Local pastor responds to Pope Benedict's motu propio

Friday, Jul. 13, 2007

SALT LAKE CITY — Although Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement this past Saturday regarding the use of the Tridentine Mass in Catholic worship does not take effect until Sept. 14, already several eyebrows have been raised and pulses quickened in the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Some will also remember, however, that the 1962 rite, which predates the Second Vatican Council, has been observed in this diocese in several instances during the last 20 years.

"After Pope John Paul II loosened the restriction on the use of the Tridentine Mass in 1988, a monthly Tridentine Mass was held at St. Ann church," said Msgr. M. Francis Mannion, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Salt Lake City. "It was ultimately cancelled for lack of attendance.

"I have no sense that there is a need in my parish or in the church in Utah generally for a celebration of the Tridentine Mass," said Msgr. Mannion. "I have solid reason for saying this. When I was rector of the Cathedral in the 1980s, we had a monthly celebration in Latin of the Missal of Pope Pius VI – the Mass that came after Vatican II and is universally used now – and it also fizzled for lack of attendance.

Msgr. Mannion, a theologian, writes a column for Our Sunday Visitor which is reprinted regularly in the Opinion pages of the Intermountain Catholic.

"My own limited research undertaken for an essay I published some years ago is that about one percent of American Catholics want the Tridentine Mass. There is a larger – but still relatively small – body of American Catholics who think that a Latin Mass "would be nice" once in a while. I do not think that these are the people the Pope is responding to with his motu propio."

In the words of the motu propio, titled "Summorum pontificium," "a stable group of faithful" in a parish may request the celebration of the Tridentine Mass. These members of the congregation, it is assumed, will have had a significant formation in liturgy, and would be able to understand the language of the rite, Latin. More importantly, though, "the papal document emphasizes that such an initiative must avoid parochial discord and be carried through in a spirit of unity," said Msgr. Mannion. "Any parish or priest who would celebrate the Tridentine Mass must do so in a spirit of unity and cooperation with the bishop."

Although "Summorum pontificium" allows for an easier process to establish a regular parochial Mass in the Tridentine rite, it is very clear to state the post-Vatican II Missal of Pope Paul VI continues to be the primary expression of the liturgy in the Roman Catholic Church.

"Sacrosantum Concilium," the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1963 after having been approved by an overwhelming majority of the bishops at the Second Vatican Council, deals notably with the use of language in the ritual of the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, and the Liturgy of the Hours to promote a full and active participation in the liturgy by all the people.

In article 36, the constitution states: "The use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites. But since the use of the mother tongue… frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended," allowing for the use of other more common languages in the liturgy.

The Tridentine rite is not simply Mass in a different language; rather, it is a somewhat different ritual stemming from the counter-reformation of the 16th century. Under the guidelines set out by Pope Benedict in "Summorum pontificium," it can now be celebrated as another approach to the mystery of the sacraments.

"The pope states that at the heart of his concern is the desire to bring about reconciliation with clergy and people disaffected from the post-Vatican II liturgy," said Msgr. Mannion.

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