So runs the title of this week's editorial of The Tablet.
The editorial is a reflection on a foreword, written by Archbishop Nichols, to a booklet that will be given to priests taking part in the 24-28 August conference at All Saints Pastoral Centre, London Colney. I do not have the article to hand but can comment on the Tablet's editorial without bringing in personal likes and dislikes, but simply applying the Church's law.
The editor begins:
One of Pope Benedict XVI’s most controversial initiatives has been his promotion of the Tridentine Rite of Mass as an alternative to the revised rite that reflects the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.
Many things that the Church and her pastors direct are controversial simply by being controverted such as the teaching on artificial birth control contained in Pope Paul VI's encyclicalHumanae Vitae and Vatican II's Gaudium et spes. The fact of being controverted does not, however, make them any less legitimate.
The Tablet continues:
His message is unambiguous, and may not please some of those hoping to attend the conference. First, he has insisted that the training conference is officially sponsored by the Diocese of Westminster, “in conjunction with the Latin Mass Society”, thereby keeping it under his control. In church teaching and canon law, he states, bishops are responsible for the oversight of the liturgy. Many feel a bishop’s role in these matters has been undermined by Pope Benedict’s motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum”, which appears to allow priests to opt for the Tridentine Rite regardless of the attitude of local bishops.
Of course, the bishop is the moderator of the liturgy in his diocese, but always in accordance with the universal law of the Church. Whatever people feel, the fact is that Summorum Pontificum does indeed allow priests to celebrate the extraordinary form (which The Tablet insists on calling "the Tridentine Rite") without the permission of the bishop:
Art. 2: In Masses celebrated without the people, each Catholic priest of the Latin rite, whether secular or regular, may use the Roman Missal published by Bl. Pope John XXIII in 1962, or the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970, and may do so on any day with the exception of the Easter Triduum. For such celebrations, with either one Missal or the other, the priest has no need for permission from the Apostolic See or from his Ordinary.
Archbishop Nichols gives no shred of encouragement to those who want the Tridentine Rite to replace the newer version. Conference participants “will wholeheartedly celebrate the Mass in each of these forms”, he instructs them bluntly, adding: “The view that the ordinary form of the Mass, in itself, is in some way deficient finds no place here.” People who hold that view are “inexorably distancing themselves from the Church”, he says. There is no scope, in other words, for “Tridentine Rite” parishes that set themselves up in the spirit of being “more Catholic than thou”.
Well, I hope it works both ways, that those who refuse to accept the extraordinary form do not consider themselves more catholic than those who prefer the extraordinary form. I would hope that The Tablet, which prides itself on dissent from - or at least controverting upon - much of the Church's official teachings will allow thinking catholics the space to discuss the relative merits of one form of the Mass over the other. After all, the whole point of the provisions of Pope John Paul II's Motu proprio Ecclesia Dei and Pope Benedict's Summorum Pontificum was to respond to the legitimate aspirations of those who remained attached to the older usage. In the former document, Pope John Paul had already written:
(M)oreover, respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of all those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition, by a wide and generous application of the directives already issued some time ago by the Apostolic See for the use of the Roman Missal according to the typical edition of 1962.
Furthermore, Summorum Pontificum allows for the erection of personal parishes and chaplaincies exclusively dedicated to the provision of the extraordinary form:
The ordinary of a particular place, if he feels it appropriate, may erect a personal parish in accordance with can. 518 for celebrations following the ancient form of the Roman rite, or appoint a chaplain, while observing all the norms of law.
My experience of the conference in Merton last year was that most, if not all, of the priests attending were regular parish priests whose daily celebration of the Mass was and would remain in the ordinary form. They would continue to celebrate it "wholeheartedly" even if with the benefit of the "mutual enrichment" envisioned by Pope Benedict in Summorum Pontificum. Also, attendees were provided with the opportunity to celebrate Mass daily in the ordinary or extraordinary form according to their preference, or indeed to concelebrate (in the ordinary form, naturally). So, in fact, both forms of the Mass were being celebrated and the form one celebrated in was not, in my experience, a cause of division or being thought of by the others as being more or less catholic.
Recognising the threat of such moves, Archbishop Nichols is seeking to nip a potential schism in the bud.
Schism is a very technical word and The Tablet does its readers a great disservice in using it so imprecisely, just as it uses the term "Tridentine Rite" instead of "extraordinary form". There is no potential schism. All those attending the conference are faithful catholic priests.
His firm leadership in Westminster is one that other bishops in England and Wales – and elsewhere – will welcome. The Catholic Church does not need its own version of “culture wars”, and in his message the archbishop in effect declares a priest’s personal tastes or preferences to be irrelevant.
There would be no "wars" if all accepted peaceably the directives of the Holy Father in these matters. The priest now has a right to celebrate the extraordinary form privately whenever he wishes. Any decision to do so is bound to made on the basis of his preferences. The Tablet wants to deny priests their right in this matter.
Furthermore the distinctive feature of the Tridentine Rite, and the single most pressing reason why the bishops at Vatican II wanted it reformed, was the absence of any role for the laity. They were little more than spectators of what the celebrant was doing at the altar; in practice this meant many of them concentrated on their own private devotions.
We have here a very distorted understanding by The Tablet of active participation. The faithful for whom I celebrate the extraordinary form consider themselves to be very much involved, being drawn into the mysteries they celebrate and praying in union with the priest at the altar. They should not be bullied into making responses, shaking hands etc. if they do not wish to.
Archbishop Nichols insists it is an “established principle of good liturgy” to encourage the active participation of all those taking part in the Mass, a principle needing “careful consideration and application by every celebrant”.
This can be done by instructing the faithful - priests and laity - on the true nature of the Mass so that they have a greater understanding of what is being celebrated and accomplished. In my celebrations of the extraordinary form, I have indeed exercised very "careful consideration and application" so that I may celebrate the Mass with faithfulness to the rubrics and tradition so that the people do not get Father John's Mass but the Mass of the Church.
The Tablet now goes on to make a giant deductive leap:
Implicit in this directive is the rejection of any discrimination against girls and women among those who assist at Mass, such as altar servers, readers and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. That some Tridentinist priests have banished females from the sanctuary or lectern in the name of authenticity has more than a whiff of misogyny.
How can The Tablet deduce this conclusion from the Archbishop's words? The Tablet fails to remind its readers that Vatican II directed that the stable ministries of acolytate and lectorate be restored but that the Bishops have not restored these ministries. Why? Because they are reserved to men. So there is a selective application of the directives of the Council. The council and, indeed, the Code of Canon Law, states that other lay faithful - of either sex - may, in the absence of instituted ministers, exercise these roles. But their role is supplementary, not essential. As for extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, these are not necessary in any Mass. They are permitted if, in the opinion of the parish priest, the distribution of Communion would take too long, but they are not required. And in the extraordinary form, Communion is only given under one kind (although that could be reformed).
What is a "Tridentinist" priest anyway?
Thus has Archbishop Nichols neatly answered virtually every objection to the motu proprio,...
Was that the Archbishop's intention, to "neatly answer virtually every objection to the motu proprio"? Or to give practical guidelines for its implementation.
... and the Tridentine Rite can henceforth take its proper – and necessarily marginal – place in the life of the Catholic Church.
Let the people - not The Tablet - decide whether the extraordinary form (again styled "Tridentine Rite" by The Tablet") will be marginal, as Pope Benedict has given them the right to.
Indeed, he has made it accessible to those who are fully committed to Vatican II.
Just as the ordinary form Mass is accessible to those who are fully committed to Vatican II, including its teaching on artificial birth control (Gaudium et spes) and other issues one could raise such as the infallibility of the Pope and the need for religious submission of intellect and will to the ordinary magisterium of the Church.
This timely display of clear leadership from the new president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales bodes well.
I'm sure it does.