The current Tablet carries a letter by me, in response to an article by a Jesuit priest, John Baldovin. The Tablet descibes him as a 'professor of historical and liturgical theology at Boston College, and author of Reforming the Liturgy: A Response to the Critics.' What is astonishing, then, is his assertion (in his article): 'A number of legitimate rites have always coexisted in the Catholic Church: the Byzantine, Coptic and Armenian Rites, for example, but these are rites of independent churches in union with Rome: there not two “forms” of the Armenian Rite running in parallel.' Is he really so ignorant of the history of the Latin Church as to imagine that the Roman Rite was and is the only Latin Rite?
And here's the funny thing. He doesn't actually assert that there were and are no non-Roman Latin Rites or Usages. He just leaves his expression of indignation hanging in the air, with that implication. To me this suggests that he knows that the bald assertion would be a lie, so he holds back. But maybe I'm wrong, and he's an ignorant ass.
Anyway, here's my letter.
I was pleased to see John Baldovin SJ (Towards the summit, 22nd July) distinguishing the question of the 'Reform of the Reform' of the Ordinary Form from the question of the Extraordinary Form. The conflict over the first is fought out in parishes up and down the land. By contrast, there need be no conflict between the two forms. The celebration of one need not impinge on those who attend the other, if each is given proper space.
Fr Baldovin complains, however, that it is anomolous to have two 'forms' or rites in the Latin Church. He appears to have forgotten that the Roman Rite has long embraced Dominican, Norbertine, Carthusian, and other usages, the remnants of a still greater variety from the days of the Sarum and Gallican Missals. The anomoly, surely, is in the post-conciliar liturgical homogenisation, which flies in the face of the Council's instructions: Sacrosanctum Concilium 37 rejected 'rigid uniformity' (cf. Unitatis redintegratio 17).
What puzzles me most however is Fr Baldovin's quest for ulterior motives in those attracted to the ancient Mass, such as a stronger Catholic identity, or a rejection of the Council. He himself writes that it can be 'wonderful, a thing of beauty', 'a kind of reverent transcendence that is often lacking' in the OF. Isn't this explanation enough? And should we not be encouraging the celebration of such a liturgy?
Joseph Shaw, Chairman, The Latin Mass Society