Monday, July 18, 2016

The Sacra Liturgia Conference has set the cause of the Reform of the Reform back by 20 years. That may not be a bad thing.

The reactions to Cardinal Sarah's words encouraging celebration of Mass 'ad orientem', with the priest facing east as the congregation does, continue to reverberate. In addition to a 'clarification' by the Vatican spokesman, Fr Lombardi, and a letter from Cardinal Nichols to the priests of Westminster Diocese, we have now had a letter from the Chairman of the relevant committee of the US Bishops' conference. All these statements point out that Cardinal Sarah's comments do not change liturgical law, and in slightly different ways claim that the current law favours celebration 'versus populum,' with the priest facing the people. The US letter asserts that a decision to change from vs. pop. to ad orientem celebration by a priest should only be done with the knowledge and approval of the bishop.

None of these statements, any more that Cardinal Sarah's, have in themselves the force of law. Nevertheless, they make public, clear, and official, a view which was up to now not so public, not so clear, and not so official: that celebration vs. pop. is officially favoured to the point that celebrating ad orientem needs, at least, special justification.

The kind of initiatives in which the 'Reform of the Reform' (RotR) consists, at the local level, depend on a degree of ambiguity about what is allowed or favoured by the rules. Such ambiguity abounds in official documents. Are altar girls permitted or actually favoured? Female lectors? Communion under both kinds? The use of the Roman Canon? Silent recitation of the Offertory? The sign of peace? Concelebration? The debate about the rules (unlike the debate on the underlying theology) is not only endless, but both exceedingly boring and ultimately pointless. It suffices that conservative and liberal priests alike can claim a degree of leeway and, when the pastoral and political conditions permit, quietly move things in their favoured direction. The golden rule in such matters is that you don't press for clarification unless you are sure things will be clarified in your favour.

This is the rule apparently forgotten by the organisers of the Sacra Liturgia conference, and their friends in the Catholic media, both on and offline. I certainly don't attribute any blame to Cardinal Sarah, who said nothing more in London than what he has said, without any bad results, on the record before, and, if anything, less than what Cardinal Ratzinger said in the Spirit of the Liturgy in 2000 and Cardinal Schonborn said in a retreat he preached to Pope St John Paul II in the mid 1990s (it was published as 'Loving the Church' in 1996). The problem lay in the hype heaped on his words by others. Not only was the hype false - as just noted there wasn't anything new or big about what he said - but it meant that Cardinal Nichols, Fr Lombardi, and all the others felt that they had to respond. And what sort of response did the organisers imagine they would get? What sort of official atmosphere do they imagine pertains in the Church right now? Where, in heavens' name, have they been for the last few years?

It is this which has put the cause of the Reform of the Reform back by twenty years - back before Cardinal Schonborn's cautiously worded but carefully argued and impassioned plea for worship 'obviam sponso', 'facing the bridegroom', twenty years ago. Is it conceivable, now that Fr Lombardi has nailed the Holy See's colours to the mast, that such an argument could be made in the presence of the Holy Father now? I don't think so either.

Behind this tactical blunder lies a more fundamental strategic mistake. The organisers of the Sacra Liturgia conference were keen to present the whole thing as about the Reform of the Reform rather than about the promotion of the Traditional Mass. The Traditional Mass was included just as part of the Church's rich pattern, and not as in any way a key element. The idea is that too-obvious association with the EF is politically disadvantageous: it is safer to present oneself as wanting to tinker with the (when properly understood, wonderful wonderful) liturgical reform, rather than as rejecting it.

The argument would seem to make sense, but people have been making it ever since the Novus Ordo Missae appeared in 1969, and it has never worked. The first problem is that the things the RotR people want, particularly celebration ad orientem, are interpreted as a de facto rejection of the reform as a whole by overwhelming powerful forces in the Church. I noted in a previous post that this view has its own logic; for present purposes it suffices to note that it is not going away. An auxiliary consideration is that it is suspected, with perfect justice, that many RotR advocates actually want the Traditional Mass anyway.

The second aspect of the mistake is that the Traditional Mass is not today seen as a poisonous, problematic thing at an official level in the Church. Although a much more radical departure from the reformed Mass than RotR ideas, it is treated much more leniently. Cardinal Nichols doesn't fancy his priests celebrating the OF ad orientem, but asked two of them to learn the EF to expand Sunday provision for it in his diocese. Religious Institutes committed to the Traditional Mass are welcomed into dioceses all over England, the USA, and indeed the world, by bishops who are never going to get rid of Altar Girls, Eucharistic Prayer 2, or communion in the hand, in the Ordinary Form.

The reason is not difficult to understand. The Reform of the Reform has the potential, if widely taken up, to turn dozens of parishes into liturgical war zones. Priests who take a stand on any of the major RotR issues can expect confrontations with parishioners with complaints going to the Bishop. People walk out of Mass; there are shouting matches. The development of the Traditional Mass in a diocese works in a completely different way. Here a bishop saves a historic church by giving it to a traditional Institute. There a priest introduces an extra Mass into his timetable for a handful of parishioners. People might complain but the complaints are obviously unreasonable, since it doesn't affect their own spiritual lives. No one need walk out of his favoured Mass never to return. No one has had his spiritual peace shattered. But in the meantime these initiatives have the potential to grow. They draw in the lapsed, they foster vocations. We don't pull down; we build up.

Hard-core RotR advocates will tell us that this is no way to restore the Church. They say we have to 'save' the OF because that is what nearly all Catholics attend. They like to imagine that celebration ad orientem could be rolled out in dozens of parishes in a short time, and that it would be a huge step forward. I don't disagree with the theological arguments they advance; I would just like to point out the real world - that annoying thing which gets in the way of so many fine theories.  In this real world, which I at least am condemned to inhabit, this plan is not working. What is working is the steady advance of the Traditional Mass, which give people not a peculiar compromise liturgy, but a coherent liturgical and spiritual life.

There is something else as well. I don't bring to this debate many decades of personal experience. But I have already seen one of the consequences of the Reform of the Reform movement which its advocates are not so keen to advertise. That is sincere and zealous priests having nervous breakdowns. I apologise for putting it here in black and white, but it is something we should face. If you are telling priests to adopt a plan of action, you need to think through the consequences. Putting priests into massive unavoidable conflict has predictable results. Many priests have told us of the spiritual consolations accorded to them by learning and saying, even if only in private, the Traditional Mass. This is something which we can help them do which will be good for them, and if good for them then good for their parishes. Having arguments with Tablet-reading members of the parish liturgy committee does not pack the same spiritual punch.

So perhaps it is not such a bad thing, all things considered, that the cause of the Reform of the Reform has been set back by twenty years.

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  1. I started reading this thinking you were protesting too much, and that you were perhaps (smugly?) revisiting old discussions you have had with others to point score after the slap-down to Cardinal Sarah and his ad orientem proposal. However, by the time I finished reading I found it a thoughtful post.

    Though I prefer and attend, whenever possible, the traditional Latin Mass, I have thought that the RotR is something to be encouraged. I hadn't realised that trying to put it into effect was having such a serious effect on some good priests - so this has been food for thought.

  2. The whole effort reminds me of the myth of Sisyphus. Let's see one year from now. My (easy) forecast: nothing will happen in Novus-Ordo-Land.

  3. I think the real problem is that none of the methods are actually working.

    We forget that the TLM was around when the Novus Ordo was presented. The Novus Ordo spread like wildfire around the world within that setting.

    The TLM just cannot compete against a mass that gives society exactly what it wants. The society wants change and something novel to amuse them every Sunday. The TLM cannot give that. On the other hand you have to admit that the Novus Ordo is the most suitable candidate for doing a great job at it. Sad to say, I have met many who attended the TLM for a period of time because it was a novel experience in their mind.

    What priests need to communicate to society is the futility of constantly running after novelty. Otherwise the TLM isn't going to spread. Since that isn't going to happen soon, and society doesn't look like its going to come to a self-realization of the futile nature of their constant craving for novelty, no method is going to work.

    1. "The TLM just cannot compete against a mass that gives society exactly what it wants."

      That was part of why it spread so quickly, no question - especially at a moment when western culture was moving into a period of high ferment of, well, revolution.

      But the role of the pope was decisive. Paul VI WANTED a vernacular Mass, and began celebrating one as soon as he could; Paul VI WANTED celebration versus populum, and began celebrating one as soon as he possibly could. Having a papal mandate was key in getting large swaths of more conservative bishops and clergy (all fed on a diet of ever increasing ultramontanism and even cult of personality that had been mounting for a century) on board. "The Pope wants this, so we must do it."

      And given that progressives lack such a virtue of natural obedience, even having a pope who reverses course will not go as easily as Paul VI's revolution did. But it will be a necessary component of any restoration - a restoration which will likely only happen after the current fevers have burned themselves out with the passing of the involved generations.

    2. "We forget that the TLM was around when the Novus Ordo was presented. The Novus Ordo spread like wildfire around the world within that setting."

      Errr, no, not really. The TLM ceased to be, well, L in 1965, and had begun deviating significantly from T by the same point, and even moreso by 1967. The Novus Ordo was presented two years later, which promptly replaced the M. The two didn't compete side by side. Dr. Shaw, in a previous post, cited a poll in the 80's indicating that as many as half of Catholic adults would've happily attended a TLM if it had been available to them.

      As Athelstane suggests, it is not a mere matter of preference. Paul VI personally inaugurated a vicious polemic against the TLM and stuffed the Curia and episcopate with every rat bastard he could find who would echo that polemic, and launched a brutal campaign to more or less forcibly alter the sensibilities of lay Catholics in this regard. That can't be discounted.

    3. Errr, no, not really. The TLM ceased to be, well, L in 1965, and had begun deviating significantly from T by the same point, and even moreso by 1967.


      The Mass had been so altered by 1969/70 that there wasn't much difference, aesthetically speaking, between the new missal and what was present immediately before its promulgation, at least not in my parish.

      By the time the New Mass came on the scene, my parish had been standing for Holy Communion for over 4 years, Mass was offered 100% in the vernacular at a freestanding altar facing the people, using multiple canons, et cetera.

      The "old Mass" was long gone by that time.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. The conclusion seems to be a very reasonable one. Retain the Novus Ordo and the TLM side by side, and by all means press for more frequent and more widely available celebration of the TLM, but it’s wiser not to “tinker with the liturgical reform” by trying to turn the OF mass into “a peculiar compromise liturgy”.
    In this article Joseph Shaw explicitly refrains from attributing any blame to Cardinal Sarah, but — unless I have seriously misunderstood his argument — there is nevertheless an implicit criticism of the Cardinal’s call to switch to Ad Orientem in the Novus Ordo mass, which is permitted, or even encouraged, on paper but has largely fallen into disuse in practice. This means, as I see it, that Cardinal Sarah’s proposal can only fall under the heading of “tinkering with” the rite in such a way as to bring about a form of worship that most mass-goers would indeed see as “a peculiar compromise liturgy”. I would have no quarrel with that criticism. I think Cardinal Sarah made a mistake in presenting his appeal in the way he did.

  6. Anonymous5:32 pm

    Dr. Shaw, thank you for putting into writing that which I've only recently begun to realize in this ministry to which God has called me. Every time that I turn around, I run into resistance - even if I don't implement something, the fact that I may ask a question aloud or contemplate a change raises alarms with some people, clergy and laity alike.

    What I have also realized is that adding the Traditional Mass to the schedule is more acceptable in the eyes of many. The challenge here is that many places have crafted Mass schedules that are packed with the OF at every turn, so that offering the EF requires supplanting an OF Mass somewhere.

    While I have not had a nervous breakdown, what you wrote about that touched me internally. Having read your writing for a few years, I remember well a series of articles you wrote on the continuity that must be maintained between the EF and OF. If they are not properly 2 valid forms of the Roman Rite, then the EF can be the only valid form. Unfortunately, many stand against the traditional ways and beliefs of the Church, such that I find myself forced to re-catechize people on a never-ending basis. This is emotionally and psychologically draining. As a priest, I also serve the military as a chaplain, and so change assignments every 2-3 years. The New Evangelization is extraordinarily challenging. Lest this sound like a prideful statement - that I have to continuously re-catechize, as though I'm the only one who understands the teachings of the Church, I have spoken with brother priests who feel the same way. We are fighting a battle in which the faithful are far more effectively catechized by the culture than by the faith. If the liturgy is to be the "first theology," as has been a constant and historical teaching of the Church, the RotR has its merits. Seeing the different theological emphases between the OF and the EF then makes me feel like a hypocrite at times, allowing the OF to continue "as is" or with only minor adustments on my part, even when offering the EF to the people as well.

    Please continue to pray for all of us. I wonder at times why God saw fit to have me born to this time, or why he would not allow me to go into seclusion in a Benedictine monastery. Evidently, though, there is too much work to be done.

    With fraternal affection,
    Fr Ken Bolin
    Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter
    serving the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA

  7. Dr. Shaw,

    Respectfully, I think the serious flaw in the view presented is that it awaits the restoration of the EF as the normal rite of the Latin Church. Which to me at least is far less realistic than promoting a more faithful adaptation of the reformed liturgy. Especially given that I do think there are things worth retaining from the reform, and I agree wholeheartedly with the thoughts of Sacrosanctum Concilium on how to promote active participation.

    But I think you've set up a false dilemma. There is no obligation to jam ad orientem down people's throats. The fear, it seems to me, is not that these things exist, but that they be seen as normal or take the place of the 'On Eagle's Wings' Mass on Sunday. So, equally, an ad orientem OF Mass (maybe even in Latin!), if added to a Sunday schedule as an extra option, would seem to me unobtrusive, just as an EF Mass. Nobody will get flustered. The place where fights break out is when you eliminate the "folk music worship band" that plays every week at the 8am Mass. But I think in any reasonable universe, those fights can both be charitably be avoided by promoting the RotR OR EF as an "alternative." In fact, that is how catechesis happens. Having an extra EF or OF RotR Mass on your Sunday rotation or during the week allows people breathing room to see and appreciate the differences. Then, over time, people might spontaneously request more adaptation into the normal "High Mass" on Sunday.

    In other words, I think the question for both people who prefer the EF and those of us who are RotR-ers is: how to catechize and introduce these changes in a way that is charitable and enlivens the spiritual life of our parish, rather than tearing it down? Because, in fact, people's spiritual lives are now intricately connected to the reformed rite of the Mass, sappy hymnody, etc. This might be objectively a bad situation that needs to be rectified as much as possible, but we must be careful when eliminating the tares not to uproot the wheat as well. Ultimately, I think a RotR is the only way to go; the EF is not coming back as the normative Western liturgy and the only other option would be that we create enclaves of alternative liturgical life isolated from the local church, neither of which is a desirable future.

    Yours in Christ,
    fr. James Dominic, OP

    1. But if you are going to introduce a new Mass into the timetable, it could as easily be the EF. The RotR wouldn't be easier, more diplomatic or anything like that.

    2. I concede that one could introduce an EF. But the EF remains isolated, even if put on the rotation. We cannot imitate the EF in any substantial way in the OF, so that you're just saying either that you want the EF to take over the parish's rotation eventually (bad idea, not happening) or that it should influence the other Masses, in which case I think we're looking at a RotR situation. By contrast, the influence from the OF could bleed over into the other liturgies quite directly and the entire parish's liturgical life could transform. And, yes, I do think the OF is more diplomatic and easier for most people to understand given the status quo - they want to say the responses like in a dialogue Mass, hear the readings in the vernacular, etc. Some of these are possible in the EF, but it is definitely easier and more diplomatic to implement in my limited experience.

    3. What does this mean: 'the EF remains isolated'? There is some kind of argument or worry lurking here which I don't understand. People will be able to go to the EF. They will benefit from it. Their numbers may grow. After a while it often happens that this becomes one of the best attended Masses. What's the problem?

    4. I'd even say "legally" isolated, given that it is intended not to replace the Ordinary Form and remains legally exceptional for any parish that wants to implement it (according to Summorum Pontificum) but I mean more "existentially" isolated for a few reasons. First, it runs on a different calendar than the rest of the Church. Second, it would be difficult for a few reasons to make it the chief liturgy of a parish. Third, if it isn't the form of liturgy offered by the rest of the diocese, your parish becomes de facto isolated the more exclusively it is offered. And no parish priest can really offer the EF exclusively unless the parish was especially established for this purpose, which then leaves me wondering what we should do with the remaining OF Masses that most people will likely attend. Are we just doomed to live in splendid isolation and cognitive dissonance, having the same parish priest offering EF Missa Canatae alongside abusively conducted St. Louis Jesuit folk Masses? I can't see any realistic way to go except mutual enrichment and gradual transformation of the OF. We might still think there are structural problems with the OF, but I don't see the EF becoming normative.

    5. You keep saying 'isolated' but without explaining why or what it means. There are differences in the calendar. So what? England and Wales celebrate Epiphany on a different day from Rome; Benedictine parishes hold the Feast of St Benedict as a Solemnity. Are they 'isolated'? Can't say I've noticed. It's not the 'chief liturgy', whatever that means. So what? It isn't the one offered by the rest of the diocese. So what? The Catholics attending it are not 'isolated'; they are following something distinct, yes, but in unity with the bishop.

      Perhaps you need to revisit the discussion of diversity found in the documents of Vatican II. There, it is regarded as a good thing.

      What happens to the other Masses? The priest must deal with them as best he can in the pastoral and political situation in which he finds himself. I'm not in favour of St Louis hymns. I'm not even in favour of celebration vs. pop. My point is simply that the project to save the situation by transforming these Masses into what they do at the Oratories is simply not going to work, not because of me, but because of the people and the bishops.

      Introducing, fostering, and making as splendid as possible the EF option in more and more parishes is not only *possible*, it is actually *happening*. This is a project which, at least some of the time, will actually reward your hard work with positive concrete results. It is a way of making progress, as opposed to a way of banging one's head against a wall.

  8. The idea that the reform of the reform is dead and we just need to push ahead with the spread of the TLM is, frankly, fantasy. Most RoR-friendly Catholics don't actually want the old Mass. They'll happily attend an ad-orientem, mostly-in-Latin, chanted-propers OF, but they don't actually want the 1962 Missal. And if you give them the choice, they will abandon, in droves, the parish bringing a weekly TLM online and flood the RoR OF parish until it has to expand its Mass schedule.

    I've seen it happen with my own eyes.

    It was easy to declare the death of the reform of the reform in the last days of Benedict XVI. But we are not in Kansas any more. I don't know whether Cardinal Sarah's speech was a good idea or a bad idea. But nothing---not this, not anything else---is going to turn conservative Catholics into any shade of traditionalists en masse.

    1. There is a constituency for OF with RotR bells and whistles. I don't deny it. What i've talking about is the difficulty of rolling this out. This is why RotR is dead.

    2. Moving the EF Mass more and more into the Overton window is certainly going to help. If nothing else, RotR Catholics may not be interested, but their kids will be more primed for traditional liturgy.

    3. And if you give them the choice, they will abandon, in droves, the parish bringing a weekly TLM online and flood the RoR OF parish until it has to expand its Mass schedule.

      Interestingly, while I was at Ave Maria University (Naples, FL), we had, from the outset, a Latin Novus Ordo - ad orientem, communion on the tongue, Gregorian chant schola - three days a week, including Sunday. It was the best attended regular Mass there.

      Eventually, after some skirmishing, a TLM was finally introduced in the campus oratory. Today, there's a TLM three days per week - and only one Latin Novus Ordo (it's on Wednesdays at noon). There's also a well attended FSSP TLM that's been added in downtown Naples, and some go there. People were given the choice, and they abandoned the ROTR Novus Ordo in droves for the TLM.

      I've seen it happen with my own eyes.

      I do agree with Dr Shaw that there's a constituency for the OF with ROTR bells and whistles. I used to think it was quite naturally far larger than for the TLM. But I have come to conclude, finally, that in most places (at least in North America), if you want to add a new more traditional Mass to your parish schedule, you will have an easier time getting together an adequately sized congregation and servers for it than you will an ROTR OF.

  9. Indeed well spotted sir! A liturgical war would sink the careful nurturing of the EF and polarise parishes. The irony is that liberals (a poor choice of words I know) like me are beginning to be won over by the extraordinary beauty of the ad orientum and are also seeing that far from being a threat to the progressive side of the body of christ, the Latin mass is an oasis through which the voice of Christ is heard loud and clear. Balance is what is required. Tradition that liberates without dumbing down by liberalising truth.

  10. I say roll on the work and apostolate of the Anglican Ordinariates and their wonderful Divine Worship: The Missal - which is, of course, envisaged as being celebrated ad orientem as the norm.

    1. In this country, attendance at Ordinariate Rite liturgies is miniscule, and not growing. That pesky reality thing again.

    2. In this country, attendance at Ordinariate Rite liturgies is miniscule, and not growing. That pesky reality thing again.

      Yes, and in North America, it is proportionately even more scarce, with only 40 (mostly rather small) Ordinariate communities across the entire continent, with some regions wholly devoid of it.

      It is a pity, because the Ordinariate Use, at least on its most traditional options, is not that far off the Traditional Roman Roman Rite (and the music is often better); and it could well become a pointer toward what a vernacular or semi-vernacular traditional Latin Rite liturgy could look like, in time. But it's tightly sealed up in a handful of places, and most bishops on both sides of the Pond seem content that it be so; and Ordinariate leaders, being heavily dependent on the good graces of diocesan bishops (most are hosted in diocesan parishes here as in England), are reluctant to rock that boat.