Cañizares on the Motu Proprio

Cardinal Antonio Cañizares
Cardinal Antonio Cañizares (photo: CNS)

“If we truly believe that the Eucharist is really the ‘source and summit of Christian life’ – as the Second Vatican Council reminds us — we cannot admit that it is celebrated in an unworthy manner. For many, accepting the conciliar reform has meant celebrating a Mass which in one way or another had to be ‘desacralized.’ How many priests have been called ‘backward’ or ‘anticonciliar’ because of the mere fact of celebrating in a solemn or pious manner or simply for fully obeying the rubrics! It is imperative to get out of this dialectic.”

These are the words of Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, in an introduction he wrote for a new edition of Father Nicola Bux’s book, The Reform of Benedict XVI.

The New Liturgical Movement website has posted a translation of the introduction.

Cardinal Cañizares offers his comments in the context of discussing Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which encourages more widespread celebration of the extraordinary form of the Mass in Latin.

The cardinal credits Benedict’s motu proprio with helping to heal divisions in the Church caused by conflicting views about the liturgical reform initiated by the Second Vatican Council, and with highlighting that the Council never intended that the reform should injure the Church’s liturgical patrimony.

Writes Cardinal Cañizares,

The reform has been implemented and it has mainly been experienced as an absolute change, as if an abyss should be created between the “before” and the “after” the Council, in a context where the term “preconciliar” was used like an insult. Here also the phenomenon occurred which the Pope notes in his recent letter to the bishops of 10 March 2009: “Sometimes one has the impression that our society needs at least one group for which there need not be any tolerance; which one can unperturbedly set upon with hatred.” For years this was the case in good measure with the priests and faithful attached to the form of Mass inherited throughout the centuries, who were often treated “like lepers,” as the then Cardinal Ratzinger bluntly put it.

Today, thanks to the Motu Proprio, this situation is changing notably. And it is doing so in large part because the intention of the Pope has not only been to satisfy the followers of Monsignor Lefevbre, nor to confine himself to respond to the just wishes of the faithful who feel attached, for various reasons, to the liturgical heritage represented by the Roman rite, but also, and in a special way, to open the liturgical richness of the Church to all the faithful, thus making possible the discovery of the treasures of the liturgical patrimony of the Church to those who still do not know it. How many times is the attitude of those who disdain them not due to anything other than this ignorance! Therefore, considered from this last aspect, the Motu Proprio makes sense beyond the presence or absence of conflicts: even if there were not a single “traditionalist” whom to satisfy, this “discovery” would have been enough to justify the provisions of the Pope.