Just days before Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio allowing for the universal celebration of the Mass according to the 1962 Missal takes effect, Bishop Juan Ignacio Gonzalez Errazuriz said more than “putting an end to the schism of Archbishop Lefebvre and his followers,” one of the most important objectives of the initiative would be the promotion of unity among Chinese Catholics.
In an article entitled, “Much more than Mass in Latin,” the bishop explained the “profound meaning” of this “transcendent” decision; the dynamic of “continuity and change;” the liturgical abuses that have “darkened the face of the Church;” the need for a serious revision on the part of those who propose “liturgical creationism;” and the attitudes to have and those to avoid.
After underscoring the complete validity as of September 14 of the two forms of the celebrating the liturgy—the ordinary form in place since Vatican II, and the extraordinary form contained in the Missal of 1962 approved by John XXIII—Bishop Gonzalez Errazuriz noted that Benedict XVI “has not asked for a return to the ancient rite or that Mass be celebrated in Latin,” and much less “has he asked that the current right be abandoned in favor of using the old books.”
Explaining the pontifical decision, Bishop Errazuriz indicated, “Never in the two thousand year history of the Church has it occurred that a more modern form of celebrating the liturgy leaves the previous form out of use, in a sort of tacit derogation.” He rejected arguments that the decision would mean rolling back the reforms of Vatican II. Nevertheless, he pointed out, “The opinion that everything should simply continue as is, is simply wrong.”
Continuity and change, and liturgical abuses
Bishop Errazuriz said one of the reasons behind the papal decision is the dynamic of “continuity and change.” “One papal or conciliar document doesn’t contradict the teaching of a previous one, but rather perfects it or illuminates with new information and focus,” he said.
Referring to the “liturgical abuses, a problem that has sullied the face of the Church,” he recalled that in the letter to the bishops that accompanied the Motu Proprio, the Holy Father lamented the liturgical abuses carried out in the name of a misunderstood “creativity.” He also described very succinctly the common experience of many Catholics who have seen the liturgy undergo radical changes and be transformed into a show in which the priest is the star, “with all kinds of abuses and faults—some very serious—against the sanctity of the sacraments and Jesus Christ truly present in the Eucharist.”
More for China than for Lefebrvists
Bishop Errazuriz also questioned the idea that the Pope’s intention was primarily to “put an end to the schism of Archbishop Lefebvre and his followers” whose roots go “much deeper than the liturgy.” Therefore, he continued, it is not clear that the decision to allow the use of the 1962 Missal will put an end to the division, “which has much more complex theological elements. The Pope himself says so in the aforementioned letter to the bishops,” he said.
Bishop Errazuriz noted that the Pope’s recent letter to Chinese Catholics provides an “interesting clue” as to the reasoning behind the Motu Proprio. “All of those Chinese Catholics are unfamiliar with any other liturgical form besides the previous one, and most assuredly in full communion with Rome, in the case of many Catholic faithful of communities not fully united with Rome, would not mean a change in liturgical form.” “Now,” he added, “many will be able to return to the unity of the faith and will be able to do so without any change to the liturgy.”
Stressing that one of the reasons behind the Pope’s decision was to achieve “internal reconciliation in the heart of the Church,” Bishop Errazuriz expressed his desire that it also lead to a profound personal examination, especially in those who have fallen into a “a personal protagonism” and in those who “have promoted or practiced ‘liturgical creationism’ which has gravely deteriorated the content of the mysteries we celebrate in the liturgy.”
Bishop Errazuriz next pointed out two negative attitudes regarding the use of the 1962 Missal and on the other hand the positive attitude “true Catholics” should have. “The first would be to try to return to the old rite, thinking that this is the way to solve all the problems of the Church. The second would be to ignore what the Pope has said and continue down the path of ‘creationism’, as we hadn’t already tasted the bitterness of the fruits of that tree.”
“The authentic attitude is to strongly adhere to what the Pope says and live in the freedom of God’s children, fully respecting the rights of persons, groups and communities to love one or the other form of celebrating the great mysteries of our faith, which is what is truly important.”
“This decision by Peter will be a sort of test of the uprightness of intention, of the adherence and love there is in the Church for the Pope. It will also be an appropriate opportunity to improve our priestly service to the people of God, and for some, a chance to correct the errors that have been proposed as the right way in liturgical praxis,” Bishop Errazuriz said in conclusion.