Thursday, December 28, 2006

Old Mass Motu Proprio will mean parting of the ways

I've been reading various blogs and webpages where the discussion is fast and furious about the expected decision by Pope Benedict to allow a wider use of the Roman Missal promulgated in 1962. There are folks who are eager for it and who have a lot to say about it.

Surfing the 'net is a great way to keep abreast of many more subjects than one could otherwise do by subscribing to journals; and a lot cheaper. It's entertaining, too. And you do meet lots of friendly, intelligent people.

You also meet a lot of dyspeptic people who have heaped up grievances the way some, in deep financial trouble, pile up debt. Folks who are angry about any number of things, including Catholic things, especially liturgy.

So a lot of that boils over on various blogs; and woe betide the blogmeister who tries to pour oil on troubled waters! Shawn Tribe at the New Liturgical Movement made a modest proposal in that direction the other day concerning some of the sarcastic, vitriolic polemics tossed around by those more traditional or conservative, and it drew umbrage from some bloggers.

It amazes me that anyone thinks this is an effective way to persuade anyone not already convinced -- but then, I suspect we have at least part of the reason some of these folks bitterly complain of their pastors and parishes not giving them the time of day. Funny how that works -- like shooting fish in a barrel.

There's something else I'm picking up on, more concerning.

Mr. Tribe's excellent site is deeply interested in a "reform of the reform" -- he and his collaborators are advocating a reverent, traditional celebration of the Mass as promulgated by the Council. There are many who are interested in this -- this is a growing movement -- and it's central thesis is, I think, unassailable: we didn't get the mandates of the Council right; and they want to get it right. Of course, many of the folks who visit his site, and others like it, are very dedicated to the celebration of the Missal of 1962 -- the so-called "Tridentine Mass" or Pian Rite.

What is coming clear, now, is that a parting of the ways is coming: I predict the pope's expected Motu Proprio will expose a fault-line -- between those who genuinely want to pursue the "reform of the reform," and those who really couldn't care less about that, but rather are focused on the restoration of the old rite. Many of these self-styled "traditionalists" are being very plain: entirely scrap the Rite of Vatican II they derisively call Novus Ordo, a title they claim the Church herself gives the Mass (true in the barest technical sense: Paul VI used the expression, in a speech, once). A number of these folks, with little prodding, will proceed to tell you how heretical and evil the current rite of Mass is. And they don't stop there.

I said before I wondered if this new permission will not end up hindering the "reform of the reform"; because it would shift energy from improvements in the current rite of the Mass, to more celebrations of the classical rite. As I've said before, I'm neutral--I have neither any particular attachment to the old rite, nor any animus to it. But I don't know it -- you don't just pick up the old missal and start offering Mass that way.

But I think we're about to see folks who thought they were pulling in the same direction, part ways or even actively disagreeing. I predict: as soon as the permission comes, a lot of these folks are going to insist priests drop their "reform of the reform" efforts as a waste of time and simply pursue the Pian Rite.

Does this mean the proposed permission is the wrong move? No, of course not. The holy father is obviously thinking far bigger. We have to wait and actually find out what he says his reasons are for the "freeing" of the old rite, but the assumption is that he's doing it to be pastoral to those attached to it, to aid reconciliation with the breakaway "traditionalists" of the Society of St. Pius X, to foster ecumenism with the Orthodox, as well as aid the reform of the reform.

The interesting hypothesis some offer is that the pope aims, way down the road, to see the normative Roman Rite become something that could be described, oversimply, as an amalgam of the old and current rite. Something, in fact, that was, I recall, promulgated briefly at the time of the Council along the way to the current Missal. And one wonders if those most dedicated to Missal of 1962 will have the slightest openness to that? Just as I wonder if there will ever be an openness from 1962-Missal folks for revisions in the calendar and lectionary, indeed, any revision at all. You only need note the occasional complaint about Pius XII for revising the Holy Week rites to see why I wonder.

Anyway, we'll see what the New Year brings.


Anonymous said...

Theoretically, the NO could be reformed such that it is reverent and sacred and fulfills the duty of the liturgy in its role of catechesis on the faith and the sacrifical nature of the mass and the role of the priesthood.

The fact that it could be reformed, theoretically, has nothing whatsoever to do with whether new rules from Rome would reform this mass. In 1997, the Vatican demanded the use of Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers at every mass be eliminated. The response to that demand so far is typical of what we could expect of further attempts at "reform of the reform." In other words, completely ignoring of the reform efforts by the local ordinaries and priests, with no attempts by Rome to discipline such rank disobedience whatsoever.

So the whole "reform of the reform" movement is a pipe dream. It just ain't gonna happen. In the case noted above, 9 years have passed since the Vatican banned EEMs at every mass. This year, instead of enforcing said ban, they made the "bold" move of revoking the "indult" that permitted the EEMs to purify the sacred vessels. So after a decade, one effort at reforming one abuse among dozens (hundreds?) still has not borne fruit.

So by extrapolation, it would take several generations to reform the reform back to some form that might be acceptable to traditional Catholics.

Bring back the Tridentine, and let the NO die the slow ignoble death it deserves.

The Tridentine will replace the NO by attrition of the modernists and liberals much quicker than the "reform of the reform" will correct the chaos that is the Novus Ordo.

Sir Galen of Bristol said...

Father, I share Brian Kopp's frustration that clear directives intended to clean up abuses in the mass are simply ignored.

This, in much the same way that the directive of a year ago prohibiting the admission of gay seminarians was not put into effect in any visible way.

Easily the commonest theme I see on Catholic blogs, and certainly one I've chosen to indulge repeatedly on my own blog, is frustration with the bishops who don't evidence any inclination to demand conformity to Catholic teaching or practice from priests, faithful, nor, especially, politicians.

Whenever we do see a bishop trying to enforce some compliance with his directives, it's cases like Bishop Brown in California refusing to administer communion to someone kneeling, or the Bishop in Alabama who told Mother Angelica that her order's tradition of celebrating the mass ad orientam couldn't be done in his diocese. It always seems to be that bishops have no authority to enforce the compliance with policies and teachings they don't like, but all they need to defend their own perqs, quirks and preferences.

I know that the rite of Paul VI can be celebrated in an inspiring and beautiful way, because I've seen it done so on EWTN. But not in my local parish, where my pastor exhibits his self-proclaimed "love" of the liturgy by finding new ways to modify it (much like a bride who loves her groom and can't wait to get him home to start changing him).

I'm sure, Father, that if your ordinary (or, I suspect, your parishioners) asked you to, you would learn what you need to know to celebrate the rite of Pius V and do so, in service to the community you lead.

But I doubt if my pastor would do so even with financial inducements, or disciplinary threats.

But I have to say that, given the population of American priests, so many of whom have done so much to create the situation we have today, I don't believe that the motu propriu will have much of an impact, even in the short term.

I believe that until we have a reform of the clergy on a widespread basis, we will not see much fruit from any policies designed to reform the liturgy.

Anonymous said...

Father Fox,

I think there are almost as many positions as there are people who consider themselves Traditionalists.

I grew up after Vatican II, so the mass of the 1970 missal (the Novus Ordo) was what I grew up with. I have no desire to see it abolished, and I have absolutely no doubt as to its validity. There are aspects of its changes that I consider positive -- the interactivity, the expanded exposure to Scripture in the Liturgy of the Word, and the greater sense of community it can foster. I also think that the priest facing the congregation has some merit; it allows us to see the actions at the altar more clearly. These are the things I think Vatican II had in mind when it made the changes, and I think they are positive.

But if you gave me a choice today which rite I would prefer, I would always attend the Tridentine mass. Why? I don't offer a deep liturgical argument for it; I simply find it more moving, and feel closer to God when I am in a Tridentine mass. I think it has the added benefit of being unchanging; its rubrics and language are not open to innovation that could lead away from the sanctity of the Mass.

Currently I live in a diocese where there is no indult mass, so it is a once a month thing. If my diocese offered an indult mass, I would go. So I am 75% of the time attending the Novus Ordo mass.

I'm also fully open to reform of the reform. I would like to see the Church keep what I regard as the positive aspects of the Novus Ordo mass, while restoring those aspects of the Tridentine mass that work so well -- the Asperges, the Judia Me, polyphony, Latin, the pipe organ, communion at the altar rail, and stricter rubrics.

Anything that reminds us or calls us to the sacred would be a positive step; I think that in some cases, the way the Mass is currently practiced, sanctity has been lost.

Dad29 said...

I would urge Dr. Kopp and Paul, just this guy to read Mgr. Hayburn's Papal Documents on Liturgy, which will demonstrate beyond the shadow of a doubt that Bishops-who-disobey-the-Pope are not a new phenom. Not by a long shot.

And Brian, please show a cite for the 1997 ban on EEM's.

Having said that, I agree w/Fr F that the Pope's long-term objective is a 'reform of the reform' which will look more like the all-too-brief 1957-1967 'participative' liturgy, largely in Latin, with (perhaps) petitions and readings in the vernacular. It's also likely that options will be limited and gestures will be more tightly controlled.

It's also (perhaps) oriented to re-capturing those LeFebvre-ites who object solely to the changes in the Mass, not to the alleged "changes" in doctrine promulgated by the Council.

The Pope has been very clear about using Latin and Chant (and other works from the Treasury of Sacred Music.)

But to refer again to Mgr. Hayburn's work--don't be surprised when Bishops disobey. Seems to be part of the office for some.

Anonymous said...

"And Brian, please show a cite for the 1997 ban on EEM's."

Here you go:

To avoid creating confusion, certain practices are to be avoided and eliminated where such have emerged in particular Churches:

— extraordinary ministers receiving Holy Communion apart from the other faithful as though concelebrants;

— association with the renewal of promises made by priests at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, as well as other categories of faithful who renew religious vows or receive a mandate as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion;

— the habitual use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion at Mass thus arbitrarily extending the concept of "a great number of the faithful".


Anonymous said...

First, let me say that I agree with Fr Fox in his assesment of the situation at hand. I too read the comments on the NLM website and was somewhat astonished at the attitudes displayed in the comments.
I know people get frustrated, but as a means of persuasion, sneering NEVER works. And there was a whole lot of sneering going on in those comments. Ther is, no doubt, a contingent out there who will balk and complain about anything short of a complete "rewind" to 1962.

Regarding the hoplessness of the NLM, I have known quite a few priests in my day, and save for one they were all conscientious, reverent men who would no doubt adapt well to any changes were they to be handed down. I think the problem in the past has been one of leadership rather than priestly obstinance. Given any wiggle room, the liberals in the heirarchy will take advantage. I dont think that this pope will give that room. He seems to be much more of a "thou shalt / shalt not" type of leader rather than a "thou really should, but you be the judge" type of leader. As evidence of that, witness the (albeit small) changes you have seen in the liturgy just in the past year or so. This compared to no changes (at least for the good) in the past 15.

I, for one, remain optimistic.

Anonymous said...

Any sort of attempt at reform of the reform of the Trendintine Mass and the NO is going to meet resistance from both extremes of the divide within the Church in the US, both of which are present in the Cincinnati Archdiocese in spades. The "Liturgical Experts" and those who have bought into their snake oil will not budge on returning what they see as the "old church" back into the NO form. Meantime, the traditionalists who have been so shabiliy treated by the Heirarchy in this country that, as Fr. Fox says, they are not likely to be amenable to any change in the 1962 Missal form they practice.

Having read "When the Swallows Return to Capistrano" in the Oct. 2006 issue of First Things, I suspect that 40 years of water under the bridge is going to ensure more trouble for a time.

Unknown said...

Father Fox:

Thank you for your thoughtful views on what is to come.

I was born in 1942, and thus was raised on the old Mass. I'm not that crazy about it but when it is celebrated with traditional music (like at St Agnes in St Paul), it can be a wonderful experience.

Their Parish feast day on January 21 will be celebrated with Gounod's "St Cecilia Mass" and I am looking forward to that, if only for the singing of the Gloria).

But a Low Mass in the Traditional rite as celebrated back then is very quiet and demands the use of a missal and tremendous concentration of the congregation. Few had it back then, and even fewer would have it today.

Right now, of the 60,000,000 Catholics in this country, well in excess of 59,650,000 of them don't have the foggiest notion that a "Moto Propriu" in whatever language or terminology, is coming.

Proportionally speaking, the numbers of those who have strong feelings are probably quite miniscule.

The numbers who want change are also probably quite miniscule. An education process would be needed. But since most of our Bishops and priests haven't done much catechizing the past forty years, would makes one think that they would get all excited about teaching their parishioners about a Mass that was celebrated before they were born and which would require much extra study and work of them also.

There will be resistance, as has been noted, from both sides. And it was come from both clerical and non-clerical sources.

Right now, my Archdiocese has one weekly indult Mass and a First Friday Mass and a few others in a parish at the extreme edge of the archdiocese. The Church is not full and no doubt many come from a long distance to meet their Sunday obligations.

I doubt if there would be a demand for three or four (out of 220)more parishes to celebrate the "old Mass", and maybe then only once a month. Practically speaking, few priests possess a competency in Latin to allow them to celebrate a Mass in that language.

But I think it is a shame that Latin has been almost lost as the official language of the Church. It might take 100 years or more, but I do think that it is important that it be brought back.

And it will have to start with the seminaries, even if it adds another year to the education of each priest.

Dr. Bombay said...

"Novus Ordo Missae", contrary to some claims, was NOT a Traditionalist insult. It was the title given by Annibale Bugnini to his creation and stamped in gold letters on the cover of the first edition of the red hardcover copy of the new Missal.

Why is it that Traditionalists are the only ones expected to provide their Catholic bona fides by slavering over the novus ordo? Why don't we demand from Eastern Catholics their pledge of unwavering love of the novus ordo and hector them into admitting it can be "celebrated" reverently and solemnly, if done right? Why don't we demand that they must attend the novus ordo because, after all, the Pope says it? (Is that breathing out of both lungs?) Is everything in our brave, new Church to be tolerated except a preference for the Old Rite?

And, no, I don't really care about your "reform of the reform" which will be nothing more than gentle "suggestions" from Rome, perhaps including an implicit threat that, "This time we really mean it!!" I'm sure that the Cardinal of Century City will be cowering in fear.

I dread attending the novus ordo. I dread it for the same reason so many commenters here would dread going to a Mass in the Old Rite. If it's ok for them, it's ok for me. I know some people get irritated when I apply the same standard to both Masses. But I'm cursed with an impeccably logical mind.

Anonymous said...

Fr Fox,

Even a brief look into the actions of Msgr Annibale Bugnini during and after the council, even up to he days before he was banished to Iran, will give you plenty of reasons why many of us think a 'reform of the reform' is nonsense.
You are almost correct by stating that a split is comming. The split is here now, has been for some time and is/was fostered by the USCCB which has their own agenda as to what American Catholicism should look like...and that is certainly not Roman.
But, not to worry. In the end Tradition wins. In the end, the Traditionalist seminaries will be full with the sons of large traditional and orthodox Catholic families. These strong priests will offer the Tridintine Mass of the ages.(and they will not waste time as bloggers) The N/O mass will not, cannot survive the onslaught which is on the horizon. It has not the foundation and strength to do so.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh..yes..I remember your type from ten years of parish youth, young adult, and adult ministry. The uncharitable criticisms; the Pharisaical snobbery all communicated as a coward who cannot even sign their name. I am so glad that the good Lord revealed to you what Father Fox's activities should be! I am sure you are so holy that you have time to tell everyone else how to spend their time.

Nowhere in any Catechism of any age nor in any understanding of being a so-called "Orthodox" Catholic do I see that we should sanctimoniously disparage our priests. You should be ashamed of yourself.

A Tax Collector

Dad29 said...

While I might not phrase it the same way, I have to concede that "Dr Bombay" has a point about the Easterns...

Their liturgies make the Old Rite seem rather wild and crazy in comparison.