Critical Mass: Any Day Now...?
The past few months have been witness to recurrent rumors, that Pope Benedict XVI will grant a universal permission for the use of the 1962 Missale Romanum, otherwise known as the "Tridentine Mass." MWBH has followed reports from Shawn Tribe of The New Liturgical Movement, and the collective known as Rorate Caeli.
These reports have been circulating at one time or another since 1988, when an attempt to reconcile the schismatic* Society of Saint Pius X, then led by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, fell through. That being said, it is no secret that the former Cardinal Ratzinger has openly expressed a wish for the revival of the classical usage, and despite nary a word about it at the Ordinary Synod on the Eucharist last fall, the man who is now the Successor of Peter has conducted high-level meetings on his own initiative, to see about a reconciliation with the Lefebvrites, as well as a broader use of the "Old Mass."
Here in the Diocese of Arlington, two parishes will begin using the old missal this year, for one occasion every Sunday. This writer speculates that at least two more locations in the diocese could begin using it within the next year or so, especially if a decree such as the above is issued.
The late Michael Davies, a Welsh liturgist and writer, once attended Mass at the Brompton Oratory, where the reformed missal of Paul VI was used, with the original Latin text, at an altar "facing East" (mistakenly referred to as celebrating "with the priest's back to the people"), and the ceremonial trappings associated with the Western tradition. An avid promoter of the classical liturgy, he was heard to say that if the reformed missal were normally employed that way, "there wouldn't be any problems." This writer is inclined to agree, and wishes that such a remedy were forthcoming. While the Holy Father is doing precisely that in solemn celebrations of the liturgy in which he presides, it would appear in much of the West, that the current usage of the Roman rite has become so associated with a casual approach, that a "ressourcement" (a French word meaning "return to the sources") may be in order for the present.
Be that as it may, the magic date everyone is watching is April 7, which is when a meeting to "close the deal" is expected to occur. We've heard it all before, for nearly two decades now, but this is the most credible speculation to date. Stay tuned...
(UPDATE: Father Guy Sylvester, live from the Piazza, is our skeptic of choice.)
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* This term is one to which many traditionalists take exception, citing a statement from a highly-placed cardinal within the Vatican, who has insisted that the SSPX is not "schismatic," and that faithful Catholics may fulfill their obligation by frequenting an SSPX chapel. The position taken in this forum is based upon the following in the 1988 papal decree Ecclesia Dei: "[T]he unlawful episcopal ordination conferred on 30 June last by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre... was one of disobedience to the Roman Pontiff in a very grave matter and of supreme importance for the unity of the church... which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman primacy - [and] constitutes a schismatic act." (Emphasis added for the rhetorically impaired.) This writer submits that an official pronouncement from the Holy Father trumps a private opinion from one of his princes. With respect to attending Mass at the aforementioned chapels, therefore, it would seem imprudent to use an illicit means to accomplish a licit end.