My blog is over a month old now! I am pleasantly surprised that I didn't run out of things to say, that may or may not be useful to my readers, within a few days - a consolation amidst other cares and griefs.
This short ''essay'' does not aim at completeness; it is not academic or anything other than personal reflections. Its length will, I hope, give some indication of my interest in the matter. Some things that I have said may be useful, or at least quaint or interesting. I earnestly hope that someone takes the trouble to read it. I expect that many of my readers will be Catholics of a traditional mould - that is well. However, since others will be less so, I apologise in advance if you are irritated by the tone of many of my criticisms. But I am sure that we are all aggrieved by the current liturgical crisis; and so I hope this short piece provides you all with a kind of sensus fidelium, if that helps anyone at all, that is.
I have decided to follow up on my previous post about change and how it is sometimes needed, and more often than not, isn't. For change, as I have said before, is inevitable in this life whether we like or accept that, or we don't. As someone very ''peculiar'' (lets put it that way), I don't like change much. As I said in my previous post, meaningless changes (such as the priest turning his back on the East in the Liturgy) anger me; they proceed from inadvertent minds, with little or no understanding of how I see things, and what my personal needs are. That may sound selfish, but I am sure that my needs are just as agreeable as the next person's; and they are probably consonant with a lot of other people’s needs too. And changes introduced for ''pastoral'' reasons seem especially pertinent to discuss.
This aversion to change characterises my personal perception of the Sacred Liturgy of the Church. Liturgy is naturally something I take a great deal of interest in, as I am (at least I like to think that I am) a homo religiosus. It is a vast and fascinating subject, but though I have at times thought about the Liturgy, I have not studied it. I do not intend to either; that is the province of men like Dom Prosper Guéranger, and of course, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI. I am a layman, and therefore I think it would be presumptuous and somewhat impertinent of me to delve too deeply into the province of more competent and learned men than I. Interestingly, as an aside, this is one thing that J.R.R Tolkien objected to about C.S Lewis - making a spectacle of himself as a theologian and amateur apologist! Apologetics being the province of theologians and not laymen. However, it is worth saying a few words on my part, even if they just serve to exhibit my ignorance.
I cannot quite understand the reasons for change - radical change - articulated in a so-called ''pastoral'' context. Of course, this principle applies to other aspects of the Church's life quite apart from the Liturgy (although in a sense, since the Liturgy is the source and summit of the Church's life, they can never be quite separated). For what do they mean exactly? What is ''pastoralism,'' and who decides that? So far as I can see, it is just some fantastic notion that doesn't warrant its accustomed place among the other theological disciplines within the broad spectrum of Catholic Theology. Not so much about the Shepherd’s care for the flock anymore (this has always been a pertinent point, and a very ancient one, as old as the Church herself), as I understand the term ''pastoral,'' but a kind of new philosophy with this former connotation a mere shadow or red herring. I shall try to explain.
Pastoral Theology has its origin in the Enlightenment. In an excellent article for the Pastoral Review, Fr Richard Price articulates the history of this novel discipline, and traces it to the University of Vienna in 1774. I need not tell all that here, it may suffice to mention just a few interesting points. In 1773, Pope Clement XIV dissolved the Jesuits. Before this, they had run education in Austria, and so now there was a situation where education could be ''reformed'' (I am always suspicious of that word) and so the Austrian government entrusted this to the abbot of two Benedictine monasteries - a certain Franz Stephan Rautenstrauch. He rapidly devised a completely novel programme for priests - in order to correspond, as he put it, to ''the stage of Enlightenment in which we now see ourselves.'' I will not belabour the obvious parallel with that ghastly concept aggiornamento, but it is interesting to see that in its origins Pastoral Theology is inimical to both the old Scholastic methods, and of course the Religious Life. Indeed, the discipline seems better suited to Protestantism than to the life of the Church.
And so, skipping a few centuries, we find ourselves at Vatican II and the years immediately before and after it. Following the Enlightenment ideals of understanding (it was, afterall, the age of Reason), activity (the Rationalists couldn't stand Religious life, because of its emphasis on contemplation over activity), and the modernist principles of Ecumenism (I am not strictly against Ecumenism, that is, understood to mean the genuine desire of the reunion of all sincere self-professed Christians, doctrinally and liturgically, into the One True Church of Christ) and aggiornamento (which was, as you know, explicitly condemned by Blessed Pius IX in his famous Syllabus of Modernist Errors), the likes of Bugnini - the man who dared to say that genuflections, or any traditional liturgical inclinations, were tiresome anachronisms and externals! - and his accomplices on the Consilium, began to do things that weren't in the least bit enlightened. They began to deform and dismantle the Liturgy, and drew up (quite literally) a fabricated liturgy, passing it off as the traditional Roman Rite, with a few alterations here, and a few obsolete rubrics done away with. Good grief! And I am sure that these changes were introduced and explained by enthusiastic Bishops, Priests and eager new rubricists in so condescending a manner, in tones that implied: ''we know better than you, so just get on with it; this is the new Catholicism whether you like it or not'' - kind of like my own experiences as a child, persistently telling my father that I didn't like jam sandwiches, only to be told: ''yes you do!'' Is being told what is good for me in such a way ''pastoral'' - no it isn't, it is impertinent; almost a grotesque calumny.
When I was little, my parents and grandparents told me how when they were younger, the Mass was ''all in Latin.'' Years before I knew the Old Rite, before I began to research the Second Vatican Council, I thought that the Ordinary and Propers (not that I generally experienced Propers as a child - one great stain of ''creative'' liturgy) of the Mass were merely translated into local languages for pastoral advantage. And so, decidedly bored with the New Rite (in English), I went to a Latin Mass in the New Rite at Westminster Cathedral. What difference did it make, you may be wondering? Quite honestly, none whatsoever! I was just as easily bored and perplexed by it all; the priest came out, a lonely figure, ascended the Altar (made no reverence by the way) and turned to us and began addressing the Congregation (not God, well what does He have to do with it afterall?) in a language that none of us understood. One objection to the use of Latin in the Liturgy is that it is not generally understood, being the province of Classicists and academics. But the Mass is one of the chief mysteries of our Faith. I wonder whether Mary at the foot of the Cross, or your average peasant or serf who attended Mass in the Middle-ages, fully ''understood'' the mind of God in this pouring out of His Grace into our hearts? No, of course not, and why should they? Such an understanding has nothing whatsoever to do with the Liturgy. It lusts after the Faith, trying to dominate it, which is inordinate. I remember a Scripture that says: ''At that time Jesus answered and said: I confess to thee, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to little ones. Yea, Father: for so hath it seemed good in thy sight.'' (St Matthew 11:25-26). Similarly, this is the correct frame of mind and heart in which we must approach the Liturgy, which comes from God and is directed back to Him - very much like Aristotle’s concept of the Prime Mover’s love which is thrown forth from him, and comes back to him. All of us, wise and unlearned, must be, in the presence of God, of the utmost reverence and humility - to be as little ones, as Christ said.
Another thing wrong with the New Rite is it's impoverished ceremony, and gross want of beauty. I think it was Hilaire Belloc who said that the Catholic Church was the world's most ''complicated'' religion. Naturally! And since the Liturgy is ordered to a supreme Good, naturally it ought to be ordered with complex ceremonies. These ceremonies reflect and contain 2000 years of devotion and piety - and only a reprobate mind would call them anachronisms, or mere ''externals'' (who knows, this attitude to ''externals'' may reflect some interior doubts about the inherent ''goodness'' of Creation on the part of the Reformers, perhaps a new form of Manichaeism or some heresy, old or new, which is inimical to the Catholic Faith). Remember that on the liturgical rites, the sacrosanct Council of Trent said that they contain ''nothing unnecessary or superfluous.''
Antipathy towards ritual, images etc is nothing new in the history of the Church. Iconoclasts, the Lollards, Protestants to name a few groups all propounded the same arguments; that the Church flies in the face of the Decalogue, that the veneration of images is idolatry, that ceremony is superstition. I can honestly say that I am even less convinced by them when articulated by men in the Vatican - who are supposed to defend the Church’s traditions, not sell them out. Images and Ritual are two necessary parts of the Catholic faith. On the subject of Beauty in the Liturgy; that is pretty self-explanatory really, and is explained by men better than I. I can really only repeat what I said in my previous post on the Veni Creator Spiritus - that Liturgy ought to of its living beauty evoke that peculiar response in us that is joy, penance, sorrow for our sins - almost as the little children that ran to embrace Christ. I refer readers to Uwe Michael Lang’s recent article in L’Osservatore Romano where he treats this very subject. Its very good. He reminds us that the ‘‘sapiential tradition of the bible acclaims God as "the very author of beauty" (Wisdom 13:3), glorifying him for the greatness and beauty of the works of creation.''
The changes brought about in the Liturgy by the Modernists, with fierce impetuosity, during the 1950s and 1960s, seems to me to betray the very principles of Pastoral Theology. For I expect that the question of how to be a pastor to one’s flock, particularly pertinent for a parish priest, is as old as the hills. Indeed, it probably reflects (however dimly, depending upon the priest) the very words of Our Lord Himself as recorded in the Gospel of St John: ''I am the good shepherd: and I know mine, and mine know me.'' (St John 10:14). Now, I always understood knowledge of Our Lord in a sacramental and liturgical sense. We can only know God through His works, and the chief of His works as manifest in any (decent) church is the Sacred Liturgy. Now, the voice of God as It is heard in the Liturgy seems to me to have been muffled by puffed up liberals in their drastic re-designing of the Designs of the Creator, the supreme Author of Liturgy. The Liturgy, which is the greatest treasure of the Church, has lost all familiarity. These are very complex questions of pastoral needs, but my own needs seem inextricably linked up with familiarity. A Proper Mass in the Old Rite, where the texts have significance and meaning for the liturgical season, would seem to me to be far more ''impressive'' (and pastoral) than yet one more extempore prayer-service, which is called audaciously ''liturgy,'' with more folk-choirs and rather meaningless Scripture lessons thrown in, where a ''parish council'' (yet more grotesque reflections of that tendency, all too easy to find these days, to treat the Church as in someway subject to political trends) decides: ''oh we haven’t had Colours of Day for a while, I think we’ll have that at the Offertory. Oh and Father, do make sure the girls tie back their hair this week, the Communion wine had one floating in it last week.'' I shudder to write things like that, but these things do happen, and are more widespread yet than the venerable Old Rite. Of course, such churches are completely inappropriate and make a farce of the Liturgy.
And it is all quite criminal too. For Bugnini’s (apparent) reasons for liturgical changes, aggiornamento, pastoral needs, and paradoxically, to return the Liturgy to the ''noble simplicity'' of the Fathers (as if this is a guarantee of value, as Tolkien said at the time of the Council; and the Novus Ordo is sufficient evidence to show that Bugnini knew nothing whatsoever about the Fathers, liturgically or otherwise), then making any criticism of the New Rite seems unjust and unreasonable. It is quite genius, one would almost say, devilish. For criticism of the New Rite often comes across as an ad hominem attack on Bugnini himself, or worse, an attack on the Church, or the Mass. But these apparent reasons were stinking red herrings. Bugnini himself admits that it was his intention, in his conquest of the Catholic Church, to sap from the Liturgy anything that was a ''stumbling block'' to Protestants. Why should we moderate our beliefs to suit them? (That is assuming such an attitude to Liturgy were legitimate in the first place!) And he executed this foul design ingeniously. Virtually everything in the New Rite smacks of ambiguity. The Liturgy of the West has become a rather piteous and shadowy hodgepodge of half-remembered traditions and mutilated prayers, where once it was venerable and wonderful. The New Rite has certainly assumed a somewhat Protestant character. What was once reverenced and defended by the Church’s beloved Confessors and Martyrs is now scoffed at by puffed up liberals - the article (''Beyond Language'') published in The Tablet on the Old Rite on the publication of Summorum Pontificum is sufficient to show this.
It has long been alleged that Annibale Bugnini was a Freemason. Now, whether you believe this or not is up to you - I do, as did celebrated author Michael Davies; but what is sad is that the Liturgy has been deformed beyond all recognition largely because of him - he was, even if he was not a Freemason, a rather disgraceful and dubious man. Isn’t it ironic though, that the man whom Modernists champion as a great pioneer of pastoral liturgy spent virtually no time at all in his life tending to the needs of any flock! It is highly unlikely that Pastoral Theology will be done away with - at least any time soon. However, we can take the questions posed by this novel discipline - at least the only one that warrants serious consideration, namely, how to be a good pastor to the flock - and gear it towards liturgical catechetics. How is it best to integrate the misguided laity (and in many cases, clergy!) into the riches of the Church's old liturgical tradition? How can we accustom the laity to the use of the Latin language? And many others beside.
I have spent some days writing this, and I am now somewhat barren of things to say; and so I shall end with two pertinent Scripture quotations: ''Beware lest any man cheat you by philosophy and vain deceit: according to the tradition of men according to the elements of the world and not according to Christ.'' (Colossians 2:8); and ''Therefore, brethren, stand fast: and hold the traditions, which you have learned, whether by word or by our epistle.''