22 December 2018

"Faithful in all generations"

"A History of Saint Clement Parish, Ottawa, 1968-2018"

This is the (sumptuous) history ... not of a parish church, but of the living group of Catholic human beings which formed in Ottawa after the liturgical deformations of the 1960s, and, despite having moved buildings more than once, is still flourishing more than ever.

SAs you read it, you masy get some surprises. Often, the baddies in accounts of the troubled 1960s and 1970s are gentlemen heavy with the Apostolic Ministry of episkope. I remember, back in the 1990s, talking to some elderly ladies outside the puginesque Catholic Cathedral in Killarney. I received from them graphic descriptions of the days when skip after skip of smashed marble awaited removal outside the Cathedral. Knowing the answer to my question before I asked it, I enquired "Which bishop ...?" Lips were pursed as only elderly Irish women know how to purse them. "Eamon Casey?" I enquired. Heads nodded. I mused on the close (and logical) relationships between sexual incontinence and liturgical vandalism.

So I relished the story in this History of how the members of S Clement Parish rescued, one Easter Monday, the altars of the Convent Chapel where they had previously worshipped, by getting there only hours before Conciliar pickaxes were due to arrive on the Tuesday of the Paschal Octave to "reorder the Chapel".  

But in Ottawa, the Archbishops, far from being baddies, were generally supportive of those of their people who desired to retain the older and better ways.

Eventually, however, that enlightened policy was made impossible for the Archbishop by a letter countersigned by none other than the great Bugnini himself. (Has anybody ever written a Gilbert-and-Sullivanesque chorus about that mighty worshipper of the Great Architect of the Universe? I think ... apron and all ... he would rather lend himself to that genre.)

So, for ten years from 1974 to 1984, priests and people at Clement had to manage with the Conciliar Rite, in Latin. "Father Guy Martin did all he could to tailor the Mass as close in appearance to the traditional order as he deemed possible. The high altar was retained, with priest and congregation facing the tabernacle, ad orientem. Father Martin kept the traditional prayers at the foot of the altar to serve as the priestly greeting of the congregation that was required in the Novus Ordo. He also retained the traditional offertory prayers, followed by the Roman Canon. On the other hand, he followed the recent directives calling for three scriptural readings and the dropping of the Last Gospel."

Some interesting discussion-points there. If such an agenda had been followed more widely, is it just possible that the Latin Church might have survuived the 1970s in a less broken state?

Some of the S Clement congregation left, but the greater part of the congregation did stay.

A return to the Mass of Ages was able to happen in 1984 after Quattuor abhinc annos, although with a local directive that the congregation should of course abstain from evangelisation (yes; that was a Gilbert-and-Sullivanesque era!!). In 1994, the parish was fortunate enough to secure the ministry of the FSSP. I was glad to read accounts of the activities of my friend Fr Matthew Goddard, FSSP. His father, Fr David, I knew well when we were neighbours in the Diocese of Chichester. I have recently heard that Fr David has died: cuius animae propitietur Deus.

A recurring and chilling motif in this History is the endless closure of more and more Catholic Churches in Ottawa. I imagine this phenomenon was not confined to Ottawa ... indeed, it is still alive and well today. Remarkably, few people noticed or notice the oddity that the great aggiornamento of the Council was so directly followed by so much utter desolation. Of course, readers will - rightly - remind me that post hoc does not imply propter hoc, but, well, it seems to me that ... er ...

Many readers, both those who were then Roman Catholics and those of us who were still gorging ourselves on the richer grass that seemed to grow the other side of the Tiber, will find old memories awakened by this book. It was a time when so many Churches and Religious Houses were being closed down ... and so many of those that survived were dumping their possessions (often literally) on bonfires ... that the discriminating person with the right antennae could pick up bargains (I acquired for the College Chapel a superb gothic monstrance from a faintly shady character who had half a dozen such vessels up his sleeve). That was true at S Clement, and the History records this in some detail, illustrating it with photographs.

It was, too, an era when clergy whose souls were profoundly marked with the Catholic and Priestly spirit gradually realised that they could not go along with the policy (later revealed by Benedict XVI to have been illegal) of suppressing the Old Mass. But many of them were elderly, and problems arose for laypeople with the awareness that this generation of fine and principled priests would not live for ever; and new clergy were not yet emerging from Econe and elsewhere. I suppose it must have been rather like the period in between the de facto suppression of the Sarum Rite in 1559 by Elizabeth Tudor, 'Bloody Bess', and the time a couple of decades later when the Seminary Priests began to arrive in England.

I commend this account: an elegant and insightful snapshot of the corruptions and discontinuities of the post-Conciliar Period, as they appeared (and were gallantly resisted) in just one place.


The list price converts into sterling as £25.


Ed the Roman said...

Post hoc ergo propter hoc is a logical fallacy, but there is a reason its so popular.

It doesn't prove, but it indicates that proof may be hiding somewhere.

PaulLong said...

I attended st. ClemeClements in Fr. Goddard's last year's there. He was wonderful priest, as is every other fraternity priest I've met. The archbishop just recently celebrated a pontifical mass for them, God bless him.

Dad29 said...

Yah, well, post/propter and all that....but I believe that Mammon has had a great negative effect on Church membership and attendance. Who needs "heaven" when we already live there, more or less, in the developed West?

(Note that the Third World has had much less faith-falloff despite the same NO Mass. In the Third World, there is much to pray for and about.)

One other thing: at about the same time the NO was invented, the concept of "sin" was tossed aside. Without "sin", who needs prayer? Why would one pray? What's to lose here?

At least here in the former Colonies, the Church's hierarchy has much to atone for.

Dr. Adam DeVille said...

There is an earlier very elegant history of St. Clement parish, now very hard to come by (a sympathetic review is here: https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Continual+sacrifice%3A+a+history+of+the+origins+of+Saint+Clement...-a030379736) which was written by a dear friend of mine, the late Bernard Pothier of blessed and happy memory. I mention him and St. Clement's in this essay: https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2018/12/20/why-we-need-bishops-who-are-neither-accomodationists-nor-reactionaries/

Ian said...

Lots of copies of the Continual Sacrifice in the parish still! I remember you at St Clement but I was still very young by the time you left.

TN Papist said...

Just curious, what was the overall reaction to using the old offertory in the Novus Ordo? Did anyone in the Hierarchy comment?

Banshee said...

I grew up in a fully Novus Ordo parish, but the place was always jammed when I was growing up. Why? Because Father was totally, boringly orthodox in how he offered Mass and how he preached. The same thing was true of our parish school.

Given that I was growing up in the archdiocese of Cincinnati, under the now-notorious Bernadin, I now appreciate that Father was being downright edgy and brave. I wish I had known the state of things, because there was a lot going on. But part of Father's hidden bold courage was keeping us kids from knowing the half of what was wrong. He wanted us to grow up without being shadowed by too much sorrow or conflict.

The EF or the Anglican Use may be "a fuller sign," but the OF doesn't have to be bad. Having the wrong ideas about Mass, through ignorance or on purpose, is what makes an OF Mass less than it should be. Having a priest who has the right ideas (and hopefully, other people helping the worship too!) lets the OF be as good as it can be -- which is pretty darned good and holy.

Some parishes treat an OF Mass like the Black Knight in that Monty Python movie -- they just keep hacking away at it like they're trying to kill it, and yet Mass keeps staggering along as best it can. It's not dead yet because Christ is there; but it's not in good health, either. (You don't see this very often in its full nastiness, nowadays.) It's more common today for parishes not to understand what Mass is, and try to turn it into some kind of extrovert performance revue. But I think even that is starting to fade away. (Maybe I'm just being hopeful, but maybe I'm right.)