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Kevin Terry wrote:


I heard someone on EWTN explain that basically what Pope Benedict XVI is doing, is reforming the reformed.

My understanding is that he simply wants to allow the Latin Mass to be used more freely.

No problem here and even if I did have a problem, I would be obedient because as Catholics
(or any Christian for that matter, many just don't know it or accept it), that is what Jesus has
told us to do.

  • Can you confirm my understanding of what he did on July 7, 2007?



  { Can you confirm that on July 7, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI desired a broader use of the Latin Mass? }

Mike replied:

Hi Kevin,

You said:
My understanding is that he simply wants to allow the Latin Mass to be used more freely.

Correct. It's important to emphasize that for those who currently attend the Novus Ordo Mass on a regular basis — nobody is taking anything away. The Faithful will always be able to go to any Novus Ordo Mass anytime they wish.

You said:
I heard someone on EWTN explain that basically what Pope Benedict XVI is doing,
is reforming the reformed.

Yes, in the sense of how the Mass is celebrated worldwide. Let me give you some historical background.

The Church has been celebrating the Tridentine Mass, otherwise known as the Mass of the Council of Trent or the Latin Mass, since around 1560. Older Catholics will remember this because it was the only way Mass was celebrated before 1969 for a long time.

If you have never been to a Tridentine Mass, I suggest you go just for the experience.

The focus is far more Eucharist-centered then people-centered because the priest has his back to you 98% of the time. He is focusing on a personal reverence and adoration of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament while consecrating the sacred species for that Mass. In addition, almost all the Mass is said in Latin.

  • Why?

Because Latin is a dead language, meaning the words in Latin don't take on double meanings culturally. An example is the word gay:

  • gay (happy) and
  • gay (homosexual)

Because of this, translations from Latin to English can mess up the original meaning of the Latin text. Latin has been the official language of the Church for most of the Church's history.

For a historical view of the development of the Mass within the Church from the time of Christ, check the following section on my web site:

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and Eucharistic Adoration page.

It really gives you a good idea of the history of the Mass, issues, and mini-family fights we have had in the Church.

In 1968, with the intent of having the Mass said in a manner that the faithful could participate in more, Pope Paul VI promulgated a new use, or new expression of the same Roman Rite, the:

  • Novus Ordo
  • Ordo, or
  • Mass of Paul VI.

Since then, the Church has celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in two different but authentic, and valid manners:

  1. the Novus Ordo Mass, and
  2. the Tridentine Mass

Many felt more at home with having Mass said in their own language. Others, lead by Archbishop Lefebvre, desired to go back to hearing the Mass in Latin.

One problem that arose with the advent of the Novus Ordo Mass was that priests were changing parts of the Mass they had no right to.

No priest, bishop, or cardinal may ever change any part of the Mass. They have to go by what is in the Sacramentary, a book used for the Mass that is approved by the Pope. There are options in this book but nothing else is permissible. There were other Mass abuses that drove some faithful to want the Tridentine Mass again. These abuses included a lack of respect for the Blessed Sacrament — a lack of respect that, sadly, is still present in some parishes today.

Although there had been and, in places, still are abuses in the Novus Ordo Mass that, over time, would slowly be corrected, Pope John Paul II couldn't ignore the passion expressed from the faithful to have the Tridentine Mass celebrated for them if they desired it. The Council of Trent made it clear that this Mass would always be able to be celebrated. This longing from the faithful is what drew Pope John Paul II to write Ecclesia Dei, in which he stated:

To all those Catholic faithful who feel attached to some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of the Latin tradition I wish to manifest my will to facilitate their ecclesial communion by means of the necessary measures to guarantee respect for their rightful aspirations. In this matter I ask for the support of the bishops and of all those engaged in the pastoral ministry in the Church.

With this the Pope required that all bishops make at least one Church available for the Tridentine Mass in their diocese. If a priest was trained to say the Tridentine Mass and wanted to celebrate the Mass this way, he would have to get what is called an Indult, or permission from the local bishop in his diocese to say the Tridentine Mass. What wasn't expected was the strong desire by current seminarians today to celebrate the Tridentine Mass.

In certain dioceses, bishops defied the Pope and did not permit a Tridentine Mass to be said.
We have been blessed in the Boston area to have a Cardinal who has allowed what we have today, the Tridentine Mass, to continue. In other dioceses, there were bishops who wrongly did not permit this, even if the priest could and wanted to celebrate this Mass.

Now to the question:

  • What happened on Saturday, July 7th, 2007?

Because of the difficulty that some of the faithful had in having the Tridentine Mass said in their diocese, Benedict literally threw the Indult out the window.

No permission was required by the local bishop to celebrate the Tridentine Mass.

This action by our Holy Father is a sad reflection on some bishops who had no interest in having the Tridentine Mass celebrated in their diocese.

In this sense, we can said that Pope Benedict XVI's actions were part of a reform of the reform within the Church to, as you said, have the Latin Mass said more freely.

  • What did this mean?

It meant any Catholic priest who:

  • has the Church structure to say the Tridentine Mass
  • knows the liturgy and rubrics and
  • knows Latin

can say the Tridentine Mass.

For those current priests who wish to say it, the Holy Father encouraged bishops to work out a way to make this possible. The Vatican also has a special Ecclesia Dei commission set up for this in Rome.

Now, if the faithful go to any parish priest and express a desire to have the Tridentine Mass said, the pastors have to give this due consideration. Remember, Vatican II stated that the pastors should listen and pay attention to the spiritual needs of their parishioners.

Also, bishops will have to strongly consider training for present priests and [current/future] seminarians who wish to celebrate the Tridentine Mass.

It's my hope that a more frequent celebration of the Tridentine Mass will bring about a more reverent celebration of the Novus Ordo Mass.

My personal opinion on the event:

My recollection of going to the Tridentine Mass in Harvard was that it was highly reverent and focused solely on adoration of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That said, in the long run, I think the Church will receive many blessings from having that form of the Mass being said more frequently.

Another good result of this action is that Benedict's Letter made crystal clear that the Novus Ordo Mass was the ordinary or normal expression of the Roman Rite, not an invalid exception we have to put up with as right-wing schismatic's in our Church would say.

The Church sees the Mass celebrated in two manners today:

  • the Ordinary Form of the Mass (the Novus Ordo), and
  • the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (the Tridentine)

The only stipulation that was ever make by either Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI was that any priest who wished to celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (the Tridentine) would have to also accept the validity:

  • of Vatican II, and
  • of the proper celebration of the Ordinary Form of the Mass (the Novus Ordo).

You can't have a Catholic Church without a Pope, and you can't honestly say you are a Catholic without obeying the current Pope on issues of faith and morals.

Side note: I got thrown out of a Catholic prayer meeting due to a Lefebvre sympathizer.

See the power of Catholic prayer. : )

Hope this helps.


Richard replied:

Hi, Mike and Kevin —

Over the past ten years there has been a movement to change the celebration of the current Roman Mass in a more traditional direction.

This idea is summed up in the phrase Reform of the reform, which I think came from a book by Cardinal Ratzinger before his election as Pope.

It's an effort to reconnect priests and lay Catholics with traditional forms of worship, in order to promote a stronger sense of reverence and adoration, and a stronger focus on Christ in the Mass.

For example, the modern Roman rite allows priests to celebrate Mass facing the high altar instead of facing the people for the whole Mass. They may also offer Mass in Latin if they wish. These options fell out of fashion among the clergy in the 1960s and 1970s and have since been rarely used in most countries. Some priests and people are even under the mistaken idea that these are not allowed in the new Mass.

Reform of the reform ideas also include the promotion of the Church's preferred musical forms, which are Gregorian chant and classical polyphony, (choral music going back to the 1500s). The Second Vatican Council called on Catholics to cultivate these beautiful forms of music for the Holy Mass, but most priests have little or no training in them.

Pope Benedict has supported these efforts toward a re-emphasis on the sacred in his own books and in his endorsements of books by other scholars.

Here are some links to web pages with more information about this direction:

A column by Vatican-watcher Sandro Magister about how the Pope's inaugural Mass reflected his thought on "reform of the reform".

The new document, released on 7/7/7, is only an indirect step in the process Pope Benedict wants to encourage. It doesn't change anything about the celebration of the modern rite of Mass, but it will give interested priests and lay people more freedom to worship according to the old rites, and thus know the Catholic liturgical heritage better.

Best wishes —

— Richard Chonak

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