Three interviews on the issue of the Traditional Mass

Source: FSSPX News


"Dialogue with the traditionalists, yes; but not to the point of sacrificing ecumenical dialogue". CIPA May 22, 2006

Martin Klöckener, professor of liturgical sciences at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Fribourg, was interviewed by Pierre Rotet, of CIPA press agency, about what Mgr Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige said in Rome, on April 27 last, concerning the liturgical changes which took place under cover of Vatican II – such as the disappearance of the use of Latin and the altars facing the people – and which cannot be considered as final (see DICI n° 135).

The secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Mgr Ranjith, had made this declaration on the occasion of the presentation of the Italian version of the book "Rivolti al Signor. L’orientamento nella preghiera liturgica ("Conversi ad Dominum. Zur Geschichte und Theologie der christlichen Gebetsrichtung") by Fr. Uwe Michael Lang. The Indian prelate was speaking exactly along the same lines as Cardinal Ratzinger who had written the preface for the book in 2003.

The release of the Italian translation of this book occurred a month after the meeting of Benedict XVI and the cardinals during which the issue of the SSPX was raised. On March 23, after this meeting, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, declared that the Church was expecting the disciples of Archbishop Lefebvre with open arms.

Under these circumstances, how are we to interpret the words of the Indian prelate who unhesitatingly added that "in a culture which divinizes man, the temptation of becoming the protagonists of the liturgy is strong"? Do they mean to bring the issue into question again? Do they express a desire to go back? Martin Klöckener answered the journalist from CIPA:

"We must keep things straight. Vatican II was accepted together with its theological ideas, its vision of the Church, its opening to the world. The essentials of this Council cannot be brought into question again, especially not in view of a dialogue with the traditionalists. Besides, what was acquired through Vatican II does not concern only the liturgy. This latter is but an aspect, and even maybe a secondary one as such, in the dialogue with the traditionalists, taken out of the whole of Vatican II, otherwise, you would question its legitimacy. This is to say that these questions are much more profound and reach way beyond mere liturgy.

Nevertheless, apparently it is a matter of bringing into question what was acquired…

This would have been less possible 20 years ago. Indeed, even if at that time, in 1984, we witnessed a first aperture towards the fundamentalists, with the acceptance of the use of the missal of the Council of Trent, of 1570 (but in its 1962 edition), that was with very precise conditions and within a framework established by the diocesan bishop. And especially, it was up to the bishop to choose the priests who were allowed to celebrate according to the rite of St Pius V and in the company of fundamentalists. This first aperture, restrictive it is true, was nevertheless obvious. Probably we should see there the intention of John Paul II to restore unity. We must bear in mind the rapprochement with the community of Le Barroux, in Southern France, and later on, with another traditionalist community in Brazil.

Cardinal Ratzinger, then prefect of the Congregation of the doctrine of the Faith, before becoming Benedict XVI, played a not negligible part in this rapprochement…

Yes. Out of concern for the unity of the Church, he showed himself rather open, and he took some measures which were not equally appreciated by all. For instance, he wrote the preface for the reprint of a missal for pre-conciliar faithful, published by the Abbey of Le Barroux at the end of the 80’s.

The first fruits of a desire to restore unity?

The Church owes it to herself to have a concern for the restoration of unity. But she must not lose sight of the fact that she must remain faithful to the Council Vatican II.

With some centering and disciplining for what pertains to the liturgy…

In many present liturgical questions, the central problem revolves around the relationship between the universal Church ,on the one hand, and the local Churches, on the other hand. If we look at the role of the Holy See in the development of the liturgy these last years, we can indeed see a determination to centralize the regulation of the liturgy, and to limit the responsibility of the Bishops’ Conferences, to impede the efforts towards a thorough inculturation of the liturgy. In Switzerland, discussions on this subject are in full swing. It is true that the status of the lay pastoral agents in the liturgy is not quite clear. In January 2005, a declaration from the Swiss bishops had broached the subject in a positive way. Even if some questions remain, we must continue on such paths in order to find solutions which are theologically justified, suited to the situations of the local Churches, and also acceptable for the universal Church.

Mistrust is the order of the day…

On several occasions, the Holy See manifested its mistrust for the new orientations and the developments going in all sorts of directions in certain countries or continents. To be true, there exist developments which are less felicitous and practices which are clearly worthy of criticisms. We must use all means at our disposal to have good quality liturgy. But this is better achieved through dialogue with the bishops of the countries in question, by listening to their opinions in order to accomplish what is, according to the first sentence of the last Council, necessary to "make the Christian life daily progress in the faithful". This also includes the integration and adaptation of this same liturgy to local customs.

If we believe Mgr Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige, nothing can be considered as final concerning the changes brought about by Vatican II, consequently, according to him, we should consider going back…

His declarations could give this to understand, but I hope and I believe that such is not his intention. It must be known that the Latin Mass was never abolished in the Roman Church. The Roman Missal, in its Latin version, is still used as the basis for all the translations in the vernacular and may also be used for the celebration of Mass itself. But a return to a regular practice of this rite would stand no chance of being accepted. If such were to be the case, I do not believe that many priests in charge of parishes, not many diocesan bishops would support the idea of a Mass regularly said in Latin. How could the faithful authentically participate and find therein the main source of their spiritual life, as the last council also requested?

Then how do you interpret the words of the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which doubtless were not said haphazardly… Was he just putting out a feeler…?

I don’t think so. We have enough discussions between the Holy See and the Bishops’ Conferences, especially over liturgical matters. For the latter, liturgy must remain an essential point of the pastoral life and of the spirituality of today’s faithful. We still haven’t found the right balance so as to integrate the Roman rite - which, among other things, means unity of the universal Church - , while respecting the various mentalities and cultures; and the way of formulating all that in different languages. After the Council, the question was more open. Today, the position of the Holy See is more clear-cut, stricter, and less conciliatory for what pertains to the relationships with Bishops’ Conferences.

So there is a problem…

That is only obvious.

And what are your students saying about it?

They are between 20 and 25 years of age. This generation does not speak of "new liturgy" in the spirit of Vatican II. They have never known any other liturgy. So, they no longer cling to the sometimes conflictual positions of the Council’s aftermath and, as a rule, they are open to various directions. Nevertheless, for them, many of the problems mentioned belong to another century.

There is talk going on about a rapprochement… how can there be a conciliation between the positions a priori irremediably opposed of Ecône and Rome. Someone will have to give in…

It is not easy to foresee how things will evolve. The Catholic Church must not forget her commitment in favor of ecumenism, the steps she took towards the Reformed Churches. We cannot admit that a very special little group, on the right wing of the Catholic Church could block the dialogue in the Church as a whole. We cannot sacrifice these dialogues with the other Churches under the pretext of regaining unity with the fundamentalists. That would be too great a sacrifice.

The same day this interview with Martin Klöckner appeared, Msgr. Ranjith gave his views in a German paper:

Interview with Msgr. Ranjith in the Tagepost of May 22, 2006

In Tagepost, the German journalist Guido Horst presents an interview with Msgr. Ranjith. We opened the Church to the modern world. We rethought relations between the Catholic Church and other Christian confessions, Islam and Judaism. We took into account the existence of the media; we were preoccupied with development, peace and social justice. We pondered questions on the structure of the Church and the role of the laity in the world. W harvested the fruits of Vatican II: everything was ready; the “Church” flight was ready and scheduled to take off. But then nothing happened. The plane never got off the ground. The flight of the Church toward the heights never took place.

This is how Msgr. Ranjith described the deficient (to say the least) situation of the Catholic Church during the post-conciliar period. This member of the Roman Curia, born in 1947 in the Indian city of Polgahawela has been, since last December, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments – and thus the “number 2 man” of this Congregation. In collaboration with Cardinal Arinze of Nigeria, he heads this dicastery charged with elaborating eventual liturgical “reforms” of the Catholic Church.

Who is Msgr. Ranjith? His Indian origin is not apparent at first – there are Indians who can’t hide it. But his hands, with their thin long fingers, which underscore each of his words, betray that he is Asian. His full name is Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, but I think no one in Rome can correctly distinguish his last name from his first! No matter, to everyone he is simply Msgr. Ranjith. His return to the Roman Curia five months ago after having been in the Vatican diplomatic service, is due to one of the only personal decisions taken by Benedict XVI thus far.

It is known that Rome has always been very interested in the liturgy. However during an interview with Msgr. Ranjith in a simple meeting hall of the Congregation for Divine Worship, he quickly let us know that one must not expect immediate reforms.

We think we know – and there has been much talk of it these last weeks – that the art and manner of celebrating the worship of the Church is a thorn in the side of our new pope: it’s reportedly a question of a “reform of the reform”. Moreover Cardinal Ratzinger himself, when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, wrote much on this subject.

Rumors multiplied when, last summer, Benedict XVI met with Msgr. Bernard Fellay, the Superior of the Society of St. Pius X created by Msgr. Lefebvre. Since then, on traditionalist web sites we read that “something is changing in Rome” concerning the authorization to celebrate more freely the so-called “Tridentine” Mass. Before Easter we heard in Rome that the German pope was definitely going to clarify the question of rites and propose a possibility of freeing up the use of the former missal in the near future. But nothing happened. Now people are wondering if anyone [in Rome] is really still interested in the liturgy…

Msgr. Ranjith however confirmed: yes, of course, the subject is still a current concern. And according to him, the problem is closely connected with the fact that after the Council the “Church flight” did not take off. According to Msgr. Ranjith, Vatican II wanted to raise the Church to its highest level and arm it against the secularization of the modern world. But what happened was exactly the opposite – and this, against the will of the Council. Secularization was introduced as a thief into the Church and attacked what should have been at the heart of all efforts toward “aggiornamento”, thus at the center of every reform and all true progress: the Faith, faith in the nearness of God, in the supernatural action of the sacraments, in the presence of Christ in the Mass and the Eucharist.

Pope Benedict XVI is intimately persuaded that the liturgy should constitute the very heart of a renewal of the Church. But because of its secularization and its propensity to celebrate man rather than God, the Church has lacked the strength of the Faith necessary to make a new start.

If you ask the bishop for an example to illustrate his comments, he smiles and says: “During World Youth Day in Paris in 1997, a young girl took the microphone and asked Pope John-Paul II to recall to his priests how important it was to speak about God again.” Msgr. Ranjith had been very moved by these words. He thought about all these places where the liturgy was no longer the occasion to pray and adore God, to honor Jesus Christ in silence, but to celebrate man…

But what’s to be done? If a liturgical “reform” was to occur, a renewal of the sacred character of the liturgy, that should occur in the context of a sort of liturgical movement. The reestablishment of a true sense of the Eucharist cannot be decreed by a “motu proprio” from the pope. The position of Msgr. Ranjith is clear: this liturgical movement, so necessary, would at heart be a new awakening of the Faith. For the Indian bishop, it’s not a question of obtaining an indult and an exceptional authorization given to such and such group of faithful desirous of celebrating the old Mass again, but of initiating a return to faith in the presence of God in His Church and more particularly through the celebration of the Eucharist.

And the pope? What’s he going to do? For Msgr. Ranjith, Benedict XVI, blessed with an exceptional intelligence, is the one who observes, knowing exactly what the situation in the Church is today. And he is the very one who would like to spark the flame of a renewal of faith capable of giving back to the liturgy its sacred and supernatural character. The Congregation for Divine Worship is quite ready to follow the lead of the pope, Msgr Ranjith says. But sometimes one gets the idea that Benedict XVI does not yet intend to take concrete steps and make changes in the delicate domain of the liturgy.

The Saturday before Pentecost, during the celebration of the vigil in St. Peter’s Square, the pope will meet members and sympathizers of more than 130 movements of the Church and new communities. According to the program announced by the Council for the Laity, which is organizing this meeting, the previous day these faithful will be spread out in 50 churches of Rome to prepare through prayer “the way of the Holy Spirit”. Will the Pope take advantage of this occasion to propose to these new communities this liturgical movement that he is calling for, and which is at heart a new flowering of the Faith?

In any case, our conversation with Msgr. Ranjith clearly revealed that the pope is not a man to take just any decision in liturgical matters, but he aims at the heart of the matter: a rebirth and deepening of the Faith.

On May 31, Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, President of the Conference of French Bishops and a member of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, gave an interview to an Italian press agency:

Interview of Cardinal Ricard by Apcom, May 31, 2006

According to the President of the French Bishops’ Conference, the pope could make a benevolent gesture toward the lefebvrists [sic!] to show that the door has not been shut.

Vatican City, May 31. (Apcom) – “In the coming months” we can expect a “benevolent gesture” on the part of the pope vis-à-vis the lefebvrists [sic], to show them that the door is not shut. Probably only then would there be a corresponding gesture on the part of the traditionalist schismatic community; it is not foreseen prior to the “chapter” in July, which will determine whether Msgr. Bernard Fellay will continue as the head of the Society of St. Pius X or whether he will have a successor: this is the analysis of the President of the French bishops, Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard.

Also, while clarifying that he has no specific information, Cardinal Ricard, who is the Archbishop of Bordeaux and a member of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which has been assigned the Lefebvre case, when questioned during a working trip in Rome, affirmed: “I think the pope wants to make a gesture to show that the door is not closed, a benevolent gesture. In the coming months, we will see what this involves specifically. Then we must see if the Society is going to make a corresponding gesture”. In contacts with the movement founded by French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Benedict XVI, from his accession to the See of Peter, has showed signs of attention which prove his desire to repair the rift consummated in 1988 between Msgr. Lefebvre and John-Paul II.

Cardinal Ricard recalls that there are two points on which the efforts at dialog will concentrate: the confirmation of the possibility to celebrate mass according to the traditional rite, the so-called “rite of St. Pius V” and the suppression of the excommunications of the four bishops consecrated by Msgr. Lefebvre without Vatican approval. There is an “atmosphere of expectation”, affirmed the Archbishop of Bordeaux. But each decision, he continued, will be taken by the pope alone and according to his accustomed style: “The pope informs himself, he listens. And then he decides.” And what about a letter on the part of Ecône – a Lefebvrist center located in Switzerland – which would show the desire to dialogue with Rome? “In light of the declarations and homilies of Msgr. Fellay – responds the President of the Catholic Church in France – I am inclined to think there will be no letter asking for the dialogue to be opened, at least not until an initial gesture on the part of Rome.”

“It seems to me that, even if it’s happening slowly, things are now beginning to move forward; we are no longer in a situation of hostile distance; there are contacts”, remarks Cardinal Ricard. “There is a dynamic emerging, but it will take time before we will see a true rapprochement.” The important point, according to the cardinal, is not juridical: “If there were to be an agreement with the Society of St. Pius X, we would need to find it an (administrative) structure of its own”, he explained, adding that the predominant consensus is in favor of a “personal prelature” like Opus Dei. “The real problem – he said – is not the juridical questions, but the doctrinal ones: that is, what authority are they willing to accord to Vatican II and the teachings of the post-conciliar popes?”

Msgr. Fellay has several times confirmed, even recently, that it is the Church which has the duty to correct the “grave crisis” born with the Second Vatican Council and the opening of the Church to modernity. According to Cardinal Ricard, this is where things can get murky. The Lefebvrists “appreciate the person of Benedict XVI. They are perhaps a bit mistaken here, because while the pope himself denounces a false spirit of the Council, he nevertheless considers the conciliar texts as a source of light for the Church. There could be an understanding here (between the Lefebvrists and Pope Ratzinger, Apcom note) on the results (of the conciliar spirit, Apcom note) – concluded Msgr. Ricard – but beyond that the interpretations diverge.”