On July 7, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued a “Summorum Pontificum” (an Apostolic Letter binding on all believers) that should warn believers of increasing mysticism in Roman Catholic worship services.

True to form, the Pope began by affirming his authority over the Catholic Church, stating that “it has been the constant concern of Supreme Pontiffs to ensure that the Church of Christ offers a worthy ritual to the Divine Majesty,” and further stating that “each particular Church must concur with the universal Church.” His pronouncement gives Roman Catholic congregations permission to celebrate Mass using songs, rites, and Gregorian chants entirely in Latin. In such services, the priest faces East with his back to the congregation. Congregants who are close enough to hear the mumbled words of institution will not understand them in their own language—but they will enjoy the nostalgia and mysticism of the Latin service.

The pope used the letter to claim that the Latin Mass has, over the centuries, “reinforced many peoples in the virtue of religion and fecundated their piety.” Whether or not one feels “fecundated” (fruitful), such ideas clash with our own understanding of progressive sanctification as taught by the rational proclamation of Scripture. But perhaps there is a glimmer of hope: the Pope gave local congregations permission to choose the Latin service by voting on the matter themselves. One prays that this taste of congregational government will spur Roman Catholics to pursue independent study of Scripture.