For my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts. — Isaiah 55:8-9
HE WORDS of Isaiah quoted above are germane to discussions of the stunning triumph of the Latin Mass. Consider, for example, the following quote by Fr. Brian W. Harrison. Although I don’t always agree with Fr. Harrison, his liturgical knowledge is not questioned by any serious person, and here’s what he wrote on 26 March 1995:
“What all traditionalists really want, of course, is complete equality of status for the old rite of Mass, alongside the new rite. But this, I submit, is simply a pipe dream. It just is not going to happen. Already the head of the Vatican’s Ecclesia Dei Commission, Cardinal Innocenti, has made it clear that in his view the present arrangements permitting the old Mass should be seen as temporary and that the final end in view is the “integration” of traditionalist Catholics into the mainstream worship of the Latin rite—that is, full acceptance of the Mass of Paul VI. Not one of the Cardinals with any chance of being elected as the next pope has given any reason to think that he would grant full equality to the preconciliar rite of Mass, and, indeed, any such decision would probably be unenforceable: it would provoke uproar among most of the world’s bishops…”
Or who could forget the words of Fr. Reginald Foster, a priest who worked for four popes? On 28 January 2007, just a few months before Summorum Pontificum was issued, Fr. Foster declared categorically 1 that Pope Benedict XVI would not follow through:
“He is not going to do it. He had trouble with Regensberg, and then trouble in Warsaw, and if he does this, all hell will break loose.” Then Fr. Foster added: “It is a useless Mass and the whole mentality is stupid. The idea of it is that things were better in the old days. It makes the Vatican look medieval.”
Fr. Brian Harrison is a respected scholar. Fr. Foster worked at the Vatican for four decades. How could both of them be completely wrong?
My thoughts are not your thoughts …
Fr. Harrison went on to say in 1995 that a document like Summorum Pontificum (which came twelve years later) would represent “rejection of a solemn Constitution promulgated by the most recent ecumenical council of the Catholic church.” However, this assertion cannot be maintained.
EVERY SERIOUS PERSON who has examined the postconciliar liturgical reforms admits that the changes went far beyond what the fathers of Vatican II envisioned. The fathers gave principles, but never voted on, approved, or even saw the changes made by the Consilium half a decade later. These radical changes (nowhere mandated by Council documents) represent a REJECTION of Vatican II.
For instance, Vatican II said “there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them.” No one, however, has been able to demonstrate that placing a Tract before a Gradual on Palm Sunday was “genuinely and certainly” required. Cardinal Antonelli, perhaps the greatest authority in these matters, said clearly that “the entire revision must be carried out in accordance with the tradition of the Church.” Yet, no one has been able to demonstrate how the creation of brand new Eucharistic Prayers accords with “the tradition of the Church.” Michael Cardinal Browne warned that Latin might disappear if the vernacular was allowed, and the fathers famously roared with laughter at such a suggestion; but Latin was illicitly abandoned. The Collects have been mutilated, and innovations like the Responsorial Psalm were added without a shred of historical evidence. Hundreds more examples could be cited. 2
Now, consider the things that liturgists love to fight about: whether the priest should quietly say all the prayers, whether there should be a wider selection of Scripture, whether adding a first reading was really a “restoration,” whether it’s a problem when priests function liturgically as subdeacons, and so on. All these items are insignificant when we realize that secular-style, sappy, banal, poorly-constructed, and sometimes heretical music pervades 95% of Catholic churches. That is the true REJECTION of Vatican II. The many liturgical abuses which have sprung up since the Council also represent a REJECTION of Vatican II.
Summorum Pontificum is not a REJECTION of Vatican II. It allows Catholics to pray with an ancient and supremely venerable rite, helping them get closer to our Lord. I’ve never seen any document of Vatican II which is against such a thing.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 Leave aside for the moment Fr. Foster’s poor understanding of the 1962 Missal, his misunderstandings of Pope Benedict’s comments in Regensberg and Warsaw, and his idiotic ideas about the whole situation. At the moment, we’re only concerned with the fact that Fr. Foster was dead wrong.
2 The postconciliar liturgy is not perfect—yet, this is no reason to panic. There never has been a “perfect” liturgy throughout the entire Church. The Church must soberly and honestly examine where positive improvements can be made.