Restoring a Church tradition


Itís seldom the case that Christian liturgy makes the front pages of the international press.

But the idea of Pope Benedict XVI allowing the Mass to be said more freely in Latin provoked all sorts of interest last week. Including the fantasy that Catholics might now pray for the conversion of “the perfidious Jews.”

When the Papal statement was actually issued over the weekend all it said was that, “In parishes where there is a stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition, the pastor should willingly accept their request to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962.”

No nasty comments about the Jewish people, no heretics burning in the town square. In fact the announcement stresses that there are certain areas where the public liturgy has to follow the more modern form, including when it speaks of the Jews. The Good Friday service did once use the word perfidious, an ugly translation from “perfideles” or half-believer. In earlier times the congregation prayed first for the “fideles”, meaning believers or church, then for the Jewish people and then for the “infidels” or unbelievers. Pope John XXIII removed the deeply troubling word more than 40 years ago.

Roman Catholics do, however, still pray for the Jews at Easter. “Let us pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the word of God that they may continue to grow in the love of His name and in faithfulness to His covenant. Almighty and eternal God, long ago you gave your promise to Abraham and his posterity. Listen to your Church as we pray that the people you first made your own may arrive at the fullness of redemption.”

It’s vital to stress that this will not change. Some critics, naturally, will always be offended by any sense of a hierarchy of belief and any call for conversion. Yet an exclusive truth cannot, obviously, co-exist with another exclusive truth. Otherwise that truth would not be exclusive. If there is a God, there is not an absence of God. If water is wet, it is not dry.

Any serious Catholic believes that happiness and eternal life are to be found within the Catholic Church. To refuse to pray that other people will find their way into such a place would be positively selfish and cruel.

This latest pronouncement will enable the new and old order of the Mass to coexist and learn from one another, as was the reasoning of Vatican II.

The problem is that in this intellectually dumb and morally numb age we like our truths, well, less truthful. “Might be” or “could be” or, usually, “anything you want it to be.” Never “you should be.”

The Pope has spoken extensively about this relativism, as he did when he was Cardinal Ratzinger. As Cardinal he also wrote at length about the central importance of the Hebrew Scriptures, the place of the Jews in the plan of salvation and the evils of anti-Semitism.

The latest announcement far less about ecumenism, however, than about restoring the tradition of the Church and allowing greater freedom of worship. For some time individual priests have only been allowed to say the Latin Mass if they had special permission from their bishop. Pope Benedict has now allowed priests and parishes to employ Latin or the vernacular, leaving the decision up to them.

Obviously the Vatican hopes that this move will bring back some of the hundreds of thousands of conservative Catholics who have joined quasi-Catholic groups outside of the Church in the past 30 years. Some of them left for obscure or sinister reasons but many will doubtless return. Yet this is nothing more than a welcome consequence of a far more profound reform.

The Second Vatican Council or Vatican II was intended to be an organic progression of 2,000 years of Church tradition and teaching. Windows were supposed to be opened but an assortment of 1960s academics and left-wing priests preferred to smash them. Continuation became breach and a legion of abuses were allowed and even encouraged.

This latest pronouncement will enable the new and old order of the Mass to coexist and learn from one another, as was the reasoning of Vatican II. It is abundantly encouraging, long overdue and, yes, perfidious to those Catholics who despise everything they are supposed to revere.


Michael Coren, "Restoring a Church tradition." National Post, (Canada) July 10, 2007.

Reprinted with permission of the National Post.


Michael Coren (born January 1959 in Essex, England) is a Canadian columnist, author, public speaker, radio host and television talk show host. He is the host of the television series The Michael Coren Show. His articles and speeches often include stories of his own personal spiritual journey. Coren is half Jewish through his father.


He converted to Evangelical Christianity after a conversion experience as an adult, greatly influenced by Canadian televangelist Terry Winter. In early 2004, he embraced Catholicism. He cites St. Thomas More, C.S. Lewis, Ronald Knox and his God-father Lord Longford as spiritual influences, but remains connected to the ecumenical scene in Canada and beyond. He is the author of twelve books, including Mere Christian: Stories from the Light, Gilbert: The Man Who Was G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis: The Man Who Created Narnia, J.R.R Tolkien: the Man Who Created 'the Lord of the Rings'. He is published in many countries and in more than a dozen languages. He is currently writing a book entitled Socon, A Handbook for Moral Conservatives. Michael Coren is available as a public speaker. Visit his web site here.

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