The Unsuppressible Reflex
Benedict's Letter to the Bishops

Meet Mr. Motu

So, the motu proprio that greatly broadens permission for the Tridentine Mass has arrived. In case you want to read it and haven't already located it on your own—two conditions which I doubt apply to many people who read this blog—Whispers in the Loggia, a blog which chronicles Vatican doings on a pretty detailed level and which therefore I hardly ever read, has all sorts of information.

Personally I don't have a great deal of interest in this. As I've mentioned before, I don't generally pay a lot of attention to ecclesiastical or liturgical details. And the few Tridentine Masses I've attended have mainly served to make me realize why reform was so needed and desired. But I do have one comment.

When I first started looking seriously at becoming a Catholic ca. 1980, I was struck by two phenomena related to the Latin Mass: the deep love and longing which some Catholics retained for it, and the contempt in which they were held by those in and around the hierarchy who held the liturgical reins. I was baffled by this. I was like someone who walks into a family quarrel and quickly sees that the ostensible subject of the quarrel is only a place-holder for some much deeper conflict. The two sides pretty much hated each other, for reasons I didn't understand.

I especially didn't understand why it seemed so important to the establishment that the old Mass be utterly stamped out. Here were a sizable minority of Catholics who were obviously heartbroken that the worship they loved had been taken from them, and the official response treated them as pests or worse—in James Hitchcock's memorable phrase, "malicious troglodytes." I remember one delightful old lady, who is probably dead by now—snow-white hair, brilliant blue eyes, vivacious, articulate—who was, I suspect, driven almost literally mad by the situation, and had fallen into the sort of dark conspiracy-minded paranoia which infects some of the ecclesiastical right.

That situation, by the way, is one reason why the word "pastoral" has a bit of a taint about it. One heard often of the need to be "pastoral" to various disaffected groups on the leftward side of the Church: to angry feminists, for instance. But those who longed for the Latin Mass were treated as pariahs. It's probably too late for that old lady, and no doubt for many more like her, but I hope this new permission will help to heal some of the wounds of the past forty years or so.



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