By Tom Heneghan
PARIS (Reuters) - It isn't official. It may not even happen. But reports that Pope Benedict could soon revive the old Latin mass are stoking heated debates among European Catholics with some fearing this will turn the clock back.
The uproar is loudest in France, where clergy and laity are ringing alarm bells against bringing back the old liturgy.
Church leaders in Belgium and Germany have also grumbled, saying demand for the old Tridentine mass in Latin was minimal and warning the traditionalists could use it as a wedge to smuggle more divisive issues into the world's largest church.
"The (Tridentine Latin) rite is only the locomotive -- the issue is the carriages that are pulled behind it," Brussels Cardinal Godfried Danneels said last week. "Behind this locomotive are carriages that I don't want."
These rumblings hint that Benedict might alienate many mainstream Catholics if he opts for a deal to heal an 18-year schism with the Society of Saint Pius X, a Swiss-based group that rejects the landmark Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).
"We risk creating a front of sadness, discouragement and disappointment with the Holy See," said Toulouse Archbishop Robert Le Gall, using the Vatican's official name. "The liturgy is just the tip of the iceberg."
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THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: WRONG! The liturgy IS the iceberg. Here is the problem as I, a mere convert, see it. The closeting of the Tridentine mass has actually created the other problems these bishops are worried about. Putting a new liturgy out front, and making the old liturgy virtually "illegal" (I realize it's not illegal, it just appears that way sometimes), gave the Church a radically different appearance. That created an environment some traditionalists could not adapt to. That in turn drew some of them into splinter groups, like the SSPX, and that of course led them into the conspiracy theories about Vatican II, and ultimately the rejection of the post-conciliar Church. The root of the problem is the mass itself. It's that outward appearance the Church currently presents, that causes some of the more traditionalist mindset to stumble. There needs to be continuity between the old and the new. There needs to be a smooth transition between one and the other. The very fact that so many traditionalist splinter groups exist testifies that this smooth transition never took place in the post-conciliar Church.
As I said in a previous post. If the pope liberates the Tridentine mass, it will suck the wind right out of the sails of traditionalist groups like the SSPX. It may not eliminate such organizations. It may not even bring them back into the Church. But one thing that is sure to happen is the stunting of their growth. It will leave them dead in the water. What I'm saying here is this. The "other issues" the French bishops are worried about find their root in the very fact that the Tridentine mass is virtually extinct in the mainstream Church.
What these bishops fail to understand is that there is a fairly large number of Catholics out there who have a traditionalist mindset. Not all of them are schismatic. There is a sizable number of Catholics who want a return to the Tridentine mass, but refuse to disobey their bishops who have virtually banned the Tridentine in their diocese. What about these Catholics? Are they troublemakers too? Shall the pope simply ignore them to please some insecure bishops in France?
The problem liberal Catholics seem to have with this topic is their seeming inability to separate love for the Tridentine with the schismatic tendencies of the SSPX and similar organizations.
I'll offer myself as an example. I'm a convert to the Catholic Church as of six years ago. I enjoy all things Catholic, both old and new, and I love the Tridentine mass. That being said, I love the Novus Ordo mass too -- especially when it's celebrated correctly according to liturgical norms. I see beauty in both rites. If given the opportunity to attend a Tridentine mass regularly, I probably would, especially if the parish were large enough to host a Catholic school for my children. I would enroll my kids, teach them Latin, and attend a Tridentine mass regularly. Now that's not true for all converts. I realize I'm an exception to the norm.
Having said that, I wouldn't deprive my kids of the Novus Ordo mass either. If we regularly attended a Tridentine, I would make sure my kids attended a Novus Ordo at least once a month. Why? Because I believe it's a perfectly legitimate rite of the Roman Catholic Church, and I don't think my kids should be deprived of anything Catholic.
The French bishops are guilty of stereotyping. I certainly wouldn't fit their generalization. I have no problem with the Second Vatican Council. In fact Vatican II played a critical role in my conversion process. I have no problem with the post-conciliar Church, or the dialog with other Christian denominations, and non-christian religions. The way I see it; so long as we don't compromise our own beliefs, dialog with other religions can never be a threat. I'm learning Latin, but most of my prayers are said in English. For private devotion, I use a Church approved (2005 Imprimatur) 1962 Missal recently re-published with approval from the bishop of Lincoln Nebraska. For my mass celebrations, I attend the Novus Ordo, as per my own bishop's desire. I would like to see more of the Tridentine mass, and if I ever do, I will probably attend both (Tridentine and Novus Ordo) frequently. So, does that make me a "dangerous schismatic?" I don't think so.
I'll be quite frank here. I've attended a SSPX mass before. In fact, I've gone to two - just to visit. After hearing the homily in the second one, I decided I would never go back to an SSPX parish again - not even to visit. Why? Because the homily was anything but charitable. I didn't recognize Christ in it at all. To be quite honest with you, I'm not sure the SSPX (as an organization) can ever be reconciled with the Catholic Church. It may be too far gone. But that doesn't mean that every member of an SSPX parish agrees with everything taught by the SSPX. Indeed, I would venture to say a large portion of them only attend SSPX parishes because of their regular use of the Tridentine mass. A liberalization of the Tridentine in the Roman Catholic Church would spur many of them to return to Rome -- some sooner and some later. As for me, I already know about a dozen faithful Roman Catholics who are eager to attend the Tridentine mass, but at the same time, they will have nothing to do with schismatic organizations like the SSPX. So they keep quiet and wait for the pope to act. Or else they drive over a hundred miles whenever they can, to a city where the Tridentine is celebrated lawfully under the direction of a diocean bishop. Is this how faithful Catholics, with a traditionalist mindset, are supposed to live? I don't think so. That's why the pope needs to do something. Let us pray he acts quickly. Frankly, I'm not too worried about the actions of the bishops mentioned in the above story. After all, I would never expect a German pope to surrender to French bishops. Now maybe if it were the other way around...? Ah... nevermind.
From Rorate Caeli Blog...
In the past few weeks, several French bishops have sent to Rome their lamentations of protest against the "Motu proprio" which would liberalize the pre-Conciliar Mass, but, as it seems, Benedict XVI is decided to move forward, even if with due caution, to heal the mini-schism of archbishop Lefebvre and to assure to the Traditionalist faithful, with an act of liberality, the use of the old missal.
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