There are now two threads (as of last count) devoted to the new ruling (motu proprio) promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI. After reading different websites and the very text of the motu proprio itself, I've come to the conclusion that most of the fears were unfounded, and that the media only makes things worse by distorting the misunderstandings. Hence, for everyone's benefit, I've prepared a digest as well as a backgrounder to the real controverry (which is almost always absent in other accounts).
First, let's just clarify one thing, which I think is misunderstood by the media and by some of us here. Saying mass in Latin is still permitted, even before this document was produced by Pope Benedict. In the first place, all definitive vernacular versions of the liturgy of the Holy Mass is derived from the original Latin edition of the Roman Missal. Come to think of it, in the Philippines we are supposed to say Mass in Tagalog, Cebuano etc...but this doesn't mean we are not allowed to say mass in English either
WHAT IS SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM
The directive, or "motu proprio", entitled "Summorum Pontificum" was promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI to ease some restrictions on the Tridentine Mass, as well as providing some guidelines about when and how it is to be said.
The central focus of the controversy regarding the new motu proprio is the Tridentine Mass which is always exclusively said in Latin. To better understand why, it's necessary to look back at Church history. It is almost always said in Latin (with some smattering of Greek and for example, "Kyrie Eleison"
BACKGROUND OF CONTROVERSY
The Tridentine Mass was so-called because it was issued by the Council of Trent in 1520. It has undergone a lot of improvements, the most recent revisions being that of Pope Pius X and of Blessed Pope John XXIII. (The last revision was noteworthy because it deleted some prayers that were considered offensive by adherents of Judaism.) The other most significant feature of this mass is that the priest is facing the altar, with their back turned against the people.
The next---and, however you look at it, most drastic or most significant---revision of the mass was sponsored under the reign of Pope Paul VI. Because of changes brought about by Vatican II, masses were said in Latin, and the prayers and rites were revised as well. (This mass is sometimes referred to as the Pauline Mass). This is the form of the Holy Mass as we know it.
This, however, did not sit well with some Catholics (a minority, in fact), and they still maintained that the Tridentine Mass is the authoritative version of the mass. To bolster this claim, a group led by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre published a study that attacked the updates promulgated by Pope Paul VI. Not content with this, Archbishop Lefevre founded the Society of St. Pius X, which established centers around the world where the faithful can still celebrate Tridentine Masses. Archbishop Lefebvre continued denouncing the modern changes not only with the mass, but also within the Catholic Church itself. For this, he was sometimes regarded as the front-liner in the anti-liberalization faction of the Church.
That would have been fine with the Vatican except for one thing: Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated priests and bishops without the Pope's permission, after negotiations for a reconciliation with the Vatican has failed. For this, he was excommunicated. Archbishop Lefebvre died in 1991. This only deepened the rift between Arch. Lefebvre's group and the Vatican.
Until Summorum Pontificum, Traditionalist Catholics, whether supporters of Arch. Lefebvre or otherwise, continued to oppose the changes in the liturgy of the mass and continued to celebrate the Tridentine Mass on their own. They often distanced themselves from Rome and sometimes felt unwelcome within the Catholic Church. It is interesting to note that, despite these differences, Pope John Paul II produced two documents (in 1984 and 1987) that confirmed that the Tridentine Mass is still legitimate. It was not, ever, abolished, contrary to popular opinion. Hence, while some modernists believe that Traditionalists have totally broken away from the Catholic Church, the fact is they have not, since the Tridentine Mass was still considered legitimate. The only question was, did the priests seek their bishop's permission to say the Tridentine Mass?
On July 7, 2007 (hmmm...why 7-7-7 of all dates? ) Pope Benedict promulgated the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which:
1. affirmed the validity of the Tridentine Mass; and
2. relaxed the rule that priests must seek out their bishop's permission.
It is worth noting that Article 5 of the Summorum makes a passing reference to communities and groups such as the Society of Pope Pius X, although no specific names were mentioned. By inserting this provision, Pope Benedict XVI acknowledges that Traditionalist Catholics are still very much welcome in the Holy Catholic Church, and that their decision to hold Tridentine Masses are very much respected.
I understand that most of us are concerned about the impact of Summorum Pontificum. Please take note that, based on digests from the web site http://www.summorumpontificum.net, most bishops in the whole world, even from those in non-Catholic denominations, welcome this change, as it promotes unity within the Catholic Church. So, please, please do NOT panic...lest we forget, we're still allowed to say masses in the vernacular language, okay?
The most obvious feature of Summorum Pontificum is this: unless otherwise explicitly stated, priests do not need the permission of their bishops in order to say the Tridentine Mass. Prior to Summorum Pontificum, priests are required to seek the permission of their bishops; with Summorum, they can exercise their discretion.
Having said this, here are some highlights about the ruling from Pope Benedict XVI, to the best of my understanding. If I made any misinterpretations, the fault is all mine
1. The Tridentine Mass is NOT abrogated (and never was, even during Pope John Paul II's reign [Preface]), but neither does it deprecate the current (Art. 1) In other words, same mass, two modes of expression.
The Pauline Mass is considered the ordinary form, while the Tridentine Mass is considered as the extraordinary form. What does this mean? If you buy a copy of the weekly missal, the liturgy will use the Pauline Mass, as the Tridentine Mass is only said on an on-demand basis. However, both forms of the mass are considerd valid.
2. Unless otherwise provided, priests do not need to seek the permission of their bishops if they need to say the Tridentine Mass (Art. 2)
3. Lay and religious communities may request to have the Tridentine Mass heard depending on the conditions stated in Article 3. However, any one from the general faithful may request this "spontaneously" (Art. 4). (One possible scenario that I can think of is, for example, if a group of churchgoers want to hear mass for a special, private occasion and that they also request the priest to say it in the Tridentine Mass.)
4. Communities that still adhere to the Tridentine Mass (e.g. the Society of St. Piux X) are allowed to continue hearing the Tridentine Mass. However, care must be ensured that they still adhere to the "ordinary pastoral care" of the parish. In other words, they are also encouraged to use the Pauline Mass. (Art. 5 Sec. 1)
5. There is no restriction for saying the Tridentine Mass on weekdays (i.e. kahit araw-arawin), but on Sundays and feast days, there can be at least one such mass. (Art. 5 Sec 2). Priests are allowed to grant any such requests by parishioners even on some special masses such as wedding masses and funeral masses (Art. 5 Sec 20). Related to this, the liturgies for the sacraments (e.g. baptism, confirmation...) can also be said in Latin (Art. 9), as well for bishops to consecrate churches using the Tridentine liturgy (Art. 10)
However, in case the mass is to be heard in a church or chapel that is not a parish/diocesan church or a church attached to a religious order, the Rector of such church/chapel must provide the permission. (Art. 5 Sec. 5). One example of such church or chapel is the chapel at SM Megamall.
6. Readings can be said in the vernacular language even if the mass is using the Tridentine liturgy. (Art. 5 Sec. 6). If I'm reading this correctly, this also includes the Responsorial Psalm. NOTE: No mention is made about songs.
7. Any concerns or reports related to the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum are to be handled by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei (Arts. 11 and 12)
8. SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM TAKES EFFECT ON SEPTEMBER 14, 2007. So don't panic...in case you are planning to try out the Tridentine Mass in your parish, every one has enough time to prepare
And finally---so that everyone can rermember---take note that Summorum Pontificum does NOT compel everyone to say the Tridentine Mass in their parishes. It is entirely optional. So if you ask me, there is absolutely no reason to panic...if you still want to hear mass in Tagalog or English, we are still allowed to do so. But if you want to try hearing the Tridentine mass, why not?
(And kung meron mang susubok sa inyo, please let me know, as I want to experience this myself )
Official Text (in---what else?---Latin)
English Translation (for the rest of us )
Unofficial Website - contains copies of the text and translations, as well as a collection of statements, press releases and reactions
FAQ --- prepared by the US counterpart of the CBCP
Analysis from Time Magazine
Tridentine Mass (Wikipedia)
Let me know if you have questions