As we near the Fifth Anniversary of Summorum Pontificum on July 7, the most important papal document in half a century, and perhaps in nearly half a millennium, I thought I would revisit a topic I posted on last year: the Mass that dare not say its name.
The Mass of the Ages, the noble, traditional Latin Mass. The Mass that still inspires some, and scares others. The Mass that the Saints and martyrs for the great bulk of the Church's history knew and loved, and for which Mass they lived and died.
This Mass, which has existed in its essential format for more
than 1,500 years, which was made normative throughout the universal Church since 1570, and which the Holy Father confirmed has never been abrogated, is still disfavored and begrudged around the world. Why? Why is it still the kiss of death for priests to be caught celebrating it?
Undeniably, the so-called Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite has become somewhat more available in the last five years. But it hasn't become common. Not in ordinary parishes throughout the world. Why?
Are we to believe that the laity are against it, or is this a suppression by priests and bishops? Perhaps we can only point to anecdotal evidence, but what does your gut tell you?
The liturgy is vital to the faith of the Church. The mere "threat" of the Extraordinary Form has done more to promote reverence in the liturgy and solid catechesis outside it in five years than the "reform of the reform" effort did in forty. And of course, the Ordinary Form, the celebration of which is rife with the abuses encouraged by its relative formlessness, has done incalculable damage to faith and praxis.
To borrow a quote at the Protestant St. Paul's about architect Christopher Wren, we might speak of the new Mass by noting the empty pews, empty seminaries and convents, and sparse sacramental registers, and say, "If you wish to see its monument, look around you."
The connection between liturgy and faith is highlighted by the disparate treatment of groups like the SSPX and the LCWR.
Both groups have been cited for lack of obedience, yes. But the group that champions the Traditional Mass, the group that adheres to no heresy, is under the strictest scrutiny, with an implied threat of excommunications for those who do not respond to this last effort at reconciliation.
And what of the LCWR? This group champions outright heresies, and defends the heretics who spread them. They promote the heresy of women's "ordination". They undermine the bishops on issues of moral theology. Yet for all the talk of the Vatican "cracking down" on them, they continue to operate with no real threat of discipline. They will invade St. louis this Summer, unchecked, to host a New Age self-help seminar disguised as a gathering of Catholic sisters. And their "liturgies" are rife with every novelty, even when stealth priestesses aren't pretending to consecrate anything.
About the only way these formerly Catholic sisters would ever face real discipline is if they took a shine to the Traditional Mass. In a way that is easier to see than to explain, it really is all about the Mass.
The Catholic Mass makes Catholics. A non-Catholic liturgy makes non-Catholics.
We know the Church will be healthy when a Catholic may assist at the Extraordinary Form at every parish. That day seems a long, long way off. But Summorum Pontificum has set the process in motion, and it cannot fail. No amount of obstruction or suppression can stop it now. In fact, concern for souls should prompt our pastors to implement this motu proprio as intended.
And thanks be to God and Pope Benedict XVI for this wonderful document.