Un panier de crabes doesn’t mean very much in English, but I was appalled on reading The Sacra Liturgia Conference has set the cause of the Reform of the Reform back by 20 years. That may not be a bad thing. The subject of this piece by the LMS chairman reflects what I put up yesterday. I suppose that the essential theme of this posting is that the more the Novus Ordo is prevented from taking a more “traditional” form, the more people would be attracted to the Pius V liturgy. Perhaps…
The article conveys to me the shocking reality of parish life ruled by technocrats like in the dioceses, the episcopal conferences and in Rome. No “reform of the reform” is possible and the agenda of the former Pope is forthwith cancelled. No surprise. It also means the same thing as everyday life.
I mentioned the other day that I spent a night with my boat in a fishing port. I simply tied up my boat is a vacant space and left the following morning. It is a bit like the distinction between illegal camping and bivouacking. You just do it, and the worst thing that can happen is being told by a policeman to move on. You ask official permission and you have to jump through hoops all the way, producing the registration documents of your boat (mine don’t exist) and all sorts of prohibitive conditions.
Ask your RC bishop for permission to celebrate using Sarum or the Novus Ordo in Latin facing east, and you might as well be asking for permission to (you name it…). With such official inertia, who wants to be a priest or attend church as a lay person, unless it is for some kind of power trip manipulating other people and making them as helpless and unhappy as possible. As a result of Cardinal Sarah’s words, no different from those of Cardinal Ratzinger’s or Schönborn’s in a different era, a priest has to jump through hoops to say the Novus Ordo on the church’s old altar (assuming it hasn’t been wreckovated). That said, I don’t suppose the English Oratories will be visited by goons to enforce the repression.
It all reminds me of Victorian Anglo-Catholicism in the days of anti-Ritualist repression and priests being sent to jail for very little – just a pair of candles and eastward celebration with very simple vestments. The problem for Rome and the RC technocrats is that they can’t use the civil and criminal laws of the state – Separation of Church and State! But anyone who goes the way of anarchy becomes marginal. You are no longer comfortably mainstream with the money and respectability. That is the agony of the conservatives – certainly not mine!
The point is made: The golden rule in such matters is that you don’t press for clarification unless you are sure things will be clarified in your favour. In short, like in France, you just do something until you are told that it’s not allowed – like parking your car or mooring your boat. Everything is forbidden but everybody does it. English RC’s have become like the Germans – everything is forbidden unless it’s allowed. Churchill put it the other way round for England. Everything is allowed unless it’s forbidden.
The status quo in the RC Church is permanent, inevitable and graven in the rock – at least as much as in the Thousand Year Reich, the Soviet Union or the Brussels Bureaucracy. Earthly empires only last so long before they collapse. When this one goes, I don’t see the conservatives winning. Christianity will be perceived as “rubbish” by many more people. The Church, as sacrament of Christ, will continue to subsist and will survive in the little marginal communities that come and go like each of us comes and goes.
It is ironic that the Pius V liturgy is more “respectable” than the Novus Ordo dressed up as the old liturgy or simply celebrated eastwards. The Pius V option can be contained, whilst the Novus Ordo is the “mainstream”. In 1860, there was a hell of a lot of difference between St Albans Holborn or St Peter’s London Docks and your average respectable Squire’s parish in the country where the organist went fishing during the extremely long sermons of the day! Comparisons can be made, however imperfect they may be.
I had the experience as a Roman Catholic deacon in a parish in the Sens-Auxerre archdiocese of trying to go “brick by brick” as certain American priests would put it. It was a disaster. Everything has become so polarised between those who are effectively Evangelicals and the priests trying to bring back a more contemplative liturgy and making their flocks learn different things. They are stick in the mud, because the Novus stuff is what is traditional for them. It’s now forty seven years since the Novus Ordo was promulgated by Paul VI! That’s a hell of a long time – and it’s now as permanent as a body with malignant cancer. It’s a cultural issue. The old liturgy – Pius V, Sarum, Ambrosian, whatever is only relevant to cultured and contemplatively-minded priests and folk. It will never be anything but marginal. The old idea from the Benedict XVI era that the “progressives” were dying dinosaurs soon to replaced by young conservatives was a fallacy. Thus Benedict XVI abdicated, probably knowing that Bergoglio was waiting for his place! The mask is off and all the discussions of 2011 and 2012 are now moot, as dead as fossils.
I learned many things from my fifteen-year stint in the RC Church. I have had to rethink my own priestly vocation. I am irrelevant to absolutely everyone in the place where I live, so it can only have any meaning in a “contemplative” kind of way, except that I don’t have the regularity and asceticism of monks. The pearl hangs by a slender thread, especially through my Bishop’s fatherly encouragement and tolerance of my wild eccentricities. I don’t have the same judgement of the traditionalists as my friend Patrick. Simply they and I don’t live in the same world. I am increasingly alienated from their categories and priorities. For them I am dead, and for me they are a distant abstraction.
For me, as for most in my little Church, we don’t have to face the agony and cognitive dissonance. We just get on with what we have and are, and do not have to justify or prove anything to anyone outside our own canonical chain of command and hierarchy. We have the eastward-facing liturgy, whether it’s Anglican Missal or Sarum, even if almost no one is interested in attending it. The RC traditionalists, whether they are SSPX or Fraternity of St Peter or Gricigliano, have their own history and cultural references.
The western world will be decreasingly Christian, and the Roman Catholic Church simply seeks to preserve it assets and capital like the Anglican Communion or the Methodists. We enter the mouth of the vacuum faced with the spectre of Big Brother and crazy jihadists killing everyone in sight. There was what appeared to be a new spring, but it was false and as fleeting as a mayfly.
Any real spring will have to be preceded by realism and an extremely sober attitude. The present dark age will not be dispelled by Benedictine monasteries or anything. It doesn’t mean either that we should cease to be Christians, give up and die. It just means that truth and holiness are elsewhere and within ourselves as tiny seeds waiting to be sown. Indeed, the Parable of the Sower.