Pope Benedict's Motu Proprio... a heated debate

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For the past few weeks I have been spending much time reading up on current affairs in the Catholic Church through the network of Catholic news sites and in particular personal Catholic blogs (see Blog Links column on the right). I suppose I have only belatedly felt a sense of duty in this regard. It is easy to bury yourself in your particular apostolate - in my case as a Chaplain/teaching Brother working with young people - and not lift your head from time to time to see the bigger picture of the Catholic Church as a whole. But for whatever reason, a few weeks ago (during half-term) I felt the time was right for me to so just that.

It has been a humbling educational experience to read the blog posts of highly informed lay people, priests and religious. I will now point to a few posts (and their related Comments) that I feel give a good introduction to the question of Pope Benedict's recent Motu Proprio document, Summorum Pontificum, which frees up the celebration of the Latin Mass through what is being called the Extraordinary Form of the Mass rite.

This post of Jackie Parkes mj (Catholic Mom of 10), The Pope and the Mass.. two forms of one rite is an excellent starting point. She quotes a newsletter by a Fr. Guy Nicholls, with some excellent clarifying comments from Dr. Peter H. Wright, amongst others.

Over at Catholicsm, Holiness and Spirituality, Steve Bognor (USA) gives a very personal response that I think shows much common sense.

Both posts flag up the dangers of extremism within the Church and Jackie's in particular shows how Pope Benedict's initiative seeks to move Catholics away from the extremes of "Pre-Vatican II = all bad" and "Post-Vatican II = all bad".

Other excellent contributions to the debate can be found on the blogs of Catholic priests and lay faithful who, without going to the extremes of the Lefebvrist movement or the Society of St. Pius X are nonetheless very much in favour of offering to the faithful the option of attending a Latin Mass as part of their Parish provision (eg. Fr. Ray Blake).

Whilst I myself will not be immediately seeking out the nearest Parish that celebrates the Extraordinary Form, I do not see the development of such liturgies as a threat to the post-Vatican II Ordinary Form (as it can now be called) which introduced a number of reforms to the Mass - some successful, some much less so - that include the celebration of the Mass in the vernacular (or daily spoken) language of peoples around the world.

One worrying aspect of recent events is how it seems to have brought into the open an underlying Traditionalist vs. Liberalist tension within the Church that has been expressed in some quite fiery comments on certain blogs... but maybe this is actually a good thing, forcing into the open questions that need confronting head-on. But I agree with those like Dr. Peter H. Wright and Steve Bognor who hope that ultimately the Pope's document will bring about a healing of division within the Church.

The signs are not good, however, when the reaction of the Church hierarchy in this country seems to put them at odds with the Pope and those in favour of the liberalisation of the Latin Mass.

We certainly haven't heard the last of this matter.

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