Spare a thought for progressives. Life hasn’t been all sunshine and roses lately for those who would sing a new church into being. Or so Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J., reports in his latest column on the future of Catholic liturgical reform for Religion News Service. There’s a long way to go—his concerns center around eight liturgical issues—and, apparently, an insufficient number of youthful progressives to get there.

What’s happened to the next generation, you ask? Well, to Fr. Reese’s sorrow, they’re off attending the Traditional Latin Mass, just as if Vatican II never happened. Or if not all of them, enough to cause Fr. Reese to beg the Vatican: do something! “The church needs to be clear that it wants the unreformed liturgy to disappear and will only allow it out of pastoral kindness to older people who do not understand the need for change,” he writes. “Children and young people should not be allowed to attend such Masses.” 

Of course, despite widespread abuse in this regard over the last 50 years, neither the Vatican nor the bishops technically have the authority to prevent celebration of the traditional Mass, or to forbid laypeople (of any age!) from attending it. Pope St. Pius V granted to all priests in perpetuity the universal right to celebrate the Tridentine Mass in his bull Quo Primum (1570)—a right reiterated by Benedict XVI in his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum (2007). No pope has attempted a formal, express revocation of Quo Primum; so powerfully worded is that document that any such attempt would be of questionable validity. But authority or no authority, bishops can make life extremely unpleasant for priests who persist in celebrating the traditional Mass and laypeople who support them. It is for a renewal of this ground-level persecution that Fr. Thomas Reese is advocating.

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