Saturday, October 14, 2006

Time Disses Latin Mass for Catholics

The following article is from Time Magazine.
Long before his run-in with the Malibu sheriff's department, Mel Gibson found himself in a very different kind of fix. Back in 2003, while filming The Passion of the Christ, the devout Catholic director couldn't find a real-life priest to his liking. The problem wasn't that he was shooting in an exotic location - they were at Rome's Cinecitta' movie studio, just down the road from the Vatican. But Gibson had a special requirement that was tough to satisfy even in the eternal city: he wanted his daily Mass celebrated in Latin.

In the 1960's, the Second Vatican Council - along with other changes meant to bring the rite closer to the faithful, such as having the priest face the congregation - replaced the traditional liturgy with Mass in local languages. To celebrate the Latin, or Tridentine rite, today, a pastor needs special permission from his bishop. So Gibson had to hunt out a particular 90-year-old French priest to officiate every morning on set.

Well, Mel's luck may be turning. Pope Benedict XVI is said to be preparing to widen the use of the old Latin rite again. He expected to issue a"motu proprio,"a document of his own initiative, which would loosen the permission requirement.

The new permission, or "indult," would most immediately address a longstanding schism with the ultra-traditionalist group founded in 1969 by the French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who opposed the Vatican II reforms. Lefebvre was excommunicated in 1988 after he consecrated four bishops without Rome's consent. But Benedict is believed to want to bring the Lefebvrites back in the fold.

Yet his olive branch may complicate matters in the American Church. Certainly, traditionalists who had to drive a hundred miles to find a priest with permission will be thrilled. More theologically liberal Catholics, however, may see it as a Lefebvrite-tinged step back from the principles they feel inspired Vatican II. "This would make it much more difficult for people to engage in full conscious and active participation, which was the goal of the Council," says Rev. James Martin, an editor at the Jesuit magazine America. Congregations could theoretically split on the issue, and many current priests would have to learn the old Mass (and more Latin, if they wanted to understand it).

Okay - let me get this straight. Theologically liberal Catholics are going to be threatened because somebody else can go to a Latin mass if they feel like it without having to leave the Church. And while we're at it - even if they don't use Latin in the liturgy, don't priests still have to learn Latin in seminary? How do they read anything more than 45 years old? Or do they just believe all theology began 45 years ago?

Even some Vatican conservatives are skeptical. The Lefebvrite critique extended beyond the Mass to other reforms such as efforts to build bridges with other faiths. A senior Vatican official comments that the Mass is "only one demand they have. The real problem is that they don't recognize the authority of the Pope."

I doubt that anyone ever expected the Lefebverites to return to the Catholic fold just because the old Mass is permitted. The people who are rejoicing over this are the faithful Catholics who can't believe that "Divine worship" is best accomplished through banal liturgies accompanied by extraordinarily bad music.

There is no clear indication exactly how loose an indult would be, and whether some approval would still be required for individual priests to perform the Latin rite. So far, the Lefebvre group has not commented on the latest news. Nor has Mel Gibson.

I'm not sure what Mel Gibson has to do with any of this, except that he is anathema to the lefties, who therefore associate his name with whatever they want to denigrate. Oddly, I am not at all sure that Mr. Gibson is what the average American would call "politically conservative." I suspect the loathing has more to do with his outspoken Christianity and his opposition to abortion, the great Sacrament of Secularism.

I have no dog in this particular hunt. St. Francis is Anglican, and the liturgical language at Our Lady's Maronite is Aramaic; Latin would be a newfangled innovation. But I am astounded by the opposition to allowing (not requiring!) people to worship using the old rite. Heck, there is no particular reason the newer Mass has to be in English - as I recall, English was permitted, never required.

I think the real reason for the opposition is the same as the push for revised liurgies in the Anglican churches. A Mass in Latin, just like a traditional Anglican Eucharist, requires that the participants be educated in the meaning of the service. An educated and well-catechized laity is a laity that can recognize nonsense, heresy, and plain old silliness when it's presented. And a laity that can discern truth from B.S. is a laity that can't be fooled into following whatever new-age goofball apostate revisionist agenda the American hierarchy may want to push on them. And that is indeed a threat to the powers that be.

Goodness. If this goes on, people might actually start to believe some of those silly, old-fashioned notions - like the Divinity of Christ, His presence in the Body and Blood of the Eucharist, the physical resurrection, and that maybe even that He and not themselves is really the "bread of life."

Bravo for BXVI! Long may he reign.