“Lefebvrists” say Vatican caved on Good Friday prayer

February 25, 2008

A missal (prayer book) for mass in Latin, 25 July 2007/Alessandro BianchiEver since Pope Benedict allowed wider use of the old Latin mass last year, we’ve been watching to see whether the schismatic traditionalists in the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) would soften their staunchly critical line towards the Vatican. They have stuck for decades to the centuries-old Tridentine mass in Latin and rejected all the modernising reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Benedict has long been concerned with bringing them back into the Roman fold and lifting most restrictions on the old Latin mass was partly a step in their direction. But that didn’t stop the “Lefebvrists” (from the name of their first leader, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre) from denouncing the Vatican for updating the Latin version of a Good Friday prayer about the Jews.

In a weekend statement for its French-language news service, the SSPX said: “Following foreign pressures on the Catholic Church, the pope has felt obliged to change the very venerable Prayer for the Jews, which is an integral part of the Good Friday liturgy. This prayer is one of the oldest and goes back to about the third century. It has thus been recited throughout the whole history of the Church as the full expression of Catholic faith.

SSPX Bishop Bernard Fellay, 13 Jan. 2006/Franck PrevelThe SPPX said the change, which it called an “amputation,” had “the allure of a real transformation, expressing the new theology of relations with the Jewish people. It is part of the liturgical upheaval that is the characteristic mark of the council and the reforms that followed it. While the necessity to accept the Messiah to be saved has been retained, one can only profoundly deplore this change.”

This isn’t really a surprise. The SPPX has always said it opposed not only mass in vernacular languages, but the other reforms as well. That, for example, included the positive reappraisal of Judaism. The Vatican has long insisted the SSPX must accept those reforms if it wants to return to the Catholic Church. While the new Latin prayer disappointed many Jews, who protested that it still called for their conversion, the fact it dropped some of the more offensive passages about their supposed “blindness” was a nod towards Vat II.

This persistent opposition despite the increasingly traditional line in the Vatican raises the question why the traditionalists following the excommunicated bishops of the SSPX should stay with them rather than drift back to Tridentine masses celebrated with Rome’s approval. The Latin mass seems to be more important to the traditionalists in the pews than these other disputes the SSPX leaders have with the Vatican.

Are there any Catholics out there who can tell us how much interest there is in the Latin mass in their parishes? And has this Good Friday prayer change meant anything to them?


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

I would simply opine that out in the pew each and every week this issue(i.e., interest in a latin mass in the prish, and the Good Friday prayer change) have been of only MINOR interest AT BEST. When the world is falling apart over global warming, genocides, and war this issues is hardly something that can take up a great deal of the average lay person’s time. Vatican II put the liturgy in the local venacular for all to appreciate and participate! Benedict XVI does us all a disservice with the moto poprio and the giant leap back inot the dead language of latin.


Posted by sam | Report as abusive

‘…who can tell us how much interest there is in the Latin Mass…..?

For over forty years the great majority of Catholics have been told firmly by their bishops that there could be ‘no going back’ and that they ‘had to accept’ the new mass. The Tridentine Mass was (illegally) suppressed because given a free choice most Catholics, laity and priests, would have rejected it. Priests who continued to say the Tridentine Mass were thrown out of their parashes. Catholics who expressed a preference for the Tridentine Mass were generally treated with ridicule or contempt by those in authority and if they dared to go to ‘Lefebvrist’ Masses were told (falsely) ‘you’ve been excomunicated’

Catholics under 50 have no memory of the Tridentine Mass and those over 60 have been browbeaten for so long that it will take time before they have the courage to stand up and say, ‘Yes the Mass was better then.’ Nevertheless it will happen.

In the words of the song Everything old is new again, ‘You have to go backwards when forward fails.’

Posted by chris | Report as abusive

so sorry, there is a typing error in the first paragraph of the above comment. I of course meant ‘would have rejected the new mass’

Posted by chris | Report as abusive

The Motu Proprio is pointless if the Extraordinary Rite of the Mass is not celebrated in the vernacular. It is hoped that someone will change the rubrics and “release” the Mass to be celebrated in the vernacular. The normative language of the Mass should remain as Latin, but for a start, releasing it for vernacular use would be a great pastoral move. Indeed, with all that is going on this world, it is a “minor interest” at best and should only be promoted if it places the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ above everything else; as the message of every Mass should.

Posted by Collin Michael Nunis | Report as abusive

This is fascinating. Collin’s comment is the first time I’ve ever heard anyone say the Tridentine Mass should be said in the vernacular! I thought the Latin was part (only part, but a significant part) of the argument for that rite.

Posted by Tom Heneghan | Report as abusive

It has been, but I feel that for Latin to be used 90% in the celebration of the Mass is not a smart move in bringing ancient worship back into the new world.

More importantly, a return to the Old Mass should not reflect a return to the mentality that is associated with pre-Vatican II Catholicism. Vatican II benefited the Church as a whole, and “opened the doors and windows” of the Church and gave the fresh air that it needed. However, that wasn’t really necessary for the Mass. It should have been sanctioned for vernacular use with official translations. The Eastern Christians (both the Greek Orthodox and Eastern Catholics)have never changed one bit of their liturgy, but ideally, they’ve had the running idea of using the vernacular long before Vatican II ever came to mind.

That issue aside, there is more. With the new Mass, the creativity of the faithful in making the liturgy an expression to worship God is with right intention, but not exactly done the right way. Obviously, with the new Mass, came liberty to express the Mass in ways and means possible, but it came to the extent that it deviated from templates of ancient Christian worship patterns and if I may, Christianity itself. That is the danger.

Nevertheless, the issue of the creativity of the faithful being stifled by a return to the old Mass doesn’t really arise either. This is simply because, the gifts accorded to the faithful are to be used to witness Christ wherever we are, not just the 4 walls of the Church. For example, if you can’t play your guitar for Mass, don’t fret… You can play for the Lord in your own special way, outside the liturgy. At the Liturgy, you matter to God… Not your guitar.

Therefore, I hope that more will be done to release the ancient Mass will be released for vernacular use, in keeping with the Chrysostomian principle that the Liturgy should be celebrated in the vernacular. It’s about time that we become traditional, not traditionalists!

Posted by Collin Michael Nunis | Report as abusive

I agree with Chris, posted on February 26, 2008, that “you have to fall backwards when forward fails”, and the reason why I feel this way is because it is my opinon that the American Bishops seem to lead the way in which the Roman Catholic Church must follow and not the Vatican, I can remeber when the Vatican called the American Bishops to task. It seems to me that the American Church is leaning toward the Charismatic way of mass. I for one feel that there is nothing wrong with tradition and the Vatican II order of mass, if the music is not more important than the celebration of the Eucharist. I for one, again, feel that we have lost touch with the soleminty of the mass, it seems more important to show physical actions than to show respect that the celebration of the mass requires, it is very distracting. There are us that are going from parish to parish to find spirtual meaning in the mass.
In speaking with a good friend of mine that is a priest from Europe, stated that only in America does he find such a break from the soleminty of the mass.

Posted by David Landin | Report as abusive

I find it quite disturbing that the Catholic Hierarchy ex-communicated Lefebvrists who simply bring to their attention, the changes that are unacceptable in their opinion while the likes and behavior of Nancy Pelosi, Biden, Sebellius and (Sr.?) Carole Keehan go unnoticed!!! Certainly, with the amount of compromise that the Hierarchy makes with others, such as, the US government watering down the Truths expressed by Our Lord for the sake of giving an inch to receive a foot of nonsense, the Hierarchy have become immune to criticism even constructive criticism….Our Lady has warned us that the “SMOKE HAS INFILTRATED THE CHURCH!”
God bless Pope Benedict XVI for bringing back reverence to the Mass, “modest dress” attendance and giving us back a choice of the Tridentine Mass or the common vernacular Mass. In truth, I never felt complete after the Latin Mass for not understanding what was said…It was an hour of sound without meaning. I remember sitting in a dark church trying to follow along with the missal. I personally appreciate participation and knowing what we are praying at Mass. Furthermore, I would like to see the “SACRIFICE” AS THE MAIN PART OF THE LITURGY OF THE MASS RATHER THAN A MEAL! We must never forget what Christ did for us out of His great love for us.

How many prefer one over the other is moot. What needs addressing is, since Vatican II, only 20% of Catholics attend Mass on Sunday. VERY SAD INDEED! The Latin Mass will not fix this problem, but re-instating the Catechism in Catholic Schools and CCD classes would make a big difference…also adult catechism classes, too. More than two generations do not know their faith…They have become PROTESTANTIZED.

Posted by JohntheBaptist | Report as abusive