Friday, May 04, 2007

The Catholic Herald - Msgr. Schmitz and the ICRSS

The Catholic Herald features an article on Msgr. Michael Schmitz, the Institute of Christ the King and the Motu Proprio.


On Msgr. Schmitz and the Institute:

Like Pope Benedict, Mgr Schmitz has a powerful mind that shimmers through his conversation. He speaks with almost poetic precision, and his mastery of Latin informs his excellent English.

As vicar-general of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (ICRSS) and Provincial Superior of its American branch, Mgr Schmitz is a well-known figure in traditionalist circles. The Institute, a rapidly expanding society of priests and seminarians, has a strong presence in France and America and is now beginning to serve in Britain.

The community represents a sort of elite corps of the growing neo-traditionalist brigade. ICRSS seminarians are thoroughly “Romanised” for eight years before their ordination and vigorously drilled in Latin and plainsong to facilitate the celebration of the Mass of 1962.

On the Classical rite:

Can we be certain, though, that the Holy Father wants this reform? “Before he became Pope,” Mgr Schmitz observes, “he offered many indications that there should be continuity. The Church cannot ban a liturgy that has been hers for the greatest part of her history.”

Mgr Schmitz suggests that the reform would be a “logical continuation” from Sacramentum Caritatis, Benedict’s recent exhortation on the majesty of the Eucharist.

In that document, the Pontiff called for better music and the wider use of Latin, both of which the Institute of Christ the King has been promoting since its foundation in 1990.

“I believe that within the text of Sacramentum Caritatis there are some hints,” Mgr Schmitz ruminates. “A return to what we call the traditional Mass would have a logical connection with this exhortation.”

On some of the resistance:

Some of the faithful, however, are alarmed by the popular revival of the Old Mass.

"They argue that what the “neo-trads” refer to as “the Mass of always” is in fact the product of the Middle Ages, whereas the liturgies that emerged following the Second Vatican Council are connected with the older, patristic heritage of the third or fourth centuries.

“Very well,” Mgr Schmitz returns with a hint of frustration. “This distinction between historical periods is not a Catholic thing to do. I believe that the Holy Ghost is present in every age and in every period of the Church.

“To divide the history of salvation into little drawers that you yourself label with certain qualities is a very narrow view of the history of the Church. As a matter of fact, we are not medievalists, we are not concentrated on the third century or the 17th.” Very well, but what then can we make of the last 40 years of Catholic worship? Does the Novus Ordo not also belong to this organically evolving Church? “We don’t exclude anything,” Mgr Schmitz answers gently. “We simply want to open the window, so that the wind of tradition, the good Roman Catholic tradition, can blow through into what has often become a rather stale atmosphere.”

This is hardly an extremist position, yet a large number of bishops and high-ranking priests want to keep their church windows firmly shut.

Mgr Schmitz turns diplomatic on this subject. “I don’t want to judge anyone,” he says. “But the resistance comes from the older generation. It is kind of a strange phenomenon because we have many younger people in our churches who have never seen the Latin Mass in the past. Yet they want it.

“It seems that a generation after the Second World War has broken with its own past and now cannot understand that this past is actually the present. So the opposition comes from them.

“We notice that the younger bishops are very open. Even if they personally have no great leaning towards the traditional liturgy, they are easy-going about it.”

The situation, then, is peculiar: liberals are acting like reactionaries while conservatives speak about freedom and letting young people do what they want. It is perhaps because of this bizarre generational difference that youthful traditionalism is often confrontational in tone. Mgr Schmitz, however, is on guard against the “spirit of rebellion”.

On unity and co-existence:

“We should not turn the mysteries of God into weapons of ideological aggression. Obedience has always been the great challenge. If you suffer for being obedient, the graces that come afterwards are wonderful.”


“We seem sometimes in the Church like little tribes engaged in a useless battle with wooden swords, while behind us an atomic bomb ticks. We should turn around, throw our swords away and find a way to defuse the bomb.”

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