Flying Sparks!

Our friend Patricius has just written Censorship… as a result of having crossed the line on the New Liturgical Movement blog. It was only to be anticipated. It is a long time ago that I ceased to be respectable for any of those conservative and “party line” traditionalist Roman Catholics. I have been subscribed on the ctngreg list on Yahoo Groups for about ten years. I am a lurker because the moderator told me not to send any posts – because I am a schismatic (and perhaps a heretic and apostate too).

Patricius reminds me of something I read about Fr George Tyrrell, that pugnacious Irishman without a shred of tact. The former got himself banished by the more respectable conservative Roman Catholics on the internet, and the latter by the Pope (Pius X). That is his freedom, and he takes the responsibility of calling people riff-raff, morons, etc. It is not my way, especially since I am a priest and am accountable to my Bishop. I am also English, not Irish, and am not attracted to brawls in spite of any number of righteous people who would see me silenced and taken to Room 101 for an encounter with my worst nightmare.

Patricius was brought up a Roman Catholic. I wasn’t. I spent the best part of fifteen years in it and had to look reality in the face. I looked for Tradition expressed through beauty and sanctity, and found authoritarianism and bourgeois conventionalism. It took me a long time to find some kind of stability as a priest and come to terms with my own profound alienation from Roman Catholicism. At the same time, recognising my own shortcomings and ill-advised commitments, I refrain from blaming those I met along my way or those who had authority over me as superiors. I should not have “swum the Tiber” unless I was prepared to accept the reality.

He, I and others are dissidents. We found ourselves alienated for different reasons. There were figures in the past who engaged the RC Church in polemics like Fr Vladimir Guéttée who became Orthodox. Fr George Tyrrell ended up as a hanger-on with a religious community and died a premature death of kidney disease. Those men faced considerable suffering, as did those who fell foul of the Inquisition in earlier times, who were tortured and died horrible deaths. Each man took his responsibility and suffered. Nowadays, we can move to other Church bodies where we find acceptance, or we can lapse altogether and not be thought any the worst for it in society.

A couple of years, the French traditionalist scene got wind of my being a priest in the TAC, and that Rome was about to receive the TAC and make an Ordinariate of it. I was invited to be interviewed on the radio – Radio Notre-Dame and Radio Courtoisie, interviewed for Catholic magazines and invited to talk at conferences. It didn’t go to my head. I just went about it simply and without fanfare, believing I was rendering a service. When things ended up as they did end up, I ceased to exist. In a letter to someone, I sincerely referred to myself as a “nobody with the grace of the priesthood“. The less we think we are, the less disappointed and bitter we will be in life. My life is quieter without those milieux, including some of my old confreres from the Institute of Christ the King. My wife suggested wanting to see the face of my old superior seeing me as a star of the Ordinariate. I was more sober and sceptical, and it is of no concern to me if they enjoyed a moment of Schadenfreude.

Why stir up the hornet’s nest, rather than go the way God is calling us to do something good and positive? That is a guiding principle of my blog, but Patricius is free to do what he believes to be best, if he has the strength to take on the opposition. I don’t believe he has, but he does… I see no sense to prolonging conflicts with the NLM moderators, who would just ignore him. There is no answer against a wall of silence.

For the substance of these questions, to which I alluded in my recent article on the liturgy. There needs to be some serious work on the nature of liturgical tradition, auctoritas, custom and the role of episcopal authority in regulating it and on the basis of which criteria. It’s no good simply calling the Pope and Bugnini nincompoops or other insulting names. Some of us have the same convictions in common, Patricius, Rubricarius and others. I have used the Sarum missal for the past six years one having figured out the rubrics in a practical way. I may not have all the academic justifications to hand, but this is what I do with my Bishop’s knowledge and consent. If Rome ever decides to take the question of the liturgy seriously, everything except the saints’ feasts should be rolled all the way back to the first revision of the 1570 missal (Clement VIII in 1604), at least, and then allow good vernacular translations and other similar pastoral concessions. Local uses should be fostered and revived to the maximum. That is very unlikely to happen, and frankly it’s not my problem.

A good point is made that Bugnini was named and mandated in 1948 by none other than Pius XII, and it is known that there were already designs for a form of the liturgy akin to the ideas of the Jansenists and the Synod of Pistoia. The keynote of such a liturgical reform was to favour the rational dimension or the word over the mystery and liturgical symbolism.

The conservative and traditionalist milieux seem forbidding. They have their entries into official institutions, if that matters to us. I have long ago ceased to be intimidated to those who hurl the words schismatic, heretic and apostate in my face. I went through times of anxiety, anguish and depression when they played cat and mouse with me, promising everything with one hand and taking away with the other. Some are kind and sincere people, doing what they believe is right. We have to respect them for that. There are all kinds of personalities in that world that is no longer mine – and was never really.

I saw the way things went with the English Catholic blog and the beginnings of this one. I could never imagine so much hatred from people claiming to be Christians and orthodox Catholics. I am glad I had that experience after all I went through with the Institute of Christ the King and others. Yes, it was my fault. I should never have gone there in the first place. Lives are lived: they cannot be remade, so it is useless even trying.

I know the patter by heart, like a good Communist knew the works of Karl Marx and all the stuff about the exploiting capitalists and the ever-suffering proletarian workers. Even valid theological categories and terms become slogans, but again, it isn’t my problem. I don’t fight against all that, because I am elsewhere. It isn’t my war.

We need to find peace within ourselves and cease fretting about the rest. The kind of traditionalism I have left, with which Patricius is still at war, is essentially the French bourgeois reaction against the French Revolution and the alienation of the popular classes. There is a class and cultural dimension I could never overcome, even by speaking good French and being le plus français des anglais, as one priest called me at Gricigliano.

I do not comment on traditionalist RC blogs. They are none of my business. I do not belong to their milieux. They are welcome to read my blog for anything they might find to be of interest. The only thing that causes me to moderate comments is a rude tone or behaviour intended to cause emotional reactions – commonly known as trolling. I am a priest, and my duty is to teach and come to the help of anyone who asks my guidance. My blog is my parish, and that needs to be something positive and worthwhile. I cannot allow my energies to be dissipated through shrill polemics and conflict.

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24 Responses to Flying Sparks!

  1. Francis says:

    I suppose that kind of unpleasantness, miles away from Christian charity, arises when the religious feeling becomes yoked to passions – and one of these is pride, of course. I think, Father, you will agree that this is the main problem of “traditionalism” and institutional conservatism – a fact not helped by the instantaneous communication provided by the net. If only traditionalists would see what they describe as a crisis as an opportunity to put into effect the spirit of service, instead of dabbling into court intrigues, with a “blame the jester, not the king” mentality.

  2. Patricius says:

    What traditionalists don’t understand is that somebody could criticize their beliefs from a position other than liberalism, relativism, modernism, or some other religion altogether. I cordially dislike many core traditionalist beliefs and devotions, and I criticize them from the point of view of tradition. And so the problem, for them, is insoluble, it’s unanswerable. They don’t really understand me and so I must be dangerous. So they bring out their charges of Jansenism, heresy and apostasy. I make no secret of my disdain for the Papacy, which represents (to me) a now wholly degraded bishoprick, and I think that to simplify the complexity of causes and effects in the history of the Roman Liturgy (to which I devote the chief amount of my time and thought) is to place the blame, as Rubricarius has pointed out, at the feet of the Papacy itself. The problems become then very easy to understand. But the problem of the Papacy is a matter that traditionalists will not brook. They believe ardently in Pastor Aeternus and the Ultramontane church so they try to answer the various questions with scapegoats and fantasies, like it was all Bugnini’s fault, Vatican II was a latrocinium, etc, etc. I have no time for such conspiracy theories and want of consistency.

    • Francis says:

      I don’t know think you’re all alone in this, as Father Chadwick wrote – Dr Hull and others have articulated something similar, except that they still remain faithful to Pastor Aeternus and to the papacy. The solution is probably the old Churchillian KBO – just continue doing what our ancestors did.

      It is as if some part of the so-called Mystery of Iniquity is being revealed in front of our eyes. The faith is reduced to bare elements of legality, almost as if to remove the colour and fleshness of life thencefrom. Isn’t the faith (ie also the praxis) of the small number, wherever it be found, the faithfulness to the spirit of the Church, the Spirit of Christ, that restraineth?

  3. faithful says:

    It is always difficult not being part of ‘the establishment’. Many pretend that they don’t care, but if that was the case, they would simply walk away, or create their own establishments – as you, Father, seem to have done, as the ‘ladies’ of Romantia did. And sometimes one gets people who seem to be part of the establishment, but never feel they fit in. Back in the 1980s I picked up a copy of a lecture given by Richard Holloway at Little St Mary’s. In it he described talking to a quintessential ‘establishment’ figure who said that he had spent his whole life, Eton, Oxford, successful ‘establishment’ career, London Clubland, et cetera, always feeling he was an outsider. I guess it can be fun to rant at ‘them’, and if one is bitter and feels excluded it may be cathartic; but I doubt it ever really helps anybody.

    • It seems to depend on social origins. My grandfather was one for the smart set, a solid hard-working Yorkshireman, but with certain privileges. He was a Captain in the Green Howards Regiment, and inherited his father’s stone quarrying and coal business. He was a Freemason and became Grand Master of his Lodge. He was awarded the OBE. My father was never attracted to the “mumbo jumbo” and wanted a much more discreet and simple life. I was brought up not to hanker for status and position, but rather to work hard and expect little in return. My father has always had a normal social life, but with people as he found them, from working men, farmers, businessmen, just any good honest decent people. That is the philosophy of life I was brought up with.

      I went to public school (what Americans call private schools), but not Eton. I went to St Peter’s in York. I was a boarder and discipline was tough but reasonable. Corporal punishment was hardly ever used. During my time, two boys got the cane for bullying. Some years later, I went to Fribourg University after a year at the Angelicum in Rome. I suppose that’s my “university bit”. I spent two years in the hothouse at seminary, and school had well prepared me for that

      As for clubs, I have been invited a couple of times to the East India Club in St James’ Square. It seems to be a cross between a saloon bar and a public library where you have to pussyfoot around and respect silence. Men talk in hushed tones and the dress code is strict. I was in a clerical suit which was fine for them. I have to say I found it rather boring apart from my friend’s company. There is the old joke about knowing when a member is dead because of the god-awful stench coming from behind the newspaper! Membership of a club is quite expensive, slightly less than a plush hotel. For me, the quality of being a gentleman is not so much wearing a suit and using a butter knife even when alone, but one’s interior nobility and Christian virtue, capability of kindness and altruism. That’s how I was brought up.

      Wanting to live in exclusive societies is part of human nature. For some, it is a way to deal with insecurity and personal weakness. Living life and getting personal experience is the most important. My father is as comfortable with his plumber as with the headmaster of the school or the Mayor of the town. I have learned also to rise above class distinctions.

      By the way, I have not created my own establishment. I joined the Anglican Catholic Church and serve it as a very ordinary priest. I don’t live in a fantasy world like the “Romantic Ladies”. I am a nobody with the grace of the priesthood, and do my best to live it worthily.

      • faithful says:

        I did not wish to imply that you had created a fantasy (or phantasy, as the ladies of Romantia would prefer). Rather I quite admire those who can leave the mainstream, for want of a better word, structures. I did very much admire Romantia as well, but I was too innocent at the time to see its more unsavoury aspects.

  4. Rubricarius says:

    I must say I do not see the issue as being ‘establishment’ or otherwise but rather of not wanting to be part of the current construct of RC Traddieland with its constant self-referencing and disregard for liturgical history. As Patricius has identified on his own blog the whole edifice is resting on egg shells that could crumble with a change of policy in Rome. I think his comments elsewhere clearly touched more than a proverbial nerve.

    • You are right. We seemed to have gone off at a tangent, but for me it does not distract from the liturgical issue. The considerations as you described motivated me to get a Sarum missal and use it. I have been using Sarum for about 6 years and I don’t in any way identify with the traditionalists. The “whole edifice” is about as fragile as a Church of England parish in the East End waiting for a new Vicar, who might put up a big projection screen in front of the altar and clear a space for the “praise band”. I agree that they can’t bad-mouth Bugnini without also attacking his boss.

      I have no problem with non-liturgical Christians, because we live in a free world. We can do away with liturgy altogether, but we do need to preserve the essential integrity of a liturgical rite like most of the Orthodox do for their Liturgy.

      • Rubricarius says:

        Indeed it does not distract from the liturgical issue but, I would suggest, the liturgy per se is not really of interest to those who would so strongly disagree with us rather it is a useful ‘banner’ to march with. Thank the good God above that we are living in the age we are and where we are: Imagine we were living in the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries, those who would censor our views would happily burn us and do so with a grin on their faces as they rejoiced in doing the Lord’s bidding – in their view.

      • Michael Frost says:

        I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced Christian worship that wasn’t “liturgical”, at least if two or more Christians gather together on the Lord’s Day expressly for the purpose of worship. No matter how low or non-church they pretend to be, over time they develop their own “norms”, “rituals”, “rubrics”, and “traditions”. And even if they were to try to be purely random, that, too, would be its own ritual and tradition. Two low churchmen who do a great job discussing these sorts of things are Simon Chan’s Liturgical Theology: The Church as Worshipping Community (IVP, 2006) and Bryan Chapell’s Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice (Baker Academic, 2009).

      • This is revealing itself to be a difficult subject. Does liturgy have to be descended from traditional forms going back to recognised legitimate sources. Or, can liturgy be changed and invented afresh, and still be liturgy. Should there be any regulation. My intuition tells me that a free-for-all situation would be better, and then everything can co-exist. That presupposes a “liberalism” with an unheard-of degree of tolerance!

        I think of some of the reflections by Stephen K I have read, which make a lot of sense. Academically, I find the position of Rubricarius and Patricius compelling. Pastorally, and in the present situation, I have many doubts. This makes the life of a priest difficult.

  5. Patricius says:

    I think you can “invent” liturgy, but you have to be good at it, and I have not to date encountered any constructed/invented liturgy that has been to my taste or been demonstrably liturgically accurate.

    Maybe it’s because I am autistic but I always felt myself an outsider in both London clubland and the traditionalist world. But then I have always been rather reclusive and preferring my own company to great concourse of folk, and I restrict my circle of friends to a select few people. I actually tend to forget “new” people who write to me, for example, though not always on purpose.

    • Michael Frost says:

      As both Chan and Chapell point out in quite sufficient detail, even when some try to “invent” liturgy, they end up where it always has been, both East and West. (See also Luther Reed and Frank Senn’s respective wonderful books looking at the history of Christian liturgics and the specific components of historical Christian liturgy.)

      All one has to do is break down the “components”.

      So for non-eucharistic services, we tend to have welcome, confession, hymns, psalms, readings, sermon, and blessing.

      And for Eucharistic services, we tend to have all of the above plus Creed, offertory, and Eucharistic “canon” (nearly always with words of institution and often/usually with some reference to Holy Spirit). In the historic confessing communions, the fixed parts tend to include the Gloria, Kyrie, Agnes Dei, and Sursum Corda. Plus propers.

      Fools and the ignorant may add dancers, clowns, rock bands, mimes, power point presentations & multi-media extravaganzas, but when you strip away this dross underneath you find the basics.

      • I just see no point in inventing liturgies, even if the “ingredients” of the “recipe” are right. We can make the music easier to learn to sing, form small and competent choirs, allow literary vernacular translations, have small churches so that people are not too far from the altar. But we should keep traditional liturgies and respect their integrity even though they are man-made and were “invented” at some time. Pastoral adaptations by all means, but keeping the essential of the rite. It is possible and what we do in our Church.

    • You ought to get to know Bishop Damien Mead who does a lot of work with autistic children. You would have a rare insight as someone who is not “very” autistic. Have you been diagnosed as autistic? I ask this because many of us can have social difficulties and be somewhat introverted, but yet adapt to make life possible. I am not very good with crowds and “mass” phenomena, and prefer more intimate social settings.

      Here’s a few links:

      I am sure you have already worked on your social skills. It is important to get over the message of what many of us have in common. Please don’t take this as patronising. I have never been found to be austistic, but I did have poor social skills as a kid as I read written in my school reports. There is society and society. People in large numbers can be somewhat asinine (slogans, ideologies, etc.), but relationships are important.

      The essential thing is to be courteous and respectful, even with people we believe to be wrong or mistaken. Engage them with ideas and theses and have a sense of direction. Kindness and politeness in all things. You will do yourself a favour.

  6. faithful says:

    I guess a certain temperamental difference exists here. The idea of a free for all fills me with horror, but is that just due to some innate conservatism on my part?

    In matters of religion, it all comes down to tradition, authority, and how you view them. I enjoyed being an Anglo-Catholic as a young man. Part of what I enjoyed was the club-like nature of it all. I could go anywhere in the country and find a ‘sound’ church, where the fact that I was a regular at St Mary’s Bourne Street and knew all the lingo would mean that I was immediately accepted. Twenty years ago I became a Roman Catholic, because the ordination of women shook my view of the CofE. Suddenly it seemed to have no Authority, because it was abandoning Tradition. Rome claimed Authority and seemed safe. I have never been part of the Traddy world, but I can see the real appeal. It would be like being an Anglo-Catholic all over again. But I know it wouldn’t be good for me.

    I am no longer sure what point I am trying to make here. I guess that it is something along the lines of ‘people take up religious positions because it is comforting to belong, or conversely because sometimes it is more fun not to belong, but hold oneself aloof.’ I don’t mean to be critical. Or if I do, it is more of myself than anyone else.

  7. Dale says:

    Personally, I have always appreciated Patricius and the positions he takes (perhaps because they are very close to my own?). And I can well see why many, both modernists as well as traditionalists, would find him a bit frightful! He is not boxed in by party platitudes and he knows his “stuff.” The fact that he is not tied to a party hook-line-and-sinker can only be considered by many to be dangerous. Patricius, please keep up the good work and realize you are not alone: “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” Being disliked is not as bad as many make it out to be!

    • I agree with you. He is a bright lad and needs to be encouraged. At the same time, we can be kind to people and courteous with our adversaries. It doesn’t cost us anything, and we can be more persuasive with what we believe really matters.

      • Dale says:

        Yes, I agree with you about being kind and courteous with our adversaries, but Father, we are both much older than Patricius! For the time being, I rather enjoy his ability to be honest and forthright (almost at times to the point of rudeness)…of course not too long ago one of your posters was accusing me of being less than polite as well!

      • I agree. I find him stimulating. As a layman, Patricius has nothing to lose, and he has a forceful style of writing. It’s a difficult balance.

  8. Joseph says:

    The “New Liturgical Movement” was never able to live up to the name. Hanging on to such ideas like “there’s a unique idiom of Christian Latin, designed to be a linguistic code for liturgical purposes” (really, it’s just questionable Latin grammar). In any event, they’ve gone off the deep end over the last year over there. Myself and one other person that I can only vaguely recall used to get involved when Shawn Tribe would prop up Christine Morhman’s theories. We’d hit them with Latin grammar and comparative analysis with early Italian. We would either have our comments deleted or the then editor would respond, “Nevertheless, the argument has been made” and challenge us to provide a scholarly source refuting this. Each time I was due to respond, he would close the comments down on the post.

    So, that is who you have over there. People who are, on some level, aware of the fragility of their proposition and will not entertain any serious constructive criticism.

    • I was quite excited when Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope in 2005. I wasn’t yet in the TAC (I joined in August 2005). I had been reading his writings on the liturgy and appreciated his pastoral and pragmatic approach. He had to dumb it all down when he became Pope, but he could get out the odd idea, and of course went as far as he dared with Summorum Pontificium. So far so good. I was familiar with the gradual approach when I was a parish deacon in the early 1990’s, and re-introducing things with faithful used to modern style liturgies. It seemed logical. This is the soil from which the various standard phrases and expressions come – “hermeneutic of continuity”, “organic development”, “reform of the reform”, “new liturgical movement”. I felt a considerable sympathy for Ratzinger’s thought, and in many ways still do.

      I don’t know why Shawn Tribe left the NLM. I have followed that blog since it first came out. A friend of mine here in France is one of the contributors, but hardly ever contributes anything. It seems to have inspired Christian Campbell’s The Anglo-Catholic. There are still some very interesting articles. I have not bothered to comment on the NLM because I am for them an “irregular” cleric, therefore vitandus. I just don’t bother. I’m not on the warpath to convert NLM to another ideology. It’s not my job.

      The best thing is for us to run our own blogs, link to each other. If we have anything interesting to say, people will read it, otherwise they will have better things to do in life. I don’t worry about it.

      • Joseph says:

        I suppose my issue was that NLM was an evocative idea, at least when Ratzinger mentioned the need for such a thing. Liturgical theology/studies plummeted in quality after Paul VI’s missal was published. The great figures were largely gone. So, to establish some current that could restore a profound liturgical theology, to rescue liturgical studies from poor projections of pop psychology at best, daft attempts at new age spirituality at worst, and, more importantly, to re-establish some form of balanced discussion of the liturgy, whatever the form, seemed a noble endeavor.

        I don’t know if was the stream of posts that were on the verge of presenting a glorious expose on the mysteries of the Roman fiddle-back, or if was the attempts at resurrecting an argument that had been credibly discredited by the majority of Latin scholars, or if it was insisting on a Latin only liturgy by persons whose comprehension of the language was suspect at best, but at some point I thought the whole notion lost the plot. I don’t think, in any of my commenting I was ever on a war path. Although, by about 2010 I was at the point of reading articles and thinking, “I can’t believe people believe this.” Not that I am opposed to Latin. In fact, I wish there were more of it. But I took the time to learn the language, to be familiar with some of subtle qualities to the Latin text that do not necessarily translate. I certainly don’t think Latin has a unique sacral or transcendent quality to it.

        You may be “irregular” for them, but you’re dealing with a group that desperately wants easy answers to what are, in my estimation, extremely complex problems. Above all, it wants to believe that Rome has always steered a steady ship, impervious to the many cultural and historical waves about it. Its a quasi-gnostic concept of the Church, held by those who in virtue of the professed concern for orthodoxy in all liturgical matters ought to know better.

        I am an “irregular layman”, I suppose. I do have a love for the old liturgy, in whatever form I can find it. I have a few minor gripes with the Holy Week reforms. I have no problem with Pius X’s schema for the Roman Psalter. This said, for public worship I attend the Antiochian Orthodox Church here in the States. I’ve just grown tired of many battles one fights in the Roman Church, and the West in general – I just don’t have it. Conversely, I don’t think the Orthodox Churches are a solution for everyone, nor am I willing to denigrate Catholicism and its powerful liturgical and spiritual traditions. At some point, I just hate being an ecclesiastical island unto myself. The nature of the Orthodox Church in the states provides me with some venue for corporate expression. Again, though, I do not think it is the “golden ticket” It is, for my situation, the most pragmatic option given the numerous considerations that factored into the decision.

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