All indications are that Pope Benedict XVI will soon issue a Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation summarizing and giving authoritative form to the Synod on the Holy Eucharist (October 2005) [see Previous post “A gift, not a right.”] We eagerly await this document. The Synod and the Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation highlight a renewed emphasis on the Holy Eucharist as “the source and summit of the Christian life”(Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium No. 11).
They follow John Paul II’s 2003 encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia and the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments’ 2004 instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum “On certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist” from prefect Francis Cardinal Arinze.
It is also expected that Pope Benedict will issue a motu proprio (“by is own accord” or “by his own decision”) that would allow for a wider use of the pre-Vatican II Mass often called the “Mass of St. Pius V” or “Tridentine Mass.” This is sure to cause a stir since there are strong feelings —both for and against —in certain parts of the Church. Some bishops generously allow for its celebration; other do not. Its appreciation and promotion varies from diocese to diocese.
Some groups like the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter and The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest exclusively celebrate the Tridentine Mass and celebrate the other sacraments in the pre-Vatican II form with ecclesial permission. Others, like the Society of St. Pius X, have separated themselves from the Catholic Church and gone into schism, in part, because of the new order (Novus Ordo) of celebrating the sacraments, including the Holy Eucharist, that appeared after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) in the Latin (Western) Church.
The Eucharistic Sacrifice instituted by Our Lord is the same for both the Tridentine form or the Novus Ordo form. Both are valid forms. Other forms, like those that the Eastern Churches celebrate (e.g. Byzantine rite), are valid as well. I have spiritually benefited from participating in both forms: The Tridentine form in Latin; and the Novus Ordo form in Latin, English, Polish and Spanish.
The Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Archbishop Malcom Ranjith recently gave his thoughts on this “possible motu proprio” in an interview with Anthony Valle recently ( “It is the Holy Father Who Will Decide” by, Inside The Vatican, February 2007):
Valle: It seems as if Pope Benedict XVI will release a motu proprio to liberalize the use of the traditional or Tridentine Mass. Some hope that the Pope’s motu proprio will institute a juridical structure enabling priests to celebrate the traditional Mass without being unjustly harassed and persistently thwarted by, ironically, not people of other faiths or secular authorities, but by their own pastors and bishops. Is this hope for a new juridical apparatus realistic? Is such an apparatus necessary?
Ranjith: Well, there is this rising call for a restoration of the Tridentine Mass. And even certain leading figures of the elite have made public appeals for this Mass in some newspapers recently.
The Holy Father will, I am sure, take note of this and decide what is best for the Church.
You speak of the possible realization of new juridical structures for the implementation of such decisions. I do not think this would be so much of a problem. Rather what is more important in all of this is a pastoral attitude.
Will the bishops and priests reject requests for the Tridentine Mass and so create a need for juridical structures to ensure the enforcement of a decision of the Pope? Should it go that way?
I sincerely do not hope so.
The appropriate question the shepherds have to ask themselves is: How can I as a bishop or priest bring even one person to Christ and to His Church?
It is not so much a matter of the Tridentine Mass or the Novus Ordo. It is just a question of pastoral responsibility and sensitivity.
Thus, if the Tridentine Mass is the way to achieve an even better level of spiritual enrichment for the faithful, then the shepherds should allow it.
The important concern is not so much the “what” as much as the “how.” The Church should always seek to help our faithful to come closer to the Lord, to feel challenged by His message and to respond to His call generously. And if that can be achieved through the celebration of the Novus Ordo Mass or the Piux V Mass, well, then space should be provided for whatever is best instead of getting down to unnecessary and divisive theological hair-splitting. Such things need to be decided through the heart and no so much through the head.
After all, Pope John Paul II did make a personal appeal in Ecclisia Dei Adflicta of 1988 to the bishops, calling upon them to be generous in this matter with those who wish to celebrate or participate in the Tridentine Mass. Besides, we should remember that the Tridentine Mass is not something that belongs to the followers of Archbishop Lefebvre only. It is part of own heritage as members of the Catholic Church.
The Second Vatican Council, as Pope Benedict so clearly stated in his speech to the members of the Curia in December 2005, did not envisage a totally new beginning, but one of continuity with a renewed sense of enthusiasm and a new outlook that better responds to the missionary needs of the time.
Besides, we also have the serious question of the diminishing number of faithful in some churches in the Western world. We have to ask ourselves what happened in these churches and then take corrective steps as may be necessary. I do not think that this situation is attributable to secularization only. A deep crisis of faith coupled with a drive for meaningless liturgical experimentation and novelty have had their own impact in this matter. There is much formalism and insipidity visible at times.
Thus, we need to recover a true sense of the sacred and mystical in worship.
And if the faithful feel that the Tridentine Mass offers them that sense of the sacred and mystical more than anything else, then we should have the courage to accept their request.
With regard to the timing and nature of the motu proprio, nothing yet is known. It is the Holy Father who will decide.
And when he does, we should in all obedience accept what he indicates to us and with a genuine love for the Church strive to help him. Any counter attitude would only harm the spiritual mission of the Church and thwart the Lord’s own will.
We should surely accept whatever the Holy Father decides and "recover a true sense of the sacred and mystical in worship" in whichever authorized form of the Eucharistic Celebration suits our spiritual sensibilities.
Update March 6,2007: The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis is supposed to be released March 13,2007.