Benedict XVI to publish motu proprio on the Tridentine Mass

Source: FSSPX News

The pope is “in the process of preparing” a document with a view to easing restrictions on “the traditional expression” of the Roman Catholic rite, that is, the use of the Mass of St. Pius V, according to Vatican sources who informed the agency I.Media, during October 2006.

The publication date has not yet been fixed, as the pope’s decision is a controversial question within the Roman curia. The pope “is waiting for a favorable moment” to promulgate this document. “The text has been drawn up” and is “in the process of being read” by various Vatican Congregations. According to the same sources, “the backbone” of this document hinges on the principle “that there is only one Latin Rite, with two forms: the ordinary (Paul VI) and the extraordinary (St. Pius V)” and that “these two forms have equal rights.”

 At the Vatican, the liberalization of the Mass of St. Pius V has aroused strong opposition. This is the case within the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. “Things must be given time, and not be rushed,” it has stated.


According to La Croix of October 11, “it would be an indult, in the form of a motu proprio, annulling the one issued in 1988 by John Paul II (Ecclesia Dei adflicta), which made the celebration of the pre-conciliar rite subject to the express authorization of the local bishop, but which has since been applied in a very restrictive manner. With this new text, a priest, on his own initiative, could freely choose to celebrate the Mass according to the ancient rite, unless the bishop formally forbids him in writing.

 “This motu proprio would thus give to the Tridentine rite the new status of ‘extraordinary universal rite’, side by side with the ‘ordinary rite’ of Mass ‘of Paul VI’. This reform would not concern just the Mass itself, but in a wider sense, ‘relations with the traditionalists’, said the same source. It would not, in itself, be a return to the ancient rite, but rather put an end to its marginalization.

 “This information is no surprise. It is known that, for more that a year, Benedict XVI has been considering such a reform, which means a great deal to him. The subject was referred to at the Synod on the Eucharist in October 2005, then in March by the pope during the consistory. Last winter, Benedict XVI also consulted the cardinals of the Curia on this subject. It was Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, president of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, who was entrusted with drawing up the text. The objective was indeed the reintegration into the Church of the Lefebvrites, who have made the freedom of the Tridentine rite one of the conditions for their return. (…)

 “This liberalization of the Tridentine rite has encountered strong opposition within the Curia, including the Congregation for Divine Worship, where some, when consulted, said they had sought to amend the text of the future motu proprio. On a wider level, during the past year, some cardinals, and by no means the least prominent among them, have discreetly made their hostility known to the pope. As one of them confided to La Croix, ‘we are worried about the risks which recognition of two rites could present for the unity of the Church.’

 “These prelates make the point that ‘two rites have never existed at the same time, except in historical cases inherited from the first millennium and linked to particular geographical contexts: for example, the rites of Lyons, Milan or Mozarab.’ As for the Eastern liturgy, the recognition of specific rites within the Catholic Church is linked to the legal status of these Churches themselves, which are sui generis. They have their own law and traditions.

 “An enemy of the reform in preparation asks: ‘Can a Church have two rites, according to two different appreciations of the Council?’ Since the current rite, known as the rite ‘of Paul VI’, is, according to him, linked to Vatican II. The possibility of saying the Mass in the Tridentine rite would be the consequence of only a partial acceptance of the Council, and not a total one, even though it is an ‘ecumenical’ council. Never in the past has a ‘council elicited different interpretations in the Church, that of Trent no more than Vatican I,’ he said.

 “Finally, some cardinals express their fear that in practice, the clergy and the bishop would henceforth be under pressure to favor one rite over the other. They will continue, therefore, to plead for a modification to the text to make it much more restrictive. The celebration of the Tridentine Mass might therefore be subject to a minimal assistance: 100 or even 30 faithful. In other words, although we can say that the publication of the motu proprio is more than likely, its actual contents are yet to be decided.”


According to Le Figaro of October 12, “the French clergy remain cautious over the liberalization of the Tridentine Rite. In an article published in the latest installment of La Revue d’éthique et de théologie morale, Mgr. Pierre Raffin, the bishop of Metz, said what most of the clergy keep to themselves. ‘It goes without saying that we would follow the decision of Benedict XVI, even if we regretted it and dreaded the negative consequences for the Christian people, of whom the majority are attached, whatever people say, to the Mass of Paul VI.’

 The prelate also wondered: ‘Does the sacred require that we hide the celebration of the mysteries by keeping the faithful at a distance from the altar? For this Dominican, ‘the Mass is not a holy spectacle at which the faithful assist in a state of recollection.’ The bishop also feared the coexistence of the two rites ‘at the same time, very close but very different’ and which ‘would end up damaging the unity of the Catholic Church.’”