7 February 2014

LITURGISTS (3) Nice Old Gentlemen

Make no mistake about it: we would have preferred not to have had this forced upon us, but it has been. It is sad and indecorous to talk about 'War' between Christians, indeed, between fellow Catholics: but it is not by our choice that War is coming. On the EF front, we have seen the Franciscans of the Immaculate deprived of their rights assured to them by the Law of the Universal Church. On the OF front, there is the campaign currently being waged within the pages of the Tablet and elsewhere. Our opponents obviously think they are riding high: with regard to the Franciscans of the Immaculate, the persecutors claim, however improbably, that they have the Holy Father himself on their side. As far as the Tablet is concerned, a director of a diocesan Liturgical Commission felt so confident about the way the wind was blowing that, from his Commission's address, he wrote to the Tablet and to all his diocesan clergy a letter which formally encouraged lawlessness and attacked the status of the New English Translation. As I write this, he is, as far as I am aware, rebuked but still in post.

We must stick together. It would be disastrous for those who favour Latin Liturgy, or who favour the Vetus Ordo as strongly as I do myself, to feel that a concerted attack upon the New English Translation of the Missal is just a distant war in a foreign country of which they know and care little. It is not good enough for those who favour the Reform of the Ordinary Form to think "Well, the FI sound an extreme bunch; why can't they just do the OF in the same decent way that I do and be happy with that". Can you really doubt that the Enemy is, in each case, the same? In each case, it is the same desire to ensure that ordinary Catholics are cut off from their birth-right, severed from the historic sources which might otherwise feed their Faith. As a rather Anglican devil - but one very deep in the Lowerarchy - Screwtape - once put it, "It is most important to cut every generation off from all others."

We must stick together and stand by each other. Now is not the moment to enjoy the luxury of itsy-bitsy little disagreements among ourselves. Another thing we should stick with and stand by is the New Translation. OK: clergy being clergy, there never could be a liturgical form that every priest felt was totally perfect in every detail. But now is not the moment to talk about some few details which you or I might wish had been done slightly differently. 

You may have experienced the processes surrounding a proposed scheme of Urban Redevelopment. A neighbourhood is invited to respond to a questionnaire, the first question on which is "Do you think improvements could be made in the area of X?" Well, of course, there could hardly be a human being who couldn't think of something which in his own opinion would improve his own area. So this approach potentially enables a developer to publish the results of the survey as "Consensus! 93% of residents were in favour of improvements". That, in turn, moves smoothly and effortlessly on to the next stage: "Let us consult together about the improvements to be made". And that means they they almost have their hands already on the ££££s and $$$$.

My belief is that under no circumstances should we ever say to anybody anything which enables any claim to be made that there is a consensus for change in the current situation (except, of course, to remove the few restrictions Benedict XVI left on the Vetus Ordo). Not to journalists, not to bishops, not to Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, not to brother priests, not to members of congregations, not to your Aunty Mildred or the next Bulgarian gypsy you meet in the street. As that delightful Dr Ian Paisley used to say, "No Surrender! Not an inch!!" The present position with regard to the New Translation is perfect. It is exactly what your parish wants. It is exactly what you want. It is precisely what every other priest you talk to wants. Ahh ... no ... there is just one thing. There should be a process of re-education for clergy who have Problems. Weekly. Starting at 8.30 a.m. on their day off.

Clergy ... perhaps one might say simply Male Humans ... above the age of 70 fall into two main groups. There are EUOBs (Extremely Unpleasant Old Blokes; everybody who knows me will be aware that I went into training in my Twenties to join this group). And there are the NOGs, Nice Old Gentlemen. NOGs are the big risk. They read for Holy Orders (sorry; I can't help having a soft spot for these old Anglican expressions) in the Seventies or before, and Kueng and Schillebeeckx still preside over their bookshelves, dusty but unbowed. Dear smiley old things that they are, with the most enchanting wrinkles round their eyes, NOGs have become accustomed to a liturgical patois which skilfully piles anacolouthon on top of parataxis, like Ossa on top of Pelion. And they prefer it. It helps to keep their minds comfortably inert. It means they never have to take a deep breath. It means there is never a risk that one idea might make a fruitful connection with another. It ensures that their congregations will be protected from the dangers of shoots of new growth. NOGs will back up Fr Butler and his cronies, to the ... um ... death, so to speak.

I mentioned the other day the old American dissident group "What if we just said Wait [i.e.until Ratzinger is dead]?" This is a good formula and we need to hijack it. "What if we just said Wait [i.e. until Butler and his NOGs are in their retirement homes]?"

The future will be safe in the hands of the splendid young priests and seminarians who are coming through the system. That, I suspect, is what the Butlers are most afraid of. They have every reason to be.


GOR said...

In the years immediately following Vat II there was a sudden desire to cast off anything that was ‘popular’ ‘superfluous’ an ‘accretion’ in Liturgy and worship in general. It was very 1960s stuff. Just as the youth of the 60s were running down the past and anyone over 30 (what do they think now, one wonders…), so some in the Church saw much of what had evolved (Tradition) in the almost 2000 years of the Church as obstacles to be removed.

While the stated intent was to “get back to our roots” – and the specialists determined what those ‘roots’ were – the result was destruction rather than reformation. One by one popular devotions were disparaged – Rosary, Benediction, Adoration, pilgrimages, processions, statues and on and on.

The Mass was the central liturgical celebration of the Church - they stated - but it needed to be ‘improved’ and made more ‘attractive’ (to the world, presumably). With diabolic irony what they supposedly set out to improve, they almost destroyed. The Sacrifice of the Mass became the ‘communal meal’. It was not a re-presentation of Calvary but a ‘memorial’ – much like a birthday or anniversary.

As Pope Benedict noted: it was a celebration alright - but of us, not of Him.

And being that we are a ‘priestly people’ what need have we of priests? We’ll have a ‘presider’ who will be a primus inter pares - and more par than primus at that. And so on, to today…

Your warning is timely, Father. Many who pushed such an agenda – and their disciples - are still with us and the gains of recent years can be lost. “Give an inch…” And Pope Francis is perceived as having given a yard or two. I pray that this is not the case and that Pope Benedict’s ‘Reform of the Reform’ may continue.

From another EUOB…

john-of-hayling said...

the Butler agenda has already had a good outing - a Church where every service is slightly different from that in the next parish. Where what is done depends on how the priest feels - sometimes a long service and other times with so many bits left out that the congregation is unable to follow what is happening. Eventually there is a distinct lack of collegiality and a breakdown in communion between the parishes. People travelling around the country never know what to expect even though the wording on the board outside is almost identical to their home parish.
Welcome to the Church of England. Perhaps Archbishop Welby could set up an 'Ordinariate' for confused Tabletistas.

johnf said...

When my eldest son was about 4 years old, he decided to 'mend' our lawnmower by stuffing grass clippings in the petrol tank. Soon after he decided to 'mend' the toaster by shoving a teaspoon into it.

Similarly the liturgists of VII wished to 'mend' the liturgy which was not broken.

I was able to get the lawnmower repaired after a fashion, and bought a new toaster - and was thankful that my son had not injured himself. But we will be feeling the effects of the liturgical fixers for some time to come.

In the run up to the Papal election of 1963, Cardinal Siri was quoted as saying that it would take 100 years to undo the changes initiated by John XXIII. Naive fool that I was I felt at the time that the good Cardinal was a dreadful reactionary. But I now conclude that he was right - and we still have 50 years to go.

P├ętrus said...

I find it hard to to view ACTA and those opposed to the FFI as anything other than protestants. They are possessed of much hubris.

Central to their arguments is that "they know better than the Church".