What’s this? There’s a problem from the high ground of the culture of complaint? Some surprise that not every Catholic is singing Te Deum? We all still have the freedom to criticize, don’t we? I don’t necessarily equate that with “aggression.” Just words on paper, right?
Well, a certain sector of Catholic opinion is getting more aggressive, it seems. Commonweal has published what is an open dispute with the Pope’s decision to permit the free choice to offer the old form of the Roman Rite. They believe that this is a secret plot to dismantle and finally bury the new form and implicitly undermine the Council that preceded the new form’s promulgation. The article takes issue with a number of aspects of the older use, and praises the new by comparison, which is certainly their right. Nothing about the Motu Proprio requires anyone to prefer old to new or new to old. It broadens choice.
It doesn’t seem very genuine to frame this development in terms of a choice. If Catholics were given authentic choices, then we might, for example, have authentic Scripture translations with inclusive language. For the reform2 crew, the motu is about one choice: their own. Not anybody else’s. I’m fairly safe in saying they don’t give a darn about any celebrations but their own.
The problematic paragraph for Tucker may have been this one:
Given the series of concessions that have already been made to Catholic traditionalists, and the radical views and program of those to whom this pope has given his approval and endorsement in the past, it is difficult to believe that with Summorum Pontificum a definitive compromise has been reached and the matter will end there. A more plausible understanding of the present moment is that it marks another step toward a goal that the vast majority of Catholics would not countenance if it were openly acknowledged-namely, the gradual dismantling of the liturgical reform in its entirety.
Is the dismantling of liturgical reform a real danger? Not without a mass defection of mainstream Catholics. Usually when True Believers want to make a stand, they don’t attempt a makeover of the whole Church. The traditional route has been to make for the wilderness and set up spiritual shop far away from the corrupting influence of others.
I think we know from the text of the motu that Summorum Pontificum is a step. Things are wide open from here on out.
I would say that there’s something of a common ground Rita Ferrone is getting at here: a lack of trust in Catholic hierarchy. Some might call that tragic. Others dismiss it as a sign of the times. But when the Church bows to making policy based in part on a hermeneutic of obstruction, it probably shows a bit more of its weakness than it expresses the offering of true choice.
There are a number of aspects of this article that are striking. First, the liberal spirit of the Motu Proprio is nowhere noted. One could easily get the impression that the Pope has imposed something when in fact he has broadened the options and put to an end the coercion that enforced the monopoly of the new form.
Tucker badly overstates his case here. The Roman Missal, as he and his confreres at NLM never fail to point out, can be celebrated in Latin, by priests with their fiddlebacks to the people, with chant and polyphony, in traditionally architectured churches, and with as much incense as their sinuses can stand.
Why don’t they?
Bbecause the Roman Missal has little attraction for them. Most all of the clergy who could lead such services have little to no interest in liturgical reform. And for a good chunk of the laity it’s all about politics, too. The old Missal was the rallying banner for schismatics, and the rubicon of their discontent.
Second, the article nowhere grants the incredibly obvious fact that aspects of life under the new form, because of its imprudent leap into unchartered territory, has led to the alienation of many and artificially cut Catholics off from so much of our holy tradition.
Tucker overstates his case with this line of thought, too. At least in the States, Humanae Vitaewas the single most-quoted reason for people leaving behind the Catholic tradition. Are letters from the pope all about keeping the largest number of the faithful on board the Barque? Alienation is often a personal choice, and not infrequently it involves matters of personal stubbornness, if not sin. Anyway, that’s what these conservatives tell us about contraceptors and other sexual sinners.
Maybe he was talking about a lack of tradition? Exit to Tridentine Low Mass, murmured by clergy, silent in the pews. You’ll no doubt get a heaping helping of the Catholic tradition there.
Third, the article adopts the paranoid style in imputing secret motives to the Pope, whereas the motivation of the Pope is clearly presented in a personal letter, and it has nothing whatever to do with dismantling a church council, for goodness sake.
Paranoia, even if it might be Ferrone’s weak spot, is not a style, but an opinion. And dismantling a church council: that has been true from the very first one. Arians did it; why not the extremes of liturgical traditionalists? I don’t know that the pope himself has “secret” motives. I tend to think he’s given in to those who do.
How these people can be called liberals is beyond me. The old-style Catholic liberals of the 19th century believed in freedom, the right of conscience, and a papacy that led by example and persuasion rather than imposition and the sword. Benedict XVI stands with this older liberal tradition, and against those whose agenda is dependent on the use of ever more dictates and ever narrower liturgical options.
I wish these traditionalists could get their chameleon spots right and keep them that way. The motu isn’t about freedom and conscience. It’s about a church in which those who complain the loudest and the longest eventually getting their way. We’ve all seen this attempted in our parishes. Sometimes it works quite well for the complainers.
In the long run, it renders damage to unity. Some Catholics are above complaining to Father whenever a spiritual hangnail bothers our day. I’d tend to count myself in that group. At some point, an adult can opt to take personal responsibility for one’s own dissatisfactions, distractions, and hurt feelings. I do it on this web page with “sneers,” as John will tell you. Rita Ferrone writes a published criticism. It’s all about freedom, right?
Getting back to theology, I believe the “exceptional” form of Catholic worship remains a seriously flawed option. Without an intentional, and non-optional reform, the 1962 observance of the sacraments will be a self-satisfied spiritual backwater, especially the Low Masses and the celebrations of the other sacraments. In order for it to find any life, it will need to move beyond the period of rediscovery and infatuation it currently enjoys. At some point, the discoveries of the Liturgical Movement will, by necessity, need to permeate the rites, and organic growth, including the sensibility of participation, will need to take root.
And getting to the pastoral situation, I suspect that decades of sniping and complaint will render some traditionalist communities ill-prepared for the task of unity. They will get their Latin, fiddlebacks, and except for Low Masses, their musical heritage. I can’t imagine it will be easy to refrain from sniping at one another as we’ve already seen among internet Catholics who deem others’ orthodoxy not orthodox enough.
At any rate, I welcome the motu with a degree of caution. I think it has the potential to unmask the problems of Catholic liturgy and spirituality as being far deeper than red or black words on a printed page. I suspect something far more pathological is in play with our current liturgy wars. The motu is little better than deck chair redesign, but if that’s what it takes to open a few eyes, maybe some good will come of it.