Cinquant’anni Dopo 19-20: Obedience and Unity

Fr Ev farewell MassCardinal Robert Sarah hopes for obedience and unity in his June 2015 essay for L’Osservatore Romano.

But will people have the courage to follow the Council this far? Such an interpretation, illuminated by the faith, is fundamental however for evangelization. Indeed, “the liturgy… shows forth the Church to those who are outside as a sign lifted up among the nations, under which the scattered children of God may be gathered together” (no. 2). It must stop being a place of disobedience to the Church’s prescriptions.

My sense and experience is that the age of disobedience ended in the late 70’s as liturgical training and expertise trickled down from seminaries and church leadership. The internet has fostered a sub-culture in which the smallest offenses are selectively criticized or sometimes ignored. As for clergy or lay people who do not cling to the red letter of liturgical law, it requires diagnosis: is it disobedience or ignorance? I knew a priest once who baptized not by immersion or infusion, but by “butt-dipping.” I gently suggested one of the two alternatives: sitting the infant in the font and pouring water, and he objected that he had been ordained for 26 years and had always done it his way. I wouldn’t have thought him disobedient, but more misinformed. What do we do about that?

More specifically, it cannot be an occasion for divisions among Christians. Dialectical interpretations of Sacrosanctum Concilium, the hermeneutics of rupture in one direction or the other, are not the fruit of a spirit of faith. The Council did not intend to break with the liturgical forms inherited from Tradition, but rather intended to appreciate them in greater depth. The Constitution declares that “any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing” (no. 23).

Cardinal Sarah picks up on Vatican II’s single mention of organic development. But I have yet to be convinced that rupture is always a bad thing. Maybe Peter still did a bit of fishing on the side, but many saints and Biblical figures had stark changes of lifestyle after they heard the call of God.

Like it or not: Roman Catholics are already divided over the unreformed liturgy and the modern Roman Rite. My sense is that mainstream Catholics largely ignore the traditional Latin Mass, except as an occasional curiosity. The internet face of traditional Catholicism is much more harsh toward the reformed rites. Divisions exist, and none of the last three popes has done anything to solve them.

Notes: I’ve used an “early” translation, attributed here to Michael J. Miller at Catholic World Report. I wasn’t able to find the original essay on the L’Osservatore Romano site.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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