Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Answering The Liturgical Heresy

I am not a "Traditionalist" but I love and wholeheartedly promote the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite as the greatest explicit expression of the deepest realities of the Catholic religion in our present day Western Civilization, in complete conformity with the Second Vatican Council.

Father John F. Baldovin, S.J. published an article in America Magazine (May 27, 2013) on the state of the liturgy today ("An Active Presence: The Liturgical Vision of Vatican II 50 Years Later"), which he poses as an objective assessment of the Church's liturgical progress. However, Father Baldovin's article represents the attitude of self-hating Catholics (many of whom are unfortunately still in positions of authority) who reject the Church's traditions and magisterial teachings on the liturgy without providing any arguments or reasoned responses to the great "Reform of the Reform" which is presently underway.

In his assessment of the past 50 liturgical years Father Baldovin's chief concern is to criticize the "Reform of the Reform", or, what Pope Benedict often called the Hermeneutic of Continuity. He is worried about the growing trend of the devotion to and promotion of the extraordinary form of the Latin Rite. Why? Because "...this development is somewhat divisive...the older liturgy is clearly symbolic of a vision of church, theology and the world that the Second Vatican Council consciously moved away from in some very important ways...to reject the liturgy that resulted from the Vatican II constitution is to reject the council itself" He reduces his whole argument to an ad hominem attack, giving no logical response to the real concerns and legitimate aspirations of those who love the traditional form of the Mass, roundly ignoring the in depth analysis of the hot liturgical issues in light of our faith and tradition in the widely read various books of Joseph Ratzinger on the subject. This kind of rhetoric is not worthy of Boston College or the chair of liturgical and historical theology held by the author. Unfortunately this is and has often been the most common approach of modernist liturgists and Church hierarchy on matters liturgical. Their attitude is that they are right and they do not need to prove it. They are right because they are in power. And so, since Benedict is retired and Francis is Pope we can forget Benedict's liturgical magisterium and continue with the status quo. No dissent is tolerated.

What is clear here, in the lack of academic seriousness of the author, and in the widespread acceptance of his approach (e.g. this article was reprinted in the Archdiocese of Newark newsletter "Word and Worship") is a wholesale rejection of the liturgical magisterium of Pope Benedict XVI, which is enshrined both in Summorum Pontificum and in the accompanying letter to the Bishops of the world. It is ludicrous to pit Ratzinger against the Second Vatican Council (he having contributed at least a couple of the chief dogmatic developments thereof). To reject the liturgical magisterium of Pope Ratzinger is to reject the Catholic religion! viz. heresy. What the author charges against his caricature of traditionalist popes, bishops, priests, seminary rectors and seminarians, viz. that they reject the council if they reject the liturgy that resulted from it, applies equally to those who reject the extraordinary form of the Latin Liturgy! Those who reject gregorian chant, polyphony, Latin in the liturgy, lace, cassocks, biretta's, etc. reject the Council of Trent and Vatican I and Vatican II and Blessed John XXIII, Blessed John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis! This approach is reminiscent of the post Humanae Vitae hierarchy who have been trying to muffle and distort the truth contained in that post Vatican II marital magisterial development. To reject the magisterium of our great liturgical Pontiff and the wonderful fruits thereof (myriad traditional young priests and seminarians throughout the world!) would be equivalent to rejecting the magisterium of his predecessor's magisterium on marriage and the family.

So, Father Baldovin, with his myopic, self-referential concern recommends two liturgical tasks for the future of the liturgy: 1) careful and prayerful preparation of the liturgy and 2) catechizing the people regarding the meaning of the liturgy. My respone is 1) that many of the abuses of the liturgy have been and are carefully and prayerfully prepared (e.g. the ubiquitous use of "extraordinary" "ministers" which he approvingly references). And 2) for helping the people to understand the nature of God and of the Mass the older form of the Mass is much clearer and more instructive as pointed out repeatedly by Ratzinger in his liturgical books. It is exactly that liturgical clarity which the Reform of the Reform is finally attempting to achieve, despite the self-hating Catholics' efforts to the contrary.

Furthermore, the Vatican II liturgical reform insisted upon the preservation of the various liturgical traditions throughout the Catholic world. Consistent with that norm, why should we oppose the most universal and venerable of those traditions, the one most a part of the formation of our own civilization? the Traditional Latin Rite. That problem, the root of our Catholic self-hatred is part of a larger crisis of thought in our postmodern world. That problem is fundamentally a problem of cultural relativism resulting from a distorted metaphysics, cf. Truth and Tolerance, Ratzinger. In our attempt at openness to everything we lose our sense of anything! We must have and love our clear foundation and it is called Peter, the Rock, the magisterium of the Catholic Church, which alone determines the legitimate Liturgy.
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