Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Adoremus Bulletin -- the good, the bad, and the ugly

There is a lot of good in Adoremus Bulletin, to which I contribute annually. In the October issue, however, my views were misrepresented, and since Mrs. Helen Hull Hitchcock (the editor) apparently decided not to publish my letter about this in the latest (November 2005) issue, here it is:
November 7, 2005

Mary R. Schneider's otherwise fine letter ("Hope for Real Reform?" Oct. 2005) misrepresents me by classifying me among "disgruntled traditionalists ... who believe that the Missal of Paul VI is illegitimate and who, therefore, want to return to the older Missal of Pius V." I have never maintained anything of the sort. I am a convert to Catholicism and have no memory of the pre-Vatican II Mass, nor have I ever impugned the legitimacy of the New Mass. Rather, my study of liturgical history and first hand experience of Catholic parish life have led me to the conclusion that the current antipathy of Catholics for Catholic tradition is an unbecoming reactionary fad, and that the Old Mass should be actively cultivated because (1) it was the liturgical standard for many centuries, (2) it provides a stable spiritual oasis amidst our currently unsettled liturgical culture, (3) it provides a "free market" incentive for the Novus Ordo to be celebrated with greater reverence, and (4) it provides the only living standard the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council ever had in mind when they envisioned the reform of the Mass - something so far from the living memory of rank-and-file Catholics today as to be practically forgotten. I think I may safely say that my sentiments here speak for the experience of many Lutheran and Anglican converts to Catholicism in recent years.

There was in this same issue a marvelous article, from which I will offer extracts in a moment, but first I wish to draw attention to what I consider an unfortunate misreading in one of the editorial responses to an inflammatory letter from a certain Graham Moorhouse in Dartford, Kent, England. Mr. Graham says that he has no interest in Adoremus because he believes the Novus Ordo is "a doctrinally dumbed down Protestantized rite fabricated by a committee under the direction of a man, who many came to believe (including Paul VI) was a closet Freemason," and that this was done, moreover, "with the pro-active input of six Protestant ministers." He says that it is "always ridiculous to expect good fruit from a rite specifically manufactured to appease heretics," and that what Adoremus is trying to do "is the equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig."

I wonder why the editor published this inflammatory letter rather than mine. Whatever the reason, her response is curious. She writes:
We hesitate to print a letter that ridicules and blasphemes the Holy Eucharist by comparing it to a pig. The writer's animus against the Church and her authority is profound -- and painful to read.
Wait a minute. Where does Mr. Moorhouse ridicule or blaspheme the Holy Eudcharist by comparing it to a pig? What he's comparing to a pig is the Novus Ordo, not the Eucharist. And where is the writer's profound animus against the Church? I discern a painfully profound animus against Archbishop Bugnini, who many (apparently including Paul VI) in fact may have believed was a Freemason, and -- regardless of the bugbear -- in fact did preside over a liberal hijacking of reform of the Mass mandated by Sacrosanctum Concilium's to the effect that numerous faithful liturgists involved in the process, such as Fr. Louis Bouyer, became utterly disillusioned and bailed out. How can outrage against desacralization of the Holy Liturgy be construed as blasphemy against the Eucharist and animus against the Church and her authority?

The editor continues:
The letter reveals the almost insurmountable difficulties involved in overcoming such radical (and factually mistaken) opinions. Clearly, dialog has its limits. We hope that only a very few hold such views, and we pray they will realize their errors and return to Holy Mother Church.

(Mr. Moorhouse operates Catholics Unattached Directory, a matchmaking website, and is editor of St. Bede's Traditionalist Community Newsletter, accessible from the UK Latin Mass Society web site, http://www.latin-mass-society.org/).
Wait another minute. The editor mentions the "almost insurmountable difficulties involved in overcoming such radical (and factually mistaken) opinions." Which difficulties? What opinions? Moorhouse is clearly a traditionalist fed up with the Novus Ordo and abuses associated with it. He apparently believes that it was cobbled together under Bugnini's direction to appease heretics. Perhaps it is offensive that he believes this, and we may well disagree. But even if it were true, let us imagine, that Pope Paul VI, say, against his better judgment and the counsel of his best advisors, caved in to the liberals and dissidents and gave them what they wanted in their Novus Ordo, in return for the hard line he took in Humanae Vitae, and even if every one of the compromises and innovations incrementally sanctioned by the Holy See (such as the removal of the Tabernacle and communion rail, the removal of the altar and re-orientation of the priest facing the people, having communicants stand to receive communion and receive communion in the hand, the use of female altar servers and extravagant use of extraordinary eucharistic ministers, etc.) were all made in response to pressure from theological liberals and even heretics intent on desacralizing the Eucharist and Real Presence, this would still not invalidate the Novus Ordo or mean that Christ isn't truly Present its liturgy. It would just mean, if it were true, that it was a radically compromised or crippled liturgy. Would there be anything terribly wrong in being upset about that fact, if it were true?

Where are the "insurmountable difficulties" and "limits" to dialog posed by this? Do they lie with Moorehouse, as the editor suggests? If there are obvious errors here, let them be refuted. If not, then, face up! The editor hopes that "only a very few hold such views" and prays that "they will realize their errors and return to Holy Mother Church." What makes her think that Moorhouse is not in communion with Holy Mother Church? The Latin Mass Society is no dissident society, either here in the United States or in the UK. It promotes the Traditional Latin Mass with the full approval of the Holy See. In fact, the late Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter, Ecclesia Dei (July 2, 1988) calling for a "wide and generous application" of the provisions for the Traditional Latin Mass. Should we indeed hope that "only a very few hold such views" as Mr. Moorhouse? Or should we be grateful that there are still souls to be found who are capable of becoming inflamed with outrage against what they perceive as the desacralization of the liturgy since Vatican II?

On that note, let me turn to what is unequivocally good and wonderful in the latest issue of the Adoremus Bulletin, and that is a Viewpoint piece by Fr. W. Roy Floch, entitled: "Where Have We Put Him? And what if we acted as if we blieve what we blieve?" It is a personal account of the changes since Vatican II and how they have affected our perception of the Eucharist. Here are some exerpts:
Where Did We Go Wrong?
Of all the changes in the celebration of Mass that took place after Vatican II, I believe placing the celebrant and the congregation face to face was the most wide-ranging in its effect. No longer focussed in one direction -- toward God -- clergy and laity have turned inward toward themselves, and experience a crisis in both lay and religious identity and vocation, not to mention the poverty of self-centered music. Seeing each other has not always been a pretty sight, and this has contributed to the lobbing of tomatoes in both directions as power struggles now seem to take up much of our ecclesial energy. We are looking at one another, at the many ministers and musicians, but we are not seeing Him. (I no longer look communicants in the eye but keep my eyes on Him, hoping they will too.) Regarding the priest as "entertainer" may account for the "vocation crisis".

Changes meant to foster "active participation" are not working. The participation that counts must be internal and spiritual. External action cannot achieve it. "You can lead a horse to water..." I remember the Latin liturgy as highly involving. In order to follow it, you had to pay attention.

The usual explanation given for the increase in Eucharistic devotional practices from the 9th century on is that the Mass became remote from people, causing them to generate these extra-liturgical means for more satisfying religious experience. But what if the "remote" liturgy actually created internal spiritual growth that obtained expression in those devotions, and their sharp decline after the liturgical renewal following Vatican II is the consequence of a desiccated internal spiritual life?

I sense that congregations are now completely attentive to external actions and are personally passive, as if they are in a theater or watching TV hoping the program will be entertaining. When it isn't entertaining, they walk. In the words of a Lutheran bishop called in to mediate where a pastor's liturgical practices aggravated some of her congregation, we have forgotten that, "The Liturgy is not for us, it's for God."

The Absence of the Presence
The problem, it seems to me, is consistency in choreographing the Presence. My sudden distracting thought that, with great emotional and rational fittingness, I could celebrate the Tridentine rite derives from the disturbing practice of our pretending that He is not in the room while celebrating the "Novus Ordo". Much of Catholic ritual development of the past seems clear to me if you ask: "How should one act when God is in the room?" If the Blessed Sacrament can be ignored, what is the message we are conveying about the importance of the Presence, a message the children (now adults and parents) have been learning (and teaching) these past decades? We have rendered the Real Presence ritually incredible. We know how hard credibility is to regain.

I am not urging a rapid return to Trent or Latin, but I imagine that in another 500 years we may be celebrating the Eucharist in a form very much like the liturgy I remember from 1957. The latest changes in the GIRM are not for the purpose of sacerdotilization (as some say) but for sacralization.

The liturgy often seems to be at war with itself. After Vatican II came a liturgy that belongs in a hall, not in a sanctuary before the Presence of Christ; though the liturgy of the sanctuary is still there.... (Read the whole article here.)
Not a bad start toward Moorehouse's concerns, that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would just like to take time too Thank all the people for doing what you do and make this community great im a long time reader and first time poster so i just wanted to say thanks.