Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Letter About the Motu Proprio

A priest in Ohio has written the following letter in anticipation of the Motu Proprio's promulgation (now apparently scheduled for July 7th.)

It's a model letter; I've only excerpted it here.

...It appears, from all reports, that he's making it much easier for priests, and the lay faithful, to have Mass according to the old rite -- i.e., the form of the Mass as it existed in 1962. (After that, there were changes that preceded the more substantive changes in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.) Many reports say that a minimum number will have to request it, something like 30, but otherwise exactly how this will work I don't know. We have to wait and see.

What he is almost certainly not doing is directly affecting the celebration of the current, normative rite of the Mass and sacraments.

Why is he doing this?

1. Aiding reconciliation with those "traditionalist" Catholics who are seriously disaffected with the Church over the implementation of Vatican II.

2. Reconciliation with the Orthodox. ...One of the key issues is the liturgy. As important as it is for Catholics, the liturgy is vastly moreso for the Orthodox, who see it as the main bearer of tradition -- a point Catholics would probably agree with, except we fail to emphasize the point.

So the Orthodox were very troubled by the way we Catholics seemed to treat our liturgy in the wake of the Council.

3. The right understanding of the Catholic liturgy per se.

The pope has said many times that we've interpreted the liturgy, and the Council itself, the wrong way -- from a stance of "discontinuity" or "rupture," versus one of continuity. I.e., why did the liturgy change so much? Ought it to have? Did the Council really call for that? Is this a good thing?

The pope (among many others) believes not; so he is aiming for a reconciliation, as it were, between the current rite and the old rite themselves.

A nice recap, although much more fully expressed (and nuanced) in the original.

Now for the practical effects on HIS parishes (he serves two, as Pastor.)

It will mean that it will be far easier to request the celebration of the old rite of the Mass, and perhaps other sacraments. We'll find out soon just what the mechanism is for that; and then we'll find out just what the Archbishop has to say. At some point in the near future, I'll know just what it means for me, as a priest, who may be approached with just such a request.

As your pastor, one of my basic approaches is to say that if you have a legitimate option provided by the Church, then I feel obliged to do what I can to fulfill it.

...I have no idea how to celebrate the old Mass, so long before I could ever grant such a request, I would have to learn how to do it, and I have no idea how quickly I could master it.

But again, if people ask for it, and the pope says they are entitled to it, I will find a way to provide for that.

Again, the issues at stake are both big-picture, and also down-to-earth practical. The big picture, what the pope is thinking about, is the future of the Catholic Faith, keeping our tradition alive (what are we without it?), rooted in our liturgy. He is looking ahead many decades when he hopes, as do I, that our liturgy is no longer a battleground.

The down-to-earth, present-day issues are simply, how will your pastor, your priests and your parish respond to the legitimate requests and needs expressed by parishioners? I don't know because I don't know what folks will ask for, how many, and so forth. All I can tell you is I will do my best, and all of us should try to be patient and cooperative and flexible.

Perhaps the Archdiocese of Milwaukee's priests will react the same way.

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