28 Feb True Grit
An Update on the Latin Mass in Germany
Monika Rheinschmitt is a trained computer scientist. These days, however, she keeps a weather eye on some numbers she couldn't have imagined in her university days — developments in Catholicism and the growth of the Latin Mass in the German-speaking world.
Monika is the Stuttgart-based Director of Pro Missa Tridentina, one of the most active organizations on the planet to practically support the Latin Mass. Since 1990 she has been the editor and publisher of a traditional newsletter, in 2010 upgraded to the magazine “Dominus vobiscum”, which is published twice a year and avidly read in Germany, Alsace, Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Hers is not an easy job, not the least because in these countries the Latin Mass faces an unimaginable uphill battle. In Germany and its neighboring lands, secular attitudes range from indifferent to hostile about the idea of religion itself. Within the Church, both traditional teachings and the traditional rite are often suppressed, ignored or ridiculed in ways that might astonish outsiders.
Even though the numbers of Mass-goers and Catholics continue to drop precipitously in these countries, there seems to be little awareness on the part of Church leadership of the significant power of the Extraordinary Form to attract converts and indeed to bring Catholics home again. (For more about the German church see here.)
Against this background, the gains that the Latin Mass has made are a testimony to the true grit of Catholics, laity and clergy alike. In this exclusive interview with Regina Magazine, Monika gives us a view into her world.
Q. Tell us about Pro Missa Tridentina. When was it founded, and by whom?
Pro Missa Tridentina was founded in Stuttgart in Spring 1990 as an association of laypeople dedicated to the care of the Traditional Latin Rite of the Catholic Mass. We work to promote this “Vetus Ordo” by supporting Catholic laity who wish to be able to assist at this beautiful rite. That includes the organization of trainings for priests, altar servers and choirs as well as practical help finding locations for the Mass – and from writing letters to the local bishop to preparing the first celebration of a Traditional Latin Mass.
Q. What progress do you see being made, say, since the Motu Proprio of 2007 in Germany?
Immediately after the 2007 Motu Proprio, there was a significant jump in the number of Latin Masses available around Germany. From Regina Magazine‘s reports on England and America I see that there has been an impressive growth since 2007 as well. What is remarkable about Germany is that there was an immediate increase – more than threefold the number of Masses in 2008, followed by a very quick leveling-off.
Q. What do you attribute this to?
I believe the slang phrase is ‘clamp-down' in American English. The German bishops moved quickly to suppress the Mass, though officially of course this was forbidden by the Motu Proprio.
Q. How would you characterize the growth in the TLM in Germany?
When we started in 1990, there were exactly four TLMs available in all of Germany. Today there are now approximately 150 TLMs in Germany — and 36 in Austria, 37 in Switzerland, 4 in Liechtenstein, 4 in Alsace, 1 in Luxembourg, 4 in the South Tyrol, 17 in Belgium and 12 in the Netherlands. Of course, these Masses are not always regularly scheduled on Sundays.
Q. That is significant growth! How has this been accomplished?
A lot of hard work on the part of many, many laypersons and priests. Most have had to face a real struggle to find a church where the Rite can be celebrated and a priest who was willing to be trained and to offer the Mass. Then of course many bishops will forbid the advertisement of the Mass, so the only way the faithful can learn of it is through word of mouth – or through the use of the Internet.
For many years Pro Missa Tridentina has maintained a website (http://www.pro-missa-tridentina.org/ ) which supplies not only information about the Traditional Latin Mass but also lists of locations for many countries and several maps.
Q. This impediment seems counter-productive in a Church which is rapidly losing membership, either through natural attrition (death) or through Catholics simply deciding not to pay their Church tax.
A. Yes, it seems so to me and to quite a few others. But this doesn't seem to be a rational decision; in fact it is much more ideological in nature, this resistance on the part of these older clerics. (Editor's Note: For more about the German church tax see here.)
Q. What of the future?
A. Since many years we are seeing a lot of youth and young families becoming in-terested in the Mass, and their Faith is being strengthened. Most have not been catechized; they don't know their Faith, but they are attracted by the beauty and reverence of this ancient Rite.
They are insisting on the other sacraments as well: from Weddings to Baptism, from First Holy Communion to the Anointing of the Sick, Catholics in Germany continue to plead to receive the abundance of graces of their new spiritual home – the Traditional Latin Mass.
For further information please contact:
Laienvereinigung für den klassischen römischen Ritus in der Katholischen Kirche
(Pro Missa Tridentina)
70825 Korntal Germany
Phone: +49 711 8387877+49 711 8387877