John Allen in Hell’s Bible on the Motu Proprio

My friend and now former Rome resident John L. Allen, the nearly ubiquitous and fair-minded columnist for the lefty National Catholic Reporter has an op-ed piece in Hell’s Bible today.  Keep in mind that "senior Vatican official" and "Vatican authorities" and "sources close to the Pope" are nearly meaningless.  But… there it is.  My emphases and comments.

Op-Ed Contributor
The Pope’s Language Lesson

By JOHN L. ALLEN Jr.
Published: May 30, 2007

A SENIOR Vatican official has confirmed that sometime soon Pope Benedict XVI will expand permission for use of what’s popularly known as the Latin Mass, the service that was standard before the Second Vatican Council. Though some details remain vague, one point seems all too clear: When the decision officially comes down, its importance will be hyped beyond all recognition, [This variation of fubar has a certain ring of truth to it, given some of the comments I have read posted in this blog!  ] because doing so serves the purposes of both conservatives and liberals within the church, as well as the press.  [OK… this is where Allen is good: he makes a distinction between the three main partisan players: right, left and the PRESS.  These three have their own motives for talking about Pope Benedict’s derestriction.]

Pope Benedict’s intent, according to Vatican authorities, is to make the pre-1960s Mass optional, leaving Catholics free to choose which Mass they want to attend. Because the older Tridentine Mass, named for the 16th-century Council of Trent, has come to symbolize deep tensions in Catholicism, the pope’s decision is sure to trigger an avalanche of commentary.

Many on the Catholic right [the first group] will hail the move as a death knell for the liturgical reforms of Vatican II, such as use of the vernacular languages and modern music, and participation by the laity, most of which conservatives have long derided as misplaced efforts to make the church “relevant.” The older Mass, many argue, has such beauty and elicits such a sense of awe that, over time, it will triumph, leaving the changes of the last 40 years as a failed experiment.

That argument fails the smell test of contact with reality. For one thing, Catholics old enough to remember the pre-Vatican II Mass know that it’s as capable of being celebrated in drab, uninspiring fashion as any other rite. Moreover, four decades after Vatican II, many Catholic priests don’t even know the old Mass. Given the other demands they face in light of a priest shortage, a good number won’t take the time to learn it.  [I think this does not adequately consider the dramatic shift in the sort of men entering seminary for the last 10 years and their curiosity about the older form of Mass.  Nor about how young families with large numbers of children seem drawn to more conservative expressions.  On the other hand, Mr. Allen is very interested in watching Latin America and Africa these days, where the Church’s demographics are rapidly shfiting.  The situation is VERY different there than from that of N. America or Europe.]

Most basically, there’s scant evidence of a huge pent-up demand for the old Mass. Since 1984, celebration of the old Mass has been permitted with a dispensation from the local bishop. While some dioceses where it’s allowed report that the celebrations are often well attended, sometimes with a surprising number of younger Catholics, there’s been no widespread exodus from the new rite to the old.  [In many cases, there has not been enough opportunity to test that nor not, since where permission has been given, it might be isolated to one Mass only at a less than convenient time and place.]

In the end, the normal Sunday experience for the vast majority of Catholics will continue to be the new Mass celebrated in the vernacular. (It’s worth noting, however, that the new Mass can also be celebrated in Latin, with all the “smells and bells” dear to the high-church set.)  [YES!  That is very worth noting.  And where Mass is celebrated that way, it is very popular.]

Many on the Catholic left [the second group], meanwhile, will make a cause célèbre out of the document because, to them, it symbolizes a broad conservative drift in Catholic affairs. They will read it as another sign of a “rollback” on Vatican II.

That argument, too, depends on selective perception. While Benedict certainly wants to call the church back to some Catholic fundamentals, evidence of a systematic lurch to the right is hard to come by. This is the same pope, after all, who scandalized Catholic traditionalists by jettisoning limbo and by praying alongside the grand mufti of Istanbul inside the Blue Mosque in Turkey. On the political front, Benedict has demanded debt relief for impoverished nations, said that “nothing positive” has come from the United States-led war in Iraq, and denounced capitalism as an “ideological promise” that “has proven false.”

And, of course, we in the press [the third group] will abet the hype because it’s about conflict, which is the motor fuel of storytelling, and because we need to “sell” the story in order to win air time and column inches.

Benedict, a quintessential realist, will probably be among the few who understand right away that his ruling is not terribly earth-shattering. Sources close to the pope I have spoken to say his modest ambition is that over time, the old Mass will exert a “gravitational pull” on the new one, drawing it toward greater sobriety and reverence.  [This is Benedict’s purpose, to be sure.  It is also part of his project to recover a Catholic voice and idiom for use in a dialog with the world.  The liturgy must be rerooted for their to be a true recovery of the Catholic identity and, therefore, voice.]

Perhaps — although it’s equally possible that traditionally minded Catholics will now have a broader “opt out” clause, making them less likely to pester priests and bishops about what they see as the defects of the new Mass.  [Believe me, some of them will ALWAYS be able to find reasons to pester priests and bishops.]

In any event, the real impact of Benedict’s ruling is likely to be measured in small changes over a long arc of time [Yes, I think this is correct.  However, in keeping with what I wrote above about younger priests and their interest in older liturgy, there is already evidence that this strategy of dialectic is working!], not in upheavals or revolutions. That reality, however, will do little to lower the rhetorical volume. If only we could convince the activists to slug it out in Latin, leaving the rest of us blissfully oblivious, then we might have something.  [Hmmm… this sound far too like Timothy Leary to be healthy for the Church.]

John L. Allen Jr. is a senior correspondent for The National Catholic Reporter and the author of “The Rise of Benedict XVI.”

John Allen is spending a lot of time right now focusing on "mega trends" in the Church, and is preparing a book on the same.  It might be that he sees this as a liturgical side-show.  Alas, given the dopey way in which some people on all sides (right, left and press) talk about it that doesn’t surprise me.  It may be that Mr. Allen is picking up part of this weary attitude from the clerics "Vatican sources" he is speaking with.  If that is the case, he might need to expand a bit beyond those are making sure that Paul VI is still running the Curia. 

Still, he has a point: this story is grinding on and I don’t think many people are really able to see any longer what Pope Benedict is trying to do. 

That, without a doubt, is wearying.

John Allen in Hell’s Bible on the Motu Proprio
0 votes, 0.00 avg. rating (0% score)
FacebookEmailPinterestGoogle GmailShare/Bookmark

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA. Bookmark the permalink.

63 Responses to John Allen in Hell’s Bible on the Motu Proprio

  1. Paul Haley says:

    Mr. Allen’s piece neglects to mention the main point that makes the NOM differ from the TLM and that is the TLM is God-centered rather than man-centered. It’s not about smells and bells or anything like that for the re-enactment of the Holy Sacrifice is, after all, a humble submission to Almighty God by His Divine Son in the person of the priest and, it is easy to see that the NOM as it is celebrated in many places today does not grow organically from the TLM. Yes, it is true that either Mass can be celebrated either with care and devotion or with lack of care and absent-mindedness. That is subordinate, however, to the main issue which is which one is really God-centered worship.

  2. Paul: That is not the scope of Allen’s op-ed. First, this is an op-ed piece and not an essay on liturgy. Second, he tells us what he is focusing on. If you missed it, I identified it. His objective was not to write a fervorino about the older Mass nor a criticism of the newer Mass.

  3. danphunter1 says:

    Father,
    Since we are ALL,and that includes Mr Allen,called to know, love , and serve God in this world, and to be happy with Him in the next, It is imperative that he,as well as all Catholic journalists report on the moral good that the releasing of the Mass of All Ages will instill in the hearts of men for their salvation.
    Journalists are called to be objective,and there is no more objective reality than the superior sanctity of the Classical Rite Mass.
    Op-Ed or no,Mr Allen should be made aware of exactly how important this document will be.He should pray the rosary devoutly,say the Divine Office and then report the Truth as is revealed by Almighty God.This should always be the scope of objective and true journalism.
    Holy journalism.
    This balancing act betwixt one side and t’other will only result in confusion.Do not be lukewarm.Come down on the side of Goodness
    God bless you.

  4. woodyjones says:

    I certainly agree that the Pauline Mass can be celebrated with great reverence and edification, especially if in Latin with Gregorian chant, as will be the case at St. Michael’s Abbey (of the Norbertines) in Orange County, at which, deo volente, I will be in attendance this coming (Trinity) Sunday.

  5. Fr Martin Fox says:

    Father, this article, especially with your commentary, is very helpful.

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to use it–just as you commented on it–for a series of talks I’m preparing for late July, on the holy father’s recent exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis.

  6. danphunter1: No. Not every article has to be a mini-homily along the lines you think it must.

    This op-ed piece has its specific purpose. Allen is writing about the people who are talking about the Motu Proprio. Allen compares the people on the right and how they see the MP, the people on the left and how they see the MP and how the press will create hype no matter what. The use the right will make of it, the left will make of it, and the press will make of it.

    His objective is not to compare the merits of the older v newer Mass… and it doesn’t not have to be.

    Not every article has to say everything that you would write if you were writing your own op-ed piece for the New York Times.

  7. Maureen says:

    For the record, I never saw a Tridentine Mass until the early 90’s, and I never saw a congregation-centered Mass until the late 80’s. Of course, our diocese is supposed to be 20 years behind the folks on the coasts…. :)

    I’m sure someone could very easily celebrate a Tridentine Mass that was all about his own marvelous back or whatever, and that’s probably part of what created the post-Vatican II abuses and confusions.

    It’s all about having the proper attitude and catechesis. If you’re properly disposed (priest and congregation), everything is good. If not, everything needs help. Anything that can help give an attitude adjustment will help.

  8. Richard Catti says:

    You’ve all got it wrong. All of you. This is not about ‘smells and bells” it is not about the right, the left or the center. It’s not about Benedict, Pius V, Ecclesia Dei, SSPX, FSSP, or any other. IT IS ABOUT A DIVINE LITURGY. Tell me any of you, have any of you pondered what is pleasing to God the Father, God the Son, or God the Holy Ghost? This is not about any of us down here on the earth, but about God in Heaven and what He sees when He looks down upon man and His Church. What does He want to see, what pleases Him most. This is the discussion to be had. All the rest is shameful.

  9. “…evidence of a systematic lurch to the right is hard to come by…”. He seems not to make a distinction between a politcal right, which could be American or European (very different in nuance) or a catholic ‘right’, which, surely can only either be orthodox or unorthodox? Why should traditional Catholics not believe that nothing good has come out of the Iraq war, or that the market is not the highest criteria for establishing human worth?

  10. Tom says:

    Fair enough, and of course it will be a catalyst for liturgical reform.
    But surely the greatest benefit to be derived from granting universal freedom
    for priests to celebrate Mass in the ancient rite, is because the
    extraordinary rite stands as an incontravertable repository of true doctrine.
    Think especially today of groups like the exceptionally successful neo-cats who
    clearly appear to deny the sacrificial nature of the Mass along with the aristotlean-thomistic nature of substance.
    Freedom of the older rite will check this grave tendancy towards doctrinal drift
    among all those of this ilk. This is the true source of their fury.

    Surprised that you didn’t flag up Allen’s false contention that the Holy Father
    jettisoned the concept of the Limbo of the infants, Father.

  11. Fr. Bartoloma says:

    First of all, why am I typing “4 June” as the anti-spam word?

    Second, I think that this is a very balanced article and it makes good distinctions. Remember, this is from the National Catholic Reporter!!! The “Bad NCR” as many of us call it so as not to confuse it with the National Catholic Register, i.e. the “Good NCR”. For this op-ed not to be be a liberal rant and for it to be as fair as it is really does has to be acknowledged.

    Many readers of this paper seem oblivious that we are 40 years away from the “Summer of Love”. I would enjoy reading some of their letters to the editor next week over this article and the up-and-coming motu proprio to balance out the conservative critiques of the same. However, I have long since stopped reading the NCR online when most parts of the website became locked for those who do not have subscriptions. Fair enough, but I need to save my money to buy more fiddlebacks on eBay!

  12. Richar: No. I repeat:

    Not every article has to be a mini-homily along the lines you think it must.

    This op-ed piece has its specific purpose. Allen is writing about the people who are talking about the Motu Proprio. Allen compares the people on the right and how they see the MP, the people on the left and how they see the MP and how the press will create hype no matter what. The use the right will make of it, the left will make of it, and the press will make of it.

    His objective is not to compare the merits of the older v newer Mass… and it doesn’t not have to be.

    Not every article has to say everything that you would write if you were writing your own op-ed piece for the New York Times.

  13. Henry Edwards says:

    John Allen is spending a lot of time right now focusing on “mega trends” in the Church, and is preparing a book on the same. It might be that he sees this as a liturgical side-show.

    Then, Father Z, you might be doing your good friend a favor by letting him know what is the biggest mega trend in the Church at the present time: SAVE THE LITURGY, SAVE THE WORLD. And save him the embarrasment of publishing his book with the biggest story of them all missing from its pages.

  14. Tom: Surprised that you didn’t flag up Allen’s false contention that the Holy Father
    jettisoned the concept of the Limbo of the infants, Father.

    That is because that point is not central to the op-ed. It is the topic of a whole different entry. This op-ed is really dealing with something else.

  15. Henry: I agree. I think liturgy is a bigger deal than perhaps Mr. Allen is making it. I believe he would list it in mega-trends, but only to the extent that it reveals a shift to more traditional tendencies in the presentation of the Church to the world. I think it is more constitutive.

  16. Jon says:

    Father,

    Ahem (just clearing the throat), I believe Father Bartoloma asked a question about next Monday?…

  17. Dan O. says:

    My guess is that Fr. Z will be enjoying a bit of relaxation at Sabine Farm on June 4. Am I right Father?

  18. Dan says:

    I don’t have any quarrel with any single sentence in John Allen’s article but I would not concur now with the general judgment that the motu proprio is “no big deal” and “won’t change much.” Whether or not the motu proprio will have a major impact is something that must be measured over the course of decades and centuries, not months or years. It is possible that 50 years from now Catholics will look back at the period we are now living in as the beginning of a Catholic renaissance in which the liturgy was saved and reformed and see the motu proprio as one of the important turning points in this process. If that is the way it turns out, the motu proprio is a very big deal. However, it is also possible that it won’t turn out that way — it is possible that (God forbid) 50 years from now the trends traditionalists hate will have continued unabated. In that case, the motu proprio will be seen as just a failed rearguard action.

  19. Hilary says:

    I’ve often wondered if there is not an office in the Vatican somewhere with the label on the door plate ,(in seven languages starting with Latin, of course) reading, “A Senior Vatican Official”. Wouldn’t it be a fun job to have? Imagine the conversation at dinner parties in Rome, “Oh, so you’re the Senior Vatican Official, I really thought you went a bit over the top on that whole approval of condoms for HIV thing last week, but your stuff on the Motu Proprio was great.”

  20. Jordan Potter says:

    “Remember, this is from the National Catholic Reporter The ‘Bad NCR’ as many of us call it so as not to confuse it with the National Catholic Register, i.e. the ‘Good NCR’.”

    Heh. At our parish rectory and among many of our seminarians, “Bad NCR” is called “The National Catholic Distorter.”

  21. Dan O: I have left clues all over the blog and finally someone makes a connection!

  22. Henry Edwards says:

    Mr. Allen volunteers, apparently on his own recognizance, that Catholics old enough to remember the pre-Vatican II Mass know that it’s as capable of being celebrated in drab, uninspiring fashion as any other rite.

    It’s probably true that most anyone who’s old enough (as I am) can remember old Masses that were celebrated in a drab and uninspiring fashion. However there’s a distinction that Allen misses — a rite’s propensity for such unworthy celebration.

    In The Heresy of Formlessness Martin Mosebach says Naturally it is possible — to celebrate the new liturgy of Pope Paul VI worthily and reverently — but the very fact that it is possible is the weightiest argument against the new liturgy.

    I think he’s suggesting that the propensity of the new Mass to be celebrated poorly is its weakness. And perhaps (in his subsequent discussion) that the propensity of the old Mass to be celebrated well is its strength.

    propensity: an intense and often urgent natural inclination

  23. Henry: You make a good distinction. It might merit a deeper discussion in another entry, when I can get to it. I am not entirely ready to say that the Novus Ordo is inherently deficient so that a priest must work harder to celebrate it reverently. In other words, the priest must overcome the disadvantages which are in the warp and weft of the newer Mass.

    I can see what Mosebach is saying, however, in light of what a good friend of mine, an older priest, observes when he visits at the Sabine Farm where in the chapel we use the older Mass daily. He describes the older Mass a being like “a suit of armor”, because it stands on its own and wards off attack (presumably by stupid or sloppy priests).

    On the other hand, armor gets rusty and if you don’t know how to wear it you are worse off with it than without it.

  24. Tom Burk says:

    Nor about how young families with large numbers of children seem drawn to more conservative expressions.

    That would reflect both TLM parishes I belong to (1/2 year each); I would suppose most of these parishes are similar, as well. The old “nostalgia” argument is quite specious in my experience.

  25. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    I may have said this already in another forum, but my parish has a growing number of young families (including at least three baptisms among my circle of friends) in attendance at the Tridentine Rite Mass celebrated every Sunday. Three young boys serve at this Mass, with others currently interested in learning how. When we move over the summer, our new parish (in another diocese) will have 70 altar boys, and nary a Mass in English.

    Proof’s in the pudding.

  26. Henry Edwards says:

    Father Z: On the other hand, armor gets rusty and if you don’t know how to wear it you are worse off with it than without it.

    This is one reason we might hope there’s some truth to Mr. Allen assertion that “Given the other demands they face in light of a priest shortage, a good number won’t take the time to learn [the older Mass].

    Nowadays, in whatever contrast to pre-Vatican II days, one usually sees the traditional Latin Mass celebrated in exemplary fashion — indeed, perhaps just as Vatican II recommended that it (rather than some new Mass no one there envisioned) be celebrated.

    However, one might wonder how well the benefits of Vatican II in the currently prevailing celebration of the older Mass might survive a wholesale influx of new post-Vatican celebrants.

    I myself could not argue that the older Mass is bullet-proof. I’ve seen too many of these newer bullets.

  27. Barb says:

    The Benedictines at Clear Creek Monastery in Hulbert, Oklahoma have been seeing, since their arrival in 1999, a marked interest on the part of young priests from all over the world, not just the USA, in learning to pray the Traditional Mass. Since these monks have many priests coming to make private retreats, they are in a position to see a hopeful future for our Traditional liturgies.

    Now for the bad news: Allen is right about the priest shortage affecting the number of priests who want to learn and pray the TLM. In our diocese, which has many of our 60 priests covering 2-4 parishes every weekend, I am sad to say we have none who want to learn the TLM. In the past several months, I have quietly spoken to one very orthodox priest who told me he feels he just doesn’t have the time with his pastoral responsibilities to learn the TLM and that he hoped whoever the new bishop is would invite either the FSSP or the ICR to come here. A retired priest, who says he loves Latin, but who also breaks into Irish barroom ballads on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day before the end of Mass – been there, seen and heard it first hand – got positively twitchy when I asked him if he would be interested in saying the TLM for those of us who want it. This retired priest is a very kind man, but he acted like he was terrified to even discuss the subject, saying: “It’s up to the bishop! It’s up to the bishop!” and hurried off.

    I ask for prayers for whomever our new bishop will be, that he is a man of holiness, courage, and great charity so that we, who have been starved for so long for our Traditional liturgies and who know that we are part of the Church of forever, will be granted the opportunity to worship as our ancestors in the Communion of Saints have worshiped for so many centuries.

  28. Jon says:

    Father,

    Ahh…that’s right, you’re coming home on Monday. I should’ve figured it out. Okay, folks, that means Motu-day is DEFINITELY next Tuesday!

  29. Jon: ROFL! That’s right. You beat me to it.

    So, everyone, you’ll have me to thank when it comes forth.

  30. I am not Spartacus says:

    He describes the older Mass a being like “a suit of armor”, because it stands on its own and wards off attack (presumably by stupid or sloppy priests).

    Fr. With all due respect, that is quite questionable.. The Fathers at Trent had to address innumerable problems in the old liturgy, from Simony, to superstition, from secular music to loud noises and laity around during mass, vagus priests etc etc etc

  31. Henry Edwards says:

    I am not Spartacus: I suspect it’s precisely the addressing of those problems at Trent, followed by four centuries of rubrical development, that clothed the traditional Mass in the “suit of armor” to which that older priest of Father Z’s acquaintance referred.

    Indeed, with respect to the type of issues you mention, the situation of the Catholic Mass and its lack of uniformity of practice in the 16th century with the Reformation swirling about may have been more analogous to the chaos in which the Novus Ordo liturgy finds itself today.

  32. Dan: Good comment. Though it may be too bold for me to say, I think the present Holy Father would agree with you. In the Holy Father’s writings, interviews and statements, it is quite apparent that he makes an effort to understand things in their historical context as well as observe how they are being implemented-or not. The Holy Father seems to be a “mega-trend” kind of guy since he is constantly making connections with the Faith and the history it’s lived in.

    I, for one, am looking forward to Mr. Allen’s “mega-trends” work. If nothing else, it will give us a lot of things to agree with and/or argue about on this blog! LOL!

  33. Matthaei says:

    I can’t help but wonder about the usefulness of postulating on the long-term effects of a motu proprio that quite possibly will never see the light of day. If it never is released, what effect will that have? Is the rumor mill creating its own effects, independent of the motu itself?

    Or, at best, what good does presuming do – to judge what the effects of it will be, even short-term – when it’s contents are so far unknown? I mean, even if it does exist and someone has read it, until it is released, the Pope could simply change it, perhaps drastically, before he releases it, and all the speculation will be nonsense.

  34. Jennifer says:

    “In many cases, there has not been enough opportunity to test that nor not, since where permission has been given, it might be isolated to one Mass only at a less than convenient time and place.”

    This is very true. I would absolutely love to attend a Tridentine mass, but the only one I know of in my area is celebrated at 6am on weekdays. (For statistical purposes, if anyone’s interested, I’m a new convert of just over a year)

    Papa Benny’s doing awesome things in the Church… I just pray those with less-than-charitable intentions will get out of his way.

  35. Not Spartacus: innumerable problems in the old liturgy, from Simony, to superstition, from secular music to loud noises and laity around during mass, vagus priests etc etc etc

    Those have nothing to do with the Rite of Mass considered in itself.

  36. Fr. John Pecoraro says:

    Two things in the Mr. Allen’s piece I would like to comment about: First he mentioned a doubt that many priests would find the time to learn the TLM, I would like to point out the blog entry over at The New Liturgical Movement” concerning efforts to train priests in the TLM, the program being held by FSSP is already fully booked and was so fairly quickly (myself among them). There clearly seems to be a demand, given 15 slots are open per week in the period of one month over 40 priests will be trained. That is about the number of active priests in my doicese! In my estimation that is not insignificant. Secondly Mr. Allen doesn’t seem to think there is a demand for the TLM. I recall seeing a chart somewhere charting the growth rate of people who attend the TLM if I recall correctly it indicated a growth rate of 10% to 20% per year. Correct me if I am wrong but is seems to me that this growth is something that cannot be ignored.

  37. Fr. Pecoraro: Yes, I believe there is an increase in the wealthy countries of the N. hemisphere. I wonder if the same can be said for the rest of the world. I recall that Card. Castrillon, speaking to CELAM, said that the Diocese of Campos was producing priests who could say the older form of Mass in other places. That sounds like growth, or at least replacement. Mr. Allen is very focused on the shifting demographics of the Church: the southern hemisphere is by far outstripping the growth of the Church in the north. At the same time the Church is experiencing a decline in the numbers of actual practitioners of the Catholic faith in many Latin American countries and in Africa Islam is on the rise. I suspect Mr. Allen is thinking that the “Tridentine” interest is purely a northern phenomenon, isolated in countries that are closely aligned with European roots and culture (and perhaps Australia). If that is the case, then it must be, for Mr. Allen, an inevitably shrinking concern.

    At the same time, I recognize that my comments here stray from the text of his article. I have gathered much of this in conversation with him and reading his other pieces.

  38. So now we know it’s definitely not May and the Hildebrand prediction has not come to pass.

  39. There are still another three hours left of working time in May.

  40. Nathan says:

    +JMJ
    Jon said: “Ahh…that’s right, you’re coming home on Monday. I should’ve figured it out. Okay, folks, that means Motu-day is DEFINITELY next Tuesday!”

    I guess I shouldn’t be reading comboxes in passing. I spent at least fifteen minutes wondering, “How does Father going back to the Sabine Farm relate to the date Motu Proprio?” before realizing it was a humorous comment. So much for thinking on one’s feet.

    In Christ,

  41. Henry Edwards says:

    The current FSSP newsletter says regarding the motu proprio that reliable sources in Rome “tell us it is like the Second Coming of Christ — you know it is coming but you know not the day or the hour.” Of course, we need not wait for the Second Coming to actually happen before belief in it to affect us. Likewise, the work of a putative motu proprio is proceeding apace simply because of belief that it will happen. (Is this the genius of Benedict, or what?)

    Why else than because of all this constructive discussion and speculation about it has the past year seen such positive change in the atmosphere for acceptability of the TLM? Many people are now attending the TLM regularly for whom this not long ago was only a distant hope. Just a year or two ago, who could have anticipated that by now a liberation of the TLM would seem an inevitability? With only speculation about timing and details left.

    Of course, the speculation is great fun. But I wonder whether the event itself may seem almost anticlimactic, with the greater benefits of the motu proprio having actually preceded its promulgation. And may not those benefits be the greater the longer it takes? After all, the process itself may affect hearts and minds more then the eventual words on written on paper.

  42. Fr. John Pecoraro says:

    Fr. Z

    I admit that my perspective is somewhat narrow regarding my knowledge of the conditions that exist in the Southern Hemisphere, and while I can imagine that most Catholics there would have little concern for liturgical matters, but within the movement to reform the liturgy there might be a partial prescription for the problem of the exodus of many of the faithful. Why do Catholics leave the faith in the Southern Hemisphere (apart from forced conversions)? My thought while being a gross over simplification is that many leave because of a certain attraction to the simplistic moral directness of Islam, and while many may disagree with me one must admit, Islam’s moral code is unwavering and direct. This kind of unambiguous moral teaching is something that is lacking in the Western world and by extension modern trends within moral theology which is a product of the West. The second point of departure for many Catholics is that the faith does not offer the mystery or the mystical like it used to thus many will seek it elsewhere. Since we pray as we believe,and believe as we pray a liturgical reform might actually be a part of the solution to the problem. (Oh well at least its an attempt)

  43. kms says:

    Going fishing, huh?

  44. I am not Spartacus says:

    Those have nothing to do with the Rite of Mass considered in itself.

    Fr. Z. I agree. I was just referencing that as a reminder to others that any M.P. or Reform of the Reform will not mean abuses will be extinguished.

    Anyone who has read the short but informative, “Through Their Own Eyes, Liturgy as the Byzantines saw it,” by the great Robert Taft, S.J. will realise that even ancient Liturgies were abused by disinterested Prelates and Priests.

  45. Jeff says:

    Henry Edwards:

    What you said…

  46. Janet says:

    Henry,
    I agree that delaying the actual release while at the same time letting it be known that it is inevitable, is accomplishing much the same thing as releasing it. The dissenting bishops have time to start loosening their chokehold on the latin mass on their own, thus saving face. I’d say the Holy Father is quite a good strategist.

    Today one of our priests who is leaving for another assignment in a few weeks said daily mass. He not only included more latin such as the agnus dei, but he even chanted that part, with us singing along! Then he also did “Behold the lamb of God…” in latin, and nearly started the response in latin until he realized we might not know it, and changed over to the english.

    This priest used to be one of the EWTN friars, so he’s well-versed in latin. And I just bet he’s been training up to celebrate the TLM once the Motu Proprio is finally released. Things are looking up already, I’d say, just by the mere threat of the Motu Proprio.

  47. caleb1x says:

    There’s an irony in John Allen’s outline of the three exploitative voices waiting to capitalize on the motu proprio. After all, his publication often appropriates the Vatican’s acts and promulgations in order to push a partisan agenda, as it did when it published a gloating, inaccurate editorial upon the Theological Commission’s recent document on limbo. Was this not the kind of over-reaching exploitation that John Allen glibly analyzes in the NYT, and is it not a frequent practice of the NCR? Given the NCR’s editorial disposition, there’s little doubt it will want to decry the motu proprio or diminish its significance. I don’t deny that John Allen is a level-headed commentator who has defended the Church and the pope on NPR and other media. Perhaps he might heed his article on spin and attend to balancing the NCR’s overall editorial slant.

  48. RBrown says:

    Fr. Z. I agree. I was just referencing that as a reminder to others that any M.P. or Reform of the Reform will not mean abuses will be extinguished.

    Are you saying that if mass is said in Latin, there will be liturgical abuses?

    I don’t think so.

    And we know that a lot of the abuses are a function of versus populum.

    Anyone who has read the short but informative, “Through Their Own Eyes, Liturgy as the Byzantines saw it,” by the great Robert Taft, S.J. will realise that even ancient Liturgies were abused by disinterested Prelates and Priests.

    He is no friend of Latin liturgy.

  49. RBrown says:

    My experience with American seminarians in Rome was that those who study Latin seriously also want to say Latin mass–at least, part of the time.

  50. Paul Cavendish says:

    ‘I am not Spartacus’ – Do you have a reference for the Taft article, it sounds very interesting (like everything he writes)?

  51. Sean says:

    RBrown: And we know that a lot of the abuses are a function of versus populum.

    I just winced at the thought of a ‘long orate fratres’.

    “Now, while I’m here…”

  52. Sean says:

    Or the ‘highly emoted dominus vobiscuuuuuum’

  53. Does the Holy Father have a strategy?As several have said announcing that there is a motu proprio and its inevitability (Cardinal Kaspar’s remark that there is nothing can be done about it)are giving many otherwise reluctant bishops time to change and jump on the bandwagon.Thus they have ownership of the motu proprio and it does not make them look bad.Howvever there is another opinion and that is there is no strategy and Benedict is simply slow and indecisive.Consider not only the motu proprio but also the letter to the Chinese which was to be issued January 1 and then at Easter.Then the Vatican announces that it will be released on Pentecost.Where is it? A source in Rome told me that there is concern over the delays-the motu proprio,the letter to the Chinese,the unfilled American sees,the delay in naming new cardinals,the reform of the curia.It makes you wonder if Benedict is in need of a strategy.I would rather he left his non magisterium opus on Jesus Christ unfinished until he had completed these necessary tasks.

  54. Rose says:

    Sources in Rome have disclosed that the delay is all Fr. Foster’s fault. Apparently Fr. Reginald Foster has refused to translate the Motu Propio (written by the Holy Father in German) into Latin. The famous Latinist gave an interview last year in which he said that Latin is a dead language and bringing it back would make the Vatican look medieval. Sources say that the Pope is patiently waiting for Fr. Foster to change his mind, perhaps because there is no one else in the Vatican who knows enough Latin to handle the job. Things are very tense in the hallway where the two have offices a few doors from each other. No one is prepared to speculate on how the stand off will be resolved. Cardinal Bertone is said to favour holding a press conference at which he will show the world proof that the Motu Propio exists: he will bring the original manuscript for Jesus of Nazareth, and point out the margins where the Pope has written the text of the Motu Propio when he was taking a break from writing his non-magisterial opus. Cardinal Kasper on the other hand has opined, according to my sources, that writing the Motu Propio in German was a mistake; if the Pope had only used his dictionary and written the whole thing in Latin himself, this fuss over Fr. Foster’s intransigence would have been avoided. The entire papal household is in an uproar over this slight to the Pope’s authority but the Pope himself is serene. He is reported to have said, we have waited for 40 years, what is another 40 months? Let them learn Latin first!

  55. A.B. says:

    Rose,
    Where in the world did you find all these “sources”?

  56. Rose: Hah hah

    I heard that Car. Bertone and Fr. Foster will Indian leg wrestle and the winner gets to challenge the Holy Father for the right to set policy on the MP.

    Everyone knows that Indian leg wrestling, and Rock-Paper-Scissors, are the preferred methods for establishing positions in the Secretariat of State.

    Anyway the Bertone/Foster match should take place live on a special airing of “Porta a Porta” on RAIUNO the day after I leave Rome.

  57. JPG says:

    Fr. Z,
    Do any bishops read your blog?
    JPG

  58. JPG: I don’t know. I would be honored if any bishops did visit.

  59. RBrown says:

    Rose,

    1. I have been to Foster’s office, and door which leads upstairs to the papal offices has been sealed off. It’s doubtful that he ever sees the Sec of State in the elevator, he really has no

    2. Despite his classroom harangues about those in the Vatican, my experience is that Fr Reginald Foster has always been always very polite and respectful to those in authority. As a matter of fact, we were standing 50 meters or so inside St Ann’s gate (by the post office), and I told him that he knows where the lines are drawn. He only reaction was to blush (the first and only time for that).

    3. Foster is not the only Latinist in the world–nor the Vatican. I have a very funny story (first hand) about him and Veritatis Splendor, which I someday I might relate here.

  60. Jordan Potter says:

    RBrown, I’m pretty sure Rose’s comment was just a parody.

  61. RBrown says:

    It was obvious the last part of it was, but I wasn’t sure about the first part.

    Anyway, in so far as there have been comments here in the past portraying Foster as an ogre, I took the opportunity–a weak one, but an opportunity nonetheless–to clarify some matters.

    A teacher needs only a weak excuse to launch into a lecture.

  62. Geri says:

    “I think liturgy is a bigger deal than perhaps Mr. Allen is making it.”

    Well of course…. and yet he may be right nonetheless.
    There will always be those who think water cooler chatter (or vestibule chatter?) is a sign of what IS important to people rather then merely of what they THINK is important to them.
    There will always be big noises, and people who want to write about big noises, and most people will think big noises are big deals.

    Et ait ei egredere et sta in monte coram Domino et ecce Dominus transit et spiritus grandis et fortis subvertens montes et conterens petras ante Dominum non in spiritu Dominus et post spiritum commotio non in commotione Dominus Et post commotionem ignis non in igne Dominus et post ignem sibilus aurae tenuis.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  63. Geri says:

    Incidentally, I would offer that the NYTimes is no more Hell’s Bible than my Toyota or somebody’s Maserati(sp?) is Hell’s Automobile just because it is driven by someone who sometimes does the bidding of the Prince of Lies.
    We human beings, with two exceptions, ALL function as the Devil’s useful idiots from time to time.