From National Catholic Reporter:
Outline of a Ratzinger papacyFrom CardinalRating.com:
By John L. Allen, Jr.
Despite the nonstop speculation surrounding the conclave that opens April 18, the press seems to have at least one thing right: in the early stages: The balloting will likely shape up as a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the candidacy of German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the so-called “Panzer-Kardinal” who for 24 years was John Paul’s top doctrinal czar.
Given the strong, polarizing stands Ratzinger has taken, it’s not clear that there are really 77 votes for him among the 115 voting cardinals, the number it would take to achieve a two-thirds majority. On the other hand, Ratzinger’s strong base of support means one has to take his prospects seriously.
What would a Ratzinger papacy look like?
In the main, it would likely take shape along predictable lines. Ratzinger would mount a strenuous defense of Catholic identity, resisting enticements from secular culture to water down church teaching and practice; he would stress “Culture of Life” issues, doing battle against gay marriage, euthanasia and stem cell research; he would ensure that theological speculation is contained within narrow limits. He would likely travel less, and project a more ethereal style reminiscent of Pius XII. Ratzinger’s governing metaphor for the church of the future is the mustard seed – it may have to be smaller to be faithful, what he calls a “creative minority.”
One can also, however, anticipate elements of a Ratzinger pontificate that would come as a surprise, and that would mark a departure from the policies of John Paul II.
Letting institutions go
One of the longest controversies in the United States during John Paul’s papacy came over Catholic colleges and universities. The pope asked Catholic theologians to receive a mandatum, or license, from their local bishop, certifying their orthodoxy. After years of resistance, the U.S. bishops approved norms in 1999 that gave the Vatican most of what it wanted.
Under Ratzinger, the Vatican would be less likely to expend resources to preserve institutions it perceives as already lost to secularism. In his memoirs Milestones, Ratzinger reflected on the German church’s struggle to hold onto its schools under the Nazis. “It dawned on me that, with their insistence on preserving institutions, [the bishops] in part misread the reality. Merely to guarantee institutions is useless if there are no people to support those institutions from inner conviction.”
In the case of at least some colleges, Ratzinger’s instinct would thus be to drop the pretense that these are still Catholic institutions. He spelled this out in a book-length interview called Salt of the Earth: “Once the church has acquired some good or position, she inclines to defend it. The capacity for self-moderation and self-pruning is not adequately developed .... it’s precisely the fact that the church clings to the institutional structure when nothing really stands behind it any longer that brings the church into disrepute.”
The point applies also to hospitals, social service centers, and other institutions.
Shrinking church government
Because Ratzinger is the prime theoretician of papal authority, it is often assumed that under him the Vatican would take on even more massive proportions. In fact, like most conservatives, Ratzinger feels an instinctive aversion to big government. He believes that bureaucracies become self-perpetuating and take on their own agendas, rarely reflecting the best interests of the people they are intended to serve.
“The power typical of political rule or technical management cannot be and must not be the style of the church’s power," Ratzinger wrote in 1988’s A New Song for the Lord. “In the past two decades an excessive amount of institutionalization has come about in the church, which is alarming. … Future reforms should therefore aim not at the creation of yet more institutions, but at their reduction.”
While Ratzinger would not hesitate to make decisions in Rome that others believe should be the province of the local church – revoking imprimaturs, replacing translations, dismissing theologians – he would not erect a large new Vatican apparatus for this purpose. Ratzinger would encourage bishops’ conferences and dioceses to shed layers of bureaucracy where possible. The overall thrust would be for smaller size, less paperwork, and more focus on core concerns.
Many Vatican watchers believe that one weakness of John Paul’s pontificate was his episcopal appointments. Some have been spectacularly bad, such as Wolfgang Haas in Switzerland, Hans Hermann Gröer and Kurt Krenn in Austria, and Jan Gijsen in Holland. Bellicose and divisive, these bishops destabilized their respective dioceses, countries and bishops’ conferences. Krenn, for example, recently resigned in disgrace following sexual scandals in his seminary in Sankt Pölten.
In 1985, the pope’s personal secretary Stanislaw Dziwisz, a friend of Krenn, told the Congregation for Bishops that the pope had Krenn in mind as the new archbishop of Vienna. Ratzinger actually blocked Krenn’s appointment. Ratzinger knew that Krenn would be a disaster in a high-profile forum such as Vienna.
Given his long years of evaluating potential prelates (he serves on the Congregation for Bishops), Ratzinger knows the backgrounds of potential appointees, and would be able to spot potential problems. Backdoor channels would be less likely to generate surprise picks.
While Ratzinger’s appointments would be solidly conservative, they would also generally be men of intelligence and administrative skill.
Whether any of this would be sufficient to overcome opposition to Ratzinger from the church’s liberal wing remains to be seen, but it does suggest the possibility for the unexpected.
A Chat with Ratzinger"I encourage you not to lose patience -- to keep trusting"
Apr 14, 2005
Referring to the 2,000-year-old dispute between Jews and Christians as to whether the Old Testament is to be understood as a Jewish book or, rather, as a prologue to the Christian New Testament, the cardinal says: "We have to relearn how to read the Bible correctly." This apparently Judaising heresy would have sufficed, a few centuries ago, to send him to the stake.
(From The Tablet, 19/04/1997)
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has given another extensive interview to a journalist. It will disarm and surprise its readers just as the cardinal did his interviewer, according to a London-based correspondent for German newspapers.
There are as many ways to God as there are men and women", declares Cardinal Ratzinger early on in an interview he gave to Peter Seewald, a German journalist. And a post-Christian reference is conveyed through the title of the 300-page book that resulted, Salz der Erde ("Salt of the Earth"), implying that much of the world is not made of that salt.
The book, which bears Cardinal Ratzinger’s name as its author, takes the form of a dialogue between the cardinal and Seewald, who is highly critical of the Catholic Church. A non-Catholic German publishing house, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, was chosen for this remarkable attempt at illuminating the personality both of the interviewee and the Church to which he belongs.
Cardinal Ratzinger describes the basic aim of his life as "laying bare the real heart of the faith under its coating of various opinions". And the publishers’ venture into unfamiliar Christian territory has proved quite a success: almost 100,000 copies of the German edition have been sold in four months, there is already a French edition, with translations into 12 more languages due, including an English-language one to be published this autumn by St Ignatius Press, San Francisco. The cardinal shares in none of the proceeds.
As prefect of the Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he is the twentieth century’s equivalent of Dostoevsky’s "Grand Inquisitor", successor to all those zealous heads of the Holy Office from Conrad of Marburg and the Albigensian crusaders to Torquemada. Pope John Paul II read the book in his hospital bed, we learn, and when visiting him one day, the cardinal naturally wanted to have his own first look at the final text. "Buy your own copy", his boss told him, not willing to part with his, and a more elegant expression of self-praise is hardly possible for a humble author.
Seewald was clearly impressed by the cardinal’s honeyed answers to his sharp questions. A lapsed Catholic, he set out to get the better of his victim. He had, however, the good sense at least to inform himself first by reading Cardinal Ratzinger’s books. He was surprised to find that the man he presumed to be the arch-conservative Panzerkardinal, an authoritarian and intolerant German dogmatist, emerged as a Catholic thinker with an extraordinary capacity for dialogue. That was evident in the subsequent exchanges. For example, referring to the 2,000-year-old dispute between Jews and Christians as to whether the Old Testament is to be understood as a Jewish book or, rather, as a prologue to the Christian New Testament, the cardinal says: "We have to relearn how to read the Bible correctly." This apparently Judaising heresy would have sufficed, a few centuries ago, to send him to the stake.
Has any highly-placed member of the Roman Curia ever appeared so disarmingly open and eager to satisfy his questioner? Ratzinger has held his Roman office since 1981 and consented to the Pope’s request to hold on to it a little longer despite his age – he will be 70 on 16 April – and tiredness from his work-load. But he has also acquired something of that famous Roman cunning, furbizia Romana, which non-Italians, too, absorb through long Vatican residence, coupled with a very detached and down-to-earth appreciation of the universal Church.
There is no Germanic utopian enthusiasm in him, no desire "to construct some beautiful triumphant Church". He is, in fact, trenchantly critical of German Catholicism: "The richest Church in the world, yet with less influence on society than many poorer Churches have in poorer countries." He despises the "German arrogance that looks down on all others as mere slovenly sloggers".
France, to him, is "the most secularised country in the Western world". And what of Anglican Britain, "the apostate darling of the Roman Church", as Cardinal Ratzinger’s questioner calls it? The Church of England, he replies, seems to want to have its cake and eat it, clinging to the Catholic tradition but then creating a new situation on the issue of women priests, by extending the principle of majority voting to matters of the Church’s teaching which it then presumes to settle by the decision of one national Church. In this Vatican perspective, British Catholicism seems not unusually cast in the role of the good but boring elder and non-prodigal son.
But he is no less concerned than his master over the crisis of the faith and of the Church. And we are reminded of how basic to his powerful position is Cardinal Ratzinger’s affinity and rapport with John Paul II. In their frequent meetings they speak German together. The cardinal has come to appreciate the Pope’s "uncomplicated human directness, humour, piety; I felt that here was a man of God with a totally original mind". The Pope-philosopher and his chief ideologue, the cardinal-theologian, have become mutually complementary minds. The Pope is not "interested how things are done in detail", but leaves that to the man he trusts. Cardinal Ratzinger sees himself as the sober, sceptical intellectual looking with respect upon "the visionary force" with which the Pope’s gaze is fixed on a new millennium.
But the cardinal is certainly not without a vision of his own. He is provokingly relaxed in regard to the burning problems of the Church: sexual ethics, the question of celibacy – "not a dogma of the faith, but something that has grown in a human way and clearly contains the dangers for those who undertake it of a headlong fall". By abolishing celibacy, the Roman Church would face no less of a problem in divorced clergy, as the Protestant Churches have discovered. Christian marriage is no easy alternative, the cardinal points out. As he sees it, it seems almost as though the Catholic Church ought to prescribe marriage to its priests as a kind of purgative discipline.
But in the foreseeable future, there is not likely to be a married clergy in the Catholic Church apart from the exceptional cases of the Anglican converts. Vatican thinking seems much preoccupied by them. As for the seemingly related question of the priest shortage, the cardinal explains that "today’s parents have other plans for their sons and daughters" than a vocation in the Church; and that as the numbers of active Christians decline, so does the potential priesthood. "The primary consideration, therefore, is: are there any believers, and only after that – will they produce priests?"
The association of believers on a mass scale characteristic of the period of Christendom is clearly a thing of the past. What will survive are "oases in the desert". "Christianity must rise again like the mustard seed, in insignificantly small groups whose members intensively live in combat with what is evil in the world while demonstrating what is good. They are the salt of the earth, the vessels of the faith." Every cultural turning-point, such as the Gothic age, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, has also produced new forms of the faith.
What has happened since the Second Vatican Council can, according to Cardinal Ratzinger, be described as a cultural revolution, considering the false zeal with which the churches were emptied of their traditional furnishings, and the way that clergy and religious orders put on a new face. That "rashness" is already regretted by many, the cardinal contends. There was, he believes, a "widening gulf" between the Council Fathers, who wanted aggiornamento, updating, and "those who saw reform in terms of discarding ballast, a more diluted faith rather than a more radical one, ‘an instrument of power’ to be used for quite different ends, and other thoughts and ideas".
In a living Church the faith will certainly need to be expressed in new forms, and these can already be discerned. Among significant new religious movements he mentions, with reservations, the Neo-Catechumenate and the Focularini and notes, sadly, that "Greenpeace and Amnesty International seem to have taken over mankind’s concerns, which formerly would have radiated from the impulses of Raphael, Michelangelo or Bach".
Religion in modern society is tolerated, but merely as a subjective experience. But he reminds his interlocutor how St Benedict, too, was an outsider in Roman society, yet what he created "proved to be an ark of survival for Western civilisation". As ever, the chaff will have to be separated from the wheat. And he quotes St Paul (1 Th. 5:19-20): "Do not quench the Spirit, and do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil."
The personality of this scholarly and Romanised Bavarian comes alive in this book. He sees himself as an "Augustinian", subscribing to the great African saint’s "credo, ut intelligam" (I believe, in order to understand) rather than Tertullian’s "credo quia absurdum" (I believe because it is absurd). "I am a bit of a Platonist in the sense that the remembrance of God is implanted in man." Thomas More, John Henry Newman, Dietrich Bonhoeffer are his great models. He finds it difficult to love mankind in general, wondering sometimes whether the Creator has not allowed his creature too much freedom "to become dangerous rather than loveable".
What makes for his own happiness in the Church is "the remarkable fact that an institution with so many human weaknesses and failures has maintained its continuity and that I am part of this community and part of the living and the dead, and find in it the essence of my life".
One question troubling him intellectually is that evil is so powerful in the world, however more powerful we believe God to be. Evidently God did want the Redeemer to be crucified as one who has failed. But why? It is touching that even the prefect of the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation is confounded by this question.
There is nothing in what he has done in his 26 years at the Vatican that Cardinal Ratzinger would like to see undone, although he admits that, with hindsight, he would have done some things differently – he doesn’t say which. The teaching ban imposed on Hans Küng, perhaps? "I appreciate that he does his own thing, according to his conscience, but he ought not to claim the Church’s seal of approval for that as well, but stand by the fact that in some essential questions he has reached other, wholly personal decisions." Anyway, "the imposition of a period of silence ought to do no harm to any of us".
He is satisfied with having put a stop to liberation theology in Latin America. "Religion must not be turned into the handmaiden of political ideologies. The autonomy of Christianity must be defended against the armed enthusiasts of world revolution, however nobly intentioned they may be."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church has given the right kind of impulses, he believes, on bioethical questions; and he is confident of having taken the right path in strengthening the links between the centre and the bishops’ conferences.
Cardinal Ratzinger is by no means conscious of being the all-powerful Inquisitor. His powers, he says, are very limited, allowing him only "to appeal" to the bishops; and they "in turn must plead with the theologians and superiors of religious orders". He is critical of the ideology that reduces everything to matters of power. "If belonging to the Church has any meaning, it is only because she gives us eternal life, and thus real life."
He regards power as a relic of Marxism and is clearly incapable of seeing it as an ever-present and corrupting factor in history, to which the Church in its human aspect is not immune. In someone with a great mind and humble faith in God’s ways with the world, this seems an odd blind spot.
The complete text of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's remarks made at the Ecclesia Dei Conference held in Rome on October 24, 1998. The English translation from the original French text is provided courtesy of the magazine Inside the Vatican.The Regensburg Years by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
Ten years after the publication of the Motu proprio Ecclesia Dei, what kind of balance sheet of its successes and failures can we draw up? I think it is above all an occasion to show our gratitude and to give thanks. The diverse communities born, thanks to this pontifical text, have given to the Church a great number of vocations to the priesthood and to religious life. These men and women, filled with zeal and joy and profoundly loyal to the Pope, are rendering their service to the Gospel during this present historical epoch -- our own. By means of them, many of the faithful have been confirmed in the joy of being able to live the liturgy and in their love of the Church, or perhaps through them they have rediscovered both of these things. In many dioceses -- and the number is not that small -- they serve the Church in collaboration with the bishops and in a fraternal relation with those faithful who feel themselves at home in the renewed form of the old liturgy. All of this causes us today to express our profound gratitude!
Nevertheless, it would not be very realistic to pass over in silence some less pleasant facts. In many places, there have been and still are difficulties. Why? Because many bishops, priests and laypeople see this attachment to the old liturgy as a divisive factor. They think the attachment does nothing but trouble the ecclesial community. They see the attachment as evidence that the Council is being accepted "only with certain reservations" and suspect that it means the obedience due to the Church's legitimate pastors is less than it should be.
We must, therefore, pose the following question: how can these difficulties be overcome? How can the necessary trust be built up so that these communities which love the old liturgy can be fully integrated into the life of the Church? But there is another question underlying the first: What is the profound reason for this distrust or even this refusal to accept a continuation of the old liturgical forms?
It is of course possible that in this area there are reasons which are anterior to any theology and which have their origin in the individual characters of people or in the conflict between different characters, or even in other entirely exterior circumstances. But it is certain that there are also deeper reasons which explain these problems. The two reasons one most often hears are: the lack of obedience to the Council, which is said to have reformed the liturgical books; and the disrup tion of Church unity, which is said to follow necessarily if one allows the use of different liturgical forms.
It is in theory relatively easy to refute these two arguments. First, the Council did not itself reform the liturgical books; it ordered their revision and, to that end, set forth certain fundamental rules. Above all, the Council gave a definition of what the liturgy is, and this definition gives a criterion which holds for every liturgical celebration. If one wished to hold these essential rules in disdain and if one wished to set to one side the "normae generales" found in paragraphs 34-36 of the Constitution De Sacra Liturgia -- then yes, one would be violating the obedience due to the Council. It is therefore in accordance with these criteria that one must judge liturgical celebrations, whether they be according to the old books or according to the new.
It is good to recall in this regard what Cardinal Newman said when he observed that the Church, in her entire history, never once abolished or prohibited orthodox liturgical forms, something which would be entirely foreign to the Spirit of the Church. An orthodox liturgy, that is to say, a liturgy which expresses the true faith, is never a compilation made according to the pragmatic criteria of various ceremonies which one may put together in a positivist and arbitrary way -- today like this and tomorrow like that. The orthodox forms of a rite are living realities, born out of a dialogue of love between the Church and her Lord. They are the expressions of the life of the Church in which are condensed the faith, the prayer and the very life of generations, and in which are incarnated in a concrete form at once the action of God and the response of man.
Such rites can die, if the subject which bore them historically disappears, or if the subject is inserted into another order of life. The authority of the Church can define and limit the usage of rites in different historical circumstances. But the Church never purely and simply prohibits them.
And so the Council did ordain a reform of the liturgical books, but it did not forbid the previous books. The criterion the Council expressed is at once more vast and and more strict: it invited everyone to make a self-critique. We will return to this point.
Now for the second argument, that the existence of the two rites can harm Church unity. Here one must make a distinction between the theological and the practical aspects of the question. On the theoretical and fundamental side of the question, it must be stated that many forms of the Latin rite have always existed, and that these rites declined only slowly as a consequence of the unification of human living space in Europe. Up until the Council there existed, alongside the Roman rite, the Ambrosian rite, the Mozarabic rite of Toledo, the rite of Braga, the rite of the Chartreux and of the Carmelites, and the best known of all: the rite of the Dominicans. And perhaps there were still other rites with which I am not familiar.
No one was ever scandalized that the Dominicans, often present in our parishes, did not celebrate Mass like our parish priests, but had their own rite. We had no doubt that their rite was as Catholic as the Roman rite, and we were proud of this richness in having many different traditions.
Moreover, this must be said: the freedom that the new Ordo Missae allows to be creative, has often gone too far; there is often a greater difference between liturgies celebrated in different places according to the new books, than there is between an old liturgy and a new liturgy when both are celebrated as they ought to be, in accordance with the prescribed liturgical texts.
An average Christian without special liturgical training finds it hard to distinguish between a Mass sung in Latin according to the old Missal and a Mass sung in Latin according to the new Missal. In contrast, the difference between a liturgy celebrated faithfully according to the Missal of Paul VI and the concrete vernacular forms and celebrations with all the possible liberties and creativities -- the difference can be enormous.
With these considerations, we have already crossed the threshold between theory and practice, where things are naturally more complicated, because they involve relations between living persons.
It seems to me that the aversions of which we have spoken are so great because the two forms of celebration are thought to reflect two different spiritual attitudes, two different ways of perceiving the Church and the whole of Christian life. There are many reasons for this.
The first is that the two liturgical forms are judged on the basis of exterior elements and so the following conclusion is reached: there are two fundamentally different attitudes.
The average Christian considers it essential that the reformed liturgy be celebrated in the vernacular and facing the people, that there be large areas for creativity and that lay-people exercise active roles. On the other hand, it is thought essential to the old liturgy that it be celebrated in the Latin language, that the priest face the altar, that the ritual be rigidly prescribed and that the faithful follow the Mass by praying in private, without having an active role. In this way of viewing things, certain outward phenomena are essential for a liturgy, not the liturgy in and of itself. In this view, the faithful understand and express the liturgy by means of concrete, visible forms and are spiritually quickened by these very forms, and do not penetrate easily to the profound levels of the liturgy.
But the oppositions we have just enumerated do not come from either the spirit or the letter of the conciliar texts.
The Constitution on the Liturgy itself does not say a word about celebrating Mass facing the altar or facing the people. And on the subject of language, it says Latin ought to be preserved while giving greater space to the vernacular "especially in the readings and directives, and in some of the prayers and chants" (36, 2). As for the participation of laypeople, the Council insists first in general that the liturgy concerns the entire Body of Christ, Head and members, and that for this reason, it belongs to the entire Body of the Church "and consequently the liturgy is to be celebrated in community with the active participation of the faithful." And the text specifies: "In the liturgical celebrations, each person, whether as a minister or as one of the faithful, should perform his role by doing solely and totally what the nature of things and liturgical norms require of him." (28) "By way of promoting active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamation, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures and bodily attitudes. And at the proper time all should observe a reverent silence." (30) These are the directives of the Council: they can provide matter for reflection to all.
A number of modern liturgists, however, have unfortunately shown a tendency to develop the ideas of the Council in only one direction. If one does this, one ends up reversing the intentions of the Council.
The role of the priest is reduced by some to one of pure functionality. The fact that the entire Body of Christ is the subject of the liturgy is often deformed to the point that the local community becomes the self-sufficient subject of the liturgy and distributes the different roles in it. There is also a dangerous tendency to minimize the sacrificial character of the Mass and to cause mystery and the sacred to disappear, under the self-proclaimed imperative of making the liturgy more easily understood. Finally, one notes the tendency to fragment the liturgy and to emphasize only its communal character by giving the assembly the power to decide the celebration.
Happily, there is also a certain distaste for the rationalism full of banality and the pragmatism of certain liturgists, be they theoreticians or practitioners. One can see evidence of a return to mystery, to adoration, to the sacred and to the cosmic and eschatological character of the liturgy, as is witnessed by the "Oxford Declaration on Liturgy" of 1996.
Moreover, it must be admitted that the celebration of the old liturgy had slipped too much into the domain of the individual and the private, and that the communion between priests and faithful was insufficient. I have a great respect for our ancestors, who recited during low Masses the "Prayers During the Mass" contained in their book of prayers. But certainly one cannot regard that as the ideal for the liturgical celebration. Perhaps these reduced forms of celebration are the profound reason why the disappearance of the old liturgical books had no importance whatsoever in many countries and caused no sorrow. People had never been in contact with the liturgy itself.
On the other hand, in those places where the liturgical Movement had created a certain love for the liturgy -- in those places where this movement anticipated the essential ideas of the Council, as for example the praying participation of all in the liturgical action -- in those places there was greater suffering in the face of a liturgical reform undertaken in too much haste and limiting itself often to the exterior aspect. Where the liturgical Movement never existed, the reform did not at first pose any problem. The problems arose only in a sporadic way in those places where a wild creativity caused the disappearance of the sacred mystery.
This is why it is so important that the essential criteria of the Constitution on the Liturgy, which I cited above, be observed, even if one is celebrating according to the old Missal.
When this liturgy truly moves the faithful with its beauty and profundity, then it will be loved, and then it will not be in irreconcilable opposition to the new Liturgy -- provided that these criteria are truly applied as the Council wished. Different spiritual and theological accents will continue, certainly to exist. But they will no longer be two opposing ways of being a Christian, but rather two riches which belong to the same Catholic faith.
When, several years ago, someone proposed "a new liturgical movement" to ensure that the two forms of liturgy did not diverge too much and to show their inner convergence, several friends of the old liturgy expressed the fear that this was nothing other than a stratagem or ruse to eliminate the old liturgy entirely.
Such anxieties and fears must cease! If, in the two forms of celebration, the unity of the faith and the unicity of the mystery should appear clearly, that could only be a reason to rejoice and thank the Good Lord. In the measure to which all of us believers live and act according to these motivations, we can also persuade the bishops that the presence of the old liturgy does not trouble or harm the unity of their diocese, but is rather a gift destined to build up the Body of Christ, of which we are all the servants.
So, dear friends, I would like to encourage you not to lose patience -- to keep trusting --and to find in the liturgy the force needed to give our witness to the Lord for our time.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Ecclesia Dei Conference
October 24, 1998
Taken from the Latin Mass Society's May 1999 Newsletter.
“I was dismayed by the prohibition of the old missal, since nothing of the sort had ever happened in the entire history of the liturgy.” Extract from Cardinal Ratzinger's book Milestones published by Ignatius Press.
The second great event at the beginning of my years in Regensburg was the publication of the Missal of Paul VI, which was accompanied by the almost total prohibition, after a transitional phase of only half a year, of using the missal we had had until then.
I welcomed the fact that now we had a binding liturgical text after a period of experimentation that had often deformed the liturgy. But I was dismayed by the prohibition of the old missal, since nothing of the sort had ever happened in the entire history of the liturgy. The impression was even given that what was happening was quite normal.
The previous missal had been created by Pius V in 1570 in connection with the Council of Trent; and so it was quite normal that, after four hundred years and a new council, a new pope would present us with a new missal. But the historical truth of the matter is different. Pius V had simply ordered a reworking of the Missale Romanum then being used, which is the normal thing as history develops over the course of centuries.
Many of his successors had likewise reworked this missal again, but without ever setting one missal against another. It was a continual process of growth and purification in which continuity was never destroyed. There is no such thing as a "Missal of Pius V", created by Pius V himself. There is only the reworking done by Pius V as one phase in a long history of growth. The new feature that came to the fore after the Council of Trent was of a different nature. The irruption of the Reformation had above all taken the concrete form of liturgical "reforms". It was not just a matter of there being a Catholic Church and a Protestant Church alongside one another. The split in the Church occurred almost imperceptibly and found its most visible and historically most decisive manifestation in the changes in the liturgy. These changes, in turn, took very different forms at the local level, so that here, too, one frequently could not ascertain the boundary between what was still Catholic and what was no longer Catholic.
Consequences could only be tragic.
In this confusing situation, which had become possible by the failure to produce unified liturgical legislation and by the existing liturgical pluralism inherited from the Middle Ages, the pope decided that now the Missale Romanum - the missal of the city of Rome - was to be introduced as reliably Catholic in every place that could not demonstrate its liturgy to be at least two hundred years old. Wherever the existing liturgy was that old, it could be preserved because its Catholic character would then be assured. In this case we cannot speak of the prohibition of a previous missal that had formerly been approved as valid. The prohibition of the missal that was now decreed, a missal that had known continuous growth over the centuries, starting with the sacramentaries of the ancient Church, introduced a breach into the history of the liturgy whose consequences could only be tragic. It was reasonable and right of the Council to order a revision of the missal such as had often taken place before and which this time had to be more thorough than before, above all because of the introduction of the vernacular.
But more than this now happened: the old building was demolished, and another was built, to be sure largely using materials from the previous one and even using the old building plans. There is no doubt that this new missal in many respects brought with it a real improvement and enrichment; but setting it as a new construction over against what had grown historically, forbidding the results of this historical growth, thereby makes the liturgy appear to be no longer a living development but the product of erudite work and juridical authority; this has caused us enormous harm. For then the impression had to emerge that liturgy is something "made", not something given in advance but something lying within our own power of decision. From this it also follows that we are not to recognise the scholars and the central authority alone as decision makers, but that in the end each and every "community" must provide itself with its own liturgy. When liturgy is self-made, however, then it can no longer give us what its proper gift should be: the encounter with the mystery that is not our own product but rather our origin and the source of our life.
The disintegration of the liturgy.
A renewal of liturgical awareness, a liturgical reconciliation that again recognises the unity of the history of the liturgy and that understands Vatican II, not as a breach, but as a stage of development: these things are urgently needed for the life of the Church. I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy, which at times has even come to be conceived of etsi Deus non daretur: in that it is a matter of indifference whether or not God exists and whether or not He speaks to us and hears us. But when the community of faith, the world-wide unity of the Church and her history, and the mystery of the living Christ are no longer visible in the liturgy, where else, then, is the Church to become visible in her spiritual essence? Then the community is celebrating only itself, an activity that is utterly fruitless. And, because the ecclesial community cannot have its origin from itself but emerges as a unity only from the Lord, through faith, such circumstances will inexorably result in a disintegration into sectarian parties of all kinds - partisan opposition within a Church tearing herself apart. This is why we need a new Liturgical Movement, which will call to life the real heritage of the Second Vatican Council.