Diocese of Baton Rouge on Summorum Pontificum

In the newspaper of the Diocese of Baton Rouge we find the statement of His Excellency, Most Rev. Robert Meunch on Summorum Pontificum.  There is also a commentary by a priest, I suppose of that diocese.

Statement of Bishop Robert Muench on Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum.

I acknowledge the recent motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum of Pope Benedict XVI.

This document corresponds with efforts of the Diocese of Baton Rouge to provide those with special liturgical interests an experience of Catholic worship which they find particularly nourishing.   For some years now the preconciliar Latin ritual has been celebrated at St. Agnes Church in Baton Rouge, established there in light of its central location in the diocese and the suitability of that church design to that form of worship. I thank Monsignor Robert Berggreen, St. Agnes Pastor, for his conscientious and dedicated commitment to the parish, the diocese and the universal Church in providing this form of Mass.

In what follows, the article by the priest, you will find my emphases and comments. 

“Are we reverting back to the old Latin Mass?  If so, why?”
 by Fr. John Carville, “Another Perspective”, The Catholic Commentator

God bless the Catholic Church. We can’t stay out of the headlines. At least it isn’t sex scandals this time,  [I am instantly ready to dislike this writer from this ridiculously tendentious opening.] but what the Pope hopes will be a step toward reconciliation with a minority [What happened to respect for minorities?] of Catholics who do not want to let go [Note the choice of words.] of the old Latin Mass that was celebrated before the Second Vatican Council. The updated liturgy by which we now worship, using our own language, was promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970 according to norms written by the bishops of Vatican II. [Not really.  What Vatican II mandated is not what we got.]  Positive though the intention is [poor well-meaning old lovable codger] of Pope Benedict’s recent expanded permission to celebrate the Latin Mass of the Council of Trent in its last edition promulgated by Pope John XXIII in 1962, it has caused some confusion and left unanswered questions.

Pope Benedict’s document, “Summorum Pontificum”, actually just expands a permission given by Pope John Paul II in 1988 to bishops, allowing them to have the old liturgy in their dioceses under limited circumstances. Now a pastor can make that decision in his own parish if there is an ongoing community of people who request to worship in Latin according to the old rite. Any priest can now use the old Latin rite for private Masses (those not in the normal parish schedule) and laity can attend, if they choose. But the priest, of course, has to know Latin and be trained in that rite, and the church has to be suited to that liturgy, which is not the case in many of our present churches.  [If the church has an altar, it is suited.  If the priest can pronounced the texts and stick to the rubics, he is suited.] Only a few, for instance, still have altar rails. These were removed in renovated churches and not included in new ones to honor a major emphasis of Vatican II, namely, the unity of priest and congregation as the “people of God” in worship.  [pfpfppt]

This permission does not begin until September 14, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. There will be problems in implementing it, [There don’t have to be.]  although Pope Benedict does not think they will be great, according to a letter he wrote to his bishops on July 7. He acknowledges their reservations about this move, but says that their two main fears are unfounded.  The first fear is that his permission will call into question one of the essential decisions of Vatican II, liturgical reform. The Pope assures the bishops that the vernacular Mass of the Council will remain the “normal form… of the Eucharistic Liturgy.” The old Latin Mass of 1962 will be simply an “extraordinary form.” The second fear, also unfounded, the Pope thinks, is that the wider use of the 1962 Missal will lead to “disarray or even divisions within parish communities.” Pope Benedict says that this will not happen because, “The use of the old Missal presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language; neither of these is found very often.”  [And I think everyone will agree that that is not a good thing.  There is nothing to proud of in ignorance of what we ought to know.]

The Pope may be underestimating the strength of novelty [I haven’t seen this approach before.  Let’s see where it goes.]  in our modern culture. I see it every day among university students. Our priests, especially those pastoring two or three parishes, are probably cringing [That would make them cringers.] at the thought of having to brush up on their Latin, if they still remember any, to say extra Masses for a handful of people. [What if the church is full?]  And only a few churches in our diocese remain suited to the old Latin Mass. However, we are prepared to meet the substance of Pope Benedict’s changes since long ago Bishop Ott and all of his successors have already given permission for the old Latin Mass to be celebrated at St. Agnes Church. The Pope mentions naming one parish a “personal parish”  [Though the Latin of the MP has the singular for "parish" in the relevant article, in no way is a bishop limited to erecting only one parish for this.  He could establish as many as it pleases him to establish.] as a suitable response to his instructions. Those seeking a Latin Mass can find it at the designated parish.  [Or at one’s own parish if a group of people request it.  After all, the MP says that pastors are to grant their petitions.]

There is a mystique [This follows the comment on novelty.  The writer is trying to establish that only a few people will be interested, it is far removed from our daily experience, it isn’t something important for daily life.]  in the ancient Latin, the Gregorian chant, the smells and the bells  [a cliche, and not an accurate one.  Smells and bells are actually properly used in the Novus Ordo.  Always have been.] of the old rite. However, as with most things foreign, most of us rather quickly begin to yearn for that which feels more natural, more easily understood. [See what I mean?]  Most of the Hispanic people, for whom I offer a Spanish Mass on Sundays at LSU, actually speak English. But they pray in Spanish.  [Ah… I see.  Those Spanish speaking folks deserve more pastoral attention than those other people, the people who want the novelty.]

A fundamental liturgical principle is involved here that was beautifully expressed by of Vatican II, a bishop familiar with a rite far older than our Latin, Tridentine one dating from the 16th Century. [It’s older than that, Father.] This most convincing argument came from an Eastern rite patriarch, Maximus IV Saigh of Antioch. He said that from the perspective of the Eastern rite it was strange that the presider in the liturgy would use a language that differed from that of his congregation, who in turn had to pray in a language they did not understand. “A living Church has no use for a dead language.” Since it is the instrument of the Holy Spirit, language should be living.  [This is nonsensical.  The Eastern Catholics retain a sacred language for their prayer on a far greater scale than we Latins have.  Also, we better not offend the sensibilities of Jews (yes, I know they are not a Church) who pray in Hebrew.  There is value in a sacred language.]

The vernacular Mass we now use has to remain the ordinary and normative rite for our liturgy [Speaking of norms, I remember reading in the documents of Vatican II that Latin was to be retained, that pastors were to teach their flocks to sing and speak all the parts pertaining to them also in Latin.  I read in the 1983 Code of Canon Law that Mass is to be celebrated in Latin.  I also read that seminarians are to be well trained in Latin.  These are norms.  The normative Mass in the ordinary use of the Roman Rite is in LATIN.]. Strangely missing from the documents we have received so far from Rome on these liturgical changes is any reference to the two-fold focus of Vatican II’s Constitution on the Liturgy. The active participation [Not again….. how tiring.] of the laity offering themselves to God with Christ in the Eucharist was the first important goal of the document.  [Hmmm… I wonder.] The old Latin liturgy had long relegated the laity to the role of passive observers.  [This must be the paragraph for clichés] The return to the vernacular was a way of reestablishing contact with the common people by enabling them to pray the Eucharist in an understandable way.  ["the common people".  What on earth did they do before Mass in the vernacular?] Likewise it made it possible for them to take active roles [yet again…] as lectors and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, song leaders and musicians. The Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Montini, who would guide the council to its conclusion as Paul VI, noted that the basic center of approval for the document came from the fact that [What on earth does that mean….?]  in it the liturgy was for the people and not the other way around.

The second goal of the Council was renewed emphasis on Sacred Scripture in the Liturgy of the Word. There was much praise from the Vatican II Fathers for the biblical character of the text [?]  and joy that it would contribute greatly to the promotion of active participation in the liturgy.  [This makes no sense.  First, not only is his understanding of "active participation flawed, but I fail to see how expanding the use of Scripture leads to even his sort of active parcipation.  Sure, having more variety is helpful in some ways.  However, in the older days, the more restricted use of Scripture at least helped people to know those readings well and integrate what they said into their lives.  The greatly expanded lectionary is not without its drawbacks.  First, most of the Old Testament readings are beyond many priests ability to work with well and preach on effectively.  Second, the addition of a reading on Sunday lends to the impression that Mass is a "didactic moment".]  In the Vatican II calendar of the Mass, virtually the entire Bible is presented over a three year cycle. [Noooo.   According to the USCCB’s Liturgy Secretariat newletter on the Motu Proprio, 14% of the Old Testament and 71% of the New Testament is used in the Novus Ordo.  That is not "virtually the entire Bible".] This has been so successful for the promotion of Scripture that most mainline Protestant churches have adopted the same cycle of readings. In comparison, the readings of the old Latin Missal are greatly restricted. Where feasts coincide in the two missals, the Pope’s “motu proprio” seems to allow substitution, but if the old missal is used throughout the year, the scriptural renewal of the liturgy will be lost.  [Not necessarily.  First, a priest can preach what he wants.  Second, Holy Church offers indulgences to people for reading Scripture.  Perhaps that could be mentioned occasionally?]

We must remember that it is Catholic faith that the teachings of Ecumenical Councils [And there were 20 Councils before Vatican II.] in union with the pope are guided by the Holy Spirit. They are the result of debate, but in this case the voice of the Spirit seems to have been heard rather clearly. The vote approving the Constitution on the Liturgy was 2,162 for and 46 against. Seven votes were invalid. The Holy Spirit had lined up his votes rather well. We forget so soon, and in the name of tradition.  [I think this is a less than helfpul view of the role of the Holy Spirit in the deliberations of and voting by bishops at a Council,or a Conclave or in any other dimension of the Church’s life, including at the beginning the writings of Scriptures and the formation of the Canon.  The writer sounds, from what he said here, almost as if he might hold to direct dictation of Scriptures or even automatic writing of votes.  If this is, in fact, the case, I wonder if Benedict XVI wasn’t guided by the Holy Spirit in these provisions?]

The article is filled with the usual stuff.  I am, however, intrigued by the idea that "novelty" might result in great interest in the older form of Mass than some people think.   

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