The Motu Proprio

My non-Catholic readers might not be aware of the buzz that has been going around the Catholic blogosphere for many months about Pope Benedict XVI’s intention to issue a motu proprio (meaning a document he’s issuing in his own name, on his own authority) giving much greater freedom to priests to celebrate mass according to the Missal of 1962 (the last edition of the “Latin Mass” celebrated prior to Vatican II). John Allen of National Catholic Reporter gives us the latest (via Amy).

The remarks from Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, came in an address to the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean. …

Castrillón’s speech at the CELAM meeting marks the first time the cardinal has publicly confirmed that such a move is imminent. Castrillón said that under the terms of the pope’s decision, the older liturgies will become “an extraordinary form of the one Roman rite.” …

“This is a generous offering by the Vicar of Christ, who, as an expression of his pastoral will, wants to make available to the church all the treasures of the Latin liturgy, which, through the centuries, have nourished the spiritual life of so many generations of the Catholic faithful,” Castrillón said.

This is not “going backwards,” he said, but a matter of conservation.

That’s not how many Catholics will view it, however (including Cardinal Roger Mahony, no doubt).

And most Catholics will be surprised by Castrillón’s claim that the old mass “was never abolished.” Those who were around in the 60s and 70s remember the rapidity with which change was instituted, altars turned around, communion rails ripped out, and statues smashed with a vengeance and animosity rivaling that of the Reformation era. Others will remember priests in our day forbidden by their bishop from celebrating mass according to the old rite, such as Fr. Steve Zigrang of Houston, or people scolded in public for kneeling (Bishop Tod Brown was caught on camera doing so). So perhaps this motu proprio should come with an apology to those who were treated so shamefully by bishops and priests–if it “was never abolished,” then how did these things happen?