There have been some hotly contested threads both in the Liturgy and Sacraments and Catholic News forums concerning recent liturgical actions taken by Pope Benedict XVI. These include the greater use of Latin in the Mass as well as the scorching debate regarding an emphasis on the universal norm to receive Holy Communion (kneeling and on the tongue).
What we are seeing here is the Benedictine implemtation of the positions that the Supreme Pontiff has held back when he was Fr., Archbishop and Cardinal Ratzinger.
I believe that George Wiegel, the author of the acclaimed biography on Pope John Paul II, Witness to Hope, makes some pretty clear points that have sometimes been ignored:
In the immediate aftermath of Vatican II, however, Ratzinger became convinced that organic development had been jettisoned for revolution, the liturgical Jacobins being a cadre of academics determined to impose their view of a populist liturgy on the entire Catholic Church.
In the decades between Vatican II and his election as Benedict XVI, Ratzinger became a leader in what became known as “the reform of the reform”: a loosely knit international network of laity, bishops, priests and scholars, committed to returning the process of liturgical development in the Catholic Church to what they understood to be the authentic blueprint of Vatican II. Seeing a Gregorian chant CD from an obscure Spanish monastery rise to the top of the pop charts in the 1990s, they wondered why much of the Church had abandoned one of Catholicism’s classic musical forms. Finding congregations that seemed more interested in self-affirmation than worship, and priests given to making their personalities the center of the liturgical action, they asked whether the rush to create a kind of sacred circle in which the priest faces the people over the Eucharistic “table” might have something to do with the problem.
And they reminded the entire Church that Vatican II had not mandated many of the things most Catholics thought it had decreed: for example, the elimination of Latin (and chant) from the liturgy and the free-standing altar behind which the priest faced the congregation
Mind you, neither Wiegel, nor the Holy Father, are saying that the OF is bad. Neither are many of us in these threads. The problem lies in the misinterpretation of many things, as indicated in the bolded, italicized and reddened portion of Wiegel’s article.
His column can be found here:
Interestingly enough, the first Mass that the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI celebrated was entirely in Latin, with the Cardinals who elected him serving as concelebrants. In fact, the first full message he delivered after the Mass was entirely in Latin.
Pope Benedict said something that made an impact on me. Unfortunately, it was missed entirely by the “drive-by media” who chose only to focus on his alleged hard-liner reputation. This is what the Pope said (English translation provided by the Vatican):
MISSA PRO ECCLESIA
OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Thus, as I prepare myself for the service that is proper to the Successor of Peter, I also wish to confirm my determination to continue to put the Second Vatican Council into practice…
- My Pontificate begins in a particularly meaningful way as the Church is living the special Year dedicated to the Eucharist. How could I fail to see this providential coincidence as an element that must mark the ministry to which I am called? The Eucharist, the heart of Christian life and the source of the Church’s evangelizing mission, cannot but constitute the permanent centre and source of the Petrine ministry that has been entrusted to me.
The Eucharist makes constantly present the Risen Christ who continues to give himself to us, calling us to participate in the banquet of his Body and his Blood. From full communion with him flows every other element of the Church’s life: first of all, communion among all the faithful, the commitment to proclaiming and witnessing to the Gospel, the ardour of love for all, especially the poorest and lowliest.
This year, therefore, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi must be celebrated with special solemnity. Subsequently, the Eucharist will be the centre of the World Youth Day in Cologne in August, and in October, also of the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, whose theme will be: “The Eucharist, source and summit of the life and mission of the Church”. ***I ask everyone in the coming months to intensify love and devotion for Jesus in the Eucharist, and to express courageously and clearly faith in the Real Presence of the Lord, especially by the solemnity and the correctness of the celebrations. ***
I ask this especially of priests, whom I am thinking of with deep affection at this moment. The ministerial Priesthood was born at the Last Supper, together with the Eucharist, as my Venerable Predecessor John Paul II so frequently emphasized. "All the more then must the life of a priest be “shaped’ by the Eucharist” (Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday 2005, n. 1; ORE, 23 March, p. 4).*** In the first place, the devout, daily celebration of Holy Mass, the centre of the life and mission of every priest, contributes to this goal. ***
Already, he was making the Mass the central point of his pontificate.