Pope Francis, Ratzinger, and the Problem of the Liturgy of the Mass

Editor’s Note: Pope Francis, in a recent address, claimed that the “liturgical reform [i.e. the Novus Ordo Mass] is irreversible.” Vatican specialist Sandro Magister has said that many interpreted these words “as a halt ordered by Pope Francis to the presumed reverse course signaled by Benedict XVI with the 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.” Magister also subsequently published parts of an article written by Cardinal Robert Sarah on the matter of the two forms of the Latin Rite of the Mass. It is in this context that Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, former president of the Vatican Bank, has written his own reflection on the matter of the Mass. We consider it an important contribution to the discussion and thus present here a translation, edited for our audience, of his original Italian article published last month at Formiche.net. Gotti Tedeschi will also be a speaker at the upcoming 14 September Summorum Pontificum Conference, together with Cardinal Gerhard Müller and Cardinal Robert Sarah.

The current pontiff (Francis) recently affirmed that he considers the liturgical reform, initiated by Vatican II, “irreversible.” This irreversibility sounds like a challenge, if not a censure, to the former pontiff, (Benedict XVI), who had authorized the celebration of the pre-conciliar mass with his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. In these days, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship himself, Cardinal Sarah, proposed (in an interview with the monthly journal La Nef) a liturgical reconciliation aimed at integrating the pre-conciliar liturgical rite with the conciliar one.

Well, the reader will say, why should these “clerical conflicts” matter to us? With all the problems there are, why should we preoccupy ourselves with the liturgy? Are we not helplessly witnessing the collapse of a civilization, of a culture, and of moral values, and they are wasting our time with discussions about the liturgy? But what if the liturgy of the Mass was a key element to explain everything? NOM (Nuovo Ordine Mondial [New World Order]) and NOM (Novus Ordo Missae [New Order of the Mass]) coincide both in their acronyms and their times of implementation. It is good to reflect on this debate, which is not about the form, but about the substance (of the liturgy), which is not at all the same in the two cases cited above, and the one in question is about the consequent effects, on the conduct (also economic) of the faithful, which affects the whole of society, not just Catholics.

Let us refer now, to explain with an example, to the relationship between the liturgy and the economy. Since the economy is in itself a neutral instrument that produces good or bad as a function of how it is used, it is important not only to know how to use it, but how to give it meaning, an end. This meaning is a function of the meaning that is given to life itself, a function of what is believed, of the faith that is held and is wanted to be lived. The faith we are speaking of conquers and revives thanks to the Church’s Magisterium, to prayer and the Sacraments. Among these, the first is the Mass, whose value is a function of the liturgy used, which makes it become, or not, the source of all the graces needed for the works of the faithful. For this reason, the liturgy of the Mass strengthens the faith and becomes an “incubator” for the aspirations to that personal holiness from which the whole of society benefits.

The economy should be able to satisfy some human needs thanks to the consumption and instruments of labor with which man achieves. But the economy only works if man has identified and knows how to satisfy his true global needs, which are, in addition to material ones, intellectual and spiritual ones. If this does not happen and only material satisfaction is favored, the economic medium takes on a “moral autonomy” and degenerates, causing economic crises, and these, yes, are “irreversible” and damaging. As we have seen in recent decades.

I have tried to explain that the spiritual need (for the Catholic) is satisfied above all by the Sacraments, the Mass is the most important of these, and the liturgy makes the Mass fit or not for what it is supposed to accomplish, to foster thanks, given that the liturgy is substance, not form. By “corrupting” the liturgy of the Mass, adapting it to the supposed need for it to be simplified (as is often the case with the conciliar liturgical rite, left too much to the “creativity” of individual celebrants) and by reducing, relativizing, and often confusing the value of the Sacrament, there is a risk of depriving those who participate of the aforementioned spiritual nourishment, because the purpose of the Mass is not to be celebrated, but to change man by influencing his behavior.

The liturgy can be corrupted by the acts performed in celebrating the Mass, in the words spoken, in the positions of the priest, in the prayers recited, in the chants, in the thanksgiving, in the intentions to renew the Sacrifice, etc. All of this fosters the inner participation of those attending, which gives validity to the purpose of the Mass. By desacralizing the Mass, it is evident that the moral crisis that is therefore created causes a crisis in behavior, specifically in the economy, which is more sensitive to moral guidance. Hence, the material misery caused by the moral crisis is not “the economy that kills”, but rather, man who uses it poorly because he gives it an errant meaning.

The liturgy of the Mass that Benedict XVI had granted with his motu proprio was not to please “four traditionalists”, it was to save and make available a valuable means that is certain to create the fullness of wealth for man. To prohibit it would be to create the risk of losing the meaning of life, and thus, of total poverty. Without the meaning of life, the economy becomes an end in itself, only oriented to material satisfaction. An economy whose ethics lack a strong and lively faith can hardly stand. After all, why should one do good if evil gives one more advantages? Especially if one allows oneself to believe they are “justified”?

The liturgy and economics are indirectly correlated, the common element being the heart of man, which is nourished by the former and gives meaning to the latter. The Conference on Summorum Pontificum, with the presence of Cardinal [Robert] Sarah and Cardinal [Gerhard] Müller, will be held in Rome on September 14 [2017] (at the Angelicum).

Translation Mr. Andrew Guernsey

Print Friendly, PDF & Email