Oh my stars and garters! It turns out that, not only did the Church say a perfectly valid Mass from the time of the Reformation till now, but on top of that, the Pope is still Catholic.
That was the astonished discovery of the delightfully ignorant mainstream media when, in a shocking move, Pope Benedict XVI let the cleansing daylight of truth throw light on the minds of people who have somehow gotten it into their heads that there are two Churches, pre-Vatican II and post-Vatican II.
Pope Benedict issued a motu proprio on July 7 that reaffirmed that the Mass that was said for centuries before the 1970 reform of the Mass was still a good thing, and that people should be able to celebrate it if they like.
It would appear that this was horrifying enough to professionally aggrieved people, such as this poor man in profiled in the Washington Post:
“I can’t fight back the tears. This is the saddest moment in my life as a man, priest and bishop,” Luca Brandolini, a member of the liturgy commission of the Italian bishops’ conference, told Rome daily La Repubblica in an interview July 8.
“It’s a day of mourning, not just for me but for the many people who worked for the Second Vatican Council. A reform for which many people worked, with great sacrifice and only inspired by the desire to renew the Church, has now been cancelled.”
I missed the memo announcing the cancellation of Vatican II.
Indeed, I could have sworn that the Pope was making a generous gesture to folks who just want to celebrate the Mass that was celebrated every day the council was being held.
I got the impression somehow that these people are, like, part of the Church too.
Yet, somehow, some panicky folks have the notion that if you worship God in Latin rather than the vernacular, you are destroying the Church.
How fragile we are. It’s not enough that the Paul VI Mass is celebrated in about 99.9% of the world. This small gesture of kindness to people who like the John XXIII rite spells the doom of the council and quite possibly of the Church.
There’s a jittery totalitarianism behind such sentiments, the restless, sleepless fear that not everybody everywhere is “just like me.”
And there was more trauma to come. For on July 10, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a document informing us that, as a matter of fact, St. Paul wasn’t kidding when he said, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
What did the document say? Basically, it said, again, what the Church has always said: that the fullness of the revelation Christ handed down subsists in the Catholic Church. In short, the Church believes about itself what it has always believed: that it is the Church Christ founded and that other Christian bodies are right insofar as they participate in that fact and wrong when they don’t.
Of course, what the mainstream media reported was junk like “Vatican: Protestants Not True Christians” (CNN). In fact, what the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said was that Protestant congregations are not true churches but ecclesial bodies.
What Rome means is, “Where there’s no valid Eucharist, there’s no Church,” because the Eucharist is what makes the Church the Church.
What Rome does not mean is “Protestants aren’t Christian. God hates Protestants. Protestants are all going to hell. Only the Catholic Church is a true Church.”
The reality is that Protestants are in real, but imperfect, communion with the Church. That’s because “we believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” If you are validly baptized, you are Christian even if you aren’t Catholic. And, by the way, the Church does recognize non-Catholic bodies as true Churches. (Think Orthodox, for instance.)
It’s all about the Eucharist, baby. If you’ve got a valid one, you’re a Church. If you don’t, but you still adhere to the basics of the Creed, you’re an ecclesial body.
None of this stuff is news to anybody familiar with actual Catholic teaching. It’s neither a “cancellation” of Vatican II nor a “retreat from ecumenism.” It’s a precise restatement of Vatican II and of Dominus Iesus.
But it’s shockingly new to the majority of Catholics and to most of the rest of the world.
Which is why the Church had to point it out — again.
Mark Shea is content editor