Monday, January 02, 2012

English Catholic converts who experienced V-II: reactionary cranks or prescient prophets?

In his Foreword to A Bitter Trial: Evelyn Waugh and John Cardinal Heenan on the Liturgical Changes,Expanded Edition (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011), Joseph Pearce writes:
It is a singularly intriguing fact that the preconciliar Church was so effective in evangelizing modern culture, whereas the number of converts to the faith seemed to diminish in the sixties and seventies in direct proportion to the presence of the much-vaunted aggiornamento, the muddle-headed belief that the Church needed to be brought "up-to-date."
And the number of well-known literary converts from those pre-conciliar days is remarkable indeed. In the English-speaking world there were G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Dawson, Fr. Ronald Knox, Evelyn Waugh, Sheila Kay-Smith, Compton MacKenzie, Alfred Noyes, Hugh Ross Williamson, Sir Alec Guinness, and Malcolm Muggeridge -- not to mention, in the preceding generation, Cardinal Newman, Fr. F.W. Faber, and Gerard Manley Hopkins, to name a mere handful.

The numbers of well-known converts in Europe were equally impressive: Charles Péguy, Léon Bloy, François Mauriac, Henri Ghéon, Giovanni Papini, Gertrud von Le Fort, Jacques and Raissa Maritain, Sigrid Undset, Dietrich von Hildebrand, and Louis Bouyer -- not to mention the likes of Maria Alphonse Ratisbonne in the previous generation.

What is no less interesting about these converts is that most of them witnessed the liturgical experimentation and innovations leading up to the liturgical changes promulgated Second Vatican Council and were appalled by them. Nobody is more familiar with this fact than Joseph Pearce who built his career around this generation of English Catholic converts.

In his review of Joseph Pearce's wonderful book, Literary Converts(London : HarperCollins, 1999; rpt., San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), reprinted by Seattle Catholic (October 11, 2004) from The Latin Mass Magazine, Fr. Eugene Dougherty observes that Pearce's book has a special appeal for those who love the Church and the traditional Latin Mass. The subtitle of the book "Spiritual Inspiration in an Age of Unbelief," he says, reinforced his own faith by affording him the company of authors with whom he grew up: G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Ronald Knox, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Malcolm Muggeridge, and a host of others.

Fr. Dougherty's chief interest in these authors today, he says, is that many of them "experienced" the Second Vatican Council, and that their reaction was generally the same as the fifty prominent English authors who petitioned the Holy Father to preserve the traditional Mass. (Incidentally, the petition was presented to Pope Paul VI by John Carmel Cardinal Heenan, Archbishop of Westminster in London. The story goes that it was the inclusion among the signatories of the non-Catholic mystery writer Agatha Christie, whom Pope Paul VI admired, which persuaded him to agree to what amounted to a unique national exemption from the Novus Ordo, which in fact came to be known as the Agatha Christie Indult.) These 20th-century converts were attracted to the Faith, says Dougherty, by "the very things that the leadership of the Church has now rejected, in the 'spirit' of Vatican II." He writes:
Malcolm Muggeridge, we are told by biographer Joseph Pearce, "could not (at first) bring himself to be a Roman Catholic. The reason centered on his dislike of the changes instigated by the Second Vatican Council. To Muggeridge, the "spirit of Vatican II was destroying Christendom: "Catholicism, he declared, was seeking to reproduce all the "follies and fatuities of Protestantism," and he would not climb aboard a sinking ship.

Ronald Knox, who died in 1957, did not witness the Council, but he was aware of the coming destruction of the liturgy. He spoke of the liturgical reformers as "a strange alliance between archaeologists absorbed in their speculations on the rites of the second century, and modernists who wish to give the Church the character of our deplorable epoch." On one occasion someone requested him to use the vernacular in the baptismal rite. His response was, "The baby doesn't understand English and the Devil knows Latin."
(emphasis added)
In the following précis of Literary Converts, Fr. Dougherty limits himself to those converts who lived long enough to witness the Council, allowing them to speak in their own voices:
On behalf of these converts to the Catholic faith from Protestantism, Evelyn Waugh asked Cardinal Heenan:
Why were we led out of the church of our childhood to find the Church of our own adoption assuming the very forms we disliked?
Christopher Dawson:
[There is] ... a philistine and patronizing attitude to Baroque Catholicism expressed by certain "modern" Catholics.
Hugh Ross Williamson:
The changes [are] echoing everything that was done at the Reformation... the Martyrs have died for nothing.
David Jones:
One year they abolish the biretta, the next year they abolish the Mass.... I can't understand it all; they'll be pulling down Chartres Cathedral next.
Cecil Gill:
The vulgarization of the Mass.... One sighs for a Low Mass instead of this brash version of the sacred liturgy.
George Mackey Brown:
The vernacular has robbed the Mass of its majesty and mystery... so much of its glory has been sort of shed.... There was something very mysterious about the same language being used all over the world.
Robert Speaight:
The vernacular liturgy, popular and pedestrian, intelligible and distressing, has robbed us of much that was numinous in public worship; there is less emphasis on prayer and penitence, and the personal relationship between God and man... is neglected in favor of a diffused social concern.
Sir Alec Guinness:
Much water has flown under the Tiber's bridges, carrying away splendor and mystery from Rome since the pontificate of Pius XII... [T]he banalities and translations which have ousted the sonorous Latin and Greek are of a supermarket quality which is quite unacceptable. Hand shaking and embarrassed smiles or smirks have replaced the older courtesies; kneeling is out, queuing is in, and the general tone is like BBC radio broadcast for tiny tots....
Cardinal Heenan:
If the Church is to remain truly the Catholic Church it is essential to keep a universal language.
Christopher Dawson:
The existence of a common liturgical language of some kind is a sign of the Church's mission to reverse the curse of Babel and to create a body of unity between the peoples.
Fr. Dougherty concludes:
At the present time the Holy Father is proposing both Pope Pius IX and Pope John XXIII for canonization. Pius IX, a conservative, convoked the First Vatican Council; John XXIII, a liberal, convoked the Second - which Evelyn Waugh and our other literary converts considered "a betrayal of the principles of Pio Nono," a surrender to modernism with the "home improvements" that the Council proposed.

How can we reconcile these two opposites? Was the spirit of Vatican II the work of the Heilige Geist (the Holy Ghost), or the Zeitgeist (the spirit of the times)? Literary Converts answers the question.
Are these the sentiments of reactionary cranks or prescient prophets? Perhaps neither. Yet there are some remarkable agreements that may be noted. The Oxford Declaration on Liturgy (1996) asserted that ". . . the preconciliar liturgical movement as well as the manifest intentions of Sacrosanctum Concilium have in large part been frustrated by powerful contrary forces, which could be described as bureaucratic, philistine and secularist..

Again, a year before he became pope, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in his Preface to Alcuin Reid's The Organic Development of the Liturgy(San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005) that those who, like himself, were moved on the even of the Council by the perception of the liturgy "as a living network of tradition" that awaited sensitive pruning by scholarly experts in order to properly flourish "can only stand, deeply sorrowing, before the ruins of the very things they were concerned for." (p. 11)

Yet again, in The Feast of Faith(San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), Cardinal Ratzinger wrote: "Today we might ask: Is there a Latin Rite at all any more? Certainly there is no awareness of it. To most people the liturgy seems to be rather something for the individual congregation to arrange." (p. 84)

Reactionary cranks or prescient prophets? Or neither? You decide. What's your verdict?


Sharon said...

In the Feast of Faith Cardinal Ratzinger comes across as quite liking the new form of the Mass. He has some quite negative things to say about the way Mass was celebrated before the change.

I am not Spartacus said...

As a peritus at the Council, Ratzinger was a liberal and on p. 124 of "The Ratzinger Report," Vittorio Messori notes about Cardinal Ratzinger and The Immemorial Mass; "Far from regarding this Iindult" on the lines of a restoration, he saw it rather in the context of that 'legitimate pluralism' which has been so stressed by Vatican II and its interpreters."

And he said that after earlier (p.79) having been quoted as saying that; "It's always very dangerous to change religious language. Continuity here is of great importance...I grant, however, that expressions such as 'original sin' which in their context are also directly biblical in origin but which already manifest in expression the stage of theological reflection, are modifable."

I am not sure what he believes, frankly. His "Jesus of Nazareth" books employ a great preponderance of protestants exegetes and he tells us that some anonymous John is the one who wrote The Gospel not the John of Tradition; he tells us we dont have to convert Jews etc etc etc..

I fear the Immemorial Mass was officially resurrected so it could be subjected to the knives of the rationalists and they can dissect and kill it like they killed The Mass after V2.

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Dr. Your excellent post ended with a quote from "The Feast of Faith" and so I will also quote it and then when we read both quotes together, don't we end-up scratching our heads in wondering what he, finally, thinks about the lil licit Liturgy?

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger: The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy

Lest there be any misunderstanding, let me add that as far as its contents in concerned (apart from a few criticisms), I am very grateful for the new Missal, for the way it has enriched the treasury of prayers and prefaces, for the new eucharistic prayers and the increased number of texts for use on weekdays, etc., quite apart from the availability of the vernacular. But I do regard it as unfortunate that we have been presented with the idea of a new book rather with that of continuity within a single liturgical history.
In my view, a new edition will need to make it quite clear that the so-called Missal of Paul VI is nothing other than a renewed form of the same Missal to which Pius X, Urban VIII, Pius V and their predecessors have contributed, right from the Church’s earliest history. It is of the very essence of the Church that she should be aware of her unbroken continuity throughout the history of faith, expressed in an ever-present unity of prayer.

P.S. I hasten to add that when it comes to personal Holiness and Intellect and Education and Orthopraxis, Our Holy Father is a veritable ocean whereas there is still a lot of room after what I am is poured into a shot glass.

I honestly do not know what he thinks whereas there was never a doubt about what Pope Saint Pius X - or, for that matter, even what the great Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val - thought.

I am not Spartacus said...

Dei Verbum

19. Holy Mother Church has firmly and with absolute constancy held, and continues to hold, that 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 (see Acts 1:1). Indeed, after the Ascension of the Lord the Apostles handed on to their hearers what He had said and done. This they did with that clearer understanding which they enjoyed (3) after they had been instructed by the glorious events of Christ's life and taught by the light of the Spirit of truth. (2) The sacred authors wrote the four Gospels, selecting some things from the many which had been handed on by word of mouth or in writing, reducing some of them to a synthesis, explaining some things in view of the situation of their churches and preserving the form of proclamation but always in such fashion that they told us the honest truth about Jesus.(4) For their intention in writing was that either from their own memory and recollections, or from the witness of those who "themselves from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word" we might know "the truth" concerning those matters about which we have been instructed (see Luke 1:2-4).

And, yet, Our Holy Father, in his First, "Jesus of Nazareth" book declares that John is not the author of his Gospel but some anonymous John is the author thereby jettisoning 2000 years of tradition off the barque of Peter with a breezy alacrity.

And I can site MANY decisions taken by the PBC - especially when it was authoritative - that rejects any rejection of who the authors of Our Gospels are.

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Dr. I have been uneasy for a long time about confusing signals sent by the V2 Popes and I have been reading an analysis by Mr Larson that has concretised that uneasiness into a firm dread.

I send you think link not expecting you to post it but for you to evaluate the argument there it using your expertise.

I pray Mr. Larson is wrong but I think, sadly, he has Our Holy Father pinned.

JFM said...

IAMSpartacus' link to Larson is disconcerting, to say the least. While I cannot pass judgement on all its particulars, I do think it hits the nailhead here:

"What possible motive could someone like Joseph Ratzinger have for wanting to make Revelation and Truth into evolving phenomena? ...the primary motivation for such aberrations is the perceived necessity to bring the faith into line with reductive physical science."

Yes, yes, and One hundred percent YES. The entire shift marked by Vatican II hinges on the conviction that modern science has disproved much of what up until the last 200 years was held to be true. Hence things earlier never disputed -- The OT picture of God and His Wrath, the absoluteness of moral law, the damning nature of Original Sin, the bona fide historicity of Scripture, the possible "lostness" of much of humanity -- all suddenly become fluid within Living Tradition. Or so it does certainly seem. The irony is that the recent popes don't sense the near impossibility of relaxing thought in these areas and retaining rigid traditions like male-only priests, celibacy, or Christian uniqueness. If you let go of the observable and identifiable supernatural intervention of God as accurately testified to by Scripture, in the end holding on to anything else at all will seem like merely an ecclesiastical coercive power reach. What follow is a retreat to imposing nothing, only "proclaiming" iow pleading. Which doesn't bring especially strong results, witness the present situation.

If anyone can convincingly argue otherwise, I'll stand happily corrected. The Pope does appear to be being used of God to help slow the tide, but it so far it all looks more like a temporary reprieve than a change of course.

George said...

In this vein, I still find compelling J. Lamont's comment some time ago over a Rorate Caeli on a post devoted Ocariz. Lamont says that Ocariz rejects, in the case of Vatican II, the standard view that later ecumenical councils can clarify earlier magisterial statements only if they a) are more clearly and precisely expressed than the earlier ones and b) are equally or more authoritative than the earlier ones. Instead, says Lamont:

"[Ocariz] is claiming that the conciliar [V-II] documents were produced as previous documents were, with the intention of explaining and deepening the Catholic faith, and hence that they contain new teachings in the fields of ecumenism, religious liberty, and collegiality that should be accepted. But this is false. The only novelty in the conciliar documents is that they are expressed in a way that permits a heterodox interpretation. The people involved in drafting them did not have any actual developments of doctrine in mind; what they had in mind was the rejection of previous doctrine. If you want to find something new in the documents, you must accept the modernist positions that their drafters wished to promote."

JFM said...

This will incense people, but part of me thinks Ratzinger (in his pre-papal career) was sort of a Catholic version of Karl Barth. I say this after reading Larson, and having recently read the evangelical Lloyd-Jones assessment of Barth. It sounds very much like Larson's critique in distinct ways:

"Barth clearly had a first-class intellect. Nothing else could account for his acute criticism of various theological outlooks ... He was said by those who knew him to be a ‘great character’. But his greatness was seen supremely in his heroic stand against Hitler and Nazism ...

There is no question also but that he stood out above all others as a theological giant in this century. No name has been quoted more freely not only in Protestant circles but also among Roman Catholics.

...His attacks on Liberalism and Modernism were devastating... But alas, it was only a matter of appearance.

To start with he accepted a radical criticism of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament. ... He denied propositional revelation, and his view of the historicity of the foundational facts of the Christian faith expressed itself in his strange division of history into ‘holy’ and ‘secular’.

‘By their fruits ye shall know them’ and when this canon of judgement is applied to Barth and his works it is clear that the result has been entirely negative from the evangelical standpoint.

Though his works and influence have been in existence for 50 years, he has brought no revival to the church. This is not surprising as his approach, in spite of his denials, is essentially philosophical. His style was involved and difficult and while for a time he produced a crop of intellectual preachers, who were always preaching about ‘the Word’, it soon became clear that they were not preaching the Word itself.

By now his influence from the continent has been eclipsed by that of more radical thinkers.


His keenest students at the present time seem to be Roman Catholic theologians, especially those of the liberal school that is accepting more and more the Higher Critical view of the Bible, and is at the same time anxious to interpret the pronouncements of the Council of Trent in a Protestant direction."

* * *

Ratzinger's works do seem different, and he does often seem to land on the side of propositions. Also, his mentor Von Balthasar loved George Kelly's refutation of Ray Brown's biblical deconstruction, so it makes trying to nail don just what the theologizing really amounts to difficult. When I read his material without any prejudice or suspicion, it is all very helpful, so maybe that is the way to go. But he himself has said his non-papl work is fair game for analysis, so I don't think I am being disrespectful. Simply tyring to understand the theology he has produced!

Sheldon said...

JFM. Brilliant. I had not thought of this comparison before, but it rings true, frankly, sad to say. Both Barth and B16 have major existentialist influences in their background and undercurrents (if not overt themes) in their work. B16 is "Augustinian," by his own profession, as opposed to "Thomistic." The latter always struck him as too "Aristotelian" and "neoscholastic." In that sense he's also a produce of the nouvelle theologie's reaction against the "manualist" instruction of the Garrigou-Legrange era (and earlier).

Neither Barth nor B12 strikes one has heterodox upon a first perusal. One has to know what to look for. I've found this so especially with Barth, whom many Protestants (even Evangelicals) find compelling and embrace without reserve. Few of those who love Barth know where the problems lie in his theology, that they lie not so much in what is said but what is intended by what is said, which often differs radically from traditional Christianity, not to mention the magisterial tradition of Catholicism.

There are just enough clues here and there in both to alert the cautious reader that there may be problems. What emerges in the case of Barth is a view of Christianity that floats above terra firma in the ethers of personal "encounter" above the facts of history and two feet above contradiction.

I do not know B12's pre-papal work as well as I do Barth, but I've read enough to see what I think you mean. There is something of that existentialist about him too, though he's not easily pinned down, but there's enough to make one wary.

JFM said...

Sheldon: Don't know how 'brilliant' it is, LOL, but intriguing. Here's a factoid, rather inexplicable to say the least: just went through Scott Hahn's treatment of Benedict's Biblicism, "Covenant and Communion" (Brazos). Hahn is a one-man juggernaut for inerrancy. The book has positive blurbs from evangelical heavyweights. He talks at length bout modern biblical criticism, yet manages to get through a book-length treatment without the concept of "inerrancy" being even mentioned or listed in the index. Am I missing something, or is there an elephant carcass in the room?