Monsignor, you have participated in the dialogue with the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X. What is your personal impression of these meetings? Where do we stand right now? Do you believe we will soon reach a reconciliation?
My impression is substantially positive as far as the cordiality with which the dialogue, the colloquy, developed, and I must say that it has always been a very frank and sincere dialogue, and at times lively, as is also understandable, given the problematic questions and the themes under discussion. Although certainly not conclusive, I think we have reached a decisive point on this path, which has largely and profoundly served to clarify in detail the respective positions of the Society of St. Pius X and those of the experts of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; what is needed now is precisely to move on to a more evaluative stage, to a level of evaluating controversial points in order to verify the concrete possibility of overcoming the doctrinal difficulties and issues that have been addressed.
Is there a modus procedendi, a way of moving ahead in case the doctrinal Preamble is not signed?
At this time the text of the doctrinal Preamble has been handed to Bishop Fellay and the superiors of the Society for them to examine and give an answer, which we hope will be substantially favorable, positive and affirmative. They always have the possibility of asking for some specific details or clarifications, which, for our part, we will certainly provide within a reasonable time frame. To me it seems misplaced to raise the question now of what will happen if such difficulties were to be considered serious, insurmountable. At this time there is no such problem.
The Society was not born out of thin air, but as a response to a very serious ecclesial crisis, especially in countries like Germany, France and Switzerland. This crisis continues. Do you believe that after an agreement is reached in Rome, the Society will be able to coexist in those countries under the umbrella of the institutional Church?
Well, I would say simply that those who are truly and fully Catholic can live fully and properly in the Catholic Church wherever the Catholic Church exists and develops. This is not just a statement of principle; it is an existential affirmation which corresponds to the reality of the Catholic Church. This of course does not mean that there are no difficulties, and also because of the critical situation in which many Catholics, and the Catholic world, find themselves in these and other countries, but I do not believe history has lacked similar cases, and therefore the answer is very simple: those who are truly and fully Catholic not only have a right to, but actually do live well and find themselves content within the Catholic Church.
What are the reasons for the hostility in many Church circles toward a liturgy that the Church and so many saints have celebrated for so long and was instrumental in a spectacular development of the Church?
This is a complex question because I think there are many factors involved in understanding why this prejudice against the extraordinary form of the liturgy of the Old Rite is still widespread. One needs to keep in mind that for many years now a really appropriate and comprehensive liturgical formation in the Catholic Church has not been offered. Some have tried to introduce the principle of a rupture, a distancing, a radical break between the liturgical reform proposed, established and promulgated by Pope Paul VI and the traditional liturgy. In reality things are different, because it is clear that there is substantial continuity in the liturgy and in the history of the liturgy; what you find is growth, progress, renewal, but not a break or discontinuity, and hence these prejudices decisively affect the mindset of various people, including clergy and the faithful. We must overcome this prejudice, we must provide a complete and authentic liturgical formation and see how, in actual fact, the liturgical books of the liturgical reform desired by Pope Paul VI are one thing; something else, however, are the other forms of implementation that have occurred in practice in many parts of the Catholic world which are, in reality, abuses of the liturgical reform of Paul VI and also contain doctrinal errors that must be corrected and rejected. This is what the Holy Father Benedict XVI, in a recent speech at the Pontificium Athenaeum Anselmianum in late spring of this year, sought to reaffirm. The books of the liturgical reform are one thing, something else, however, are the concrete forms of implementation which, unfortunately, have spread to many places and are not consistent with the principles laid down and made explicit in the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on divine liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.
The confidential Preamble was given to Bishop Fellay on September 14. One day later, Andrea Tornielli had already been informed. How come confidential Vatican information is passed on so quickly to the press?
Journalists have a remarkable ability to intercept news, which is rather admirable in one respect, but I would say that in this case journalists, not just Tornielli but also other journalists, took up substantially the press release of the following day, reporting on some essential elements of the Doctrinal Preamble, and so I would say the substantial contents of the Preamble in its details are still not known, or at least have not been made public thus far; and journalists have not spoken about them or described the development and elaboration of the Doctrinal Preamble in detail. In that sense I believe confidentiality has basically been maintained in this case. I hope that this will continue to be the case.
Did you have any personal experience with the Latin Mass before becoming part of Ecclesia Dei? How did you experience the liturgical changes in the sixties?
These are two questions. To the first I answer that, before the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum of 2007, I had no contact at all with the celebration of the Mass in the old rite; I began to celebrate Mass in the extraordinary form of the rite with the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which allowed the Mass to be celebrated in this form.
How have I lived the changes in the sixties and seventies? I must say that, according to the manner in which I was formed and trained by my teachers at the seminary, and especially my professors of theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, I have always tried to understand what the Magisterium proposed through the reading of its texts and not through what some Catholic theologians or publications attributed to the Magisterium. So I never had any problems accepting the Mass in the liturgical reform of Paul VI, but soon realized that because of the great disorder that had been introduced into the Church after 1968, very often the Mass of Paul VI became completely deformed and came to be celebrated in a manner absolutely contrary to the profound intentions of the legislator, that is, the Holy Father; so I also have experienced quite directly this disorder, this collapse of the liturgy of which the former Cardinal Ratzinger has spoken in some of his books and publications on the liturgy, and I have always sought to keep the two things separate: the rites, the texts of the missal, which are one thing; another thing however is the way in which the liturgy is or has been celebrated in many places and circumstances based especially on a principle of creativity, a wild creativity that has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit and is instead, I would say, exactly the opposite of what the Holy Spirit wants.
Why is it worthwhile to promote the Latin Mass?
Because the ancient rite of the Mass makes explicit and highlights certain values and certain fundamental aspects of the liturgy that deserve to be maintained, and I am not speaking only about the Latin or Gregorian chant, I am speaking about the sense of mystery, of the sacred, the sense of the Mass as a sacrifice, the real and substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the fact that there are great moments of interior recollection, interior participation in the divine liturgy. All these are fundamental elements which are particularly highlighted in the ancient rite of the Mass. I am not saying that these elements do not exist in the Mass of Paul VI's reform, but I am saying that they are highlighted much more and this can enrich even those who celebrate or participate in the ordinary form of the Mass. Nothing prevents one from thinking that in the future we will also be able to achieve a reunification of the two forms, with elements that come together and complement one another; but this is not a goal to be attained in a short time, and particularly not with decisions taken at a desk, but one which requires a maturation of the entire Christian people called to understand the value of both liturgical forms of the same Roman Rite.
This is just wonderful - a beautifully balanced view and discussion of the whole liturgical crisis in the current Lex Credendi-Lex Orandi praxis. However, I kept seeing that the English questions refering to the Extraordinary Form of Holy Mass in the Roman Rite, said "Latin Mass". I wish to point out,cvm magnis viribvs,that the Roman Rite, according to Sacrosanctvm Concilivm (Vat.II) and Pope Ben. XVI's apostolic exhortationSacramentvm Caritatis,is a Latin language Liturgy. The only differenc… [More]