A book-length interview with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI entitled, Benedict XVI: Last Will and Testament, was recently published. The book takes the form of a question and answer dialogue led by German journalist, Peter Seewald. In one section, Pope Benedict speaks about his decision to permit any priest in the world to offer the Tridentine Mass (the Latin Mass prior to Vatican II) without any special permission. The Pope explained the rational for this decision as shown below. (The italicized questions were presented to the Holy Father Emeritus by Peter Seewald.)
Now to the reauthorization of the Tridentine Mass. This endeavour was somewhat timid. Was that because of the resisters within the Church itself?
Sure, first because there was a fear of, let’s say, the restoration, and, second, some people who simply misunderstood the reform. It was certainly not as though there would now be another mass. There are two ways to represent it ritually, but they belong to one fundamental rite. I have always said, and even still say, that it was important that something which was previously the most sacred thing in the Church to people should not suddenly be completely forbidden. A society that considers now to be forbidden what it once perceived as the central core – that cannot be. The inner identity it has with the other must remain visible. So for me it was not about tactical matters and God knows what, but about the inward reconciliation of the Church with itself.
The reauthorization of the Tridentine Mass is often interpreted primarily as a concession to the Society of St. Pius X.
That is just absolutely false! It was important for me that the Church is one with herself inwardly, with her own past; that what was previously holy to her is not somehow wrong now. The rite must develop. In that sense reform is appropriate. But the continuity must not be ruptured. The Society of St. Pius X is based on the fact that people felt the Church was renouncing itself. That must not be. But as I said, my intentions were not of a tactical nature, they were about the substance of the matter itself. Of course it is also the case that, the moment one sees a Church schism looming the Pope is obliged to do whatever is possible to prevent it happening. This also includes the attempt to lead these people back into unity with the Church, if possible.
As you know, Fr. Anthony Manuppella instituted the Latin Mass here at St. Peter’s on December 2, 2007. There is a group of serious Catholics in our parish who greatly appreciate this Mass. They find it prayerful and contemplative. They find that this Mass facilitates a deep participation in the mystery of the Eucharist. They value the reverence and sense of the sacred it evokes. They are edified by the sacred chants and the polyphonic music the Latin Mass preserves. They are assured that the Tridentine Mass, by its very nature, prevents liturgical abuses and keeps the personality of the priest from becoming the central focus of the liturgy. This group includes a number of young parishioners who did not grow up with the Latin Mass, but who have come to prefer it with a passion.
For all these reasons, the Tridentine Mass is an important aspect of the pastoral profile of St. Peter’s Parish. As Pope Benedict so aptly stated, “Something that was previously the most sacred thing in the Church to people should not suddenly be completely forbidden.” Once again, Pope Benedict highlights the concept of ecclesial continuity, and we at St. Peter’s understand the importance of this concept.
Special thanks go to Fr. Larry Polansky for his generosity in celebrating our Latin Mass each week!
P. Introibo ad altare Dei.
S. Ad Deum qui laetifica juventutem meam.
Fr. Tim Byerley