Practical Aspects of Motu Proprio on Tridentine Rite

Practical Aspects of Motu Proprio on Tridentine Rite
What are the implications for the average Catholic parish of the recent statement from Pope Benedict XVI about celebrating Mass according to the 1962 Missal?
There will not be many Catholic parishes which meet the requirements set out in the document. The first requirement is ‘a stable group of the faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition’.
This does not mean a group in a diocese that goes around to different parishes telling them that they need to introduce a Tridentine Mass, or a few young people who suddenly discover the ‘wonders’ of Mass in Latin – until the novelty wears off! It means a sizable group located within the parish boundaries who have demonstrated a long-term commitment and devotion for the earlier form.
According to Canon Law, the bishop may allow priests to celebrate Mass twice a day or even three times on a Sunday if there is a scarcity of priests (Canon #905). Very many priests are already celebrating the maximum number of Masses allowable on Sunday and would be unable to add another Mass to the existing parish schedule.
Two other requirements listed in the pope’s document are ‘a certain degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language’. There would not be many priests who would fulfil these requirements and be capable of celebrating Mass according to the 1962 Missal with dignity and grace.
Suppose a parish has a sufficiently large, stable group of parishioners ‘who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition’, that the parish priest is not already committed to three Masses on a Sunday and is familiar with the old rite and had some knowledge of Latin. Even then, there are several practical problems to overcome, including the layout of the church (in the pre-Vatican II rite the priest and the assembly face the altar), which lectionary, calendar and vestments to use and the availability of people’s missals.
One aspect of the motu proprio that concerns me greatly is the suggestion that marriages, baptisms and funerals might be celebrated according to the older ritual. These rites are attended by people who are not regular members of the worshipping community. Celebrating them in a form and language which is totally foreign will mean that wonderful outreach opportunities for the Church are lost.
As I wrote a couple of months ago, the gap between the Tridentine Mass and the current Order of Mass is not so much one of language as of theology. Since liturgy is an expression of the Church’s belief, my greatest concern is that having two quite distinct Orders of Mass in use suggests that there is division within Catholicism about the nature and purpose of the Church.
I’ll leave the last word to an older lady who wrote to me recently to express her concern at the prospect of a return to Masses in Latin:
“Having tried to pray for many years in Latin, I rejoiced when it was no longer necessary. Yes, I had a missal with Latin on one side and English on the other, but it always left me feeling like the lady in the song: ‘One eye in the pot and the other up the chimney’!”


Elizabeth Harrington