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JPII and St. Nicholas

Thursday, May 30, 2013

JPII and the Tridentine Mass

*Preliminary note: JPII gave canonical recognition to the Fraternity of St. Peter for celebrating the Tridentine Mass in 1988, apart from SSPX.

Little did I know that there was a schismatic movement in the Church toward extreme traditionalism, until I began to follow the history of the latin mass in the ponitficate of JPII.  The society of Pius X formed and was excomunicated in the 1980s, in direct opposition to the authority of Pope John Paul II and the Magisterium.  More than just protesting the novus ordo Mass of Paul VI, Archbishop Lefebvre denied the second Vatican council altogether--including the popes who called for it.  The 'Tridentine' Mass stands as neutral ground in the schism, still ripe for the teachings of Vatican II and the New Evangelization, but also tainted with the ordinations of men who are outside of Apostolic succession.

For my purposes, I want to just highlight the continuity of the Mass.  Namely, the 'ordinary form' or the 'novus ordo' and the 'extraordinary form' or the 'missale romanum'.  I am unable to follow the modern history of the Mass without mentioning the schism, because it provides good reason for why the early efforts of John Paul II--and the later efforts of Pope Benedict XVI--brought about/are bringing about reconciliation between extreme traditionalists and those who take the novus ordo for granted.  Three documents particularly stand out as crucial in the history of the modern Mass: (starting with the most recent) Summorum Pontificum, Ecclesia Dei Adflicta, and Quattor Abhinc Annos.

From experience, I can say that I have attended Tridentine Mass on numerous occasions--both Sunday and daily liturgy--but never became a zealous advocate for its propagation.  If anything, I take more of the stance that it is too antiquated to benefit average Catholics.  That said, now that I know the history behind it--including the disputes and efforts of popes to reconcile and re-incorporate it--I am much more interested in the Latin Mass.
So, I begin with Pope John Paul II's letter regarding Archbishop Lefebvre--but, more importantly, his permission for Catholics to participate in the Latin Mass with their Bishop's oversight:
A Commission is instituted whose task it will be to collaborate with the bishops, with the Departments of the Roman Curia and with the circles concerned, for the purpose of facilitating full ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, religious communities, or individuals until now linked in various ways to the Fraternity founded by Archbishop Lefebvre, who may wish to remain united to the Successor of Peter in the Catholic Church while preserving their spiritual and liturgical traditions, in light of the Protocol signed on 5 May last by Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop Lefebvre  http://www.adoremus.org/EcclesiaDei.html
Here, JPII touches on the fact that the Latin Mass is indeed neutral ground between the schismatics and the Pope.  He urges the faithful to return to obedience, while still being able to celebrate the Mass under supervision.  My thought is that it was too soon after the schism for JPII to grant full freedom of priests to celebrate the Tridentine Mass without supervision.  The potential for error from the society of Pius X was still hanging over the liturgy.

Just prior to his Apostolic Letter, he had written--alongside the Bishops--an 'indult' allowing for the Latin Mass to be celebrated with Bishops' supervision.  While his Apostolic Letter was dated 1988 (ten years into his pontificate), the permission from himself and the Bishops was available as early as 1984.  Together, these two documents laid the groundwork for Pope Benedict XVI's Summorum Pontificum.  Ironically, Joseph Ratzinger had already been heavily involved in these proceedings--as proven by his signature on both earlier documents.  Therefore, as the disputes over the liturgy unraveled through the years, it is easier and easier to see how the most recent popes were committed to implementing Vatican II directly into the Tradition of the Church--as was its proper place. 

Pope Benedict's pontificate clarified what JPII was more or less unable to reconcile so soon after the schism.  In fact, today, although the society of Pius X still exists separate from the Church--there is very little tension between Orthodox Catholics and reasonable traditionalists.  Summorum Pontificum effectively reunited what could have become more and more splintered over the years.  Pope Francis' decision to stay on the path of support for the Tridentine Mass has also continued the legacy of JPII and Benedict XVI.  It speaks to the validity of Apostolic succession, Vatican II, and the novus ordo as consistent with the Tradition of the Church.

Lastly, I want to list a few detailed points of contention that laymen still encounter in the liturgy since the schism.  In the grand scheme of the Church they are minscule, but to Catholic families in parish life they can be deal-breakers:
1) The male only requirements of the Latin Mass (servers, priests, lectors, ministers)
2) The sign of peace
3) silence in the sanctuary and congregation
4) The saying of the rosary and St. Michael prayer
5) Communion rail

*Personally I am in favor of all items listed, and I see no contradiction between the 'old' and 'new' Mass in their regard.  Thankfully, the parish I attend has all 5 (as did the parish I got married in--St. Isidore's, MI)


Anonymous said...


Bishop Nickless has an insightful letter about the pre-conciliar and post-conciliar Church. He uses such phrases as "exorcising the 'spirit of vatican ii'", while simultaneously wanting to implement the legitimate fruits of the council.

Anonymous said...

Check out Bernstein's MASS as an example of the craziness surrounging the liturgy in the 60s and 70s. Even as a Jew, Bernstein noticed difficulties in integrity (though ironically, he composed the piece for the Kennedy family).
Given such a background, one can only imagine the effects on the media and pop culture: mockery/disbelief/anger,etc.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly enough, the father of Mel Gibson--Hutton Gibson--was even more extreme than the society of Pius X! He believes in sedevacantism--http://www.huttongibson.com/
which is the theory that every pope since John XXIII is a heretic.

He denies the holocaust ever happened and that Vatican II was a conspiracy of Masons and Jews.
Lastly, he patronizes the Tridentine Mass in a private chapel reserved only for Sedevacantists.

Samwise said...

Please see Fr. Aidan Nichols O.P.'s assessment of Pius X's refutation of "Modernism":

It's crucial for interpreting Vatican II and the "hermeneutic of continuitiy" set forth by BXVI. Anyone who says Pius X would be opposed to JPII or CVII is mistaken.

Anonymous said...

"there is very little tension between Orthodox Catholics and reasonable traditionalists"...not so sure that this statement holds as much water now that Francis has been elected.
Francis seems to be a polarizing figure, not by choice, but simply by reputation.
My fear is that traditionalists will soon grow tired and impatient with Francis...