TCS Daily

The Rite Move

By Stephen Bainbridge - October 27, 2006 12:00 AM

For hundreds of years, the Latin Mass was a potent symbol of the Church Universal, which transcended nationality, ethnicity, culture, and language.

The Latin Mass familiar to Catholics old enough to remember how worship was conducted before Vatican II was known as the Tridentine Rite because it had been codified by the Council of Trent. From 1570, when Pope Pius V's Quo Primum bull authorized the use of that rite, "without scruple of conscience or fear of penalty," until the post-Vatican II liturgical reforms of the 1960s and 1970s, the Tridentine Mass was the distinguishing characteristic of the Roman Church.

The Vatican II reformers pressed a broad liturgical modernization program, at the core of which was a move towards conducting the Mass in the local vernacular. Granted, there was a case to be made for de-emphasizing Latin. First, Christ's Great Commission commands Christians to "make disciples of all nations." The arcane elements of the Tridentine Mass and the use of a strange tongue supposedly made evangelism by Catholics nearly impossible. Second, many uneducated Catholics had only a limited understanding of the Mass and, as a result, lacked a meaningful worship experience. Indeed, among the least educated, the Tridentine Mass had magical and superstitious connotations. Third, even as to Catholics who fully understood what was happening in the Tridentine Rite and possessed a reasonable command of the Latin liturgy, the structure of the Tridentine Mass precluded the full and active participation of the laity in the ritual.

The Sacrosanctum Concilium (i.e., Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) issued by the Second Vatican Council began a process of reform that culminated in the 1970 Missal and, to some extent, continues even today. Contrary to popular belief, Vatican II did not ban the use of Latin or the Tridentine Rite. Instead, the choice of whether to permit the use of the Tridentine Rite and/or Latin was left to the discretion of each diocesan bishop.

In the United States, the vast majority of diocesan bishops have sharply restricted the use of the Tridentine Rite. This remains the case even though Pope John Paul II's 1988 Ecclesia Dei declaration stated that "respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of all those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition" and urged diocesan bishops to make "wide and generous application" of their power to authorize the use of that tradition. In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, for example, Cardinal Mahoney reportedly insists that the Tridentine Mass should be available only to those were alive and actively attending Mass pre-1965. Those of us born into the Church (or, as in my case, who converted) after 1965 are denied access to the Tridentine Mass. (Fortunately, Mahoney's opposition to the Tridentine Rite does not preclude the use of Latin entirely. My parish, St. Victor Church in West Hollywood, has a lovely Sunday Vigil Mass in which extensive use is made of Gregorian chant.)

Almost since the beginning of Pope Benedict XVI's papacy, there has been rampant speculation that he will issue a universal indult that will bypass recalcitrant diocesan bishops like Cardinal Mahoney. The Times of London reported recently on the latest rumors out of the Vatican, which sound as though it is a done deal:

"Pope Benedict XVI is understood to have signed a universal indult — or permission — for priests to celebrate again the Mass used throughout the Church for nearly 1,500 years. The indult could be published in the next few weeks, sources told The Times. ... The new indult would permit any priest to introduce the Tridentine Mass to his church, anywhere in the world, unless his bishop has explicitly forbidden it in writing."

In other words, although the new indult will not ensure that the Tridentine Mass is universally available, it would reverse the presumption against the Tridentine Rite by requiring local bishops proactively to proscribe that Rite. It remains to be seen whether Vatican II diehards like Mahoney will accept the change with good grace or actively resist it with written proscriptions.

There is no guarantee that the rumors are true, of course. The Vatican remains very much a black box in this area, as in many others. Yet, we may nevertheless ponder the merits of the rumored indult.

The arguments for the vernacular mass are undoubtedly strong. In theory, at least, the Mass has become more accessible both to cradle Catholics and prospective converts. In practice, however, the post-Vatican II liturgy all too often has been trite or even embarrassing. As "liberal" Archbishop Rembert Weakland observed back in 1999, many priests "adopted a kind of colloquial style that was and is unbefitting the liturgical movement." And, of course, the music has been even worse. To again quote Weakland, "most of the new music created for the liturgy has been and continues to be trite in both musical form and text, more fit for the theatre and the pub than for church."

Archbishop Weakland argued that the post-Vatican II liturgical reforms have created serious theological shortcomings in Catholic practice by promoting "a diminution of respect for and belief in the real presence in the Eucharist". Among the problems Weakland identified are "the tendency to stand, not kneel," "the placement of the tabernacle in the church away from the central axis," and the demise of genuflections. Taken together, he argued, the reforms "have reduced the sense of the transcendent and an appreciation for God's presence and role in the liturgy."

Weakland's critique, of course, was a call for more and better liturgical reform rather than for a restoration of the Latin Tridentine Mass. Yet, given the repeated failures of the reform movement, and with the Tridentine Rite lying to hand as a long-proven alternative, why not at least make it widely available as an option?

Making the Tridentine Rite widely available in Latin would be an important signal to Catholics and all Christians that we are members of a universal Church. The Catholic Church is universal across both time and space. In temporal terms, it is a partnership between the living, those who have gone before us, and those who will come after us. Christians throughout history used the Latin Mass. When we use it today, we reaffirm our place in that history. It reminds us of the traditions of our faith and, as St. Paul put it, of the great cloud of witnesses before whom we run our race.

In spatial terms, the Church transcends national boundaries and linguistic barriers. The Latin Mass reminds us that we are just Americans but also Catholic Christians. Indeed, it reminds us that we are Christians first and Americans second. There is something very profound and moving in knowing that millions of people around the world, in dozens of countries, are saying precisely the same words that you are speaking.

Catholics around the world hunger for the return of the Latin Mass, not just quasi-schismatic traditionalists and sedevacantists. In Atlanta, for example, it is reported that the regularized Latin Mass mainly by "younger people who want to pass on the faith and its true expression." One hopes Pope Benedict will not disappoint them.

The author is a TCS Daily Contributing Editor.



The Rite Movement
As a "seasoned citizen" "cradle Catholic", I have no problem with your desire to return access to the Latin mass, as long as you don't force it on me as well.

The Catholic Church in the US was the last to adopt the mass in our native language. While I studied Latin for 4 years in high school and could translate if need be, I have no desire to return to the Latin mass, or to return to staring at the priest's back, or any number of other artifacts of the pre-Vatican II Church.

The change you desire is already underway subtly. Latin prayers and hymns have reappeared during Lent over the past several years at all Masses in my experience. I treat this event as a passive resister; I say the prayers to myself in English and stay silent during the hymns, though I know them by heart. I choose to do nothing to encourage a return of Latin.

The Catholic Church, here and in other portions of the world, has far more serious issues on its plate than the return of the Tridentine Rite. It would much prefer, apparently, to sweep those issues under the rug and focus its attentions on trivialities. In my judgement, it does so at its great peril.

For example, a focus on attracting candidates for the priesthood who do not have an attraction for other candidates for the priesthood, or young boys, would be far more significant.

The Rite Movement
As a young Traditional Catholic, I fail to see why returning to the Traditional Latin Worship causes such heartburn in those who had the privilege of growing up with it prior to the 60s. Seminaries were full, vocations were growing, mass attendance was at an all time high, Catholics ACTED like Catholics, and the greatest gift a Child could receive was another sibling - not a cell phone or the latest Playstation or X-box... then came the 60s, and in the space of 40 years, this glorious 1900 year institution has nearly crumbled! Familiarity has bred the most odious contempt within our own Church.

Some of us long for the return to those glorious days when reverence was given to God, and we offered ALL to Him. We didn't gather to stroke our own egos, or to feel as if we were the ones entitled to be the focus of worship.

At least now I have hope for my five children (yes - we Traditionalists are NOT birth-controlling ourselves out of existence). I pray that they too may be able to worship Our Heavenly Father in a language that is different from the one which everyone uses to curse His Name with on a daily basis.

I'm not a Roman Catholic and so I can't speak for it at all. But I do attend a form of Catholic church called the Liberal Catholic Church, and if you don't want to approve of it, that's understandable because the RC church is so big and long-lived... The LCC formed in 1916 out of the "Old Catholic" church in Holland. Its mass isn't in Latin, just a phrase here and there, plus the Kirie in Greek. We stand, kneel, genuflect, cross ourselves. It priestly orders follow the line of succession the same as the mainstream Catholic Church. The priests marry and anyone who is sincere about it can take communion. But it's quite another matter to get baptized and still another to get confirmed.

Anyway, my point about it is, I never, ever would've thought I'd be able to participate in a ritualistic church like this, but somehow I opened my mind to it and found the liturgy, and all its weekly repetition, quite an enriching experience. As the article points out, you're finally in a place where it's not about you. You're participating in ancient rites and you can feel a sort of mystical power in it.

And yet it's something natural and you feel as if you're doing something you're supposed to be doing--bowing to God. It puts you in perspective with the rest of humanity.

I'd love to participate in the liturgy in Latin. Some people who aren't prepared to accept rituals like it will be affected negatively, I'm sure.

Of the three stated purposes of TCS, I guess this one falls under 'society.' You can slam religion all you want, there's a difference between religion and humility before things greater than yourself. I still dislike "religion" sometimes, but I respect the dignity of the human being who comes across something that will stop them in the tracks of their daily life and make them humble themselves.

I have no objection to your preference for the Tridentine Rite;
...however, I do not share it. If I believed it would solve all of the Church's problems, I would accept it reluctantly. I don't believe that changing back to the Tridentine Rite would solve problems at all. I also believe that attempting to ignore the real problems will make them worse. Rearranging the deck chairs will solve nothing. I vote for patching the hole in the hull first.

I am also a cradle Roman Catholic and have had the privilege of attending the traditional Tridentine Rite for many years (in full communion with the diocese). When I have the option, there is no question of where I prefer to attend. When we speak of participation, there is no comparison. The peace and joy that accompanies seeing our Lord exalted with utmost respect and dignity, seeing lines formed for Confession before Mass, seeing every knee bent and every head bowed in utter adoration and in holy silence, using the same beautiful words and prayers used by the Church for most of its history and worshipping with music befitting our God. How much more can one participate at Mass? It is a participation that unfortunately those who have not had the privilege of attending the Tridentine Rite may never have. In contrast, in attending a Mass in the vernacular today, you might have the privilege of singing 60’s style hymns to the strum of a guitar while holding hands with your neighbor, using translations of ancient prayers that have been stripped of meaning, standing during the consecration, and witness 100% of the congregation, mostly dressed for a backyard BBQ, receiving Holy Communion as reverently as if standing in line at McDonalds. The focus of the mass is horizontal, not vertical, and results in a confusion, emptiness ultimately loss of Faith (incidentally, Martin Luther, in an attempt to affect belief in the Real Presence, eliminated kneelers).

For those of us who understand the meaning of symbols, we understand the reasons why most Catholics today do not participate in Confession, do not believe in the Real Presence, and are not attending Mass. Catholics are no longer Catholics (support of abortion, contraception etc etc). Giving Catholics the Tridentine Mass will go along way to reversing the backslide our culture find itself in.

Changes in the Mass
After the Mass switched to English, I found myself joining the folk group. Rather than sing along with us, the congregation was content to sit back and listen to us play our instruments and sing. In essence, the folk group was performing. For the members of the folk group, it became more about ego and less about celebrating the Mass.

I find the raising and/or waving of hands during prayer and the shaking of hands to be a distraction. I found it upsetting when they praised a politician for voting a certain way (I later told the priest that politics belonged outside -- he wasn't too happy with me). IMO, things of this nature detract from the original intent of the Mass.

The Rite Move
"Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our
ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to
that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around."
- G. K. Chesterton Orthodoxy, 1908 +

"If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and
walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns
back soonest is the most progressive man . . . Going back is the
quickest way on." - C.S.Lewis

The hole in the hull of the Church was caused by stearing it into the treacherous waters of modernism. Once the Church does an about turn, and returns to it's millenia old Traditions, the holes can be patched. Who would continue walking bearfoot into a road of thorn bushes, when there is a better road to travel on?

In the 60's the Church attempted to adapt itself to the world instead of adapting the world to itself. Benedict XVI seems to grasp this concept and is turning the ship around. A good shepherd doesn't allow his sheep to wallow in filthy mud for too long before pulling them out.

I hope you are right,...
but I have no confidence in your conclusion. The perps, the enablers and the "Lavender Mafia" are not part of the solution. They cannot safely be hidden or ignored, as they have been for the past forty years.

the hand waving
I don't like it either. People who do it must think it's good, but I find it inexplicably irritating.

Exactly - 40 years!!!
Finally we agree! The last 40 years - the horrendous implementation of novelties never suggested by Vatican II have caused the current crisis. The seminaries must be cleansed & purified. The pink "priests" must be removed, defrocked and shamed along with the bishops who enabled them. They must answer for it.

The Bishop of Granada, Spain removed all the seminarians of his diocese from the local Jesuit seminary last week, because they were being taught heresy. Small, but concrete steps are slowly being taken.

The return to the Traditional liturgy signals the beginning of the end to the hand-holding liberals & the lavender mafia. They see the writing on the wall.

Rituals and Symbols and Memories...
As a teenager, I enjoyed the modern Mass; but as an adult, I realize that our faith is not just something to be enjoyed, but rather something to be cherished.

When I sit in the church of the parish to which I've belonged for 50 years, I feel a certain comfort being surrounded by the same stained glass windows, statues, stations of the cross and altar that I have always known. When they renovated and expanded the church, I was relieved to see that they kept a large section of the church intact and that almost all the previously-mentioned symbols of our faith remained.

I think a return to the Latin Mass would complete the renovation.

Coping with different levels of Catholicism
I think it's extremely important for young Catholic couples to know where they stand on all issues BEFORE they get married; otherwise, they may find themselves in an eternal tug-of-war...their faith and their marriage at odds with each other.

Novus Ordo
I was born in the 1960's after the Novus Ordo but have attended the local Diocesan Latin Mass, to experience it.

It was different and the attendees were reverent. However, anyone who thinks that it is the singular prophylaxis against straying would do well to remember two individuals who attended Mass in Latin their entire lives: Martin Luther, who ended up counseling murder in his later life and Henry the Eighth, who was awarded the title "Fidei Defensor" for his refutation of Lutheran theological constructs, before pride and succession obsession caused him to part ways.

There will always be the imperfect, intemperate and rebellious.

The Rite move
I am pleased at this development. Far too many "progressives" have watered down the liturgy and the centrality of the Lord's Supper.

As an Anglo-Catholic, I long for my Church to reclaim its rich heritage.

there is value in unity
As a catholic, wasp, I can only sympathise with your suspicions. Maybe the problem with the modern Catholic Church is the loss of its intuition. If you teach young children Latin within the church and use Latin exculsively with children in the Church, I guarantee you their English will improve dramatically. The benefits to children are enormous.
Latin incorporated into Catholicism would give all Catholics a cosmopolitan capacity that simply cannot be duplicated within the secular.

I do speak from experience
My daughter and my son spoke only in Spanish with their mother, and only in English with me "from Birth".

Their use of English was impeccable and their ability to converse adaptively in Portuguese, Romanian, French, Italian was breath taking to experience.

Check it out for yourself.

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