Gabriel Fackre, a theologian in the United Church of Christ, said Pope John stated he called Vatican II to "open a window to the world and let the fresh air in."A less than enthusiastic response came from Susan Brooks Thistlewaite, President, Chicago Theological Seminary on the Washington Post's "On Faith" web site:
He wanted the church to reach out to the world and "take the context of the world seriously," Fackre said.
Since Vatican II, some have felt the reforms "led to extremes" and that the church had become not just open to the world but "captive to the day and age," he said.
What we see now, with the easing of rules on the Latin Mass is a reaction by a pope who's concerned about these extremes, Fackre said.
Pope John's successors made some moves to make the Latin Mass more easily available to people who wanted it.
And last month, Pope Benedict issued an order making it yet more easily available. He said where groups of Catholics request the Latin Mass, the churches must accommodate them.
The timing of the re-introduction of the Latin Mass at this time is very instructive, especially in regard to the U.S. Catholic Church. At a time when the Catholic Church in the U.S. needs to be working on becoming more open and more accountable to its laity to prevent more child sexual abuse, the re-introduction of the Latin Mass signals that the Catholic Church as a whole is moving in a reactionary direction, becoming more closed rather than more open.How Thistlewaite connects the Latin Mass to the sexual abuse scandal of the Catholic Church is wildly absurd since many of the abuse allegations have occurred since Vatican II. In addition, Pope Benedict's statement is clear that Latin Mass will be offered only if it’s requested by a sufficient number of parishioners. Hardly the makings of a closed church.
The move to more traditional services isn't limited to just the Catholic Church. Just this past week, The Naperville Sun reported on a UCC church that is re-introducing services in German:
German also is the native tongue of St. John United Church of Christ, the faith community Steininger has embraced since coming to the United States 87 years ago. Founded as St. John Lutheran Church by German settlers in 1857, the church held services exclusively in German for more than 60 years before phasing in a monthly English-speaking service in 1922. As time went on, St. John's began to alternate English and German services. When World War II broke out and anti-German sentiments began to run high, church leaders dropped the German services completely.
Until 1995. That's when Steininger, Gudrun Haas and other church members of German ancestry helped re-establish German language services at St. John.
Held at 11:30 a.m. on the first Sunday of the month, they attract as many as 40 worshippers from the Chicago area and beyond as well as nearly 160 people for a special service held on Christmas Eve. Those in regular attendance include German students and teachers, people of German ancestry and Germans whose employment temporarily brings them to the Chicago area.