Michael Brendan Dougherty writes in praise of Pope Benedict XVI for establishing that the Tridentine Mass (also known as the “Latin Mass,” or the “Old Mass”) is always and everywhere licit. The papal ruling came in a document titled Summorum Pontificum. MBD says — rightly in my view — that even nonbelievers ought to be grateful for the old mass’s comeback, because it has inspired so much beautiful art over the centuries. In his 1980s book Once A Catholic, the writer Peter Occhiogrosso interviewed a number of prominent, or semi-prominent, people who are or who once were Catholics, about their life in the Church. One of the most surprising things about it when I read the book as a brand-new Catholic was how many people interviewed in the book — even an ex-Catholic like the avant-garde rock musician Frank Zappa — missed the old mass.
Anyway, MBD, who is himself a Traditionalist, writes that the pope’s intervention did not save his parish:
Summorum came too late to save that community in Poughkeepsie. In the New York Archdiocese as then ruled by Cardinal Edward Egan, the offense of saying this Mass and publishing tracts in its favor was treated as a far more serious crime and scandal than clerical pederasty. Cardinal Egan suspended my Poughkeepsie priest, and effectively exiled him from the life of the church. Priests who knew about the situation observed darkly that if he had raped children instead of saying this Mass, his career would have been better off.
The modus operandi then was that these Latin Mass people — “the crazies,” as they were called in the archbishop’s office — should be contained in Saint Agnes in midtown Manhattan or in a few obscure parishes along the Hudson River. Egan was all too happy to see that Poughkeepsie parish closed and the building sold. He smudged us out like a penciled mistake.
This is a provocatively stated point, but nevertheless a sound one. The current cardinal archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, had a South African priest sent packing after he had the temerity to defend the Latin mass community in a homily (partial transcript here), and now threatens to shut down Holy Innocents, the parish where NYC has its only daily Latin mass. Meanwhile, Cardinal Dolan tolerates things like the “Pre-Pride mass”.
Why does Cardinal Dolan consider the Latin mass a greater threat than a mass said as part of a Gay Pride festival? It’s mind-boggling. As you know, I’m no longer Catholic, and never was a Traditionalist Catholic, but for the entire time I was a Catholic communicant, I never understood the fear and loathing so many within the Catholic institution had for the Latin mass.
By the way, under the plan Cardinal Dolan is considering, Holy Innocents parish will be merged with nearby St. Francis of Assisi parish — which hosts the Pre-Pride Mass. Priorities, I suppose.
UPDATE: Dominic, a reader and former Catholic seminarian, says in the comments thread:
There is a very visceral attachment to this era of boundless optimism by some of the people who lived through it or participated in it which is very unfortunate and will not be gotten rid of until they’re gone.
I think he’s really put his finger on something important, perhaps the most important thing about the ideology that cannot tolerate the Latin mass. It stands as a rebuke to the entire postconciliar project. To be clear, you can certainly support the Council and the Latin mass. When I was a Catholic, I did both (though I did not attend the Latin mass). But the endurance of the Latin mass, and its rebirth in the hearts of Catholics too young to have been raised in it (so they cannot plausibly be accused of nostalgia), is intolerable because it challenges the ideological optimism of the conciliar mindset. That strikes me as a plausible explanation. You?