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.