Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Latin Mass Document: Fact and Fiction

I just sent this email out to a bunch of friends and family. (Well, okay, I've softened the language here a bit.) You may wish to send it to your kin as well. Feel free to copy and paste (or modify)!


The mainstream media spin on the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum given motu proprio by Pope Benedict XVI began weeks ago, and now many of the American bishops' statments are falling short of conveying the full impact of the document. Many of them speak of implementation when there is really little for them to implement; most of this is up to the parish priests and the faithful.

In the coming weeks, the unintelligent statements about this document are likely to continue. Because of that, I have decided to send to those who might be interested a short list of facts about this letter.

1. This Apostolic Letter frees up the previous restrictions on the 1962 Roman Missal, which is the version of the Mass used not only before the liturgical reforms that took place in the wake of the II Vatican Council, but was actually used at the II Vatican Council. This Missal was codified by Pope Bl. John XXIII in 1962, and it is in continuity with the Roman Rite, going back at least to the time of Pope St. Gregory the Great in the early 7th century.

2. Any priest may use the 1962 Missal (aka "Extraordinary Form"--the new Mass that most of us use is the "Ordinary Form") privately, that is, at a Mass that is not regularly scheduled. The faithful may ask to be admitted to these Masses.

3. A stable number (unspecified) of the faithful may approach any priest and request that the Extraordinary Form of the Mass be used, whether once only, or occasionally, or habitually. The pope exhorts pastors to meet these requests insofar as they are able.

4. If the pastor is unable to meet such requests, the bishop is to help to provide a solution. (Not to say yes or no or to tell them to drive to the nearest preexisting "Latin Mass," which might be two hours away). If the bishop is unable to help them, the matter is to be referred to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei in Rome, who will help to make provisions for the faithful who made the initial request. The motu proprio reads in such wise that either the bishop or the faithful can petition Rome about this.

5. It is the purview of the bishop to be certain that the priests who say the "Extraordinary Form" are competent to do so and that they are not juridically impeded, e.g. in schism, defrocked, etc. The bishop is also to ensure "unity" in the parishes and in the diocese as a whole, according to the laws laid down in Canon 392, IIRC. Still this does not give the bishop the right to stand in the way of a request of the people.

6. The bottom line about this document is that it is "power to the people."

Now, to address some myths:

1. The Latin Mass is not being imposed on anyone anywhere. The Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite will still prevail in most places.

2. This is not about Latin vs. English. The new Mass can be done entirely in Latin; the priest can also face the altar rather than the people. This is about two different rites [sic! I should have said "forms."] whose orders of worship are actually different. "Latin Mass" is simply a colloquial way to refer to the older form of Mass. (But yes, that older form can indeed only be done in Latin, with the exception of the readings.)

3. The much bandied-about phrase "perfidious Jews" was taken out of the rites for Good Friday before the publication of the 62 Missal. Therefore it is not an issue. As to praying for the conversion of Jews, this is still done even in the "Ordinary Form" of the Roman Rite which we all know so well. I've heard from Jews that are flattered that we pray for them.

That's all I can think of. I hope that at least a few of you have been helped/interested by this message.


I forgot one important thing: The sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, Penance, and Extreme Unction can be done according to the books in effect in 1962.

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