The following “Plea” appeared on NCCL’s website, and was delivered to the Holy Father with many letters from collaborators.
A PLEA FROM ‘SECOND-CLASS’ CATHOLICS
One is deeply hurt and perplexed when reading the objections of some of the European bishops — especially French, German and Belgian — to a rumoured broadening of the authorisation for the 1962 forms of the Roman Rite. A serene reply to some of the objections is in order. Our fidelity to the Church and acceptance of Vatican II “in the light of Tradition” (a parameter agreed upon by the late Pope John Paul II and Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre) is called into question. This despite the fact that we resist the increasingly compelling temptation many feel to adhere to the Society of St. Pius X.
Reasonable people (now) agree that neither Pope Paul VI nor the other Council Fathers intended to suppress the 1962 forms of the Roman Rite. Therefore only a monumental leap of logic and the most fertile of imaginations could lead one to conclude that the Supreme Pontiff’s universal authorisation of those forms would lead to ecclesial disunity. Until proof of the contrary, the Successor of Peter is the visible principal of unity. It would, therefore, require the most tortuous theological argument and nebulous grasp of logic to assert that one disunites the Church by following a directive of a reigning Pontiff. Apart from the existing sectarian divisions, it is unclear how Catholics who avail themselves of a concession of the Supreme Pontiff could be less faithful than those who sought or seek to obstruct, by anticipation, that concession.
LITURGICAL UNITY AND UNIFORMITY
An erroneous opinion as well as a national cultural characteristic leads some to confuse liturgical unity with liturgical uniformity. Some European peoples feel a compelling psychological and cultural craving for all forms of uniformity as an expression of unity. They therefore, struggle, if they succeed at all, to understand unity in complementary diversity. The Bishop is Sponsus Ecclesiae or espoused to his local Church. It makes sense therefore that since the Bishop is the Celebrant, traditional liturgies of the Eastern and Latin Catholic Churches flowed from the various sees which lend their names to those liturgies. That alone precludes the notion of uniformity as a necessary expression of ecclesial unity. Even if one considers a single see such as Rome, history underlines the Angelic Doctor’s definition of beauty, unitas in varietate, et varietas in unitate. Far from afflicting the ecclesial unity, the differences between the liturgy of the Roman Curia and the liturgy celebrated in the Roman basilicas enriched the beauty of unity of the Roman Rite.
From what has been affirmed above, one’s IQ need not soar into the triple digits to make the due distinction between liturgical unity and uniformity. Uniformity of the Roman Rite became a fundamental issue, albeit not a defining quality, only subsequent to the Council of Trent. It is, therefore, ironic to see bishops appeal to an ethos of the Tridentine era, to object to a rumoured broadening of the authorisation of the “Tridentine” Mass.
Another fallacy should be addressed. Some bishops claim that there are too few traditional Catholics to warrant broadening the indult for the 1962 liturgical forms. Were that true, one would fail to see why those bishops would misplace valuable time from more pressing questions to objecting to an issue of apparent little importance.
Some of the objecting bishops express a fear that the request for the traditional forms of the Roman Rite hides an adverse political agenda. No doubt this expresses a fear of extreme right wing politics or, heaven forbid, the love of monarchy. Quite apart from the fact that many traditional Catholics are the civil subjects of monarchies (e.g. the United Kingdom, Belgium, etc.), one fails to understand why any sane person would “hide” one’s political views behind one’s preference for liturgical questions.
THE ORTHODOX DILEMMA
Finally, some bishops object to any broadening of the traditional liturgical forms because, they claim, the theological-pastoral perspective of the traditional liturgy opposes the theological orientation of Vatican II. The myth of a new theological-pastoral orientation was created by premature old timers (I almost said “has-beens”) who, baby-boomers, concocted a theological ideology suited to usher them through the sunset of their midlife clerical crises during the early ‘70s. Be that as it may, many Eastern Orthodox bishops are perplexed, if not scandalised. The liturgical theology of the Orthodox is identical to the theological orientation of the traditional Roman Rite. The fact that many Catholic bishops object to broadening the authorisation for the traditional Roman Rite, leads the Orthodox to wonder how Rome could welcome the Orthodox back into her bosom.