Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Father Z: What Does the Motu Proprio Really Say?

BY Tim Drake in the National Catholic Register

FATHER JOHN ZUHLSDORF’s blog has been the go-to point for people seeking insight into the Pope’s new document extending permission to say the Old Mass. Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio Summorum Pontificum was released July 7, and its changes take effect Sept. 14.

Father Zuhlsdorf worked as a collaborator for some years with the Vatican department charged with the pastoral care of those devoted to the older form of the Latin Mass, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. He was incardinated in Rome’s Suburbicarian Diocese of Velletri-Segni, and is pursuing a doctorate at the Patristic Institute “Augustinianum.” He spoke with Register senior writer Tim Drake [who works out of his home in St Joseph, MN].

Is there anything surprising in the motu proprio?

Not really. A lot of the things were in place already. For example, it was already possible for a priest to say Mass privately with the old Missal. This was a disputed question. The motu proprio just resolves the issue. In addition, bishops were already able to set up parishes or oratories exclusively for the use of the older Mass.

Also, it had already been made plain by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei that the new lectionary could be used with the older Mass; at the same time, it wasn’t obligatory.

Is there anything new in it?

There are some new things. For example, for a long time people have debated about whether or not the artificially created Novus Ordo constituted such a deep break in the natural, organic development of liturgy that it actually constituted a different rite. People can make good arguments on both sides. With this document, the Pope talks about one rite of Mass in two different expressions or uses. We already have this description of a rite of Mass as a use with the Anglican use, where the Book of Common Prayer was adapted for those Anglicans who came into union with the Church with their priests under the Pastoral Provision.

What do you expect critics will say?

Critics will say that this will create division in parishes or dioceses and that the Second Vatican Council will be undermined.

What the Pope is trying to do is create unity.

All of the theory aside, the main concern of some bishops was that this would limit their own authority. That was worrisome to some bishops — that they wouldn’t be able to control this use. The bishops were right to be concerned about this, but at the same time it was perhaps too easy not to respect the rights and aspirations of laypeople and priests.

To a certain extent this document safeguards the authority of bishops while also stressing in a unique way the rights and aspirations of laypeople and priests.

It demonstrates Pope Benedict’s great confidence in laypeople and priests very much in union with Pope John Paul II’s 1988 motu proprio where he called for respect and generosity for those who are traditionally minded.

So, while this document doesn’t have much that is new, it changes the whole playing field. It bumps the needle toward the priests and laypeople in a way that simply was not present before.

So, what are this document’s aims within the Church?

One of the things this document aims to do is heal hearts that were broken after the conciliar reforms and the divisions that happened within families, parishes, dioceses, and even more formally with the break of unity with the Society of St. Pius X.

This document is really about healing different things — ecclesial unity, people’s hearts and the rupture in the Church’s life that came about after the end of the Council. The novus ordo constituted a break with the way that liturgy had always developed — slowly, patiently, organically over long periods of time. Because the Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life, to make such a huge change had profound ramifications for Catholic identity.

In 2005, during his Christmas address to the Roman Curia, Pope Benedict spoke of a hermeneutic — a lens through which we view a question — of discontinuity and rupture. Many people in places of influence adopted a false hermeneutic. Pope Benedict is calling for a hermeneutic of reform or continuity. He’s calling for a reintegration of our traditions and past, not in an uncritical way, but in a good and holistic way. He is trying to reinvigorate, rediscover and re-propose a Catholic identity.

We’ve had ruptures in every institution of our Church — schools, universities, seminaries, parishes, chanceries, hospitals, Catholic media and publishing. There are wounds and breaks in our Catholic identity that are definitely in need of healing.

When you want to nourish Catholics, you have to nourish them on the Eucharist — both in the Blessed Sacrament and its celebration. This move on Pope Benedict’s part has as its aim to re-propose our Catholic identity.

The secular press will report that the Church is turning back the clock or that the priests are “turning their backs on the people.” What does this document tell the world?

We know that for a long time the Church as a whole, and Catholics as individuals, have been marginalized, pushed to the edges of the public square and denied a voice. There has been a massive effort to try to reduce faith to the private sphere and keep it there, and not let it be expressed publicly in any legitimate way.

The Pope believes that Catholics have a right to their own symbols, language, doctrines, forms of expression and prayer, and that they have a right to express themselves as Catholics in the public square. They have something to contribute and offer that the world needs.

In order for Catholics to contribute to the public square, we need to re-propose to ourselves what it means to be Catholic. Who are we now? Where are we from? Where are we going?

We have to have an identity that we can grasp and we need to know how to express ourselves.

This is profound, and it goes far beyond who gets to say what Mass where. This is one dimension of a much larger project of Pope Benedict’s.

The Pope is very gently pressing forward his proposition that Catholics have a right to be Catholic and express themselves as Catholics.


Anonymous said...

MP/SP related

looking forward to a review of the My Turn Column in the most recent issue of the Catholic Spirit. It does not appear to be on-line, only in the dead tree edition.

The author (a retired priest named Fr. Mitchell) is upset and angered by the Extraordianry. A rather uncharitable and selfish response when as far as I can discern Abp Flynn has yet to offer comments.

Kevin WSP, MN

Unknown said...


I can't find the link to the article, but here it is. I found it yesterday.

8/16/2007 Today's Mass allows everyone to celebrate God's gift to us

My Turn

Father John Mitchell
For The Catholic Spirit

When I first read about the Tridentine Mass coming back, I was at first very sad and then very angry. In my opinion, the Tridentine Mass is a huge step in the wrong direction for our beautiful church.

When I was a young boy I loved going to church with my mother and dad. But, even then, I had questions: Why was the Mass said in Latin, and why did the priest read the epistle and Gospel twice, once in Latin and again in English? Why were the announcements always made in English? Were they more important than the opening prayer, the preface or the canon (eucharistic prayer), which always were in Latin?

During World War II in 1945, I was in the Navy and I belonged to an organization called The Venacular Society. Col. Russ Duggan was the head of this group. We were pushing strongly for the vernacular at Mass, which in those days could be used only in the epistle and Gospel. The canon was too sacred to tamper with.

In the late '40s, Pope Pius XII wrote that beautiful encyclical, "Mediator Dei," which emphasized the phrase, "active participation by the laity." This was quite a revelation to the people of God. Does it mean we would no longer sit in the pews and watch the priest say his Mass but would have an active role to play in the Mass? Is this our Mass and not just the priest's?

Letting in fresh air

In the early '60s, Pope John XXIII opened that famous window to let some fresh air into the church. This was indeed badly needed in many areas. Vatican II began introducing much needed changes in the church, especially in the Mass and other sacraments. If I can use the word respectfully, the clutter was removed from the Mass so we could get back to the pure beauty of the Mass itself. Here are a few examples of what I mean:

. The last Gospel at the end of Mass (the beginning of St. John's Gospel). This was originally a private thanksgiving prayer by the priest. Somehow it became a part of the Mass and stayed that way 500 years.

The Confiteor before Communion.

The Confiteor at the beginning of Mass was to prepare the congregation for the great event that would follow. But the Confiteor, again, before Communion? Was this for the people who somehow were sinning during Mass?

. The endless signs of the cross over the gifts of bread and wine. Five signs of the cross, which, because of our human nature being what it is, became five circles.

All are part of today's Mass

The Mass today consists of singing which we learned from our friends, the Protestants. There are three reading from Sacred Scripture at Sunday Mass followed by a homily explaining how we can apply the Scripture passages to our daily lives. Then we respond to all this by praying the eucharistic prayer at the end of which we say: "Through Him (Jesus), with Him, in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father. Amen." Thus we give honor and glory to God, our Father, through Jesus Christ. Then we all share a meal together, which is nothing less than the real, living, Body and Blood of Jesus. That is the Mass. All the people of God together giving honor and glory to God, our Father. The priest, as the presider, leads all in the celebration of the Mass.

In the early days of Christianity, the priest consecrated a few extra hosts to be reserved, so Communion could be brought to those who were ill and not able to get to Mass. Those sacred hosts were kept in a container attached to a side wall in the sanctuary.

Who is worthy to receive?

Centuries later, the heresy of Jansenism stated: "If this is the real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, which it truly is, who am I to think that I am worthy to receive Communion except maybe once or twice a year."

So the people began to look at the sacred host and to adore it more frequently than to receive it. The container with the sacred hosts, later known as the tabernacle, was taken off the side wall and put in the most conspicuous place in the church, on the altar. That meant that when the priest offered Mass, he faced the tabernacle and his back was to the people. This is the time when the bells began to ring during Mass, which notified the people outside the church that the consecration was about to take place. They could come in and look at the sacred host that the priest raised high above his head for the people to see.

Today, the tabernacle has been removed from the altar, the priest can be seen as he presides, and he no longer has to raise the Body and Blood of Jesus high above his head.

We have come a long way in uncovering the beauty of the Mass, as all of us together, priest and laity in a language we can understand and give praise and glory to almighty God. What a magnificent form of worship we have. Let us appreciate all that we have and thank God every day for this gift and not go backward. The Mass is everybody's celebration, not just the priest's.

But for those who still love the Latin. I have a message just for you.

"Sacrificium meum, Deus, spiritus contritus, cor contritum et humiliatum, Deus, non dispicies!" Enough said.

Father John Mitchell is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.