Thursday, December 13, 2007

Alfons Cardinal Stickler -- R.I.P.

You may have seen the notice in Rorate Cæli this morning that Cardinal Stickler has died. There was another brief notice on the Vatican Information Service site.

One of the finest tributes to His Eminence was the following by Professor Carlos Antonio Palad which he sent to CTNGreg, a mailing list devoted to the traditional rites of the Church. It is reproduced here with the kind permission of Professor Palad:

It is with great sadness that I announce to you the passing of Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler SDB (1910 - 2007). At the time of his death, he was the oldest living Cardinal. He was also one of the last remaining periti of Vatican II. He is best known as the great defender of the Tridentine Rite during the 1990's, when few others dared defend it.

Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler SDB was professed as a Salesian in 1928 and was ordained a priest at the Lateran Basilica in 1937. He became an eminent canon lawyer and Latinist, serving the Second Vatican Council as peritus while also serving (from 1958 to 1966) as Rector of the Salesianum in Rome.

He was appointed Vatican Librarian in 1984, and was made a Cardinal the next year, in 1985. His claim to a place in the books, though, was just about to begin.

In 1986, Cardinal Stickler, Ratzinger, Oddi, Casaroli, Palazzini, Tomko, Gantin, Innocenti and Mayer were formed into a Commission tasked by John Paul II to examine the following questions:

1) Did Pope Paul VI authorize the bishops to forbid the celebration of the traditional Mass?

2) Does the priest have the right to celebrate the traditional Mass in public and in private without restriction, even against the will of his bishop?

The Commission voted eight to one to declare that Pope Paul VI had not forbidden the Traditional Mass. The Commission voted unanimously to declare that every priest has the right to celebrate TLM in public and private without restriction, and that even the bishop cannot forbid him from celebrating the TLM. This was in 1986 -- 21 years before Summorum Pontificum!

They issued a series of proposals which could be found in this article:

"The Vatican Norms of 1986"

Although John Paul II never released the findings of the Commission, Cardinal Stickler was to publicly reveal the verdict of the Commission of Nine Cardinals on these two questions in 1995. See the article "Traditional Mass Never Forbidden" - And, it should be noted that the proposals and declarations of this Commission are practically identical to those of Summorum Pontificum.

From 1992 to around 2000, Cardinal Stickler was by far the most outspoken defender of the Traditional Mass movement in the whole College of Cardinals. He was the great protector of traditionalists at a time when even "orthodox" Catholics considered the Tridentine Mass to be either abrogated or "passe" and hopelessly outdated for the present age. When almost no one else would defend the Traditional Mass movement, he did. In 1992, he became the first Cardinal since the 1960's to celebrate a Pontifical Solemn High Mass according to the 1962 Missal, in the North American continent. In 1995, he celebrated a great Pontifical Mass at New York City's St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Examples of his defenses of the Tridentine Rite are the following:

Address to the 1992 Annual General Meeting of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales:

The Theological Attractiveness of the Tridentine Mass (May 1995)

The Role of the Celebrant in Mediator Dei

Reflections of A Vatican II Peritus

Preface to the 2004 Reprint of the Ottaviani Intervention

His short speeches are noteworthy for their blunt and prophetic insight. Although he accepted its validity and the fact that it is Catholic, he insisted that the Novus Ordo Mass is a fabrication and a distortion of the will of Vatican II. He trenchantly declared that the Tridentine Mass is theologically preferable to the Novus Ordo. These opinions, which were considered too extreme during the reign of John Paul II, are now staple theological fare in theological groups that have embraced the program of liturgical restoration under Benedict XVI.

When extreme old age finally silenced him in the early part of the present decade, other cardinals -- Ratzinger, Medina Estevez, and Castrillon Hoyos -- carried on his work of promoting and defending the rights of the 1962 Missal in the Church. He spent the last years of his life in seclusion in the Vatican; he was known to have celebrated his private Mass exclusively according to the 1962 Missal.

He reiterated in 2003 that all priests may celebrate TLM in private, even without their respective bishops' permission. In 2004, he endorsed the Ottaviani Intervention as remaining relevant to our own time.

It is sweet to think that this Cardinal lived to see the day when his teaching that the TLM was never forbidden was finally vindicated by the highest authority of the Church. With Summorum Pontificum promulgated and in effect, he could finally say his Nunc Dimittis.

Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler: Requiescat in Pace.