11 July 2007

Motu Proprio, "Summorum Pontificum"

Well, the Motu Proprio authorizing the widespread use of the Tridentine Mass has been announced, and will become effective on September 14th. Unfortunately, the Motu Proprio is not limited to the Mass and allows for dual rites of Baptism and Confirmation as well, not to mention the older Roman Breviary which was extensively reformed over a seven year period ending @1971. The simple fact is there are serious theological reasons to view the Motu Proprio with concern. This is not merely a matter of language or the trappings of a liturgy which fosters a greater reverence, more sense of mystery or the like. It is a matter of serious theological differences, not only in the "limited" area of liturgy, but in ecclesiology, Christology, etc between the Tridentine and the current Ordo Missae.

The people enthused over the Motu Proprio seem to believe it is the beginning of a wholesale turning back of the clock in liturgy and theology to a pre-Vatican II period. That is certainly naive, but it may WELL occasion an outright schism in the Church over the next decade or so. These enthusiasts also characterize those of us who are concerned and cautious about the ramifications of the implementation of the Motu Proprio as "Haters of the ancient and eternal Mass" or "haters of Latin." They suggest we are afraid of the Tridentine Mass, or of a liturgy of beauty and reverence. Give me a break!!!

What seems clear to me at the same times these folks bemoan the poor level of catechesis in the post Vatican II Church they have not understood the significant theological reforms and underpinnings of the current Ordo Missae. Christ's presence in the Proclaimed and preached Word is underscored in today's normative (ordinary) Mass. So is his presence in the Assembly. These are both downplayed (if recognized at all) in the Tridentine rite. It is not hard to find parodies of the current Ordo Missae in the descriptions traditionalists provide, but it is almost impossible to find accurate descriptions of the Masses most of us Catholics attend day in and day out in most every parish and diocese in the world. These ARE liturgies of aesthetic quality, of reverence, power, and profundity. They are also liturgies where being a mere spectator to the priest's special and individual communication with God is not acceptable, where clericalism at the expense of the mission and dignity of the laity and their vocation in the world is unacceptable, where God's immanence is as important as his transcendence, and where the incarnation is not a cause for scandal as it seems to be for many traditionalists who want a Mass which is not sullied by the requirements of meeting and greeting one's neighbor or embodying Christ for one another right there in the assembly.

I sincerely hope Pope Benedict XVI is correct that this Motu Proprio will not be an occasion for division, much less of outright schism, but with a Church using different Offices (Breviary vs Liturgy of the Hours), different rites of baptism and confirmation, different Masses with different liturgical calendars and lectionaries as well as different underlying theologies of Eucharist, Church, lay vocation, views of ordained priesthood, and the presence of Christ in the Mass, I can't help but be concerned that Benedict has been naive in his analysis of the negative potential of this Motu Proprio which rejects (from what I have heard), both the wisdom, wishes, and concerns of the majority of Bishops of the Church in the world, and the not-so hidden agenda of many Tridentine enthusiasts to turn back the clock to pre-Vatican II liturgical theology. That is especially true as I read various bulletin boards where traditionalists have adopted a posture of gloating while discounting the real concerns the majority of Bishops (much less the rest of us!) have expressed.

Time will certainly tell. For those of us who truly believe in the urgency of Christ's prayer, "That they may all be One" (which surely includes Benedict XVI!) ---- the next few years may be some of the saddest and most tragic we will ever see. I hope not, and I pray both that Benedict XVI is correct in his analysis of the solution to the disunity that exists in the church today, and that Vatican II's wisdom and the movement of the Spirit in that regard will continue to be manifest as the real CONTEXT for the Motu Proprio, but I am not sanguine.