Wider Use of Latin Mass Likely, Vatican Officials Say

From the New York Times:

Pope Benedict XVI has signed a document that would allow more churches to adopt the old Latin Mass that largely faded from use during the 1960s, when the groundbreaking Second Vatican Council opened the door to worship in the local vernacular, Vatican officials say.

The revival of what is known as the Tridentine Mass has long been promoted by Roman Catholic traditionalists, who say it is more moving, contemplative and historically authentic than the modern Mass.

But Pope Benedict has been hearing resistance from cardinals and bishops, many of them in Europe, who argue that the change would divide the church by promulgating two very different official rites.

They say that it could create rifts in smaller parishes that cannot agree which Mass to use, and that it would burden already overburdened members of the clergy, many of whom do not know Latin and were never trained to perform the older rite’s more complex choreography.

Read it all.


Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

19 comments on “Wider Use of Latin Mass Likely, Vatican Officials Say

  1. Ad Orientem says:

    Te Deum laudamus!

  2. libraryjim says:


  3. plainsheretic says:

    Sometimes we for get part of our own history (the history of anglicanism.) Outside of a few traditionalist and some scholars who knows latin these days?

    Article 24:
    “XXIV. Of Speaking in the Congregation in such a Tongue as the people understandeth. It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the Primitive Church to have public Prayer in the Church, or to minister the Sacraments, in a tongue not understanded of the people.”

  4. Pisco Sours says:

    I have been to a Tridentine Mass in Latin (is that a pleonasm?) at the Cathedral of St. Matthew, and it was simply lovely. I’ve never had formal training in Latin, but I’ve picked up enough from having studied etymology and the sciences to understand what I was saying. But for the choice of language, I was pleasntly surprised at how closely it resembled a Eucharist at my home parish!

    It sure beats my old life of davening in Hebrew. Even though I studied Hebrew for 9 years, it never really was a working language for me, so I didn’t get as much out of prayer as I should have. That gives me pause, though, at “historic authenticity” as a criterion for effective worship. You don’t get much more historically authentic than reciting “Shema Yisroel Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad,” but I know a lot of Jews hate praying in Hebrew, and I imagine many Catholics would balk at praying in Latin that holds no meaning to them. Whatever brings you in closer fullness to God should be the standard.

  5. Words Matter says:

    Much is being made of this, but it’s likely little will actually change. Priests who could already have gotten permission have not, in fact, done so, and those whose bishops would not permit it would incur the rather of said bishops of they go ahead and do it. Some will certainly do so, but not most.

    My priest is thrilled about it and says he is practicing with a videotape and missal. But the reality is that we have a Tridentine community that uses out parish church on Sunday evenings and he could, under our bishop easily obtain permission to use that liturgy. Please note that use of the current Mass of Paul VI (the “Novus Ordo”) is always permitted in Latin anyway.

    As often happens, this issue is a surrogate for a host of other, deeper issues in the Church. The real issue (one of them) is reverence, mystery, and awe in worship, not Latin. There are also theological issues, including the theology of liturgy. But that’s another post.

  6. Words Matter says:

    the rather of said bishops

    Well, it’s the wrath of said bishops, or, perhaps, they will get their bishop all in a lather. 😛

  7. libraryjim says:

    That was when the people didn’t have a CHOICE as to the language of the liturgy. Can you honestly tell me you don’t enjoy listening to parts of the mass in Latin polyphany by Anonymous 4 or Anúna or a Latin mass by Bach (&c.)?

    For some people the Latin Mass is a vehicle to purer worship. For them they should have the choice if that is what they want.

    Plus, Roman Catholics are not bound by the 39 articles.

  8. BCP28 says:

    The thing I found most amusing about this article was the amount of time and effort devoted opposition in certain RC quarters to the Tridentine liturgy. It is as if traditional liturgies might turn you into a neandralthal or something!
    There is a Tridentine parish near my own which I do intend to try sometime. As a musician, I need to experience that particular service, given its influence on music history.
    The aritcle is correct, by the way, in the fact that the Novus Ordo can be performed entirely in Latin, and I have to say that if done well there is no reason it cannot be a perfectly appropriate Divine Service. Aside from the fact that I am, in fact an Anglican! On the other hand, I recall attending mass in Budpest a few years ago. The one part of the service I understood…was the Latin ordinary.


  9. libraryjim says:

    [i]The thing I found most amusing about this article was the amount of time and effort devoted opposition in certain RC quarters to the Tridentine liturgy.[/i]

    yeah, almost like the way the 28 BPC was (and is?) treated by the ECUSA when the 79 came out.

  10. Charles says:

    #1 plainparson,

    I suppose the (perhaps subconcious) mindset of “reasserter” Anglicans in these matters is “pick your battles.” Right now, the battle isn’t against Rome as it was when the 39 Articles were written. It’s against those who don’t believe as they do with regards to homosexuality and perhaps the ordination of women(though they say it’s about matters much more essential than that).

    And, for what it’s worth, Catholics from the left and the right love the traditional Latin Mass.

    [sorry…don’t know the HTML code]

  11. Charles says:

    …more thoughts…

    If conservative Anglicans today were writing the equivalent of the 39 articles, might they write an article condemning homosexual behaviour?

    Charles, interesting question for speculation. But not on topic for this thread. Perhaps there will be another thread in the near future about the 39 articles where this can be discussed.

  12. SouthCoast says:


  13. BCP28 says:

    It is worth pointing out, by the way, that the Tridentine rite does represent a version of 16th c liturgical reform. Certainly not on the scale of Cranmer, mind you, but the simplifications to the Medieval Roman rite and resulting changes that were made to polyphonic music of the period certainly were a step in the “right” direction.

  14. Sarah1 says:

    I am very happy for the Roman Catholics. This is something that seemed wrong to take away from them, and reminded me suspiciously of the forced purge of the 28 from elderly parishioners parishes in ECUSA.

    Since they are not Protestant they do not need to be Reformed and follow the 39 Articles. This seems as if it is a further “conserving” of their tradition, and I welcome it, just as I welcome their conserving of priestly celibacy, as it is a principle part of their tradition and theology [though theologically I disagree with priestly celibacy as well].

  15. Words Matter says:

    Priestly celibacy is disciplinary, not doctrinal. It has no primary theological significance (though there are theological aspects, I suppose). I’m not sure I would call it a “principle part” of our tradition, either, but that’s debatable. It’s just something that works well for us.

  16. Katherine says:

    Pisco Sours, I remember my Jewish friends leaving school early every Thursday to go to Hebrew school, so when a girl in my neighborhood had a bat mizvah, I asked her about the scripture she had read for the service (Conservative, not Orthodox, obviously). I was shocked to find that she had been taught to pronounce Hebrew, but not to actually read and understand it. I wonder if Muslims who recite Arabic prayers five times a day have the same problem. My tour guide in Egypt last month told me that classical Arabic is very difficult and most moderns can’t understand it in the original.

    That said, before Vatican II it was possible to go anywhere in the world and attend a Mass that was just like the one back home. This universality is what Catholics lost. One could argue, of course, that it’s better to use the vernacular for prayer, which was the reformers’ argument. In the Anglican world, until about 1970 it was possible to go to any Anglican church anywhere in the world and find the worship nearly the same as at home. If non-English Prayer Books were just vernacular translations of the English Book, this would still be true; you’d know what they were doing because you knew the service. But when we left the Prayer Book(s) and went to varieties of services, we lost our litugical unity.

    It’s possibly an oversimplification, but essentially true, that liturgical unity along with the agreement of the bishops is what keeps Orthodox together. The Divine Liturgy in Greek, Syriac, Russian, etc., is unchanged over the past 15 centuries or so. The Orthodox were so exercised over a change in the Nicene Creed, because they viewed it as a doctrinal change, that it was the proximate cause of their cutting communion with the Western Church. For Romans, the change to the Novus Ordo has been accompanied by radical changes in the beliefs of the faithful and the functioning of the local parishes, and not all these changes have been good.

  17. Violent Papist says:

    The latin masses at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, 10 AM Sundays are NOT tridentine masses. Those masses are post-Vatican II latin masses, and yes they are quite nicely done, highly recommended! There are also post-Vatican II latin masses in the Baltimore Basilica (stupendously restored to its unusual Latrobe interior paint style) and the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, Philly. The tridentine mass in DC is done at St. Mary Mother of God on 5th and H Street, NW. Low mass at 9 am (I think) and solemn masses the second Sunday of the month (except July-August) at 5 pm, plus for some holy days. There are other tridentine masses around the DC area – I think in Springfield, VA and in Silver Spring, MD, plus one in downtown Baltimore someplace.

    While I am thrilled that some of the restrictions on the old Latin mass are being cast off, the numbers of people who will attend the old mass will still be relatively small. However, it is to be greatly hoped that most people who want to attend one will be able to do so from now on.

  18. Thunder Jones says:

    The big tragedy, however, is that by reverting to an “earlier” mass, they will stop using the Sanctus that is now currently used nearly universally by Christians. This recovery of an ecumenical Sanctus is rooted in liturgical scholarship and is the most acurate version we have. The Tridentine may seem more “traditonal” in many ways, but it really is a more contemporary version in other ways. It also dashes the ecumenism that has been recovered as we have rediscovered our common liturgical past together.

  19. BCP28 says:

    On Baltimore: The Basilica Mass is indeed Novus Ordo. The Tridentine rite is celebrated two blocks south and west at St. Alphonsus. The seminarians from St. Mary’s sing the service every other week, from what I understand.

    Katherine: I had a similar experiece with a Bat Mitzvah years ago, but my friend did actually know what she was saying! You’re quite right about the ability to go to a service which is the same, and given my screen name, you can imagine that is pretty difficult for me to find and be happy! There really is an argument for uniformity, especially in a world that is getting smaller.