What Does Rome Want?
Catholics on the right and on the left have often asked why this Pope wants the Society regularized to such a great degree. After all, most conciliar bishops were content with leaving the Society to their leper status “outside” the Church and to continue ignoring them as irrelevant, while pushing the Vatican II revolution forward.
The narrative we hear in mainstream Catholic circles is that, although the Pope was more liberal in his Vatican II days, he has developed into a staunch conservative. It is said that he wants the Traditional Mass back into the Church and hates liturgical abuses in the Novus Ordo. Therefore, the Society could help further these goals by spreading the Traditional Mass and acting as a conduit towards more rubrical orthodoxy in both forms of the Roman Rite. Indeed there is evidence this is very true. However, isn’t it fair to ask if the Pope’s reasons in achieving these goals are the same as the Society’s? Is the Pope a traditionalist in the mold of Archbishop Lefebvre? Or could the Pontiff’s vision for the future of the Church be at odds with the Society’s vision?
A clue to the answer might be found in the Pope’s vision for the Mass. On May 14, 2011 CNS News reported the following regarding statements of Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity:
Pope Benedict XVI’s easing of restrictions on use of the 1962 Roman Missal, known as the Tridentine rite, is just the first step in a “reform of the reform” in liturgy, the Vatican’s top ecumenist said.
The pope’s long-term aim is not simply to allow the old and new rites to coexist, but to move toward a “common rite” that is shaped by the mutual enrichment of the two Mass forms…10
This statement came as a shock to many traditionalists. Why would the Pope want to combine the Traditional Mass into a new “hybrid Mass” with the Novus Ordo? Wasn’t one “New Mass” enough? A possible answer may be found in the candid words of Cardinal Ratzinger himself back in 1999. In September of 2010, “Fr. Matias Auge CMF, a veteran professor of liturgy in Rome, former consultant to the Congregation for Divine Worship and disciple of the reformers of the 1960′s, published an exchange of letters that he had with then-Cardinal Ratzinger on the topic of the reform of the sacred liturgy.”11 In his February 18, 1999 letter to Fr. Auge, Cardinal Ratzinger states:
…a considerable number of the Catholic faithful, especially those of French, English, and German nationality and language remain strongly attached to the old liturgy, and the Pope does not intend to repeat what happened in 1970 when the new liturgy was imposed in an extremely abrupt way, with a transition time of only six months, whereas the prestigious Liturgical Institute in Trier had rightly proposed a transition time of ten years (if I am not mistaken) for such an undertaking, one that touches in a vital way the heart of the Faith.
Here two very important points are admitted. First, that the imposition of the Novus Ordo Mass on the Church touched, “in a vital way the heart of the Faith.” This confirms the traditionalist claim that the changes in the Mass did not represent a superficial or external change, as Paul VI tried to argue many times as the New Mass was first being implemented. Rather, these changes affect the Faith itself.
The second admission is that the imposition of the Novus Ordo upon the faithful in a mere six months was a great mistake. Cardinal Ratzinger believed it should have taken at least ten years. Why? Cardinal Ratzinger knew that a fundamental change on the scale of introducing a new Mass must be gradually revealed to the faithful over a long period of time if they were to eventually accept it. The New Mass being imposed practically all at once over six months was not enough time. This rapid implementation led to many leaving the Church and the formation of resistance groups such as the SSPX. Presumably, if Paul VI had listened to the Liturgical Institute in Trier and slowly and methodically transitioned from the Traditional Mass to the New Mass over a period of ten years, Catholic faithful as a whole would have remained in the Church and would have gradually accepted the changes. As a side-effect, Rome would not have faced as great of a traditionalist resistance as it faces today.
In the same letter, the Cardinal states, “The citation from Cardinal Newman means that the authority of the Church has never in its history abolished with a legal mandate an orthodox liturgy.” The Cardinal here re-asserts what he considers to be an egregious error on behalf of the reformers. In attempting to abolish the Traditional Mass by promulgating a new one, Paul VI had performed an unprecedented act that would not stand the test of time. The Cardinal knew, quite rightly, that to do such a thing might have the effect of imposing a new Rite by force, but this new Rite could never truly replace the Old one. Opponents to the suppression of the Traditional Mass could argue effectively that replacing an ancient Rite of the Church could never be legitimately done by a legislative fiat of the Pope. The Cardinal himself, in his 2007 Motu Proprio confirmed this by admitting the Traditional Mass was never abrogated.
In the very next sentence of the letter, the Cardinal states a key point, “However, a liturgy that vanishes belongs to historical times, not the present.” When this statement is read in light of the statements by Cardinal Koch in 2011, they may together provide a clue as to what the Pope believes the original liturgical reform should have accomplished. We know the introduction of the Novus Ordo was meant by conciliar reformers to replace or abrogate the Traditional Mass. Yet, because the New Mass was imposed upon the people in such a short time frame, the Traditional Mass did not vanish, but instead survived underground as a distinctly different Mass than that of Paul VI. The New Mass was never really accepted by a certain contingent of Catholics. This contingent then began to grow steadily over time, as further liturgical innovations of the Novus Ordo continued to pile up throughout the 1970’s and 80’s.
To understand how a Mass can “vanish”, we must take a look at one that has. For example, the typical edition of the 1884 Roman Rite under Leo XIII has “vanished”. It is now consigned to its historical time in history, having been replaced with a later revision of the same Roman Rite. This revisionary process has been ongoing in the Roman Rite since the time of Pius V. Popes since then have, from time to time, made very minor adjustments to the Rite. Each revision was not seen as a “New Mass” replacing the old. It was instead seen as a minor organically developed change not altering the character of the Mass in any way. Thus the Society uses the 1962 edition of the Roman Rite, yet it is recognized as the same “Roman Rite” as that of Pius V.
This being the case, the most effective approach to make a Mass “vanish” would be to slowly and gradually, over the course of time, alter it through a series of small revisions. The least objectionable changes could presumably be offered first, and once those were digested, further changes could be offered. Thus, by this process the Traditional Mass we know today could conceivably be transformed, after many years, into a future Missal representing a more “conciliar” Faith. It would, in a sense, be a simulation of natural organic liturgical development. It would mimic the gradual evolution of the Traditional Mass over centuries, except, this time, the process could be carefully orchestrated and guided towards the goals of Vatican II under more direct supervision of future popes.
If we combine the Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter from 1999 with Cardinal Koch’s revealing the Pope’s goal of a hybrid Mass, we can come to the following conclusion: that although the Traditional Mass could not be successfully replaced at once by a “New Mass”, it can be slowly transformed into a different Mass over time. Thus, in the future, the Roman Missal of 1962 may very well “vanish” and belong to history as the Roman Missal of 1884 under Leo XIII has vanished.
The aversion to the swift implementation of the Novus Ordo in 1970 may explain, in part, the current Pope’s intense dislike for liturgical novelties. In the same letter the Cardinal states:
…the difference between the Missal of 1962 and the Mass faithfully celebrated according to the Missal of Paul VI is much smaller than the difference between the various, so-called ”creative” applications of the Missal of Paul VI. In this situation, the presence of the earlier Missal may become a bulwark against the numerous alterations of the liturgy and thus act as a support of the authentic reform.
Thus, the Cardinal is opposed to liturgical innovations of the Novus Ordo because they thwart the aims of the more gradual “authentic reform” over time. Liturgical innovations or “abuses” serve to continually present the faithful with a radical stark departure from even the Mass of Paul VI, much less the Traditional Mass. In other words, these innovators have been hurting the cause of the “authentic reform” (slow and gradual assimilation of changes) by instituting their novelties far too rapidly to be digested by the faithful.
In order for the Cardinal’s “authentic reform” to work, these “abuses” must stop and the Mass of Paul VI must move closer to the Mass of Pius V. As Cardinal Koch revealed, the eventual goal of the Pope is to blend these two Masses into one hybrid Mass of the Roman Rite. In Rome’s view, factions of the faithful have, in a sense, splintered off from the reform movement, like the Society. As long as the Society is outside of this process, they cannot be a part of the “authentic reform”. If the Society stays separated, they will continue to keep the Traditional Mass alive in its current form. Therefore, Rome would be back to the situation it faced in the 1970’s.
To remedy this, the Society must be participating in the “authentic reform”. The reform could ostensibly take the least objectionable elements of the Mass of Paul VI and try to slowly assimilate them into the Traditional Mass. Once the envisioned “hybrid Mass” is accomplished, the reform would once again have one Mass of the Roman Rite to work with as it did before 1969. Future reforms to this “new” Missal could then be introduced very slowly and gradually over the course of years. By this method, at some point in the future, the Traditional Mass, as it was known in 1962 and said in 2012, will once and for all “vanish” and be confined forever to its proper “historical time”.
Lest one think these ideas are purely theoretical, concrete steps to implement the “authentic reform” have already taken place. Less than one year after issuing the Motu Proprio freeing the Traditional Mass, the Pope altered the Good Friday prayer of the 1962 Missal.12 Then, on April 30, 2011, the Pontifical Commission of Ecclesia Dei stated in an official instruction, “New saints and certain of the new prefaces can and ought to be inserted into the 1962 Missal, according to provisions which will be indicated subsequently.”13
NOTES  http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1101922.htm  http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2010/09/1999-letter-by-cardinal-ratzinger-on.html  http://newcatholic.googlepages.com/OR_20080206_prima.pdf http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_commissions/ecclsdei/documents/rc_com_ecclsdei_doc_20110430_istr-universae-ecclesiae_en.html#_ftnref9