Last week, 300 young women and men from around the world gathered in Rome to prepare a document designed to be part of an upcoming summit of Catholic bishops on youth, and were joined by 15,000 more young people who volunteered comments via Facebook. While editors at a Vatican briefing on Saturday described the exercise as largely conflict-free, a group of participants who prefer traditional forms of liturgy aren’t happy with the results.
A group of two women and three men, including a priest, were tasked with summarizing the over 1,100 comments the online English language group received as answers to 15 questions into a three-page summary. That summary was then merged with 25 more that came from five other Facebook groups, as well as the small working groups into which the 300 people gathered in Rome were divided.
Those five editors found themselves compelled to release a statement on Monday insisting that there was no “conspiracy” to quiet those who favor the Extraordinary Form when it comes to the liturgy, in the face of protests from some who took part in the event. In particular, several of those objecting pointed to the failure to include the phrase “Latin Mass” anywhere in the final document, even though it had come up during the discussions.
The editors said there was a “kind of lobby” for the older Latin Mass during the gathering, which contributed “to the appearance that there were more voices talking about traditional forms of liturgy than what was actually the reality.”
One voice commenting more frequently than others, they argued, “doesn’t give that voice more than its equal share.”
They also said that they were disheartened by the “lack of trust” that “permeated those comments.”
“Some people inside the group have been commenting that their voice has not been heard during the pre-synodal meeting,” says a post written by the Synod 2018 social media team in the English Facebook group, which last week served as a closed discussion forum.
“Even though the discussion was not specifically about liturgy, nor were the majority of the comments on this topic, we still included the request of the Extraordinary Form three times in our summary,” says the statement.
The document does actually refer positively to the lure of “traditional liturgies,” though without invoking the phrase “Latin Mass.”
“We are passionate about the different expressions of the Church,” it said. “Some of us have a passion for ‘the fire’ of contemporary and charismatic movements that focus on the Holy Spirit; others are drawn towards silence, meditation and reverential traditional liturgies. All of these things are good as they help us to pray in different ways.”
The defense of the work done, signed by the coordinators of the English-speaking group, came after several participants of the discussion raised their voice on social media, claiming that they weren’t represented in the final document.
Though tasked with producing a summary of the discussions from the Facebook groups, the social media team was not part of the 12-person team that turned the group reports into a final, 16-page document.
The discussion was sparked by a questionnaire that didn’t ask the youth about their liturgical preferences, but one of the 15 questions was: “What specific initiatives appear to be more appropriate to attract the interest of young people, so that they can fully grow as persons?”
Several responses favored the Extraordinary Form, which led to the phrase appearing in a word cloud of responses created by the Facebook group admins that were made public.
The post shared on Monday was an attempt to reassure critics of the document that there was no conspiracy against them.
“We understand some people’s disappointment that the final language was not to their precise liking, but it must be made clear that there has not been not any kind of conspiracy against those who prefer more traditional forms of liturgy,” the statement said.
The term “Extraordinary Form,” a phrase used in Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum to describe the liturgy of the 1962 Roman Missal, widely referred to as the Tridentine Mass, and which is performed in Ecclesiastical Latin, is not present in the pre-synod document.
In the document, under the section of “young leaders,” it says that “Beyond institutional decision-making, we want to be a joyful, enthusiastic and missionary presence within the Church. We also strongly express a wish for a prominent creative voice. This creativity often finds itself in music, liturgy and the arts but, at the moment, this is an untapped potential, with the creative side of the Church often dominated by the older Church members.”
Second, under “Initiatives to be reinforced,” the youth write that they long for experiences that can deepen their relationship with Jesus.
“Therefore, we respond to initiatives that offer us an understanding of the Sacraments, prayer and the liturgy, in order to properly share and defend our faith in the secular world,” they wrote.
The final document was compiled after the meeting had considered two earlier drafts. A first draft was live streamed on Facebook, but those joining online weren’t allowed to add their comments to it.