I recently read a wonderful article by Thomas J. Craughwell and have to admit that this reflection flows from many of his thoughts as an author and commentator on Catholic issues. While putting my spin upon things, I have borrowed shamelessly from him and wanted to give credit where it was due.
Many of us have been wondering what might be the hold up with the Holy Father’s document on the Eucharist and the universal indult for the Tridentine Mass? It was purportedly going to be released last year on HOLY THURSDAY, then we heard October, November, December and January. Of course, there were rumors of dissent in the Curia and no hiding the French bishops exploding on the topic of the old Mass, even if permitted side-by-side with the reformed rite. This article linked below, while dealing upon the Polish scandal of a compromised clergyman working for the Communists, nevertheless, focused upon concerns that probably apply here. Pope Benedict XVI is a brilliant man but also an extremely gentle person who finds challenge both from a secular-islamic-communist world and from progressive voices in the Church.
Benedict seen as isolated at Vatican
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
January 21, 2007
“Benedict does not have a decisive temperament and must take into account his age,” said the Italian Panorama newsmagazine. “The initiatives he has taken are meeting with much resistance.”
Marco Politi, the respected Vatican reporter for La Repubblica newspaper, said many officials in the Curia, the church’s central government, resent the conservative pontiff and see him as “a man of the past.”
But Benedict, who is more used to playing a low-key role as John Paul’s personal theologian, evidently has had difficulty becoming a team leader.
“For months, Benedict appeared isolated, closed up in his study polishing his speeches, writing his book on Jesus of Nazareth to be published in April or playing the piano,” said Ignazio Ingrao, who writes for Panorama.
“His only outings were dinners at the home of his former secretary, Monsignor Josef Clemens. He has paid dearly for not being a team player.”
Maybe it is time for the Pope to change a few more of the chief players on his team? The Pope wants the French bishops to see the light. Their churches are empty. The translation they use for the Mass was declared heretical by the late Father de Lubac. Nevertheless, they oppose the flourishing traditionalists, no matter if the whole Church has to go down the proverbial drain. What is with them? The Pope started calling them on the phone recently, trying to get them to back away from their statement of opposition to his plans. If they really think that the reformed liturgy in France cannot hold its own against the Tridentine liturgy, then they can only blame themselves.
The bomb went off on October 30, 2006 when 10 bishops in France attempted to impede the Holy Father’s plans by making a stinging rebuke. They stated their anxiety that “the extension of the use of the Roman Missal of 1962 makes the direction of the Second Vatican Council relative… [and] would also risk harming unity among priests as well as among the faithful.”
Bishop Andre Lacrampe of Besancon, added, “One cannot erase Vatican II with a stroke of the pen.”
What is the truth? Does the Pope really want to revoke the Second Vatican Council? No, he seeks to enforce the REAL council over the nebulous and largely suspect “spirit” of Vatican II. Look at what the council stated:
“In faithful obedience to tradition, the sacred Council declares that holy Mother Church holds all lawfully acknowledged rites to be of equal right and dignity; that she wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way” (Sacrosanctum Consilium).
Nevertheless, the New Order of Mass became mandatory and there was little in the way of a gradual and organic movement from the old liturgy to the new. The traditional Mass found itself virtually banned around the world.
The reformed liturgy was often badly translated and all sorts of abuses took place. The role of the priest seemed to diminish and sanctuaries were destroyed where high altars for sacrifice were replaced with picnic tables for fellowship. Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, lamented that we were struggling to hold on to a high-church theology while we had a low-church liturgy. Given the lack of rubrics, wholesale substitution of pop and folk songs for chant, and meager catechesis, he admitted that sometimes it seemed that the Roman rite had all but disappeared.
It could not be said that the New Order of Mass was responsible for all the Church’s problems and the confusion caused by dissenters. After-all, every one of the early liturgists and liberal revisionist voices were trained under the old system and regularly offered the Tridentine Mass. The old liturgy itself could neither prevent the emergence of the earlier Modernists nor the post-Vatican II progressives. Similarly, its restoration would not mean an end to the Church’s problems. However, for certain traditionalists, it might represent the end to their long sense of exile.
Prior to the council, a number of the issues that plagued us through the 1960’s and 70’s were already having an effect. The Vatican II changes, instead of acting as a remedy, inadvertently functioned as a catalyst amplifying the damaging reverberations. A sure footing had been shaken in an age of tumultuous change in society and technology. While the heart of the Mass remained, it was often misrepresented and people acted as if there had been a rupture in Church history. Church libraries and sacristies were emptied and treasures thrown into dumpsters by fools who no longer saw value or a connection with the pre-Vatican II Church.
We wanted reform; in many instances what we got was revolution. Discipline was relaxed and the penitential practices on Friday were all but abrogated. People started eating meat on Friday, but failed to substitute some other penance or mortification of the flesh. Basic doctrines were called into question or distorted and weakened, particularly regarding the unique identity and necessary value of the Catholic Church and the propitiatory role of the Mass. Masses for the dead became grand celebrations while prayer for the dead was neglected and purgatory all but forgotten. The genuine authority of bishops and priests was spurned while such authority was sometimes abused, as with the forcing of reforms (sometimes loosely based on Vatican II) upon people who were happy with things as they were. Religious sisters and nuns today are an endangered species and thousands of priests broke their vows and left ministry for women. Church music became indistinguishable from the worst of contemporary folk and pop while the gospel of black congregations moved the center of gravity away from the altar to the choir. Religious music replaced liturgical music and almost all of it was banal and narcissistic. Whole generations were lost because of poor catechesis that taught more about sociology and drug prevention than about the creed, sacraments and Catholic morality. If even priests could dissent about birth control, then why should the laity give Church teaching a hearing? At present, half of all Catholic marriages end with divorce, and those seeking annulments almost always get them- even though marriage is supposed to be “until death do us part”.
When I was born in 1958, some 75 to 80 percent of all Catholics in the United States went to weekly Sunday Mass. Now we would be lucky if a quarter of the population attends, despite the precept of the Church that binds us under pain of mortal sin. Where are the vast fruits of the Council? What good came from any of it? I am not saying that we should or even could go back, but I am tired of churchmen pretending that things are so much better today. There is a real crisis, and it is time that we faced the questions seriously. The restoration of the older form of Mass, alongside the new, may be a help in building up the Church from the ashes. Why is it that those who clamor about FREEDOM, would refuse people with spiritual affinities toward the older form, the right to attend the Tridentine Mass? The Catholic Church has always been the great Church of the “and”. We believe in Jesus AND Mary AND the angels AND saints. We believe in faith AND works. We see God as Father AND the Son AND the Holy Spirit. We believe in the Scriptures AND Tradition. We already have many Oriental rites in union with the Holy See and there were once many variations upon the Roman or Western or Latin rite. Even certain religious orders like the Dominicans had a ritual for Mass that was their own. I fail to see the damage of permitting two expressions of the Roman Rite: the New Order and the Tridentine.
The word is that the universal indult, would come with a catechesis about the New Order of Mass or at least a catalogue of abuses that would have to be remedied immediately. The New Order would be termed “normative” and the Tridentine as “extraordinary”. The Holy Father, appreciating that song is also prayer, wants the texts to go through an approval process. The American bishops have opted to interpret this as a thematic listing so as not to hamper the music industry. I suspect that this will be inadequate and that they will be compelled to re-examine this matter in the near future.
Let us not fool ourselves about the opposition that faces the Holy Father. He turns 80 this year and no doubt some churchmen are hoping to delay proceedings in the hope of a future Pope more to their liking. However, I am utterly convinced that divine providence has a hand with the selection of Pope Benedict XVI.
Returning to the matter of French Catholics, they should be utterly ashamed. Only about 5% of them go to weekly Mass. The faith is dead. The traditionalists have full seminaries and churches. What have they got? Honest and humble men would admit that it is time to change course.
The question of the Mass must be understood within the context of the lived faith of Catholics. Catholics who regularly participate at Mass are more likely to be pro-life and (given good preaching and solemn worship) tend to better know their faith. Unless we spiritually feed our people, they will find their formation in the world.
When American bishops give holy communion to Catholic politicians who are enablers and supporters of abortion and partial birth infanticide, should it be any surprise that as many as 53 percent of American Catholics think it is okay to have an abortion? I recently read that 70 percent of U.S. Catholics 18-44 do not understand transubstantiation and the real presence of the Eucharist. They might believe in a spiritual presence, but nothing more.
FIGURES FOR UNITED STATES
1965 – 1,575 priestly ordinations
2002 – 450 priestly ordinations
1965 – 600 seminaries
2002 – about 200 seminaries
1965 – 180,000 sisters (104,000 teaching sisters)
2002 – 75,000 sisters (8,200 teaching sisters)
Kenneth Jones’ Index of Leading Catholic Indicators
We see a struggle from a theology from above (God centered) with a theology from below (human centered). I would contend that the emphasis has to be upon God and divine worship, although not dismissing the various human elements like fellowship.
The restoration of the Tridentine Mass would be a great help in giving balance to the Church, a proper orientation to worship, and a constructive challenge to the New Order of Mass. Its restoration will not immediately fix a lot of problems, it would be simplistic to think so, but like falling dominoes its effects should not be underestimated either.