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Controversy has been swirling like incense ever since Catholic News Service published a recent column about the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass by Father Peter J. Daly. The column also appeared in the Aug. 17 issue of The Criterion.
Internet weblogs (“blogs”) are full of criticism. There are accusations that Father Daly’s account of a neighboring pastor who offers the traditional Latin Mass are inaccurate, and were mentioned without that pastor’s approval. Now the two pastors are in a snit; one wants to drag an auxiliary bishop into the fray. These blogs read like soap operas.
The Aug. 24 issue of The Criterion featured letters from readers critical of Father Daly’s column. Two writers mentioned the beautiful celebration of the traditional Latin Mass at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Church in Indianapolis.
As pastor of Holy Rosary Parish, along with our associate pastor, Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter Father Michael Magiera, I can say that we are grateful and proud.
As vicar general of the archdiocese and as pastor of a parish that has offered the traditional Latin Mass along with the Novus Ordo (post-Vatican II) Mass for nearly 10 years, I can only say that my observations and experiences are not the same as Father Daly’s.
We are one, unified parish. We are growing; we are getting “younger.” I would have to say that his statements about the “old Mass,” and how and why it is celebrated the way it is, are simply misleading.
Yet, there are more important points to be made from this controversy.
To begin with, Catholic News Service is operated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It is certainly inappropriate for any columnist—particularly a priest—to use CNS as a forum to vent about or to second-guess a recent decision made by the Holy Father.
Accompanying the pope’s moto proprio on the use of the Roman liturgy prior to the reform of 1970 is a letter addressed to the bishops. The second paragraph of his letter comments about the confusion created by “news reports and judgments made without sufficient information.”
Later on, in the same letter, Pope Benedict XVI comments on his personal experience with the hopes and confusion that often followed the reform of the liturgy. It is also clear that the pope only issued this directive after long, prayerful consideration and consultation. Before ending his letter, the Holy Father asks that three years into the moto proprio the bishops should “send to the Holy See an account of your experiences.”
The moto proprio takes effect on Sept. 14. No one is in a position to
second-guess the decision before it even takes effect, much less to criticize it simply based on very limited (and evidently flawed) personal experience or personal preference.
I believe that the pope is genuinely interested in unity with those inside or outside the Church who have been alienated over authorized or unauthorized changes in the liturgy. To ram one’s opinions (liturgical or otherwise) down people’s throats as Father Daly did in his column hardly seems “in the Spirit of Vatican II.”
More importantly, take into account the Holy Father’s sense that people long for the “sacred” and transcendent in the liturgy.
More than 12 years ago, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin spoke at the annual meeting of the National Federation of Priests’ Councils in San Diego. In soaring imagery, Cardinal Bernardin reminded priests that they are to be “bearers of the mystery of God.”
As the late prelate acknowledged a crisis of confidence and confusion among priests then (and today), he exhorted priests to embrace the role as “bearers of Sacred Symbols … who draw others to God’s love in Christ.”
Particularly in today’s world, people long for that sense of mystery. The liturgy enables us to enter through Jesus Christ into the Mystery Who is God. Pope Benedict XVI must be keenly aware of this; he has a worldwide perspective on the life of the Church.
On the Feast of the Assumption, Aug. 15, Bishop Salvatore Matano of the Diocese of Burlington, Vt., offered the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass (“The Extraordinary Rite of the Eucharist”) in St. Joseph Co-Cathedral.
The church was packed with people of all ages. Bishop Matano commented, “And if this is what it takes to fill our churches, so be it!”
I am not yet convinced that the recent moto proprio will be what it takes to fill our churches.
But my own experience makes me certain that Father Daly was wrong when he wrote: “But almost nobody will come.”
He and others who jump to the same conclusions need to “wake up and smell the incense.”
(Msgr. Joseph F. Schaedel is vicar general of the archdiocese and pastor of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis.) †