Friday, April 20, 2007

The Motu Proprio

While I have certainly managed to blog this week, I realized that I have yet to tackle most of the items in my "Under the Weather" list. In fact, I've only written about one of those items, the Easter Vigil, which is a good thing because it would seem a little silly to write about the Vigil as we approach the third Sunday of Easter.

Since so many Catholic bloggers are writing about the possibility of the Pope issuing the motu proprio soon, I think I'd better say what I have to say on that subject before the MP actually gets released, which optimistic bloggers are hoping will happen on either April 30 or May 5, depending on whether you use the new or the old calendar for Pope St. Pius V's feast day.

People far more qualified than I am have discussed what the motu proprio will mean, how (or if) it will change things, what steps might be taken to solve such problems as the dual calendar situation, and so on. Rather than retrace their steps, I'm just going to offer my opinions.

On the one hand, I think the motu proprio is a much needed step for the Church at this time, particularly to rein in some of the more discordant elements of the way the post-Conciliar Mass has been celebrated, especially in countries like America where far too many clergy members interpreted "the rules are changing," to mean "there are no rules." I think Ecclesia Dei was intended both to do this, and to provide some relief to the souls damaged by the speed and recklessness with which the changes to the Mass were implemented after Vatican II, but unfortunately Ecclesia Dei depended on bishops to allow the 1962 Mass, and since many of today's bishops were among the die-hard experimenters of the post-Conciliar period the permission to celebrate the Mass according to the 1962 Missal has been but charily given, sometimes with conditions attached that were extremely contrary to the generosity Ecclesia Dei itself recommended.

On the other hand, there remains the possibility that even the motu proprio will not have the intended effect of widening access to the older Mass. Many priests lack the training necessary to offer the Mass according to the 1962 Missal, and though in some places it may become a priority for bishops to see that this training is offered there is no guarantee that this will happen everywhere.

In addition to the above, I have one concern that probably reflects poor taste and judgment on my part, but I'll risk ridicule to offer it:

I like the Novus Ordo Missae.

No, I don't like clown Masses, female altar servers, Communion offered under both species, ad-libbing priests, dissident lay homilists, or a host of other abuses and/or easily abused practices that have become part of the Novus Ordo Mass in so many places.

But I do like certain aspects of the Novus Ordo Mass which are not present in the older form, and which I would miss if I decided to attend a church offering the 1962 Mass under the motu proprio. Most specifically, I'd miss hearing the Old Testament readings, as the older Mass generally only has one reading in addition to the Gospel, and the reading is almost always from the New Testament. Moreover, the 1962 Missal has a one-year cycle of readings, while the Novus Ordo uses a three-year cycle (I remember being very impressed as a child by a priest saying that if you went to daily and Sunday Mass for three years, you'd pretty much hear the whole Bible).

There are other things which would be a matter of adjustment, such as remaining silent during the whole Mass and not straining to hear when the priest is praying the many inaudible prayers. But those are things I think I could get used to, provided I had an understanding of them.

And, of course, I could simply choose to continue attending the Mass I'm accustomed to, a choice my poor predecessors didn't have available to them when the Vatican II reforms were first implemented.

It is for them, particularly, that I'd celebrate a generous motu proprio being issued.

I have one final concern, though. And that is that those people who have abandoned Rome over the Novus Ordo won't readily return, no matter how frequently and generously the 1962 Mass is celebrated. Some of them will continue to insist that the Novus Ordo Mass is heretical, and that until the Church formally repudiates it they won't return. Some of them might come to a Mass offered after the motu proprio, but then grumble that such disciplines as the four-hour fast or mandatory veils for women weren't part of the deal. Some of them would point to the calendar discrepancies as proof that there's only one "right" way to do things, and that that "right" way mandates the Traditional Latin Mass and everything that goes with it. People who hold this view tend to reject a lot more than just the Novus Ordo Mass, and even a generous access to the older Mass won't resolve the issues they have with the Church.


Sheila said...

I agree. I too love the Novus Ordo Mass. Done correctly, it is beautiful and moving. And I think you're dead right about those who reject the Novus Ordo not returning in droves. I know some of those folks and they reject a lot more than the Mass. By the way, I enjoy your blog; you're a great writer.

Red Cardigan said...

Thank you, Sheila! :)

I think that's my biggest problem in all of this: there's a presumption by some that the Novus Ordo itself is badly flawed and must be replaced. But two of the most beautiful Masses I've ever attended were N.O. Masses said in Latin, and they were as reverent as, and easier for me to follow than, the two Tridentine Masses I've attended.

If there are flaws, let's fix the flaws. But blaming the Novus Ordo Mass for the abuses that occur when the Mass isn't celebrated as it should be is a little like blaming the celibate priesthood for the Scandal.