In the last week or two, I have noticed a number of news items that indicate that the Catholic Church, and in particular Pope Benedict, are beginning to assert themselves in a much more confident way. Credit for this new found confidence must, of course, go to our Holy Father, who has been showing some true leadership. He has been a strong leader from the day that he was elected Pope, but, in many respects, the strength of his leadership is is only just beginning to be recognised.
Pope Benedict has acted decisively in the case of two of the leaders of the Association of Catholic Priests, a group of Irish priests holding heretical views. He has also been very clear in his condemnation of a grouping of American nuns, also holding many heretical views, known as the the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Today, I have read of how Pope Benedict has written to the German bishops, leaving them in no doubt about the authentic way of translating the text of the Mass into the vernacular. Apparently they have been arguing strongly for "pro multis" to be translated into the German equivalent of "for all". It seems that they now recognise that sloppy translation will not do.
The interesting point is that, in these matters and in many others, the world is beginning to listen to Pope Benedict and hear what he is saying. A few years ago, the world's media would have treated these actions with scorn, labelling the leader of the Cathol;ic Church out of touch and reactionary. Some sections of the media still do, but it is noticeable that more and more commentators are showing respect towards the Holy Father.
I first noticed the assertiveness of Pope Benedict when he was in England, and giving his address to the Bishops of England and Wales at Oscott College on the final day of his visit. He made two things very clear. Firstly, he wanted the new translation of the missal into English to be received without controversy; and secondly, he wanted the Ordinariate, and the former Anglicans who would be joining it, to be welcomed into the Catholic Church. The reservations that some bishops had about both these developments have now diminished; and the change of heart can be traced back to the Holy father's address.
So, both in matters of doctrine and liturgy, Pope Benedict's voice is beginning to be listened to and acted on. Of course, he spoke out quite eloquently earlier in his reign about the older form of the Mass. In those days, much of the Church, including many of its bishops, were happy to ignore the message, or even react against it. This type of attitude is now changing. On 24th March, both Bishop Davies and Bishop Drainey presided at Solemn Masses in the traditional form, and other bishops have done the same, or even been the celebrant. Maybe, we can expect less opposition to the usus antiquior in future.