Pope Benedict and the Reform of the Reform

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):


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…

  1. 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.

It’s hard to imagine that this is unusual or significant.
The Mass is central to our faith.

Latin remains the shared universal language of the Catholic Church, Latin Rite.
All Cardinals can and do function in the Latin language, as needed; some easily, some not.
It would have been unusual if the Holy Father had chosen German or Italian.

I have prayed and hoped for this day for 40 years. I live in a diocese in which the Motu Proprio was merely “acknowledged”. It doesn’t have to be all the time but why couldn’t we have a Solemn High Mass with my choir singing Vittoria’s Missa O Quam Gloriosam ? We learned the whole thing in 1992.

Ain’t gonna happen. Chancellor says nobody wants it.

What would happen if you formally gathered signatures for a petition asking for the EF, along with a detailed plan to support the EF?

Make it professional and overwhelming. Can you collect 500 or 1000 valid signatures? Could you do some research and put together a budget and a proposal to meet the budget?

I suppose in some cases in might mean asking a retired priest to celebrate the EF on a weekly basis in a parish church offered at no cost by its pastor and a few hundred dollars for a Missale, altar cards, etc. It could also be a much bigger deal…

If you had the signatures and the budget/plan – and particularly a sympathetic priest, I don’t think there is anything that could stop you.


No one ever contested the norms at the Papal liturgy, or Communion “on the tongue” since that is a legitimate option in the GIRM on the Vatican website

  1. The priest then takes the paten or ciborium and goes to the communicants, who, as a rule, approach in a procession.

The faithful are not permitted to take the consecrated bread or the sacred chalice by themselves and, still less, to hand them from one to another. The norm for reception of Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States is standing. Communicants should not be denied Holy Communion because they kneel. Rather, such instances should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with proper catechesis on the reasons for this norm.

When receiving Holy Communion, the communicant bows his or her head before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the Body of the Lord from the minister. The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant. When Holy Communion is received under both kinds, the sign of reverence is also made before receiving the Precious Blood.

And no one ever questioned anyone’s right to receive HC kneeling or said anyone should be denied. The point in question was nicely covered in this Article from Zenit

An English reader asked about the Communion procession: “Where the practice has been introduced of the faithful queuing to receive holy Communion standing, do individuals have a right to receive the Host kneeling down or is the priest entitled to insist that they stand? If the faithful are permitted to receive in a kneeling position, is each individual who wishes to do so entitled to kneel at the altar rail, or must he do so in the queue as his turn arrives?”

There are two question involved. The short answer to the question if the individual may choose to receive kneeling is yes. He may do so and may not be refused Communion for adopting this posture. There might be occasions when charity requires that a Catholic sacrifice his personal devotion for the good of others, and so receive standing, but in general it is no great problem.

The present liturgy sees the faithful as coming to receive Communion in processional form (not quite a queue). And so the proper thing to do would be to await one’s turn if that is the only way foreseen for the distribution of Communion.

However, a pastor may freely offer the faithful the possibility of using the Communion rail once they have arrived at the entrance to the presbytery, if he so desires.


Personally, I would love to see a return to distributing Holy Communion at the altar rail for three reasons: 1. There is a less chance of desecration (i.e. parishioners dropping the Sacred Host or Precious Blood on the floor or pocketing the Host for, um, “later use?”). 2.) Relating to point # 1, a greater reverence and devotion to the Eucharist will result, I believe. 3.) By having the altar rail restored, we have a physical representation that the altar area, though a part of the sanctuary, is particularly special because that is where Our Lord resides in the tabernacle and where the unbloody sacrifice of the Mass occurs. This area is meant to be treated with utmost respect. I can’t tell you how many times after Mass, parents will allow their children to climb up on the altar area and jump around as if it were a jungle jim-

I am all for communion on the tongue at the altar rail!

I second this. Not sure how one would go about it, but it sounds like an excellant idea.:thumbsup:


This is exactly the kind of statement that I created the poll here to address because it simply makes no sense.

I cannot think of any diocese anywhere in the country where there would be no onewanting the EF. In addition there are obviously many people who are unconcerned which form is used and would be just as happy with the EF as the OF.

Years ago we heard in politics about the “silent majority”. While I won’t say there is a majority, I will say that there is bound to be a significant minority in Any diocese that is, at least, interested in the EF.

Hopefully the Diocesean leaders will come to the understanding that they really don’t have anything to fear from the EF.


When I read the bishops statement in our diocesan newspaper followed two weeks later by the chancellor’s editorial…I work in state government. “Acknowledges” is bureaucratese for I’m not going to do a bloomin’ thing about it.

We have one indult parish with one low Mass each Sunday. We have a cathedral choir that already sings in Latin and a rector who ordained in the 50s. Father is definitely interested but I get the sense he doesn’t want to “buck” the bishop.

Our congregation is defintely traditional and largely composed of many people who grew up before Vatican II. We would have problems (which could be overcome) since our cathedral was one of the first to be “renovated” after V II. The old high altar was torn out but other parishes have limped through with adaptations.

II think that this statement is terribly naive. More than a few Bishops, actually more than quite a few loathe the Traditional Mass and wish it had never been brought back. They proved that repeatedly throughout the years of the indult, severely restricting the availability of the Traditional Mass and limiting where it could be said, even if other locations were available and amenable to having it celebrated there. I lived through that one, going to Mass in a mauseleum that was woefully inadequite for the numbers that attended, for years when several area Churches were willing to have the Mass in their Parish

Other Diocese required that you have a certain number that attended at all times. If not, permission could be rescinded. Yet another tried to restrict attending it only to people who had been adults and attending at the time of the change. The cardinal in that instance was put in his place quite swiftly by the way. But yet the Traditional Mass suffered in his area greatly. Other dioceses required that the mass be celebrated at different places and different times every week. To many of the Bishops it made absolutely no difference if the faithful wanted it or not. They saw it as a step backward and a step towards disunity within the Church.

True enough there were many Bishops who threw their support behind it but many did not. I doubt they will now either. And I don’t think that many Priests are going to buck the Bishop in order to celebrate one when the Bishop has already said he doesn’t want one celebrated.

And many have said just that, Not wanted, not needed and not here.

Well I’ll just have to be naive then because I keep hoping for consiliation rather than confrontation regarding the valid forms of the mass.
So long as the Holy Father continues to encourage use of the EF changes will come. Even if we have to wait for Bishops to be replaced, Changes will come. Seminaries will begin to school in both forms, people will discover/rediscover the beauties of the EF and changes will come.
Maybe my naivite (sp) is because I take a long term view of things and don’t expect rapid change. Rather I hope for Christian cooperation.


I hope that you are right but I believe in this instance there would have to be a near total changing of the guard before any meaningful change can occur that lasts.

And lets be honest. I adore the Holy Father, but he is not a young man. Who knows who will replace him and what direction they will want to take the Church in?

That’s what I worry about, too, because he has done so much for the Church in three short years. But, he seems to look more energetic as teh months have gone by and he’s not showing any signs that the Benedict train is slowing down.

He remains focused on his mission, trying to steer this liturgical ship right, from the language to the posture to the music.

Remember, Pope Leo XIII wasn’t exactly a young man when he was elected Pope, and, he showed no signs of slowing down at all. He brought about some great things.

Why not Aramaic.

That’s the language that Jesus spoke. What’s so special about Latin?

Latin is the Universal Language of the Church because it has been used, along with Greek, from its earliest days. Remember, Latin was the language of the Roman empire, the same empire that ruled over Palestine and Judea. It is safe to assume that Jesus must have spoken some Latin since he lived in Capernaum, a rather metropolitan sea town where many cultures converged. Peter must have also spoken some Greek and Latin since, as archeology has shown, he owned a fairly decent house and must have made a comfortable living as a fisherman. Furthermore, Jesus must have had to have spoken Latin since the procurator, Pontius Pilate, would not have “demeaned” himself to address his “subjects” in their language.

Remember, too, that the Roman empire just didn’t limit itself to Italy and the Mediterreanean. The British Isles, Greece, what is now Turkey, Arabia and France (then known as Gaul) also formed part of the Roman empire. And, what language was spoken in these areas? Latin. The Church is Catholic, universal, and the language to communicate had to be universal. Therefore, it was Latin.

When Constantine legitimized Christianity, it gave the Church a huge boost.

Latin is still used today, not only in the Church, but in biology. When a new species is found, it is given its name in Latin. Many of our legal terms come from Latin.

All of the Church’s documents are written in Latin. Why? Since it is a “dead” (read: unchanging) language, it is stable. You don’t have to worry about slang and idioms cloudning up the words. It is consistent. Why not share in the language of our Fathers in the faith?

I do not like the idea of reform. The switch back to latin is not going to be a welcome one. Though I personally think latin is beautiful as a language it is not the preferred language in this country. I would feel as if getting less out of mass by having to speak in latin and disrupt the natural flow of the language I have learned. The religious experience is based on the english vernacular for me, and other native languages depending on where you are from. This is what makes the church accessible.

The Holy Father can do what he wishes, but I do think that bringing back latin and changing things back to reflect “the old way” is counter productive in the measure to ensure the church will endure the test of these times.

I don’t speak Latin, don’t want to learn Latin, am not going to learn Latin and am happy with French or English.

Rome is gone, Latin with it. No?

Please do not take offense, but, both you and onetimeposter appear to have a sad and misguided notion of what the Holy Father is doing, especially with respect to Latin. Latin is the language of the Church; the Holy Father is simply re-affirming that.

To say that just because the Roman empire is gone so should Latin is a very tragic way of looking at the Church.

This is the explanation behind the Benedictine reforms given by the Holy Father’s Master of Ceremonies, Msgr. Guido Marini. This should serve to enlighten you:

«As for terms like “preconciliar” and “postconciliar” that are used by some, it seems to me that these belong to an outdated language, and if they are used with the intention of indicating a discontinuity in the Church’s journey, I maintain that they are mistaken and typical of highly reductive ideological views. There are “old things and new things” that belong to the treasury of the Church of all time, and must be considered as such. The wise man is able to find both of these in his treasury, without appealing to other criteria apart from those of the Gospel and the Church. Not all that is new is true, nor is all that is old. The truth spans old and new, and it is for this that we must strive, without prejudice. The Church lives according to the law of continuity in virtue of which it recognizes development rooted in tradition. What is most important is that everything work together so that the liturgical celebration truly is the celebration of the sacred mystery, of the crucified and risen Lord who becomes present in his Church, reenacting the mystery of salvation and calling us, in the logic of an authentic and active participation, to share to the full in his own life, which is a life given in love to the Father and to his brothers, a life of holiness.»

Regarding Latin, the Holy Father notes that:

In order to express more clearly the unity and universality of the Church, I wish to endorse the proposal made by the Synod of Bishops, in harmony with the directives of the Second Vatican Council, (182) that, with the exception of the readings, the homily and the prayer of the faithful, it is fitting that such liturgies be celebrated in Latin. Similarly, the better-known prayers (183) of the Church’s tradition should be recited in Latin and, if possible, selections of Gregorian chant should be sung. Speaking more generally, I ask that future priests, from their time in the seminary, receive the preparation needed to understand and to celebrate Mass in Latin, and also to use Latin texts and execute Gregorian chant; nor should we forget that the faithful can be taught to recite the more common prayers in Latin, and also to sing parts of the liturgy to Gregorian chant. (184)

The Second Vatican Council never, never abrogated the use of Latin. In fact, Latin is the default language; the vernacular is the option, meaning that the readings should be in the language of the people. No one is disputing that. However, there are those who are quite imbibed with the alleged spirit of the Council who do not even know what the documents have actually said, as the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger notes:

The Constitution on the Liturgy itself does not say a word about celebrating Mass facing the altar or facing the people. And on the subject of language, it says Latin ought to be preserved while giving greater space to the vernacular “especially in the readings and directives, and in some of the prayers and chants” [quoting SC 36.2].

These comments by the Holy Father don’t contradict what many of us are saying. However, they don’t support any of your assertions.

Incidentally, if you want to get rid of Latin, then, what would you call the Rite we currently have now? Remember, we are the Latin Rite Church.

So because you have no interest in Latin, everyone else should be denied it also?

I never said that.

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