I linked to Fr Hunwicke’s article When did the “Vatican II” liturgical ‘reforms’ really begin? yesterday whilst discussing the Ordo done by Rubricarius in Worcestershire. There are some comments thereto appended. This one by Anselm in particular draw my attention:

Very interesting indeed for private study and for a possible reform of the Usus Antiquior in fifty or so years time. Thank you Father for suggesting this. However the Usus Antiquior (1962) is also in continuity with what ‘B John Henry Newman, Bishop Challoner, the English Martyrs, all the Saints (and sinners and common ordinary Christians) of the Western Church in the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, centuries’ prayed. If you don’t believe me, then re-read ‘Summorum Pontificum’. There is also this important question : ‘Why not go back to the time before Pope St. Pius X, or even further back to the first edition of the Breviarium Romanum and the Missale Romanum ? Or even further back ? Despite unfortunate changes in the history of the Roman liturgy, we can still speak of continuity. Change can also be beneficial too. For example, the introduction of new feast days, more prominence given to the seasons of Advent and Lent, and ordinary Sundays, and ‘some’ simplification of rubrics. It is also worth re-reading Pope Pius XII’s groundbreaking encyclical, ‘Mediator Dei’, specially in relation to ‘archaeologism’. We should not be too hard on this great and venerable pope. Thank you.

It’s just the same kind of stuff you get about the Sarum Use. If you follow the logic, then this gentleman should go to the Novus Ordo and nothing else. A “possible reform of the Usus Antiquior in fifty or so years time. I can only assume Anselm is a little child or at least a young boy, since he assumes he will still be alive in that time frame to enjoy the promised future reform. In reality it’s just a smug grin to say “never”. Talk about patronising…

It is not my wish to be nasty with a person I have never met and will probably never meet. My concern is with the reductio ad absurdam that is applied by many Roman Catholic conservatives – if we don’t accept the contemporary liturgy we have to be “archaeologist” and revive much earlier liturgical forms than the ones to which we are attached like Sarum or the pre-Pius XII Roman liturgy. I have discovered in life that many things cannot be judged by the reductio ad absurdam principle, that there exists a via media or as St Thomas Aquinas put it, translating from Aristotle – in medio stat virtus. The Roman Catholic conservatives want to uniformise everything around the two uses (as Benedict XVI put it in Summorum Pontificium). You don’t talk too much about the Ambrosian or Lugdonensis rite, and the Dominican rite is too well contained to care about. Things would be a lot better with more liturgical diversity. There aren’t many Roman Catholics or Anglicans who would go any earlier than the period immediately preceding the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. The argument of “If you want something older than what is in contemporary papal legislation, you have to want some third-century fragments dug out of the incunables department of the Vatican Library” just doesn’t wash.

Though I don’t know Anselm, and I won’t go out of my way to meet him, I felt an “atmosphere” as I read his condescending words, and it was an unpleasant one. I spent fifteen years as a Roman Catholic. I was able to find another Church in which the Catholic Church subsists, and for that I am eternally grateful. To be out of the stifling hothouse – I am truly thankful to have my life back!

As for such attitudes as that of Anselm, it is best to spit it out and move on.

* * *

This little bit is worth adding – Patricius‘ write-up, More snides…, which is a lot more intemperate than mine. I am not interested in saying bad things about the unknown person behind the Anselm pseudonym. This seems to be like a case of condemning the sin and not the sinner. It is definitely a tendency rather than a person.

I think what got up my nose was the unoriginality of the comment, its being representative of a totalitarian vision of Catholicism which, fortunately, does not have the sanction of the very authorities to which these conservatives appeal. The joke has worn off. We are no more inspired by this kind of thing than with the maxims of Chairman Mao Tse-Tung’s Little Red Book. The condescending moralism is at about the same level of ideology.

Patrick and I seem, both of us, to pick up on the same points to criticise. As a priest using the Sarum Use with the knowledge and tolerance of my Bishop, I am familiar with the “museum” argument. We live in an age when everything is in a museum except what is most “modern”. We are cut off from our cultural roots in a “hermeneutic of rupture”. Anselm perfectly represents the modern managerial style that cannot tolerate any cultural reference other than his own. Any object in a museum, if it is in functional condition, can be used and made to live. It suffices to use a liturgical book and everything comes alive.

I have also grown tired with the development theory, since it has been hacked to death and can be used to justify anything. At the same time, it is impossible to justify Bossuet’s semper idem. We are putting ourselves above history and judging it like an item in a museum. What is tradition? Perhaps we need to be less self-conscious and stop trying to justify everything – just get on with life.

Back to the ideological dimension, projecting one’s ideology on a Church one would like to be Ultramontanist and totalitarian. The square peg no longer fits the round hole. Anselm is the exhibit in the museum, the one suffering from cognitive dissonance – and perhaps licking window panes as Patrick so deliciously puts it. Being a priest of another Church, I can take something of an aloof attitude – but I hope with compassion.

The Enlightenment was designed to be all about dispelling irrational ideology to replace it with reason and balanced argumentation. The Romantics went further and sought to free the imagination, the heart and feeling. We live in a time that reflects the eighteenth century in many ways: science and technology, the widening gulf between rich and poor and the imminent breakdown of the entire system. Our collective memory remains influenced by what the twentieth-century dictators left behind – and the extent to which churchmen saw opportunities in spite of the flagrant violation of human rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We need to begin to learn from history and develop our critical faculties.

This question goes far beyond a single person writing comments on a blog or even questions of liturgical minutiae. The real issue is the mentality behind it, which isn’t pretty. The totalitarian party is over, at least in churches. If we continue in this trajectory, we pass into history and our artefacts whose purpose will be forgotten will be placed in museums. If the heart is gone, the savour of the salt, then it is over. I think Patrick senses this as much as I do, even if his expression is different.

The work begins within ourselves, nowhere else.

* * *

Some postings I have written on the question of liturgical tradition and archaeologism.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Dripping…

  1. Patricius says:

    Dripping, as in dripping poison? Anselm, judging by his comment, is a true Tradunculus; that is a nasty, wretched little traditionalist. And you are absolutely right, father. By his own logic he should just attend the Novus Ordo. Nobody has the right to profess such demonstrably erroneous views.

    I actually marvel that the eminent Fr Hunwicke has the forebearance to put up with such people.

    • Thanks, Patrick. I have no wish to be nasty with any person. I can’t be nasty with Anselm because I am unlikely ever to meet him. Life is too short. I can only compare his standard unoriginal patter with some people I have known. They are not nice people. They have no empathy or care for other people, let alone our liturgical concerns. Their “church” is a totalitarian anthill, which is not a part of my life.

      Fr Hunwicke is obviously not afraid of an argument and won’t be easily be gagged by such a whipper-snapper.

    • Xryztofer says:

      Then again, he may simply be a young man in the grip of a new-found fervor. Most of us have been there at some point. I now wince at many of the things I remember myself as having said when I had fewer grey hairs, but no one was ever so condescending as to tell me I didn’t have the right to profess them.

      • This could be so. Give him 10 years and he’ll be an atheist – or a mellowed and wise Christian.

        Grey hair? Well you have seen my white “Wesley” mane. I haven’t a hair that isn’t grey!

        Indeed, each to his views, since in Anselm’s case they will never prevail.

  2. ed pacht says:

    Grey hairs? Several years ago I was going grey — no more — I’m leaving it as rapidly as I can. I have very few grey hairs left. It’s all very, very white now. And, yes, when I was just going grey I still needed a lot of the seasoning of years. I like to think I’m improving, like good wine or cheese.

  3. Patricius says:

    Nobody has the right to believe lies any more than people have the right to tell them.

    • It is possible that Anselm sincerely believes what he wrote. In which case, subjectively, he would not be lying. The problem is knowing whether his ignorance is crass or invincible. I do my best to avoid judging persons, but it’s open season on what he wrote and the ideas he represents.

      • Patricius says:

        Hence my description of the inpatient in the insane asylum: “patient lacked affect after remonstrance about what really happened.” With traddies, their ignorance masks a plurality of insecurities. There is something very unwholesome about their worldview, their willful inability to hear the truth when it is told them. It’s as if to admit any culpability of a pope other than Paul VI in the destruction of the Roman tradition is tantamount to denying the Real Presence!

      • Yeah… It’s not an easy one to reason out. As I say, I prefer not to speculate about individuals or try to evaluate their mental health. Mental illness can also be collective, and the ideas we are discovering collude with the criticism of religion and faith in general by the new atheists (Dawkins and co.). It is a reason why we need to be critical with ourselves so that our reason for being religious is not emotional or mental insecurity but a disinterested faith in and love for a God whose consciousness is as real as ours.

        As far as I am concerned, papal ecclesiology is debunked and finds itself in the same dustbin as Der Führer hat immer Recht / Il Duce ha sempre raggione / L’Etat c’est moi.

        If truth has no intrinsic value outside of the power of an authority to constrain, then it is truly rubbish. Fortunately, the Church didn’t always operate like that, and we have to be careful to find and dry the baby before pouring away the bathwater. We know that there is a baby, if you get my meaning.

  4. Dale says:

    So much of what this Anselm writes is simply normal babble of liturgical modernists of both the Anglican as well as the Roman Catholic world that I fail to even be remotely interested in it. I would venture to say that almost all of us have heard this same song-and-dance over the years; the old rites are simply play-acting, irrelevant, or archeology; it is tiresome. It appears that the only thing that makes any sense is polyester liturgies from the 1960/70’s…everything else means nothing. The unfortunate, but usually not mentioned truth, is that all of the gosh-I-am-really-cool liturgies from the post-Vatican II world are now just as out-of-date; but without the beauty, majesty, or continuation of the older rites. Rather like comparing orange shag carpeting from the 1970’s to centuries old hand-rubbed hard-wood floors.

    But, Patricius, loved your response; both on your own site as well as in the comment box!

    • Patricius says:

      Dale, thank you. I would go so far as to say that nothing more clearly exemplifies the contempt traditionalists have for the genuine Roman Tradition than the sentiment behind Anselm’s comment. Upon reading it, I honestly felt a desire to strike him.

      • I saw the comment he put on your blog after your newest posting. His manner is quite that of a predatory troll. That being said, you could “expose” yourself a little less – that isn’t being secretive. Anyway, you have your freedom…

        Just a little note to those interested in the question of so-called dead liturgies and archaeologism, here are some postings I have written, since I am very interested in this subject.

  5. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    In the comments on Fr. Hunwicke’s post, Patricius has interesting things to say about Tolkien, and mentions his translation of Jonah.

    In that context, I thought that, in case readers here had not heard of it, already, I might mention that The Journal of Inklings Studies, vol. 4, no. 2 (October 2014) includes (pp. 5-9) the first publication of Tolkien’s translation of the book of Jonah for the English version of The Jerusalem Bible as he submitted it, before its style was ‘regularized’ (“in consultation with Tolkien”) to form part of “a coherent whole.”

    This is followed by an essay by Brendan N. Wolfe (pp. 11-26) drawing on published and previously unpublished material (in the Bodleian) about Tolkien’s correspondence with the editor, Fr. Alexander Jones, and his involvement with The Jerusalem Bible – including a sample of Tolkien’s translation from the first chapter of Isaiah (verses 2-3), along with some thoughts about “Middle-earth and the World of Jonah” and “Tolkien’s literary ideas and Jonah”. Not everything in this ‘Inklings and the Bible’ issue is of equal merit, but I am currently enjoying an article on Tolkien’s Elvish account of the creation in The Silmarillion by the late Stratford Caldecott.

    If a nearby library does not have a subscription, they might be politely encouraged to think about whether it would be a responsible use of their funds to take one. The website has more information about various subscription details, single-copy sales, kindle, things available to read free online, etc.: http://www.inklings-studies.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s