Despite my suspicion that the "Extraordinary" is slated to become the "Ordinary"
The seriously misguided and far too influential Dario Cardinal Castrillon de Hoyos
You'd probably do better, your eminence, in putting your good offices to work on things like getting FARC hostages in Colombia released, rather than indulging your obsessions over the Latin Mass.
I believe there is a difference and a fine line between critiquing the church (asking hard and challenging questions of both the laity and the clergy) and garden variety anti-Catholicism. I’ll stand on record and say that I believe there is also a difference between faithful dissent and attacking the Church.
Every now and then I feel a need to put a level-set on what I’m attempting to do here. On my reading list, you can often find material that challenges orthodox interpretations of the faith (Nobody is going to tell me what I can read and can’t read. After all, they read everything at the Vatican). In addition, I’ve had plenty of posts that boost certain theologians who’ve found themselves in hot water in Rome over the years, as well as some posts that have criticized various members of the hierarchy, trends I find disturbing, and poor decisions that have been made over the course of the last 40 years or so. Nevertheless, what I do here is never intended to tear the Catholic Church down. On the contrary. What I’ve always wanted to do here is to build her back up, emphasizing what I consider to be the strongest points in her traditions and teachings. I don’t do this for the entertainment of non-Catholics and skeptics who get a kick out of seeing a Catholic bashing his own hierarchy.
I’m pretty conservative in my basic inclinations, mostly as a result of my upbringing, and the peers and families who’ve most influenced me by positive example. On the other hand, prayerful and collaborative priests who trusted the laity to do the right thing helped to form my vision of the Church. I don’t feel particularly comfortable having to consistently carry water for either the traditionalist or the liberal wings of the Church. As my profile indicates, what concerns me is not championing the causes of the left or right, but polarization, which indicates frustration with both ends of the spectrum. I embrace much of the progressive agenda, I do, but being staunchly pro-life, I’d probably never make a good spokesman for the far left wing of the Church. Liberal Catholicism as it’s commonly understood isn’t really my thing. I like certain aspects of Liberation Theology, which is radical, not necessarily liberal.
When I first started posting on the web, it was on conservative apologetics forums. Like many Boston-area Catholics, I felt a strong sense of outrage and demoralization when the sexual abuse crisis exploded and felt compelled to explore in depth the “root cause” of the problem. Many of us read the books related to the crisis that were getting most of the attention in the mainstream media at the time. I plowed through some of the works of Gary Wills, Donald Cozzens, James Carrol, Paul Dinter, Thomas Cahill, Joseph Girzone, Eugene Kennedy, and others. While some of these authors brought up some great points that are worth considering, I felt that the tone was essentially defeatist and depressing. They seemed void of solutions and void of hope. In addition, it was clear to me that these authors, many of whom were ex-seminarians or ex-priests, clearly had their own agendas and their own demons that they were trying to project upon the Church. Forget about self-flagellation as described in The Da Vinci code. Immersing yourself in the thought held in certain corners of the Church is the ultimate in self-flagellation.
When I played sports as a youth, I learned that you never sit on the bench and hang your head when your team is in trouble. You “put on your game face” and rally.
Poking around on the web, I stumbled upon the world of Catholic apologetics. At the time it was a pleasure to be exposed to men and women who felt no shame in being Catholic, who fully embraced Vatican II without mumbling about how embarrassing the pre-Vatican II Church was. Books that had gone dusty on my shelf by Augustine, Teresa of Avila, Fulton Sheen and Ignatius Loyola, I re-opened with new vigor. I’ll state here that Thomas Rausch and Michael Himes probably never would have motivated me to and explore the rich tradition of the early Church fathers. Would Richard McBrien or Charles Curran motivate any one us to mine the treasures to be found in reading Newman, Francis De Sales, Catherine of Siena, and Robert Bellarmine? Probably not. I found myself wondering if Wills & Co. were wrong. Rather, was the fundamental analysis of the “root cause of the problem” by George Weigel right? As Fr. Neuhaus put it, was the answer “Fidelity, fidelity, fidelity”?
Over time I started to see some real problems in those circles, and a troublingly consistent trend. What I discovered was the furtive (and at times not so furtive) contempt for JPII mixed in with the common hagiography that circled around him, and not for his conservatism. It was for his supposed “liberalism” and “modernism”. What I also found, much to my dismay, was not appreciation for Vatican II, but representations ranging from the most tepid endorsements that were humanly possible, to outright hijacking of the council’s purpose and intent and the motivation behind its documents; and worst of all, the accusation that it was some kind of Communist/Masonic/Jewish plot that was responsible for the destruction of the Church and all of the accompanying evil in the world. Some of this came with a nasty streak of anti-semitism which wouldn’t have been so bad if it had been laughed off by more reasonable people as absurd, or if it had been condemned. As fundamentalism sweeps the planet in one form or another, it became clear to me that the polarization that I decry was being stoked much more from the right than from the left.
I could shrug a lot of this off as the web providing a platform for the most committedly extreme elements, but I can’t shrug off the feeling that the hierarchy, as presently constituted, have given up on the Council as well.
In a lot of ways, this pontificate of Benedict’s has been very difficult for me, even more difficult than the years when the scandal exploded. As Cardinal Ratzinger, I never found his actions and decisions to be particularly helpful to the Church, and I find it harder and harder to defend him from the charge that he’s a restorationist. His attitudes towards the liturgy, and his recent comments laying the blame for the sexual abuse crisis on the “proportionalism” that was taught in the seminaries in the 1970s underscore this. There's no introspection, no self-examination, no self-criticism of the institution. It’s always the fault of the liberals. As John Dominic Crossan puts it:
It is not enough to focus only on criminally abusive priests and even on guiltily indifferent bishops. It is not even enough to say that it was “sometimes very badly handled”—when was it ever handled otherwise? What is necessary from the Pope—and what was never even hinted behind his mention of “deep shame” (a private matter)—was some awareness of structural and systemic problems within the episcopal and papal hierarchy which facilitated the depth and breadth of the crime.
Finally, then, while the Pope looked outward and made several very accurate structural criticisms of society, he never looked inward and made similar criticisms of his own hierarchy. Here is the question: is the Roman Catholic hierarchy deeply flawed by an abuse of power and authority of which clerical pederasty and episcopal complicity are but one terrible manifestation?
Now, putting aside the abuse crisis, and getting back to the Council... In speaking of the Council which I believe Benedict has re-interpreted to his own liking, let's be fair for a moment.
The Council did not call for married priests, women priests, acceptance of divorce, acceptance of pre-marital sex, and gay marriage and lifestyles. It didn’t call for acceptance of birth control, although the bishops and theologians did tell Paul VI that they hadn’t tied his hands on the issue.
What the Council overwhelmingly did call for was a “reform and restoration” of the liturgy. With the recent Motu Proprio, however, Benedict sanctioned the use of the unreformed liturgy without the local bishop’s permission. If we are no longer seeing what the council did ask for, I think we can conclude that all of the above-mentioned issues that progressives care so much about are so far off of the back-burner they are not only off the stove, they’ve essentially been tossed out of the kitchen door into the backyard!
A couple of weeks ago, Cardinal Castrillon De Hoyos made some astonishing remarks indicating his conviction that he and Pope Benedict not only wanted to see the Latin Mass made more widely available, but that he'd like to see the Tridentine Mass celebrated in every Parish. So much for the "extraordinary" form. It sure looks to me like a long-term strategy to make it the "ordinary" form again.
A Pontifical High Mass in the Tridentine Rite was said in Westminster Cathedral last weekend for the first time in four decades. Its celebrant, a close ally of the Pope and an ambassador for the old liturgy, promised that further changes will be afoot.
Imagine for a moment a vibrant and confident Catholic church, the pews filled every Sunday with parishioners of all ages, eager to celebrate a distinctive liturgy that will impart a sense of reverence and awe and the mystery of Christ's redeeming sacrifice.
That is the vision of the Church presented last weekend by a senior member of the Curia, Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos. And the means of achieving it, he claims, is the revival of the Tridentine Rite.
It was last July when Pope Benedict issued an instruction, or motu proprio, encouraging the rite's much wider celebration if a "stable group" requests it from a parish priest. He designated the Tridentine Mass the "extraordinary form" and the new the "ordinary form" of the one Roman rite. But, Cardinal Castrillón, who is close to the Pope, has now gone much further, suggesting it should be made a far more frequent liturgical experience.
He was eager to explain why he considered the revival of the old rite - which he called the Gregorian Rite - so important. He had a forthright response to those who complain that its reintroduction violates the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, calling such a view "absolute ignorance". Pope Benedict, he added, was a theologian with deep understanding of Vatican II and was acting exactly in accordance with "the way of the council" that the freedom of different kinds of celebration is to be offered. Similarly, he judged complaints about the priest in the old rite celebrating Mass with his back to the congregation to be "ridiculous". The priest represented the person of Christ and in facing east - that is, towards God - he was reviving the sacrifice of the Son to the Father.
Asked whether he hoped to see provision for the Tridentine Rite made in "many" parishes in England and Wales, the cardinal said he wanted "all" parishes to experience this "treasure". As for men training for the priesthood, he disclosed that the Vatican is writing to all seminaries, asking them to ensure they will be taught Latin not just for liturgical purposes but also to prepare them for their studies in theology and philosophy.
But what of the confusion felt by many Catholics who had seen the transition from the Tridentine to the new rite in 1970 and had welcomed it, seeing it as real progress? I suggested that for some this new emphasis on old rite might feel like a step backwards.
"Progress is important, but what does it mean?" said the cardinal. "Today, for me, progress is discovering the meaning of contemplation. This is progress. A person who has no time for silence is a poor person. A person who has no time for contemplation is poor also. The holy Mass is sacrifice. We have to look at Golgotha, at Calvary, the Cross of Christ. When we have sacrifice in Christ we feel free from sin, we are redeemed, then we are happy and when we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ we are happy to gather together and to celebrate, but first the sacrifice, second the community aspect of the meal."
Is it not possible to express all this in the new rite?
"Yes, but the experience of these 40 years is not always so good," said Cardinal Castrillón. "Many people abandon the sense of adoration of God. Yes, we are brothers but we are not saved as brothers. We are saved by the sacrifice. We need to be in front of the mystery. We sing because we are brothers. We sing because we are celebrating, but we keep silent because we are in front of the mystery. The new rite can express it but there have been brought out so many abuses all over the Church that many people abandon it [sic]. Many children do not know how to be in the presence of God, how they have to be adoring."
But what exactly were the abuses he had alluded to earlier that had crept in with the advent of the new rite? The answer was surprising.
He explained that he had received letters complaining that a priest had celebrated Mass made up as a clown: "The parish priest with the lips painted and the wig and mirrors here," he said, pointing to his temples. "A travesty." Other examples including that of a priest who had allegedly presided at Sunday Mass dressed in a miniskirt, and a priest who had invited his Protestant "brother" to celebrate the Eucharist. Yet another had introduced his wife and sons before celebrating Mass.
"There is an atmosphere that makes possible those abuses and that atmosphere must be changed, and in my poor opinion the new presence of the Gregorian Rite will help us to take seriously the identity of our faith, respecting all the other ways of thinking but keeping strongly our identity with Christ, with Christ in Calvary, with Christ in Golgotha, with Christ offering his blood for our salvation."
He's not without some good points, but on plenty of blogs I've seen all of this nonsense about clown masses. It's astonishing to see someone like Hoyos buying into it. I don't know... I'm from flinty New England. If this ever happened anywhere outside of the Paulist Center, I'm unaware of it. Has anyone reading this ever actually seen a "Clown Mass"?? Maybe you need to go out to someplace like Rochester or the Midwest where everyone is friendly and cheerful and hold hands during the Our Father to be familiar with this sort of thing... All I can say is that I find it startling that a senior churchman can use this sort of anecdotal, apocalyptic and hysterical nonsense to justify what he's trying to see accomplished.
Get it straight. The revival of Latin and the revival of the Tridentine Rite are all about control (control of language, and therefore, control of theological development... or non-development) and the re-establishing of boundaries between the clergy and the laity (control of everything else).
This is the year of St. Paul, so I'll borrow a bit of Pauline rhetorical style... "Does all of this mean that I'm fed up with the hierarachy, that I'm opposed to the existence of the hierarchy, and that I want to smash it? By no means!"
I could never be a "Sola Scriptura" Christian. Jesus never wrote down a word. He didn't leave a book behind. He instituted the Eucharist, and he left apostles behind, who in turn "sent" out new ones by the laying on of hands. I believe in Apostolic Succession. John Michael Talbot, hardly a raging right-winger, puts it well here:
Jesus, the Living Word, appointed living men to be his apostles and preach his word of salvation. They were anointed by the Spirit of the living God at Pentecost and empowered to fulfill their commission. Thus it was that the living God sent a living Word to a living people through the life of Jesus Christ and the apostles. The word is not written in stone, it is written in the life of Christ! "He is the God of the living, not of the dead."
The early church of Acts 2 did not follow scripture alone, it followed "apostolic instruction." From this living apostolic tradition, the Old Testament was interpreted, and the New Testament itself was brought forth. It is because of this living tradition that Paul was able to say, "Owe no debt to anyone except the debt that binds us to love one another. He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law ... love never wrongs the neighbor, hence love is the fulfillment of the law."
Sola Scriptura could never work for me, because for one thing, the New Testament is full of contradictions. No one can convince me any longer, for example, that James and Paul were of the same mind. They were not. In many ways the New Testament reflects the struggles and tensions in the early Church, and is in fact a consensus document, melding and absorbing the Gentile and Jewish missions together. I believe the Bible is inspired because I believe in the witness of the men of the Church who told me so.
It just wouldn't be bad to see them exercise their authority with a little bit more humility and honesty, that's all.
Here's where the plea for understanding comes in.
If Vatican II is a dead letter, it's not only the fault of the obstructionist curia. The Council Fathers were putting a lot of trust in the laity. They were calling on us to be a priesthood of believers and to live out lives of holiness in the temporal sphere. They put a lot of faith in us, and in fact, really went out on a limb for us.
In most cases, we have failed them spectacularly.
Therefore, we have a lot to do with why the Council went nowhere. One of the biggest problems out there now is the lack of an educated laity, and progressives who've pretty much had an unencumbered hand in catechesis have a lot of blame to carry for this "Beige Catholicism".
Although I'm not crazy about the Tridentine Mass revival and other developments, I do understand where it is coming from, and I do share the concern about the deconstruction of our society and the loss of formality that has accompanied it. I've written about that here before too.
I understand where young radtrads are coming from. The cultural sink we live in is a very hostile and difficult place in which to nurture faith. Everthing else that their generation exposes them to is the antithesis of what they hold dear.
In other words, there is fear. There is fear that the Faith is going to disappear.
It's not an unfounded fear. I'll hold out an olive branch to traditionalists, because the disappearance of Catholicsm (outside of a very, very small remnant) within our lifetimes is a real possibility. We are in serious trouble. If we are going to last at all, we are going to have to come to some kind of understanding with each other and work together.
Catholicism matters! It sure as heck does. Despite what all of our enemies and critics say, the world without Catholicism will not be a better place. If the brand of Christianity coming out of the Global South is going to be a charismatic, pentecostalized faith that is demon-obsessed, emotionally-based, rigid, intolerant and literalist, the contemplative aspects of Catholicism will be dearly missed, you wait and see. Not everything that claims to come from the Spirit does. I agree with St. Thomas Aquinas that there are three sources of wisdom - The philosopher, the Theologian and the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, I want to be more about making peace within the Church rather than to be a constant gadfly, although there are times for that.
Almost a month posting nothing, and now I'm babbling and rambling.... I'll close with this quote from Cardinal Martini, whose sentiments I share:
There was a time when I dreamed of a church in poverty and humility, one that does not depend on the powers of this world. A church that gives space to people who think outside the box. A church that transmits courage and worth, especially to those who feel belittled or like sinners. A young Church. Today I no longer have those dreams. After 75 years I have decided to pray for the Church.