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Liturgical Renewal:
Two Latin Rites?

by Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland, O.S.B
Continued from previous page

Reversing the Council?

Since that time the liturgical renewal in the United States has been in disarray. Many of us bishops, acceding to that pastoral judgment of Pope John Paul, have granted permission for Masses, even on a regular basis, following the Tridentine usage. The faithful who attend are grateful. But the liturgical climate in the nation has changed totally. An encouraging signal was sent out to those groups who wanted to reject all or most of the liturgical reforms of Vatican Council II. They have increased their efforts to undermine and reverse the liturgical reforms of that council and especially the implementation approved by Pope Paul VI immediately following the council.

Just at the moment when the situation was beginning to settle down and the deeper and more spiritual aspects of the renewal were becoming possible, a whole new battle began, one in which the renewal itself was brought into question or where everyone seemed free to project his or her personal views on how the renewal of the council should have taken place. As well-meaning as that decision to broaden the Tridentine usage was, one cannot emphasize enough how devasting the results have been. Not only was the liturgical renewal of the council called into question; the impression was created that, with sufficient protest, the whole of Vatican Council II could be reversed.

Moreover, since the conferences of bishops around the world were involved in the post-Vatican II liturgical implementation, they are now under suspicion; their wisdom and authority are placed under a cloud of mistrust. We have entered a truly "cafeteria" period in Catholicism, in which one can pick and choose from Vatican Council II what one likes and what one dislikes. The disunity that Pope Paul VI sought to avoid has come to pass.

Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II

Seen from this vantage point in the trenches, the decision that caused confusion and harm in the Church was not that made by Pope Paul VI to permit only one Latin rite, but the decision to permit the Tridentine usage to enjoy equal footing with the reformed rite.

In addition to that decision are all the semiofficial statements that call into question the entire liturgical reform of Vatican II. These statements come from Roman officials and are uttered without contradiction from higher authority. As a result, confusion in the trenches is inevitable.

Till hearing otherwise, I make my own the words of Pope John Paul II in the letter sent to all bishops and priests of the world in December 1988, which marked the 25th anniversary of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council:

The time has come to renew the spirit which inspired the Church at the moment when the constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium was prepared, discussed, voted upon and promulgated and when the first steps were taken to apply it. The seed was sown: it has known the rigors of winter, but the seed has sprouted and become a tree. It is a matter of the organic growth of a tree becoming ever stronger the deeper it sinks its roots into the soil of tradition.

Reprinted with permission of Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland and America Press, Inc., 106 West 56th Street, New York, NY 10019.

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