To Evelyn Waugh, one of the most important aspects of the Roman Catholic Church’s Vatican II reforms of 1960 was the limitation on the use of the traditional Latin Mass. He spent his final years in active opposition to this reform. According to recent stories, the leniency that allowed certain parishes to use the Latin Mass in addition to the new vernacular versions has now suffered a setback. Here is the story recently reported in the Toronto Globe and Mail:
It may be considered a dead language, but Latin seems to be very much alive, and kicking rather aggressively, if the past week is any indication. On July 16, Pope Francis reversed one of his predecessor’s most significant policies by reintroducing (and increasing) strict restrictions on celebrating the Latin Mass – or, to be more precise, the revised Tridentine rite so beloved of traditionalists and conservatives. He argued that this version of the mass was causing division within the church and being exploited by critics of the Second Vatican Council.
Vatican II, as it’s more commonly known, introduced some long overdue reforms into the church in the 1960s and allowed for a new, more participatory and, some would claim, more historically accurate mass, in the vernacular. Latin wasn’t outlawed but became increasingly difficult to find.
When the new service was introduced it certainly surprised people, but opposition was limited and relatively brief. J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, loudly responded in Latin to show his displeasure. Writer Evelyn Waugh even asked to be excused from mass – but Evelyn Waugh would do that, wouldn’t he?
The Latin Mass enjoyed a renaissance during the pontificate of John Paul II, even though he wasn’t a particular devotee. There are now parishes that celebrate in Latin all over the world. Most also offer the service in the local language – but not always willingly or enthusiastically.
Under Pope Francis’s new policy, the old rite has to receive the approval of the bishop in each diocese, and newly ordained priests require permission to lead such services, with the Vatican also being consulted. The bishop must also ascertain if Latin Mass leaders and participants accept Vatican II, which will be extremely difficult to do, and there is ambiguity about where they may worship – whether they will be allowed to do so in churches.
Possibly related to this, the Italian language religious website Radio Spada has posted an article in which it offers a survey of Waugh’s writings on this issue. Here is a translated excerpt from its introductory paragraphs:
Among the English intellectuals opposed to the new course, Evelyn Waugh was perhaps the one who most of all publicly expressed his dissent: until the end of his days he fought with articles, armed only with a typewriter, a daily battle against rampant heterodoxy. Even in his powerful correspondence – edited by Mark Amory and published in 1980 – several letters can be traced that deal more or less directly with the issues debated at the Council. In 1996 these letters were collected by Alcuin Reid in a small volume, A Bitter Trial , subsequently expanded and republished in a second edition in 2011 by Ignatius Press.
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