Monday, July 09, 2007

Statement on the "Tridentiane"

We fully welcome with respect and appreciation the recent Apostolic Letter of Pope Benedict XVI on the “Tridentine” Mass. It clarifies for us the status of the Tridentine Mass in the Latin Language.

In accordance with the Apostolic Letter (“Motu proprio”) entitled “Summorum Pontificum” of Pope Benedict XVI, the celebration of the so-called Tridentine Mass, which is in the Latin language, as approved by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1962 continues to be fully permissible as an extraordinary form of the Mass. The Tridentine Mass was never forbidden or abrogated.

The so-called “New Mass” which was introduced after the Second Vatican Council and approved by Pope Paul VI in 1970 has become more popular among the people because it allowed the use of some approved adaptations, including the use of the popular languages and dialects. It became the ordinary form of the Mass, widely celebrated in the parish churches.

When may the Tridentine (Latin) Mass be celebrated? According to the letter of Pope Benedict XVI, it may be celebrated by catholic priests of the Latin Rite: a) in private masses, b) in conventual or community mass in accordance with the specific statutes of the Congregation, c) in parishes upon request of the faithful and under the guidance of the bishop (in accordance with Canon 392). In such Masses, however, the readings may be given in the vernacular.

This permission given by Pope Benedict XVI means that the Mass in Latin and in accordance with the formula of the Council of Trent, hence Tridentine, with the celebrant’s back to the faithful may be celebrated, as it was never forbidden or abrogated. For new priests, this will require formation in the Latin Mass.

Now, we are instructed that in the liturgy of the Mass, there is the ordinary form which is that approved by Pope Paul VI in 1970 after the Vatican II; and there is the extraordinary form—the Tridentine (Latin) Mass which is that approved by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1962. The two forms will have their way of leading the faithful to the true worship of God in prayer and liturgy; and may even be a factor for unity in the Church.

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President


Fr Sean Coyle said...

PO Box 588, 6100 BACOLOD CITY
Tel/fax: 034 - 446 0531 Email:

7 July 2007

Most Rev. Angel N. Lagdameo, DD

Dear Archbishop Lagdameo,

Greetings from Bacolod City. This is a response to your statement on the Apostolic Letter of Pope Benedict on the use of the Missal promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962.

Pope John’s Missal was ‘descended’ from that promulgated by Pope St Pius V in 1570 in response to the Council of Trent (1545-1563). The term ‘Tridentine Mass’, though widely used and understood, is inaccurate, as the Missal wasn’t prepared by the Council. Indeed, you refer in your statement to the ‘so-called Tridentine Mass’. The motu proprio of Benedict XVI constantly refers to the Missal promulgated by Blessed Pope John XXIII.

The Constitution on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, promulgated by Pope Paul VI on 4 December 1963, during Vatican II, says in No 36, 1: ‘Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites’. In other words, Latin is still the official language of the liturgy in the Latin or Roman Rite of the Church, to which Catholics in the Philippines belong.

36, 2, says, ‘But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down separately in subsequent chapters’. There is nothing about the use of ‘popular languages and dialects’, but the use of ‘the mother tongue’ ‘may be extended’.

I am of the opinion that the widespread use of English in the Mass in the Philippines is against both the letter and the spirit of the Missal that Pope Paul promulgated, and therefore against the letter and the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, since English is not the mother tongue of the vast majority of Filipinos. However, the Vatican has given permission for English to be used here. But should it be used so widely? I think that the CBCP has done irreparable harm to the culture and faith of Filipinos by pushing a foreign language, English, on the people in what is most sacred in their lives. Latin didn’t belong to any dominant political force such as the USA but to all the people of the Latin or Roman Rite of the Catholic Church as a language of worship.

Article 5 of the Apostolic Letter does indeed refer to ‘the guidance of the bishop in accordance with canon 392’ but articles 7 and 8 indicate very clearly that if a group of the faithful have difficulty in their request for use of the Mass promulgated by Blessed John XXIII being met, that the bishop is to bring the matter to Rome if he can’t deal with it himself.

I think that your choice of words ‘with the celebrant's back to the faithful’ is most unfortunate. I must confess that I often referred to the priest celebrating Mass ‘with his back to the people’ until I read some of the works of the then Cardinal Ratzinger. The priest and people facing ad orientem is a very different reality from the priest saying Mass ‘with his back to the people’. Nor did the Second Vatican Council or Pope Paul VI decree that the priest should face the people while celebrating Mass. The idea came later from liturgical bureaucrats.

I totally agree with what you say in the closing paragraph of your statement: ‘The two forms will have their way of leading the faithful to the true worship of God in prayer and liturgy’. I don’t think there will be a great demand in the Philippines for the celebration of Mass according to the Missal of Blessed John XXIII. But there is a great need for a reform of the way Mass is so often celebrated here.

I’ve often taken part in concelebrated Masses where priests were chatting even during Holy Communion. I’ve often seen priests join the Mass as ‘concelebrants’ long after the Mass has begun.

How often does the Sign of Peace become an occasion for an irreverent circus!

Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are very often totally unnecessary, particularly when there are priests, the ordinary ministers of Holy Communion, concelebrating. In one church where I have occasionally celebrated Mass the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion take the Blessed Sacrament from the altar during the Our Father, disappear behind the old main altar and then make their way down to the body of the church.

We still have the widespread phenomenon of ‘tabernacle Communions’ although, insofar as is possible, the people are supposed to receive from what is consecrated during the Mass they are attending. I’ve been a parish priest and I know that this can be done, without being scrupulous. What normally happens is a Communion service for some within the Sacrifice of the Mass. Last year at a priest’s funeral that I attended, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion brought many ciboria from the tabernacle, even though more than enough hosts had been consecrated at the Mass, and placed them on the altar. I wasn’t sure whether I was really celebrating Mass, whether I was receiving the Body of Christ as part of the Sacrifice of the Mass, or whether I was taking part in a Communion service led by totally unnecessary extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. This is truly abuse, grave disrespect to our Risen Lord and to the Sacrifice of the Mass and undermining the faith of the people and indeed of the priests. The priest being buried once told me that while visiting a man in hospital he offered to bring him Holy Communion. The patient, who was an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, opened the press beside the bed and showed the priest the consecrated Hosts he had there! Indeed, I think that being an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion is, for many, a status simple.

There is very little silence during Mass, although there are supposed to be such periods. I’ve been at Masses where up to three hymns were sung during the presentation of gifts. No silence whatever.

And we have so many intrusive ‘commentators’ treating both priest and people disrespectfully as little children by telling them to stand up and sit down. Their role, if they are needed at all, is only to give a brief, prepared introduction to the readings. I’ve experienced utterly bad manners from commentators, ignoring what the priest is saying, cutting across him. Often, while the priest is saying ‘Let us proclaim the mystery of our faith’ a truly ignorant ‘commentator’ will be saying ‘Please stand’. How disrespectful to the Lord himself and to his people can we get?

On Pentecost Sunday 1998 I happened to see part of a Mass televised nationwide. The names of those bringing up gifts were given. The Mass was in English, but the ‘homily’ consisted of a series of TV and radio ads in Tagalog, which the ‘celebrant’ thought was hilarious. I saw part of another televised Sunday Mass some years later where the names of commercial sponsors were flashed on the screen.

I have been at weddings where totally secular songs are sung by ‘crooners’ who think they are Frank Sinatra. While this is usually well-intended, it takes away from the sanctity of the sacrament of matrimony and from the sacredness of the Sacrifice of the Mass.

How many priests and readers, especially at Sunday Mass, use cheap missalettes at the altar and lectern, instead of proper books that have some beauty and that reinforce the sacredness of what we are doing! Would we serve dinner on a cheap paper plate to the Holy Father or to any other honored guest? Why then do we represent the Lord Jesus as doing this?

I hope that the bishops of the Philippines will try to improve the standard of music used at Mass. We have a treasure of liturgical music going back centuries. Why don’t the bishops make it a project to teach everyone the Misa de Angelis and Credo III during liturgical year 2007-2008, for example? These can be sung during the Mass according to the Missal promulgated by Paul VI or that promulgated by Blessed John XXIII.

Thank you for patiently reading through this long letter. But as I get older – I will be forty years ordained, God willing, on 20 December – I often find it truly painful to take part in concelebrated Masses, especially on big occasions, because of the banality I experience. We should try to get rid of all that is banal, in the English sense of the word, in the Mass and make its celebration truly banal, in the Tagalog sense.

God bless you, dear Archbishop Lagdameo, in your work as Archbishop of Jaro and as President of the CBCP


Father Seán Coyle

Fr Sean Coyle said...

My comment should have been dated 10 July, not 7 July.