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Extraordinary Form: What are people afraid of?

  /   Saturday May 14, 2011  

This week, I got the news that a new letter of instruction was released on the celebration of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form from the Ecclesia Dei commission and approved by Pope Benedict.  This came as kind of a clarification on Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict’s letter authorizing wider use of the rite.  In both texts, the Holy Father is asking for wider availability of the older form for those who request it.

When Summorum Pontificum was published in 2007, it generated a variety of reactions.  Bishop Burbidge of Raleigh, NC welcomed it.  Meanwhile, in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, a strange list of “norms” was published regarding its use that seem to defeat the purpose of the Holy Father’s decree.  In fact, what I’ve read about this past week’s new letter seem to have been written to specifically counter what they are saying in Cincinnati.

Here’s my question:  Why are there people so afraid of allowing the celebration of the Extraordinary Form?  Pope Benedict is only asking for it to be made available for those who desire it.  What is the problem that a bishop or an office of worship in a diocese would need to set up such barriers?

Well, there is one legitimate concern.  Some people who favor the old rite do so because they don’t respect the validity of the Ordinary Form of the Mass.  This is a form of dissent against the Church that cannot be supported.  The new instruction addresses this by saying that groups such as these should not be accommodated.  The purpose of Summorum Pontificum was to promote reconciliation, not schism.

Do people (whether laity, priests, or the local bishop) worry that priests, especially younger ones, will just up and decide that they aren’t going to offer the Ordinary Form anymore?  This is highly unlikely.  The greater availability of the Extraordinary Form is for people who request it.  If there is not a group of people requesting it, it’s difficult to imagine priests eager to impose it on them.  Are people going to want the Extraordinary Form in such numbers that priests everywhere will be compelled to offer it?  I doubt this.  Too many people (out of ignorance, mostly) believe that the Extraordinary Form is a relic of the Dark Ages.

Do people have some problem with the Extraordinary Form? If so, what?  It had been the only form of the Roman Rite for centuries, and it is a very beautiful rite.  Whenever I have been, I see people who truly want to be at Mass and give worship to God.  So, I ask (please feel free to comment), what are we afraid of?

Category: Catholic, Liturgy, Response



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