In the previous installment of this series, we dealt with the numbers of the faithful willing to attend a Traditional Latin Mass regularly. Obviously there must be priests who are able to celebrate this form of the Mass.
Contrary to what some chancery operative would have you believe, the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum does not require such a command of Latin as to recite the works of Cicero from memory; simply the ability to competently use the text of the traditional Roman Missal, to follow the Latin rubrics, and to pronounce the spoken text correctly, with sufficient comprehension. (Since much of the English vocabulary is based on Latin, it's not as arduous a task as certain people make it out to be.) And, just so there's no misunderstanding...
[T]he Roman Missal promulgated by St Pius V and reissued by Bl John XXIII is to be [...] given due honour for its venerable and ancient usage... It is, therefore, permissible to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass following the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Bl John XXIII in 1962 and never abrogated... [E]ach Catholic priest of the Latin rite, whether secular or regular, may use the Roman Missal published by Bl Pope John XXIII in 1962... For such celebrations [...], the priest has no need for permission from the Apostolic See or from his Ordinary...
I would like to draw attention to the fact that this Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted.
All over the country, all over the world, priests are flocking to houses of study and seminaries, to seminars and websites, ordering books and DVDs, all to learn the Traditional Mass. They can't very well return to the seminary to learn to say Mass all over again, unless their bishop sends them to a place like the Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Nebraska for a week (which many do). All told, the ancient rite is slowly making its way into the lives of mainstream Catholic parishes.
Too slowly, if the internet chatter is any indication. Beyond those situations where chancery bureaucrats set up arbitrary (if not illicit) roadblocks, for want of anything better to do, there are still some practical (there's that word again) considerations.
First and foremost, consider that without Summorum Pontificum ever seeing the light of day, the typical parish priest works six days a week. Let's repeat that: Six. Days. A. Week. Most of those workdays easily run from ten to twelve hours each. The shortest day for most, in terms of hours, is Sunday. Even that one starts early, and consists of several hours of meeting the constant demands of one person or group after the other -- all before lunch. If you've ever wondered why a rectory is the last place to find a priest on a Sunday afternoon, now you know.
I am not saying there are not priests who make the time. I am saying this is what they generally have to overcome when they make the time.
So let's imagine that a young family with several children in tow visit the pastor. They make a reasonable request along the lines of the aforementioned decree, for an additional Mass, to an already full schedule on Sunday morning. They are also able to assure Father that several dozen other families -- most of them from other parishes, whom Father does not normally serve, and over whom he has no pastoral authority -- will also be willing to attend. Now, Father cannot say more than three Masses on a Sunday except for an emergency. This is not an emergency. Father also knows that most of his parishioners (those whom he IS obligated to serve) like things the way they are just fine. God only knows why, but they do. Oh, it can't be too late in the day, Father, since little John Paul has to go down for his nap just after noon. Father is thinking about that already-crowded schedule, and how he would really like to accommodate these folks. In fact, he rather favors the Old Mass himself. Now, if only he could unbolt the altar weighing two tons from its location and move it back about six or eight feet...
At times like these, forty years of clowns and balloons and dancing girls and other worst-case scenarios that don't happen nearly as much as you wish they would to prove your point, aren't even an issue. It really comes down to the simple matter of adding another obligation to an already-full schedule -- all on the assumption that the person being prevailed upon has the same enthusiasm for the idea as does his petitioners.
But let's give ourselves some latitude for the moment. Suppose a change in the Sunday Mass schedule, rather than an addition, is actually on the table. After all, a pastor who is dedicated to Benedict XVI's vision for restoration of the sacred, cannot overlook the possibility, regardless of whether the pastoral council gets wind of it. This is also a big issue for families with young children. The best time for them to start seems to be anywhere from eight in the morning, to (maybe, just maybe) as late as ten. After that, the young ones tend to get cranky, as it is coming up on nap time. The parents could probably use a nap as well.
So why doesn't a parish schedule the Traditional Mass for an earlier time? The Pope says we're entitled to this, right?
Here's where thinking in a vacuum has its disadvantages. Let's say a typical parish has a Sunday Mass schedule with starting times at 7:30, 9:00, 10:30, and 12:00 (which is possible at a large parish with at least two priests available). Let's say the pastor is in a position to replace one of those with a Traditional Mass, as opposed to adding to the schedule. Why does he pick the 12:00 noon Mass for that purpose, as this would be inconvenient? Why not replace the 9:00 or the 10:30? It is here that we step out of the vacuum and consider how others are affected. For one thing, the alleged riff-raff of "novus ordo Catholics" who already attend the 9:00 and the 10:30 have children as well, who get just as cranky around nap time. Mommy and Daddy are also active parishioners who contribute financially -- one of the precepts of the Church, not exactly a "novus ordo" concept -- whereas the majority of attendees at a Traditional Mass, for the foreseeable future, may largely hail from neighboring parishes. Maybe they'll contribute financially; maybe they won't.
If you were the pastor, would you bet the ability to pay next month's bills on it?
Finally, a Traditional Mass, in particular a High Mass, can run over an hour quite easily, which can throw off the whole schedule afterwards. Does that mean we make the 12:00 Mass into the 12:30? Shouldn't those affected be considered? Coming from outside the parish, do we care? And if we don't, what does that say about us? What it says about a pastor, is that he is left with knowing that everybody is entitled to something, not just people who want the Old Mass. He also knows that his main obligation to the care of souls, is primarily in the area where he serves -- usually a geographic territory known as a "parish."
Okay. Say we've gotten past all that, and we have a regularly scheduled Traditional Mass, at a regular parish, on a Sunday morning. Now the real work begins...
There is not only the matter of the priest being trained to do so properly, but that of boys or men (not girls or women, as we are concerned with conditions under the older observance) who are trained to serve the Mass. The reformed Roman Missal does not require a designated clerk for assistance; the classical Roman Missal does. If the host parish uses albs for vesture, and you just can't imagine the sight of that*, it may fall to you to provide cassocks and surplices. The requirements for priestly vesture are also more demanding in the classical form. If the parish cannot fulfill those requirements, will your "stable group" be able to make it happen? If you want a High Mass at any one time, there has to be a schola, or at the very least, a cantor who is schooled in Gregorian chant**, and who is able to lead the chants of the Ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria, et cetera), as well as sing the propers for the Mass (Introit, Gradual, et cetera).
I know what you're all thinking...
A typical response to the above scenario at some point, is that special parishes should be established, dedicated solely to offering the Traditional Mass and Sacraments, and staffed exclusively by priests from Traditional orders like the Fraternity, or the Institute of Christ the King. Obviously the bishops are not willing to have them in their dioceses, or these orders would be setting up shop all over the place by now. And while no one admits it, this would appear to be a more convenient alternative than that other one. After all, with our own parishes, we can live happily ever after, and the rest of the "novus ordo church" can go to hell in a handbasket. Something like that, right?
It all looks so simple. Too simple, really.
That's why I spoke with a source close to the Fraternity, on the condition of their anonymity.
The major focus of such orders right now, is on the training of diocesan priests to celebrate the Traditional Mass themselves. While arguably a short-term solution, it has been determined to be the best one for the immediate future. As to the long haul, there are numerous requests from bishops to have these orders come to their dioceses and administer special parishes. This is where the short-term solution comes in, since these same orders currently lack the sheer numbers to fulfill the requests they are getting. Some dioceses have been informed that the wait could be as long as ten years! So, it's a great idea, but it won't happen tomorrow. And lest we forget, we're usually talking about starting a new parish in an area which may already have enough, if not too many. An enormous amount of financial and human resources are involved in the transaction, on the assumption of a demand that may or may not exist. Sufficient compensation for the order administering the parish must be negotiated (and things have been known to break down on this point). With any luck, a suitable parish in the inner city that is nearly abandoned but still serviceable, would be available for a Traditional order to take over. Maybe a few generous benefactors will step forward. Maybe people from the suburbs would be willing to drive into the city. Maybe they will have a safe place to park. It can happen, but this or something like it is what probably has to happen.
In the meantime, the Holy Father does not wish the Traditional Mass to be the exclusive domain of specially-created parishes, but ultimately be a component of the worship life of all Roman Rite parishes. In the larger context, he envisions the Traditional Mass as the spearhead of the eventual counter-reform of the Roman Rite, whatever set of books is used. (We keep forgetting that part, don't we?)
All told, the endeavor will still require diocesan priests to be trained to celebrate the Traditional Mass. It isn't happening as quickly as some people would like. Why it isn't happening, and a more detailed account of what it would take for it to happen, is a subject for our fourth installment.
* In Eastern Europe, the use of surplices over street clothes, without the use of cassocks, is not uncommon. In Australia, the use of albs instead of cassocks and surplices is not uncommon either.
** It is preferable that the schola consist entirely of men, as they are functioning as surrogates for minor clerics. In the event that only women are available, it is preferable that the schola be composed entirely of women. Either case would ensure what is known as "purity of sound." If you have to ask what that is, you are at a disadvantage in challenging this point.