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"Springtime of Vatican II" Update

Desperate Diocese Finds New Marketing Angle  —  Tradition!

by Christopher A. Ferrara

On August 3, 2004 The Detroit Free Press reported that "Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida is reaching back 40 years to revive a traditional form of the Latin mass, and he’s hoping its unusual appeal will help save one of Detroit’s most famous Catholic churches, St. Josaphat."

The "liturgical renewal" of Vatican II, you see, has been a resounding flop at St. Josaphat’s (not to mention everywhere else), and its once-thriving congregation has voted with its feet. But starting Oct. 3, Cardinal Maida is bringing the traditional Latin Mass back to St. Josaphat’s in an effort to revive a dying parish. "We’re all hoping it will bring a lot of new people through our doors," said Kevin Piotrowski, head of the parish council, who was quoted by the Free Press.

Why does Piotrowski hope for this result? Could it be he has realized that the traditional Mass locations reluctantly approved by other bishops are filled with young families who are attracted to the Church’s liturgical tradition? Has Piotrowski  —  has Cardinal Maida  —  come to see that the "liturgical renewal" was in fact a liturgical destruction of appalling dimensions, utterly without precedent in the history of the Church, and that perhaps the time has come to begin repairing the damage?

Not on your life. The old Mass is being brought back to St. Josaphat’s because Piotrowski and St. Josaphat’s pastor, the Rev. Mark Borkowski, "have been impressed by successes at nearby Episcopal and Lutheran churches, where historic buildings have been revived by suburbanites driving downtown for traditional forms of worship." Yes, Cardinal Maida is bringing back traditional worship at one parish in imitation of Protestants. That is how low things have sunk in the Catholic Church since Vatican II.

According to David Eberhard, a Lutheran minister at Trinity Lutheran Church in Detroit, the restoration of "traditional" Lutheran worship  —  that is, Luther’s version of the Mass  —  has been a great crowd-pleaser: "When I started in 1980, we had 50 members with an average age of 80 and now we've got 1,700 with an average age of 36 … Our niche is traditional worship in a beautiful, historic setting, and people will drive a long way for that."

Ah, so that’s it! Cardinal Maida has discovered that there is a marketing niche for "traditional worship in a beautiful historic setting." Yes, people will drive a long way for that, won’t they? But for Catholics who remember the Church as it was before the "liturgical renewal" began, a scant 40 years ago, there is another way to describe "traditional worship in a beautiful historic setting." It is called Roman Catholicism, and it used to occupy a bit more than a niche.

"At St. Josaphat," the Free Press notes, "church officials are hoping that Catholics will drive a long way for the Tridentine mass, a traditional form of Catholic worship, codified in 1570." You see, folks, they know the power of the traditional liturgy to attract souls; it is, after all, the same liturgy that inspired century after century of great saints, as well as the greatest musical works of Western civilization. But don’t think for a moment that they intend to allow the traditional Latin Mass to exercise its powerful spiritual attraction anywhere else. Oh no, no, no. The Latin Mass at St. Josaphat’s will be "the only regular Tridentine mass that’s authorized by the Archdiocese of Detroit."

But hey, they’re going to do it right  —  just the way Catholics did for nearly 15 centuries before the "liturgical renewal" got underway. Yes indeed, Fr. Borkowski "displayed some of the ornate, gold-plated implements, including a chalice and a crucifix, that will be used in the mass (sic)." It seems that Borkowski found them "packed away in drawers and cupboards." They had to be repaired and re-plated for the Big Show on October 3. And there’s more: "We're bringing in antique-looking vestments, too," Borkowski enthused. "We've done a lot of work to make sure that this looks authentic. This church was built a century ago for this kind of mass, and we want it to look that way again."

Ah, yes. They must make it "look authentic" so that the "customers" get what they want. And it wasn’t easy making it "look authentic." In fact, "some of the things are very hard to find  —  strictly eBay and antique shop items now." But when it comes to show business, the Diocese of Detroit will spare no expense. So, the Authentic Latin Mass Show will go on. And boy, will it "look authentic."

But there is concern out there in Novus Ordo Land. Rev. Thomas Reese, editor of America Magazine, worries that this sort of thing could actually  —  egad  —  spark a demand for the traditional liturgy by young people. "When the pope authorized bishops to allow this mass in 1984," fretted Reese, "the idea was that this was a pastoral response to older people who still are so attached to this older mass that they need it. The idea was never to create a new desire in people for this mass (sic)."

That, of course, is nonsense. The Pope imposed no such restriction, and his permission for the traditional Mass was greatly expanded in 1988 (a fact Reese forgets to mention). This is not to say that any Catholic needs "permission" to have recourse to the Church’s own liturgical tradition in the first place. For as Cardinal Ratzinger and a "secret" commission of nine Cardinals empanelled by John Paul II concluded, the traditional Mass was never "banned" by Paul VI. No Pope has the power to do such a thing.

Reese is deeply concerned that "It would be counterproductive if too many people turn this into a marketing strategy to fill churches. The idea behind allowing this mass was that it could help older people in the later stages of their lives. The hope is that this mass eventually will fade away."

But if Vatican II is all about empowering the laity, and if the traditional Mass is what the laity want  —  indeed, any serious Catholic with a sense of the sacred hungers for the Mass of all time once he has experienced this perfect form of worship  —  then why would Reese deny it to a new generation of Catholics? Because Reese is a revolutionary, just like all the rest of those who presided over the destruction of our liturgical tradition. And, like any revolutionary, Reese hates the past and seeks to bury it.

But these revolutionaries like the smell of money. That is why the Authentic Latin Mass Show is going to have a limited run at St. Josaphat’s Church, which would have closed anyway. But don’t expect the Latin Mass to appear anywhere else on a regular basis in the Archdiocese of Detroit. Money is one thing, but restoring tradition in the Church at large is quite another. That would be unthinkable. For like the Five Year Plans of Vladimir Lenin, the "liturgical renewal" must go on, no matter how wretched its results. The Revolution must be served, no matter how many souls are spiritually starved to death in the process.

God help the men who caused, and still preside over, this debacle.