Rorate Caeli

"The number of the faithful who are attached to the old Mass is forever on the increase"

From Paix Liturgique's most recent English newsletter, featuring an interview with Mr. Christian Marquant, president of the same society:

Q: Speaking of which, how do you perceive the present situation?

CM: It is, quite simply, unhoped for: for the first time since the upheavals that were brutally imposed in the name of the "Spirit of the Council," a reconciliation seems possible beyond this or that liturgical preference. Indeed the Pope has removed the last obstacles (real or imagined) to a stronger unity of all Catholics around the Holy Father.

In this favorable atmosphere unity henceforward rests principally on the personal commitment of the baptized: of the faithful, of course, whose role in the Church the Vatican II Council underscored, but also of the bishops and priests who as Pastors fully bear this responsibility.

For each of us the question is whether we truly wish to be faithful to the commitments of our faith in Jesus Christ.

Q: Paix Liturgique has become known especially through opinion polls, hasn't it? ...

CM: The idea of commissioning opinion polls was born of the contemptuous silence we encountered: "You do not exist"; "you're living in the wrong century"; "there is no liturgical problem among us"; "you've missed the train of renewal", etc. Yet not only did these claims strike us as so many caricatures from the outset, but even, as the years have gone by, they have turned out to be absolutely without basis in reality: the number of the faithful who are attached to the old Mass is forever on the increase; the young are ever more attracted to it.

As a privileged observer, I have been able, for the past forty years, starting with the sizable French "Silent ones of the Church" movement just after the Council, to observe that those attracted to the traditional liturgy are not "a tiny group of old folks and nostalgics" but a sizable part of the Catholic faithful. Convinced as I was by this reality, which testimonies confirmed every day, we looked for an instrument to give some consistency to that reality. How could we make it known that it was neither honest nor reasonable to reduce Catholics attached to the Latin and Gregorian liturgy merely to the faithful of the Society of Saint Pius X, who, as the claim then went, "at best" amounted to no more that 1% of the faithful?

Following the example set by the then president of Una Voce, Éric de Saventhem, in Germany in the early 80s, we got the idea of commissioning an opinion poll in France in 2001 with one of the great polling institutions in the country. The results of that Ipsos investigation went beyond our wildest expectations! Indeed, at a time when the claim was still routinely made that the Missal according to John XXIII was forbidden, over 20% of practicing Catholics stated that they wished to live out their Catholic faith within the traditional liturgy ...

Since then, we commissioned two further polls along the same lines in France, followed by one in Italy in September of 2009 that yielded the extraordinary result of two practicing Italian Catholics in three ready to attend the old Mass. We have also begun to undertake polls in the dioceses, in Versailles and Paris for the time being, and have just undertaken a poll among German Catholics ...

So, little by little, we are getting a pretty accurate picture of the reality: since the Holy Father's beautiful words in 2007, at least one in three Catholics who attend Sunday Mass in their parish would participate in a Mass celebrated according to the extraordinary form ...

Q: Yet many Pastors seem in no hurry to accept this reality and to achieve unity among Catholics, do they?

CM: Alas! Ideology is alive and well in a good portion of the clergy, and even more so among the bishops! The issue of unity is still by and large approached within an exclusive understanding of unity: all those who exhibit the slightest attachment to the Church's two thousand year old tradition, be it doctrinal or liturgical, are ignored or looked at with suspicion.

It is more than about time for this blindness to cease and for our bishops to become aware that very many of the faithful wish to live out their Catholic faith within the extraordinary form of the Roman rite. As difficult and as painful as this realization might be for some of them, it is an essential a first step...


Q: What can we hope from our bishops, then?

CM: Simply this: let them stop just trying to be right against the Pope and be willing, at long last, to acknowledge the needs of the faithful who are attached to the traditional Faith and its practice. As long as these laymen are considered as second-class Christians, or even as "a problem," the Church unity that the bishops profess will remain nothing but a hypocritical notice of intent. An immediate first step to contemplate might be to ensure that all the already established celebrations of the extraordinary form of the Roman rite truly and generously correspond to the actual requests of the faithful. What does this mean? Quite simply that the celebrations be on Sunday, regular, and at family-friendly times. "Extraordinary form" does not mean "extraordinary conditions" for the celebrations, as is unfortunately too often the case.

Next, our pastors -our parish priests first and foremost since the MP gives them this responsibility without their having to obtain the bishop's placet- should respond to the requests they receive loyally and within a reasonable delay, without equivocating or playing for time.

Respect, receptivity, and goodwill: that is all we ask of our pastors and bishops. Since these are principles they constantly invoke, we have not lost the hope of finally seeing their fruits in our parishes.

Read more here.