Friday, October 13, 2006

Some Further Thoughts on Benedict & Latin Mass

A quick piece from Time on the new openings of the Latin Mass.

A little background. The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) represented the Catholic response to the modern world--acceptance of certain aspects and denunciation of others. It also represtened a partial I would say admission of valid points to the Reformation: particularly the need to bring the Bible more prominently into Christian worship/spirituality.

Out of the Reforms--though not specific within the Reforms themselves, a mistake often made--was the move to have the mass performed in the vernacular. Now it wasn't just that the language changed, the entire rite changed from what is called the Tridentine Rite (because the Council that instituted those Reforms was held in Trent) to the Reformed/Vatican II Litrugical style.

The most obvious difference other than the language is that the priest faces the congregation and the congregation responds. In the Tridentine Rite, only the male servers made the responses for the people. The priest was facing the wall in the Tridentine Rite with a small altar against the back wall. The Reformed Liturgy exhibits an altar out front in fuller view. The Vatican II Reforms encouraged the full participation of the laity in the worship. In the Tridentine Rite, the laity are passive watchers.

Prayers were changed, readings from the Old Testament were introduced--which had not been read in Christian Sunday worship from the Middle Ages on--even among many of the Reformers.

Now John Paul II allowed Latin to be used for mass but in the Reformed tradition. That is, the priest faces the people, all the people respond, etc. So the idea that Latin had been aboslihed for Mass is not true.

What Benedict is considering is re-opening the Tridentine Rite itself. Turning the priest back to the wall, no lay participation, etc.

I don't know how he plans on doing this, but there are some possible problems with the re-introduction of the Tridentine Rite. In that Rite, the rite practiced in some ways from the Middle Ages until 1965, on Good Friday, the Catholic Church around the world prayed for the Jewish people to come to repentance for killing Christ. The word used in the right is "perfidious"--we pray for the perifidious Jews....

The theology prior to Vatican II did attribute to all Jews throughout history the death of Jesus. In the Gospel of Matthew, Pilates washes his hands of guilt in the crucifixion. The crowd of Jews screams bloodthirstily for his body and staes, "His blood be on us and our children."

That Gospel verse was taken literally for 1900 years or so. The Second Vatican Council abolished the prayer and apologized for its role in fostering anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic hatred. Especially in light of the Holocaust. The Church declared that the Jewish people were not as a whole guilty for the death of Jesus.

John Paul II was the first pope to go to the Jewish synagogue in Rome. He traveled to the Holocaust memorials in Israel and was deeply moved and expressed deep sorrow for Christian involvement in the Nazi extremination of Jews.

Benedict during his recent Papal visit to his home Germany traveled to Auschwitz. There he gave a speech that was cooly received. He essentially equated Catholic persecution under the Nazis with the Jewish. Not wise. There were some Catholics (and Christians) killed during the Holocaust.

The Confessing Church, which consisted of German Lutherans and Reformed Churches held an underground campaign to resist Nazi perseuction of the Church. Martin Miemoller one of their leaders who spent timme in prison, after the war was congratulated as a hero. Interestingly he publicly stated that he was not a hero, in fact rather quite the opposite. For while the Confessing Church stood up against Hitler's actions against the Protestant Churches, they never spoke out or worked in any way to oppose the Final Solution.

The Catholic Church baptized some Jews to hide them. But then after the War, had the pastoral sensitivity to tell them that they were Chrsitians now and to continue practicing Judaism was heresy.

But that was then--or was it?

Benedict is trying to bring back a schismatic group known as the Lefebvrites--named after Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. Lefebvre renounced Vatican II and created his own split off church--The Priestly Society of St. Pius X. Pius X was Pope during the controversies over Modernism (early 1900s). Modernism was an attempt to bring modern historical methods to bear on theology and the Bible--later inscribed by Pope Pius XII and the Reforms of VII. Pius X insituted a secret society that kept files--like a Catholic KGB--on all theologians, bishops, etc. All theologians were forced to swear an oath against Modernism up until Vatican II.

Lefebvre's people, as the article mentions, are not upset about the Latin Tridentine Mass. Or Latin Mass in general, as they could go to Latin Reformed Mass. They believe that the Chair of St. Peter (Papacy) has been vacant since Pius XII. They do not believe that John XXIII, Paul VI, JP I, JP II, and Benedict XVI have been actual Popes. So I'm not sure how this is gonna fly.

Not to mention questions about whether they will have separate seminary/priestly tracts and theological formation.

To my knowledge there has never been a situation where two Latin Rites have co-existed simultaneously. A Rite is best thought of as a "paradigm"--an entire way of doing worship, theology, spirituality, that brings forth a worldview. The Tridentine Rite and the Trent Reforms had a whole thoughtworld that went with it. That world is dead and has been for some time. This group are not conservatives or traditionalists in the normal sense of the word, but rather something like far-right. And far-right starts looking more and more like far-left.

More importantly even if the Rite is re-introduced, the VII Reforms specifically mention that the Good Friday Prayers will not be for the conversion to Christianity of the murderous perfidious Jews. Benedict must abolish that prayer. Period. He's already managed, by his own fault and/or others to piss off one of the Abrahamic Religions. If he's not careful, he's going to do the same with the other one.


At 5:47 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

You mention in your article that the group founded by the late Archbishop Lefebvre beleives that "the Chair of St. Peter (Papacy) has been vacant since Pius XII." I am afarid this is a comman misconception about the SSPX (lefebvre's society). In fact, they hold the catholic doctines on the papacy very dearly. They pray in every mass for the Holy Father as head of the eternal Church. The official web page of the SSPX in America is dominated by Pope Benedicts Photo. The group has gone so far as to condemn and refute sedavacantisim (the idea that the Holy See is Vacant). The SSPX see this theory as illogical(i think most of us catholic non-sspxers do too).
The Anti-semetic issues with the old right are a real concern - but not one without remedy. These prayers are not part of the Canon (only the canon is untouchable even by rome). The pope can lawfully change this slightly to omit any anti-semetic leanings. Surely and hopefully the pope has the insight to do this.
The last issue i would like to bring up is this. Under the Catholic Banner there are many rites. the Latin rite co exists with other 'latin rites' even in this present day. examples are - The Rite of St. Dominic, or Dominican, there is a rite called Bragan, Ambrosian, and Mozarabic. Within the Catholic Church there are many rites, the largest of which is the latin, which is and has been, divided by styles, history and geography. They all have rome as their patriarch, unlike the Eastern catholics (who look to other patriarchates, while acknowledeging Rome as Higher authority). We are living in times of change. These will be interesting months while we watch what unfolds.

At 6:04 PM, Blogger CJ Smith said...


Thanks for the post. Your right I should I have said Western rites. By Latin Rite I meant Roman Rite, which was sloppy. I'm aware of the other non-Roman Western rites...Ambroisian as well as the Eastern Rite Catholics.

I'll have to look into your comments on the St.Pius X Society. I met a group from Kansas who did specifically mention sedavacantism
Vaugely I remember hearing that there were two wings with the general Lefebvre movement. One that was more open to being called back in and another less so.

Maybe Benedict is only trying/able to heal with the first group?

In terms of the anti-Jewish prayers, your right, they are not part of the Canon. They are part of the Good Friday prayers and could be suppressed I'm sure. Thanks for making that clear.




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