25 September 2016

Offchester and Effchurch

While Doing the North, we found ourselves looking over a perfect 'transitional' Augustinian Priory Church, which, as Pevsner observes, was in ruins but still complete enough in the 1840s to make its restoration at that time almost totally reliable. It is beside a ruined Regency house: if only the Priory were still in ruins; and the Regency house were not in tatters; the whole (immensely romantic) site would be a perfect setting for S Jane's Northanger Abbey. I will call it Effchurch Priory; we visited it at noon on the Saturday when forty or fifty people were gathered there for a Tridentine High Mass. It happens, I gather, once a year. An elegant and very accessible sermon on the day's Saint (S Nicolas of Tolentino); perfect liturgy; excellent singing. An enthusiastic and very participatory congregation, who knew their way around the Church's immemorial Liturgy and took part in a natural, relaxed, unforced, often quite loud, way.

Sadly, I did not feel that having heard Mass on Saturday at 12:00 would fulfill the Sunday obligation; so in the evening we went to a Vigil Mass in a town some miles away, which I will rename Offchester. The difference was palpable. The 1969 rite done very badly. Very little participation; the organ droned out eight stanzas of a hymn tune and not a person made a sound. The pp obviously deemed himself a brilliant mystagogue, because every single 'presidential formula', even the pseudo-Hippolytan Eucharistic Prayer, was either changed or interpolated. There was, unsurprisingly, no sermon. I say "unsurprisingly" because I have met the same liturgical corruption in the South of England, not least in a church where the priest proudly referred to it as "a Vatican II church".

I wonder why some priests of a certain generation and a 'Conciliar' culture have such a rooted aversion to preaching. This leads me on to wonder what exactly it was that they were taught in the corrupted and emptying seminaries of the post-Conciliar decades. We know that (despite Canon 249 and the Veterum Sapientia of S John XXIII) they were not taught Latin or Greek; because of this, they were blocked from sudying Patristics. They did not ... clearly ... do Liturgy or Liturgical Theology or Practical Liturgy; it appears that they received no education in Scripture, Biblical Theology, or how to open the Word of God for their people. I somehow doubt that they were all given a deep formation in traditional moral theology or the hearing of confessions, because I know of (another) church in the South of England where the priest explained that the difficulty about hearing confessions was that the Confessional had for many years been used for stacking away the unsold debris of Parish bazaars. What, in the Name of God Almighty and God most Adorable, did all those men learn in those seven expensive years of 'priestly formation'? 

I know some traddies cheerfully but (IMHO) irresponsibly point out that Monsignor Time will solve the problem of that generation of clergy; but, in a decade or two's time, will the joyless and infantilised congregations still be in existence? These are souls for whom Christ died.

If I were a bishop, I would send round formidable, even terrifying, hit squads of bright, orthodox, and cheerful young clergy with the oil of ordination still damp upon their hands, to teach the dear old gentlemen all the things that their lecturers forgot to mention in the 1970s and 1980s; and to overhaul a radicibus the parish liturgies. Cardinal Sarah's recent extremely sound suggestions could provide a lively and exciting start to a programme of restoring catholic authenticity in the desert areas. And His Eminence, with his true and accurate pastoral heart, clearly understands the urgency of this need. Happily, one hears of diocesan bishops loyally responding to his timely initiative. Let us hope that, on Advent Sunday ...

But not, sadly, quite all bishops. One or two Ordinarii locorum prefer to resemble stewards careering crazily around on the Great Liner's dangerously sloping decks while shouting noisily and inaccurately at anyone they meet about the 'true post-Conciliar' alignment of deckchairs.


Francis said...

A "Vatican II church"?

Presumably it was equipped with all those 1960s accoutrements of "modern man" -- a black and white TV, a transistor radio, a record player, a tape recorder and Patrick Moore's book on the upcoming Apollo missions?

Fortunately, we have a new generation of priests in the making who understand that basing a pastoral/liturgical strategy for the 21st Century on a Council held 50 years ago is like trying the fight the Battle of Britain with weapons developed in the 1890s. We need to move on.

mark wauck said...

I follow the legal presumption that one is presumed to intend the logical consequences of one's actions--or inaction. Therefore, following the chain of authority, one can only presume that the bishops approve of the formation given, and that the popes who appointed the bishops approve of the sort of bishops that they appointed. After all, there have--in the past--been bishops who were appointed and who did make a difference for the good within their jurisdictions. At the margins.

Sixupman said...

'Mona Lot' ex Tommy Handley Show: "It is being so cheerful that keeps me going"!

Without your erudition, Father, and humour I would fall into despair - you keep me going!

Stephen said...

What has never been clear to me, and I would be quite interested to learn, is just what was so awful or boring or whatever about the whole pre-Vatican liturgical praxis worldwide that so many bishops - who had lived the vast majority of their lives in it - would dispense with it so easily and even happily? Did it mean so little to them? Did they just feel obligated to take orders from above like good soldiers? The ease and speed with which the overwhelming majority of bishops and priests dispensed with all that had gone on before has never been explained, as far as I can tell. Michael Davies et al wrote much about how, but not Why.

Any leads on quality insights into the why?

Anita Moore said...

Father, maybe it is a blessing that the P.P. of Offchester preached no sermon; perhaps you would not have liked what you'd have heard. I have actually heard priests in my own diocese in the U.S.A. preach the following from the pulpit, which probably gives some indication of what they are getting in priestly formation:

- Quotations from Marianne Williamson, New-Age guru-ette.

- Pentecostals have a fuller and more accurate understanding of the Holy Spirit than the Catholic Church.

- The Eucharist was established by the "community" as a memorial to Christ.

- "Following Jesus" is more important than doctrine.

- The hierarchy of the Church, so far from being divinely instituted, was established by a wayward Church that had begun to lust after worldly accolades and deviate from her mission to follow Jesus.

- The literature of the world proves that you need not be a Christian or even believe in God to be a "good person."

I am sorry to have to say that, even if it is an abuse for there to be no sermon at Sunday Mass, nevertheless I would accept it gratefully as an improvement.

AndrewWS said...

To be honest, Mr Wauck, I suspect that the bishops don't have much choice in the matter if their dioceses are short of vocations, and these Seventies relics are all they have to choose from (short of calling in orders or communities to run parishes). But there is hope; all the priests I have come across who are younger than I am are a good deal sounder than most of those I have encountered who are older than I am, and the ones I know coming out of seminaries or about to do so are very sound indeed.

Aqua said...

Bracing orthodoxy! Thank you. The best way to see the Order Of Battle, is to do what you describe: Attend the Mass of Ages, then immediately after, attend the New Mass. THAT is what is at stake; what is in dispute, in the purest essence, on either side of the lines in dispute. I assume Modernists among us are well aware of the power of that comparison, also. Thus the persecution of Orthodoxy.

"These are souls for whom Christ died." So True. Innumerable souls are being lost to eternal hell every hour while we do nothing.

God may see things in terms of epochs and millennia. But God did not call us to do so. We are to live in the moment and defend Christ in the moment He gave us. We are to save as many souls as we can in the moment. Letting "Father Time" do the work for us; Letting God do our tasks for us, in Time, is a kind of Acedia.

God wants actors, willing to die for Him; physically, professionally, financially. Carrying the Cross of Christ is not just a metaphor, with no real and personal demand. It is dirty, painful, misery; and the only path to glory is to walk it faithfully and really, just as Christ did; to death if need be.

Anonymous said...

@Stephen; Fr. Ray Blake posted an item on that very point recently:


Commentors give different opinions about the circumstances of that particular celebration, but I do think there is a lot of false nostalgia about "the good old days", which were nowhere near as universally painstaking and devout as the contemporary reconstructions tend to be. I don't buy the myth that the Church only came to life in 1964, but neither do I believe that everything was coming roses and everywhere was healthy, hearty and full of evangelical zeal and pastoral charity until Vatican II scuppered it all. Otherwise, as you rightly ask, why did it all collapse so quickly? I think there was, and still is, need for reform and renewal - moral, spiritual, and pastoral - and for real development of doctrine and and even in the liturgy (the traditional liturgy is itself the fruit of fairly constant development). But it should be built organically on the sound basis of the Tradition and be subject to the tests of authentic development laid out so brilliantly by Bl. Cardinal Newman, and often rehearsed by the author of this blog.

John the Mad said...

I can't answer for the teaching of seven expensive years back then but I can answer for one year in a major seminary in the mid-seventies. Let see if I can knock enough barnacles off my memory banks to recall.

1) lots of Hans Kung.
2) lots of Charles Curran.
3. lots of Gregory Baum.
4. glops of of Teillhard de Chardin
5. lectures on the static nature of pre-VII theology (appalling that pre=VII stuff).
6. clamoring for the (vastly superior and dynamic) VII zeitgeist.
7. constant comments about the evil, awful, John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger.
8. did I mention the hero Hans Kung?

Then there was the Halloween Party where several seminarians appears dressed (rather too well) as young ladies. I was in the uniform of a guards officer with bearskin and sword borrowed from a fellow officer (I was a reserve officer.)

I asked one of the seminarians about the "ladies." He sighed and said one either wore dresses or played hockey in the seminay. Right, I replied. That year I played defence.

One year, and I fled.

Francis said...

In answer to Stephen, the collapse of liturgy and good practice without a shot being fired was due to many things, including the following:
- Modernism survived St Pius X and continued to have a strong influence in seminaries and theological circles.
- Latin was increasingly seen by many in authority as an anachronism, a fossil and a barrier, and too Eurocentric for an expanding, missionising Church.
- Protestant influences were increasing – especially the idea that the Eucharist commemorated the Last Supper rather than re-presenting the sacrifice of Calvary, and the idea that Christ was truly present in the gathering of the community at prayer rather than in the sacred species.
- Many theories were circulating to the effect that the Old Mass was a bundle of accretions and had moved a long way from the practices of the early Church.
- Naively optimistic ecumenism began in earnest in the post-war period. Many clergy thought that the Mass needed to be moved closer to Protestant worship formats to promote reconciliation. Simultaneously, the creation of the Iron Curtain made Catholics less inclined to consider the traditions and attitudes of the Orthodox, and their deep respect for tradition.
- There was a widespread feeling in the post-war years that humanity was entering a new age of modernity, exemplified by globalisation, communications, popular music, scientific progress and space exploration. There was also the belief, promoted by Vatican II, that the gap between Christianity and society at large was closing. Against this backdrop, the pressure for wholesale changes in the Church (and the liturgy) began to build up.
- Because of the rubrics and format of the Old Mass, it was virtually impossible to run it alongside emerging 1960s worship trends – folk music, charismatic prayer, healing Masses, greater interaction between the celebrant and the congregation, etc. It was thought that a new, looser form of Mass could address this.
- The two World Wars broke down barriers between the denominations. Many Catholic priests privately envied the confidence of Protestants which they contrasted with what they saw as the diffidence and scrupulosity of many Catholics.
- Many Catholic clergy agreed with the Protestant accusation that Catholics “knew nothing” about the Scriptures, and that Catechism-based apologetics were inferior to Bible-based argumentation. This had ramifications for the liturgy.
- Many priests suspected that the level of formation of Catholics was poor, and that Mass-goers were spectators and not participants. These priests thought that use of the vernacular and a more participatory style of worship could address this.
- 1960s permissiveness was totally at odds with the traditional Catholic emphasis on the importance of being in a state of grace and worthy to receive the Eucharist. Many Catholics wanted to tone down what they disliked about “sin-cycle” Catholicism. The deep Eucharistic piety promoted by the Old Mass was seen as the mainstay of state-of-grace Catholicism. It became a target.
- Respect for Rome and the wishes of the Holy Father remained very strong among conservative clergy, so the 1965-1969 changes to the Mass were accepted without question by the vast majority of such priests.

Sir Watkin said...

"the idea that the Eucharist commemorated the Last Supper"

I came across this characterisation of protestant belief in a recent piece by Damian Thompson, and I found it odd then.

Classical protestantism agrees with Catholicism that, following S. Paul, the Holy Eucharist is the commemoration of the Sacrifice of Calvary - "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come."

(For protestantism, as for Catholicism, it is only in a trivial sense a commemoration of the Last Supper (viz. because it was at the L.S. that the Eucharist was instituted).)

The difference lies not in *what* is being commemorated (there is agreement on that), but in the *nature* of the commemoration of Calvary, whether it is (a) in a nominalist sense nuda signa of a thing absent (and any "presence" is purely subjective, being in the mind/imagination of the devout worshipper), or (b) in a realist sense an actual making present of the Sacrifice.

mark wauck said...

@AndrewWS, to the contrary, experience has repeatedly shown that bishops who establish or maintain high standards in their seminaries attract vocations, whereas those bishops who feel they need to lower standards to attract more vocations actually drive young men away from their seminaries. These facts are well known. I therefore conclude that bishops who fail to adopt and maintain the high standards Fr Hunwicke refers to do so for reasons other than necessity.

John Patrick said...

A "Vatican II church".

That means of course they scrupulously follow the guidelines of Sacrosanctum Concilium, using Latin for the offertory and consecration, vernacular only for the readings and prayers, Gregorian chanted propers, and always the organ instead of piano, guitar, etc.