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Pope Benedict XVI Is Ambivalent About the Second Vatican Council

Richard R. Gaillardetz is making a stink about Pope Benedict’s motu proprio freeing the Tridentine Mass. In an article in Commonweal (Oct. 12, 2007) titled “Between Reform & Rupture,” he cites Sacrosanctum Concilium (#50), saying that at the Second Vatican Council the bishops’ intentions were that “The rite of the Mass is to be revised in such a way that…active participation by the faithful may be more easily achieved. To this end, the rites are to be simplified, due care being taken to preserve their substance. Duplications made with the passage of time are to be omitted, as are less useful additions.”

Gaillardetz says, “Insofar as the Paul VI missal is widely regarded as the fruit of Vatican II’s most far-reaching reform initiative, Benedict’s championing of the Tridentine rite suggests something about his ambivalent attitude toward the council.” Says Gaillardetz, at Vatican II, “the Tridentine rite was judged as insufficient to the needs of the church.” The NOR counters that the New Mass is insufficient. With the Tridentine Mass, weekly attendance in 1958 was at 74 percent; with the New Mass, weekly attendance in 2005 was at 34 percent. The New Mass has brought with it a great decline in the health of the Church.

Gaillardetz says, “Yet Benedict is now raising up the unrevised 1962 [Tridentine] missal as an alternative to the 1969 [Paul VI] missal. His motu proprio also allows the other sacraments, reforms of which were equally central to the council’s vision, to be celebrated according to their pre-conciliar form…. It may be tempting to attribute to Benedict a form of neo-integrism….”

Says Gaillardetz, “Vatican II clearly did not represent a macro-rupture, but the council did effect specific micro-ruptures, especially with regard to religious freedom, the church stance toward Judaism, the need for fundamental reform of the liturgy, and our understanding of the relationship among the hierarchy, clergy, and laity.”

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