A death blow for the Latin Mass?

What the drastic restriction of the traditional form of worship means.

Should the Catholic Church adapt to the world or are there immutable beliefs and practices? The debate on this question took place during the Second Vatican Council (1962 to 1965). In the end, it was decided to adapt to fashion and the spirit of the times. One risked openly saying goodbye to the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church. The most visible expression of this hapless reform Council is the new liturgy. It was supposed to be the showcase of the renewed and cosmopolitan Church.

The flip side of the new openness was the suppression of the Mass that had been in force until then. Although it is quite clear in Canon Law that "the Latin Mass cannot be forbidden and can be celebrated for all time", there was even a misconception among the clergy and the faithful that it was forbidden. A rupture occurred.

Even Pope Francis notes this: the different views on the liturgy correlate with different theological views. The accusation of schism is back in the room. Clown, animal and toy masses are allowed, but the traditional liturgy is subject to ridiculous and draconian conditions. The cosmopolitanism of the church seems to appeal only to the old generation. The ranks of the new liturgy are empty or occupied by an over-aged clientele. It is different in the tradition.

In France, a third of vocations now come from the environment of the old Latin Mass. In England, a few days ago, a diocesan bishop had to admit: 80 per cent of his young priests want the old Latin Mass. In the USA, an archbishop declares that all his "Novus Ordo" parishes are "dead". On the other hand, the parishes where the old Mass is said fill their pews even during the week with young people, with families and with children. Pope Benedict XVI recognised this phenomenon of a substantially growing following of the old Mass and tried to make peace with a far-reaching permission.

Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (1905 to 1991) (excommunicated for a time by the Pope), whom the Viennese nuncio Donato Squicciarini (1927 to 2006) called "one of the greatest missionary figures in the history of the Church", strictly rejected the new Mass with its sometimes questionable tendencies. He called for fairness and wished that the "experiment of tradition" should be allowed.

The priestly fraternity founded by Archbishop Lefebvre has now taken over the pastoral care of the venerable Vienna Minorite Church. Thus Vienna becomes a central point of traditional renewal. Quality usually prevails. And the old Latin Mass is of tried and proven quality, not simply a theological fashion. The Roman Curia used to think in centuries. As the Romans used to say, "Morto un papa se ne fa un altro." Loosely translated: Popes come and go, the Catholic remains. The old Latin Mass is not contemporary. That is its salvation.

Father Stefan Frey is District Superior of the Society of St. Pius X in Austria, a priestly association of Catholic traditionalists that rejects the Second Vatican Council and has had no canonical status in the Roman Catholic Church since 1975.