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Divisive or Diversity?

The August 3 edition of the National Catholic Reporter features a column by Fr. Richard McBrien. In part it is about Pope Benedict’s motu proprio liberating the Tridentine Latin Mass. Fr. McBrien says, “[Pope] Paul VI was convinced that the existence of two rites [New Mass and Tridentine] within the Roman Catholic Church would be divisive.” What if we were to change the word “divisive” to “diversity”? Fr. McBrien is all in favor of diversity. What’s the problem?

Perhaps Fr. McBrien didn’t read Pope Benedict’s letter to bishops that accompanied the motu proprio before he fired off his misguided salvo. Fr. McBrien’s concerns are rejected by Benedict as baseless: “The fear was expressed,” says the Pope, that a “wider use” of the Tridentine Mass “would lead to disarray or even divisions…. This fear,” he retorts, “strikes me as unfounded.”

Moreover, Benedict also shoots down Fr. McBrien’s claim that there will now be “two rites [New Mass and Tridentine] within the Roman Catholic Church.” Says Benedict, “It is not appropriate to speak of these two versions of the Roman Missal as if they were ‘two Rites.’ Rather, it is a twofold use of one and the same rite.” Fr. McBrien, you really ought to read and reflect before you react.

Fr. McBrien also says, “Pope Paul VI had made it clear that Vatican II’s reform of the Mass was not to establish a second parallel rite,” suggesting that the New Mass was supposed to replace the Tridentine Mass. Benedict has an answer for this wrongheaded assertion too: “this Missal [Pope John XXIII’s 1962 Tridentine Missal] was never juridically abrogated….”

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