What Is The Point of Motu-Criticism?

Fr Fox, frequent reader and contributor here, took exception to my post highlighting the worst of the rabid critics of those perceived to be against the revival of the traditional Latin Mass.

I suppose I shouldn’t be under any delusions that my commentary will, in any way, deter traditionalists from violating CCC 2478 every which way from Sunday when sister and brother Catholics disagree with or even dream of thwarting their plans and desires.

Most internet bloggers pretty much take the high road. Even the NLM site, often criticized here, includes contributors who mostly focus on the positive aspects of reform2. Some of them promote rules of conduct. A laudable effort, even if frequently ignored. Most of these same sites are fairly lax in policing their comboxes. The association taints the effort at least a little bit, I’d say.

I think what we view on these comment threads is not necessarily a product of conservative thinking. As much as many reform2 folks nurture the hurts of past oppression, all such inclinations to think little of their ideological adversaries and spare no insult is really part of the human condition. Not an exclusive possession of liberals, conservatives, or any other group–no matter how much any of them aspire to a certain moral superiority.

Like most liturgical progressives, I view Vatican II reforms as far from complete. It’s no secret I have little sympathy for the reform2 effort. I don’t think much of the philosophy of reforming reform when what is really needed is more work on the body of Roman Catholic public prayer. Liturgical reform, in other words. But they’d fracture their fan base if they used the same words I’d use. Getting off easy would be getting branded a Protestant.

I find it telling that traditionalist Catholics who claim to desire a revival of prayer, reverence, beauty, and quality don’t mind airing commentariat opinions such as one today claiming the 1970 Roman Missal is invalid. Yet they are to a person, unwilling to reach out to those who labor against the same cultural biases against art, against good music, and against the efforts to revitalize parishes not through the cultures of sport, elitism, or individualism.

Will the loosening of 1962 Rite restrictions be a spiritual boon for the Church? I honestly don’t know. For internet Catholics, I see no favorable difference in two months. Many believers are still mired in a culture of complaint, having embraced the worst of the victimhood philosophy of secular society.

Unfortunately, it is all too easy to parish-shop and self-segregate into communities of choice. When people are apt to worship at a convenient time and with favorable music and preaching, will something rub off? Doubt it.

My parish has almost two dozen liturgies a week. The goal for many of them is a sung liturgy: Sundays, holy days, school Masses, weddings, and funerals. What we try to accomplish is the equivalent of a traditionalist community trying to pull off a dozen high Masses, including four or five on Sunday.

It would be very easy to chuck all but two or three of these and focus my resources, volunteers, and energy like the traditionalists who have the luxury of picking and choosing times, locales, and other aspects. I’d have worshippers coming from all over the city if I were the only game in town, so to speak.

I suppose I can wish the reform2ers the best of luck. Thinking about their public commentary in some places, I think they’ll need it more than anyone.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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7 Responses to What Is The Point of Motu-Criticism?

  1. Dustin says:

    Todd, since it appears you’re probably in agreement with Fr. Fox over the less than charitable nature of a few of the episcopal responses (irrelevant of traditionalist polemics concerning the same), I’ll add my voice and suggest that competence is, quite clearly, much more urgent in the celebration of the older missal in light of its rubrical requirements. Eric’s earlier comments are my own sentiments, i.e., “Certainly we can agree that the spirit of the motu proprio was to improve the state of liturgy, not to enshrine minimalism.” Committed as I am to the reform, with a recognition that not all of its related undertakings have gone swimmingly, I’ll profess a profound admiration for the beauty of the pre-conciliar liturgy. Following SP then, my greatest worry right now is that we’re about to see not just a multiplication of the available celebrations of the old rite (“extraordinary form,” pardon me, and what a curious legal innovation it is indeed), but also, with the training materials offered online on a DIY basis, and some regional training courses lasting but a few days, we’ll be seeing celebrations of the Johannine missal as slapdash as what the present liturgies are often accused of being. As Benedict noted, the former usage presupposed a degree of familiarity and even intimacy with the rubrics and the language that simply aren’t to be found in many cases, and can’t really be replicated when the younger priests expressing an interest in it only get a handle on enough Latin to get, just barely, an intelligible pronunciation. (I’ve listened to some of the training materials offered online, like sanctamissa.com and elsewhere, and it’s worrying enough that supposed experts in the former Mass do it thusly).
    To phrase this much more briefly, Todd, I’m a modern Catholic who will take a spiritually invigorating vernacular “Novus Ordo” over any low Mass, but even a quiet, humble low Mass according to the old missal is still a Mass, and still a source of extraordinary sanctification (I of course recognize that you don’t doubt this). I love the Mass, in either form, and it pains me deeply to see it done haphazardly, to see it rushed, to see it done with only a bare adherence to the rules and little celebratory fervor. I fear that will soon be the predominant way in which the old Mass will be experienced. Hardly a venerable “force of gravity” on the present liturgy.

    This has veered a little off-topic. My apologies. I’d just like to say, as a new reader of your blog, that I am very glad to have found it.

  2. Todd says:

    Dustin, thanks for visiting and commenting. Not at all off-topic; I keep the comboxes open to permit the discussion to veer where it may. Your comments on pre-conciliar beauty, slapdashery, and the like are spot on.

  3. Darwin says:

    Goodness knows, Trads manage to produce their share (and a greater share as one gets out towards the far fringes) of combox trolls. You won’t get any argument from me there.

    At the same time, I must admit that some of the worries expressed among bishops and a few progressive columnists about the likely quality of motu proprio liturgies strike me as a bit hard to take seriuosly. Given the general laxity which is often encouraged in celebration of the current missal, the sudden focus on quality seems like a way of keeping a lid on things. Being an evolutionary sort of fellow, it strikes me that either the internal pressures of motu proprio groups will encourage their celebrants to develop good form, or else the groups will fail to attract much interest. (And since I don’t have any plans for joining a motu proprio group any time soon, I figure it’s not necessarily my concern.)

    If I may ask, Todd, when you say, “Like most liturgical progressives, I view Vatican II reforms as far from complete. It’s no secret I have little sympathy for the reform2 effort.” What would you envision as the direction in which you’d like to see continue reform go?

    I’ll admit, I’m a bit confused by your self label as a “liturgical progressive” since in my experience I generally associate the term with folks like the priest our parish had two pastors back, who liked to have the whole congregation gather round the alter for the Eucharist Rite and was known to wear a baseball cap with his vestments.

    You, on the other hand, I generally find myself quite liturgically in sync with — though perhaps I have a bit more of an allergic reaction to some of the G&P hymnal selections. So in regards to yourself, I’m not really sure what the “liturgical progressive” label means.

  4. Todd says:

    Darwin, this is old ground for me, last covered about a year ago in this series of posts:




    As for cap wearing with vestments, the priest in question might be progressive, but his wardrobe choices eliminate him from consideration for the liturgical.

    As for the continuing direction of reform, I know I’ve posted in bits on that before, but let me give it some thought and maybe I’ll have a post later on.

  5. Tony says:

    This is the major issue, Todd. I was planning on doing a post on this, but I’ll try “keeping it in the family for now.”

    I think that a major thread running through these discussions is the problem with unfettered creativity with regard to the Holy Mass. I think one of the major draws of the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite (EF) is that it forbids “innovation”. Not to say, as the Holy Father has mentioned himself, that there is no room for organic development of the EF, but that will happen slowly, carefully, prayerfully and when completed will be promulgated to all celebrants of the EF. The universal Church would benefit.

    Right now, we have two choices, the EF or liturgical anarchy. With the EF, you know what you are going to get wherever you go. With the Ordinary Form (OF) you don’t have a clue. You could get anything from a Vatican-esque Latin high mass, to a Clown Mass or anything in-between.

    My question for you, Todd, is:

    Do you believe that this sort of innovation is worthwhile?

    Do you believe that the benefits outweigh the risks?

    Do you think the laity who are victims of this sort of spiritual abuse should have some recourse?

    I think that’s enough for now. I, like Dustin, would prefer a well celebrated OF Mass, but currently there is no way for us to ask for that. We can ask for the EF, and that’s what many people are availing themselves of.

  6. Liam says:

    There is nothing preventing liturgical anarchy with the EF if a celebrating priest adopts creativity as his mode of ars celebranda. It’s not like the rubrics of the EF are magically preventing abuses. The reason you don’t hear that much about creativity with the EF is that it is celebrated almost exclusively within communities intentionally gathered around its diligent celebration. But that could change if some priests wanted to have some fun….

  7. F. C. Bauerschmidt says:

    One “abuse” (let me insert here that I hate the use of that word in the context of liturgy; it betrays a tin ear to its use in other areas of Church life) that I have already heard of is “Sung Mass” in which the propers are replaced with hymns.

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