Thursday, 22 July 2021

Red Card for the Ancient Rite, and the Game Is Getting Nasty

Sandro Magister takes a look at Traditionis Custodes and includes a short article by Walter, Cardinal Brandmüller, entitled “Liturgical nationalism or universalism?”, published in 2002.

From Settimo Cielo

By Sandro Magister

A few days after its publication, it is still too early to gauge the effects of the motu proprio “Traditionis Custodes” with which Pope Francis has practically banned the Mass in the ancient rite: that is, whether the new provisions will help to make the Church more united, or on the contrary divide it even more.

Given the reactions, the most probable hypothesis is the latter, as Professor Pietro De Marco also suggests in his scathing commentary already published on Settimo Cielo.

The unity of the Church was also the objective of the previous motu proprio of 2007, the “Summorum Pontificum” of Benedict XVI, which had liberalized the celebration of the Mass in the ancient rite, treating it as the second form “of the sole and selfsame Roman rite,” which could in fact be celebrated both in the “ordinary” manner generated by the Vatican Council II, and in the “extraordinary” manner of the never-abrogated missal of 1962.

Now, however, Pope Francis has established that the Roman rite has a “unique expression,” the one following Vatican II. The Mass in the ancient rite has not been forbidden, but set on its way to extinction. Those who celebrate it now can continue to do so only with the prior authorization of their bishop and with many more constraints. While new priests who may wish to celebrate it will have to go so far as to obtain the permission of the Holy See. As for groups of faithful lovers of the old rite, new ones will no longer be allowed to form.

What most troubled Benedict XVI was seeing that “in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear.”

For Francis, however, what “saddens” him the most is that “the instrumental use of the ‘Missale Romanum’ of 1962 is often characterized by a rejection not only of the liturgical reform, but of Vatican Council II itself, claiming, with unfounded and unsustainable assertions, that it betrayed the Tradition and the ‘true Church’.”

In effect, the current controversy over the rite is analogous to the controversy over the interpretation of Vatican II. Those who interpret this Council as an unacceptable rupture of Catholic tradition also reject the renewal of the liturgy generated by the Council itself. While on the contrary Benedict XVI wrote, in the accompanying letter to “Summorum Pontificum”: “In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.”

For pope Joseph Ratzinger, “the two forms of the use of the Roman rite” were neither alternative nor opposed. Indeed, they could and should “enrich one another.” As he himself constantly showed the world in the act of celebrating.

It should however be borne in mind that in fact the vast majority of the Catholic faithful remain uninvolved in this controversy. For them, the “old” Mass they hear about is, if anything, the Mass in Latin, the language that Vatican Council II by no means abolished but resolved to keep as the language proper to the liturgy, albeit tempered by the use of the national languages especially in the readings.

Then in reality the national languages ​​took over and Latin practically disappeared from the liturgy, after having become its sacred language for centuries.

Nothing came of the appeals to Rome, in 1966 and 1971, that Latin in the liturgy should be saved, from figures like Jacques Maritain, Jorge Luis Borges, Giorgio De Chirico, Eugenio Montale, François Mauriac, Gabriel Marcel, Harold Acton, Graham Greene, Agatha Christie, and many others.

For many this was a purely linguistic change. But this is not the case, as shown by Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, 92, former president of the pontifical committee for historical sciences, in the following reflection, taken from an article he published in 2002 in the German magazine “Die Neue Ordnung,” entitled “Liturgical nationalism or universalism?”



by Walter Brandmüller

Up to Vatican Council II, the Latin-German missal of the Benedictine Anselm Schott ran to a good 67 (!) editions. Through that book, generations of Catholics have learned to know, live, and love the liturgy of the Church. Nonetheless, those who today oppose Latin as the language of the liturgy continue tirelessly to object that, apart from the few who know Latin, no one understands it.

This argument has a history, at least since the Enlightenment. Almost contemporaneously, however, one who was coming to grips with that same argument was Johann Michael Sailer, considered one of the most important figures for overcoming the excesses of the Enlightenment in Catholic Germany,

Certainly Sailer too hopes for a liturgy in German. At the same time, however, he considers it evident that the question of the liturgical language is not ultimately decisive, since “the Mass has a fundamental language, a mother tongue, that is neither Latin nor German, neither Hebrew nor Greek; in short: it is not a language made of words.”

Sailer identifies this fundamental language of the Mass in the total expression of religion. He states this in 1819, but even now his point of view is very modern; today one speaks of comprehensive understanding, which is much more than simple rational understanding and in comparison with it penetrates into the deeper layers of man. If in life and in the whole outer aspect of man the liturgical celebration is experienced as an authentic total expression of religion, then - Sailer maintains - language is no longer so important. Rather, it is much more important that “anyone who may wish to reform the public religious service should begin by forming enlightened, holy priests.”

True comprehensive understanding of the liturgy - and this also applies to reality in absolute terms - is not just an intellectual process. After all, the person is not made up of only reason and will, but also of body and senses. Therefore, if every single text of a liturgy celebrated in a sacred language is not understood - naturally excluding the biblical readings and the homily - in any case the whole event, the singing, the furnishings, the vestments, and the sacred place, whenever they give adequate expression to the celebration, touch the profound dimension of man in a much more direct way than comprehensible words can. Unlike in Sailer's time, today this is much simpler, since those who attend Mass already know the structure of the rite and the texts that recur in the liturgy, so when they participate in a Latin Mass they know enough about what is going on.

That Latin should be rejected as a liturgical language because it is not understood is therefore not a convincing argument, all the more so in that, despite all the difficulties relative to translation, the liturgy in the vernacular need not be abolished. Except that, as Vatican Council II says, Latin should not be abolished either.

On the other hand, what is the situation of “participatio actuosa,” meaning the active participation of the faithful in the liturgical celebration? The Council prescribes that the faithful must be able to sing or recite their parts in Latin as well. Is this an excessive request? If one thinks about how familiar the words of the texts of the ordinary of the Mass are, it should not be difficult to recognize them behind the Latin words. And how many English or American songs are sung and understood willingly in spite of their being in a foreign language?

At bottom, “participatio actuosa” means much more than merely talking and singing together: it is rather making one’s own, on the part of the Christian who participates in the function, the same intimate disposition of the sacrifice to the Father in which Christ accomplishes his giving of himself to the Father. And this is why the foremost need is for what Johann Michael Sailer has defined as the fundamental language of the Mass.

Under this aspect the Latin missal is also necessary from a practical point of view: the priest who goes to countries whose language he does not know should have the possibility of celebrating Holy Mass there too, without being forced to perform linguistic acrobatics unworthy of a liturgy. It is also good to remember the ever more numerous cases in which priests from India, Africa, and so on carry out their service in German parishes. Instead of an imperfect pronunciation of the German language, a correctly pronounced Latin would be preferable, as the form most suited to the liturgy. In short: the Roman missal in Latin must be wished present in every church.


  1. We were lifelong Catholics, only one of us remember the Mass in Latin, but something was missing our entire lives as we attended the Novus Ordo. When we attended really our first Traditional Latin Mass seven years ago, all the pieces fell into place.
    There is no comparison. Sorry, Pope and bishops, the Novus Ordo cannot hold a candle to the Holy Mass with Latin. They can be envious of that or find out where they went wrong and correct course. (Never, right?) The Latin is only "hard" for lazy Catholics. Once you hear a word in context you can figure out what it is. You do not have to know a word for word translation at all. If you can detect the repeated words you get a sense of what a passage is, and that's enough. It repeats, often. Get a Sunday Missal from Ebay for 25 dollars or so. It should have Latin on one side of the page and English on the other. Get 1962 or earlier. Welcome to your Catholic heritage. The beauty of a dead language is nobody can tinker with "new interpretations" (yay!). Nothing political. Nothing that detracts from the proper worship of God as God intended.
    Francis may think he is causing harm to the TLM. He is causing chaos, which he loves, but he will not "kill" the Holy Mass. Indeed, he may cause a schism, this is true. Catholics are ready and getting readier. What would be funny if it all weren't so distressing is, he and the cabal are going to drive UP interest in the TLM, and cause many more Catholics and others to find it. We desperately need God right now, and if Catholics want to find God, they can do no better than to find a Traditional Latin Mass and sit in the pew and discover the Mass of the Ages, that belongs to them no less than any Catholic who ever lived.

  2. "Are" lifelong Catholics. We're not going anywhere.


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