The outcry from Catholic conservatives and self-styled “Traditionalists” over Pope Francis’s decision to restore restrictions on the unreformed, pre-1970 Latin version of the Mass has been so angry and anguished that it has obscured several important realities about this controversy.
Those realities are critical to understanding this drama of near-schismatic proportions, what is in fact at stake, and why Francis did what he did. Let me flag three of the main misconceptions.
First, the pope has not prohibited priests from saying Mass in Latin. In fact, the standard official version of the current missal is in … Latin. Various parts of the world use translations into the vernacular from this basic text, which can also be used to say Mass in Latin. What Pope Francis has restricted is the rite that was codified after the Council of Trent (1545-1563) and promulgated by Pope Pius V in 1570. The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) called for the liturgy to be updated and renewed, and in 1970 – four hundred years after the Tridentine missal – Pope Paul VI promulgated a new missal, the one nearly all Catholics around the world follow at Mass in their own language. Priests can still celebrate “the Latin Mass,” just with the new format and formulas which express a different ecclesiology and theology than the older version. “If you like the Latin Mass, you can keep the Latin Mass, because the Missal of Paul VI is the Latin Mass,” Adam Rasmussen, an adjunct professor of theology, wrote at the blog Where Peter Is.
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With thanks to David Gibson and Sapientia.