Thursday, October 08, 2015

Can the Traditional Mass preserve orthodoxy?

High Mass in Oxburgh Hall Chapel, for the LMS Pilgrimage to Walsingham
for the Conversion of England.

Michael Dougherty has written (in The Week, largely reproduced on 1 Peter 5) that the current crisis in the Church arises out of a failure to centre the Faith on Christ. The Traditional Mass is Christ-centric, and in the writings of Cardinal Ratzinger we find powerful arguments that the Ordinary Form is much less so. Ratzinger explains the Christocentric meaning and influence of a series of features of the Traditional Mass which have been lost, or usually lost: the silent canon, the priestly prayers, and celebration ad orientem.

The solution to the dogmatic crisis, then, is connected with the solution to the liturgical crisis. Indeed, everyone by now knows the passage from Cardinal Ratzinger:
“I am convinced that the ecclesial crisis in which we find ourselves today depends in great part upon the collapse of the liturgy, which at times is actually being conceived of etsi Deus non daretur:as though in the liturgy it did not matter any more whether God exists and whether He speaks to us and listens to us."
In short, the Traditional Mass can help to restore the Church's lost balance.

The response to this in the com box is largely the same as the response to this idea made recently by Michael Voris in an interview with the Latin Mass Society which you can read here (see p8):

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Can the Church forget doctrine?

Drinking the mythical waters of forgetfulness in the underworld: Lethe.
At certain periods of history, one doctrine has been pushed to the fore either because it was needed to combat an issue of the day, because of its connection with a popular devotion, or because it was denied by heretics. Others have been pushed into the background. Being human, we can't focus on everything at once.

But there is something else, which is a doctrine disappearing from view because, although attacked by heretics, too many otherwise orthodox people are reluctant to defend and expound it. When these doctrines, and opinions which don't perhaps pertain to the Deposit of Faith but which are very authoritative, are mentioned, it can be a bit of a shock.

In researching the Position Paper on the Vulgate, I found a reference in a somewhat obscure official document published in 1994 to the ancient Greek translation of the Bible, the Septuagint, being made 'under divine inspiration'. I nearly fell off my chair. This is not, strictly, a teaching of the Church, but it is a pious opinion with considerable authority, taught particularly by the Greek Fathers of the Church. If it is taken seriously, then the policy of the Church since the 1940s to replace the ancient Latin translation of the Psalms, based on the Greek version, with new Latin and vernacular translations taken from the Hebrew, is fundamentally misguided.

Come back, 'valley of tears', valle lacrimarum: all is forgiven! You won't find that phrase in the reformed Office, the Novus Ordo Missal, or even the Knox translation of the Bible, when you look at Psalm 83.7 [84.6]. It is there in the Vulgate, and in the Greek, and in the ancient Gregorian chants: and, the Church is telling us, God wanted it there.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

To what do we stay faithful?

This is a very frightening time for faithful Catholics. As the teaching of the Church is questioned, we look for something to hold onto. But today's crisis is not about the denial of doctrinal formulas, so much as the evacuation of their meaning.

Pompous and boring as he is, Mgr Basil Loftus is an excellent illustration of the process. He avoids denying the classical formulations of the the truths of faith, but he evades their meaning. He creates a little structure of obfuscation which allows him to assert something in practice the opposite of the truth. Christ rose from the dead, but - says Loftus - he wasn't physically present after the resurrection, and the empty tomb is just distracting. Marriage is indissoluble, but a valid marriage can 'die'. Christ is in the Blessed Sacrament in some sense, but mercy requires us to hand out Communion like sweets, to everyone.

It isn't very convincing, but it doesn't need to be. The self-contradictory statements of today's liberals aren't the sort of thing which could sustain a living faith, or even the false faith of a false religion. That isn't what they are for. Their purpose is to allow people who did believe the truth to cease to do so with the minimum of heartache. That is the real danger, when these sorts of statements gain some kind of official recognition.

At the time of writing the precise outcome of the Synod is impossible to predict, but suppose it combined the annulment reforms we've already has with some of the ideas about 'mercy' vigorously floated by quite a few influential people, what would that mean? It would mean that the teaching of the Church that marriage was between one man and one woman, that the marriage between Christians was sacramental, and that it was indissoluble, would be proclaimed in some footnote or other to be unchanged. And yet for the sake of the marginalised, the victims, those unhappy people banging on the gates of mercy and justice, people will be able to write their own annulment decrees and, if they prefer not to do that, they will be able to remarry and receive Communion if they express (or can be taken to express) regret for past (if not present) sins. The Church's teaching will make no difference to the way we live. It will be as if it did not exist.

Observe the parallel. The teaching on the Real Presence, on Transubstantiation, has not been changed by the Church. But suppose we didn't hear about it in catechism classes or in sermons because that language is 'difficult', and suppose it were not reflected in the liturgy by any signs of reverence. What would happen? It is not that lots of people would adopt the incoherent position: that Christ is fully and substantially present in the Blessed Sacrament but that we don't talk about it and shouldn't genuflect or think twice about picking it up in our fingers. No: the problem is that the ordinary Catholic in the pew will stop believing it altogether, while a bunch of 'conservative' Catholics will tell us that there is no problem, really there isn't, because the traditional formula has never been contradicted formally by the Church, and, gosh, looky here, there's a footnote in this long document on the Vatican website in Hungarian which implies it is still true.

The situation just described is alarmingly close to the reality we have been living through for the past 40 years. There are, in fact, still signs of reverence in the Novus Ordo, for those priests who observe the rubrics; there has even been something of a revival of popular interest in the Blessed Sacrament, for reasons which I won't go into here. The massive loss of faith in the Real Presence among even church-going Catholics, then, has come about as a result of an only partial victory by the liberals. And so has the massive rate of divorce among Catholics.

A complete victory, at least for now, does not include an explicit repudiation of the traditional doctrinal formula, because the libereals want to keep with them the 'conservative' Catholics who will accept everything short of that. A complete victory, at least for now, means the complete eradication of the teaching's practical implications, without the denial of the formula. If we really believe in the indissolubly of marriage, it will naturally make a difference to the way we live. If it makes no difference, if it is prevented from making a difference, then, human nature being as it is, we will soon cease to believe it.

To return to the question of the title of this post, what are faithful Catholics presented with this situation, who want to remain faithful to the truth, to remain faithful to? Repeating the classical formula of the doctrine will not be enough, because it will be (semi-)officially regarded as compatible with a life, a practice, which gives the lie to the classical forumula as classically understood.

Staying faithful means not just talking the talk, but walking the walk. It means avoiding the accusation made by the prophets of the Old Testament, and again by Our Lord, of the lukewarm: not that they deny God, oh no. Rather, as Our Lord says, quoting Isaiah (29:13):

This people honour me with the lips, but their heart is far away from me.
Populus hic labiis me honorat, cor autem eorum longe est a me. (Mat 15:8)

His first hearers would immediately remember remember the next words of Isaiah:

they have feared me with the commandment and doctrines of men.
timuerunt me mandato hominum et doctrinis.

Are we going to follow the doctrines of men and honour God only with our lips?

This has implications for our private lives, but it must be more than that as well: our faith must be manifested publicly. As I've noted before on this blog, although the issue of marriage is supremely an issue for the laity, it is faithful priests and bishops who are going to be between the hammer and the anvil with the proposed new practices. Our faith as laity may find its public expression in our support for them.

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Monday, October 05, 2015

Pope Francis attacks 'leftists'

I think I've seen everything now.

From the Associated Press, via Japan Times:

A Chilean television station has aired a video that shows Pope Francis defending a Santiago bishop whose opponents allege has covered up sexual abuse by a notorious pedophile priest.
In the video, shot in May and broadcast on Friday by Chilean TV channel Mega, Francis blames “leftists” for a campaign against the bishop of Osorno, Monsignor Juan Barros.
“Don’t let yourselves be led by the noses, by the leftists who have plotted this,” the pope says in the video, speaking to Chilean visitors at the Vatican. He noted that the allegations against Barros had been dismissed by a Chilean court.
Read the rest.

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Saturday, October 03, 2015

Bishop Olmstead addresses men

St Joseph
Bishop Thomas Olmstead of Phoenix, Arizona, has issued a pastoral letter specifically addressed to men. It is an encouraging sign that the efforts to highlight the problem of alienation and lapsation by men in the Church are finally being faced.

You can read the letter here. It encourages men to take up their responsibilities as Catholics, as members of society, and as husbands and fathers.

There is a paragraph about fathers as heads of their families; I do not believe I have seen any (living) diocesan bishop mention this aspect of the Church's teaching before. This is what he says.

Friday, October 02, 2015

More on the music for the FIUV in Rome

Cantus Magnus with Matthew Schellhorn at St Mary Moorfields, accompanying the Easter Vigil.
The Latin Mass Society is organising a Roman Pilgrimage to coincide with the General Assembly of the FIUV and the annual 'Summorum Pontificum' pilgrimage, 21-26th October, and we are sponsoring part of the music for these events through Matthew Schellhorn and his group Cantus Magnus.

See details of the pilgrimage here.

Matthew was recently interviewed on this in the New Liturgical Movement; he explains to Gregory Dipippo:

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Was Constantine the Great a Clericalist?

It is an obvious point, but if you have a world view which requires you to assert things which are clearly absurd, then you have a problem with your world view. I've been reading Russell Shaw's 1993 book about clericalism, To Hunt, To Shoot, To Entertain, and this point has been borne in on me with great force.

Russell Shaw (RS) is an American neo-conservative Catholic. The importance of the 'neo' is considerable. A quick characterisation of neo-cons might be that they defend the teaching of the Church without being concerned about the ancient liturgy; perhaps that is how they see themselves. But as this small volume demonstrates, they have adopted so many of the premises of the liberals that their positions would be totally unrecognisable to orthodox Catholics of any time up to about 1970. In the case of RS' characterisation of clericalism (I'm interested in his book because I agree with him that it is a historical and contemporary problem), his analysis is distorted by two fundamental liberal claims: first, that the Church must be 'separated' from the state in an American sense; and second, that the liturgy glimpsed in the earliest surviving sources, and extrapolated from archaeological traces of the earliest surviving churches, wrongfully excluded the Faithful from meaningful participation, and went on doing so until the Novus Ordo Missae was promulgated in 1969.