The Jesuit ultra-leftist weekly America Magazine has two items right now on Pope Benedict’s provisions in Summorum Pontificum.
Here are a couple pieces, the first dreadful, and the second… well… I’ll let you discover that for yourself.
From their latest number with my emphases and comments.
When Pope Benedict allowed wider use of the Latin Mass [Take note of their careful use of terms.] last July, he explained that he did not expect as a result any extensive return to the Tridentine rite. [Is that what the Pope said?] Rather, he said, he intended to heal rifts with traditionalist groups and allow [I think that is the wrong word. "Allow" makes this all sound as if there is still an "indult". There isn’t. People have rights now.] young people attracted to the rite to experience it. [And not just once in a while, as an "experience".] He said he did not mean to lessen the authority of the world’s bishops, [Yah… but he did. Right? Pay close attention to what the writer does: with great stealth he plants the suggestion that Benedict intended XYZ but in fact he was deluded or he failed. Watch.] who until then held sway over local use of the rite. Nor did he mean to offend Jews worried about offensive [A disputed point.] language in the prayers of Holy Week. To assuage fears that the old rite might compete with the new one, the pope proposed to review the situation in three years. [He makes it sound as if Summorum Pontificum could be rolled back. It can’t.] The Catholic response to the permission in the United States has been predictable. [Get a load of the condescension that follows:] On op-ed pages proponents hailed it as progress; Patrick Buchanan publicly declared himself “a Latin Mass Catholic.” News outlets big and small ran stories showing priests facing the altar, not the people, and confirming in quotes and interviews just what the pope had predicted: some young people like participating in Mass using a rite they had never before experienced. Something has changed. But how broad is Catholic interest? A recent New York Times story cited an objective measure: a phone survey [There we go! Just what we need: polling.] of the 25 largest U.S. dioceses, in which diocesan officials said that a traditional Latin Mass has “emerged in just one or two parishes.” That meager interest confirmed information America obtained from an independent reporter we had engaged to track and write the story. There is no story, though things might change and interest build. For now there is little to report. [This is great. The Motu Proprio has been out a couple months and there hasn’t been an explosion of Masses with the old books. WOW.]
Nothing needs to be said about this. Let’s move straight to the next article in the same issue:
Faith in Focus
My Second First Mass
On presiding at a Latin liturgy
BY MICHAEL KERPER
ON SEPT. 23 I walked down the center aisle of our parish church, genuflected and made the sign of the cross while saying, In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Thus began my first Mass according to the Roman Missal of 1962 more than 22 years after my first experience of celebrating the Eucharist.
When Pope Benedict XVI issued his letter of July 7 eliminating most restrictions on the use of the so-called Tridentine Mass, my reaction oscillated between mild irritation (Will this ignite conflict? How will we ever provide such Masses?) and vague interest (Is there perhaps some hidden treasure in the old Mass?).
Within a week, letters [The following word might be what the writer wants you to continue with in your mind as you read…] trickled in. Some demanded a Latin Mass every Sunday, insisting that the pope had “mandated” its regular celebration. Others were more reasonable. [At this point I have real sympathy with the writer! Some trads can be as subtle and kind as a band sanders when expressing their desires.] In August, I met with a dozen parishioners who wanted the Mass. The meeting became steamy as I explained that I had never said the “old” Mass as a priest and had served such Masses as an altar boy for only two years before everything changed. Some thought I was just feigning ignorance to avoid doing it. [So far, we have read what is probably an often repeated occurrence after the Motu Proprio was issued.]
A few days after the meeting, I obtained a 1962 missal, looked through it, and concluded, reluctantly, that I knew more Latin [What? For heaven’s sake. Why would knowledge of Latin be something to be "reluctant" about? "Oh dear. This is not so good. I guess I am better educated than I thought. If only I were dumber. Then I wouldn’t have to willingly receive the group’s petition: If I am not up to the job, they’d have to get another priest.] than I had thought. My original cranky demurral crumbled under the force of my own pastoral self-understanding, which had been largely shaped by the Second Vatican Council. As a promoter of the widest range of pluralism within the church, how could I refuse to deal with an approved liturgical form? As a pastor who has tried to respond to people alienated by the perceived rigid conservatism of the church, how could I walk away from people alienated by priests like myself—progressive, “low church” pastors who have no ear for traditional piety? An examination of conscience revealed an imbalance in my pastoral approach: a gracious openness to the left (like feminists, pro-choice advocates, people cohabiting and secular Catholics) and an instant skepticism toward the right (traditionalists).
[There is a lot going on here. Let me digress a bit.
First, the "liberal" approach sets up a moral equivalence between, for example, "pro-choice advocates" and "traditionalists". There is no consideration of whether or not these are both legitimate for a Catholic to be. While we want always to love the sinner and hate the sin, there is nothing wrong with being a "traditionalist", while there is with being "a pro-choice advocate". To want or advocate for the TLM is not the moral equivalent of wanting or advocating abortion, or the stranger versions feminism, etc. I want to give this guy the benefit of the doubt. His comments raised this issue in my mind, so I digressed. That’s what blogs are for.
Second, and this is very important, almost all progressivist liberals set up a dichotomy between "pastoral" and "intellectual". This is a false distinction, of course. However, in the mind of the liberal, these two concepts are inimical: you can’t be both pastoral and intellectual, or rather, intellectual in the way that leads to conservative or traditional conclusions. No. To be truly "pastoral" you must avoid reference to unchanging principles or objective truth, and so forth. This is partly the reason why the writer of this piece expresses disappointment when he figures out he knows more Latin than he thought he did. The real reason is probably that ignorance of Latin would disqualify him from having to be a servant also to the trads. Nevertheless, and this is the point of this part of the digression, knowledge of Latin is kryptonite to the truly "pastoral" guy, "pastoral" in the sense that sets up moral equivalence between, say, pro-abortion advocacy and traditional liturgy advocacy. The liberal will always fear traditional Catholicism. They will seek to marginalize those who want it. Clerics in power-positions are especially harsh in this regard with other clerics who haven’t the same power, but who are clearly "not pastoral" (in their sense)" because they know Latin, stick to the Catechism of the Catholic Church … or of Trent… etc. "Low Church" is, for them, "pastoral" and those who demonstrate a condescendingly off-hand but jocular contempt for Latin, liturgy, clear doctrine, attention to the intellectual life, etc, will always win preferment. Violation of the rubrics can be "pastoral", but strict adherence to the rubrics is "not pastoral". However… make no mistake… I think this writer’s reluctance comes from his realization that because he knows more Latin than he thought, he can’t dodge being a priest/servant to these people. His model of priesthood is primarily "servant". Take that foward with you as you read on.]
Having decided to offer the Tridentine Mass, I began the arduous project of recovering—and reinforcing—my Latin grammar and vocabulary so that I could celebrate the liturgy in a prayerful, intelligible way. [The implication is that if priests don’t know Latin well, they shouldn’t say the older form of Mass, even if people are requesting it.] As I studied the Latin texts and intricate rituals [Remember my point, above. This is like liberal kryptonite.] I had never noticed as a boy, I discovered that the old rite’s priestly spirituality and theology were exactly the opposite of what I had expected. Whereas I had looked for the “high priest/king of the parish” spirituality, I found instead a spirituality of “unworthy instrument for the sake of the people.” [In other words: self-emptying priest as servant. Read that paragraph again. This is a really interesting observation, the priest’s main point. It deserves discussion elsewhere.]
The old Missal’s rubrical micromanagement made me feel like a mere machine, devoid of personality; but, I wondered, is that really so bad? I actually felt liberated from a persistent need to perform, to engage, to be forever a friendly celebrant. [Well-said.] When I saw a photo of the old Latin Mass in our local newspaper, I suddenly recognized the rite’s ingenious ability to shrink the priest. Shot from the choir loft, I was a mere speck of green, dwarfed by the high altar. The focal point was not the priest but the gathering of the people. And isn’t that a valid image of the church, the people of God? [Hmmm.. continuity. Again, there are some very good insights. The writer’s paradigms were being clarified. Remember, however, that he is letting us know how fair-minded he is. Can you sense there is a "But…" down the line?]
The act of praying the Roman Canon slowly and in low voice accented my own smallness and mere instrumentality [Well expressed!] more than anything else. Plodding through the first 50 or so words of the Canon, I felt intense loneliness. [Like Jesus on the Cross? Mass is Calvary. Sacrifice. The priest is alter Christus.] As I moved along, however, I also heard the absolute silence behind me, 450 people of all ages praying, all bound mysteriously to the words I uttered and to the ritual actions I haltingly and clumsily performed. Following the consecration, I fell into a paradoxical experience of intense solitude as I gazed at the Sacrament and an inexplicable feeling of solidarity with the multitude behind me. [Isn’t this just about a perfect way of putting it? Moreover, given the sacramental mystery the priest is enacting during Mass, is any priest ever anything but "clumsy"?]
Even as I cherish this experience, [!] I must confess that I felt awkward, stiff and not myself. [You get over that, Father. Practice, practice practice! And you weren’t "yourself". You were becoming more transparent so that alter Christus was more visible in His greatest act of service.] Some of the rubrical requirements, like not using one’s thumbs and index fingers after the consecration except to touch the host, paralyzed me. As a style, [Well… you see… that rubric really has a practical reason with a theological foundation. It isn’t really a matter of "style". Again, it seems there might be a little of that old moral equivalence going on here again. Not paying attention to particles of the Host falling who knows where is one style of doing it too.] it doesn’t really fit me (I also can’t imagine wearing lace). [Again, the moral equivalence. Wearing lace is a style-choice. You can argue for or against lace, maybe try to trot up a theological reason to wear lace (good luck… it would need to have something to do with using intricate and beautiful things, etc.). Wearing lace is not on a par with keeping index finger and thumb together after the consecration] But as a priest, I must adapt to many styles [again] and perform many onerous [including seeing to the needs of cohabiting couples by marrying them? Given Communion to pro-abortion advocates? Celebrating the old Mass?] tasks. Why should this be any different? Perhaps we have here a new form of priestly asceticism: pastoral adaptation for the sake of a few. [Or "for the many".]
My reluctant [There it is again.] engagement with the Latin Mass has not undermined my own priestly spirituality, born of Vatican II. Rather, it has complemented and reinforced the council’s teaching that the priest is an instrument of Christ called to serve everyone, regardless of theological or liturgical style [again]. Ultimately it means little whether Mass is in Latin or in the vernacular, whether I see the people praying or hear their silence behind. For sure, I have my preference, but service must always trump that.
I am impressed with some of the comments in this piece. The first bit from the editor is shallow and dreadful, but the second piece is very insightful.
If the priest writer is sincere, then I am impressed.
However, do you get the impression we are seeing the The Struggle? Quite often today, in this post-Christian world, if you "struggle" with something, you can then to decide to do what you want. The choices are reduced to equivalents once you "struggle" with them. Maybe we have to more honestly read what he wrote as an attempt to "struggle" his way out of service to this traditional group. But this time The Struggle didn’t work.
Clearly the priest who wrote this has some brains. He has read around the traditional views of priesthood and Holy Mass. He gets them. But what is the bottom line? Is he trying to reduce the two forms of Mass to a matter of style? So, you can prefer it or not without any real consequences. He does, however, speak of the need for the priest to serve those who want the older form.
This is his main point. The older form of Mass is not really what this guy is talking about, I think. He is really presenting the priest as a servant who must see to the needs of all the diverse groups around him. He stumbles, perhaps, with some of his argument that veers into moral equivalence. Still, I found this very engaging. If you try actually to get at what he is trying to say, it is good.
Finally, his comments about how he felt as a priest after his experience with the older form of Mass are a perfect reflection of what I have been saying about the effect of Summorum Pontificum.
The Motu Proprio is really for priests.
When younger priests who never knew the older form of Mass begin to learn it, it will change their perceptions about what Mass is and who they are as priests. Older priests will have much the same experience when they reacquaint themselves, especially after decades of having had only the newer forms of liturgy.
If this fellow continues to say the old Mass, I would like to talk to him again in six-months or a year.