"Summorum Pontificum" One Year Later (Part 1)

Father John Zuhlsdorf Analyzes Its Effects

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By Annamarie Adkins

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota, JULY 6, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI's letter "Summorum Pontificum" on the traditional form of the Mass has sparked an increased interest in the Latin-language liturgy, especially among priests, says an expert on liturgical translations.

Father John Zuhlsdorf, a former employee of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, is a noted authority on both liturgical translations and the 1962 Missal. He also writes the "What Does the Prayer Really Say?" column in the Wanderer newspaper, and is the author of a popular blog by the same name.

In Part 1 of this interview with ZENIT, he spoke about new interest in the traditional Latin Mass and various concerns raised regarding "Summorum Pontificum."

Part 2 of this interview will appear Monday.

Q: Has there been much of a demand for the traditional Latin Mass since the release of "Summorum Pontificum"?

Father Zuhlsdorf: No and yes. We have not seen hordes of the faithful hammering on rectory doors to demand the older Mass. But there has been a steady increase of parishes where the traditional Latin Mass is now celebrated regularly.

The trickle is becoming a stream.

Initially, there were unrealistic expectations. Many who favor the older Mass were overly optimistic that the floodgates would crash open. The naysayers, often in positions of power, tried to stem the tide by speaking very negatively, not only about the older Mass, but also about the people who desire it.

Many diocesan bishops, incredibly, threw up unreasonable obstacles to the good provisions the Holy Father generously promulgated. That resistance is now crumbling under the scrutiny of the blogosphere and pressure from the Holy See.

The other factor is that very many young priests want to learn the traditional Latin Mass. For example, I hear that over 1,000 priests have requested the new training DVD that the Fraternity of St. Peter made together with EWTN.

Scores of priests are attending training workshops in Chicago and Nebraska, in Oxford, England, and elsewhere, whenever they are offered. As priests learn this form of the Mass, they will begin implementing it in parishes.

Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, Benedict XVI's point man in these matters, stated that the Holy Father hopes this Mass will be offered widely, even if it has not been requested by the faithful.

University chaplaincies are being pushed by students to make the traditional Latin Mass available. This trend will only increase on an upward curve.

Q: The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei is reportedly preparing a document to clarify some ambiguities related to implementing "Summorum Pontificum." What have been the main difficulties thus far that such a document should address?

Father Zuhlsdorf: The document will probably clarify some terms in the "motu proprio" that have been used by some diocesan bishops and priests to block what the Holy Father is trying to accomplish.

For example, "Summorum Pontificum" says priests must be idoneus, "capable, competent" to say Mass with the older book. Idoneus, a technical term, refers to the minimum requirements for competence, not to expertise.

Cardinal Edward Egan of New York, a distinguished canonist in his day, correctly stated that idoneus, as far as the Latin language is concerned, means that the priest must be able to pronounce the words properly. That is the minimum.

Of course we hope for far more than that. But some bishops are subjecting priests to exams in Latin before they determine whether he can exercise his right to say Mass using the 1962 Missale Romanum, or even in Latin with the Novus Ordo, that is to say, Mass in his own rite, as a priest of the Latin Church.

Another issue is how large a group, a coetus, making a request for the older Mass must be before the parish priest is required to act in their favor. Those and other questions pertain to the interpretation of the "motu proprio."

Practical questions have arisen as well. For example, the Holy See should give direction about the relationship of the two liturgical calendars. I think the Holy See should issue an "ordo" for the traditional Mass, a yearly booklet indicating which Mass must be said each day.

Clarifications about the style of vestments that may be used, or the sort of music, could be useful. There are questions about Communion in the hand or altar girls, how those fit with the spirit and the rubrics of the pre-conciliar Mass.

Smaller details, for example about the so-called second Confiteor before Communion, or some traditions people desire from before the 1962 Missal should be made clear.

This upcoming document, and its particular authoritative responses, will help make the implementation of "Summorum Pontificum" orderly and serene.

Q: You have argued that "Summorum Pontificum" is the centerpiece of Benedict XVI's "Marshall Plan" for the Church. But the term "Marshall Plan" implies rebuilding from the ground up. Can you describe this plan and the role you believe the traditional Latin Mass fits within it?

Father Zuhlsdorf: Useful as they are, analogies limp. After World War II the United States rebuilt war-ravaged Europe both for humanitarian reasons, and also to help create trading partners and a prosperous bulwark against Communism.

After Vatican II, many spheres of the Church were devastated, ravaged by internal dissent, a loss of continuity with our tradition, and from erosion by the secularism and relativism of the prevailing modern world.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had been concerned for years about the loss of Christian identity, which is at the heart of Western Civilization. Now Papa Ratzinger, I believe, is working to reinvigorate our Catholic identity, within the Church herself among her members and spheres of life, so that we can resist the negative influences of secularism and relativism.

Only with a solid identity can we, as Catholics, have something positive and healthy to offer to the world at large, a clear voice offering important contributions in the public square.

Our identity as Catholics is inextricably bound together with the way we pray as a Church.

To give shape and strength to our Catholic identity in these difficult times, we need an authentic liturgical renewal, a renewal that reintegrates us with our tradition, brings us into continuity with the deep roots of our Catholic Christian experience of two millennia.

Contrary to the notions of most progressivists, "the Catholic thing" did not begin in the 1960s.

Benedict XVI is guiding us to a healthier vision of the Church's doctrine, history, public worship and our very identity as Catholics. There can be no authentic change for a better future without continuity with our past. Liturgy is the tip of the spear.

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On the Net:

What Does the Prayer Really Say?: "www.wdtprs.com/blog"