His Excellency Most Reverend John J. Myers, Archbishop of Newark has made a statement in The Catholic Advocate about the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum as well as the recent CDF document.
My emphases and comments.
Seizing and Celebrating Teachable Moments in Life
by Archbishop John J. Myers
In the past month, a lot has been written and said about the two most recent announcements from the Vatican: the Holy Father’s letter permitting wider use of the Latin Mass, and the document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the Church.
My office has received letters and phone calls about both items, and I have to say that, as often happens, the secular media has made far too much of the announcements. As a result, they have riled up Catholics and non-Catholics unnecessarily.
In fact, if I were to believe some of the letters and calls I have received, I’d say it might be time for all of us to start preparing for another round of religious warfare among Christians that would make the time of the Reformation look tame. Fortunately, this isn’t the case. Let’s look at the two announcements and what they really mean.
The Latin Mass [oopps]
First, the wider use of Latin Mass (see The Catholic Advocate, July 18). What did the Holy Father really say? Why did he say it?
Simply put, Pope Benedict XVI said that any priest who wishes to celebrate Mass privately using the pre-Vatican II liturgy in Latin, which we now call an "extraordinary form" of the liturgy, can do so without receiving permission from his local bishop. Up to now, any priest who wished to celebrate the traditional Mass in Latin publicly needed that permission.
Nowhere in his letter did the Holy Father say that Latin Mass would replace Mass in the vernacular or local language. In fact, the pope very strongly emphasized that Latin could not replace the local language. [Huh?] The priest celebrant must know Latin and know the rubrics of the extraordinary form. The pope said it could be offered only on Sunday or Solemnities. [Is that what the Pope said? I know he indicated that there could be one celebration on those days. I don’t think that excluded daily Mass. Am I wrong?]
Most emphatically, he said that for Latin Mass to be offered publicly, the parish had to ensure that it could gather a stable community [The Latin said coetus, which is not quite the same as a "community".] of worshippers willing to participate in the liturgy under the older form, which, by the way, remained as a valid form of liturgy even after the changes in the Mass took place back in 1965. The decision about public Mass pertains to the pastor. He also said emphatically that this permission does not in any way soften, lessen or diminish the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.
There had been strong speculations regarding the pope’s reason behind this permission. He acknowledged that it is his desire to bring back into the Church some people who have felt uncomfortable with the reforms, but who truly wanted to remain Catholic. One group in particular, based in France, has been in schism with the Church almost since the time of the Second Vatican Council.
The hope is that, through an offer of reconciliation that includes permission to celebrate Mass in the extraordinary form, this group could eventually return to union with the Church. Time will tell, because this group still has issues with some of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council-reforms that will not be rescinded.
For the most part, however, the wider permission is seen really as an opportunity for people who feel that they can find a greater spirituality in the extraordinary form of the liturgy. In this respect, providing the wider permission can in some ways be likened to Rome accepting the charisms, the special gifts of the Holy Spirit, of a particular religious community or movement. [This is really good.]
The Franciscans, the Benedictines, the Dominicans, the Carmelites and their communities all express their senses of spirituality in slightly different ways. Yet they are all Catholic and in communion with the universal Church. In fact, one little bit of history worth noting is that, before the Second Vatican Council, when the entire Latin Rite Catholic world celebrated Mass in Latin, these different religious communities often celebrated slightly different forms of the Latin Mass. Those differences reflected certain elements of their spirituality and made the Mass unique to them. But it was still the same Mass.
The universal Church today has many forms of liturgy that its priests celebrate. Each of the Eastern rite churches that is in union with Rome celebrates its own form of liturgy, exercises its own traditions and uses a language different from Latin. Former Episcopalian or Anglican parishes that have rejoined the Church in recent years under the Pastoral Provision worship using an approved Anglican form of liturgy. [This is a very good point, and rarely made in the many statements we have read here.] And every week, the people of this great archdiocese celebrate the liturgy in some 20 different languages, including Latin. Some may view this as a cacophony; I view it as a joyful sound. [Sure. I accept that. But isn’t it rather sad that there can’t be one Mass they are all attending together?]
Truth is, the vast majority of Catholics enjoy the celebration of Mass in the local language and that’s as it should be. [I don’t want to pick, and I am sure His Excellency isn’t intending to mean this, but I think "enjoy" might not be the right word, in the sense that Mass is not about our enjoyment. We have to read "enjoy" here more along the lines of "benefit from".] In our own experience with Latin Mass, some groups have become smaller after a time. For some, the novelty of the extraordinary liturgy may wear off or they begin to understand and appreciate the reasons behind the liturgy we use today. [Ehem…. and he was doing so well…] For those who do remain with Latin Mass, it is an expression of their particular devotion.
[At this point His Excellency discusses the CDF document to the end of his article.]
What I gather from this is more tolerance, than warmth. "Okay, there are a lot of ways people do things. This is just one more way." I believe that doesn’t go far enough in weighing the significance of this move by Pope Benedict nor the real issue of what the older Mass is useful for in Benedict’s vision.
This has a gem in it, however: "In this respect, providing the wider permission can in some ways be likened to Rome accepting the charisms, the special gifts of the Holy Spirit, of a particular religious community or movement." I am not entirely on board with the idea that this is an "acceptance", since the older form of Mass has been around for a heck of a lot longer than the newer form and and really has nothing to prove. The newer form still has a lot to prove, I think. Still, this places the discussion in another light, a spiritual light, which is insightful and respectful. Well done, on that point.