Monday, August 06, 2007

Summorum Pontificum: Here Comes the Hoop

This is the Mass the bishops are trying to keep from us...

...they would rather give us this one instead!

Many supporters of the Traditional Mass of St. Pius V who (like myself) eagerly waited for Pope Benedict's motu proprio Summorum Pontificum (by the way, it has been out one month tomorrow) predicted that unless the rights of the priest to say the Mass were very clearly dileneated, the bishops would find or invent hoops for any priests wanting to celebrate the TLM to jump through in order to frustrate the implementation of the motu proprio. This is now happening in the reactions of the world episcopate. This is the development of what Fr. Zuhlsdorf has amply called "The Party Line."

The biggest hoop being created for priests to jump through is the qualification hoop; this consists of a priest having to "prove" to his bishop that he is "qualified" to say the Tridentine Mass; in most cases, this means proving that he is competent in Latin. The bishop of Augsburg, Germany has mandated a "qualification program" before priests are allowed to say the old Mass; the bishop of Kalmazoo, MI requires that a priest demonstrate that he have a sound knowledge of Latin. Many other bishops have said that they would institute qualification guidlines that priests will have to meet.

It can easily be seen why this requirement can be used to prevent a wider application of the motu proprio: whether or not a priest is sufficiently knowledgeable in Latin is completely subjective. A bishop could turn down any priest whom he claimed was "unqualified." What determines how good a person needs to be in Latin to say the Mass? And are a bunch of bishops who despise the old Mass really the best ones to make the judgment?

Now, I believe that every single priest should know Latin (and at least have a working knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, too!). I would love for every priest to have a firm mastery of the Latin tongue and be as at home praying in the language of the Church as they are in the vernacular. But, I would like to point out one simple fact that all of these bishops who are requiring Latin qualifications seem to have forgotten:

The priest does not need to be proficient in Latin to say the old Mass!

What do I mean by this? Well, to offer a valid Eucharist, all that is necessary on the part of the priest (besides proper form and matter, of course) is to do what the Church intends when confecting the sacrament. Speaking in terms of strict validity, as long as he is intending to do what the Church does, his own disposition is irrelevant. This is the same principle that governs why anybody can baptize in case of an emergency, even an atheist, so long as he wills to do what the Church intends.

In the case of Latin, it is not necessary (though certainly preferable) that the priest have a sufficient knowledge of Latin. All he needs are two things: (1) to be able to pronoune the Latin words, and (2) to be able to memorize the Latin phrases he needs to have memorized. The priest could be completely ignorant of the Latin language and still offer this Mass so long as he was capable of doing these two things.

Since the Holy Father himself points out that a good liturgical formation and knowledge of Latin are lacking in many priests, I can forsee some bishops turning down requests for the TLM based on he assertion that the priest "doesn't know" Latin. But priests all over the country are now encouraged to say the Novus Ordo in Spanish, even in parishes where Spanish speaking people are the minority. Do you mean to tell me that every single priest who does the Novus Ordo in Spanish must be proficient in it to say the Mass? Is every priest saying a Spanish Mass proficient in it? I don't think so; the bishops in this case recognize that as long as the priest can pronounce the words, then he is able to muddle through. The same should apply to the provisions of the MP.

The fact of the matter is, this is just another hoop that those who hate tradition have created to make traditionalists jump through. I predict the next hoop will be a very restrictive definition of what constitutes a "stable group" of the faithful. I am thankful for the motu proprio with all my heart, but I will never tire of saying it: ambiguity in Church documents breeds chaos.


Deacon John said...

This reminds me of the many visiting foreign priests who came to our parish over the years to celebrate Mass and we couldn't understand a word they prayed. Their homilies were even worse! I felt sorry for the people who did not know the Mass prayers by heart. And of course, they brought their own rubrics which made my hair stand up! I'd rather have a priest mumble through the Latin and do the rubrics correctly, than what we went (and still do) through.
Love your Blog!
Roman Deacon

Boniface said...

I can't tell you how many times I went through the same things with foreign priests...but in their case, it was politically correct for them to say Mass in a language nobody understood. At least with TLM, the Mass booklet comes with an English translation!

Thanks for the compliment on the blog!