Father Z shares a snippet from an online chat with Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles:

Ann Scolari: What are your thoughts on the Trindentine [sic] mass?

CardinalMahony: Ann: The Tridentine Mass was meant for those who could not make the transition from Latin to English [or other languages] after the Council. But there is no participation by the people, and I don’t believe that instills the spirit of Christ among us.

My very first thought on this is:  Huh?!

That first sentence is bizarre!  It sounds as if the cardinal is under the impression that the Tridentine Mass was invented after the Second Vatican Council as a way of catering to the poor, ignorant, cowering folks who couldn’t bear the difficult transition to… their own native tongue.

That might make sense if:

1.  Latin was the native tongue and was being replaced by some strange foreign language,

2.  The Tridentine Mass had not existed for hundreds of years prior to Vatican II, and

3.  Vatican II had declared that Latin should be completely done away with in the Mass.

In fact, the transition Cardinal Mahony speaks of was abrupt, forced, and not at all supported by the documents of the Council.  We’re only just now starting to correct that mistake by re-introducing the Latin prayers.

But for the most part, that first statement of his was just weird and confusing.

Unfortunately less weird and confusing is the second sentence.  I don’t know what was in the cardinal’s heart when he said that, but the message I get is that people who attend the TLM are soulless drones who do not encounter Christ in the Mass.  The lack of participation thing is a tired, vapid accusation, which my own experience soundly refutes.  And I definitely felt the spirit of Christ too, in a very profound and vibrant way.  So, sorry, Cardinal, I’ll stand by my own lying first-hand experience, thank you.

I have always been rather taken aback by the swift, eager, and yet uncritical manner in which people attack the TLM and its supporters.  I’ve never understood it.  Even amid all the wonderful comments I received when Father Z kindly shared my first TLM experience, I received one really nasty and very personal comment from one person.  Quoth she:

This encapsulates perfectly why I refuse to attend a Catholic church. This person is not worshipping God herself, she’s passively delegated the job to a priest. Anyone who delegates worship to another person will abdicate all other responsibilities of adult citizenship to her “betters” whenever she gets the chance. I don’t want a society made up of such cowards.

Again, my first thought was:  Huh?! Didn’t she even read what I wrote?  And who is she calling an irresponsible citizen and a coward?! At first, I broke a sweat trying to come up with a charitable response.  But after the initial shock and spark of rage, I realized that she was just a fuming bigot using me as the stone on which to grind her axe against Catholicism.  And that I was OK with that.  It’s simply part of being a practicing Catholic.  A little droplet of white martyrdom here and there is a good thing–it brings us to life.

Cardinal Mahony may not have taken the same tone as that woman.  But coming from a cardinal of the Church, his statement was just as injurious, and probably more so.  I just think it’s appalling and irresponsible that any cardinal would make such a statement publicly, to the Catholic faithful.  So maybe the TLM is not his “thing.”  Maybe it’s not a lot of people’s “thing.”  Fair enough.  But to disrespect it and insult it like that is beyond inappropriate.  If nothing else, we can all respect that it is part of our very long, very rich heritage.  We can also respect that our Holy Father clearly sees a great deal of value in it, and so do many clergy and laypeople.  I certainly do.

What is the cardinal saying about us, what is he saying about the Holy Father, what is he saying about our liturgical heritage, when he dismisses the TLM in such an offensive, thoughtless manner?

It’s one thing to be attacked by an angry bigot.  Is it unreasonable for us to expect better from our own spiritual fathers and leaders?

And have I said lately how grateful I am for Pope Benedict, and how much I love him?