"It is...Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." -- Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914)

Monday, January 6, 2014

Are supporters of the Traditional Mass dangerous?



Fr Michael Brown saying the EF Mass at a side Altar in St Peter's.

Should we be suspicious of those who say or attend the Traditional Mass? Are they skating on thin ice, in danger of picking up dodgy theological ideas, in danger of getting involved with groups with schismatic attitudes, which reject the Second Vatican Council? Such suspicion has long been the lot of priests and laity who get involved with the Extraordinary Form. It has become harder to maintain in recent years for three reasons: first, the shortage of priests has forced bishops and superiors to make use of the talents of priests who like the Tradition; second, a new generation of theologians and liturgical scholars are breaking down the negative assumptions about the Vetus Ordo; thirdly, Summorum Pontificum gave these priests and laity rights which are difficult to deny.

There are now just too many priests who say the EF to keep this suspicion up. In England and Wales there are seven bishops who have said the Traditional Mass, three of these, plus three other bishops, have conferred the sacrament of Confirmation according to the 1962 books; two bishops who haven't said the EF have presided at it.

Five priests who have said it (since 1970, I mean) have regular slots in our national Catholic newspapers. (One of these is Mgr Basil Loftus. It takes all sorts.)

Such priests can be found working for the Bishops' Conference in positions of trust; there are seven University Chaplains who say the EF, and there are also chaplains of some of our leading Catholic schools.

The suspicion of those who like the Vetus Ordo is connected, of course, with the existence of groups with genuinely extreme views, which use the same Form of the Roman Rite, which lack canonical status. Never mind the SSPX: there are cranks out there who think the SSPX is dangerously liberal. What I have never been able to understand, however, is why this lunatic fringe can be used to tar the mainstream Trads while the liberal lunatic fringe, which is far more densely populated and dangerous, doesn't being suspicion down on what we might call mainstream liberals. Why seminarians used to ask to receive their copies of Mass of Ages in a plain brown envelope, but could flaunt copies of The Tablet as much as they liked. There is zero common cause between the Latin Mass Society and the Sede Vacantists. The same can't be said about The Tablet and the excommunicants and schismatics who take part in mock ordinations of women.

Part of the explanation is the way that the texts of the Second Vatican Council have been used and interpreted. As has been said frequently in recent months, however, the liberals have more sore points with these texts than the trads do. As a service to readers I reproduce a list of texts which you can try out on your local liberal, which I included in one of my Chairman's Message columns in the Mass of Ages. Ask him, or her, if he is happy to accept this teaching. For best results don't tell them it was in Vatican II until after they've choked on their tea.

  • Dei Verbum 19: ‘The four Gospels just named, whose historical character the Church unhesitatingly asserts, faithfully hand on what Jesus Christ, while living among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation until the day He was taken up into heaven.’
  • Lumen gentium 14: ‘Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church.’
  • Lumen gentium 22: ‘The pope’s power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power.’
  • Gaudium et spes 37: ‘A monumental struggle against the powers of darkness pervades the whole history of man. The battle was joined from the very origins of the world and will continue until the last day, as the Lord has attested.’
  • Gaudium et spes 48: ‘By their very nature, the institution of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation and education of children, and find in them their ultimate crown.’
  • Gaudium et spes 51: ‘Therefore from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.’
  • Orientalium Ecclesiarum 26: ‘Common participation in worship [with non-Catholics] which harms the unity of the Church or involves formal acceptance of error or the danger of aberration in the faith, of scandal and indifferentism, is forbidden by divine law.’
  • Sacrosanctum Concilium 4: ‘in faithful obedience to tradition, the sacred Council declares that holy Mother Church holds all lawfully acknowledged rites to be of equal right and dignity; that she wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way.’
  • Sacrosanctum Concilium 23: ‘Finally, there must be no innovations [in the liturgy]unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.’
  • Sacrosanctum Concilium 36. 1. ‘Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.’
  • Optatam totius 13: ‘Moreover they [seminarians] are to acquire a knowledge of Latin which will enable them to understand and make use of the sources of so many sciences and of the documents of the Church.’
  • Unitatis Redintegratio 4: ‘All in the Church must preserve unity in essentials. But let all, according to the gifts they have received enjoy a proper freedom, in their various forms of spiritual life and discipline, in their different liturgical rites, and even in their theological elaborations of revealed truth. In all things let charity prevail. If they are true to this course of action, they will be giving ever better expression to the authentic catholicity and apostolicity of the Church.’

Orientale Lumen 8: ‘Today we often feel ourselves prisoners of the present. It is as though man had lost his perception of belonging to a history which precedes and follows him. This effort to situate oneself between the past and the future, with a grateful heart for the benefits received and for those expected, is offered by the Eastern Churches in particular, with a clear-cut sense of continuity which takes the name of Tradition and of eschatological expectation.’

Bishop John Arnold saying the EF in Westminster Cathedral.


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