Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Interview in The Remnant

High Mass of Requiem for Colin Mawby, Patron of the Latin Mass Society,
in St Mary Moorfield, shortly before the Coronavirus epidemic.

A longish interview with me has been published in The Remnant. Read it there.

Some highlights.

Q. Isn't the intellectual conception behind this dedication to the Tridentine Mass just another form of "antiquarianism"?

Joseph Shaw: ...The question can be approached from a subjective or an objective perspective. Subjectively, it is legitimate to ask what forms of liturgy and what devotions are most helpful to souls. Some may be of particular benefit to some Catholics, and others to others. Some like the Divine Office, or the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady, but they are not compulsory, and to say one legitimate devotion or liturgical form is outdated or inappropriate for the current year is ridiculous. If it has been approved the Church, and someone finds it helpful, that is all that needs to be said.


In this way Pope Benedict XVI noted in his Letter to Bishops accompanying Summorum Pontificum, “it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them.” This should be a knock-down argument. Who could possibly object to young people deriving graces from one of the Church’s many liturgical forms?...

Nevertheless, there is an objective side to the question as well, and here Catholics attached to the ancient liturgical tradition face ceaseless attacks. ...

What is surprising is to be having these discussions within the Church, and not just with Protestants and non-believers. When Catholic opponents of the Traditional Mass say that ceremonies and prayers used for eight or a dozen centuries throughout the Latin Church are theologically misguided, they are not just criticizing of a small group of cranks found at the fringes of the Church today, but the Catholic Church as a whole. They are saying that the Church got it wrong: that in her most intimate inner life, she offered her children stones instead of bread, not in this or that place, not for some years or decades, but everywhere and for the great majority of her history. It is an argument for what Luther called the “Babylonish captivity of the Church”: that the Church went horribly wrong at a very early date, and needs to be turned upside down to correct it.


Assertions such as “the ancient Offertory Prayers are erroneous because they treat the Host as if it had already been consecrated”, or “the silent Canon wrongfully excludes the people from participation in the Mass” cannot be right: they are ultimately incompatible with the Catholic Church being the true Church. They should prompt us to think again about these issues until we can understand the meaning and purpose of these aspects of the Mass correctly. ...

Q. For many apologists of the replacement of Tridentine Liturgy by the new mass, this is the main motivation: the modern man, whose mentality is totally influenced by “science”, can no longer understand complex rituals and sacred symbols. Consequently, the religious language must be completely changed, transformed, replaced by something self-explanatory.

Joseh Shaw: ... The problem then is not the question of change in itself, or the ultimate goal of changes. It is rather this idea that ‘modern man’ can’t understand complex rituals and symbols. We should notice right away that this claim, if accepted, has almost exactly the same results as the Protestant claim that Catholic ritual is idolatrous, and the Enlightenment claim that it is obscurantist, and indeed both these claims find echoes in the writings of Catholic liturgical progressives, though not in magisterial documents. In its practical results, it serves to align the liturgy with the ethos of the intellectual elite which emerged from Protestantism and the Enlightenment.

This is clearly not a coincidence, and it should make us suspicious of it as an empirical claim. The Protestant Reformers and the anti-clerical intellectuals of the Enlightenment did not imagine that the mere passage of time had made or would make people less receptive to ritual. They saw, to their frustration and grief, that people found it very attractive and were deeply formed by it; they found that frequently the only way to counter its appeal was through physical violence.

The same frustration can be seen in the writings of some members of the Liturgical Movement before the Second Vatican Council, and liturgical progressives after it, when they admit that ordinary Catholics had no wish for a liturgical reform, and continued to hanker after the old Mass when it had been taken from them. Even where the changes were accepted more readily, no one could claim that they has answered widespread demands. Even the bishops, whose views were sought in a survey in preparation for the Council, showed very limited interest in a root-and-branch reform of the liturgy (this is documented by Annibale Bugnini himself). Partisans of the reform simply say that the reform was good for the people, and if the peoople did not realize this, this demonstrated their ignorance. ...

Q. Pope Benedict: "For then the impression had to emerge that liturgy is something 'made', not something given in advance” (Peter Seewald, Benedict XVI. An Intimate Portrait,

Joseph Shaw: The liturgical tradition stretching from Pope Gelasius, and before him, to the Traditional Mass as we have it today, is a plausible candidate for a tradition which conveys to us God’s will about how he wishes to be worshipped. A liturgy put together in a few years by a set of committees orchestrated by Archbishop Bugnini is not a plausible candidate for this role: it would be ludicrous to suggest such a thing.

Clearly those who set up the Consilium and those who accepted its proposals were not thinking in the terms I have just used. They had been trained to think only in terms of Ecclesiastical authority and sacramental validity. This mindset remains widespread among conservative Catholics today. It undermines the idea of the liturgy as an act of worship, as opposed to a dignified and perhaps informative container for the sacraments. It is not surprising for Catholics with this attitude to fail to see the point of a formal act of worship without any sacraments: the public celebration of Vespers, for example, or the celebration of Mass when the Faithful cannot receive Holy Communion (as has happened during the present Coronavirus epidemic). They cannot see what is added to private prayer by the forms given to us by the Church for public prayer.

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1 comment:

  1. Well said, Joseph. A well laid out expose of the situation since V2. There have been many things said against the EF Mass none of which get to the heart of the matter.