By Kim Bell
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
ST. LOUIS — Pope Benedict XVI’s decree Saturday allows greater use of the traditional Latin Mass, but don’t expect big changes here, some St. Louis area priests say.
Catholics already can attend one of nine traditional Latin Masses weekly at St. Francis de Sales in the city. Adding the traditional Latin Mass at parishes that want it would take time.
“It requires a priest able to celebrate it and people who are able to respond,” the Rev. Eugene Morris, a theology professor at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. “It’s not something you can shoot up overnight. So we’re not expecting a radical change.” These comments must be considered in the context of an Archdiocese where the traditional use is far more widely available than in most, and where the Archbishop is very supportive of it. Fr. Morris is probably talking of the establishment of additional public Masses in the traditional use at local parishes. Private Masses, which Summorum Pontificum confirms can be attended by the faithful, are a much easier affair to begin. It will happen in many places quite quickly, I believe, and faithful will attend these Masses. In my opinion, this would certainly already constitute a “radical change.”
Benedict’s directive and papal letter to the world’s bishops, released at 5 a.m. CST Saturday, eased restrictions on the so-called Tridentine Mass.
Ever since reforms of the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council, a priest who had wanted to celebrate the old Latin Mass had to get permission from the local bishop. The reforms said Mass should be said in local languages and use lay readers. Of course this was NOT mandated by the Council or the 1970 Missal.
Benedict’s announcement makes Latin — the way Mass was structured before the Vatican II reforms — available to any parish where groups of members want it. The document says the Latin offering can take place on weekdays, and once on Sundays and feast days. And that is just at typical parishes. At Oratories, communal locations and personal parishes it can be said at any time, according to the will of the communities themselves, or the Bishops who establish the personal parishes.
The decision is considered a victory for traditional, conservative Roman Catholics. Otherwise known as “Catholics”. It came over the objections of liberal-minded Catholics. Otherwise known as, um, well… ok, “Catholics”, but ones who need our prayers to accept the Church’s teachings– they, too, are as much victims of the poor catechesis and liturgical malaise of the last 40 years as any of us who suffered through it and were deprived of tradition. They just may not know it.
Benedict, in sympathy with Catholics who liked the old Latin rite, said liturgical creativity in the last few decades has often meant “deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear.” You said it, Your Holiness.
“I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion,” Benedict wrote in his letter to the bishops. “And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church.” Thank you, Holy Father– in other words, attachment to the 1500+ year Mass of the Latin Rite did not mean one wasn’t “totally rooted in the faith of the Church.” Usually, the opposite could be said.
Benedict said the predominant form of worship will remain the new Mass rite. For now…
St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke, a big supporter of traditional Latin Mass, was out of town Saturday and unavailable for comment. On June 27, Burke was one of a small group of bishops who met privately with Benedict about the plan. And thanks to the Archbishop for all of his encouragement and support.
The Rev. Karl Lenhardt, rector of St. Francis de Sales at 2653 Ohio Avenue, said said Burke was “ahead of his time” by being so supportive of Latin Mass. It shouldn’t be viewed as “a kind of competition among the parishes,” Lenhardt said, but rather a way to add vitality.
“It’s not to go back to the ‘50s or the ‘20s,” Lenhardt said. “It’s not something for the past. The holy father underlines much more the timelessness of the liturgy. We experience a glimpse of heaven in it.” As anyone who attends Mass at the Oratory can attest.
St. Francis de Sales, the official home of the old Latin Mass in the St. Louis archdiocese, has an average Sunday attendance of 800 to 1,000 people, making it one of the country’s biggest.
Morris, the seminary professor, said change may come slowly: “We might see, maybe five or 10 years down the road, other parishes that might offer this to their faithful as well.”
Morris said the most exciting part of Benedict’s letter was his desire for everyone to feel unified.
Nothing about the pope’s decision on traditional Latin Mass was a surprise, Morris said. In fact, it was more anticlimactic “because in our archdiocese we’re used to both forms being available and existing together peacefully.” And that is the key to Fr. Morris’ comments. We have a good situation from which to begin to implement this Motu Proprio in the Archdiocese. Fr. Morris himself has participated in the life of the Oratory– hearing confessions, preaching, participating in liturgies. He is giving his opinion about how long change will take. I hope things happen sooner, but we shall see.