Rites or Wrongs

7 May 2007

From my friend Jason:

Can the Latin Mass make a comeback? – By Andrew Santella – Slate Magazine

This article takes a pretty thorough take (for two pages) on the Latin Mass, the rumored motu proprio, and the desire by both traditionalists (and some not-so-traditionalists, although these go mostly unmentioned) who welcome the possibility of the Latin Mass.

Pope Benedict will certainly not roll back the clock to 1962, 1958, or 1645, but he will allow bishops and priests more leeway.  What will probably happen is that priests and parishes will be allowed to decide if and when Latin masses will be celebrated on the local level, as long as the vernacular Mass is offered as often or more often.

At the end of the article, Santella suggests that many American Roman Catholics’ —priests included— Latin may be too rusty to get through a Latin Mass effectively.  While this may be true, this may not be a problem.

I’m no Vaticanologist nor a canon lawyer, but I think that not only should the Pian or Tridentine Mass be liberalized, but also the 1964 Mass which was a vernacular version (more or less) of the earlier Latin Mass.  It often gets overlooked that for six years between the end of the Latin Mass and the promulgation in 1970 of the current missal, a vernacular form of the traditional Mass was celebrated.  I never hear much about it, but in terms of liturgical reform, I doubt much more was needed.

As I’ve said here and elsewhere, the important thing is a variety of valid, legitimate forms of worship.  And some things are more valid than others, a little more historically rooted than others, but speaking Latin does not legitimate or validate a rite and neither does being accessible or “popular.”

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5 Responses to “Rites or Wrongs”


  1. Thanks to some traditionalist and quasi-trad sites I knew of this interest from the mainstream media in the rumoured plan to free up the Roman Mass.

    A point I keep repeating is it’s not about Latin. I think that’s an issue the anti-Roman Mass people use to scare people away from it. They know the average Western person doesn’t want to hear dead languages in church. A dead language is only accidentally related to all this thanks to history. (But there should always be church scholars fluent in it and thanks to Spanish for example just how ‘dead’ is it? It’s still largely intelligible to literate Westerners.) Bring up the English Missal written by Anglo-Catholics and the real issues surface: Modernism and hatred of things perceived as English (why the Irish hate high church: read Thomas Day for more on that… it was true before Vatican II).

    The fact is they didn’t stop at translating the services (which was fine); it was a rewrite.

    I’ve said for some time that the 1965 Missal you’re thinking of would be a good default setting for the Roman Rite as would the Roman Breviary as it was at the time (IIRC Matins was shorter; you could separate Matins and Lauds; secular priests only had to do one of the little hours): flexible enough to accommodate those who’ve only known the Novus Ordo and Liturgy of the Hours but entirely orthodox: they’re simplified but still the Tridentine Mass and Roman Breviary. And as you point out you can do them in the vernacular: again ‘it’s not about Latin’.

    And as I wrote at length in Tripp’s blog recently it’s not really about trying to revive an historical period.

    It’s about reverence and the theology in the (beautiful, orthodox) prayers.

    Regarding Santella’s point that few priests today know how to do the Roman Mass I also say that if really open-minded people like you were calling the shots in 1970 the RCs could have had something in the parishes like ‘Rite I’ in Episcopal churches with the traditional service as the early one on Sunday mornings. (And to this day there are Episcopal churches, including those not simpatico to my religion, that do ‘eastward-facing’ celebrations… far commoner than among RCs in the US.) That would have been easy to pull off back then because all RC priests still knew how to do the old service.

    But considering the number of younger ones who want to learn it, if Rome made sure the motu proprio was implemented they could have this in only a few years.

    Vernacularise it as you suggest and it could happen even faster.

    (Which is exactly what the ageing liberals still running RC institutions don’t want.)

  2. Scott Says:

    Hearty agreement with your comments about the interim rite of the mid-1960s. That was sort of the Mass I grew up with and my first liturgical experience. I’ve always wondered why those wishing to improve the Roman Mass or go back to a previous version emphasize Latin as the essential characteristic rather than the form and the vernacular translation.


  3. P.S. I’ve seen nicely bound hand missals from 1965 – just made the rounds of the spring jumble sales the other day and saw an example. That suggests that most RCs thought the slight simplification and partial translation that year were going to be the only changes from Vatican II. Traditionalist leader Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre had no problem with this. And there is an official RC Benedictine monastery, Clear Creek in Oklahoma, that with ecclesiastical permission uses this missal.


  4. I’d love to have that missal. If you see one again, let me know; I’ll pay you for it and the postage. I would also love to put my hands on a Knott missal, a missal I would be ignorant of had it not been for you, Fogey.

    Scott and Fogey, I think we’re much in agreement here. As I’ve said before, it’s not archaism/anachronism, and it’s not pastiche. The best, strongest church (and Church), the best and strongest (little and big C-)atholic community is one that has a diversity of legitimate liturgical and devotional expressions.

  5. Tripp Says:

    Diversity is good!

    Yahoo.

    I learned to pray with the language of Tallis and Byrd…coupled with the “Thank ya, Jesus!” of my baptist family.

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