The Latin Mass

Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, and the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops act like bishops, and your religious act like religious.

(Ven. Fulton J. Sheen)

Nisi Dominus aedificaverit domum, in vanum laboraverunt qui aedificant eam.

(Psalm 126)

Although not unexpected, the apostolic letter in the form of a motu proprio dated July 16 last year in which Pope Francis revoked the decision of his predecessor to authorize the celebration of Mass according to the ancient Tridentine rite without constraint, as an "expression extraordinary of the same lex orandi of the Catholic Church of the Latin rite "( Summorum pontificum , art. 1, 2007). The Latin mass according to the canon of the Missale Romanum of 1962, the last revision of an almost two-thousand-year liturgical tradition made official by Pius V in 1570, thus becomes an exception subject to the authorization of the competent bishop, and the post-conciliar mass in the vernacular " the only expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite "( Traditionis custodes , art. 1). An exception, Francis points out today, to be tolerated exclusively for the benefit of "those who are rooted in the previous celebratory form and need time to return to the Roman rite promulgated by Saints Paul VI and John Paul II" ( Traditionis custodes , accompanying letter to bishops , my italics) and therefore to be accompanied towards a progressive extinction, since the bishops cannot "authorize the constitution of new groups" ( Trad. cust. , art. 3 par. 6).

As a Catholic practicing the "ancient rite" I feel called into question by this decision, the reasons and effects of which offer an insight into the efforts of the Church today. In the brief commentary accompanying the motu proprio, the Pontiff does not put forward any doctrinal scruples, that is, he does not question the orthodoxy of the preconclilary rite, but denounces "the instrumental use" that would be made of it, "increasingly characterized by a growing refusal not only of the liturgical reform, but of the Second Vatican Council, with the groundless and unsustainable assertion that it has betrayed tradition ”. He sees "more and more evident in the words and attitudes of many the close relationship between the choice of celebrations according to the liturgical books preceding the Second Vatican Council and the rejection of the Church and its institutions". The abrogation of the concessions would therefore have the purpose of "defending the unity of the Body of Christ … This unity [which] I intend to be re-established in the whole Church of the Roman rite".

Although abstractly noble, the motivation appears problematic if not exactly contradictory. It is in fact true that some groups dedicated to liturgical traditionalism are very critical of the Church that originated from Vatican II, even to the point of considering it apostatic. The fact is that, however, all these groups, having made themselves independent from the diocesan hierarchy, do not respond to the authority of the bishops and therefore are not affected by the Pontiff's decision. On the contrary, those who until a month ago benefited from Summorum pontificum and who today see their liturgical freedom threatened had chosen to express a more traditional sensitivity while remaining in communion with the Church, as was in fact Ratzinger's intentions. Now, however, it is easy to predict that Francis' "friendly fire" will fulfill the fears of the pope emeritus and push many traditionalists towards schismatic shores, as is happening. How plausible is it that such a fatal epilogue for "the unity of the Body of Christ" was not foreseen? And if it was, then what is the purpose of this crackdown?

Whichever way you look at the story, it is difficult to dismiss the suspicion that the rite was targeted and not its "instrumental use". Otherwise, why preventively and indiscriminately block its diffusion? If it were only an innocent instrument, why not save it from those who "abuse" it? And again, how illogical is the hope of opposing or converting those who harbor a "rejection of the Church and its institutions" by piercing the ball, obscuring a very noble expression of it? Have you ever cured a disease by suppressing its symptoms?

One remains increasingly perplexed considering the context of a popular participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice which at least in the developed hemisphere has been reduced to historic lows and declines continuously from the early 1980s to the last, spectacular collapse of the "pandemic" two-year period. After the incredible suspension of the sacraments , attendance in the reopened and hospitalized diocesan churches has even halved . As has been repeated for years, the abandonment of the mass is the culmination of a more general desertion which is also reflected in the collapse of offers , of the eight per thousand , of ordinations , of religious marriages , of participation in parish life.

In this crisis, the traditional front, on the other hand, seems not only to resist, but rather to grow against the trend. The Pontiff has unfortunately chosen not to disclose the results of a cognitive survey on the phenomenon, but from other sources we know that for example in the United States traditional parishes are multiplying while the number of Catholics is decreasing, which in France a fifth of seminarians would have chosen. the traditional address , that in the last decade the celebrations in vetus ordo in the world would have more than doubled . In the two chapels where I follow Mass in Latin, attendance has continued to increase since I attend them, even in the weeks of the "red zone" and especially in the aftermath of the Traditionis custodes , so much so that in the last month many people have been forced to follow 'external. Everyone communicates, the assembly articulates the responsories together and follows the singing, the musical and choral accompaniment is of a professional level.

While I wonder about the meaning of pruning the only flourishing "asset" of an organization otherwise chronically bleeding of faithful and faith, it comes naturally to me to compare this vitality with the rare nantes in vast gurgitis who resist spaced out and watchful in our parish churches . And in this new retreating into unpopularity and failure I see the tyrannical nature today common to many powers: to despise consent, to express oneself only with compulsion and prohibition, to emphasize an enemy to criminalize everyone and to impose in spite of all a modernity now short of seductions, now old. In fact, what Traditionis custodes appears to be to the most recent provisions of civil government is the absence of the slightest attempt to explain the reasons of those who cultivate an alternative or a refusal. There is nothing to understand, it is the people who must understand. And if he does not understand, he will do without the people.


To the questions that Francis does not ask himself I try to answer within the limits of my experience, hoping to give at least a partial testimony of what is "seething" in the base. First of all, yes, I too find that the liturgy according to the usual lesson represents in itself and not in the eventual instrumentality of its exercise an implicit criticism of the spiritual and church model of Vatican II, if only for the obvious reason that its overcoming it was decided precisely in that forum. Remaining the best intentions of the Bavarian pope and the many practical merits of the liberalization that bears his signature, many years earlier he himself recognized that "behind the different ways of conceiving the liturgy there are … different ways of conceiving the Church, therefore God and man's relations with him. The liturgical discourse is not marginal: it is the heart of the Christian faith! " ( Report on the Faith , 1985). That these differences should collide again was inevitable, perhaps even healthy.

The lack of awareness of how the change of rite was both the effect and cause of a paradigm shift is signaled by the persistence of certain apologetic myths of the reform. For example, on the use of Latin, considered an obstacle to the understanding and participation of the faithful when, on the contrary, it removes the barriers that would make the same formulas unintelligible to ministers and faithful of different languages. The fixed declamations of the Latin Mass are less than forty, distributed in more or less equal parts between the priest and the assembly. With the exception of Confiteor , Gloria and Credo , these are short or very short formulas that are easy to memorize in their meaning and letter by consulting a missal with the text opposite, where you can also follow the proper parts and the readings of the day (which now it is customary to repeat also in language) in the double version. With this minimum baggage you can participate in masses all over the world. Today, however, it is enough to move to Bolzano to not understand a comma. In any case, it is doubtful that to understand a liturgical formula it is sufficient to have it translated, without also grasping its theological meaning and function. The overlap with the language of use can indeed give rise to misunderstandings and "false friends" (such as the famous formula pro perfidis Iudaeis , later removed). For these reasons and certainly not for intellectualism all the great religions use an ancient and dedicated language in their rites, free from uncertainties.

Paradoxical is also the criticism of those who see a sort of "classist" separation in the posture of the priest who celebrates facing the altar without interacting directly with the assembly, as if to exclude it from the Mystery. Only an eye clouded by ideological fury can escape the fact that the opposite is true: in the rite of Pius V the minister is not distinguished from the faithful by turning his back to them, but turns to the Presence in the tabernacle … like the faithful! And like the faithful he silently addresses his prayers to the divinity, of whose Sacrifice he is a humble mediator. The implications of this misconception are enormous. After the reform, the focal point of the celebration moved from the altar to the priest and the line of sight that from men opens to God closed between men and the man who speaks and gesticulates from the altar, with the divinity relegated on background. The phenomenon of good or bad masses, lively or modest, exciting or boring masses was born, now the ceremony is imprinted on the personality and inspiration of the person celebrating, not on the celebrated one. Phenomenon completely foreign to the previous liturgical tradition, which, having contained the minister's action in the prevalence of silence and in a rigidly articulated ceremonial, was always and solemnly equal to itself, with its wide meditative spaces and the hieratic repetition of a gesture without weather. It is curious to observe how the will of Paul VI to promote the "active participation of the faithful in the Mass [so that] they do not attend as strangers or silent spectators this mystery of faith" ( Sacrosantum Concilium ) has translated in practice into a decisive expansion of the pastor's leadership . Wishing to draw a political suggestion from it, a very current concept of paternalistic and tutorial democracy is reflected here in which the people "participate" to the extent that they allow themselves to be led.

The most immediately tangible risk of an excessively person-centered liturgy is its excessive personalization. It is significant that in presenting the Trad. Cust. Francis himself recommends that the bishops "ensure that every liturgy is celebrated with decorum … without eccentricities that easily degenerate into abuses", bringing out at least part of the problem. In a more precise way, the future Pope Benedict XVI framed the permeability of the rite when the contingency broke out (ibidem):

The liturgy is not a show, a show that needs brilliant directors and talented actors. The liturgy does not live on "pleasant" surprises, on "captivating" ideas, but on solemn repetitions. It must not express the actuality and its ephemeral but the mystery of the Sacred. Many have thought and said that the liturgy must be "done" by the whole community in order to be truly his. It is a vision that has led to measuring its "success" in terms of spectacular effectiveness, of entertainment. In this way, however, the liturgical proprium has been dispersed, which does not derive from what we do, but from the fact that something happens here that we all together cannot really do.

What the two popes omit to comment on is the thread that connects these drifts to the anthropocentric revolution introduced by the last council, of having transferred the liturgical center of gravity from the immutable Celestial to the fickleness of the human being, his inclinations and his events. And that in this centrality of man the deep knot of the traditionalist polemic also declines and realizes itself, of a secularization that is transmitted from rites to doctrine, to acts, to the sense of saying and feeling Catholic. Commenting on the Bergoglian edict , the superior general of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X Don Davide Pagliarani traced the connection with decision by indicating in the Mass of Paul VI

[the] authentic expression of a Church which wants to be in harmony with the world, which listens to the demands of the world; a Church which, after all, no longer has to fight the world because it no longer has anything to reproach it with; a Church that has nothing more to teach because it listens to the powers of this world … a Church that no longer has as its mission to restore the universal kingship of Our Lord, since it wants to make its contribution to the elaboration of a world better, freer, more egalitarian, more eco-responsible; and all this with purely human means. To this humanist mission that the men of the Church have given themselves must necessarily correspond an equally humanist and desacralized liturgy.


It must be said that for many the need to question themselves critically about this model was imposed only upon the occurrence of its most evident consequences, that is, with the years of the last pontificate, under which we witnessed such an acceleration of secularizing impetus to make it conceivable for the first time to abandon the "comfort zone" in which one was born and raised. As far as I am concerned, the doctrinal deviations attributed by some to the Argentine pope have had little or no influence in this crisis, nor have his positions been decisive, at least not in themselves. What disturbed me was the inexorable convergence of the institution towards the messages "of the powers of this world" in content, in language and especially in timing. It was the readiness with which the Church and the churches relaunched with a sprinkle of incense the priorities dictated from time to time by the supranational potentates of politics and industry, by the world-wide press, by television intellectuals and in short by whoever the world accredited. at that moment among the "best".

In the period (not before, not after, not today) in which the world turned the spotlight on the difficulties of those who emigrate, at Sunday mass the wood of a beached raft was displayed and welcoming was preached while Egyptian bakers and workers spoke from the pulpit Sinhalese and Ukrainian nannies. Once the curtain fell, it was the turn of climate change. Like all the powerful, the author of Laudato si 'also received the Swedish girl "who makes the powerful tremble" promoted by the powerful of Davos. A few months later he inaugurated the Synod for the Amazon "for an integral ecology", among which moments we also recall the ceremony of adoration of a pagan "Mother Earth" . As the world pointed its finger at "populism" it rewrote German history by blaming the people of "all of Germany" for the election of Hitler in '33.

The assonances with the world also extended to the lexicon, even to the most contaminated and controversial passwords. In 2014, the philosopher Edgar Morin articulated in a book-manifesto the wish for a "new humanism" whose formula had already been circulating for some years in the allocutions of the Masonic lodges ( Gran Loggia Regolare d'Italia, 2002 ; Grande Oriente d'Italia, 2007 ) and that the following year would give the title to the 5th National Ecclesial Conference in Florence: In Jesus Christ the new humanism . Authoritative theologians such as Galantino , Lorizio , and Forte have written about a "new humanism". Francis himself invoked it by launching the "Global Compact on Education" (a kind of circular implementing the Morinian pedagogical principles) and during the ceremony for the awarding of the Charlemagne Prize awarded to the most illustrious supporters of European integration. But even before that, Paul VI had mentioned it at the end of the work of Vatican II , with the admission that «secular secular humanism in the end appeared in terrible stature and, in a certain sense, defied the Council. The religion of the God who became Man has met with the religion (because such it is) of the man who makes himself God "and the disturbing conclusion that there was no clash between the two fronts:" it could have been; but it did not happen ”.

The Pope received Morin in a private audience in 2019 and recently celebrated his centenary as part of a special day set up by UNESCO, an institution that has in turn been singing in the chorus of "new humanists" for at least a decade . The esteem between the two is mutual. The Frenchman considers the Argentine " the only one to have a planetary conscience " and reads in the latest encyclical, already praised for the same reasons by the Grand Master of the GOI , the program in itself dear to a social renewal in the name of the brotherhood of peoples children of the same, pachamamic « Terre-Mère ». For Morin, being "all brothers" is also a prelude to a planetary political union to accelerate which, he wrote in 2002 , "would require a sudden and terrible increase in dangers, the coming of a catastrophe that acts as an electric shock necessary for the awareness and decision making ". The new beacon of Roman Catholicism, whose name is Edgar Nahoum at the registry office, played first in the communist party and then in the socialist one, defines himself as a " radical non-believer " whose only faith is "in brotherhood and love" and he considers religions " anthropological realities " useful, for example, as a "parapet against the corruption of politicians and administrators" ( sic ), as long as they renounce all truth claims.


Without going further into these and other theoretical coincidences, not very exciting in their merits but instructive in the method, let's go back to the most tangible facts of the global epidemic from Covid-19 and its containment policies, which for many have represented the apical point of the Church-world identity. In the history of Christianity, the suspensions of cum populo religious services have been very rare and limited. Among so many wars and epidemics, the only certain precedent in Italy is that of the plague of 1576-77 in Milan, which in a few months killed 18,000 in a city of 130,000 (as if 8.2 million Italians died today) and during which card. Borromeo organized processions and required the prelates to bring the comforts of faith to the homes of the Milanese in quarantine. We understand the dismay of those who, like the certainly not traditionalist Andrea Riccardi , have seen the same measures re-proposed but on a more severe scale, national and international, for an epidemic whose death rates are close to zero for the majority of the population. .

The readiness with which the Church has withdrawn its principals is equal to that with which it took the pandemic speech initiated by the world and transmitted it to the churches, letting it occupy every space, physical and spiritual. In temples impregnated with chlorine, with the water " ad effugandam omnem potestatem inimici " replaced by the alcoholic poultices of the supermarket and the pasdaran of hygiene to punish the proximity of the neighbor, these ears have heard from the pulpit that "today Elijah and Jesus would tell us to pull the masks up to the nose ». They listened month after month to pray to the Lord for doctors, paramedics, nurses, pharmacists, researchers, OSS, etc. but also for "science" and "so that there are vaccines for everyone". These eyes saw the faithful rubbing their hands with the disinfectants brought from home a few moments before taking the Body of NSGC from the already disinfected hands of the priest, even if it were the scab of a leper. More than bodies, the virus infected homilies and never failed to inspire metaphors, appeals and new doctrinal categories in the preacher's imagination. The lockdown became a period of reflection and purification (?), The pandemic an occasion "to question oneself about being a community", distancing a "rediscovery of one's neighbor". The medical way to secularization proceeded by easy contamination: between quarantine and Lent, health sacrifices and asceticism, isolation and prayer, healing and conversion, isolation and fraternal charity, health of body and soul.

The apex of the apex was reached with the arrival of the new vaccines. On the same theme, the Church had indeed already expressed itself a few years earlier in response to another call from the world. Back then, it was 2017, it was a question of extending by decree the obligations of prophylaxis for children in the wake of an alleged measles epidemic, whose polyvalent vaccine was also developed using tissues of voluntarily aborted human fetuses. However, there was a problem: in a 2005 opinion, the Pontifical Academy for Life had censored these products, recommending "using alternative vaccines and invoking conscientious objection regarding those who have moral problems". Solution: a little more than a month after the entry into force of the Italian decree, the same Academy published a subsequent opinion that overturned the previous one, this time denying "that there is a morally relevant cooperation between those who today use these vaccines and the practice of 'voluntary abortion'. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would then also reach the same conclusions with a timely Note on the morality of the use of some anti-Covid-19 vaccines of 21 December 2020.

These pro re nata doctrinal changes were but the prelude to a mighty descent into the field among the ranks of the world to embrace the new battle and lead the recalcitrant back to his fold, entrusting the altars with the unlikely mission of pushing a pharmacological campaign. Here we can only offer a meager anthology of events, starting from the top. In the last Christmas message, the Pontiff opened the dance by celebrating alongside the "light of Christ who comes into the world" also "various lights of hope, such as the discoveries of vaccines". Two weeks later he had already switched to the imperative: "There is a suicidal denial that I cannot explain, but today we must take the vaccine." At Easter he exhorted the heads of state "in the spirit of vaccine internationalism" and the following month he reiterated the concept in a video message addressed to the public of the Global Citizen ( sic) VAX Live concert , set up with the money of the planetary elite capitalist "to celebrate the encounters and the freedom that the vaccine is bringing us ». On the same days Anthony Fauci and the CEOs of Pfizer and Moderna attended an (obviously) global health conference organized by the Holy See. In August he launched another commercial to South American bishops and to the world: " getting vaccinated is an act of love ".

The involvement of the ecclesiastical hierarchies was neither casual nor spontaneous. In March, the new Vatican dicastery for the Integral Human Development Service released a " Kit for Church Representatives " in which pages you can find the answers to be given to the doubtful faithful, "resources for homilies and conversations" and pre-packaged content to be disseminated on social networks for transform every priest into an apostle of the mission. The bishops responded with the zeal of those who must lead by example. The one from Pinerolo will be the testimonial in an advertising campaign of the ASL to convince the undecided, the one from Treviso promotes the serum in the news, the one from Nuoro takes selfies with the hashtag #iomivaccino, the Campania ones promise the president of their region "all the possible collaboration to speed up and strengthen the immunization campaign through the awareness of the faithful ", that of Macerata denounces the fake news that can be read online from the pulpit, that of Rovigo adds new definitions to the catechism (" those who oppose the vaccine with motivations ethics and religious, rejects the doctrine of the Catholic Church "), that of Tempio Pausania excludes religious and lay people who are not vaccinated from community services. In some dioceses the injections are made directly in the consecrated churches , a choice objectively without necessity and without sense, if not precisely that of strengthening the circle between trust in the world and faith in the beyond, to sacramentalize the act by secularizing the temple.


Here we can and want to leave out the judgments on the direction of these interventions. We don't care how desirable the reduction of carbon dioxide, internationalism, vaccinations against pneumonia, surgical masks, migrations from poor countries are. As dwellers of the world, we reason about these and other things in the world. As Christians, we seek the Eternal in churches. We are not disturbed by the militancy and the application of eternal messages to the understanding and correction of the times, on the contrary! We are saddened by their absence, their liquefying in the repetition of the dictates of the century and the itches of its masters. Don't be surprised if the churches become empty. Why go to mass if the same messages can be read in a random newspaper or heard in a random monologue from a random politician? Those who seek the world do not know what to do with a crooked imitation weighed down by sacred references that are at best rhetorical, but out of context. On the other hand, those looking for Heaven are a little tired of having to sift through a particle of eternity by rummaging through civics, editorial papers, advice for prophylaxis, philosophical chatter, pastoral talk, hermeneutic fantasies, media pathetism and contaminations passed off as "dialogue".

The point of the Latin Mass is all here. It is not followed out of intellectual snobbery or to affirm a political creed, but rather to shake off these and other miseries by celebrating a promise that leads elsewhere and that in that elsewhere sets the only safe coordinates for living and interpreting the upheavals of the world. The Latin Mass is not only the symbol of a Church whose mission was not to end in the imitation of the century. It certainly is, but only because it itself offers a tool perfected over the millennia to make that conception come true by organizing action and thought according to God.

If to the lame reasons of the Bergoglian censorship we add on the one hand the observation of the worldly drifts in which his pontificate is enveloping and on the other the count of the desertions of the people with whom he pays homage to the central secular and secular thought, yes it is really tempting to agree with those who see in his decree an attack aimed not so much at one of the ways of living the faith, but precisely at faith as an experience that is also stylistically different from the world. It is not for me to say whether this result was pursued with intention or even if it was already hatching in the plans of some conciliar architect, as some have argued . From my small point of observation, I register its coherence with every other phenomenon of a modernity that becomes all the more despotic the more it grows older in old age. More than expressing judgments, we should perhaps take note of the conflict inherent in every crisis and strive to greet, despite so many lacerations and inconveniences, the opportunity to reaffirm the eternal root of religious experience by separating it from its envelope, the Presence that gives it meaning and its only being able to be a connection that does not integrate but transcends, that offers the world a model but rejects the model of the world, which of world accepts persecution but not suggestion.

"The task of the modern era was the realization and humanization of God", Ludwig Feuerbach clearly noted in the Principles of the Philosophy of the Future (1843). The ancient and deadly effort to make a religion without God or with a cosmetic, peripheral, cardboard god, is opposed to trusting in His project which is not of men but for men, so that they are not prey to idols, inscrutable in ways but clear in its glorious fulfillment. The Mass of all time is the celebration of this everlasting need, of this everlasting truth.

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Il Pedante at the URL on Fri, 10 Sep 2021 09:00:00 PDT.