Q — I recently attended a seminar for liturgical ministers and was surprised when the question/answer section was dominated by questions about the growing interest in the Tridentine or Extraordinary Form of the Mass. I was under the impression that Vatican II allowed the Extraordinary Form if parishioners requested it. When I asked for a clarification, I was told that the two rites were never intended to be compatible or run parallel to each other. The impression I got was that the post-Vatican II rite was the only “acceptable” rite. I later learned that Pope Benedict stated the exact opposite. Since there appeared to be a growing interest among parishioners from what I heard in the seminar, just how many Catholics in the Portland area are interested in learning and experiencing the Tridentine Mass? Is anyone investigating this?

A — I cannot say how many Catholics in the Archdiocese of Portland are interested in participating in the celebration of the Tridentine Mass. I simply don’t know. On a very personal note, as one who was educated bilingually in English and Gaelic, who had a fine formation in both Latin and Greek from age 11 to 18, and became competent through university studies in Hebrew, Aramaic and Syriac, I prefer to worship in English. So, I guess I am biased in favor of the vernacular.

On July 7, 2007 Pope Benedict issued a document, an apostolic letter motu proprio/on his own initiative entitled Summorum Pontificum/Of the Supreme Pontiffs. This apostolic letter permitted Catholic priests to celebrate the Eucharist according to the Roman Missal in use prior to the reforms that have come about as a result of Vatican II. This is often and commonly referred to as the Tridentine Mass. As a result of this document priests had more freedom to celebrate the Mass in its pre-conciliar 1962 form, without seeking formal permission from their superiors. The text went on to insist that pastors should accept requests “from stable groups who adhere to the preceding liturgical tradition.”

The document was accompanied by a letter from Pope Benedict. In that letter he explained that his decision was aimed principally at a generous liturgical provision of the older form of the Mass for those who felt a genuine need for it. The pope also went on to emphasize that this decision of his was not a criticism of the Roman Missal or the Mass promulgated by Pope Paul VI. That was to remain as the normal form of the Mass so that, consequently, this generous liturgical provision was the “extraordinary form.” In the pope’s view, the use of the “extraordinary form” really only made sense when people had some basic knowledge of Latin.