Monday, July 30, 2007

Making Church Reform Optional

Rita Ferrone on the “backward step”
of Summorum Pontificum

Commonweal has published an insightful commentary by Rita Ferrone (pictured below) on Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio, Summorum pontificum, that gives broad permission for the celebration of the Tridentine Mass.

A nationally known speaker and writer, Rita Ferrone is the author of several books about liturgy. Her Rediscovering Vatican II: The Liturgy (Paulist Press) will be published in the fall. She has also written numerous articles for publications such as Catechumenate, Today’s Parish, Today’s Liturgy, and Ministry and Liturgy. Rita has contributed to religion textbooks for several major publishers and served as editor of the Guidelines for Catechesis, currently in use in the Archdiocese of New York.

Following are two brief excerpts from Ferrone’s Commonweal article, “A Step Backwards: The Latin Mass is Back”:

The motu proprio . . . lays the groundwork for the creation of two liturgical establishments within the Latin-rite Catholic Church – one worshiping according to rites mandated by the Council of Trent, the other according to rites mandated by the Second Vatican Council.

It was not the intention of Vatican II, or of the popes who implemented it, to create a situation in which two forms of the Roman rite would exist side by side. The liturgical reform of the council was intended as a true reform, addressing genuine problems of the old liturgy for the good of the church as a whole. Now, with the stroke of a pen, Pope Benedict has made that reform optional. Individual priests may use the preconciliar rites at will, and groups of the faithful who ask for celebrations according to the preconciliar norms may not be refused them. . . .

It is hard to credit the pope’s claim that his edict is intended for the benefit of the faithful. How can it be “for the benefit of the faithful” to return to a ritual of baptism in which the parents of infants say nothing? In the spirit of ecumenism, the liturgy that came out of Vatican II eliminated the abjuration of heresy and schism that non-Catholics made before being admitted to Catholic communion. How can we justify reviving such practices today? There was no catechumenate in the Tridentine church, despite a crying need around the world for this liturgical structure of evangelization and formation. How can we deprive adult converts of the catechumenate - which canon law now requires them to have? The reform of the liturgy was not a mere matter of aesthetic preferences, of “contemporary relevance” versus “timeless mystery,” of Latin versus the vernacular. The reformed liturgy embodies the values of the council in innumerable ways.

Given the series of concessions that have already been made to Catholic traditionalists, and the radical views and program of those to whom this pope has given his approval and endorsement in the past, it is difficult to believe that with Summorum pontificum a definitive compromise has been reached and the matter will end there. A more plausible understanding of the present moment is that it marks another step toward a goal that the vast majority of Catholics would not countenance if it were openly acknowledged – namely, the gradual dismantling of the liturgical reform in its entirety.

To read Rita Ferrone’s commentary in its entirety, click here.

Image of Rita Ferrone: Lois Kindle (

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Holy Spirit Absent in Attempts to Revert to Latin Mass
The New Motu Proprio: “Nothing but Headaches for Bishops, Priests, and Laity”?
Joan Chittister on the Restoration of the Tridentine Latin Rite
James Carroll on “Pope Benedict’s Mistake”
“Uncle Vince” is at it Again

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