Wednesday, May 28, 2003

No More Blogging 'till Next Week

I'm on retreat this week, enjoying a few days of prayer and meditation with the Benedictines of Oxford, Michigan. So the blog below is all you'll get till next week!

The Tridentine Mass at St. Mary Major

I know I'm a few days behind on this, but I'll chime in anyway. As many readers already know, last Saturday, May 24, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, celebrated Mass according to the Tridentine Rite at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome for the first time in over 30 years.

The public celebration of the Mass at one of Rome's major basilicas, by the Cardinal in charge of implementing of Pope John Paul's mandate to "generously" provide the traditional Mass to the faithful, has to be seen as sending a clear signal by Rome of how it sees the place of the Old Mass.

Several sources, particularly, have quoted the Cardinal as saying that the old rite "cannot be considered defunct". But the remark acquires more significance if it is seen in its entirety, for the Cardinal said (as quoted in Zenit): "The old Roman rite preserves its right of citizenship in the Church and cannot be considered extinguished..." This strikes me as more than a mere acknowledgment that the Old Rite is clinging on to life: it seems to me that this is a definitive statement that the Tridentine Mass belongs in and to the Church, and has a rightful place in the Church. Furthermore, it seems to me that the Cardinal is addressing those "progressives" who would derogate the old Mass to being of mere antiquarian interest, and try to dismiss the Ecclesia Dei indult as just a temporary concession to the elderly and to unreconstructed throwbacks in the Church.

If you take the above quotation with this remark by the Cardinal: "What unites the variety of rites is the same faith in the eucharistic mystery," then one can see that he is placing the Old and New rites on an even par, as embodying the same faith. While some Traditionalists might quarrel that the Novus Ordo does not express the Catholic Faith in the same way as the Old Rite, what is important about the Cardinal's statement is that it removes the possibility of relegating the Tridentine Rite to a "second-class citizen" status: something to be only grudgingly tolerated. The subtext of the Cardinal's remarks may be read as "The Tridentine Rite is a venerable and authentic expression of Catholic Faith, and it's not going anywhere."

Dom Bettinelli at Bettnet thinks that the Cardinal's failure to announce a Universal Indult allowing any priest to celebrate the Old Mass means that the "rumors appear to have been untrue". I think Dom may be jumping to conclusions here, for several reasons. Firstly, after more than two weeks of public speculation about such an indult, no Vatican official has said a word refuting or denying that an Indult is in the works. Secondly, none of the initial stories published, especially the first one published in the Catholic Herald, actually claimed to know when such an announcement would happen. Simon Caldwell, the author of that story, never said that the Indult was due to be announced at the Mass at St. Mary Major. The idea that the announcement would come at this Mass was second-order speculation (that is, speculation of those who read the story) based only on the plausibility of such a move. I personally didn't think it would happen at this Mass, since the story only said it would happen "before the end of the year". That it didn't happen now doesn't prove that it won't happen at all.

Finally, sources such as Inside The Vatican report that a document is in the works which could go so far as to "mandate" the celebration of the old Latin Mass "more widely, even on a weekly basis, in every parish in the world..." The source for this information is the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship himself, Francis Cardinal Arinze. So I'm going to keep an open mind, and wait to see what this promised document actually provides.

I think it is clear, since the promulgation of the new General Instruction of the Roman Missal in 2000, that Rome is moving to curb the abuses of the Novus Ordo and to tighten up liturgical discipline in general. It may very well be the case that Rome sees the rehabilitation of the Tridentine Rite as a desirable, or even necessary, part of securing the patrimony of Faith as it is expressed in our liturgy.