Monday, June 23, 2008

Is the Catholic Church sliding towards civil war?

By Brian Kopp

Damian Thompson raises an interesting question over at

Is the Catholic Church sliding towards civil war?

"While Church of England bishops recoil from the prospect of gay ‘weddings’ with no precedent in Christian history, their Catholic counterparts are wringing their hands at the growing popularity of services that are too traditional for their tastes.

On Saturday 14 June Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, one of the most senior figures in the Roman Curia and an ally of the Holy Father, celebrated a Pontifical High Mass at Westminster Cathedral. The bishop of the diocese, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, did not attend; nor did any of his four auxiliary bishops. Pope Benedict is rumoured to be furious at this display of bad manners.

What can explain such a breach of protocol? The answer lies in the content and style of the liturgy being celebrated. Cardinal Castrillón processed into the cathedral wearing the cappa magna, a scarlet cape with a 20ft train of watered silk. It is many years since this vestment has been seen in the cathedral — for, although it was never abolished, it is associated with the Tridentine Mass, the ancient Latin rite in which the celebrant faces east, reciting its main prayer in a voice so low that the church falls silent. And that was the Mass that His Eminence celebrated on 14 June, becoming the first cardinal to do so in Westminster Cathedral for 40 years.

Last summer — to the horror of the liberal English bishops — Pope Benedict issued an apostolic letter, Summorum Pontificum, that granted universal permission for the old Mass, which had been effectively banned from normal parish life after the Second Vatican Council. England’s Latin Mass Society seized its chance. It invited Cardinal Castrillón, head of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which is responsible for the old liturgy worldwide, to celebrate the society’s annual traditional Mass at Westminster Cathedral, normally a low-key affair regarded with amused condescension by diocesan liberals.

He accepted, leaving liberal bishops with only one course of action: pleading pressing engagements elsewhere. Hence the absence of Westminster bishops at the Pontifical Mass, though diocesan spies were spotted craning their necks to see if any local clergy had sneaked in (thereby scuppering their chances of promotion). Walking down the nave, I was greeted by a young priest sitting at the back dressed as a layman. ‘I can’t really afford to be seen here, but I couldn’t resist,’ he whispered.

Many Mass-goers are unaware of the fact, but the Catholic Church in England and Wales is sliding towards civil war. A mixture of anticipation and panic is in the air. For worshippers used to the low-calorie ceremonial of Westminster Cathedral, the sight of a curial cardinal presiding over the cruelly complex rubrics of the old Missal must have been thrilling or distasteful, depending on their point of view.

But the evidence of traditionalist revival is not confined to church services: it is scattered over Facebook, of all places, where there are dozens of groups pressing for the return of the ancient liturgy or mocking the caterwauling pseudo folk music favoured by trendy clergy. The internet allows traditionalists in different countries to burst out of the ghetto to which they had been banished by ‘the spirit of Vatican II’. Conservatives hunt down video clips of ‘Sandalistas’ performing arthritic liturgical dances and upload them to YouTube, where they become comic classics. Bloggers share photographs of Corpus Christi processions, and publish private letters in which ‘progressive’ bishops reveal the depth of their hostility to Pope Benedict’s liturgical reforms. These blogs are widely read in the Vatican, where the andante tempo of the day leaves plenty of time for internet surfing..."

Damian does a good job of painting the conflict in terms of the Church Militant:

"In the words of one visitor to a traditionalist website, ‘This situation is comparable to the chief of staff of the army coming down to the 101st Airborne Division as the guest of honour at a division-level parade, and the division commander — and his brigade commanders — does not show up for the parade. Instead, he sends a terse welcoming note to be read by a battalion commander.’

The use of military imagery is significant. In many parts of the world, the response of liberal bishops to the Pope’s plans to revive the traditional Mass has verged on the mutinous. And the sense of impending conflict is particularly strong in England and Wales, which is unique among Western Churches in that not one of its 33 serving bishops is identified with the Benedictine reforms. Indeed, until the last conclave, ‘Ratzinger’ was a swear word in the left-wing circles from which the bishops have been chosen."

But the upcoming war doesn't end at the frontiers of England and Wales. Pope Benedict XVI just fired a volley over the heads of "public sinners" everywhere, especially of the political stripe, with obvious implications for the application of Canon 915 here in America. As the BBC reports (with typical MSM spin -- the Pope has not specifically addressed Berlusconi's situation):

Pope denies Berlusconi communion

"Newspapers reported on Sunday that while attending a ceremony in Sardinia Mr Berlusconi had asked a bishop when the Church planned to change the rules.

But the Pope told a conference in Canada that communion can only be received by those free of major sin.

"We have to do everything... to receive [communion] in a pure heart," he said.

No change

Mr Berlusconi has recently begun a major effort to try and get communion granted to divorced and remarried people like himself.

When he light-heartedly asked the Sardinian bishop when this would be possible, he was told he should "turn to a higher power".

But speaking via videolink to a conference in the Canadian province of Quebec, Pope Benedict ruled out any change to the Church's stance.

Although he did not directly address Mr Berlusconi's comments, he said that communion involved "searching without end, through the sacrament of forgiveness, the purity that sin has stained".

"On the other hand, those who cannot take communion because of their situation will find, nevertheless, in the desire to participate in the Eucharist, strength and effect of salvation," he added."

Patrick has reported on other recent liturgy related skirmishes on this blog:

Zut Alors! More Canadian Rivest-ance

For Everybody? Quebec Cardinal: Et Alors?

But the biggest battle to date will be over the Return of the SSPX


Because Rome's offer to the SSPX will by necessity need to be accompanied by the much-anticipated clarification from the PCED of Summorum Pontificum. And as much as Summorum Pontificum itself exceeded the wildest dreams of many, and the worst fears of the modernists, the anticipated clarification of the PCED must make concrete the recent comments of Cardinal Hoyos that the "Gregorian Rite" must be made available in any parish, even on the pastors' own initiative and without the request of a stable group. And it must close the "little tittle" loopholes that many bishops have tried to open by imposing their own guidelines upon Summorum Pontificum.

That is the real war -- this Pope must take back the powers of the papacy that were given away to a false sense of collegiality over the past half century. And this Pope already made clear the nature of that battle and the time it will take to accomplish that struggle:

"How often we wish that God would show himself stronger, that he would strike decisively, defeating evil and creating a better world. All ideologies of power justify themselves in exactly this way, they justify the destruction of whatever would stand in the way of progress and the liberation of humanity.

We suffer on account of God’s patience. And yet, we need his patience.

God, who became a lamb, tells us that the world is saved by the Crucified One, not by those who crucified him. The world is redeemed by the patience of God. It is destroyed by the impatience of man."

--From the Homily of the Inauguration Mass of Pope Benedict XVI, 24 April 2005

We must keep this quote from the Holy Father's Homily at his Inauguration Mass in the front of our minds as the rest of 2008 unfolds.


Chironomo said...

Patience is more than a virtue in this instance. Many in the Traditionalist camp feel as though they have been more than patient for long enough, and cannot understand why the time is not right to simply bring down the hammer on disobedient Bishops and get the job done through juridicial means. After all, how exactly would a Bishop be able to oppose an actual "edict" from the Holy See that the TLM MUST BE OFFERED WEEKLY IN EVERY CATHOLIC PARISH, say within a 2 year time period for implementation. No "may" or "ought" or "make available" in the wording, just MUST. This is why the impatience with the process we are currently witnessing. It is as though things are being done so as to allow some "wiggle room" for the disobedient. Maybe this is on purpose...??

Brian Kopp said...

Maybe this is on purpose...??

No doubt about it. Think of how long it took for Summorum Pontificum to actually happen. The 1984 Indult, the 1988 indult, then almost 20 years of rumors and dashed hopes.

Then...Summorum Pontificum. How many people, on either side of the debate, truly anticipated just how earth-shaking Summorum Pontificum would be?

Now, almost a year later, we are eagerly anticipating the "clarification." Judging by Cardinal Hoyos' recent comments, the "clarification" is going to be far wider reaching than Summorum Pontificum itself was, or was intended to be.

Its the frog-in-the-pot-of-hot-water, but this time in reverse.

If all this had been done by simple papal edict in 1988, or even last summer, there would have been open schism. No doubt about that either.

This Pope is a consummate chess player. And he is NOT the same man as the Fr. Ratzinger at VII, that so many trads prefer to caricature. He is not even the same Cardinal Ratzinger that served under JPII at CDF.

Only in hindsight will we understand what he has done, and the patience it took for him to do it -- in God's time, not ours.

Anonymous said...

To allow the Roman Rite to be celebrated in two different forms in the same parish church is a liturgical innovation -- divisive and troublesome in the extreme. To justify so unprecedented a change, very sound canonical arguments are needed. The Motu Proprio provides none.

The MP claims that the TLM was ‘never juridically abrogated’ but no evidence is given to support this claim. It cannot be said that the TLM was not abrogated, given the understanding generally accepted at the time and up to now. Paul VI clearly intended to make the 1970 rite definitive. It was understood that he had replaced the previous rites (which had undergone revision in 1964/5 and again in 1967) with the 1970 Rite, and that this was the import of the technical, legal language of the Apostolic Constitution, which was, and still is, one of the normal ways of enacting Papal legislation. The Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum of April 2nd 1969 copied the style used by previous Pontiffs to establish reformed rites as definitive:

"In conclusion, we wish to give the force of law to all that we have set forth concerning the new Roman Missal…. In promulgating the official edition of the Roman Missal, Our predecessor, St. Pius V, presented it as an instrument of liturgical unity and as a witness to the purity of the worship the Church…. While leaving room in the new Missal, according to the order of the Second Vatican Council, ‘for legitimate variations and adaptations,’(SC 38-40) we hope nevertheless that the Missal will be received by the faithful as an instrument which bears witness to and which affirms the common unity of all. … We wish that these Our decrees and prescriptions may be firm and effective now and in the future, notwithstanding, to the extent necessary, the apostolic constitutions and ordinances issued by Our predecessors, and other prescriptions, even those deserving particular mention and derogation."

THE AIM OF UNITY of the liturgical rite is referred to three times; far from presenting the revised rite as an option, the constitution states, in legal terms, that the new rite is to remain and the old is to cease to exist. Thus there would continue to be a single Roman Rite for the Roman Church, although now it would be one which could further develop, with variations and adaptations (particularly through the use of the vernacular).

The negative reaction of many of the faithful who felt that they were losing their previous rite was perfectly understandable. They had interpreted the above correctly. Paul VI had abrogated the previous rite and replaced it with the new Rite. Paul VI himself also understood this as what had taken place, which is why, in allowing for an indult (a departure from normative law) he stated that bishops could give permission for ‘elderly’ priests to continue to use the old rite of Mass as long as they celebrated it without a congregation. Subsequent indults would be granted for pastoral reasons, including that by Pope John Paul II (Quattuor abhinc annos of 1984). Again, note that these were called indults, or departures from normative law. Any group who requested permission by way of the indult was expected to respect the doctrinal authority of the renewed liturgy.