Monday, July 07, 2014

The Latin Mass: Why You (Still) Can’t Have It

It was seven years ago today -- the date was 07/07/07, by the way -- that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI announced the removal of all restrictions to the celebration of the Traditional form of the Roman Mass, in his motu proprio (that is, on his own initiative) decree Summorum Pontificum.

Given the availability of a priest in good canonical standing who is competent to celebrate it, and given the desire of the faithful themselves to assist thereupon, there is no permission required of the local bishop. We refer, of course, to the so-called "extraordinary form," that which dates in its general appearance to the time of Pope Gregory the Great in the sixth century, and which, after a millennium of cross-cultural evolution, was codified by Pope Pius V in 1570, and with minor alterations in the centuries to follow, was in normative use in the Western church until 1964, with the first measures to (ostensibly) reconcile the Ordo Missae with the decrees of the Second Vatican Council. And yet, after seven years …

… if you can't imagine why you don't have access to the Traditional Latin Mass in every gosh darn parish in the universe, as of one day after the Pope said you could, or you want to know what has to happen to have one anywhere at all, you should read this.

Then you should read it again. Slowly.

… and all will be revealed.


Cojuanco said...

Little nitpick, though I otherwise pretty much agree:

This applies to parishes, normally diocesan ones. Religious houses and the parishes they serve are bound by the rules and constitutions of their orders (hence the FFI controversy).

Athelstane said...

Hello David,

Yours was a very helpful essay. A few points bear repeating:

1) The reality is that the Catholic Church is a hierarchical church. This doesn't mean that Catholics are *passive* (some are) but that they are innately deferential to authority, even today. They will usually take what is given to them. It is this natural instinct that explains most of why the massive changes in the liturgy were accepted with so little initial resistance in 1964-1970. And the hierarchy during this period has been strongly committed to the "reformed" liturgy, and a particular (low church) form of that liturgy.

2) Secondly, consider where we have been, and where we are now. In 1984, the year of the first indult, there were, effectively, no licit TLM's in North America to speak of, regular or otherwise. In 2007, the year of Summorum Pontificum, there were around 200 regularly scheduled TLM's, and a fair smattering of "one-off" TLM's or irregular occurrences. Today, in mid-2014, there are just about 500 regular TLM's, 75 of them having daily traditional Masses.

All of which is, on its face, really remarkable progress in a relatively short period of time - we have gone from zero to over a diocese's with of weekend TLM's in just three decades, with most of that growth in the last 7 years. But when you consider point 1, it's even more remarkable. Because it is obvious that nearly all of the growth we have seen has come from initiative of those *below* - groups of determined laity, as well as some brave priests here and there. In short, despite all the griping and and angry online trads, what progress has been realized really has come through the David Alexander program, a program more or less also recommended by Fr. Z ("Ride the damn bicycle!"). In other words, we must press on in this vein, working ever harder to evangelize on behalf of tradition (something that does not come easily to many of us), and to provide the support (trained servers, singers, pew missals and propers, vestments, etc.) needed. We can't just lay back now.

And yet, coming back to point 2, it occurs to me that tradition will really take off only once a lot of the hierarchy starts to become invested in it as well. Lay initiative is critical, but it can only do so much, especially when it comes to the next (tougher) step of forming complete traditional parishes. But I do think this day is coming, and indeed is already starting to arrive in a few places, as more and more young priests emerge with a serious interest in Catholic tradition. Eventually, these young priests will be running not just parishes, but also seminaries and dioceses.

David L Alexander said...


Your comment has been rejected. This venue does not support, nor does it lend a forum, to any positions that are contrary to, or that would otherwise misrepresent, fidelity with Holy Mother Church, under the visible headship of the legitimate Successor to Peter. “Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia!”

Masses offered at chapels of the Society of Saint Pius X, while valid, are illicit; that is, outside the law. Their priests are not incardinated to a diocese, nor do they function under the authority of a local bishop as successor to the apostles. At present, the SSPX exists in a state of "imperfect communion" with the Holy See (which is not the same thing as being excommunicated, so don't even go there). As to any private correspondence with Rome, that would appear to approve of such attendance as fulfilling one's Sunday obligation, it should be pointed out at the offset, that an unlawful means cannot be used to accomplish a lawful end. That's pretty much common sense right there. And the same correspondence says (if the brainiacs who tout it ever bother to read all of it), that while there are circumstances where one might fulfill one's obligation at an SSPX chapel, it is not recommended, for fear of cultivating a "schismatic mentality." (See also "common sense" above.)

No, the Society is not in formal schism with Rome, but the 1988 decree cclesia Dei adflicta described the unlawful consecration of four bishops by the Society to be "a schismatic act" under Canon 751 of the 1983 Code. In addition, then-Cardinal Ratzinger referred in at least one interview to "the Lefebvrite schism." No, they are (and it is stated here again) not schismatic in the formal sense, but their conduct bears certain characteristics of schism.

I should say that my own dealings with SSPX adherents have been most cordial over the years. I speak in particular of Mr Louis Tofari, whose counsel on matters of liturgical and ceremonial detail have been most valuable, and whose writings on the Dialogue Mass are what I would argue to be the definitive works on the subject.

I would be as grateful to the Divine Will as anyone, to see a full reconciliation between the Society and Rome.


I'm an Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Count your blessings you live in a Diocese where the Bishop is accepting of the Mass.

ABS have lived in the Diocese of Palm Brach (Fl) for nearly 20 years now and He befriended a Priest who told him he loved the Mass but that "here are only two Indults allowed here; one for the Northern Deanery and one for the Southern Deanery but he assured me that once general approval for the Mass was allowed, he'd be th exist to celebrate it as his Church - he is Pastor.

Well, you can guess what is coming. S.P. was promulgated, he refused to celebrate the Mass and so he is all about new Mass with giant TV screens perched on each side of the sanctuary etc etc.

ABS would never break the Bonds of Unity in Worship, Doctrine, and Authority and so when he can;t get to Sarasota to assist at the Mass, he assists at the new Mass.

C'ey la vie.

A teeny percentage of the Catholic population gets to have the Mass and the Hierarchy is not even indifferent to it, it is systematically opposed to it for its ethos and sanctity is completely alien to the new anthropocentric faith established during V2

Anonymous said...

David your description of the SSPX status [at 7/09/2014 02:49:00 PM] is excellent. Well said. And worth repeating.