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Should a FREEDOM of Liturgical Forms Be Permitted?

I have not really said much about this issue because, to be frank, it befuddles me. As a whole it seems to me that the accommodation made possible by Pope Benedict XVI was working. Given the many challenges facing the Church, I really have not discerned any pressing need as did Pope Francis to restrict the old liturgical form. Those who are sowing the seeds of disharmony are largely not among our priests or in the parishes where the traditional and reformed order of the Mass are offered.

I would urge the Holy See to set its sights on the SSPX that has consistently spurned overtures for reunion and gives its own spin on what it can and cannot legitimately do. I suspect that come the next illicit episcopal ordination, they will return to their status as an excommunicated schismatic group. They might wrongly malign Vatican II for the excesses of a few but they are arrogantly blind to their own growing heresy against ecclesial communion given both papal and conciliar authority.

The current papal measure is needlessly hurtful to good people and places organizations like the Fraternity of St. Peter into a precarious and painful position given that they are faithful both to the old form and to the successors of St. Peter.

The permissive stance of Pope Benedict XVI actually reflected a toleration that existed prior to Trent where there were a great many local or national adaptations of the Western or Roman liturgy. This FREEDOM or liberality gave richness to the liturgical tradition. Given the ravages of the Protestant reformation, the Church literally circled the wagons to defend herself. The reforms after the council permitted a few adaptations in local churches or among orders, but generally through dropping and combining elements sought a liturgy that would apply to the whole Church.

Vatican II sought ways in which to better share the faith and the worship of the Church with the modern world. Signs of the coming apostasy and defection were already in the air prior to the council and the reforms. We can argue as to whether or not Vatican II was effective to deal with modern challenges but it was not the absolute catalyst for the problems faced in the 1960’s and 70’s.

Certain traditionalist critics stamp the reforms as heretical or as a type of Modernism. What they seem to forget is that the heresy of Modernism infected the Church and clergy back when the Mass was offered in Latin and according to the old form. Indeed, it was admitted by the Modernist founder Alfred Loisy that he was rigidly faithful to the rubrics of the old Latin Mass even after he had long since stopped believing.

While the accidentals vary, the heart or meaning of the old and the new form of the Mass as true divine worship is the same— a sacramental re-presentation of our Lord’s sacrifice on Calvary in an unbloody manner; an oblation in which we offer ourselves grafted to our high priest Christ as an acceptable gift to the Father; and as a sacred meal through which we receive and are transformed by the “real presence” of the risen Christ (whole and complete) in Holy Communion.

The first Mass was offered in Aramaic and Hebrew as were the Jewish liturgies in Jerusalem. Later the Mass was largely offered in the Greek of the Hellenic gentiles. The witness of Peter and Paul, along with the many martyrs to follow, would lead by God’s grace to the conversion of an empire. The language of Rome became the voice of the Church. Latin became the mother tongue of the Church and the Mass. The languages of men were subject to change but the Latin remained the same. Just as Latin was the vernacular for the Romans, the Church after Vatican II wanted to make room in the liturgy for the vernacular of the many peoples who populate the Church today. Latin will always be the sacred language of the Church; but any and all languages that give praise to God can become holy vehicles for the divine.

2 Responses

  1. As an aside: Could someone please explain to me why so many traditionalist priests wear mainly – or only – the Roman or “fiddleback” chasuble when saying Mass, as it it were some kind of uniform? Why not the Gothic? Historically speaking, the Roman chasuble, which resembles a sandwich board sign, represents a departure FROM tradition. By the late 1400’s, the full, Gothic-style chasubles worn by high ranking clergy had become so stiff with ornamentation that priests had trouble moving in them. Instead of simplifying, the solution was to cut away the sides, and eventually, ordinary parish priests copied the new style.

    St. Charles Borromeo (and at least one pope, whose name escapes me) criticized the cut down chasuble and said that it lacked dignity and shouldn’t be worn. I agree with this belief. Also, the pared down chasuble made what was worn under it more visible, so what did vestment makers do? They gussied that up with ornamentation too! Christ was divine, but also a man, and He embodies in some sense, “maleness”, just as the Virgin Mary embodies “femaleness”, a fact not lost on the Orthodox and Eastern churches. Vestments can be beautiful, even regal, but still masculine. Those worn by many traditionalist priests, dripping with 17th/18th century lace and other gee gaws, do not convey this.

    FATHER JOE: It is a matter of style. Many would disagree. I have to say that the freed arms of the fiddle-back vestments make movement easier and leads to less accidents at the altar. Roman Catholicism has a strong understanding of the Mass as the work of the priest and the vestments are literally his working clothes.

  2. Not once have I seen “progressive” Catholics criticize or condemn Anglican Rite Catholics for being “divisive”. These former Anglicans or Episcopalians use the Sarum Rite, a rite that was common in England before the Reformation. Some parts of it may be said or sung in Latin, but the liturgy typically uses majestic English of Shakespeare, which is perfectly intelligible, and which sets it apart from the mundane world. Ordinariate priests also say Mass ad orientem. Given that the Roman Catholic Church embraces the Sarum Rite and various Eastern Rites, I don’t understand the present pope’s aversion to the Tridentine, and find t bizarre that he would reverse something that Pope Benedict, still living, freely allowed.

    FATHER JOE: The Catholic priests from Anglicanism tend to celebrate both their own variation of the Mass as well as the reformed Mass of the Roman Rite. I suspect that the Pope is upset that many clergy who offer the older Latin ritual refuse to celebrate the new order in the vernacular. But not sure.

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