Slamming Shut the Windows

When Blessed Pope John XXIII opened the Ecumenical Council of Vatican II on October 11, 1962 he said he wished to open the windows of the Catholic Church and let in some fresh air. It appears that the current pope, Benedict XVI, is continuing the tradition of his predecessor and is slamming shut those very same windows.

Last week word came down that Benedict XVI has loosened the regulations on the Tridentine (Latin) Mass. Previously a priest was required to obtain the permission of his bishop to celebrate the Tridentine mass publicly; now any priest can celebrate it when he wants. For us liberal Catholics this was “much ado about nothing” as most places have a Latin mass somewhere if you want to attend. Here in San Diego it’s celebrated each week at Holy Cross Cemetery. Conservatives and those who like the Latin Mass have complained that some bishops have not been cooperative in allowing congregations to attend Mass in Latin but I don’t think that’s true. I think these folk are going to find that it’s hard to find a priest who knows the Latin Mass; I know I never learned it.

But today we received the truly bad news from the Vatican. Previous to Vatican II it was generally taught that the Catholic Church was the only true Church and Protestants were misled. There was no serious dialogue with other Christian Churches and any ecumenism was based on the belief that when they come crawling back to us asking for forgiveness that we’ll accept them back. Vatican II taught that while the fullness of truth “subsists” in the Catholic Church, there is truth in other Churches (called “communities” in the official documents). From this teaching many denominations began to talk about Ecumenism, and talks started in the hope that someday all Christian Churches would one day be reunited. Today we read that the Pope has a different agenda. Last week the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly the Office of the Holy Inquisition) released a document called Responsa Ad Quaestiones De Aliquibus Sententiis Ad Doctrinam De Ecclesia Pertinetibus, or “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church” that does nothing but make things more difficult. It claims that the Catholic Church is the only true Church and that other religions are “defective” or “wounded” (depending on how the Latin is translated). It doesn’t say anything new, but it didn’t need to be done. All this does is demand that other Christians reply that this will hurt any dialogue and move us back. It will, in short, slam shut the windows that were bringing in fresh air. It’s also embarrassing to many of us faithful Catholics who have deep and enduring friendships with our Protestant sisters and brothers.

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