My friend John L Allen, always insightful, the nearly ubiquitous, fair-minding, former Rome correspondent for the ultra-left leaning, often dissident, National Catholic Reporter has something to say about the interview with Pope Benedict on the way to France.
On the airplane, the Pope spoke with reporters and answered a question about Summorum Pontificum. He spoke with the bishops later.
My emphases and comments.
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.Published: September 14, 2008
Catholicism is legendarily keen on tradition, which means there’s a traditionalist wing of the church pretty much everywhere. Nowhere else, however, are traditionalists so visible, and, at times, so fractious, as in France, [NB: France. This flavors everything the Holy Father said. And remember that as Prefect of CDF, and a close supporter of Ecclesia Dei, he dealt a great deal with the French on these and other matters. He knows who he was speaking to and about.] making it all but inevitable that Pope Benedict XVI would address their signature issue while here – the old Latin Mass.
Benedict XVI’s 2007 ruling permitting wider celebration of the old Mass, in a document titled Summorum Pontificium, was widely interpreted here as a victory for the traditionalist camp. It unleashed negative reactions among moderate-to-liberal Catholics, and complaints reached Rome that a handful of bishops were resisting implementation of the decree. [I think it was more than a "handful", but I agree they were the minority.]
Speaking today to the full body of French bishops in Lourdes, the pope offered more extended comments on Summorum Pontificium.
Some bishops have objected to the pope’s ruling not only on theological or ideological grounds, but also in terms of its impact on their authority. [This is the real problem for some bishops: Summorum Pontificum was unique in that it gave rights to priests. Some bishops don’t like that idea.] By allowing priests to choose when and where to celebrate the old Mass, some bishops argue, they have lost power to govern the liturgical life of their dioceses.
Most French observers heard in those words a clear expectation from the pope that the bishops will not erect new obstacles to celebration of the old Mass.
“Everyone has a place in the church,” Benedict said. “Every person, without exception, should be able to feel at home, and never rejected … Let us therefore strive always to be servants of unity!” [Ainsi-soit-il!]
Many traditionalists, for example, are wary of both ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue as they’ve developed after Vatican II, fearing that they lead to compromise or confusion about the differences between Catholicism and other creeds. They also tend to be critical of Vatican II’s teaching on religious liberty, worrying that it promotes relativism by treating all religions as equal, and on human dignity, suggesting that it can exalt the human person at the expense of God.
“Under the cover of a campaign to defend a certain type of liturgy, there is a radical critique of the Vatican Council, even outright rejection of some of its declarations,” said then-Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois in 2006. Vingt-Trois is today the cardinal of Paris and the pope’s official host in France.
Both kinds of traditionalism have deep roots in France.
Pope Benedict XVI celebrates Mass to mark the 150th anniversary of Mary’s appearances to St. Bernadette Soubirous. (CNS ph oto/Jean-Philippe Arles, Reuters)Pope Benedict XVI celebrates Mass to mark the 150th anniversary of Mary’s appearances to St. Bernadette Soubirous. (CNS ph oto/Jean-Philippe Arles, Reuters) As he has during other recent trips, Benedict has offered a nod to traditionalist sensibilities while in France. Although he is celebrating the new, post-Vatican II Mass, Benedict is administering communion to people who kneel and receive on the tongue, rather than standing and taking the consecrated host in their hand. Some traditionalists believe that communion in the hand fosters a lack of respect for the Eucharist. [And they would be right…. but it is not only "traditionalists" who think this.]
Critics sometimes charge that both John Paul II and Benedict XVI have bent over backwards to accommodate traditionalists, without making similar efforts to reach out to other alienated groups in the church which are often substantially larger. [HUH? I shudder to think about who they are… and I have a few suspicions.] Even in France, observers say that traditionalism, despite its high profile, remains a small minority.
Yet in a country where less than ten percent of all Catholics attend Mass, [I have heard 2%] and where only one in two baptized Catholics still identifies with the church, it doesn’t take huge numbers to make a stir.
In Europe, however, observers of the Catholic scene distinguish between two forms of traditionalism: the “Mediterranean” model, associated above all with Italy, where the guiding idea is the authority of Il papa re, the “pope-king”; and the “Gallic” model, rooted in France, which sees the pope as the guardian of a body of traditions which he cannot compromise without endangering the faith itself. As a result, the authority of the pope and the bishops is less central than the content of tradition itself.
There is more to the article, but this is a snip.