Well, this past week, the Vatican has given us what I promptly dubbed a one-two punch. (I know Fr. Eutenauer also used this, but I used it before I read his letter...honestly!).
First, last Saturday, the long-awaited motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum was issued by the Pope. The motu proprio is essentially a memo from the Pope's office. In this case we were informed that the Tridentine Latin Mass (TLM) as it is called by some, may be celebrated by any priest, with or without permission of the local Bishop.
This Mass is now to be referred to as the Extraordinary form of the Mass, with the New, or Novus Ordo, or Mass of Paul VI, being the Ordinary form.
While I am not on the front lines of liturgical comings and goings, I know how I, and many of my friends, felt about this announcement.
I was pleased, and I know many of my friends were, too, although a couple wondered what all the fuss was about!
Do I hanker for an extraordinary form of the Mass in my neighbourhood? It would probably surprise many of my friends to hear me say "not particularly". If a priest in this vicinity cares to celebrate such once in a while, I will likely come and see what it's like. If it becomes a regular weekday Mass, I would attend whenever possible.
I am too young to have any real experience with what I will call, for expediency, the TLM . I've been to one and it disappointed me. That said, I can find my way around the TLM reasonably well, due to my study of liturgical music and its historical forms. And I was fortunate enough to have taken two years of Latin in High School.
What I am hoping for is a greater exposure to Latin and to more classic forms of liturgical music. It is news to many that even we of the post-Vatican II, 'new Mass', era are supposed to (according to the SC, Sacrosanctum Concilium, a Vatican II document) be able to recite the prayers of the Mass in Latin. I can do a little. Most people I know can do less.
And don't get me started on liturgical music. THAT is for another day.
Another thing I hope for is that those who ache for the Mass they grew up with will once again have the comfort of the unchanging Church. And for the young folk who are willing to take the step of familiarizing themselves with the TLM, go for it! It was a sad thing that Vatican II was seen to create such a breach in Church history. The TLM leaves little room for liturgical abuse, as it has few, if any, options. THAT alone is a reason for many to hanker for it.
The fallacy that congregations of the TLM didn't know what was going on during Mass continues to be perpetrated by those against the use of Latin. First, missals with both Latin and the vernacular (local language) have been available for a long time. Secondly, many people in the time of the TLM were taught about liturgy in school! Thirdly, if we think exclusive use of the vernacular for the celebration of Mass has automatically boosted people's understanding of what is happening during Mass, we would be mistaken. I've been in catechetics too long to believe Latin was the only obstacle for understanding Mass. And finally, is understanding Mass a requirement for anything? There are many aspects to our faith the are and will remain a mystery, regardless of the language of presentation.
The other 'punch' was delivered a few days later from the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF). Pope Benedict, as Cardinal Ratzinger, was head of this congregation before his election to Pope.
We Catholics have been told, on no uncertain terms, what our relationship with Protestants is. We have been told that their denominations are "defective". Ouch! That is a harsh word. But really, we have been told repeatedly in encyclicals, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and in other places and times that the Catholic Church is the only Church founded by Christ, and the only Church that contains the fullness of Truth. Perhaps the strong language was used because all the kinder, gentler more politically correct words had been used up...and we weren't getting the message being extended.
Does this change the drive for Ecumenism? Not at all. It just reminds us of what we should have known all along. In the "ecumania", as an email friend of mine labelled it, started after Vatican II, most have lost sight of the goal, which is leading all to the complete Truth. What we had instead was a seeking of the lowest common denominator. Sure, we all know Jesus is Lord, and the God Loves Us. Most of us can recite the Lord's Prayer together. Some of us can recite the Liturgy of the Hours together. A very few of us can pray the Rosary together.
Many believe that 'real' ecumenism (and I believed this myself at one time) included ALL faiths, even those outside the umbrella of Christianity.
At the same time as all are gushing about ecumenism, many denominations (and by this I mean only Reformation churches and other Protestant groups. Catholicism is not a denomination) are gleefully scooping poorly formed Catholics into their folds, to feed on their ignorance and grow fat on their need to feel good.
There are many poorly formed Catholics. Changing Mass to vernacular languages didn't help that at all. Since Vatican II, few Catholics have been well formed in the basic tenets and requirements of the Faith. This has made us sitting ducks for congregations and denominations that make us feel good, and tell us what we want to hear. This happens within both Catholic and Protestant circles.
My personal feeling is that there is a very cozy place in Hell for Catholic teachers, be they priests, catechists, liturgists, parents or anyone else, who deliberately misrepresents Catholicism to make something relevant or to simply make someone feel good. How is endangering someone's immortal soul by lying to them a loving thing to do? Short term comfort could lead to long term, nay eternal, agony.
So, is pretending that ecumenism extends no farther than shared bowling matches and potlucks and singing Kumbaya a loving thing to do? Is telling members of the denominations that as long as they love Jesus and are good people they'll go to heaven, love? I do not see how it could be. We could be hanging a millstone around our own necks while we manage to tickle each others' ears with words of comfort alone, when what is needed is words of Truth.
I will add a word about our Jewish brethren. There has been a fear that increased use of the 'old' Mass, with its prayer for the conversion of the Jews will set back Jewish/Christian relations. Much of what I've said about applies to this situation as well.
A few years back, a group of American Bishops issued a document stating that the conversion of the Jews is not necessary for their salvation. This group rejected any further efforts on behalf of Christians to work toward this conversion.
This document was criticized from some high places. It is not considered representative of Church teaching.
So why are Jews surprised that prayers for their conversion should re-appear in the Mass?
It will be interesting to see the result of these two documents. There are already Catholics apologizing for the Church. They'd be the poorly formed ones who thought that the Church ever said anything different than what has been strongly stated this week.
I pray that wisdom and charity and God's will prevail.