John Allen Jr. of NCR has a wide ranging interview with Cardinal George of Chicago. In it, Allen asks the Cardinal about the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. I have excerpted those questions and answers here with my emphases and [comments].

Speaking of discordant notes in our unity, the Holy Father’s recent motu proprio broadening permission for celebration of the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass has generated some controversy. In Chicago, do you anticipate widespread use of the old Mass?

Since you have over half the presbyterate who really can’t handle Latin, I don’t see huge numbers. Among the others who could handle it, they made a decision after the council that they’re not going to use Latin again. For them, it’s a matter of principle that they wouldn’t use it. [Hmm? Is that a valid principle? Can a priest validly object to Latin on principle?] Therefore, ‘widespread’ isn’t going to happen, I don’t think, at least for the next several years. We have it now, it’s built up over the years, where people have asked for it in five different places in five different parts of the city. Every Sunday, maybe 3,000 people worship God using the old missal.

That was prior to the motu proprio?


Any increase after the motu proprio?

I had one priest say that maybe I’d like to start it in my parish, and we’re talking about that. It depends on how many people want it, it depends on whether when he goes away we can find somebody who can continue it or not. We’re discussing whether this is a good thing to do. He’s not too far from other places where it’s celebrated, but he says my parishioners want it in my parish. We’re talking about that now. Maybe in a couple of places in the diocese where it’s not really accessible, such as the southwestern corner and a few other places, we might look at that. [I must admit that I am confused. This all still sounds like it is entirely up to the Bishop. Sort of an Ecclesia Dei Plus. If the Priest is capable and people want it, he can do it. No?] But I haven’t seen wide demand. Nobody’s written me letters saying, ‘Ah, now at last we can do this.’ So far, there is no such reaction. We are going to be sure that the seminarians, when they do their practicum on the new Mass, also receive some instruction about what the Tridentine rite looks like, so it’s not foreign to them. It’s the extraordinary expression of the Roman rite, so they should know it. [Excellent! As it should be.] Many of them, I suspect, won’t really be prepared to celebrate it. We demand more Latin of them now. They must have at least two years, and that’s been the case for some years. But that’s perhaps not enough to actually celebrate it, and the bishop has to be sure that the priest-celebrant can actually celebrate.[Hmmm. See Father Z. for what idoneous means.]

Even if they don’t do it publically, do you see more of your priests celebrating the old Mass privately?

I have no indication that they’re doing that, or that they would want to do that. There might be a few. I could think of several, but you could count them, I think, on two hands .… maybe one hand.

Prior to the release of the motu proprio, I wrote an op/ed piece for the New York Times in which I argued that this would be one of those classic Vatican documents which, because of its symbolic importance, generates a lot of debate, but practically changes little on the ground.Does that seem right to you?

We’ll see, but it made sense to me when I read it, and it still makes sense to me now. Symbolically, it is important, mostly because the pope wants to insist that there was no rupture [between the pre- and post-Vatican II periods], and it shouldn’t have been treated as a rupture. The old Mass is there now, extraordinary but nonetheless present, as a kind of template to draw people into perhaps a more reverential celebration of the Eucharist. [OK.]It’s there, and that’s helpful. On the other hand, most of the practicing Catholics I know, including those in my own family, who have always been good Mass-goers and who have nothing against the Tridentine rite, remember it and appreciate it, but they say, ‘We’re somewhere else now.’ [Yes, but where are we?]

In other words, they wouldn’t want to do it every Sunday.

Yes, yes. It’s available, and it’s readily available in Chicago, and might be more available, but it’s always going to be what the pope called it: ‘extraordinary.’