OPE FRANCIS recently made appointments to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. I have something to say regarding the hysteria that has accompanied this news. In the past, I’ve made it clear that our job is not to expose the sensationalism that routinely passes for “internet journalism”—but every rule has an exception, right?
Before I address the CDW issue, I must describe two common myths. One is regarding the Extraordinary Form; the other has to do with the Ordinary Form.
The internet harbors a fair amount of self-proclaimed “experts” (frequently too cowardly to reveal their real names) who promote myths about the Traditional Latin Mass. One myth will end today. It pretends the Extraordinary Form is basically defined by SILENCE, whereas the Ordinary Form “never has any silence.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
The High Mass, which is considered ideal and normative, has less than 0.08% silence. Singing or speaking occurs almost without interruption. A few moments of silence occur at the Elevation (before the polyphonic BENEDICTUS & HOSANNA), and a few moments before the AGNUS DEI, but that’s basically it. Consider how High Mass begins:
The bell is rung.|
Then, immediately, the Processional is sung/played.|
Then, immediately, the Asperges is intoned and sung.|
Then, immediately, the dialogue after the Asperges is sung.|
Then, immediately, the Introit is sung.|
Then, immediately, the KYRIE is sung.|
Then, immediately, the GLORIA is intoned and sung.|
Then, immediately, the Collect is sung.|
Then, immediately, the Epistle is sung.|
Then, immediately, the Gradual & Alleluia are sung.|
Then, immediately, the Gospel is sung.|
Then, immediately, the organist plays until the priest begins the Homily.|
And so forth until the end of Mass.
The Low Mass—if it’s not “dialogue” and no hymns are sung—does contain long periods of silence. Silent Low Masses are powerful, spiritual, and precious. They should never be denigrated. But Low Mass has never been considered the ideal for Sundays or feast days, and that’s when most Catholics attend Mass. At FSSP.la, we’ve never had a Low Mass on Sunday. That’s why I hate seeing articles about the “powerful silence” of the Solemn Traditional Mass.
Something we hear constantly about the Ordinary Form is that it has “so many options, while the EF never gives the priest options.” That is actually a myth. While it’s true the Ordinary Form has a zillion options theoretically, the reality is—for fifty long years—most of these options have remained unused. That’s because once a publisher chooses an option, everyone just accepts what is printed.
Therefore, we have de facto UNIFORMITY in the Ordinary Form; not because it was designed that way, but because the publishers favor certain options and people believe anything else is “wrong.” Publishers are supposed to include all valid options, but they don’t—and they’ve never been disciplined for this. Moreover, publishers for decades have included hundreds of texts that are not approved—yet nobody has forced them to stop. 1
By the way, contrary to what you may have been told, the Traditional Mass had options as well.
ITH REGARD to recent CDW appointments, what are we to make of the hysteria? What are we to make of the excessive commentary emanating from sensationalist blogs written by people who claim to be Vaticanisti? What are we to make of reports which fail to mention that Cardinal Sarah was not removed, even though we’ve seen Pope Francis remove cardinals in the past somewhat whimsically? What should we think of reports stressing how Archbishop Piero Marini—who believes Sacrosanctum Concilium didn’t go nearly far enough—was added, while failing to mention that surprisingly “traditional” bishops like Serratelli were also chosen?
Just like we saw EF and OF myths, the notion that any noteworthy change will be made to the liturgical books is total nonsense. No substantial change has been made to the official books since the early 1970s—almost fifty years ago! A new feast day has been added here and there, certainly; but nothing major. 2
By the way, some reports went beyond irresponsible speculation, printing false information. For example, the Collegeville Press blog said on 29 October that MALCOLM CARDINAL RANJITH had been removed by Pope Francis:
In fact, Cardinal Ranjith was not removed.
At the end of the day, not much has changed. God is in control of the universe, and when we die we must answer for how we served Him in this life. Publishing internet articles about “how such-and-such an appointment will be perceived” remains incredibly easy, while training actual Catholics to sing sacred music remains incredibly difficult—yet supremely rewarding.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 Years ago, several well-meaning members of the CMAA forum asserted that 1974 Propers could not replace the so-called “Opening Hymn” in the Ordinary Form. I’m happy to report that when members of CCW provided documentation proving the exact opposite, the issue was put to rest. Now, if we could just convince the other 99.99% of Catholics!
2 The only possible exception I can think of would be about fifteen years ago when the Holy See completely reformed ICEL, eliminating much corruption and facilitating a more accurate English translation. But even that did not change one word of the official liturgical books, which are written in Latin.