The Novus Ordo represents a “change in the theology of the Church”: Cardinal Roche

    British Cardinal Arthur Roche, 73 (link) the Pope’s head of the Dicastery for Divine Worship since 2021, spoke briefly in a BBC report on Sunday, March 19 (link) on the issue of the Vatican’s limiting of the Traditional Latin Mass (abbreviated as the “TLM”) in 2021.

    The BBC report also included the opinions of several British Catholics who attend and appreciate the old rite of the Mass.

    Roche’s abbreviated remarks featured most prominently his claim that, in regard to the liturgy, in regard to what happens at Mass, “the theology of the Church has changed.”

    This was striking, and is material for reflection.

    Roche explained his viewpoint this way:

    “You know, the theology of the Church has changed. Whereas before, the priest represented, at a distance, all the people — they were channeled, as it were, through this person who alone was celebrating the Mass. It is not only the priest who celebrates the liturgy, but also those who are baptized with him. And that is an enormous statement to make.”

    He is right: it is an “enormous statement to make.”

    Enormous, because it seems to say what very few up to now have been willing to say explicitly: that there has not been “continuity” in Catholic teaching on this matter from prior to the Council, through the Council, and after the Council, up until today, but a kind of “rupture,” a “change” in teaching.

    However, it seems that it was the chief burden of Pope Benedict XVI‘s theological endeavor to express, define and defend the belief that what the Church believes about the liturgy, about the Mass, was not a rupture with the past, was not changed by the Council, but was in continuity, presenting traditional teaching at and after the Council in a way which enabled the inner, unchanging, meaning, the perennial meaning, the meaning handed down “from the beginning,” from apostolic times, of the Church’s teaching on the Mass, and the priesthood, to be presented effectively in this period of history, our present time.

    Not change, but continuity.

    Because it would create a theological problem to say “the teaching has changed.”

    The striking thing about what Roche is saying is precisely this, that it seems to contradict the central teaching of Pope Benedict: that the new Mass is not simply a “more accessible” Mass for ordinary people in the pews (because, for example, the words are in the vernacular rather than an ancient language, Latin, that few people know) but that it actually represents a “change” in the theology of the Mass.

    Is this actually what the assembled bishops at the Second Vatican Council said, or intended?

    Is there any place where the Council Fathers say “we are going to have a new theology of the Mass”? (Evidently, considering what the Church had taught up to that time on the matter was in some way deficient, or incomplete.)

    Is it not rather the case that Pope John XXIII and the Council Fathers said, “we would like to keep the same theology of the Mass as always, but allow the ordinary faithful to understand it better”?

    And is it not the case that some of the changes made — in order to make the Mass “more accessible” — like (for example) the shift of the position of the priest, from facing the altar to facing the people, had the opposite effect from the one intended?

    That is, in the old Mass, do not the people sense clearly that they indeed, along with the priest and, as it were, led by him, are, yes, participating in the offering of the Holy Sacrifice?

    And is it not, rather, in the Novus Ordo, with the priest facing the people, that the assembled laity feel as if they are a passive audience at the rather unpredictable “show” that the priest presents, not according to time-honored rubrics handed down for centuries, but according to the events of the day and the whims of the particular priest?

    In any case, is it not the case that Catholic theology holds that the priest is ordained to offer the very bodily sacrifice of Christ Himself, in a way that the people may participate in, but cannot accomplish without the presence of the ordained priest?

    To suggest that the primary action of the ordained priest is not different from that participatory action of the people at Mass would seem not in keeping with traditional Catholic teaching on this matter; that is, it would seem to represent a change in theology… risking being a development not in keeping with perennial Catholic teaching.

    Listen to the BBC report here: (link).

    You must skip the first 5 minutes, and start precisely at 5:12 into the program, to hear the newsman ask Cardinal Roche about the Latin Mass, which the newsman says, quite dramatically, has become “an unexpected battleground in a Catholic culture war over the future direction of the Church.”

    At 5:47, someone (evidently a priest) sings a few words from the old Latin liturgy, “vere dignum et iustum est, aequum et salutare…” (“truly worthy and just it is, fitting and helpful for salvation,” link) and then the correspondent says that, while Pope Benedict provided space for the traditional Latin Mass, Pope Francis has “changed the rules” and required bishops to seek permission from Rome before any celebration of the old Latin Mass. A Catholic speaks of the beauty of the silences in the old Mass.

    The correspondent then explains how many vibrant traditional communities are being repressed.

    And a priest from England who favors the celebration of the old Mass asks Pope Francis and Cardinal Roche to reverse their restrictions on the old Mass.

    Catholic journalist Austen Ivereigh then defends the decision of Pope Francis, saying there are valid reasons for it.

    Precisely at the 10:19 mark in this report, the correspondent introduces Cardinal Arthur Roche.

    So simply begin to listen to this report by clicking at the 10:19 mark…

    Roche begins to speak at the 10:36 mark. He finishes right at the 11 minute mark. In those 24 seconds, he says the words also quoted above:

    “You know, the theology of the Church has changed. Whereas before, the priest represented, at a distance, all the people — they were channeled, as it were, through this person who alone was celebrating the Mass. It is not only the priest who celebrates the liturgy, but also those who are baptized with him. And that is an enormous statement to make.”

    That is the extent of his remarks. The report ends after another Catholic layman speak, at the 11:54 mark.

    So, if you wish to hear the whole BBC report on the old Mass, listen from 5:12 to 11:54. If you wish to simply listen the Cardinal Roche’s words, listen from 10:36 to 11:00.

    As Lifesitenews reported (link), Liturgical scholar Matthew Hazell highlighted Roche’s comments, noting that contrary to the cardinal’s claim, the teaching of the Church had not changed.

    He pointed to the teaching of Pope Pius XII in his 1947 encyclical Mediator Dei, in which the pontiff outlined the Catholic teaching on the congregation uniting themselves to the priest in the sacrifice of the Mass.

    “Now it is clear that the faithful offer the sacrifice by the hands of the priest from the fact that the minister at the altar, in offering a sacrifice in the name of all His members, represents Christ, the Head of the Mystical Body. Hence the whole Church can rightly be said to offer up the victim through Christ…. The fact, however, that the faithful participate in the eucharistic sacrifice does not mean that they also are endowed with priestly power. It is very necessary that you make this quite clear to your flocks… Now the faithful participate in the oblation, understood in this limited sense, after their own fashion and in a twofold manner, namely, because they not only offer the sacrifice by the hands of the priest, but also, to a certain extent, in union with him. It is by reason of this participation that the offering made by the people is also included in liturgical worship…” (Pius XII, Mediator Dei, 1947)

    The Lifesitenews report also contains further discussion of these matters.



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