Thursday, February 14, 2008

Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler, SDB (1910-2007)

Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler, SDB, died just a couple of weeks before last Christmas at the age of 97 on December 12, 2007. The latest Una Voce America Nota carries an article about his passing. It states that at the time of his death, he was the oldest living Cardinal, that he was also one of the last remaining periti of Vatican II, and that he is best remembered as one of the great defenders of the Tridentine Mass during the 1990's, when few others dared to defend it. Among the biographical details noted is that he was professed as a Salesian in 1928 and was ordained a priest at the Lateran Basilica in 1937; that he became an eminent canon lawyer and Latinist, serving the Second Vatican Council as peritus while also serving (from 1958 to 1966) as Rector of the Salesianum in Rome. He was also appointed Vatican Librarian in 1984, and was made a Cardinal in 1985. His claim to a place in the books, however, was yet to be established. The key events follow:
In 1986, Cardinal Stickler, Ratzinger, Oddi, Casaroli, Palazzini, Tomko, Gantin, Innocenti and Mayer were formed into a Commission tasked by John Paul II to examine the following questions:

1) Did Pope Paul VI authorize the bishops to forbid the celebration of the traditional Mass?

2) Does the priest have the right to celebrate the traditional Mass in public and in private without restriction, even against the will of his bishop?

The Commission voted eight to one to declare that Pope Paul VI had not forbidden the Traditional Mass. The Commission voted unanimously to declare that every priest has the right to celebrate TLM in public and private without restriction, and that even the bishop cannot forbid him from celebrating the TLM.
As one blogger observed, this was in 1986 — 21 years before Summorum Pontificum!

The Commission issued a series of Norms ("The Vatican Norms of 1986") which included:
  • Bishops should ensure that on Sundays and ferial days at least one Latin Mass should be celebrated in each important locality of their diocese.
  • For every Mass celebrated in the Latin language - with or without the faithful present - the celebrant has the right freely to choose between the missal of Paul VI (1970) and that of John XXIII (1962).
While John Paul II never released the findings of the Commission, Cardinal Stickler was to publicly reveal the verdict of the Commission of Nine Cardinals on these two questions in 1995. (Here the Una Voce article refers the reader to the article “Traditional Mass Never Forbidden,” and observes that the proposals and declarations of this Commission are practically identical to those of Pope Benedict XVI's Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, 21 years later.

The article then continues:
From 1992 to around 2000, Cardinal Stickler was by far the most outspoken defender of the Traditional Mass movement in the whole College of Cardinals. He was the great protector of traditionalists at a time when even “orthodox” Catholics considered the Tridentine Mass to be either abrogated or “passe” and hopelessly outdated for the present age. When almost no one else would defend the Traditional Mass movement, he did. In 1992, he became the first Cardinal since the 1960’s to celebrate a Pontifical Solemn High Mass according to the 1962 Missal, in the North American continent. In 1996, he celebrated a great Pontifical Mass at New York City’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Examples of Cardinal Stickler's defenses of the Tridentine Mass include the following:
  • Address to the 1992 Annual General Meeting of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales -- one excerpt:
    The first idea I will communicate with you is that you can be sure that your movement has full legitimacy in the Church. Some have said that we are not legitimate. This is not true because, if you remember article 4 of the Liturgical Constitution, the Council Fathers explicitly said all the venerable rites have to be preserved. Some people say this is valid for all the other rites, with the exception of the Roman Latin rite. This is not so. Because article 4 says: all the rites legitimately recognised. This was not only established for the rites existing at that time, during the Council, but also for the rites that should be approved afterwards. Now the Old Latin rite was really recognised after the changing of the former Latin Roman rite because, as you know, exception was given immediately for old priests and, in England, you had fortunately your great Cardinal Heenan, who obtained the Indult for England and Wales in 1971. Then, we had the Motu Proprio, the Indult of the Pope, and later on Ecclesia Dei which was clearly confirmed by the Pope; for example, when he spoke to the Abbot of Le Barroux in 1990, who had asked explicitly for this rite. Consequently, a new authority was given to the old Rite on the base of the liturgical Constitution of the Council itself. This recognition is coming from the Holy See, from the Pope, under the conditions given at the moment of the new approbation, which institutes a real legitimation of the Old Rite (and is available now). So, if you fulfil the conditions for the continuation of the Old Rite, it is legitimate for you. This is the external legitimacy of your movement.
  • The Theological Attractiveness of the Tridentine Mass (May 1995)

  • The Role of the Celebrant in Mediator Dei -- an excerpt:
    The role of the priest as celebrant necessarily comes into focus here. Indeed, his oblation is not a mere memorial of the passion and death of Jesus Christ the Redeemer, but a real sacrificial action in which Christ Himself does what he did on the Cross though in an unbloodly manner. Now He performs it through the office of the priest, who represents Him, having received the power to act in this manner through his ordination. Thus, priest, oblation, and object of the sacrifice are the same.

    . . . There are such who nowadays come close to heresies which have already been condemned (these anthemata were pronounced by the Council of Trent, Session 23, cap. 4), inasmuch as they teach that in the New Testament there be only that priesthood which embraces those who are baptized; and that the commandment by which Jesus Christ at the Last Supper ordered the Apostles to do what He had done Himself concerned directly the whole Church and the faith. Only from there, and subsequently, had the hierarchical priesthood developed and come into existence. Thus, they proclaim that the people posess true priestly powers, and that the priest on the contrary acts only by way of a mandate received from the community. Therefore, they see in the Eucharistic Sacrifice a true "celebrating-together/' (concelebration) and think it better for the priests to concelebrate together with the people present than to offer the Sacrifice "privately" in the absence of the people.
  • Reflections of A Vatican II Peritus -- an excerpt:
    The Church and the liturgy grow and develop together, but always in such a way that the earthly is organized around the heavenly. The Mass comes from Christ; it was adopted by the apostles and their successors as well as by the Fathers of the Church; it developed organically, with the conscious retention of its substance. The liturgy developed along with the Faith that is contained within it; thus we can say, with Pope Celestine I, in his writings to the Gallican bishops in the year 422: Legem credendi lex statuit supplicandi: The liturgy contains, and in proper and comprehensible ways, brings the Faith to expression. In this sense the constancy of the liturgy participates in the constancy of the Faith itself; indeed it contributes to its protection. Never has there been, therefore, in any of the Christian-Catholic rites, a break, a radically new creation-with the exception of the post-Conciliar reform. But the Council again and again demanded for the reform a strict adherence to tradition. All reforms, beginning with Gregory I through the Middle Ages, during the entry into the Church of the most disparate peoples with their various customs, have observed this ground rule. This is, incidentally, a characteristic of all religions, including non-revealed ones, which proves that an attachment to tradition is standard in any religious worship, and is therefore natural.
  • Preface to the 2004 Reprint of the Ottaviani Intervention
Finally, the article concludes:
His short speeches are noteworthy for their blunt and prophetic insight. Although he accepted its validity and the fact that it is Catholic, he insisted that the Novus Ordo Mass is a fabrication and a distortion of the will of Vatican II. He trenchantly declared that the Tridentine Mass is theologically preferable to the Novus Ordo. These opinions, which were considered too extreme during the reign of John Paul II, are now staple theological fare in theological groups that have embraced the program of liturgical restoration under Benedict XVI.

When extreme old age finally silenced him in the early part of the present decade, other cardinals — Ratzinger, Medina Estevez, and Castrillon Hoyos — carried on his work of promoting and defending the rights of the 1962 Missal in the Church. He spent the last years of his life in seclusion in the Vatican; he was known to have celebrated his private Mass exclusively according to the 1962 Missal.

He reiterated in 2003 that all priests may celebrate TLM in private, even without their respective bishops’ permission. In 2004, he endorsed the Ottaviani Intervention as remaining relevant to our own time.

It is sweet to think that this Cardinal lived to see the day when his teaching that the TLM was never forbidden was finally vindicated by the highest authority of the Church. With Summorum Pontificum promulgated and in effect, he could finally say his Nunc Dimittis.

Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler: Requiescat in Pace.
[Acknowledgements: Obituary by Mr. Carlos Antonio Palad, with slight modifications, as published in Una Voce America Nota (Winter, 2007); and "Alphons Maria Cardinal Stickler Dies," (Catholic Tradition, December 19, 2007)]

No comments: