Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Road to Restoration

[I quote this article in part.]

Mass of Ages
November 2006

by Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro

In these last months we can see a growing series of events that indicate that the Holy See is moving in a clear route of doctrinal and liturgical restoration. Without discussing the recent leadership changes in some of the main offices of the Holy See, nor the important process of doctrinal clarification that continues to move ahead, I limit myself in this article to analysing some of the events that mark the trend towards liturgical restoration.

Ingrained opposition

Beginning in mid-March there were a growing number of reports that the Holy Father was ready to grant the so-called universal indult, a general permission for priests to use the rite of St. Pius V publicly without requiring the permission of their bishops. Some were expecting a formal announcement after the second meeting of Curial Cardinals convened to debate this issue on 7 April. The fact is that the announcement was not made. We do not have any official confirmation of the intention of the Holy Father to issue this document, but we have several indirect indications that a document of this nature was being considered. First was the public announcement that two meetings of cardinals were convened to study this issue in a general fashion: the first on 13 February and the second on 23 March. Second, the statement issued by the French Bishops’ Conference at their meeting at Lourdes on 7 April. In this paper the French bishops acknowledged by their opposition the existence of a draft document on the Traditional Liturgy of the Church. In the second section of the paper: ‘The Reception of the “Traditionalist” Groups in Our Dioceses’, the French episcopate express the desire to receive Traditionalists groups but on their own terms, even denying them the right to criticise the New Mass.

We can sense their opposition to the establishment of juridical structures that would serve as a guarantee for the Traditionalist movement. As experience has shown, there is a need for these juridical structures. Some bishops have applied the provisions of the motu proprio, Ecclesia Dei with generosity, but regrettably many others cannot be praised in a like wise manner. It is not a question of establishing parallel Churches; it is a question of how to recognise a complementary diversity within the Catholic Church. If complementary diversity is recognised the unity of the only Church will be strengthened. If there is a legitimate diversity, the particularities have to be recognised by juridical structures that will strengthen the symphonic unity of the Church. A true unity is guaranteed by precise and clear juridical structures that avoid ambiguity and divisions. The French bishops then went on to signify their desire to continue their reflection on these issues and to consider at the meeting of their Permanent Council this November, the outcome of the deliberations of a task group. It is evident that the French bishops are playing a delaying game that underlines that sooner or later the Holy Father might make a decision on this very important matter. However, this opposition should be seen against the background of the well-documented decline of the Catholic Church in France.

Another important event was the launch in Rome on 27 April of the Italian translation of the book Turning Towards the Lord by Fr Michael Lang of the Oratory, London, with a foreword by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. It is know that Benedict XVI encouraged the publication of this translation. This gives fresh attention to the strong concern of the Holy Father on the need to reform the reform and preserve a sense of the sacred in the Liturgy. Archbishop Albert Ranjith, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, in his presentation underlined that: “The book demonstrates how the direction of the liturgical prayer in the post-conciliar reforms does not reflect the former praxis, and this is surprising.” And he pointed out: “In fact, in the Foreword to this book, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, at that time Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, affirms that ‘to the ordinary churchgoer, the two most obvious effects of the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council seem to be the disappearance of Latin and the turning of the altars towards the people. Those who read the relevant texts will be astonished to learn that neither is in fact found in the decrees of the Council. The use of the vernacular is certainly permitted, especially for the Liturgy of the Word, but the preceding general rule of the Council text says, “Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 36.1). There is nothing in the Council text about turning altars towards the people; that point is raised only in post-conciliar instructions.’” This presentation has been seen by some in Rome as the opening shots of the expected Reform of the Reform. (The full texts of Archbishop Ranjith’s lecture was published in Mass of Ages, August 2006.)

Correcting abuses

This statement was followed by an important interview which Archbishop Ranjith gave to I-Media in French on Thursday 22 June. After noting the importance of the liturgy in the life of the Church, he underlined that “regrettably, after the Council, certain changes were made rapidly, without reflection, in a burst of enthusiasm, in a rejection of some exaggerations of the past.” The result, he noted, was quite different from the Council's intent. Giving some examples of the negative results, he mentioned "the abandonment of the sacred and the mystical", the confusion between the common priesthood of all the faithful and the ordained ministry, and the concept of the Eucharist as a common banquet rather than a re-presentation of Christ's Sacrifice. He even noted a Protestant influence. These changes, he stated, have produced negative consequences for the Church even beyond the liturgy. In the face of a growing secular trend in society, he said, the Church urgently needs to cultivate a deeper sense of the sacred and a more active interior life. Fortunately, he said, there is a growing feeling among Catholics of the need to recover the sense of the sacred. The work of the Congregation for Divine Worship entails helping bishops and episcopal conferences to refine the liturgy by incorporating the strengths of the past. Asked whether he was hinting at the approval of the use of the Missal of St. Pius V, Archbishop Ranjith stated that requests for the use of the pre-conciliar liturgy have become more common, but the question is in the hands of Pope Benedict XVI. He said. "The Pope knows all this…he knows the questions, he is very conscious of the situation, he is reflecting, and we are waiting for his indications. " At the same time Archbishop Ranjith underlined that the use of the Tridentine rite "has never been abolished or banned." However, he said, because of the split in the Church caused by the traditionalist followers of the late Archbishop Lefebvre, the Traditional Mass "has taken a certain identity that is not fair." Whether Pope Benedict will now encourage the use of the Missal of St Pius V, or call for a reform of the 1970 Missal-- "what some people call 'the reform of the reform'" - is not yet known, the archbishop said. What is established, however, is the need for a liturgy that is "more beautiful, more transcendent. " He cautioned that it is imprudent to press for quick decisions, running the risk of falling into new errors because of haste. "We have to reflect a great deal," he stated; "and above all, we have to pray for the Holy Father and the Church, and listen to what the Lord wants of us." Even if, wisely, Archbishop Ranjith is calling for time to reflect, this second public intervention is a clear indication that something important is in the making.

As a follow-up, in another interview with I-Media on 13 July, Archbishop Ranjith underlined the many problems that exist with the post-concilliar liturgy, both in itself and with the way in which it is celebrated. After indicating some positive aspects of the new liturgy, he mentioned that several positive aspects of the tradition of the Church had been abandoned, like the use of the Latin language and the eastward orientation of the altar, quoting in this regard important comments made by the then Cardinal Ratzinger. In a very significant way he stated: “It is our duty to be vigilant…because, in the end, the people will assist at the Tridentine Mass, and our churches will be empty.”


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