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lost in translation

By Diogenes (bio - articles ) | Mar 05, 2009

In his internet chat during the annual Religious Education Congress-- you know, that one-- Cardinal Roger Mahony was asked for his thoughts on the Tridentine Mass. His answer:

Ann: The Tridentine Mass was meant for those who could not make the transition from Latin to English [or other languages] after the Council. But there is no participation by the people, and I don't believe that instills the spirit of Christ among us.

Let's take that answer one phrase at a time:

The Tridentine Mass...

Pope Benedict prefers to speak of the "extraordinary form," to convey the message that this is a fully authorized form of the Roman ritual. Cardinal Mahony could have mentioned a reference to the "Tridentine" rite is a bit outmoded; he could even have used "the extraordinary form" himself, without making a point of it. He didn't.

...was meant for...

What was the Tridentine Mass "meant for" prior to the Council? There was a reason-- or rather a large number of reasons-- for the use of that ritual over the centuries. Did those reasons disappear in the 1960s? 

...those who could not make the transition from Latin to English [or other languages] after the Council.

Find a church were the extraordinary form is used, and you'll notice that there are young people in the congregation. If a 20-year-old prefers the extraordinary form, it's not because he failed to make a "transition" after the Council; at the time of transition he wasn't yet alive. Since the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum many Catholics have become acquainted with the Latin Mass for the first time; the only "transition" in their lives has been from English to Latin, not in the other direction.

But there is no participation by the people,...

Complaints about a lack of "active participation" are frequently leveled against the older ritual. But the cardinal goes further, saying that there is no lay participation. The people in the pews are doing absolutely nothing, then? That's an astonishing statement! The cardinal is advancing the insulting and thoroughly un-Catholic notion that if someone is quietly, prayerfully recollected-- not dancing in the aisles, not playing the guitar, not serving as a 'minister of greeting'-- he can't be participating in the Sacrifice. 

...and I don't believe that instills the spirit of Christ among us.

Does the extraordinary form allow for a valid Mass? Does Jesus Christ become physically present on the altar? If so, then the cardinal's statement here is nonsense; of course this Sacrifice instills the Spirit in the faithful. If not, then the Church was deprived of the Eucharist for centuries-- in which case the Catholic Church is not what she claims to be. So we have a choice to make here: Either Cardinal Mahony is speaking nonsense, or the Church is speaking nonsense. And if the Church is all nonsense, why listen to a cardinal anyway?  

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