29 January 2017

LITURGY: the simmering warfare bursts out into the open again

Three years ago, a Fr M J Butler, at that time the liturgical supremo in the diocese of Brentwood, wrote to the Tablet  a letter which he then sent to all the clergy of the diocese; and a Mr Denis Archdeacon, writing on the Tablet website, backed him up. They demonstrated that everything we thought was wrong with the liturgical culture of the post-Conciliar Church, as it had developed in Anglophone countries, was wrong. I think it is worth adding that Butler wrote his letter, not as a private individual, but as from the Brentwood Liturgical Commission ... that is an indication of how high these gentry were then flying.

Now they're right up there, flying, if anything, even higher.

OK, the then Bishop of Brentwood dealt admirably with that little local difficulty. But it demonstrated (to adapt Gerry Adams' observation about the IRA) that they hadn't gone away. And, according to reports, they're now back at work in a CDW committee, revisiting the splendid document Liturgiam authenticam. In other words, they still haven't gone away. The menace has returned. I blogged a little while ago about the immensely sinister words of an Andrea Grillo who had gone public on how, very soon, something would be done about restoring full episcopal authority over liturgy in a diocese. And about the 'Commission' set up some weeks ago in CDW.

 Perhaps a prayer for isolated, beleaguered, devout, admirable Cardinal Sarah would be in order.

Curmudgeons had for years complained that there was a self-supporting, self-validating network of so-called 'experts' or 'liturgists' who were determined to impose their own very narrow group agenda upon the Church. Fr Butler's actions confirmed this. He told us that the Roman document Liturgiam authenticam was "a laughing stock among academics and scholarly linguists". Clearly, that last phrase means, in the (much desired) Vernacular, 'me and my chums and people who agree with us'. So Butler was not a lone, ridiculous, figure. His own claim was that he represented a significant group. These were, presumably, the same jokers who, when Joseph Ratzinger started to write about Liturgy, threw up their hands in outrage and cried "But he's not a liturgist!" The ones with regard to whom somebody coined the good old witticism about what the difference is between a terrorist and a liturgist ("You can negotiate with a terrorist").

And it is an apparently illiterate group. Specimens of its illiteracy were Butler's absurd discussion of the word 'vernacular' and Archdeacon's bizarre statement that "there is nothing sacred about Latin". Clearly, despite the lofty manner which each of them adopted in putting us lesser mortals straight, they did not have at their finger-tips ... to take but one example ... any of the many works of the great linguist and liturgist Christine Mohrmann, who dominated her field for decades. Writing in English, French, German, and Dutch, she demonstrated how Christian Latin emerged, was consciously developed, in order to fill the needs and instinct of the worshipping community for a deliberately sacral language. She felt that the time was not ripe for vernacular liturgies in the late twentieth century, because modern European languages had not developed their sacred vernaculars. Liturgiam authenticam, interestingly, echoed her words in its call for the development of such vernaculars, even if this meant the possible use of archaisms. In other words, 'vernacular' does not possess anything like the univocal, simplistic sense which Butler implicitly claimed.

Now: I'm not saying that everybody has got to share my own views about Mohrmann (I think she's Mega) or the questions her work raised, or about Liturgiam authenticam (which I happen to regard as a particularly fine document); I am only saying that such people as these are either ill-informed illiterates for not being aware of such matters and of the existence of opinions different to their own; or else dishonest charlatans for concealing them from the readership of the Tablet (and from the diocesan clergy of Brentwood). I'm waiting to see if the new Committee shows any awareness of such scholarship ... but I'm not hlding my breath.

Like many such agenda-driven single-issue enthusiasts, Butler mentioned Sacrosanctum concilium of Vatican II. But SC 22 (3) (the sub-section which lays down that nobody is to do things by their own authority) did not deter him from informing his readers that "it is legitimate to use our previous Missal". And it was clear from his letter that, in his official capacity, he had been going round the clergy of his diocese with an agenda which did not noticeably include encouraging them to behave legally, or helping them by explaining to them things they do not understand. By listing dissentient malpractices with such cheerful relish, he was either naive or he was encouraging others to join in breaking the Law.

Perhaps the most entertaining of his absurdities was his characterisation of the current 'new' translation of the Missal as 'illegitimate'. Amusingly, this precisely echoed the rhetoric of Archbishop Lefebvre, who often remarked that the post-Conciliar rites were "illegitimate" (sometimes translated as 'bastard')!

I might remind you of the old adage about the Extremes Meeting, were it not that this would be an insult to the Archbishop.


Kerry said...

"...ill-informed illiterates","...or else dishonest charlatans"; must it be either/or? Perhaps they can be both, in a two natures sort of way.

John Fisher said...

Again Fr Hunwicke you fearlessly mention things many are frightened to. As my dear friend at Ampleforth used to say over 30 years ago "we better be careful, we live in the caring,sharing Vatican II Church". Bergoglio is being very silly and clearly is no historian or liturgist. I have examined the Sarum rite which was just a variation of the Roman rite and notice the new rite differs more than it did from the Roman usage. I recall one of the obstacles to remedying liturgical abuses in the Middle Ages and one that even promoted their existence was the variety of Western rites and the claims made by varying authorities. If Bergoglio's plan is implemented this sort of Balkanisation and flourishing of theological and liturgical abuses will occur. As you know the C of E and Anglican Communion is a perfect example. The enemies within the Church will divide and conquer but by bit. Where does he get the idea he can make or subvert the structure of the Church to discover any apostolic authority for national bishops conferences. You think looking at Orthodoxy and what happened between the Eastern and Western Church because of language and culture he would see the error.

Ben Trovato said...

In case it is of interest, I posted Fr Butler's letter (and my commentary on it) here: http://ccfather.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/the-butler-affair.html This is the full version, not the edited version published in The Tablet.

Woody said...

I am not a liturgist but I can read Denzinger. So, at 1759, Council of Trent: Doctrine and Canons on the Sacrifice of the Mass, Canon 9: "If anyone says that...Mass should be celebrated only in the vernacular...let him be anathema." Now, the prologue to these 9 Canons seems very clear, that at that time, many errors were being spread and taught against the Catholic Church, which needed to be condemned and banished from the holy Church. Could these errors have been from a "liturgist" by the name of Luther? I don't know, I'm not a historian either.

Woody said...

Keep telling us the truth, Father. It looks like we are in for another round of gaslighting from the Roman authorities and all those who are "working toward the Pope". On a related note I happened upon a website wherein it is stated that the liturgical authorities in the Episcopal Church in this country are now readying to press for further revision of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, to make it more gender neutral, eco-friendly and otherwise more contemporary. The revolutionaries never seem to give up.

Heaton Hypnosis and Psychotherapy Practice said...

Father I was a seminarian in the 90's at Ushaw. Some memories of liturgy. I seem to remember liturgy was treated as a cod subject. It was not treated as an important subject. The Prof had studied at the Catolic Institute in Paris and his thesis was on something like comparing the Anglican Eucharitic prayer with the Catholic prayers. It was ok to have the Mass in your college room on the said coffee table.....we would sit there and have drinks and ciggs after.....this was supposed to be someting about sdharing the mass.....I still do not understand.We all had to sing at the mass solo....I am an appaling singer...tone deaf as the dead....everyone had to do it.... I kept my head down thinking they will forget me one Sunday.....oh no they did not....so its my turn....I said ok but I can not sing for toffee.....well you will have to do it......so | said I will only try to sing in latin....Missa de angelis....the kyrie is nice......all of a sudden.... nothing was said.....never sang the kyrie yet.....i was saying am not sure i can intone the credo first properly....the priest should do that and then I sing....or croak....another story by the philosophy Prof....did not like being corrected when he got Karl Marx wrong on alienation.....perhaps I would have been a priest if the ordinariate existed then.....ended up as a psychotherapist who respects the importance of ritual.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Sorry but what is CDW?

Incidentally I wish we could do something about the substitution of 'happy' for 'blessed' in to-day's Gospel.

Anonymous said...

If you met Butler, I think you'd understand. Liturgy is a stalking horse.

Christopher Boegel said...

Francis I think neither cares nor knows enough to care.

Christopher Boegel said...

Congregation for the Doctrine of Worship - where Cardinal Sarah presides - whom Francis despises - and showed him so by removing all 27 orthodox members of the Congregation, including Sanjith of India and Pell of Australia.

Francis has already created separate national churches regarding the sacraments using AL.

Now he will do the same to The Mass using his attack on Liturgiam Authenticam.

This is what the serpent Cdl. McCarrick meant was the purpose of electing Pope Francis: "change the church in 5 years."

Church Leftists view everything in the church as their personal property - it's all about them - and their status. PERIOD.

Fr. Frank said...

CDW = Congregation for Divine Worship