Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Evangelii gaudium 2: the closed community

Pope Francis writes:

A parish must not be 'a self-absorbed cluster made up of a chosen few.' (28)

63: 'We must recognize that if part of our baptized people lack a sense of belonging to the Church, this is also due to certain structures and the occasionally unwelcoming atmosphere of some of our parishes and communities, or to a bureaucratic way of dealing with problems, be they simple or complex, in the lives of our people. In many places an administrative approach prevails over a pastoral approach, as does a concentration on administering the sacraments apart from other forms of evangelization.'

88: 'Many try to escape from others and take refuge in the comfort of their privacy or in a small circle of close friends, renouncing the realism of the social aspect of the Gospel.'

This is a theme he has developed before, and I blogged about it here. I drew attention there to two things: what Pope Benedict said about celebration of Mass versus populum creating a 'closed circle', and what the sociologist Anthony Archer said about the post-Conciliar developments such as prayer-groups, house Masses, and parish committees appealing to cliquey middle-class types and not to the Church's working-class base.

In this and the next post I want to develop a couple of other ideas. The first, for this post, is the question of whether those attached to the Traditional Mass can justly be regarded as a 'closed group'. The other is about closed and open liturgy.

Part of Pope Francis' notion of the closed and self-absorbed is connected with his critique of judgmentalism. Thus (94):

'A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying.'

The reference to 'soundness of doctrine' suggests he has in mind conservative groups which pride themselves on their orthodoxy, as does the reference to authoritarianism, though of course others can be pretty smug about their doctrinal superiority, and abuse positions of power, as well. It can't apply to trads, of course: we can't be authoritarian, as we are invariably excluded from exercising authority... Neveretheless, in general terms it might appear that the closed community idea is or at least can be linked to a holier-than-thou conservatism. On a conception of the Church in which traditionalists are regarded as extreme conservatives, then trads are in trouble here too.

I have argued already that trads are not best understood as extreme conservatives. But let me put the situation another way. What Pope Francis is wary of here is a self-appointed gang of perfecti - to use the Catharist term - who are more interested in criticising others than in spreading the gospel. I'm sure we've all seen this kind of thing; no group within the Church is immune from this temptation. We all think we are right - by definition, we believe what we believe - and thinking others are wrong can lead to an 'I'm all right Jack' attitude instead of a more positive response, such as dialogue with those with whom one disagrees, or putting one's ideas into some kind of evangelical action.

There are ideas, however, which push those holding them towards the negative, and away from the positive, options here. These are ideas which give us the impression either that others don't need the Gospel, or that they are incapable of receiving it, or both. These ideas are, of course, incompatible with the Christian message, but they are held by those liberals who think that non-Catholics are just as well off lacking the sacraments, and non-Christians lacking the revelation of Jesus Christ. Pope Francis goes to some lengths to oppose these ideas in the Exhortation, as I will show in a later post; they are, of course, directly hostile to the project of evangelisation. Much as I am irritated by the smug superiority of neo-conservative Catholics who think they have all the answers (having just dreamt them up), this is not a problem characteristic of them, or of Traditionalists either. The real danger - whether Pope Francis had this in mind or not - of Catholics getting into little groups to analyse and categorise everyone else, and not bother actually evangelising, is to be found among the liberals.

I am sure many readers of this blog have had the experience I have often had, of a liberal interlocuter giving you a pitying look as someone so backward, unenlightened, and childish, as to take seriously the teachings of the Church, such as Our Lord's physical resurrection from the dead. They are so superior to this way of thinking that they don't even think it necessary, always, to argue about it, any more than they would tell a small child that Father Christmas doesn't exist. From their lofty, indeed Promethian heights, they look down on all the different Faiths as expressing in different terms the pure Truth which they alone have been given to grasp in its fullness. They think the rest of us are incorrigible, but it is they who are incapable of receiving the message of the Gospel: in the famous phrase of the American liberal nuns, they have 'moved beyond Jesus'. They represent the complete closure and indeed death of a Catholic community.

All these people are looking at Someone else.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Evangelii gaudium: 1, Introduction

I have in mind a short series of posts about the Holy Father's Apostolic Exhortation; this has been somewhat delayed by domestic matters but it is important enough to wait. In this post I just want to give my overall impressions.

When Pope Francis gave an interview, now more or less repudiated for its inaccuracies, in which he said 'proselytism is solemn nonsense', it was presented as a response to the question 'are you going to try to convert me?' It wasn't clear to many people whether he was contrasting proselytism with evangelisation or witness, or repudiating the entire mission of proclaiming the gospel. (I pointed out that he wouldn't have said 'evangelisation is solemn nonsense'.) Well, we know now. This man is Mr Evangelisation. Bringing the Good News of the Gospel to unbelievers and the lapsed is his number one priority, and he wants it to be the number one priority for every Catholic. He has thought about it very hard over many years, and is concerned above all in this Exhortation with the attitudes of Catholics which are un-evangelical, which are closed in on themselves, which are too comfortable and content with the little group in which they find themselves. I think what he says about this is extremely interesting, and I will set it out in more detail in a later post. He also, very interestingly, condemns activism.

in case there might be any ambiguity about the place of evangelisation in our lives he goes to the trouble of describing in some detail what he has in mind by talking about person-to-person evangelisation (127-130). He also goes into a lot of detail about sermons, and how to prepare them. I wish this chapter had received as much attention as the little snippets about unbridled capitalism; if priests followed the Holy Father's advice on how to prepare to preach homilies would be transformed. Get this, for example (145):

'A preacher who has not prepared is not "spiritual"; he is dishonest and irresponsible with the the gifts he has received.'

He also clarifies has this to say about abortion:

214. 'Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question. I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or “modernizations”. It is not “progressive” to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life.'

In the next post, I will talk about the notion of 'closed', un-evangelical communities.

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Thanks for all the prayers!

Born early on Christmas morning. Deo gratias.

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Blessing of Throats for the feast of St Blaise, at SS Gregory & Augustine's, Oxford
with Fr John Saward
St Catherine's Trust Family Retreat at Ratcliffe College, Leicester,
with Fr Magdala Maria F.SS.R

St Mary Magdalen's, Wandsworth, London, with Fr Martin Edwards

The Chartres Pilgrimage, France

St Catherine's Trust Summer School, St David's Church, Pantasaph, North Wales,
with Fr Andrew Southwell and Fr John Hunwicke

Latin Mass Society Pilgrimage to Holywell, Church of St Winifride, Holywell, Wales

Latin Mass Society Walsingham Pilgrimage, at the site of the Holy House, Little Walsingham

A baptism in SS Gregory & Augustine's, Oxford

2010 10 03_7674
View from the choir loft, St William of York, Reading, with the FSSP

The Easter Triduum, St William of York, Reading, with the FSSP

Shoe polishing before Sunday Mass
St Catherine's Trust Family Retreat, Oratory School, near Reading, England,
with Fr John Hunwicke

2011 04 17_9187
Waiting for the blessing of Palms on Palm Sunday, St William of York, Reading, with the FSSP

2011 04 09_8883
St Catherine's Trust Family Retreat, St Joseph's Chapel at the Oratory School, near Reading
At the SCT Family Retreat

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ratzinger on the EF-OF Divide: Silence

Silent prayer by the priest: a private Mass at the LMS Priest Training Conference

In his great book The Spirit of the Liturgy Cardinal Ratzinger, as was, now Pontiff Emeritus Benedict XVI, had a lot to say about silence in the liturgy, and the problem represented by its almost complete exclusion from the Ordinary Form. We must remember, first, that silence takes various forms; he is concerned with two: the 'priestly prayers', personal prayers for worthiness said silently by the priest before reading the Gospel, receiving Communion and so on, and the Canon, said silently in the EF but not in the OF. He rejects as an artificial holding-up of the liturgy the 'pauses' inserted into the Ordinary Form by many celebrants (and sometimes called for by the rubrics).

No apologies for an extended quotation.

Spirit of the Liturgy pp212-3
There is a silence which is part of the liturgical action, not an interruption. I am thinking of the silent prayers of the priest. Those who hold a sociological or activistic view of the priest's duties in the Mass frown upon these prayers, and, whenever possible, they leave them out. The priest is defined in a narrowly sociological and functionalistic way as the "presider" at the liturgical celebration, which is thought of as a kind of meeting. If that is what he is, then, of course, for the sake of the meeting, he has to be in action all the time. But the priest's duties in the Mass are much more than a matter of chairing a meeting. The priest presides over an encounter with the living God and as a person who is on his way to God. The silent prayers of the priest invite him to make his task truly personal, so that he may give his whole self to the Lord. They highlight the way in which all of us, each one personally yet together with everyone else, have to approach the Lord. The number of these priestly prayers has been greatly reduced in the liturgical reform, but, thank God, they do exist…

Meanwhile, in their efforts to reform the Missal, the German liturgists have explicitly stated that, of all things, the Eucharistic Prayer, the high point of the Mass, is in crisis. Since the reform of the liturgy an attempt has been made to meet the crisis by incessantly inventing new Eucharistic Prayers, and in the process we have sunk more and more into banality. Multiplying words is no help -- that is all too evident. ...they balk, now as in the past, at the possibility that silence too, silence especially, might constitute communion before God.

Anyone who has experienced a church united in the silent praying of the Canon will know what a really filled silence is. It is at once a loud and penetrating cry to God and a Spirit-filled act of prayer. Here everyone does pray the Canon together, albeit in a bond with the special task of the priestly ministry. Here everyone is united, laid hold of by Christ, and led by the Holy Spirit into that common prayer to the Father which is the true sacrifice—the love that reconciles and unites God and the world.

So we see the familiar shape of the debate.

1. The implications of the traditional liturgy: it points towards both the priest's personal need for holiness, and the importance of silent communion with God.
2. The official motivation of the reform: again, participation, which seems obviously enhanced by 'being able to hear what is going on'
3. The alleged implications of the reformed liturgy: that Mass is a meeting, that it is about communication not with God but between the priest and the Faithful, or even among the latter.

(3) is at right angles to (1) and (3) is wrong. Seen in the light of the whole liturgical tradition (3) is actually crazy, and deeply damaging. But it is insidiously inflential. Another implication, of course, is that since the point of silence in the Vetus Ordo is not understood, it is condemned as obscurantist, clericalist, and so on.

On this point we actually have some explicit teaching from the Papal magisterium. Silence was condemned by the Jansenist 'Synod of Pistoia', which was itself condemned by Pope Pius VI.

Bull Auctorem Fidei (1794) 33: ‘The proposition of the synod by which it shows itself eager to remove the cause through which, in part, there has been induced a forgetfulness of the principles relating to the order of the liturgy, “by recalling it (the liturgy) to a greater simplicity of rites, by expressing it in the vernacular language, by uttering it in a loud voice”; as if the present order of the liturgy, received and approved by the Church, had emanated in some part from the forgetfulness of the principles by which it should be regulated,— rash, offensive to pious ears, insulting to the Church, favourable to the charges of heretics against it.

So there you have it. The hermeneutic of continuity is not incompatible with a critique of the New Mass, and it certainly isn't about blinding oneself to the differences between the Old and the New. It is about seeing every authorised rite and magisterial document in the light of the whole body of tradition. This will sharpen our understanding of the radical nature of the reform, which (as Vatican II indicated) is in itself problematic: liturgical reform, the Council said, should not be radical (Sacrosanctum Concilium 23). But at the same time it allows us to dismiss those implications of the new rites which appear to establish a new theology at odds with the theology endorsed by the Church over many centuries.

Different rites have different but complimentary theological emphases: the Council makes this point about the Eastern Rites (see Unitatis Redintegratio 17).  What is impossible is that having promulgated the new, the Church should condemn the old. Pope Benedict condemned this is in the most forceful terms. He had to, because this is how it is often presented: by seminary liturgy lecturers, by writers like Basil Loftus, and by many others. These people like to point out that they are following the lead of theologians who were involved in the Reform itself, but this has no importance. Those theologians have no magisterial authority. What is promulgated by the Church must be interpreted by the norms proper to the Church: the Tradition.

I had intended to write also about Cardinal Ratzinger on kneeling, but with Christmas approaching I think I have said enough on this issue. The general point is applicable to a whole host of other issues. The Vetus Ordo has always been, and remains, a massive element of the Church's liturgical tradition, whose theological exactitude cannot seriously be called into question. What can, and must, be questioned are the alleged implications of the Novus Ordo which are held to sweep away the Church's established teaching. To repeat, it is vital for orthodoxy that the Old Rite becomes once more a serious part of the Church's liturgical life all over the world.

'Lavabo inter innocentes': said inaudibly by the priest.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ratzinger on the EF-OF Divide: Orientation

Turning to the Lord: Fr John Hunwicke celebrating Mass at the SCT Summer School 

In the last post in this series I quoted what Joseph, Cardinal Ratzinger, as he then was, Pontiff Emeritus as he now is, had to say about the theology of sacrifice. The language of sacrifice has been played down in the reformed liturgy to such an extent that it has allowed theologians and catechists to put forward a non-sacrificial theology of the Mass (the 'shared meal' stuff we are all familiar with). However, while this may be compatible with the texts of the Novus Ordo (if you ignore Eucharistic Prayer I), this needs to be read in the context of the whole teaching of the Church. This teaching hasn't changed: the silence of the Novus Ordo can't and hasn't changed it.

Clearly it would be better, from this point of view, if the 1970 Missal made things clearer, but the reformers had other considerations in mind. I mentioned in the last post Bugnini's well-known hope to remove from the Catholic liturgy everything which could be offensive to Protestant ears. This might be a worthy or a wrong-headed ambition, but it is at any rate a reason for changing the liturgical texts which doesn't in itself imply that they previous texts were theologically inaccurate, rather than just undiplomatic. What Bugnini thought in his heart of hearts I do not know. But I'm sure the point about ecumenical diplomacy seemed important to Pope Paul VI.

We  can summarise what I'm saying in this three-fold scheme.

1. The theological implications of the traditional practice: the sacrificial nature of the Mass.
2. The official motivation of the change: ecumenism.
3. The implications which the new practice appears to have, which are incompatible with (1): that Mass is not a sacrifice after all.

The implications under (3) are wrong: they are a misunderstanding of the Novus Ordo which need to be corrected by catechesis, a process which will be hugely assisted by the existence of the Vetus Ordo as a part of the Church's liturgical life.

We can now turn to the question of liturgical orientation - the priest facing the people over the Altar, or facing East with the people. This is what Cardinal Ratzinger had to say (The Spirit of the Liturgy, p81)

On the other hand, a common turning to the East during the Eucharistic Prayer remains essential. This is not a case of accidentals, but of essentials. Looking at the priest has no importance. What matters is looking together at the Lord. It is not now a question of dialogue, but of common worship, of setting off towards the One who is to come. What corresponds with the reality of what is happening is not the closed circle, but the common movement forward expressed in a common direction for prayer.
(p82) '[A critic] thinks that turning to the East, towards the rising sun, is something that nowadays we just cannot bring into the liturgy. Is this really the case? Are we not interested in the cosmos any more? Are we today really hopelessly huddled in our own little circle? Is it not important, precisely today, to pray with the whole of creation? Is it not important, precisely today, to find room for the dimension of the future, for hope in the Lord who is to come again, to recognise again, indeed to live, the dynamism of the new creation as an essential form of the liturgy?

It can't be emphasised enough how strongly Pope Benedict felt and feels about this. The 'Benedictine Arrangement' of candles and cross on the Altar even with versus populum celebration is a compromise attempt to overcome what he regards as a truly serious problem with the modern practice.

The problematic theological implication of the modern practice is to play down the eschatological and universal aspect of the Mass, and to emphasise the cosy, closed circle which finds its most complete expression when everyone is sitting on bean bags, in a literal circle around a coffee table, in a Mass taking place in a private sitting room. This kind of closed community is, incidentally, the major target of Pope Francis' Exhortation Gaudium Evangelii. As an interpretation of the Novus Ordo, it is clearly mistaken. That is not what Holy Mother Church wants us to take away from our liturgical experience. (When Ratzinger is proposing is the 'hermeneutic of continuity' reading of the Novus Ordo.)

Nor was are these implications much to do with the official motivation for the change. When Fr Pius Parsch and others started experimenting with vs. pop. Masses between the wars, they just wanted to enhance the involvement of the Faithful by letting them see the ceremonies more clearly. This then fed into the reform. It really is that simple. They had no idea what the further implications would be.

So to go back to my scheme:

1. The implications of the traditional practice are a 'common turning to the Lord', eschatology, openness, unity in prayer.
2. The official motivation for the change is to promote participation.
3. The apparent implications of the new practice is the 'closed circle', the community worshiping itself, and so on. This is incompatible with (1) but it is wrong, it was not what the Novus Ordo was promulgated to mean.

In this case, while the motivation for the change is very easy to understand, it is clear that we have ended up with something problematic. One of the problems is that critics of the Old Mass can go around saying that ad orientem celebration is theologically bad, it excludes the Faithful and so on. A more serious problem is that it seems, not just to trendy theologians but, often in a subliminal way, to the Faithful themselves, to imply a set of things which are incompatible with the very notion of Christian worship: that it is about looking at the other worshipers, catching the eye of the priest, and holding hands in a circle in a cosy little clique, and not intrinsically public, open to all, and opening out to the Lord and His coming in Glory.

There is a lot more about liturgical orientation, the history and the theology, in this Position Paper on the subject.

Next I will look at Cardinal Ratzinger on silent prayers and kneeling.
Bishop Rifan celebrating Mass in Leeds

Friday, December 20, 2013

Guide to having a Funeral in the Old Rite

Requiem for Christopher Inman, former Chairman of the Latin Mass Society, in Spanish Place
Do you know anyone who would like to ensure they get a traditional funeral when they die? Do you think you may have to help organise such a funeral for anyone? The Latin Mass Society has just put together some excellent resources to help you. The page about it on the website is here.

It includes a model 'Letter of Wishes' to guide executors, with a explanation of their legal status and relationship with Wills.

It explains the liturgical options: Low, Sung, and High Mass, Chant and Polyphony, Reception of the Body, Blessing of the Coffin, Prayers at the Graveside.

It explains the legal situation under Summorum Pontificum and answers some questions about the spirit of the Traditional Requiem.

This booklet is a must-have for priests who have to answer questions about traditional funerals, as well as those planning one, or having to put others' wishes into effect.

It is available as a free download; hard copies can be bought at £2 including postage in the UK, £3 outside it.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Ratzinger on the OF-EF divide: Sacrifice

EF High Mass in the Chapel of the Choir, St Peter's. 
First off, a little disclaimer. I don't normally engage in direct criticism of the Novus Ordo, and I'm not exactly doing this here. I leave carping about the details of the 1970 Missal to those many liturgists across the spectrum of opinion who want to revise it: they are, after all, the experts. My brief is to talk about the value of the Old Mass, which may have no implications for the OF, it may complement the OF, it may suggest something could be improved in the OF, or whatever - insofar as I can leave that open I do.

Here I am concerned with the alleged theological implications of the Novus Ordo, insofar as these seem to conflict with the theological implications of the 'earlier Latin liturgical tradition'. If both have real theological implications, which are incompatible with each other, then as Catholics we are in trouble, particularly in light of the fact that both Forms are officially part of the Church's liturgical life. Pope Benedict said, accordingly, in the letter accompanying Summorum Pontificum:

There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal.  In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture.  What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. 

Now, the liturgy speaks to us at many levels, and it is quite natural that it should be pregnant with teaching and that people should pick things up from it. It can also be misunderstood. In the Extraordinary Form, the claim that the priest 'turns his back on the people', interpreting his facing East as ignoring the Faithful or even holding them in contempt, is such a misunderstanding. It happens with the Ordinary Form too. An interesting feature of many of the permissions for liturgical innovations is the plea for catechesis or preparation of the Faithful to head off misunderstandings: preparation which of course never took place. The Holy See was particularly worried about the possibility of misunderstanding Communion in the Hand and Female Altar Servers.

So, on the Sacrificial nature of the Mass. It is well known that sacrificial language was heavily pruned back in the liturgical reform. The traditional Offertory Prayers are full of it and they were cut completely. The traditional Collects and particularly the Secret prayers had a lot and this has pretty well all gone. Bugnini makes the point that he wanted to avoid anything which would give offense to Protestants, and indeed many Protestants do happily use texts similar or identical to the Ordinary Form. Bugnini wanted to cut the Roman Canon, but it has survived as an option ('Eucharistic Prayer I'). This all happened in the context of an attack on the theology of sacrifice, and we have all been told since 1970 that the Mass is a 'shared meal'; popular treatments frequently skate over the sacrificial nature of the Mass, or ignore it completely. This would be impossible with the text of the EF.

This is what Cardinal Ratzinger said.

(‘The Theology of the Liturgy’ in Looking Again at the Question of the Liturgy with Cardinal Ratzinger: proceedings of the July 2001 Fontgombault Conference ed. Alcuin Reid, pp18-31, p20)

‘A sizable party of catholic liturgists seems to have practically arrived at the conclusion that Luther, rather than Trent, was substantially right in the sixteenth century debate; one can detect much the same position in the post conciliar discussions on the Priesthood.  ... It is only against this background of the effective denial of the authority of Trent, that the bitterness of the struggle against allowing the celebration of Mass according to the 1962 Missal, after the liturgical reform, can be understood. The possibility of so celebrating constitutes the strongest, and thus (for them) the most intolerable contradiction of the opinion of those who believe that the faith in the Eucharist formulated by Trent has lost its value.’

What he is saying is that these theologians, who deny the sacrificial nature of the Mass, want to extirpate the 1962 Missal because they see clearly that it contradicts what they want to say. The Ordinary Form does not, or at least not in an 'intolerable' way.

Note well:

1. He is not denying a rupture between the two Missals, both in the sense that the texts are very different, and that this difference is of great theological importance. What seems to be implied by one is contradicted by what seems to be implied by the other.

2. He affirms that what is (without any misunderstanding, and agreed by all) the implications of the Old Mass is correct: it is the teaching of the Church.

3. Going beyond this passage, it is clear that, whatever Bugnini or any other individual intended to do in creating the Novus Ordo Missae, none of them - not even Pope Paul VI - had the authority to alter the teaching of the Church on the sacrificial nature of the Mass. It is part of the Deposit of Faith. Therefore, it didn't happen.

4. As a matter of fact, the changes made to the liturgical texts are (in this respect) ones of subtraction: references to sacrifice are systematically expunged. The texts of the OF do not explicitly deny the theology of sacrifice: indeed, Eucharistic Prayer I affirms it, however rarely it is actually used.

5. Given all this, we may say that the attempt to infer a non-sacrificial theology of the Mass from the Novus Ordo is a misunderstanding. It may be a reasonable one, or not: that's another question. Any liturgical or magisterial text must be read against the background of the whole Tradition: this is the Hermeneutic of Continuity. We should take account of the whole teaching of the Church in coming to understand any particular document. That includes using later documents to interpret earlier ones, since the Church can grow in understanding the implications of the Deposit of Faith. The Fathers help us understand Scripture, and so on.

So is there a rupture, or not? Is there a problem with the Novus Ordo, or not? Yes and no. There is a clear rupture in the silencing of a lot of sacrificial talk in the Mass. But there is no rupture in the Church's teaching, because there cannot be. So what we might think is implied by the NO (particularly by its silence or ambiguity) should be set aside, if it conflicts with the Magisterium or the earlier liturgical tradition. What is implied by the Traditional Mass, on the other hand, is still valid.

To spell it out: the Hermeneutic of Continuity does not mean that we pretend the texts are the same. It means that we read both sets of texts in light of the whole Teaching of the Church. We may think that doing this is a 'forced' reading in some cases, or that it goes against what the people actually composing it wanted to say. But those people and their intentions are not normative for what the Church means by these texts. The liturgical rupture does not create a theological rupture because the Church's teaching cannot change. The past, the Tradition, cannot be rendered invalid.

We have uncovered here an enormously important reason why the Extraordinary Form must urgently become a part of the liturgical life of the Church again. It conveys a theological teaching which not only true but very much in need of reassertion. 

Confirmations in Spanish Place


A press release from the LMS. I wasn't able to get to the confirmations this year. But there are more photos here. The one above shows Bishop John Arnold, an auxiliary bishop of Westminster Diocese, vesting in the sanctuary.


A record number of candidates received the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Traditional Rite last Saturday, at a ceremony in central London organised by the Latin Mass Society.

 Nearly fifty children and adults received Confirmation in the Extraordinary Form from Bishop John Arnold, auxiliary in Westminster, at St James’s Church, Spanish Place on Saturday, 14th December. He was assisted by Fr Christopher Colven, the rector of St James’s, Fr Tim Finigan of Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen, and Fr Rupert McHardy of the London Oratory. Following the Confirmations, the bishop celebrated Pontifical Benediction. After the ceremonies, Bishop Arnold joined the candidates, their sponsors and families in the parish social centre for a celebration buffet lunch.


The Latin Mass Society has been organising annual Confirmations in the Extraordinary Form for several years now. This past year there were also Traditional Confirmations at Reading and New Brighton, organised respectively by the Fraternity of St Peter and the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.
LMS General Manager, Mike Lord, said: ‘We are very grateful to Bishop Arnold for agreeing to confer the Sacrament on what has been a very successful and happy day. We always attract a good number of candidates to receive Confirmation in the Traditional Rite, but this year’s turnout has been exceptional. It demonstrates that the attraction of the Extraordinary Form as part of Catholic life for many families is continuing to grow.’


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Juventutem Mass in St Mary Moorfields on Friday

Mass is at 7.30: open to all. 

Social afterwards for the young.

I particularly envy this (I can't make it) since I love the liturgy of Ember Week. On Wednesday and Saturday there are an extra readings for example, and the chants are ancient and very beautiful. It is the best way, liturgically, to prepare for Christmas.

EF & OF: a note about the series

My post about the Novus Ordo being 'traditional' has turned into a series of posts, and I intend to extend this in response to comments and criticisms. Allow me to take stock a little.

I have addressed the claim that the Novus Ordo in in 'accordance with the Roman liturgical tradition'. In a sense it is: it is a legally promulgated, sacramentally valid Mass. (Members of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate need have no qualms about swearing this.) In a sense it isn't: it didn't grow organically out of the previous edition of the Roman Missal. What I am most concerned about is that the second claim is legitimate: arguing for this doesn't make you a heretic, or, for those who prefer other terms, someone unfit to be a member of a religious order, or an unperson. After all, Pope Benedict implied precisely this in Summorum Pontificum.

Since we have to admit there are differences between the two Forms of the Roman Rite, the question arises about what their significance is. In my last post I pointed out that it is impossible for the Church to condemn the theology of a liturgical tradition as central the Church's life, and as long-standing, as the Roman tradition represented by the 1962 Missal. Again, cue Joseph Ratzinger (Salt of the Earth, 1997):

A community is calling its very being into question when it suddenly declares that what until now was its holiest and highest possession is strictly forbidden and when it makes the longing for it seem downright indecent.

To those who wonder what all this defensive stuff is about, who is calling trads rude names, why trads can be so aggressive: just listen to what Cardinal Ratzinger is saying. For decades we have been told that 'the longing for [the EF] is downright indecent', and have been treated accordingly: as Ratzinger again said, like 'lepers': (Spirit of the Liturgy 2000)

Anyone who nowadays advocates the continuing existence of this liturgy or takes part in it is treated like a leper; all tolerance ends here.

In the next few posts I am going to look at what Cardinal Ratzinger said about four differences between the OF and the EF. In each case these are connected with a theological issue: the new form seems to have theological implications at right angles to what the EF is saying. Cardinal Ratzinger's point, which I wish to make my own, is: first, these new theological implications (incompatible with the implications of the EF) are wrong; secondly, and partly for that reason, we can see that it is not being put forward by the Church's magisterium. Mountains of theology have been produced about these implications, and they may have been in the minds of the creators of the liturgy. But if they were not in the mind of the Church, if they were not part of the Church's perennial teaching, they should not be seen as asserted magisterially by the Novus Ordo, which was promulgated, remember, not by the officials who wrote it up, but by Holy Mother Church.

It is this which Cardinal Ratzinger meant by the 'hermeneutic of continuity', but I need to explain that some more.

The four issues are:

1. The language of sacrifice being taken out of the reformed liturgy.
2. The move from ad orientem to versus populum celebration.
3. The removal of silent prayers in the reformed liturgy.
4. The reduction of kneeling in the reformed liturgy.

I have created a 'label' for the series so from each post you can get them all: 'EF & OF: how they are related'

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Is the theology of the Vetus Ordo wrong?

Bishop Egan kneels before the Altar at the Consecration, in his Cathedral in Portsmouth

Following on from my last post, here's another suggestion: insofar as there is a contrast between the two forms of the Mass, do all sound people need to stick with the the ecclesiology, sacramental theology, etc. etc. of the Novus Ordo? The claim that they do doesn't work, and here's why.

It is possible to have different legitimate theological schools of thought within the Church: Augustinians and Thomists and what have you. There are also, of course, illegitimate schools of thought, or schools with illegitimate aspects. One possibility, at first glance, is that the contrast between the theological emphases of the two forms of the Mass amounts to the kind of difference which implies that only one can be orthodox: they can't both be right. The point is that the supporter of the Novus Ordo has better hope this is not the case.

There are two reasons why. First, the theological emphases of the Traditional Mass are simply those of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church since, let us say, at least the 12th century. On specific issues we can take it much further back, but the 12th century will do just fine. Everyone in the debate about the liturgy recognises that the way things are in the EF is the result of theological attitudes and ideas of the 12th century and before, in all important respects. Since that date, these have become fixed in the liturgy of Rome which spread throughout the whole of Europe and much of the world. The Church's endorsement of these liturgical forms is an extended act (or series of acts) of the Ordinary Magisterium.

Is it conceivable that the Ordinary Magisterium should be seriously mistaken on an interconnected set of issues fundamental to the Christian life over the course of 8 centuries? Of course not. If you disagree, you are simply rejecting the concept of the Ordinary Magisterium. What this means is that there is not and and there cannot be a real theological problem with anything in the EF.

The second reason is to do with the Second Vatican Council. Opponents of the EF always take their start from the Council. But the Council did not know the Novus Ordo, the Novus Ordo didn't exist at the time of the Council. The 'Mass of the Council', as Pope Benedict called it, was the EF, the Missal of 1962, and a bit the revisions of 1964. What the Council said about the liturgy has to be seen in this light. It is simply historically impossible to see the Council as supporting the theology of the OF over the theology of the EF. Yes, there are specific reforms which the Council suggests. But it never does so because of any theological problems with the old books. It is explicit and repeated in its insistence that pastoral considerations are the only ones at issue, and that after all was what the Council was all about. All the beautiful things the Council said about the liturgy, as being for example the 'source' and 'summit' of the 'Christian life', were said in the context of the Traditional Mass.

On the other hand, the actual reform which followed the Council did not have the Council's approval. It couldn't, the Council was over. It may, or may not, have followed the lines laid out by the Council. But - to spell this out - while the Council endorsed the theological exactitude of the 1962 Missal, we can only speculate what the Council would have made of the 1970 Missal. From the point of view of magisterial authority, such speculations are neither here nor there: they have no weight.

The Gospel, proclaimed towards the pagan North, Our Lady of Willesden
Insofar as the Council's proposed reforms of the Mass constitute a comment on the 1962 Missal, to repeat, this is about the pastoral efficacy of the Mass, not about its doctrinal implications. What is more, the efficacy of pastoral strategies is a matter of prudence and susceptible, at least to a degree, of empirical assessment. In light of the experiments carried out since 1964 and their results, we are only bound to the Council's suggestions insofar as we think they are pastorally fruitful.

For these reasons, the supporter of the Novus Ordo, if he has any sense, must say that there is no theological dissonance between the two Missals. If there is a dissonance, the Novus Ordo is in trouble: unlike the EF it is neither endorsed by the Ordinary Magisterium over 8 centuries, nor by the Extraordinary Magisterium of a General Council. It is endorsed by the Ordinary Magisterium of a few decades - a bit like the Breviary of Quignonez. The one which was promulgated in 1536 and abolished in 1568. Yup, liturgical reforms carried out by the highest authority of the Church are not guaranteed to be successful.

Supporters of the Novus Ordo should stop trying to claim that people who like the Traditional Mass are heretics: that really isn't the language of the Church of Today, is it? They should be working to make it a pastoral success. And there is really no reason why they should be jealous of the pastoral successes of the Vetus Ordo, when they happen. We are all working for the same Kingdom, aren't we?

I am reminded of a passage in that forgotten document, the Ratio fundamentatlis about Seminary education produced by the Congregation for Catholic Education in 1980.

The extinguishing of the candles at Tenebrae, St Mary Moorfields.
'It has been abundantly proved that the general orientations of the Council, if they are faithfully observed, do not irritate the People of God. They rebel only against novelties and excesses. For instance, the Council is far from having banned the use of the Latin language. Indeed, it did the contrary. Thus the systematic exclusion of Latin is an abuse no less to be condemned than the systematic desire of some people to use it exclusively. Its sudden and total disappearance will not be without serious pastoral consequences.'

Monday, December 16, 2013

Are supporters of the Traditional Mass dangerous?

Fr Michael Brown saying the EF Mass at a side Altar in St Peter's.

Should we be suspicious of those who say or attend the Traditional Mass? Are they skating on thin ice, in danger of picking up dodgy theological ideas, in danger of getting involved with groups with schismatic attitudes, which reject the Second Vatican Council? Such suspicion has long been the lot of priests and laity who get involved with the Extraordinary Form. It has become harder to maintain in recent years for three reasons: first, the shortage of priests has forced bishops and superiors to make use of the talents of priests who like the Tradition; second, a new generation of theologians and liturgical scholars are breaking down the negative assumptions about the Vetus Ordo; thirdly, Summorum Pontificum gave these priests and laity rights which are difficult to deny.

There are now just too many priests who say the EF to keep this suspicion up. In England and Wales there are seven bishops who have said the Traditional Mass, three of these, plus three other bishops, have conferred the sacrament of Confirmation according to the 1962 books; two bishops who haven't said the EF have presided at it.

Five priests who have said it (since 1970, I mean) have regular slots in our national Catholic newspapers. (One of these is Mgr Basil Loftus. It takes all sorts.)

Such priests can be found working for the Bishops' Conference in positions of trust; there are seven University Chaplains who say the EF, and there are also chaplains of some of our leading Catholic schools.

The suspicion of those who like the Vetus Ordo is connected, of course, with the existence of groups with genuinely extreme views, which use the same Form of the Roman Rite, which lack canonical status. Never mind the SSPX: there are cranks out there who think the SSPX is dangerously liberal. What I have never been able to understand, however, is why this lunatic fringe can be used to tar the mainstream Trads while the liberal lunatic fringe, which is far more densely populated and dangerous, doesn't being suspicion down on what we might call mainstream liberals. Why seminarians used to ask to receive their copies of Mass of Ages in a plain brown envelope, but could flaunt copies of The Tablet as much as they liked. There is zero common cause between the Latin Mass Society and the Sede Vacantists. The same can't be said about The Tablet and the excommunicants and schismatics who take part in mock ordinations of women.

Part of the explanation is the way that the texts of the Second Vatican Council have been used and interpreted. As has been said frequently in recent months, however, the liberals have more sore points with these texts than the trads do. As a service to readers I reproduce a list of texts which you can try out on your local liberal, which I included in one of my Chairman's Message columns in the Mass of Ages. Ask him, or her, if he is happy to accept this teaching. For best results don't tell them it was in Vatican II until after they've choked on their tea.

Dei Verbum 19: ‘The four Gospels just named, whose historical character the Church unhesitatingly asserts, faithfully hand on what Jesus Christ, while living among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation until the day He was taken up into heaven.’
Lumen gentium 14: ‘Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church.’
Lumen gentium 22: ‘The pope’s power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power.’
Gaudium et spes 37: ‘A monumental struggle against the powers of darkness pervades the whole history of man. The battle was joined from the very origins of the world and will continue until the last day, as the Lord has attested.’
Gaudium et spes 48: ‘By their very nature, the institution of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation and education of children, and find in them their ultimate crown.’
Gaudium et spes 51: ‘Therefore from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.’
Orientalium Ecclesiarum 26: ‘Common participation in worship [with non-Catholics] which harms the unity of the Church or involves formal acceptance of error or the danger of aberration in the faith, of scandal and indifferentism, is forbidden by divine law.’
Sacrosanctum Concilium 4: in faithful obedience to tradition, the sacred Council declares that holy Mother Church holds all lawfully acknowledged rites to be of equal right and dignity; that she wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way.’
Sacrosanctum Concilium 23: ‘Finally, there must be no innovations [in the liturgy] unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.’
Sacrosanctum Concilium 36. 1. ‘Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.’
Optatam totius 13: Moreover they [seminarians] are to acquire a knowledge of Latin which will enable them to understand and make use of the sources of so many sciences and of the documents of the Church.’
Unitatis Redintegratio 4: ‘All in the Church must preserve unity in essentials. But let all, according to the gifts they have received enjoy a proper freedom, in their various forms of spiritual life and discipline, in their different liturgical rites, and even in their theological elaborations of revealed truth. In all things let charity prevail. If they are true to this course of action, they will be giving ever better expression to the authentic catholicity and apostolicity of the Church.’

Orientale Lumen 8: ‘Today we often feel ourselves prisoners of the present. It is as though man had lost his perception of belonging to a history which precedes and follows him. This effort to situate oneself between the past and the future, with a grateful heart for the benefits received and for those expected, is offered by the Eastern Churches in particular, with a clear-cut sense of continuity which takes the name of Tradition and of eschatological expectation.’
Bishop John Arnold saying the EF in Westminster Cathedral.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Is the Novus Ordo an authentic expression of the Tradition?

Without knowing every detail of the internal life the Franciscans of the Immaculate, it is impossible to make a complete judgement about the justice of the canonical sanctions being imposed upon them. I confess, however, that the effort to imagine a scenario which would justify what is happening has defeated me, given the publicly-known facts about their work up to the time of the current crisis. Furthermore, some aspects of what is happening seem simply incomprehensible.

Thanks to Rorate Caeli for putting together various relevant documents. This is part of what the 'Commissioner', Fr Volpi, has said and done (Fr Volpi is a Capuchin who has been imposed on the order to sort them out by Rome):

'Diaconal and priestly ordinations are suspended for one year. In addition, candidates for Orders who are presently in formation must personally subscribe to a formal acceptance of the Novus Ordo as an authentic expression of the liturgical tradition of the Church and therefore of Franciscan tradition (without prejudice to what is permitted by the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, once the current disciplinary decree of veto, ad hoc and ad tempus, is revoked for the Institute), ...'

There is a particular problem with this phrase 'authentic expression of the liturgical tradition of the Church' which goes beyond the circumstances of the FFIs, and which we can discuss objectively. 

In short: what does it mean? As Fr Tim Finigan has pointed out, it seems to be ambiguous, between something weak and practically incontrovertible - that the Novus Ordo was properly promulgated and is sacramentally valid - and something denied by liturgical scholars on both sides of the debate, including Pope Benedict XVI writing as a private theologian, that the Novus Ordo is a true organic development of the preceding tradition. 

The different interpretations are possible by varying one's understanding of the two keys words, 'authentic' and 'tradition', which are both terms with a wide range of possible meanings. If we understand 'authentic' in a narrow, legal sense, and 'tradition' in a broad sense, you get the first interpretation: the NO is legally related to the Church's tradition of having a liturgy, say. The Church has a tradition of having a liturgy, and by legal fiat the NO became an example of this tradition. 

Taking 'authentic' in a sense broader than just legal, to mean 'proper', 'fitting', 'in accordance with the relevant principles' (liturgical, historical, aesthetic), and taking 'tradition' in a narrow sense of the specifically Roman liturgical tradition as it had developed up to 1962, then it becomes a very open question as to whether the NO is an authentic expression of this tradition. It is pretty clearly denied in this passage by Joseph, Cardinal Ratzinger:

The liturgical reform, in its concrete realization, has distanced itself even more from its origin. The result has not been a reanimation, but devastation. In place of the liturgy, fruit of a continual development, they have placed a fabricated liturgy. They have deserted a vital process of growth and becoming in order to substitute a fabrication. They did not want to continue the development, the organic maturing of something living through the centuries, and they replaced it, in the manner of technical production, by a fabrication, a banal product of the moment. (Ratzinger in Revue Theologisches, Vol. 20, Feb. 1990, pgs. 103-104)
Even more clearly, the scholar Klaus Gamber said that the Novus Ordo can't be regarded as the Roman Rite. He was well aware that it called itself the Roman Rite - as opposed to the Ambrosian or Byzantine Rite. He wasn't talking of its legal status, as being a rite which could be said by priests of the Roman Rite: and this is at issue when Summorum Pontificum says that the NO and the Traditional Mass are both 'forms' of the Roman Rite. He was making a different point: that as scholars have to judge whether, in form and in historical development, the Ambrosian, Gallican, and Sarum Mass should be called forms of the Roman Rite or separate Rites, we have to judge whether the NO is sufficiently similar to the classical form of the Roman Rite, and connected by organic development to that form, to be considered the same Rite. And it isn't: it obviously isn't. It lacks features which are so centrally characteristic of the Roman Rite that anything lacking them has to be categorised as something else. To deny this would be like saying that a vertebrate doesn't have to have a spine.

The book of essays in which Gamber said this has a Prface by Cardinal Ratzinger, incidentally. It is not heresy. It doesn't even, on its own, imply a decisive criticism of the NO: maybe the reformers were right to make the changes, and came up with something better. Many, many liberal liturgical scholars have said exactly this, while insisting that there was a decisive break in the (narrowly understood) liturgical tradition.

Furthermore, Summorum Pontificum actually implies the same thing. The Traditional Mass is called the 'former [earlier, older] liturgical tradition': ' 'traditio liturgica antecedens' (from Article 5). This tradition is not 'expressed' by the Novus Ordo; if it were, people attached to it would be attached to the Novus Ordo, which is not the sense of the passage. On the contrary, it seems this is a different liturgical tradition: there are two, in fact, an older and a newer one.

The fact that there is some important difference between the older tradition and the Novus Ordo is implied in an even more important way by the claim in Summorum Pontificum that the 1962 Missal has never been abrogated ('numquam abrogatam', Article 1). Normally, each edition of the Roman Missal is replaced by the next; that this happened to the 1962 Missal was a very common argument made by canonists before 2007, and this was the reason it was supposed that celebrations of it required an indult or special permission. Summorum Pontificum says that this did not happen. The explanation is not made explicit in the document, but is clear enough. The 1970 Missal is not simply a new edition of the Missale Romanum like all the earlier (and, indeed, later) ones. Something different happened: it was a new Missal in the sense of being a new start, a new tradition, and therefore it did not replace and exclude ('derogate') the earlier Missal.

Again, this doesn't imply that the NO is worse than the Traditional Mass. It just recognises the facts.

It is difficult to seek to interpret 'authentic expression of the liturgical tradition' by reference to the intention of the writer, because it is hard to escape the impression that the ambiguity is deliberate. This has, after all, been done before. The locus classicus is wording the first world-wide Indult, Quattuor Abhinc Annos (1984), which demanded:

'That it be made publicly clear beyond all ambiguity that such priests and their respective faithful in no way share the positions of those who call in question the legitimacy and doctrinal exactitude of the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970. '

What does this mean? What does it exclude? Isn't every theological discussion about the liturgy rendered impossible by this demand? How lucky, then, that it is applied only to people who go to the Traditional Mass! Everyone else can continue to debate the 'legitimacy and doctrinal exactitude' of the 1970 Missal. Or - on the other hand - perhaps this is an almost tautological demand referring to the legal promulgation of the 1970 Missal, and the compatibility with the perennial teaching of the Church of its texts. After all, wouldn't it be odd to question the 'theological exactitude' of the 1962 Missal? And that doesn't imply that it couldn't be improved.

The reality is that the 1984 formulation served the purposes of people who wanted to have it both ways. It could be used, in its strong interpretation, as a handy excuse to stop priests saying the Mass and the Faithful attending it, safe in the knowledge that appeals to Rome would almost certainly get nowhere. When challenged publicly, the bishop or superior could say airily that no reasonable person could object to the weak interpretation, and that this was all he had in mind.

This, I fear, may be what is happening to the Franciscans of the Immaculate. They need our prayers.