Pope John Paul II's "Ecclesia Dei" motu proprio in 1988 was meant to afford stability and certainty to Catholics who had known nothing but instability and uncertainty. This document was issued to extend Vatican permission (granted originally in 1984) to priests for the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass by priests in full communion with the Holy See according to the 1962 Missal. "To all those Catholics who feel attached to some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of the Latin tradition I wish to manifest my will to facilitate their ecclesial communion by means of the necessary measures to guarantee respect for their rightful aspirations. In this matter I ask for the support of the bishops and of all those engaged in the pastoral ministry in the Church. . . . Morever, respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of all those who 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."
There is no ambiguity here. The Holy Father authorized the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass according to the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope John XXIII in 1962. The Holy Father wanted to provide a sense of stability and uncertainty for people who had been through a great deal of turmoil. One has got to be deaf, dumb and blind to the current realities of our ecclesiastical situation not to realize that the last thing in the world the Church needs at present is for us to revisit the very process which has resulted in the devastation in the Church at large in the Roman rite.
The average Catholic who has made the decision to attend the Traditional Latin Mass offered according to the conditions outlined in the "Ecclesia Dei" motu proprio has done so because he wants to worship God reverently and devoutly, not having to worry about which experimentation will be foisted on him and his family. He wants his children to learn the truths of the faith in all their beauty, not have those truths undermined by postures which are alien to any liturgical traditions within the Church and by profane music composed to give voice to liturgical anthropocentricity. We have not yet reached the depths to which the wreckage of the Novus Ordo has plunged the Church. There needs to be some refuge for Catholics who have been set adrift in the sea of uncertainty and instability they have been sailing in for well over thirty years.
The Roman Missal promulgated in 1962 can be the object of legitimate study and discussion. Those who call themselves traditional Catholics are free to publish scholarly papers and to engage in debates about how the Traditional Latin Mass might have evolved had there not been the polemics engendered by the Consilium which created the Novus Ordo. The average Catholic, however, must be spared the illusion that such study and debate, and the liturgical experimentation which comes from it, is normative of tradition. (And those who believe it is their mission to do this, such as the Society of Saint John, have the moral obligation to clearly and unambiguously state this as their raison d'etre.) Nothing less than the restoration of belief in the Real Presence, the sanctification of individual souls, and the Church's ability to convert those outside of her ranks is at stake, and dependent upon her liturgy reflecting certainty and stability, the very things which, as noted before, a child craves from his mother.
Modernity sought to eradicate belief in the Incarnation. The Protestant Revolt sought to eradicate belief in the incarnational essence of the Sacred Liturgy. Sadly, the net effect of our own liturgical revolution in the last thirty years has been to wed modernity's rejection of the Incarnation with a rejection of belief in the Real Presence. This is nothing other than the natural consequence of radical, rapid, and unrelenting change. In the midst of instability and discontinuity, the stability provided by the Traditional Latin Mass, celebrated according to the 1962 Missal, is providing many Catholic families with the fullest expression of the faith available today in the Roman rite. To move traditional Catholics in the direction of the 1965 Ordo Missae is merely a means to try to do away once and for all with the Mass in which Christ was clearly recognized as King and Our Lady was honored boldly as our Queen.
May our Lady, the Mother of the Church, pray for us that we may have the wisdom to leave well enough alone within the traditional movement, working in a united way for the restoration of the Traditional Latin Mass in all of its glorious splendor as the sine qua non for order within the soul and within society. Stability of worship does indeed result in endurance in the Faith.
Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.
For past columns in The DAILY CATHOLIC by Dr. Droleskey, see Archives