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.
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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.
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