The Latin mass issue is a great mystery to me. (By Latin mass, I mean the Tridentine rite, not the Novus Ordo celebrated in Latin.) I can understand how people would react to abuses associated with the Novus Ordo, that have little to do with it in itself, but simply with how a particular priest executes it. I can understand how someone could irrationally extend their disdain for the specific to the general - but certainly they would admit as much were they challenged, wouldn't they?
Oh, no, it's not that at all. What it is has been difficult to determine since I have observed two things when I try to figure this matter out: 1) Inconsistent replies from pro-Latin mass people, 2) a Gnostic feel to their responses, or, rather, non-responses.
As to the first, some comment on the reverence of the mass, its antiquity, the holiness of the celebrant, its 'prayerfulness,' or the abuses of the Novus. None of these things are strong arguments, and so one can't possible have thought about them on a deep level.
As to the second, I find there is another level of Latin mass defender, the non-defender. The defenders seem to be the low-level neophytes, the simpliciores. There is another level, the mystic Latin mass proponent. I think this person grasps the weakness of the above arguments, but that they constitute good apologetics, although not the truth itself, that is to say, its best expression. So, this person when asked about his attachment to the Latin mass never offers much of a response. In that taciturnity one gets the sense that this person knows you would never understand because you just aren't that spiritually advanced. If you were, you'd understand.
This leads me to the main thrust of my argument. For starters I am not against the Usus Antiquior. Only one thing about it am I flatly against. I am against, in every way, the use of the "old calendar." I am against it to such a degree that I feel it is grave matter, schismatic. No Catholic should tolerate references to such a calendar other than in classes on Medieval or Early Modern History. In my mind it is a heresy equivalent to the quartodecimarian heresy of the Early Church. The Latin mass does not set up an alternate church; use of the old calendar does.
There is an aspect of the practice of the Latin mass that bothers me and that is really what prompted this post. The most perplexing thing to me is the speed at which it is celebrated. Having been told about how reverent the LM is, I expected it so to be. And then I went, and it was like listening to an auctioneer. But surely, that was just the fault of the priest and not of the mass itself, right? And then I went to another, and then another - by different priests. If anything, these priests were worst than the first. I figured the first priest was bad because his Latin wasn't very good and so he was trying to prove how fluent he was... Nope. Is it my problem because I understand a decent amount of Latin - more, it seems than most Latin mass goers, and I want to listen and translate in my mind, and so I actually know what parts of the mass are being recited, and know that Augustine would never recite them that quickly, and that the only people who would actually speak that quickly are auctioneers or people in a panic? As for auctioneers and people in a panic, would one describe listening to them speak peaceful, relaxing, prayerful?
Now, bearing in mind that the speed of recitation is not the specific fault of the celebrant, but is being 'sold' as a part of the beauty of the mass, we need to explain this. Add to this the fact that there seems to be no correlation between a desire to learn Latin and attendance at the Latin mass, the sociologist in me draws a couple of conclusions (mixed in with the theologian in me).
The first, and more trivial one is, there are some people who like old just for the sake of old. In this group I would throw monarchists, antique collectors, most hard core Thomists, and most Latin mass people. It is traditionalism plain and simple. And let us acknowledge the vast difference between a republican of Augustus' era and one of Romulus Augustulus' or Boethius' era. The later is just silly. As for Latin mass antiquarians, whether we are speaking of a ninety-year-old or a thirty-year-old, the difference is significant. The thirty-year-old never lived in the pre-Conciliar Era. And so he is kind of in fantasy land. The other is nostalgic, and that is understandable. I reminisce fondly about my childhood too. As for the Thomist, there is a vast difference between a Thomist who understands what his philosophical commitment amounts to and an undergrad who has no idea what he is talking about. Maritain and Gilson had well-considered and informed reasons for their Thomism, which they described as a method rather than a commitment to set conclusions.
So much for sociology. Now for theology.
Theologically, why I have such a problem with the Latin mass as I have experienced it, and can only conclude, as it is being understood by its celebrants and advocates, is that it is fuelled by an erroneous sacramental theology. Long ago Augustine said that there are two elements to a sacrament, the part the has nothing to do with human involvement (he called ex opere operato, the work itself) and that which does depend in some way on personal involvement (ex opere operantis). For instance, in the sacrament of penance, the right intention of the recipient matters as to whether it actually happens or not. Marriage actually doesn't happen in the absence of the intention to form a permanent bond, etc. So what about the mass? Well, if the congregation doesn't need to understand the words being said, that they are being recited so fast that neither celebrant nor congregation can understand them, well, that argues for a certain understanding of the sacramental theology at work here, doesn't it? It means that the mass is being viewed only from the perspective of ex opere operato. But isn't a really exaggerated sense of this, a total exclusion of the operantis, a view of the mass as a sort of magic spell, for which the 'full and active participation' of the faithful is irrelevant?
That is the only explanation I have been able to come up with for this auctioneering. What have I missed? In the end, I am at least saying that the Latin mass people have done a dreadful job selling their wares, and if it is as important a matter as they seem to think, shouldn't they do better? Ultimately, I think they should be reforming this fast-mass. It seems to me that the pope celebrates mass in Latin and it is also like two hours long, right? What's the rush? Erroneous sacramental theology is the rush.