Analysis by Vatican expert John Allen (National Catholic Reporter, April 14 2006)

Source: FSSPX News


The Catholic blogosphere has been abuzz with  speculation about a hypothetical document from Benedict XVI regarding  wider use of the Rite of Mass prior to the Second Vatican Council  (1962-65). Though versions differ, the most popular rumor is that the  pope will declare that the pre-Vatican II Mass was never "abolished,"  meaning that it could be celebrated by any priest at any time, without  need for permission.

 One theory had the document coming out on Holy Thursday, in place of  the "Letter to Priests" that John Paul II typically issued. (That  idea surfaced in an April 9 article in the Italian paper Il Tempo).

In the event, Holy Thursday came and went with no such document. To  be honest, speculation that Benedict might disrupt the liturgical focus  of Holy Week with a major policy document already suggested the rumors  were a bit surreal. Benedict is keen that important events on the  liturgical calendar should speak for themselves; one of the reasons he  did not want his first encyclical to appear over Christmas, for example,  is because it could have obscured the focus on the Incarnation that’s  the core of the Christmas festival.

I spoke with one Vatican official this week who said that while he  had no inside knowledge about a document, he found the rumors difficult  to believe.

"Whenever there have been meetings about this among the  cardinals, it’s not just that there’s division," he said. "The  overwhelming majority is against it [universal permission to celebrate  the old rite]. It’s not like it’s fifty-fifty."

This source pointed out that just two weeks ago, in Benedict’s  closed-door meeting with cardinals, the bulk of cardinals who spoke were  against such a move.

"If it were up to Castrillon Hoyos, it would already have  happened," the source said, referring to Colombian Cardinal Dario  Castrillon Hoyos, head of the Ecclesia Dei Commission for traditionalist  Catholics.

"But Benedict is trying to operate on the basis of consensus,  and there’s just no consensus," he said.

Another senior Vatican official said simply, "It is not a theme  that is yet mature."

Given the way Benedict XVI has played his cards close to the chest on  other matters, it’s possible that a document is in the works without  most of his key advisors knowing about it. But so far, on this issue,  what we have is a lot of smoke in search of a fire.