Seven years ago today, Pope Benedict issued a motu proprio (a change to canon law that he initiated himself) known as Summorum Pontificum. Essentially, Pope Benedict allowed for much more widespread and easy access to the Traditional Latin Mass (not to mention other traditional rites and liturgies). Since then, the number of Traditional Latin Masses has boomed across North America and Europe.
I’m not a traditionalist, but my family and I have been attending Latin Masses for close to a year now. And so this anniversary has given me a lot to reflect upon, both as a Catholic and as a still-relatively-recent convert.
CC Watershed posted a quote today from Pope Benedict from 1997, when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger. A solid decade before issuing Summorum, Papa Ratzi lays out solid reasoning for the decision. Give the quote a read, and say a prayer of thanksgiving for this brilliant man who served the Church of Jesus Christ so very well and for so many years.:
I AM OF THE OPINION, TO BE SURE, that the old rite should be granted much more generously to all those who desire it. It’s impossible to see what could be dangerous or unacceptable about that. A community is calling its very being into question when it suddenly declares that what until now was its holiest and highest possession is strictly forbidden, and when it makes the longing for it seem downright indecent. Can it be trusted any more about anything else? Won’t it proscribe tomorrow what it prescribes today?
But a simple return to the old way would not, as I have said, be a solution. Our culture has changed so radically in the last thirty years that a liturgy celebrated exclusively in Latin would bring with it an experience of foreignness that many could not cope with. What we need is a new liturgical education, especially of priests. It must once again become clear that liturgical scholarship doesn’t exist in order to produce constantly new models, though that may be all right for the auto industry. It exists in order to introduce us into feast and celebration, to make man capable of the mystery. Here we ought to learn not just from the Eastern Church but from all the religions of the world, which all know that liturgy is something other than invention of texts and rites, that it lives precisely from what is beyond manipulation. Young people have a very strong sense of this. Centers in which the liturgy is celebrated reverently and nobly without nonsense attract, even if one doesn’t understand every word. We need such centers to set an example. Unfortunately, in Germany tolerance for bizarre tinkering is almost unlimited, whereas tolerance for the old liturgy is practically nonexistent. We are surely on the wrong path in that regard.
— Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Salt of the Earth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997)
And to all of that, I will simply add a shout-out to those who have benefited from Pope Benedict’s other great liturgical legislation: Anglican Ordinariate folks, we need you! Keep on keeping on, and expand as quickly and as widely as you can!