An article from Easter Sunday, 1991:
A transcription of the article, first published on 31 March 1991:
UESDAY OF HOLY WEEK came news from France of the death of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, 85, the traditionalist prelate who had led tens of thousands into the first schism with Rome since the Old Catholics departed in 1870 over the doctrine of papal infallibility. Pope John Paul II had tried to keep the archbishop in the fold, offering to consecrate a bishop of his choosing. But, in June of 1988 Lefebvre—to the rejoicing of the modernists who despised him and his cause—broke with the Holy See and consecrated four bishops. “I prefer to be in the truth without tile pope,” the archbishop said, “than walk a false path with him.” Yet, in death, one of the archbishop’s causes, restoration of the Latin Mass, is making a comeback. For the archbishop was not the only Catholic sick at heart over the evisceration of the liturgy by the talentless and tin-eared who rose to the surface in the churning of Vatican II.
On CNN’s Larry King Live, popular actor Mel Gibson lamented openly that his Church “is not the same as it was…it’s missing some very important things. I don’t believe that transubstantiation occurs anymore…I mean, if there’s not rules, if there’s not an absolute, then it’s not worth much. If it shifts like that, I don’t want to build…on that kind of shaky foundation. And it is shifting every day. They contradict one another. It gets more and more laughable by the day. If you weren’t crying, you’d laugh. […] I probably sound like some egoist saying that the Roman Church is wrong, but I believe it is at the moment since Vatican II.”
Gibson is not alone in sensing something great and good has been lost. A Gallup Poll, commissioned by the new Washington-based St. Augustine Center Association, reports that, if the Latin Mass were available, 8 percent of Catholics would go every Sunday, 17 percent would attend frequently and 51 percent occasionally. Considering how many millions no longer attend Mass at all, that is extraordinary.
Aware of his empty churches, the pope in 1984 issued an indult for the Latin Mass if parishioners requested it. In 1988 he urged a “wide and generous application” of the indult. Yet, only one in three Catholics even knows about that right. Often, where they do petition, the same bishops who are forever carping about the “authoritarian” style of the pope refuse. These intolerant and imperious prelates do the real trampling on the principle of “unity in diversity” from Vatican II.
Since 1965 it has been Father Gommar De Pauw, founder of the U.S. Catholic Traditionalist Movement, an adviser at Vatican II, who has kept the flame alive at Ave Maria Chapel, Westbury, Long Island. Now, at Old St. Mary’s in Washington’s inner city, Supreme Court justices and ex-senators can be found at the communion rails on Sunday; and the number of attendees at the Latin Mass is growing. Across the river in Virginia, however, the Latin Mass is still disallowed.
In Wigratzbad, Bavaria, the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (set up by Lefebvrist clergy who broke with the old archbishop when he broke with Rome) have set up a seminary. Run by 39-year-old Father Josef Bisig, the Priestly Fraternity has the blessing of John Paul II and was visited last Easter by an approving Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, who many believe may be the next pope—an idea that is increasing Rolaid consumption at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
As Father Bisig writes his supporters: “We will not give you a stone when you have cried out for bread. No social workers, no community animators, no half-baked theoreticians of revolutionary liberation will come out of Wigratzbad.”
While America’s media are forever interviewing the turtle-necked theologians of the talk-show circuit, here is where genuine renewal is taking place; here is where the action is. In June two Americans will be ordained in Wigratzbad; 15 more are studying there; another 150 have applied. There is talk of a seminary in the U.S. if a bishop can be found to take the heat. While millions of Catholics prefer Mass in English with the guitars, folk music, priest-facing-the-congregation, hand-shaking, theater-in-the-round churches, for millions of others the sense of loss was captured in March’s issue of The Homiletic and Pastoral Review. The piece was titled “The Tridentine Tragedy.”
“What is involved here,” wrote Father William C. Van Breda, “is not a nostaliga trip or a romantic attachment to the classic languages, as the liturgists well understand. What is at stake is the solemn majesty of the Triune God claiming an authentic ceremonial of divine worship and a ritual proclamation of the Sacred Truth. Modern theologians have transformed the eucharistic worship—the adoration of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—into a social event, a so-called celebration of the Christian Community. Every faithful Catholic understands only too well that the elimination of liturgical Latin, the transformation of the Church edifice, the forced exodus of the Communion of Saints and the disappearance of the traditional signs and symbols herald the establishment of a new doctrine and a new religion.”
“Hatred of the Latin language,” Dom Guéranger wrote a century ago, “is innate in the hearts of all the enemies of Rome; they perceive in it the universal bond of all Catholics and the arsenal of orthodoxy against all sectarian subtleties.”
“It is no coincidence,” Father Van Breda adds, “that the doctrinal dissenters, the moral muddlers and the loathers of Latin are lodging at the same address.” Amen, and Happy Easter.
Patrick J. Buchanan (31 March 1991)