Catholic bloggers, alert to opposition to the Pope’s motu proprio from suspects usual and otherwise, have come up with some notable examples, one by sometime America editor Fr. Thomas Reese quoted at Journey to Vatican III, and another at a weblog devoted to the Spirit of Vatican II that presents the thoughts of Japan-resident Irish academic Fr. Joseph O’Leary.
Reese’s comments were made before the motu proprio appeared. They don’t deal much with the substantive issues, and assert instead that it’s all about power: the faithful could already have the Tridentine Mass if the bishop agreed that it was a good idea, so the only issue is whether Rome or the man on the spot decides the point. By issuing the document, then, the Pope “is basically saying that he does not trust the pastoral judgment of the bishops.”
The analysis is an odd one, so much so that it seems mostly to represent the widespread tendency to believe that power is everything. In the Catholic Church, basic definitional issues are decided on behalf of the Church as a whole. The form of liturgy is so important that it’s commonly treated as such an issue. At least since the Council of Trent, it’s therefore been the Pope who determines the form of the liturgy. It was John XXIII who put the Tridentine Mass into its most recent form and Paul VI who adopted the New Mass and determined that as a general rule it would replace the Old Mass. However much those popes loved and trusted their brother bishops, they didn’t leave those points up to their pastoral judgement.
With that as background, it’s hard to see a special power play in defining the Tridentine Mass as simply one form of the Roman Rite and giving limited rights to those among the faithful who are attached to it. If the new rules show a lack of trust in the bishops, then it seems the old rules showed a lack of trust in local pastors and the faithful. Since the Pope won’t be forcing the Tridentine Mass on anyone, but is simply defining it as an unquestionably legitimate expression of the liturgical life of the Church, it’s hard to see anything overbearing about the “power to the people” approach the new rules take.
O’Leary’s comments are endless, and evidently based entirely on his view of the Spirit of Vatican II and its implications for the nature of the Church, together with his belief that those whose views are basically at odds with his own are not only wrong but ignorant, unformed, and often insane. The tone and general content of his rant is adequately indicated by its title (“Motu Proprio Madness”) and its first paragraph:
It is very difficult to reason with people suffering from mental illness. They cling to their bugbear, their fetish, their “King Charles’ head,” and react with rage to anyone who puts it in question. In the Church today, the Tridentine Rite plays the role of that obsessive object. It can be interpreted as a symptom of a deep-lying pathology. The weird cult surrounding it is a phenomenon that calls for depth-interpretation, just as the strange obsessions cultivated in new religions do.
He’s evidently a man of considerable intelligence and learning, but it’s useless for discussing the issue because it’s all in the service of—yes—his obsessions. The piece is nonetheless worth reading as a specimen of how aging Vatican II types think about things. They’re not dumb, but it seems that their thoughts have been going around in the same sterile circles for years.