Earlier this week, we linked to Anthony Valle’s interview with Archbishop Albert Malcom Ranjith Patabendige Don, the Sri Lankan secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship. The interview was published by Inside the Vatican and has been made available on the web site of and of The Remnant and Catholic World News. What follows is a series of excerpts from that interview, which we believe to be significant. It is yet another sign that criticism of the ill-conceived reforms of the last half-century is gradually being gradually more tolerated — and not only tolerated, but taken seriously.
I said “yet another sign.” There are many, another of which we can mention here: the interview with Abbot Christopher M. Zielinski OSB oliv., Abbot of Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey in Pecos, New Mexico. His comments, posted on the Abbey’s we site, dovetail with the Archbishop’s. Speaking of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), he said, “the simple restoration of the Old Mass is not only what the Society is looking for. They are asking very serious theological and liturgical questions that we must address. Otherwise, we reduce the whole question of Monsignor Fellay and the members of the Society to a question of choreography and not to substantial questions of faith. The motu proprio, therefore, is a beginning. But also, it is the possible beginning of a reform and renewal of the sacramental character of the liturgy; and therefore, the beginning of a liturgical movement that wants for the People of God a new awakening of the faith.” I will mention this interview more in a bit.
Our beloved chaplain, Father Michael Jarecki, has said for years that the needed process of sifting the chaff from the wheat in the texts of Vatican II will only really be possible when the bishops and theologians who were the Council Fathers and periti are gone. Archbishop Ranjith is not yet 60 years old. He was ordained by Paul VI in 1975, so he is not so wedded to the Council and its subsequent reforms as those who actually effected them. Psychologically, at least, he is in a position to be more objective and will not have the same “face-saving” instinct that holds back those directly involved.
As we keep saying, ultimately the issues are doctrinal. It is the very identity of the Church that has been altered by the revolution in theology. The Archbishop’s reference to a “deep crisis of faith” (and not merely a “liturgical crisis,” although they are one and the same), together with his recognition of a failure on the part of those who implemented the liturgical changes, bodes well for the future. Mind you, it would be premature to schedule a victory party. This is only a beginning.
Excerpts from “It is the Holy Father Who Will Decide”
An interview with Archbishop Albert Malcom Ranjith Patabendige Don, by Anthony Valle
[T]he post-conciliar reform of the liturgy has not been able to achieve the expected goals of spiritual and missionary renewal in the Church so that today we could be truly happy about it.
Comment: This is a very delicate and carefully-worded way of saying the New Mass is a failure. He does not say why the reform “has not been able” to achieve its “expected goals,” but he says a lot by not saying it.
Undoubtedly there have been positive results too; but the negative effects seem to have been greater, causing much disorientation in our ranks.
The churches have become empty, liturgical free-wheeling has become the order of the day, and the true meaning and significance of that which is celebrated has been obscured.
You speak of the possible realization of new juridical structures for the implementation of such decisions [to allow freer access to the traditional rites]. I do not think that this would be so much of a problem. Rather what is more important in all of this is a pastoral attitude.
Will the bishops and priests reject requests for the Tridentine Mass and so create a need for juridical structures to ensure the enforcement of a decision of the Pope? Should it go that way?
I sincerely do not hope so.
The appropriate question the shepherds have to ask themselves is: How can I as a bishop or priest bring even one person closer to Christ and to His Church?
It is not so much a matter of the Tridentine Mass or of the Novus Ordo. It is just a question of pastoral responsibility and sensitivity.
Comment: “Pastoral sensitivity” toward those who love the Classical Rite of Roman worship: that’s good to see. Normally, “pastoral sensitivity” is a cloak for tolerance of the theological and moral abominations of liberals and modernists. The Archbishop’s priestly charity is much appreciated. He is not expected to criticize the Novus Ordo outright, but he does so indirectly, as we shall point out.
After all, Pope John Paul II did make a personal appeal in Ecclesia Dei Adflicta of 1988 to the bishops, calling upon them to be generous in this matter with those who wish to celebrate or participate in the Tridentine Mass. Besides, we should remember that the Tridentine Mass is not something that belongs to the followers of Archbishop Lefebvre only. It is part of our own heritage as members of the Catholic Church.
Comment: “Our heritage”: Again, the words are welcome. To say this is implicitly to accuse the liturgical revolutionaries and certain bishops of robbing the faithful of their heritage by denying them the traditional Mass.
Besides, we also have the serious question of the diminishing number of faithful in some of the churches in the Western world. We have to ask ourselves what happened in these churches and then take corrective steps as may be necessary. I do not think that this situation is attributable to secularization only. A deep crisis of faith coupled with a drive for meaningless liturgical experimentation and novelty have had their own impact in this matter. There is much formalism and insipidity visible at times.
Comment: Emphasis above is ours. The Archbishop is blaming the exodus of the faithful from the pews on a “deep crisis of faith,” not only on secularization. This would logically imply a crisis of faith on the part of churchmen, not those who have left the Church. He is also speaking of “corrective measures,” and that in a discussion of furthering the cause of the so-called Tridentine Mass and reversing this “crisis of faith.”
Thus, we need to recover a true sense of the sacred and mystical in worship.
And if the faithful feel that the Tridentine Mass offers them that sense of the sacred and mystical more than anything else, then we should have the courage to accept their request.
Comment: “Courage.” Again, it is good to hear a buzz-word of the left denuded of its liberal accretions and given a proper use.
Through the Eucharist, the Lord assumes us unto Himself and in Him we are placed in communion with all the others who unite themselves to Him. It is thus not so much a sociological experience as much as a mystical one. Hence even as “communion” the Eucharist is a heavenly experience.
What is more important is the sacrificial dimension of the Eucharist. Each time we celebrate the Eucharist we relive the sacrifice of Calvary, celebrating it as the moment of our salvation.
And this very fact also constitutes the unique dignity and font of identity of the priest. He has been instituted by Christ to celebrate the wonderful mystery of turning this corruptible piece of bread into the very glorified Body of Christ and this little bit of wine into the Blood of Christ, enacting the sacrifice of Calvary for the salvation of the world. And this has to be lived, understood and believed by the priest each time he celebrates the Eucharist.
Comment: The Archbishop’s Eucharistic theology is dead-on.
That would not mean that we would have to give up the Novus Ordo. But in the interaction of the two Roman traditions, it is possible that the one may influence the other eventually.
Comment: Speaking of the “two Roman traditions” is, perhaps a concession that the Archbishop’s own logic would seem to argue against. After all, the Rite of 1969 is a new Order, not a “Roman tradition.”
Reading between the lines, I see this as an expression of the Archbishop’s desire to reform the new Rite along the lines of the traditional Rite. He also knows that an abrupt change at this point will cause problems. Obviously, our hopes are for the scrapping of the whole liturgical revolution, but the Holy Father has to think in terms of the situation as it is. Even Bishop Fellay, of the SSPX, has spoken of the likelihood of two parallel Roman Rites existing for a time as a step in the path to complete liturgical restoration.
This orienting of the new Rite in the direction of the traditional Rite is something explicitly called for by Abbot Christopher Zielinski in his comments, referenced above:
“That [“ a rupture or break with Tradition”] is what we are dealing with today. The Second Vatican Council clearly called for some modest reforms in the liturgy, but it intended them to be organic and clearly in continuity with the past. The Old Rite becomes a living treasure of the Church and also should provide a standard of worship, of mystery, and of catechesis toward which the celebrations of the Novus Ordo must move. In other words, the Tridentine Mass is the missing link. And unless it be re-discovered in all its faithful truth and beauty, the Novus Ordo will not respond to the organic growth and change that has characterized the liturgy from its beginning. This is what should be prompting many of us to the founding of a new liturgical movement which will be able to give back to the liturgy its sacramental and supernatural character, and awaken in us a faithful understanding of the Catholic Liturgy.” [The italics are in the Abbot’s original; underlining is mine].
We can’t say everything is completed and finished, that nothing new could happen. In fact, Vatican II never advocated immediate change in the liturgy. Rather it preferred change to “grow organically from forms already existing” (SC 23). As Cardinal Antonelli, a much revered member of the Concilium that undertook the revision of the liturgy after the Council, noted in his diaries, some of the liturgical changes after the Council had been introduced without much reflection, haphazardly, and made later to become accepted practice.
Comment: Translating from the Roman dialect: “We made a mistake! In fact, we made several!”
For example, Communion in the hand had not been something that was first properly studied and reflected upon before its acceptance by the Holy See. It had been haphazardly introduced in some countries of Northern Europe and later become accepted practice, eventually spreading into many other places. Now that is a situation that should have been avoided. The Second Vatican Council never advocated such an approach to liturgical reform.
The Eucharist, as you know, makes the Church (Ed E. 21) and this is central to us Catholics. If it is so easily replaced by Liturgies of the Word, or worse still by so-called ecumenical prayer services, the very identity of the Catholic Church would be in question. Unfortunately, we hear also of cases whereby the Eucharist itself is being celebrated under various guises along with the Protestant pastors. This is totally unacceptable and constitutes a graviora delicta (“more grave offense”) (RM 172).
Comment: Beautiful! But why is such a thing a graviora delicta? Church law is meant to uphold doctrine. In this case, it perfectly illustrates lex orandi, lex credendi, “the law of believing is the law of praying.” The Eucharistic Banquet on earth is an anticipation of the Heavenly Banquet. In fact, it is a participation, in this vale of tears, in the eschatological wedding feast of the Bridegroom, Christ, and His Spouse, the Church. Now, there is no salvation outside the Church, so we cannot have members of false “churches,” — which cannot offer the Heavenly Banquet of salvation — participating in the Banquet of the Mass. Yes, it is “the very identity of the Catholic Church” which is in question. The Catholic Church is, as the Fathers tell us, the unique “Ark of Salvation.”