Via Media

It does seem as if *something* is coming – as discussed here over the past couple of weeks, the signs and statements from folks who are involved in these issues tell us that there’s a document – or two! – coming that will impact the status/availability/of the Tridentine Mass, and might also do something to deal with the SSPX situation – although that is a different issue and requires a whole other process and set of clarifications, etc. The two are not inherently related. One can do the former without the latter, certainly, and rumors about the former – the status of the Tridentine Mass – certainly seem to have more substance than anything related directly to the status of the SSPX, although that’s floating around, too.

Anyway, as a public service to all journalists out there, I want to start compiling a tip-sheet or style guide of sorts. As if any of them will care, but perhaps one or two will run across it and it will help. This stuff can get arcane, and even the non-arcane stuff is usually misunderstood and misrepresented. So, I’m going to start thinking about the definitions and points of discussion that secular journalists might find useful – and anyone else floating around the web wondering what’s going on. I don’t want to do a primer, simply a page or post with the most frequently-misunderstood ideas related to these issues clarified. So..

1) What is this Mass? What do we call it?

"Latin Mass" may be what we think of it in popular terms, but that is not correct, since the Novus Ordo Mass can be offered in Latin, as a whole or in parts.

"Tridentine Mass" is better, but even that is problematic. The Mass of Pius V? Pian Rite? And what would be the best "technical" term to use instead of "New Mass" – Novus Ordo? Mass of Paul VI? I sometimes see the "Pian Rite" and "Pauline Rite" contrasted. And is "rite" or "Mass" preferable?

2) What did Vatican II "do?"

The misunderstandings here are vast, of course. Without writing a dissertation, I’d need to simply state what SC said about the Mass, and then very briefly outline what happened in the next 10 years – doing so without rancor. Can this be done in a paragraph?

The essence of this point, in my mind, is nothing incredibly deep, but simply the point that what SC said was much broader and more general than is generally understood, that it did not "abolish" Latin and said nothing about the priest’s posture. Very important, in my mind, is for journos to understand what ad orientem means, which is not "back to the people."

The essential point, which needs to be stated as briefly as possible, is…what "defines" the Tridentine Mass. You and I know, for the most part, but journalistic shorthand wants to condense it to "Latin" or "back to the people" – both of which can be elements of the Novus Ordo Mass. So, what’s a better way for journalists to tell this story and make these definitions?

3) The political situation. The temptation will be there to suggest that well, this should do it for the "Traditionalists." This will make them all happy. Without knowing what might happen in relation to the SSPX, etc., that needs to be clarified.

In that regard, it’s my hope that journalists will actually get out there and talk to Traditionalists who have separated themselves from Rome and act independently. There are small groups dotting the landscape, and there are also some rather large establishments – such as  this operation in Cincinnati.  (which doesn’t even seem to be SSPX – is it? ) I would like to see journalists try to get past their assumptions that "Benedict is conservative and this will make other conservatives happy and that’s why he’s doing it." If there is some "liberalization" of the Tridentine Mass, will St. Gertrude the Great priests rush down to the Archdiocesan chancery and ask to meet with the Archbishop? I’m thinking…no. That’s an interesting story that moves a little bit to describing the real picture here.

This post is something I’ve been thinking about, but it was directly inspired by this article from the New Haven paper about an "old school" priest who runs a chapel offering the Tridentine Mass. The article is just okay, but there are tons of unanswered questions. Who is this priest? Was he ever connected to Rome? Where? Diocese? Religious order? When did he separate himself? Is he connected to SSPX? If not…why? There are two indult Masss in the Hartford Archdiocese. If that is the case, why not interview those people? Why not interview them all – the independent priest and a priest offering the indult Mass?

4) Finally, completing the picture…broaden it. Help us point journalists to places where the Novus Ordo is celebrated in ways that challenge their definitions.

Post your suggestions – and remember the purpose, which is to try to be helpful and present these definitions and descriptions succinctly and accuragely – and I will make this an ongoing project.

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