You know that Pope Benedict XVI, he is such a wild and crazy fundamentalist. I cannot, for the life of me, understand precisely why the Tridentine Mass is such a flashpoint for so many modern and postmodern Roman Catholics. Perhaps that is because we are dealing with a premodern rite, but that's a whole other discussion. Maybe I have trouble grasping this controversy because, well, you know, I go to a church that still celebrates the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.
Don't get me wrong, I know that the Tridentine stories have something to do with fears that the "spirit" of Vatican II has been crushed and I know that this is connected to battles over the ordination of women, the sexual revolution, academic freedom for "Catholic theologians" who disagree with Catholic teachings and a bunch of other stuff. But if diversity is a good thing, what is wrong with offering Catholics the Tridentine Rite (if that is what they choose to attend)?
Speculation is growing that Pope Benedict XVI will soon celebrate the traditional Latin Mass in St Peterâ€™s Basilica, from which it has been banished for decades. The date suggested is the first Sunday in Advent, December 2.
If the Pope does use the ancient liturgy, it will be a moment of huge significance for the Church. And it will infuriate the trendy Tablet magazine, whose Rome correspondent Robert Mickens is in a terrible flap at the prospect.
Mickens is famous as the Catholic commentator who dissolved into tears of disappointment when Joseph Ratzinger's name came booming over the loudspeakers after the conclave. These days he wanders around Rome with the pursed lips of a maiden aunt, pinching his nostrils to keep out the clouds of traditionalist incense that come billowing out of the Vatican.
"People who are interested in such things continue to speculate that Pope Benedict will soon celebrate the Tridentine Mass in St Peter's Basilica," he announces in his Tablet notebook this week. What a deliciously snooty turn of phrase. I hate to remind you, Robert, but the "people" in question include the Pope. Here, borrow my hanky.
This is snark about snark, and I know that. But you know that a media storm is on the way if Big Ben does approach the high altar in St. Peter's and elects to face east.
Meanwhile, worship stories do seem to be confusing to many journalists, since they concern rites that are connected to complicated issues of canon law and tradition.
Here is another strange story that I have wanted to mention for some time that is linked to another hot-button issue, which is Rome's stance on worship with other churches and other faiths. Check out this reference in a recent Religion News Service piece:
The pope will offer an ecumenical Mass in Naples's main piazza, then have lunch with about 200 religious leaders, including the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople, the chief rabbi of Israel and the Muslim rector of Al-Azhar University in Egypt.
Uh, I'm confused. What in the world is an "ecumenical Mass"?
Is this a Mass that involves Eastern Rite Catholics, Anglican Rite Catholics and representatives of other rites that are in communion with Rome? A Mass in which leaders of other churches attend, but do not take Communion? Did the reporter mean "interfaith" instead of "ecumenical," which would open up another set of questions?