Thursday, January 12, 2017

Will Pope Francis come after the Traditional Mass?

A recent Missa Cantata in Holy Trinity, Hethe, in Oxfordshire.
Having seen this story on Rorate Caeli and elsewhere, my own feeling, which I concede is very fallible and certainly isn't based on any very special intelligence gathered in Rome, is that Pope Francis isn't going suddenly to open up another front in the conflict he is currently engaged in. I don't see why that would make sense to him, at this point.

In brief, the story is that Archbishop Arthur Roche, formerly the bishop of Leeds in England and now the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship under Cardinal Sarah, has been charged with working to undermine in some way what was one of the key documents of the conservative counter-offensive in Rome, which took place from the mid-1990s to the end of Pope Benedict's pontificate: Liturgiam authenticam, an Instruction of the Congregation for Divine Worship published in 2001. This document is about the principles which should inform liturgical translations, and it completely overturned the consensus which had governed the dreadful translations of the 1970s, by saying that liturgical texts should aim not only for easy comprehensibility, but for accuracy, plus an elevated style which evokes the idea that one is engaged in a holy action. (Take note, Neil Addison, who never tires of criticising the LMS translation of the Ordinary of the Mass for doing exactly this. That's the price of fidelity to the living magisterium I suppose.) Unusually, Liturgiam authenticam not only supercedes but explicitely abrogates earlier documents about translations, which did not say this (for a flavour of those, see this):

8. The norms set forth in this Instruction are to be substituted for all norms previously published on the matter, with the exception of the Instruction Varietates legitimae (1994) ...

So that's the story, and it may be true or not: it's just a rumour. My thought, however, is that a move against Liturgiam authenticam would be difficult - not, of course, impossible - for a number of reasons. One is the fact that it has been in force for so long, since 2001, and has already decisively influenced the new English translation, so to make a practical difference a new document would have to be followed by a new translation. Given the effort and trouble the last great translation battle required and caused I think Pope Francis is the last person who is going to do that. He doesn't have enough interest in the liturgy to think that effort and trouble worth while, and has other matters on his mind. But without a new English translation of the Missal, or other major new translations, a replacement for Liturgiam authenticam will simply be a piece of paper with no effect.

Another factor is that Archbishop Roche was very much involved in the last English translation, and it would be a bit strange - not impossible, of course, people can change their minds - for him to set about destroying his own work.

And finally, Archbishop Roche is only the Secretary of the Congregation, and a new document against the Benedictine reforms, coming through the CDW, is hardly going to happen while Cardinal Sarah is in charge. Pope Francis could remove Sarah at any time, but up to now he has not done so, and whatever reasons he may have had for appointing him (quite recently, of course) seem still to be valid.

I am also sceptical about the idea that Pope Francis will go after the Traditional Mass after saying so often that he has no intention of doing so, and of making such concessions to the SSPX.

I think these sorts of stories come from people around Pope Francis who would like them to be true, perhaps even with a view to menacing potentially awkward people into quiescence. But the Pope has, in his confusing way, been quite consistent about his programme, and is now very deeply involved in the effort to make it work, against notable opposition. His programme is about making concessions, whether rhetorical or substantive, to divorcees and others living on the margins of the Church. He has never shown any great interest in the liturgy, and celebrates ad orientem as well as versus populum in the Sistine Chapel.

Nevertheless, it is never a bad time to think about what we can do to be ready for any attack on the Traditional liturgy. One thing I have been doing with the Position Papers is trying to show how that liturgy can be of real value to the Church, in the proclamation of the Gospel in Africa, in China, to men, and to children. The list is not going to stop there. This is one way to counter the idea that the Traditional Mass can or should be confined to any kind of ghetto. 

It is not a dead thing to be allowed for a strange but thankfully dwindling group of people who can't cope without it because of some psychological defect. It is, on the contrary, a resource for the Church in carrying out her divine mission.

Proclaiming the Gospel: honouring it with incense first. The outward form of the liturgy
tells the onlooker about our attitude to the things it involves: the Gospel, the Blessed Sacrament,
the Crucifix, and so on. If we treat them casually, or use casual language about them, our claim
to believe in them and love and live by them will not be taken seriously.
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  1. If he did i would be 100% SSPX and dispense with the Conciliar Novus Ordo charade!

    1. Anonymous3:05 am

      You haven't already dispensed with it? I did years ago, I linger in the Trad environment just waiting out Francis and waiting on the chastisement which will straighten everything out.

  2. It might be amusing to see the Francisdozer stuck in the mud of the neverending, novus ordo liturgical translations quagmire. It might be his Russia, you never know.

  3. Hilary.Spot on!I detect the devil is having his way with Bergoglio at this moment but it won't last.If he goes for the Latin Mass then he will destroy himself,if not before.

  4. Joseph I disagreed with your criticism of the CTS translation and your comparison of it and the LMS translation.That hardly counts as untiring criticism of the LMS translation. I agree with Liturgiam authenticam which is why I believe the LMS should have adopted as its model the OF translation which was issued in accordance with LA.

    I entirely agree that love of the traditional rite is not and should not be confined to a liturgical Ghetto but I fear that the LMS translation indicates a preference for the Ghetto rather than being part of the Church as a whole.

    1. QED, up you pop wth the same criticisms as before.

      If you agree with LA, then you'll realise that the LMS does better in its terms than Vox Clara, which was trying to make concessions to people who rejected LA. As well as refelectimg the new OF translation in many ways.

  5. Anonymous5:02 pm

    While it's risky to open up another front, sometimes throwing as much stuff out to see what sticks is also an effective strategy. While everyone is fighting separate fires in a divided way, things are being burned down so that over all total damage is greater and harder to reverse than if only one front was focused on. Just look at the Spirit of Vatican II Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict attempted to fight on as many fronts as they could to preserve and restore the faith, yet there were so many fronts opening up that we still had a decline.

    All Pope Francis would need to do is write an ambiguous encyclical "Liturgiam Laetitia" which on the surface affirms everything Pope Benedict XVI was trying to do, yet leaves enough room so that it implies that every bishop and priest can "for pastoral reasons" adjust the liturgy to "accompany his parish towards encountering God in a way best suited to that parish". It could even be in a footnote. It doesn't matter. Polka clown barbecue masses suddenly become "possible". When questions arise, all that would be required is for Pope Francis to direct questions on interpretation to someone other than Cardinal Sarah.

    We need to prepare ourselves and fortify our priests, especially the average "go with the flow priest" that really wants to be liked and be reasonably faithful given the constraints of Rome. It's so easy for the average "go with the flow priest" priest to be bullied into liturgical creativity if they don't have opposite support to stand their ground.

  6. "'supersedes' but explicitly abrogates...". :-(

  7. Cardinal Sarah's latest book 'La Force du Silence', published so far only in French, in September 2016 is long and dense. It is also challenging and one particular challenge was addressed to Pope Francis in paragraph 257 which I have paraphrased and translated as follows:

    257. I refuse that we should spend our time opposing one liturgy to another, or the rite of Saint Pius V [the traditional latin mass] to that of Blessed Paul VI [novus ordo]. … [Cardinal Sarah wants] a liturgy that privileges silence … without this contemplative spirit liturgy will remain an occasion for hateful divisions and ideological confrontations instead of being the place of our unity and our communion in the Lord.... this silent liturgy turned towards the Lord … What I am going to say does not contradict my submission and obedience to the supreme authority of the Church. I wish profoundly and humbly to serve God, the Church and the Holy Father, with devotion, sincerity and filial attachment. But here is my hope : if God wants it, when he would want it and in the manner that he would want it, in liturgy, the reform of the reform will take place. [The Cardinal goes on to explain why and how the poor in the West are leaving the Church] because she has been taken by assault by ill-intentioned people who pretend to be intellectual and despise the small people and the poor. That is what the Holy Father must denounce loud and strong. For a Church without the poor is a Church no more ; it is a simple club....

    Evidently Pope Francis saw this if nobody else did.

    The rest is history: Cardinal Sarah's entire staff replaced and a public announcement that there is to be no reform of the reform.

  8. Anonymous3:52 pm

    Even if Pope Francis does not go after the Traditional Mass, he has already set his sights on the Catholic youth, with the intention of steering them away from it. CNA has just published a report by Elise Harris on the preparatory document for the upcoming 2018 Synod, which will be about the youth. According to the CNA report:

    The document’s third section begins with a question: “How does the Church help young people accept their call to the joy of the Gospel, especially in these times of uncertainty, volatility and insecurity?”

    A broad overview of pastoral activity is then given focusing on the different roles of those involved in the caring for the vocational discernment of young people.

    When it comes to walking with youth, the document offers three tips for adopting a pastoral style similar to that of Jesus: “going out,” “seeing” and “calling.”

    Pope Francis has often voiced his desire for “a Church that goes out,” but when it comes to vocational discernment, the synod’s preparatory document says that accepting this invitation from the Pope first of all means “abandoning the rigid attitudes which make the proclamation of the joy of the Gospel less credible” and tossing out a way of “acting as Church which at times is out-dated.”

    If the pattern of the last Synod holds, then what we read here will already be contained in the papal exhortation that follows, no matter what the bishops may say.

    Note. The CNA report is here:

  9. Anonymous3:28 pm

    The revolution must forge ahead. The last piece of the jigsaw is SSPX who need to be enticed into the official Church. Once that happens then Pope Francis will crush tradition by means of the bishops' conférences who will whoop with delight. If SSPX can be seen to be uncooperative in response to invitations then they can be isolated outside the Church. The point is that Rome will try to say that SSPX were never serious about a deal and are therefore schismatic. THis is why Bishop Fellay has to appear agreeable to a deal even though he knows that such a thing is impossible. Pray for him!

  10. There is a new translation of the Liturgy of the Hours in the works. They started right after the new Mass translation, so hopefully it's moving along, but perhaps this talk of yet different new translation guidelines will cause them to start over again on that too.

    As a layman I'm not bound to pray the office, but anyway find the current one uninspiring, and would try to pick it up if there were a better translation.