27 July 2015

'High Church' or 'Catholic'? (2): within the Catholic Church

I may very well be wrong, but I think I sometimes detect a distinction just the very tiniest little bit like this in the Catholic Church; the distinction between those whose preoccupation is with Liturgy and, for preference, very fine Liturgy; and those for whom liturgical questions are part of a larger whole. For example: in England, the 'traditionalist' movement concentrates, for the most part, on Liturgy. Indeed, I get the impression that it is policy not to confuse Liturgy with other matters or different causes. So we emphasise that, in our strong preference for the Extraordinary Form, we are totally in unity with the pope and the hierarchy. Little mention is made of problems in Conciliar texts. Great appreciation is shown for any signs of friendship from bishops.

I do understand this strategy. It means that bishops, if they are honest and honourable, cannot make problems for EF liturgy on the grounds that it is bound up with, even perhaps a front for, other agendas. And the Liturgy, in and for itself, very definitely is a cause deserving very high priority.

But the annual Gardone Roman Forum symposia illustrate that there can be, indeed is, a different possible approach. At Gardone, the liturgy is in the Extraordinary Form, and superbly done, but nobody spends all their time talking about it. It is simply the assumed, natural, and obvious  background and basis to the fortnight; there is no fascinated preoccupation with ritual adjuncts. The talk is about the conceptual questions which are at the heart of intellectual debate in European and American Catholicism, particularly at this present time. The addresses are not all given by clergy intent on deepening the liturgical spirituality of the laity; they are, for the most part, given by lay philosophers and historians and academics intent on 'discerning the times' in the light of the Gospel. They are, in fact, nothing less than a dutiful response to the Holy Father's repeated calls for lay participation and for frank openness, Parrhesia.

So perhaps there is just a minute difference of tone between the Traddidoms of Britain on the one hand; and of America and Continental Europe on the other. Moreover, it seems to me that there may also be some such cultural difference between the 'Ecclesia Dei Communities' and the SSPX, in that the former appear sometimes more liturgically preoccupied than does the latter. It is clear ... well, to me, at least ... that the contentious issues at stake at the moment in the Western Church centre around the claim that Christ is Lord; in other terms, the truth of the Social Reign of Christ the King. Or, to chase the same rabbit from the other end of the warren, the relationship between Zeitgeist and Faith. This was the truth that Archbishop Lefebvre saw with great and luminous clarity. "They have uncrowned Him."

I throw these thoughts out merely as speculation.

I thank God that the Ecclesia Dei Communities are in a canonically regular situation, and I pray for the canonical regularisation of the SSPX. 'Unity' is not just a gracious adornment, oil running down the beard, but a demand made by the ontological reality of the Christ's Body the Church. I believe the clergy of that Society need this as much as the rest of the Church needs them. At the same time, I value the persistent witness which the SSPX has relentlessly brought to the heart of the Gospel message, to the primitive kerygma "Kyrios Iesus"; "Viva Cristo Rey". (This does not mean that I in any way undervalue the fact that it was also the Society that, almost single-handed, kept a form of the authentic Roman Rite alive and well through the darkest years.)

It is not, to resort to the familiar cliche, either / or but both / and. 

The Liturgy builds the Church and sustains her witness; and our witness to the Gospel is the soil in which the Liturgy bears fruit.


motuproprio said...

"We thank you that Jesus is the King, and that one day, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord. We pray for his rule in our nation, that our government and opposition parties might live under his rule, governing with righteousness and peace for the good of all." BBC Radio 4 Sunday Worship 26/7/15 (Recorded at the Keswick Convention).

Anonymous said...

Father, I thank you for this series regarding the difference between Catholic and "high-church." I am a priest in the US Ordinariate, and while using the terminology of "high-church" can be expedient when explaining things to people, it does often connote a preoccupation with liturgy and little else. I am curious, if you would mind the distraction, to know your thoughts on this article (http://modernmedievalism.blogspot.com/2015/07/the-anglican-ordinariate.html). Although it does look at liturgy as such, I think it helps to point us in the direction of balance. Many thanks to you for your hard work and service to the Church.

Pro Deo et Patria,
Fr Ken Bolin
Chaplain (Major), US Army

Unknown said...

Father, I think there’s definitely something in what you are saying; primarily because I recognise it in myself to some extent. I’m not sure to what extent your observations can be generalised, and I’m not personally in a position to contrast British ‘traddidom’ with that of the USA and continental Europe, but it strikes me that traditional Catholicism and, especially, the existence/sustainability of the EF still feels somewhat ‘fragile’ or under threat in Britain, or is at least arguably perceived that way by many traditionalists? As most understandably view the liturgy as the cornerstone or bedrock upon or around which traditional Catholic life thrives and flourishes, is it therefore surprising that there might be some preoccupation with it in these real or perceived conditions? My assumption would be that any preoccupation will diminish as and when worshipping in the traditional Rite becomes normal and natural rather than a slightly rebellious or countercultural activity! In terms of the Ecclesia Dei versus SSPX trend, I have no direct experience of the SSPX but it seems to me that although they are in the middle of a long-term and well-known ‘tension’ with the Church, they are also to a large extent operating in their own sphere or bubble; nothing has changed for them, the Mass is as it ever was, thanks be to God. In contrast, the Ecclesia Dei communities are operating in the middle of a church which, arguably, is still (albeit to varying degrees) ‘hostile’ towards them or, to be more charitable, at the very least tends to ignore their existence; as such one could say that they are on the ‘frontline’. What we must remember however is that there are many traditional Catholic families (including my own) striving to live their faith and bring up their children in a way that is not exclusively occupied with liturgical matters but very much oriented around the social kingship of Christ and all the implications for daily living. These are just my thoughts and intuitions to throw into the pot! Thank you for another very interesting post.

GOR said...

For some time I have had reservations about some traditional groups and how they view the Usus Antiquior. Reports of these Masses seem to emphasize the trappings, rather than the essence – Missa de X, Credo Y, the noted Schola, accoutrements of ministers, ‘smells and bells’, etc. etc. One has the impression of a ‘performance’ rather than a sacrifice, as if it were the theater.

As one who grew to adulthood with the Latin Mass, a Solemn High Mass or even a Missa Cantata was rare rather than frequent. Pace those who maintain that Solemn High Mass back then was the norm, it never was in my experience. Low Mass was what one attended the overwhelming majority of times – on weekdays or Sundays.

One attended because it was The Mass - the Eternal Sacrifice oriented to God and not for my ‘enjoyment’. You were there primarily to give, not to receive. The celebrant was unimportant – any priest sufficed. While the ‘incidentals’ of High Mass may serve to more easily “raise the mind and heart to God”, that is what any prayer is supposed to be – whether alone in one’s room or in the splendor of a cathedral.

Simon Platt said...

Dear Father,

I'm afraid I think you are wrong: at least, being more-or-less familiar with the Ecclesia Dei communities (although not with the SSPX), I don't detect a preoccupation with liturgy, important though it is to them and to me. Besides, none of the Ecclesia Dei communities are particularly English, and most of their members active in England are from ... continental Europe or the United States! And, wonderful as the Roman Forum seems (from your reports and others I have read online) it's surely unrealistic to expect that kind of discourse to be part of any normal church community in England? (Or any other country, I suppose. I wish it were otherwise.)

Unknown said...

I am afraid that I think you are quite wrong Father. I know of no priests whatsoever who love and say the Old Mass and are not also profoundly and passionately orthodox. Attachment to neo-scholastic methodology and the theology of the 19th and early 20th centuries does not make one any more traditional than those who appreciate the excellent theological work done by some of the resourcement scholars. The likes of Jean Danielou, Henri de Lubac and, of course, Joseph Ratzinger, in no way supported the liturgical destruction wraught by the 1960's modernisers.

One of the biggest problems with the SSPX is that they don't see that the pre-conciliar church was clearly deeply flawed. If it hadn't been it would never have ended the way it did. For one thing, the dominant theology, while excellent in many ways, had deep flaws: a lack of proper liturgical theology and rampant Ultramontanism. A theology which has reduced the essence of the Mass to the words of consecration and which has reduced Tradition to being a resource which Rome alone can interpret resulted in a Church Militant which was populated with people who thought that as long as a Mass was valid, and one avoided the sin of disobedience by scrupulously following the rubrics, nothing else really mattered all that much. If the pope, who alone is the authoritative interpreter of what it is to be Catholic, says that the words and rubrics of the Mass are now to change, and that "liturgical experimentation" and licence are to be tolerated, then who were they to disagree?

If the likes of the SSPX and some other traditionalists were to take the trouble to fully understand the entire tradition and where the resourcement was truer to tradition than the neo-scholastics (rather than the well documented cases when visa-versa was true) then they would help our cause a lot more. I gather that one of the chief embarrassments of the doctrinal discussions between Rome and the SSPX was that the Roman (almost entirely Thomist) theologians were just in a different league from the SSPX ones.

I love the traditional Mass and pray daily for the restoration of the liturgy, theology and ecclesiastical discipline but this is only possible by working form the whole tradition, taking what is best from the resourcement and the neo-scholastics. Not by obsessing over pedantic objections to obscure details in the documents of a council which is, for the most part, best forgotten.

In Domino,
Felix Romanus

John Patrick said...

I think for many people even those in "Ecclesia Dei" groups (certainly those in my immediate family), it is not so much about the liturgy as some of the basic elements of worship that sadly are not found in many Ordinary Form Masses i.e. being able to receive communion kneeling and on the tongue, use of the traditional Eucharistic Prayer, reverence, silence before and after Mass, preaching Truth rather than feel-good, people dressed like adults instead as though they were heading directly to the beach after Mass, Catholic music, and so on. I would be happy attending an Ordinary Form Mass that had all of these, unfortunately those are rare.

Dad29 said...

It is not, to resort to the familiar cliche, either / or but both / and.


Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

"They have uncrowned Him.

It is an oddity of modernity that the Popes are, presumably, humbler than Jesus who suffered Himself to be crowned King of the Jews by those who mocked Him whereas modern Popes will not accept being crowned with the Triregnum by their friends.

Maybe it is fear of being mocked by those whom the Pope does have power over (but won't actualise it) Kings,World, Church on Earth), who knows, but, Jesus was mocked and Popes are His Vicar and so they ought not be fearful of being mocked or of plainly teaching the truth.

Anonymous said...

It is said that "the Archbishop" was not particularly interested in liturgical details, maybe because in African mission retreats, it was difficult anyway to fulfill every detail of the rich liturgical tradition. It is even said that in the early days of the Society, quite different ways of celebrating the Mass could be found, from "pre-1955" up to "1965" - or even later versions of the EF? Does anyone in this forum know more details about this or could inform any texts about the liturgical praxis of the Society in Econe and elsewhere in the 1970s? If there would be elder priests in your neighbourhood, please ask and inform.

In general, Father, I would agree: there are many matters much more important than liturgical details - as far as a traditional liturgy is celebrated and the liturgical rules are followed as perfectly and precisely as possible. If, however, the liturgical praxis is corrupted, this should be restaured first of all, because a correctly and strictly followed liturgical praxis is the basis for everything else. Even our Lord prayed at set times and surely within the rules of a liturgical practise.

Figulus said...

My experience here in the states is similar to yours. In fact there is a term here which is commonly used by the high church party to put down those faithful Catholics who aren't deemed enthusiastic enough about Gregorian chant; that term is "neo-catholic". The liberals and so-called neo-catholics have their own pithy put down of the high church party, "Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living." Both insults are very pithy, but neither is true enough to be really funny.

On the flip side, the high church party here, typically called the "trads" or "traddies", doesn't seem to have a pro-sexual-revolution wing. They do have a very small, but unfortunately loud, sedevacantist wing. I imagine a fair number of the posts which you delete here might come from this wing.

Matthew Roth said...

I think part of the ritual preoccupation lies in our trying to get it right. Fortescue is dense and assumes you can find someone who has done the ceremony before. I also grant it is done by people who, em, need help from time to time in not becoming pre-occupied with little matters (myself especially?)!

It is indeed both/and. I do wonder how we separate the good from the not-so-good. Many American communities get sucked into the worst extremes, including misogyny, anti-Semitism and a hatred for the hierarchy...the French strike the best balance, based on my experience on the Chartres walk.

Grupo editorial said...

I humbly suggest that this sentence, "I believe the clergy of that Society need this as much as the rest of the Church needs them", needs a bit more nuance.

We sorely need allies in the good fight against Modernism which is taking place within the Church and the aid of the members of the Society would certainly be welcomed. Nevertheless, none of us (thank God!) is needed by the Church as much as we need Her. She is necessary for salvation; we are but unprofitable servants.

Bruno Moreno

The Modern Medievalist said...

A hat tip to Chaplain Bolin above for sharing my post on the Ordinariate!

In our times, it's necessary to have at least a few people who are "inordinately" consumed with the details of liturgy because, sad to say, our leaders in the Church have completely failed us in that matter, among many others. I am, no doubt, one of those sorts of people who GOR writes are very much into the details of "Missa de X, Credo Y, the noted Schola, accoutrements of ministers, ‘smells and bells’, etc. etc. One has the impression of a ‘performance’ rather than a sacrifice, as if it were the theater."

In better times, however, I hope it'll sufficient to leave these liturgical details to a few trusted agents, such as deacons, masters of ceremonies, choirmasters, and (in a yet more ideal world) men of the restored minor orders, while priests simply follow their instructions without protest and get on with the more important business of prayer, spiritual sacrifice, the sacraments, and counsel.

In this matter, at least, the priest is like the lord of a great house (the capital-L Lord's house) and the deacon or MC is the chief butler. It's beneath the master's dignity to know how to properly measure all the place settings at the dinner table himself, or the order in which the footmen are to enter and which dishes they ought to be carrying. The lord has a manor to run, so these responsibilities should be left to the butler. But, if there's no butler, the lord's house loses much of its elegance and grandeur, and that reflects poorly on the lord himself.

It appears that the Church in the 20th century has let so many of our traditions slip by in the name of false humility. I agree with all who've said that they're just part of a larger picture of Christ's dominion, but alas, someone needs to be a man of details.

Last remark for now: GOR wrote, "As one who grew to adulthood with the Latin Mass, a Solemn High Mass or even a Missa Cantata was rare rather than frequent. Pace those who maintain that Solemn High Mass back then was the norm, it never was in my experience. Low Mass was what one attended the overwhelming majority of times – on weekdays or Sundays."

When people say that solemn Mass was the norm, they usually mean to say that that it was the model upon which all lower forms of Mass derive, and that the rites of low Mass can't be fully understood without reference to solemn Mass. (For example, why does the priest, even in low Mass, usually not make a full circle around when turning to face the people? So that he doesn't turn his back to the deacon in solemn Mass. An expert could probably make hundreds of similar notes.) I think a great deal of the liturgical crisis can be blamed precisely on the "low Mass mentality" of the early 20th century. Even President Kennedy's funeral, the most-watched pre-conciliar Mass of all time, was a sloppily-offered pontifical low Mass.