In any case, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFMCap, the Preacher of the Pontifical Household, preached in the Vatican Basilica on Good Friday what was formally a homily but what Rorate Caeli calls truly "a panegyric to the new pontiff with an embedded program of great ambition." The post is entitled "Cantalamessa's Panegyric: 'a new time is opening for the Church', 'partitions, staircases, rooms and closets' and 'the residues of ceremonials' must be 'knocked down'" (Rorate Caeli, April 1, 2013).
Here are the key excerpts (emphasis added by RC):
We know what the impediments are that can restrain the messenger: dividing walls, starting with those that separate the various Christian churches from one another, the excess of bureaucracy, the residue of past ceremonials, laws and disputes, now only debris....In short, the message is that we must heed the call of the Holy Spirit, and knock down the residues of traditional ceremonials that stand in the way of the Gospel.
As happens with certain old buildings. Over the centuries, to adapt to the needs of the moment, they become filled with partitions, staircases, rooms and closets. The time comes when we realize that all these adjustments no longer meet the current needs, but rather are an obstacle, so we must have the courage to knock them down and return the building to the simplicity and linearity of its origins. This was the mission that was received one day by a man who prayed before the Crucifix of San Damiano: "Go, Francis, and repair my Church"....
May the Holy Spirit, in this moment in which a new time is opening for the Church, full of hope, reawaken in men who are at the window the expectancy of the message, and in the messengers the will to make it reach them, even at the cost of their life.
This is a very inviting and common-sensical to many today, particularly those in the Evangelical Catholic community and those in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. What counts is the "spirit" of the law, not the "letter." The forms of liturgy, memorized 'set' prayers, Q & A (Baltimore) catechism styles all strike them as rigid, empty, lifeless "forms" that should, at best, be viewed as something like "training wheels" for mere beginners who haven't yet learned to fly.
(Here I can't help remembering Peter Kreeft's story about how he came to the rectory and told the Irish priest, while in grad school, that he wanted to convert, and the priest asked, "Who's the girl?" When Kreeft persisted with serious theological questions from the Summa of St. Thomas, the good priest handed him a copy of an elementary catechism entitled, Fr. Smith Instructs Jackson, and told him: "Walk before you fly, son. Walk before you fly!" But this, of course, is indeed another story.)
As to this first myth about knocking down traditions and razing bastions, however, Sandro Magister recently recalled, as noted in Rorate Caeli, one possible response that may be made:
The second myth is referenced somewhere by Peter Kreeft, but I think comes originally from G. K. Chersterton who once said "Don't ever take a fence down until you know the reason why it was put up." That, too, is a kind of common sense, at least to many people it would be so. It is elaborated upon in a book by Kreeft entitled The Best Things in Life, one of his playful dialogues between an imaginary Socrates and imaginary contemporary characters. But here again, it's hard to say where the ideas originate. Others out there write in a similar voice these days, as does Bruce Herman in the following quote:
In the pseudo-Franciscan and pauperist mythology that in these days so many are applying to the new pope, imagination runs to a Church that would renounce power, structures, and wealth and make itself purely spiritual.
But it is not for this that the saint of Assisi lived. In the dream of Pope Innocent III painted by Giotto, Francis is not demolishing the Church, but carrying it on his shoulders. And it is the Church of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the bishop of Rome, at that time recently restored and decorated lavishly, but made ugly by the sins of its men, who had to be purified. It was a few followers of Francis who fell into spiritualism and heresy.
Taboos fence in a particular experience -- and what is fenced in also fences other things out. Case in point: sexuality. The fence around sexuality is there to protect something that is very vulnerable and precious. If you knock the fence down, you no longer have the sense of preciousness, and eventually all sensitivity is lost.I have addressed this issue before and some time ago in connection with litugical ceremonials ("'Making it Real' - Part II: The Sacrament of the Altar," Musings, March 9, 2007). The point would be, essentially, that these forms that hedge about the sacred mysteries, far from being "empty forms" or "senseless taboos," or "mere letters of the law" that serve to impede evangelization, in fact serve to preserve and protect that which is most precious and central to the heart of the Catholic Faith, apart from which the living faith of the people would wither and die.
There is another writer who puts the two myths in still other terms. The writer is Thomas Howard. The book is An Antique Drum, which was re-published by Ignatius Press under the unfortunate title of Chance, or the Dance? The first myth is that nothing means anything. In this instance, forms, rituals, gestures, vestments -- all these things are essentially meaningless externals in themselves, the operative word being meaningless. The second myth is that everything means something. In this instance, the altar boys bowing their faces to the floor during the Confiteor, the faithful receiving the sacrificial victim on their tongue rather than taking Him in their fingers, genuflecting at the et incarnatus est in the Credo and at the verbum caro factum est in the Last Gospel -- all of these things point beyond themselves, such that they are tiny instances of the way things are in the universe as a whole. It's always the little things.
I don't know that I can prove or disprove one or the other of these two myths. I can certainly testify to the existence of these two competing myths in the Catholic world today. Readers will have to put two-and-two together for themselves and see what makes sense from their vantage points. Certainly I believe in the Holy Ghost. Certainly I believe also in the Magisterium. I do not see them as working at cross purposes. Never have.
[Hat tip to L.S.]