HE RISE of the Traditional Latin Mass seems to me nothing short of a miracle. Consider the disdain heaped upon it during the postconciliar years, most especially by the academic community! This was done even though many experts involved in the changes—Bouyer, Jungmann, Ratzinger, Antonelli—later changed their minds. Moreover, although it took longer for this to happen, many bishops who originally supported the reforms have developed a different point of view, and now celebrate the preconciliar rite daily. 1 I personally know several priests with Latin degrees, ordained in the 1950s, who were made to feel “selfish” (and persecuted mightily) for wanting to keep the traditions. As recently as 2007, Fr. Reginald Foster—a Papal Latinist for four decades—said of the ancient liturgy: “It is a useless Mass and the whole mentality is stupid.”
When my siblings and I first experienced the Extraordinary Form, we thought it unendurably boring, but our parents kept bringing us, and we eventually came to love it.
However, it seems the gloves have now come off for those not in favor of this EF resurgence.
JESUIT ROBERT TAFT, formerly a professor at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, has repeatedly referred to those who appreciate the Extraordinary Form as “neo-con wackos” and even called them “a threat,” writing: 2
Summorum Pontificum created unnecessary divisions in the Church and has driven crazy our harried bishops who have too few priests to start with and now have to try and accommodate the neo-con wackos.
When one of Bishop Dominique Rey’s monks reviewed a recent book by Andrea Grillo, he published a hysterical response, 3 whose seven paragraphs contained (among others) the following:
“disingenuous” — “shameless” — “reactionary” — “even at the cost of reason” — “completely ideological” — “without any respect for the truth” — “naïve” — “obvious incomprehension”
Grillo, a professor at the Pontifical Athenaeum of Saint Anselm in Rome, ended with:
I believe I have already wasted too much time on these pointless ravings.
Increasingly, yesterday’s progressives are making a number of “Jonathan Gruber” statements. Paul Inwood, a leader in “progressive” church music following the Council, has criticized the revised English translations of the Mass precisely because of their accuracy, saying:
7th-century theology, spirituality, and culture are very far from where most of the Church is now. The 1973 translation concealed this fact from us. If we had known what the prayers really said, we would not have wanted to pray them any longer. Now we are faced with that question 40 years later, and it is not any easier.
[…] As long as we continue to be frightened of acknowledging the elephant in the room—that we actually can’t pray many of these particular texts any longer—it will remain difficult for us to grasp the nettle of providing new texts for our age…
Trying to explain why the percentage of Catholics attending Sunday Mass is so low compared to before the Council, Paul Inwood said (emphasis in the original):
As for other reasons why there has been a drop in Catholic practice from the heady days of the 1950s, it seems clear that a major part of this is because Catholics have becoming [sic] a thinking people. We no longer take things on trust “because the Church/Father says so.”
[…] Today’s Catholics are far better educated than previous generations. […] Catholics don’t do blind obedience any more, nor do they do excessive devotions. They examine the tenets of faith and test them—sometimes to destruction.
Mr. Inwood went on say:
I think it’s fair to say, without too much caricaturing, that before the Council Catholicism was largely a gut thing, sentimental if you like. You didn’t have to know anything, but merely recite parrot-fashion the answers to catechism questions. You certainly weren’t expected to think about anything. The faith of many was quite infantile, I would say.
I could not disagree more strongly with Mr. Inwood’s assertion that Catholics no longer go to Mass because they’ve become a “thinking” people.
In my recent article on hymns, I made reference to some troubling texts by contemporary composers, many of whom are not Catholic. Several good people wrote to me, claiming I had a duty to construe problematic verses “in the most orthodox way possible.” However, I would suggest the opposite is true—hymns ought to be written in the clearest & most orthodox way possible. Moreover, in light of such statements by Mr. Inwood, could it be time to carefully reëxamine the theology contained in their texts?
Thoughtful Catholics will continue to ponder Cardinal Ratzinger’s 1997 statement, which can only be described as momentous:
AM OF THE OPINION, to be sure, that the old rite should be granted much more generously to all those who desire it. It’s impossible to see what could be dangerous or unacceptable about that. A community is calling into question its very being when it suddenly declares that what until now was its holiest and highest possession is strictly forbidden and when it makes the longing for it seem downright indecent.
—Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Salt of the Earth, 1997)
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 Needless to say, I cannot reveal their names!
2 For the record, Fr. Taft has some rather bizarre ideas about the Roman Rite. He has said: “The Tridentine reform of the liturgy was just as much of a change, with respect to what preceded it, as the Vatican II restoration of the liturgy was”—a statement revealing remarkable ignorance of liturgical praxis before Trent. Moreover, he said of Pope Francis:
When he first celebrated Mass in the Sistine Chapel he had them toss out the altar facing away from the congregation that his predecessor had installed, and thereby gave the signal indicating how he rated the reformed Vatican II liturgy vis-à-vis the restored pre-Vatican II Summorum Pontificum “extraordinary form.”
His statement is factually incorrect: his predecessor did not “install” anything. Furthermore, Pope Francis has offered Mass ad orientem several times. Finally, not a single document of Vatican II mentions or envisions an altar facing the people, and the postconciliar books still assume the priest will face ad orientem during the Canon.
3 To make matters worse, Professor Grillo wrongly understood a phrase (“often found amongst liturgists and prelates in Italy”) to be referring to the Consilium, whereas—as context makes clear—the phrase was referring to people alive today, fifty years after the Council. From what I understand, Grillo’s English is rather poor, which might explain his error. However, he should have asked one of his anglophone students to look over his response.