Summorum Pontificum One Year Later

Author: ZENIT


Summorum Pontificum One Year Later

Part 1

Father John Zuhlsdorf Analyzes Its Effects

By Annamarie Adkins

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota, 6 JULY 2008 (ZENIT)

Benedict XVI's letter "Summorum Pontificum" on the traditional form of the Mass has sparked an increased interest in the Latin-language liturgy, especially among priests, says an expert on liturgical translations.

Father John Zuhlsdorf, a former employee of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, is a noted authority on both liturgical translations and the 1962 Missal. He also writes the "What Does the Prayer Really Say?" column in the Wanderer newspaper, and is the author of a popular blog by the same name.

In Part 1 of this interview with ZENIT, he spoke about new interest in the traditional Latin Mass and various concerns raised regarding "Summorum Pontificum."

Part 2 of this interview will appear Monday.

Q: Has there been much of a demand for the traditional Latin Mass since the release of "Summorum Pontificum"?

Father Zuhlsdorf: No and yes. We have not seen hordes of the faithful hammering on rectory doors to demand the older Mass. But there has been a steady increase of parishes where the traditional Latin Mass is now celebrated regularly.

The trickle is becoming a stream.

Initially, there were unrealistic expectations. Many who favor the older Mass were overly optimistic that the floodgates would crash open. The naysayers, often in positions of power, tried to stem the tide by speaking very negatively, not only about the older Mass, but also about the people who desire it.

Many diocesan bishops, incredibly, threw up unreasonable obstacles to the good provisions the Holy Father generously promulgated. That resistance is now crumbling under the scrutiny of the blogosphere and pressure from the Holy See.

The other factor is that very many young priests want to learn the traditional Latin Mass. For example, I hear that over 1,000 priests have requested the new training DVD that the Fraternity of St. Peter made together with EWTN.

Scores of priests are attending training workshops in Chicago and Nebraska, in Oxford, England, and elsewhere, whenever they are offered. As priests learn this form of the Mass, they will begin implementing it in parishes.

Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, Benedict XVI's point man in these matters, stated that the Holy Father hopes this Mass will be offered widely, even if it has not been requested by the faithful.

University chaplaincies are being pushed by students to make the traditional Latin Mass available. This trend will only increase on an upward curve.

Q: The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei is reportedly preparing a document to clarify some ambiguities related to implementing "Summorum Pontificum." What have been the main difficulties thus far that such a document should address?

Father Zuhlsdorf: The document will probably clarify some terms in the "motu proprio" that have been used by some diocesan bishops and priests to block what the Holy Father is trying to accomplish.

For example, "Summorum Pontificum" says priests must be idoneus, "capable, competent" to say Mass with the older book. Idoneus, a technical term, refers to the minimum requirements for competence, not to expertise.

Cardinal Edward Egan of New York, a distinguished canonist in his day, correctly stated that idoneus, as far as the Latin language is concerned, means that the priest must be able to pronounce the words properly. That is the minimum.

Of course we hope for far more than that. But some bishops are subjecting priests to exams in Latin before they determine whether he can exercise his right to say Mass using the 1962 Missale Romanum, or even in Latin with the Novus Ordo, that is to say, Mass in his own rite, as a priest of the Latin Church.

Another issue is how large a group, a coetus, making a request for the older Mass must be before the parish priest is required to act in their favor. Those and other questions pertain to the interpretation of the "motu proprio."

Practical questions have arisen as well. For example, the Holy See should give direction about the relationship of the two liturgical calendars. I think the Holy See should issue an "ordo" for the traditional Mass, a yearly booklet indicating which Mass must be said each day.

Clarifications about the style of vestments that may be used, or the sort of music, could be useful. There are questions about Communion in the hand or altar girls, how those fit with the spirit and the rubrics of the pre-conciliar Mass.

Smaller details, for example about the so-called second Confiteor before Communion, or some traditions people desire from before the 1962 Missal should be made clear.

This upcoming document, and its particular authoritative responses, will help make the implementation of "Summorum Pontificum" orderly and serene.

Q: You have argued that "Summorum Pontificum" is the centerpiece of Benedict XVI's "Marshall Plan" for the Church. But the term "Marshall Plan" implies rebuilding from the ground up. Can you describe this plan and the role you believe the traditional Latin Mass fits within it?

Father Zuhlsdorf: Useful as they are, analogies limp. After World War II the United States rebuilt war-ravaged Europe both for humanitarian reasons, and also to help create trading partners and a prosperous bulwark against Communism.

After Vatican II, many spheres of the Church were devastated, ravaged by internal dissent, a loss of continuity with our tradition, and from erosion by the secularism and relativism of the prevailing modern world.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had been concerned for years about the loss of Christian identity, which is at the heart of Western Civilization. Now Papa Ratzinger, I believe, is working to reinvigorate our Catholic identity, within the Church herself among her members and spheres of life, so that we can resist the negative influences of secularism and relativism.

Only with a solid identity can we, as Catholics, have something positive and healthy to offer to the world at large, a clear voice offering important contributions in the public square.

Our identity as Catholics is inextricably bound together with the way we pray as a Church.

To give shape and strength to our Catholic identity in these difficult times, we need an authentic liturgical renewal, a renewal that reintegrates us with our tradition, brings us into continuity with the deep roots of our Catholic Christian experience of two millennia.

Contrary to the notions of most progressivists, "the Catholic thing" did not begin in the 1960s.

Benedict XVI is guiding us to a healthier vision of the Church's doctrine, history, public worship and our very identity as Catholics. There can be no authentic change for a better future without continuity with our past. Liturgy is the tip of the spear.

Part 2 Father John Zuhlsdorf Analyzes its Effects

By Annamarie Adkins

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota, 7 JULY 2008 (ZENIT)

Even though Benedict XVI’s letter “Summorum Pontificum” on the traditional form of the Mass has been in effect less than a year, it has already made an impact, says an expert on liturgical translations.

Father John Zuhlsdorf, a former employee of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, is a noted authority on both liturgical translations and the 1962 missal. He also writes the “What Does the Prayer Really Say?” column in The Wanderer newspaper, and is the author of a popular blog by the same name.

In Part 2 of this interview with ZENIT, he spoke with ZENIT about the impact “Summorum Pontificum” has had on the life of the Church life one year after its release.

Part 1 appeared Sunday.

Q: Benedict XVI stated in the letter accompanying “Summorum Pontificum” that he hoped each form of the Mass — ordinary and extraordinary — would mutually enrich the other. In particular, he desired that the extraordinary form would restore a sense of the sacred to the ordinary form, or Novus Ordo. One year after “Summorum Pontificum,” have you seen the extraordinary form exercise any "gravitational pull" on the Novus Ordo?

Father Zuhlsdorf: Yes, we can see this “pull” at work in some places, but there is a long way to go. Gravity exerts a steady pull, but inertia, especially momentum in the wrong direction, must still be overcome.

It has only been one year since the letter was issued, and only since September that it has been in force. Initially there were flurries of enthusiasm and vituperation, crowing and panic.

The text had to be read and absorbed. The Holy See had to clarify the authentic wording. Problems and questions are still being identified. A document with clarifications obviously remains on the drafting desk.

But the mere awareness of the provisions of “Summorum Pontificum” has made an impact. “Personal parishes” are being established for use of the older Mass and rites of sacraments. Books and training materials had to be created. They are now starting to be published. All this takes time.

Also, the Holy Father changed the conversation about liturgy and certain post-Conciliar practices by celebrating the Novus Ordo in a more traditional way, by using historic vestments, by returning to distributing Communion on the tongue to people kneeling, and so forth.

But the real pull of the older Mass and Benedict XVI’s efforts toward continuity with the Novus Ordo will be felt in the future.

For example, time and time again younger priests tell me that after learning the traditional Latin Mass they never say Holy Mass in the Novus Ordo the same way. There are things you learn about priesthood and Holy Mass from the traditional Latin Mass that you simply don’t pick up from the Novus Ordo, especially as it is usually celebrated in so many of our parishes and chapels.

How a priest says Mass affects a parish profoundly, at the level of reverence, vocations, everything.

Even though Rome wasn’t destroyed in a day, neither will it be quickly rebuilt. We have suffered a disastrous loss of basic priestly formation in Latin and theology and the culture that goes with them. This will take time to recover.

Seminaries need time to ramp up to meet the new needs the letter calls forth. Seminarians are eager to learn. Who will do the teaching?

In parishes young people more and more desire a greater continuity with the past. They are discovering their Catholic heritage and that they have been robbed. Eventually they will hold the positions of influence in parishes and Catholic schools.

On a concrete level, some bishops, priests, liturgists and musicians are rethinking the value of some common post-conciliar practices.

For example, a few days after Benedict XVI started to distribute Communion on the tongue to people kneeling, a bishop in the United States did precisely the same thing for Corpus Christi.

They are reassessing the great advantages of Mass celebrated "ad orientem," everyone facing the same direction toward the altar and the Crucifix. Latin is being reappraised. Musicians are dusting off the treasury of sacred liturgical music that has been hidden for decades.

The "motu proprio" is pulling, but there is still resistance, and laziness. Time, patience and open minds are needed to get things moving. The law of inertia in physics is that bodies in motion or at rest stay that way until another force works on them. The "motu proprio" is such a force.

Q: What have been some noteworthy, or perhaps unexpected, developments in the Church related to “Summorum Pontificum” since its release?

Father Zuhlsdorf: A noteworthy result must be the shift in attitude of and about people who desire traditional liturgy.

For so long the ecclesiastical establishment looked down on and marginalized more traditional Catholics, shoving them to the back of the bus because of their attachment to our tradition. Some of the more benign saw them as being like our family’s nutty but harmless aunt up in the attic.

On the other hand, many traditionalists, perhaps out of the deep hurts and disillusionment they felt after all the changes in the Church, the silly season of illicit innovations, the ash-canning of our beautiful churches, music, vestments, statues, devotions, you name it, wound up with an enormous chip on their collective shoulder.

As time went by, many of them knew no other way to “negotiate” with bishops and priests but simply to get in their face, make pushy demands, and arrogantly tell them what to do. It got to a point where even clerics who were open and sympathetic started to wince and back away whenever traditionalists approached. And so the waters of good relations froze.

Now, because some of the pain and alienation is starting to melt away in the hearts of many traditionalists, now that they can simply have what they should have been able to have all along, now that a little warm sunshine is being beamed in their direction by the Holy Father and others who share his vision, pastors of souls are starting to unclench as well.

The ice is breaking up and the water is flowing again. This was not an unexpected development. I fully believed this would happen because traditionalists are mostly good people who love Holy Church and want the best for their families, priests and bishops.

Bishops and priests, even when they are not personally inclined to traditional things, are mostly good men who love their flocks and sincerely desire their good. They all share common ground in what really matters. What I am surprised by is that the breaking of the ice dam — though there is a long way to go yet — is happening so quickly.

I underestimated the warmth of the sunlight and the openness of hearts, especially on the part of some bishops who, as a body, have not shown themselves in the past to be very friendly to traditional liturgy. This has made me rethink my own attitudes.

This article has been selected from the ZENIT Daily Dispatch
© Innovative Media, Inc.

ZENIT International News Agency
Via della Stazione di Ottavia, 95
00165 Rome, Italy

To subscribe
or email: with SUBSCRIBE in the "subject" field