Monday, November 06, 2006

Fr. McLucas on the motu proprio

In his newsletter of October 24, 2006, Latin Mass Magazine Editor, Fr. James McLucas, addressed the recent spate of media reports and speculation concerning the pending papal decree "freeing" the Latin Mass. He writes:
A significant aspect of all the conjecture from these sources is that the alleged document is a motu proprio, a Latin phrase meaning that the provisions of the decree are the initiative of the Pope personally, and not that of a Cardinal or other advisor. This may also be the reason why, if a document is truly about to be released in Rome, that it has been leaked. This is an old tactic of our enemies in the Roman Curia, the purpose of which is to get the news out to the bishops of the world who will then bring great pressure on the Pope to modify the contents or get rid of it altogether....
Be advised that most of what follows concerning the motu proprio is rumor and conjecture, although Fr. McLucas' observations about its implications, I think, are salient and profound, and his insights concerning the state of the Church and current situation of those who love the traditional liturgical rite are very well-substantiated.

Fr. McLucas says that two priests whom he trusts recently informed him that they had conversations with at least two high ranking Curial officials and were both told that a document is coming which will grant wider use of the traditional rite of the Mass. However, he said, both priests "came away with the impression that it will be far less than that for which we have hoped and prayed: a universal structure which would permit Catholics of tradition to live normal parish life under their own bishops, priests and religious." At the present time, he said, the consensus among the various professional Vatican watchers in Italy is that the motu proprio will state (1) that the Missal of St. Pius V was never abrogated; (2) that any priest is free to offer publicly the traditional rite of the Mass; (3) but all must be done in conjunction with the regulating directives of the local bishop and his chancery.

One can imagine the problems that would remain with this sort of scenario. Without a canonical structure which would free the control of the traditional liturgy from the local bishops (McLucas compares this to the Cluniac reform beginning in the 10th century), the following problems could ensue:
  • Would traditional priests who do not belong to traditional societies of apostolic life such as the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter be allowed to to offer exclusively the traditional Mass? (since there priests for whom the new rite, while of unquestioned validity, is as foreign as the Divine Liturgy of an Eastern Rite)
  • Would the wider use of the traditional rite in Catholic parishes lead to the introduction into the ancient form of the Mass of those liturgical innovations traditional Catholics find so abhorrent in the new rite?
  • Since the new rite places little premium on rubrics as compared to the traditional rite, will priests accustomed to improvising their "own form" of the new rite be tempted to import such an attitude into their celebration of the traditional Mass?
  • Would approval of the traditional Mass also include approval of the other traditional rituals that have been hitherto generally prohibited, such as Baptism, Matrimony, and the Requiem Mass? (McLucas says that reliable sources answer in the affirmative.)
  • Would Catholics of tradition be bound to the whims of local bishops, many of whom loathe the Mass they love and treat them like second class citizens?
McLucas remarks concerning the five French bishops who have recently spoken strongly against the "regularizing" of the traditional rite. He notes, for example, that in the Catholic daily publication, La Croix, the Bishop of Toulouse said that such a circumstance "could create grave difficulties, especially for those who have remained loyal to Vatican II." McLucas comments: "This, by the way, confirms what The Latin Mass has always maintained: the heart of the opposition to the ancient liturgy is theological -- not liturgical. No one should underestimate the enormous covert pressure being exerted against any plans by Benedict to liberate - to any degree -- the traditional Mass."

Despite concerns such as these, McLucas records his vivid memory of what the-then Cardinal Ratzinger said on the 10th anniversary of the promulgation of the motu proprio, "Ecclesia Dei Adflicta" on October 24, 1998:
"If the unity of the faith and the unicity of the mystery appear clearly in the two forms of the celebration [the Missal of Paul VI and the Missal of Pius V], this can only be a reason for all to rejoice and thank God. In so far as we believe, live and act on these motives, we can also persuade the bishops that the presence of the ancient liturgy does not disorder or injure the unity of their diocese, but rather it is a gift destined to build up the Body of Christ of which we are all servants."
If the Holy father is ready to act upon such convictions, McLucas suggests, it is not yet beyond the possibility that a canonical structure may yet be in the making -- though he admits that it is a "long shot," and, as Ralph Roister-Doister prophesieth, one should never count one's chickens before they're hatched.

A widely-dispersed rumor in Rome -- yes rumors and more rumors, actually -- that has been of "more than passing interest" to McLucas, is the rumor that Benedict has been in consultation for months with the Pontifical commission for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts in order to secure a canonically sound entity which would house priests, religious and laity who are devoted to the traditional rites. While some suggest some slight possibility that this could be an actual part of the motu proprio, McLucas suggests that a more plausible scenario would involved the eventual reconciliation of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) with the Holy See. If this were to occur, it would "provide direct pressure on the local bishops to offer greater opportunities for Catholic communities who desired to worship at the traditional Mass," unless they wished to risk losing a growing number of Catholics to the traditional rite communities.

McLucas says, finally: "I am not trying to raise false expectations here. I am clinging to a hope -- not a strong one but a credible one -- that the Holy Father realizes that a motu proprio, which gives neither structural protection nor alternatives to Catholics of tradition, will be widely circumvented by the bishops an their chanceries.

[Hat tip to Fr. James McLucas. Subscribe to Latin Mass Magazine.]

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