Here we go again.
Reports have been circulating for months now, that the "motu proprio" (a declaration made by the Holy Father on his own initiative, rather than through one of his curial departments) allowing more generous use of the 1962 Missale Romanum -- the Roman Missal as it appeared prior to Vatican II, or the "Tridentine Mass" -- was approved, signed, sealed, and about to be delivered in the various languages. Rorate Caeli, which takes great pride in only reporting on the most reliable and authoritative sources in these matters, jumped right on a report from "the famous and credible Italian website of Papal news Petrus," that Pope Benedict would release the decree before leaving for his summer holiday at Castel Gandalfo on July 9. With confirmations from other outlets of the European press, they treat it as a dramatic new development -- as they have with all the others before it in the past year.
People have already been personally told by Pope Benedict in private audience, that the decree would be released on such-and-such a day or month, and that day or month has come and gone. Everybody knows this, including those who can barely contain their excitement every time an interview with someone "famous and credible" hits the Italian press.
Sorry, kids, but the only real news here, is that there is no news. Just another potential announcement date. "Potential" means just that, and nothing else, until the "famous and credible" document is actually released. Until that happens, a little background...
Vatican watchers have confided that this Pope is not known for his administrative prowess. He is a scholar by temperament and training, who would just as soon be back home in Regensberg writing and teaching, as opposed to overseeing the lethargic three-ring circus that is the Roman Curia. But unlike his predecessor, who was said to have the same limitations, this one knows it well enough to put people in key positions who are able to compensate. (Cardinal Bertone's recent appointment as Secretary of State is a case in point.) In addition, there has been a problem with the proper translation of Latin texts, which are the official versions of any decrees originating from the Holy See. Certain key phrases that have a certain forcefulness, are often diluted in translation. (An example is the post-synodal exhortation on the Eucharist, Sacramentum Caritatis, the English version of which has already been cited for a number of significant errors. That translation, and possibly others, is in the process of revision.) As a result -- not to mention some good old-fashioned Vatican intrigue and inter-departmental haggling -- the translation process may be taking longer than usual.
Now, there's one more thing...
A major bone of contention with the motu proprio, is the provision that a priest can use the classical missal without requiring the approval of the local bishop. This is not a problem for people who have deluded themselves into believing that parish priests are like cowboys who can ride into town and shoot 'em up any which way they want. Anyone who ever spent a day studying ecclesiology, if they're really honest with themselves, doesn't buy it. But how does a Pope allow for more generosity in worship, without defying the legitimate role of a bishop as chief liturgical officer of his diocese and successor to the apostles?
This brings me to my theory...
The Pope has been contacting bishops in various parts of the world, in an attempt to reason with them for the proper spirit of cooperation. At least that's what's reported. I think it's going more like this:
"Look, guys, we can this the easy way or the hard way. The easy way is that you facilitate the training of celebrating the Old Mass, for any priest under your obedience who desires it, and that you minimize any impediments to the regular and convenient celebration of the same. The hard way is that I release any priest of the Latin Rite throughout the world from any accountability to their bishops, as to which form of the Roman Missal they decide to use, publicly or privately. So, what's it gonna be, fellas?"
Now, that's my theory and I'm stickin' to it! It doesn't seem too far fetched either. As this is written, arrangements for a priest of the Fraternity of Saint Peter to come to the Arlington Diocese and conduct workshops for priests, are already being made by our bishop, who from what we know -- bless his heart -- was likely to have required some persuasion for this degree of solicitude.
In the event of this action's fulfillment, a Tip of the Black Hat is being reserved for him. Just in case.
[UPDATE: On Sunday the 17th, Rorate Caeli reported on yet another confirmation of the inevitable, one which managed to disclose some early history of the upcoming decree, thus actually adding to the conversation. I never said it couldn't happen. As always, stay tuned...]