Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Kenneth Woodward on the Novus Ordo

Newsweek magazine's religion editor, Kenneth L. Woodward, has an essay in the latest issue of First Things (February 2013 -- not online yet) with a title reminiscent of Edmund Burke's: "Reflections on the Revolution in Rome" (FT, February 2013), pp. 25-31. The whole article is a revelation, but I thought the portion on liturgy particularly interesting. Here are excerpts:
And then there was the new rite of the Mass. At its inception it was better described, as one forgotten wit put it, as "the participation of the laity in the confusion of the clergy." Compared to the old Latin liturgy, I found the new version about as moving as a freight train. Silence was now a liturgical vice, conscripted congregational responses the new regiment of worship. In a pale imitation of the early Christians' kiss of peace, there was now a scripted pause. I remember vividly the funeral of the great Catholic apologist Frank Sheed at St. Patrick's Cathedral: Swinging round to shake hands with whomever was behind me, I found only a pair of hands holding a limp missalette at arm's length. One middle finger was extended. I shook the finger -- there was nothing else to grab -- and looked into the disdainful eyes of William F. Buckley Jr. "You S.O.B.," I wanted to say, "I don't like this Rotary Club routine any more than you do."

Buckley's National Review, a magazine produced mostly by Catholics, had responded to the Church reforms with a question on its cover: "What, in the name of God, is going on in the Catholic Church?" Good question. Defecting priests and secularizing colleges did not affect me directly, but the new liturgy did. In place of my much-loved Latin hymns and chants, the new liturgists bade us sing old Reformation anthems like Martin Luther's "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." I could not bring myself to join in when the chosen hymn was "Amazing Grace" -- in fact, I still refuse to do so. It's a lovely piece, all about getting one's self individually saved, Evangelical-style, but theologically it has no place in the corporate worship of the Catholic Church.

What the liturgists didn't borrow from Protestant hymnals, they conjured up by themselves. Mostly, it was folk music sung to plucked guitars with relentless upbeat lyrics about how much a nice God loves us and aren't we fortunate to be his chosen people. There was no awe, no hint of the biblical fear of the Lord in this music, only the mild diuretic of self-congratulation. Our children loved it: It matched the treacle they were learning in Sunday school classes, which is why my wife and I pulled them out to teach them the fundamentals ourselves. The Church's failure to pass on the faith, through the liturgy or through the classroom, would eventually snip two generations of young Catholics from their own religious roots.
Then, this telling conclusion:
In 1971, Newsweek again polled American Catholics for the cover story -- "Has the Church Lost Its Soul?" -- that, with copious charts, went on for seven pages. What we found was a once apparently cohesive community in disarray: As one liberal monsignor bluntly told us, "The Chuch is one god-damned mess." Nearly as many American Catholics, for instance, said they now looked for spiritual guidance to evangelist Billy Graham as did those who still looked to the pope. By "soul" I meant "an integral Catholic subcultue with its own distinctive blend of rituals and rules, mystery and manners" which, as I saw it then, "has vanished from the American scene."

Had I that cover story to write all over again, I would have added that the membrane that once separated Catholics from other Americans had been finally rent. The assimilation of Catholics -- a quarter of the population -- into mainstram American culture and society had been accomplished, though at heavy cost to the institutions of the Church. And after Humanae Vitae and its fallout, the internal boundaries by which Catholics had differentiated themselves from their neighbors gradually receded.

Most Catholics clung to their faith and said they expected their children to do the same. In closing the story, I tried to lay a journalistic finger on the reasons why. For that I had to look inside myself, and this is what I wrote: "When the Catholic faith runs deep, it establishes a certain sensuous rhythm in the soul, a sacramental sensibility that suffuses ordinary things -- bread, water, wine, the marriage bed -- and transforms them into vehicles of grace. In these spiritual depths, doctrine and Church laws fade in importance."

In focusing on the idea of religion as a distinct sensibility, formed through a set of communal practices based on a comprehensive religious worldview, I was trying to understand how -- and for how long -- any religious tradition might persist without the sociological protection provided by geographic, ethnic, and other socially constructed boundaries. The reforms of Vatican II may have hastened but certainly did not cause the collapse of those boundaries by which Catholics, like all minority groups, had maintained their identity. That was the work of other social forces. I was in my early thirties at the time, but already I could sense that these forces would affect not only the Catholicism of my children but of my children's children as well.


Ralph Roister-Doister said...

"A certain sensuous rhythm in the soul" my foot! I can get that from a bowl of Cap'n Crunch. No wonder so many people regard "Catholic intellect" as an oxymoron.

Catholics have lost the faith because Church leaders are no longer willing to communicate to people the reality of eternal punishment for sin. Doing so in this enlightened age is such a downer -- so medieval! Tune in "Life on the Rock" instead!

Matt said...

Thank God for the Orthodox Church!

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Wow!! This is a wonderful surprise. Thanks for posting it, Dr.

When I was a member of a Trad Study group a long time ago, one of the texts we read was Mediator Dei and in there was a correction of the popular misconception held to this day by a majority of Traditionalists.

Here is the relevant teaching and it supplies for the curious an answer to the question - why was there a revolution within the form of Mass?

46. On this subject We judge it Our duty to rectify an attitude with which you are doubtless familiar, Venerable Brethren. We refer to the error and fallacious reasoning of those who have claimed that the sacred liturgy is a kind of proving ground for the truths to be held of faith, meaning by this that the Church is obliged to declare such a doctrine sound when it is found to have produced fruits of piety and sanctity through the sacred rites of the liturgy, and to reject it otherwise. Hence the epigram, "Lex orandi, lex credendi" - the law for prayer is the law for faith.

47. But this is not what the Church teaches and enjoins. The worship she offers to God, all good and great, is a continuous profession of Catholic faith and a continuous exercise of hope and charity, as Augustine puts it tersely. "God is to be worshipped," he says, "by faith, hope and charity."[44] In the sacred liturgy we profess the Catholic faith explicitly and openly, not only by the celebration of the mysteries, and by offering the holy sacrifice and administering the sacraments, but also by saying or singing the credo or Symbol of the faith - it is indeed the sign and badge, as it were, of the Christian - along with other texts, and likewise by the reading of holy scripture, written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. The entire liturgy, therefore, has the Catholic faith for its content, inasmuch as it bears public witness to the faith of the Church.

48. For this reason, whenever there was question of defining a truth revealed by God, the Sovereign Pontiff and the Councils in their recourse to the "theological sources," as they are called, have not seldom drawn many an argument from this sacred science of the liturgy. For an example in point, Our predecessor of immortal memory, Pius IX, so argued when he proclaimed the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. Similarly during the discussion of a doubtful or controversial truth, the Church and the Holy Fathers have not failed to look to the age-old and age-honored sacred rites for enlightenment. Hence the well-known and venerable maxim, "Legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi" - let the rule for prayer determine the rule of belief.[45] The sacred liturgy, consequently, does not decide or determine independently and of itself what is of Catholic faith. More properly, since the liturgy is also a profession of eternal truths, and subject, as such, to the supreme teaching authority of the Church, it can supply proofs and testimony, quite clearly, of no little value, towards the determination of a particular point of Christian doctrine. But if one desires to differentiate and describe the relationship between faith and the sacred liturgy in absolute and general terms, it is perfectly correct to say, "Lex credendi legem statuat supplicandi" - let the rule of belief determine the rule of prayer. The same holds true for the other theological virtues also, "In . . . fide, spe, caritate continuato desiderio semper oramus" - we pray always, with constant yearning in faith, hope and charity.[46]

The reason we Christian Catholics had a revolutionary lil' licit liturgy imposed on us is because the New Theologians have different theological beliefs than those Traditional Catholic Theologians that came before them.

It is not complicated; and it ain't continuity with the past.

Simple Izzy said...


You say it's not complicated, and I would agree, if by that you mean the lack of continuity with the past in today's liturgy. What is not clear to me, though, is the point you are making by quoting Mediator Dei. You lost me somewhere in there. Can you elaborate?

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Dear Izzy. The Committee that drafted the Lil' Licit Liturgy (L3)- from the Bug-Man of Masonry Ecclesia Exterminators Inc to the six protestant lay ministers - did not have the same beliefs as the Traditional Catholic Church Theologians of the previous 20 centuries and so the artificial product of the Committee (L3) necessarily had to be different than the Traditional Mass so as to reflect the new beliefs of the new theologians.

I just thought the reference to Mediator Dei helped to make clearer that it was the beliefs of the new theologians that were determinative in the creation of the Lil' Licit Liturgy in opposition to the Traditional Mass which organically had developed under the aegis of The Holy Ghost .

That is, within the Traditional Mass it can easily be demonstrated, for instance, that Holy Mother Church professes the orthodox Catholic Faith that the Mass is the Pluperfect Sacrifice of Propitiation and that in its essence it is an act of Jesus as both Priest and Victim whereas good luck finding that in the Lil' Licit Liturgy which was an artificial creation of protestantised positivism that recast the Mass as a memorial meal offered jointly by presider and assembly and which theological doctrine ain't kosher.

Another way I think about the difference twixt The Real Mass and the Lil' Licit Litugy is to consider The Catholic Douay Rheims version of Malachias vs the protestant KJV version of the same verses:

Real Scripture

"For from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts" (Mal. 1:11) 

Scripture falsified so as to reflect the new ideological beliefs of the protestant theologians:

For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.

I don't know if my response makes it any clearer and if it doesn't that is due to my inability to think and write as clearly as Dr. Blosser (of whose abilities I am only jealous, not envious)

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

Actually, not a bad article, judging from the excerpts. The anecdote about WFB is priceless, and it dovetails nicely with my own approach to the Dopey Gestures of Peace "time out."

Woodward is right that V2 did not cause the problems that have overwhelmed the Church in recent decades. V2 was, as one commenter put it awhile back, "a ticket to the circus." The circus itself had long been in preparation by a motley crew of saboteurs, some of them clearly malicious in intent (communists, masons, socialist labor types, etc), some of them academic cranks and 19th century romantic irrationalist buffoons.

Balthazar is my premier example of the latter -- imagine! the most exalted "theologian" of the New Church, a man whose dozens of bizarre volumes are based almost entirely on the ravings of a quasi-theosophic lunatic sireeen (Adrienne von Speyr) with whom he lived for most of his adult life in a poet-muse relationship, and who vouchsafed to him all sorts of momentous insights into the mind/s of the Trinity. These transcripted diaries of the Trinity's thoughts, dreams and starry-eyed aspirations is what has replaced 8 centuries of Aquinas! Amazing!