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Nov 2013
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New vs Old Collect for the Election of a Pope

New vs Old Collect for the Election of a Pope

by Brian McCall, J.D.

Roberto de Mattei in his recent article, which all Catholics should read, reminds us that the protection of the Holy Ghost does not guaranty we will receive a good pope. To think otherwise is merely to be presumptuous and to rationalize all failings and faults of bad popes with such presumption. As with all grace, God offers it in abundance and then allows us to accept it or reject it relying instead on our own abilities, the work of human hands. This is why it is so important to pray fervently for a good pope. By doing so we tell God we can do nothing without His Grace and we demonstrate our openness to it. We will get the pope for whom we pray.

What type of pope then will the Cardinal electors be praying for, at least publicly, when they assist at the votive Mass for the election of a pope before entering the conclave? A comparison of the traditional collect for this Mass with the Novus Ordo rewrite is most illuminating (and sadly not inspiring of hope for the outcome of the conclave). The official Vatican translation of the prayer provided in the booklets published on the website of the Holy See reads as follows:

O God, eternal shepherd who governs your [sic] flock with unfailing care, grant in your [sic] boundless fatherly love a pastor for your Church who will please you [sic] by his holiness and to us show watchful care. Through etc.

At first glance, one might think this is not too bad. It contains traditional Catholic sounding phrases such as pastor, holiness and fatherly love. Yet, as with so much of the Novus Ordo liturgy it contains subtle undermining of traditional doctrine which becomes evident when compared with the traditional prayer. The traditional collect as translated in the St. Andrew’s Daily Missal reads:

O Lord with suppliant humility we entreat Thee, that in Thy boundless mercy Thou wouldst grant the most holy Roman Church a pontiff, who by his zeal for us, may be pleasing to Thee, and by his good government may ever be honored by Thy people for the glory of Thy name. Through etc.

Aside from the obvious elevation of language and style which contrasts with the flat, mundane, and uninspiring new form, there are subtle changes that make the prayer more acceptable to Protestants and Eastern schismatics who reject the true doctrine regarding the papacy as the Vicar of Christ holding the See of supreme jurisdiction that really governs the whole Church.

Notice the pope is referred to as a “pastor” rather than pontiff. The Novus Ordo prayer could be prayed for any priest or minister. Pontiff is the high priest. Further, the Novus Ordo prayer only refers to God governing His Church. This statement is true but incomplete. God does govern His Church but He does so through a visible vicar on earth to whom He has given the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whereas the new prayer asks for a pastor who will merely “show watchful care for us” the traditional prayer prays for a pope who will exhibit “good government.” Rather than impotently watching through the famous Vatican window the Church self-destruct, the traditional prayer asks for a pope who will take the reins of government to do something about it.

In addition, the new prayer merely refers to the abstract idea of God’s Church, a concept which is amenable to Protestants, whereas the Traditional prayer asks for a pontiff for the holy Roman Church, the visible Church living in history. The prayers thus reveal a shift from the traditional doctrine of the papacy to the “new ecclesiology” rooted in collegiality and the pope as a first among equals, a president pastor of the assembly. The pope desired by the adherents of the new ecclesiology is a mere pastor who watches with care the people do what they desire and not a pontiff who governs with zeal. Rather than a zealous pope, the new prayer seeks a holy pastor. Certainly the new ecclesiastics would like a pastor who is seen as being personally holy. This is obviously good for the media spin. No wonder they continue to try to canonize John Paul II and Paul VI claiming the state of the government of the Church under them is irrelevant and only their “personal holiness” matters. The traditional prayer makes clear that it is more than holiness that is required for the pontiff. He must be zealous for the Church and must practice good government of Christ’s Church entrusted to his rule. Zeal is not part of the new evangelization, however. Zeal is too confrontational. Dialogue and care and concern are the new buzz words.

Sadly then, the princes of the Church (who would likely blush with discomfort to be called a prince) will be praying through the official prayers of the liturgy for a pastor in the mold of Vatican II ecclesiology, a nice holy pastor who cares about everyone but who does not rock the boat with any zeal to try to actually rule the Church as a pontiff.

The Church must supply. It is even more necessary for every traditional priest and bishop who still keeps alive the true doctrine of the papacy to pray with the deepest fervor he can muster the traditional collect for the election of a pope during the short time remaining. Your faith must drown out the tepid ambiguity of the new prayer and the new ecclesiology. The results could be the difference between a Pius XIII or a John Paul III.

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