FaithWorld

SSPX Catholic rebels disappointed by Benedict

Pope Benedict at his Mass at Yankee Stadium in New York, 20 April 2008/Mike SegarI’m not sure if the timing has anything to do with Pope Benedict’s U.S. trip, but the schismatic traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X chose this weekend to announce its disappointment in the pontiff and its decision not to seek closer ties to Rome now. SSPX leader Bishop Bernard Fellay wrote in a “Letter to Friends and Benefactors” (here in French) that Benedict had not budged in his support for the Second Vatican Council despite his decision last year to allow wider use of the old Tridentine rite Mass in Latin.

The time for an agreement has not yet come,” Fellay wrote. The decree on the old Latin Mass was “not accompanied by logically co-related measures in the other areas of the life of the ChurchNothing has changed in Rome’s determination to follow the council’s orientation, despite 40 years of crisis, despite the deserted convents, abandoned rectories and empty churches.”

The letter is dated April 14 but was only published on Saturday by the SSPX information service DICI. Here’s our story and here’s a partial English translation of Fellay’s statement at Rorate Caeli (hat tip to Father Z for that).

SSPX Bishop Bernard Fellay, 13 Jan 2006/Franck PrevelFellay signalled his continued estrangement from Rome in February when he accused the Vatican of caving in to “foreign pressures” when it issued a new wording of the Latin prayer on Good Friday. In a FaithWorld post on that statement, I wondered out loud whether any or many SSPX parishioners would drift away from their churches to attend Latin Masses in their local parishes. From scattered comments I’ve heard since then, it seems that few if any of the people attending the (admittedly also few) old Latin Masses now seem to have defected from the Lefebvrist ranks.

Fellay isn’t the only one who might feel let down by Benedict. Michael Sean Winter had an interesting piece on Slate about “How Pope Benedict has disappointed the Right.” He recalls how conservative Catholics welcomed his election in 2005, only to find he didn’t crack down the way they hoped he would.

Sneak preview of the prayers during Benedict’s U.S. visit

Pope Benedict at St Peter’s Square, 9 April 2008/Max RossiThe Vatican has just posted the missal for the prayers at different events in Pope Benedict’s U.S. visit from April 15 to 20. We’ve covered the prayer at Ground Zero as a news story here. Now here’s the link for the PDF of the rest of the missal. The Vatican usually distributes small missals with the prayers for Masses and other services during papal trips (and major events at St. Peter’s). This is the first time we’ve seen the prayers posted in advance on the Internet.

Almost all the prayers are in English. There is very little Latin (despite what some people were suggesting). The Creed will be in Latin at the Yankee Stadium Mass, starting with Benedict chanting Credo in unum Deum and then all reading out Patrem omnipotentem, factorem cæli et terræ…

The bishops will have a lot of Latin in their meeting with Benedict on April 16 — including the Magnificat, Pater Noster and Regina Cæli — but the seminarians have none in their meeting on the 19th (don’t they learn Latin too?).

How many Catholics will hear disputed Good Friday prayer?

A Good Friday procession at Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, 21 March 2008/Yannis BehrakisGiven the discussion about the new Latin prayer to be read at Catholic Good Friday services in the Tridentine rite today, I’ve tried to find estimates for how many people will actually hear it. Jewish groups have expressed dismay that the new version of the prayer, which drops references to the “blindness” of the Jews but still calls for their conversion. The leader of Germany’s Jewish community said she could not fathom how the German-born Pope Benedict could “impose such phrases on his church.” The Vatican rejects this criticism and sources there say it could soon issue a conciliatory note. So there’s a lot of talk about this issue, but how much is actually happening on the ground?

Actually, the vast majority of Catholics attending Good Friday services around the world will not hear this prayer in Latin but a different one in their own native language. That prayer is based on a 1970 text without any explicit reference to the conversion of the Jews. There is no official number for how many will attend the Latin services in the older Tridentine rite that Pope Benedict promoted with a ruling last year authorising wider use of the old Latin Mass. But even ardent supporters of the traditional rite agree that the number is very, very small. Some have objected to our use of the term “tiny minority” for it, saying this was dismissive and implied the number was insignificant. It wasn’t, but it’s very hard to write about such a small amount without seeming to write it off.

Fr. John ZuhlsdorfLooking for anecdotal evidence, I first turned to the excellent conservative Catholic blog What Does The Prayer Really Say? (which just swept the 2008 Catholic Blog Awards). This was a logical step since its lively moderator, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf (“Fr. Z”), had just taken us to task for writing “tiny minority.” I posted a question about how to describe the size of this group and several readers chimed in, suggesting words like “rare” (sounds like an endangered species), “relatively few in number” (too vague), “some” or “a few” (even more vague) or “small but growing minority” (that adds movement, but it’s still vague). Even the most neutral synonyms for “tiny” — diminutive, microscopic, miniature, minuscule, slight or wee (for my Scottish colleagues) — can be read as dismissive. How would Fr. Z put it — paupera lingua angliae?

Pope’s prayer change disappoints Jews, some traditionalist Catholics

Pope Benedict with Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi Yona Metzger in Castelgandolfo, Italy, 15 Sept. 2005/poolPope Benedict’s decision to change a Latin prayer for Jews at Good Friday services has disappointed Jews who wanted more change. It has also left some traditionalist Catholics uneasy, because many wanted no change. Both groups were expecting the decision, because Good Friday is coming soon (March 21) and it will be the first Good Friday since the Pope authorised wider use of the old Latin missal. That missal speaks of the “blindness” of the Jews and asks God to “remove the veil from their hearts.” The new wording says “Let us also pray for the Jews. So that God our Lord enlightens their hearts so that they recognize Jesus Christ savior of all men.” It also asks God that “all Israel be saved.”

Reactions are still coming in but here are a few from both sides.

Some initial reactions from Jewish groups and blogs:

Jews read the Torah in a Moscow synagogue, 12 Jan. 2006/Alexander NatruskinAmerican Jewish Committee international director of interreligious affairs, Rabbi David Rosen: “While we appreciate that the text avoids any derogatory language towards Jews, its regretful that the prayer explicitly calls for Jews to accept Christianity. This differs greatly from the text in the current universal liturgy that prays for the salvation of the Jews in general terms. We hope that through further dialogue, the full implications of the Second Vatican Council’s affirmation of the Jewish covenant might lead to a deeper understanding of the value of the Torah as the vehicle of salvation for the Jewish people.”

Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman: “While we appreciate that some of the deprecatory language has been removed from a new version of the Good Friday prayer for the Conversion of Jews in the 1962 Roman Missal, we are deeply troubled and disappointed that the framework and intention to petition God for Jews to accept Jesus as Lord was kept intact. Alterations of language without change to the 1962 prayer’s conversionary intent amount to cosmetic revisions, while retaining the most troubling aspect for Jews, namely the desire to end the distinctive Jewish way of life. Still named the ‘Prayer for Conversion of the Jews,’ it is a major departure from the teachings and actions of Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, and numerous authoritative Catholic documents, including Nostra Aetate.”