Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Great News: "Pro-Multis"

Long post warning. I'll do my best to break it up in Q&A format.

Fr. Zuhlsdorf was attempting to keep the news off the web until the proper authorities could announce the news. I had discovered it on a blog last night, of Fr. Tim Finigan who is visiting Rome, who mentioned in his writings that rumors were swirling there about a soon-to-be released letter on "pro-multis". Someone tipped Fr. Z off about the blog post, and he finally conceded that this was the big news. He talks about potential imprudence for it showing up on the web, but I'm more inclined to think that a priest visiting Rome hearing a rumor swirl and talking about it on his blog is no more imprudent than those who originally leaked the information, and all of those participating in the Rome rumor mill on the ground and in emails (mea culpa!). But, the word is out and since it will be all over Catholic blogdom by bloggers with far greater readerships than mine, here we go....

What is the pro-multis issue?

Readers of Fr. Zuhlsdorf's, What Does the Prayer Really Say column in The Wanderer, and in his blog of the same name, likely already know as he has written extensively on this issue. But for the novice, and even some priests who have not really spent any amount of time contemplating or studying the issue in depth, it will appear - on the surface - to be "another concession to the SSPX". I disagree wholeheartedly, and I am indeed a novice. It has far greater spiritual implications to me, than some would have us believe. Just watch the secular press and mainstream Catholic media on this issue and see if any of what you read here, and especially at the blog of Fr. Z will be found in their explanations.

Fr. Zuhlsdorf has 4, lengthy and very detailed posts on the pro-multis issue. I recommend following those links (bottom) after you read this overview if you want to plunge in more deeply with scripture, translation specifics (latin, greek) - for which Fr. Z is particularly gifted - and many twists and turns in history on this matter.

In which part of the Mass is the "pro-multis"?

Here it is, setting aside any other translation issues there may or may not be here. My comment in red brackets
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
When supper was ended, he took the cup. Again he gave you thanks and praise, gave the cup to his disciples, and said: Take this all of you and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all [for many] so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.

Sound familiar now?

What is the problem with "for all?"

Two things stand out for me on this issue, and there are others for which you will have to read all of Fr. Zuhlsdorfs prior posts.

  1. Fr. Z sums the first problem up with the statement below: Not all are saved, as some would like to believe. This is from his first of four discussion posts on pro-multis:
The Church’s teaching is clear. This is our Catholic faith: Christ died for all but not all will be saved. Many will be saved. Many can be a huge number, a multitude so vast it defies human imagining but not God’s ability to number. Lacking even one, not all are saved.

  1. You will have to read his second post on pro-multis in order to get all of the back ground for this next one. After quoting Fr. Max Zerwick, SJ (writing of 1970, I believe) - A Biblical Scholar, Fr. Z observes:
Here is what Zerwick is saying. First, scholars of Aramaic say that Jesus really meant “for many”. Second, our formula pro multis doesn’t exclude the concept “all” but it causes us to think that “all” are not included in Jesus’ saving work. Third, even if the formula “for many” admittedly sounds like all will in fact be saved, certainly no Catholic thinks that way. Therefore, we can and should use the phrase “for all” because it sounds better.

I must make an observation. Zerwick says that because Catholics know what the Church teaches and do not believe that all are saved even through Jesus died for all, we can safely use the “for all”: Catholics will hear it in the right way, not the wrong way. Go to a funeral in a Catholic church today. Listen to how priests preach and people talk. You hear virtually, only, the concept that all are in fact saved. When people die, they go to heaven automatically. This is a perfect example of the rule lex orandi lex credendi … how we pray has a reciprocal relationship with what we believe. If you believe something, you will pray in a certain way even while by praying in a certain way you will come to believe what you pray. Catholics have been made to pray a certain way for decades and, over time, we have come to believe what we hear: all are saved because that is what the phrase “for all” in the consecration sounds like. Zerwick was right in one respect: if Catholics were well instructed and their knowledge of doctrine secure, “for all” could work. Zerwick was fatally wrong in another respect: he couldn’t imagine in 1970 what things would look like in thirty years … or could he? Either way, catechism is the key.

Is this a "concession" to schismatic Catholics in trying to lure them back?

The short answer: Absolutely not! Many cradle Catholics, convert Catholics, theologians, priests, religious, scholars, non-scholars, and ordinary lay people have taken issue with this wording and will be delighted with the announcement when it is made.

Aside from this, some have considered the "for all" translation to be heretical - a potential stumbling block in the Vatican's attempt to bring certain schismatic Catholics back into the fold. While many of these people assist at Masses in Latin, it could be difficult for them to come back to the church when certain vernacular versions of the Mass have wording they consider heretical. To my mind, the fix is a simple one and suffice it to say, is it is hardly any kind of concession to these folks as you may hear in secular and mainstream Catholic press.

Conclusion of this post

I have only scratched the surface. Where you really need to go is to Fr. Zuhlsdorf's blog if you want to dive in more deeply. It will be spun every which way but loose "out there", so learn the facts.

Fr. Z's collection of articles written on pro-multis in one post

Fr. Z's breaks silence on the "great news"

In conclusion, I am personally very greatful to the Lord, and to His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI for this simple, yet profound fix (even before it is formally announced). I have learned in the past year not to blow off such ordinary things without reading more deeply into spiritual meanings. We are in a culture that currently lives as if one good act will save our souls, when reality is that one bad act (unrepented mortal sin) cannot be waived for even for a single good act without repentance of the bad. Banal, softened, and even dummed-down language has not helped at all. Just the discussions that will come out of this will aid with deeper reflections of spiritual issues to which these ordinary and simple things are tied.

Hopefully next: Consubstantial!