29 August 2009

Benedict XVI

I expect readers will have read, via NLM or Fr Zed, about the report required by and submitted to the Sovereign Pontiff last spring by the CDW. Naturally, there has been frantic discussion in the blogosphere about whether the Holy Father should issue ever fiercer directives to the episcopate compelling them to enforce obedience to the legislative norms with regard to Liturgy, or whether he should continue his apparent policy of attrition; of brick-by-brick; of good example.

I feel rather torn. On the one hand, I think it is important to recall, and to explore the logical consequences of the fact, that Benedict XVI is Bishop of Rome, and that 95% of what we are talking about (5% being Milan, Toledo, etc.), is the Roman Rite. Happily, the new Anglophone liturgical books, instead of the word Sacramentary, will have ROMAN MISSAL on their spines. If the Bishop of Rome is not entitled to say how the Roman Rite should be done, who, I wonder, is. Certainly not that dreadful von Trautpersonn, who (have you read via Adoremus the 'Hansard' account of the discussions in the American RC Bench of Bishops?) seems to be having a lot of trouble realising that he is Yesterday's Man. Requiescat in pace. It certainly looks - touch wood - as if our Holy Father has a good chance of frustrating his last-minute desperate campaign to delay authorisation of the new ICEL translation until The Next Pontificate.

But, on the other hand, I recall the Summorum Pontificum controversies. Many of the doctrinaire liberal bishops lost any residual sense of balance and behaved so outrageously that Our Chaps called for clarifications, which indeed were at one point said by a very high curial Cardinal to be imminent. Something had been drafted and lay upon the Pope's desk for a long time ... until, apparently, it was quietly buried. Surely, Benedict realised that if the matter were left, the EF would bed down naturally; that off-message bishops would gradually (die, retire, or at least) calm down and realise that a ferocious Armageddon of liturgical reaction was not about to drop onto their dioceses. I think he decided that his Project would work better if the EF found its natural level and then developed and ... with modest but deft assistance ... grew ... organically!

And as far as the Reform of the Reform is concerned, I supect Pope Benedict realised that the liturgical directives of the previous pontificate (tot them up; I'm not going to list them all) had, in themselves, achieved very little among those who were ill-disposed (while being welcomed with frenetic enthusiasm by Sound Chaps who didn't need any such advice). Remember Joseph Ratzinger's conclusion, a decade or two ago, that however academically and mystagogically preferable versus Orientem was, we couldn't afford to disrupt the present habits of the Faithful too radically and too abruptly. And who can deny that the quiet but high-profile setting of a good example by the Roman Pontiff himself has achieved decidedly more, organically, than the legislative nagging of the last regime.

On balance, I'm willing to accept that the Sovereign Pontiff is a clever and holy man and that what I surmise to be his policy is, given the state of the Universal Church as he found it upon his Election, the way ahead which is most likely to achieve results. As you look back at how much of the ethos has changed in five years, don't you agree?

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