my ordination, the Liturgy of the Hours twice daily and encourage others to do the same.

    I just don't do any of these things at Mass, as the Eucharistic liturgy requires the full, active and conscious participation by all the baptized, not just the priest, as it is the source and summit of our faith.