Thursday, November 20, 2014

Retraction, Apology & Vindication

Good day, friends!

Following the dust up that followed some of my posts earlier this week, I have had time to study and reflect on the propositions I put forward. Having done so, I do believe several statements I wrote were either in error or questionable. In this post I would like to offer a few retractions, make an apology, and share some insight from several theologians I contacted regarding one of the propositions in my previous posts about the relationship between the Mass and the Faith. I also, in the spirit of Pope Francis, want to thank you for your criticism. What I do here is certainly not dogmatic theology; I am an armchair theologian at best, a complete dolt at worst. The erudition of many of my readers and commenters puts me to shame at times. I am always edified by the comments on this blog and learn as much from my commenters as I do from other means of study.

Let me begin with some retractiones.

First, the proposition that a bishop has power to prohibit the saying of certain forms of the Mass. Upon input from several more knowledgeable readers, I am very uncertain of this proposition now. I am not ready to abandon it entirely; it seems that if the Traditional Mass is designated Extraordinary and the Novus Ordo classified as Ordinary, per Universae Ecclesiae, then the bishop may have some sort of say if the Extraordinary starts to replaces the Ordinary. Not that I want bishops to be intervening to stop the EF; I just wonder juridically where his powers lie in this question. At any rate, I am no longer willing to maintain with certitude that a bishop can prohibit a legitimate use of the Mass of the same rite. I am interested to see how Ecclesia Dei will respond to situations where this has happened. Anyhow, I retract this assertion as to its certainty but consider it an open question, the answer of which I am not competent to speculate on.

Second, regarding my statement that the bishop can prohibit certain parts of the Mass. This was an unfortunate statement and a clear error on my part. I think I was trying to make the general case that the bishop can give or retain certain faculties, but it is clear foolishness to say a bishop can prohibit certain "parts" of the Mass. That was idiotic. I don't know how that sentence came out of me. Obviously, though the homily is generally included in a Mass, the homily is not the Mass proper and the examples of Ven. Solanus and Padre Pio are strawmen that don't hold up. So, that statement was probably the dumbest one I've ever written. Please forgive me. Errare humanum est. I retract, anathematize, and apologize for this dumb statement.

Third, regarding my citation of Fr. Ripperger in my last post, many people messaged me saying Fr. Ripperger's words did not support my thesis. I do not suggest they do support the whole thesis; I cited him only in support of a very limited proposition - that traditional Catholics can sometimes have a tendency to think simply attending the Traditional Mass means they don't need to study or familiarize themselves with the tradition. Fr. Ripperger does say this plainly in his lecture. The only thing I cited him in support of was on that particular point and nothing else. Therefore, I want to clarify that I am not suggesting Fr. Ripperger "supports" my argument in general; I apologize for the confusion.

Finally, regarding my comments that "The Mass and the Faith are not the same thing; the Faith is greater than the Mass," I received a ton of backlash about this. I was pretty sure I was correct on this point, but the backlash on the Facebook page gave me some doubts, so I decided to do a little "Ask the Theologian." I selected nine individuals of varying backgrounds - two priests, five theologians, one conservative Catholic apologist, and one traditional professor of Catholic philosophy -  and sent them the following query:

Dear XXXX,

I am in need of a professional opinion. I recently caused a big dust up on Facebook and, my blog by making the following comment:

"The Mass is extraordinarily important, but the Mass is not the Faith. The Mass is an integral part of the Faith, but the Faith is greater [i.e., a broader category, more inclusive] than the Mass."

This caused a huge backlash by many of my readership who insisted that, yes, the Mass is the Faith and the Faith is the Mass and that it is impious and improper to try to suggest a distinction between the two. Therefore, I ask you:

Setting aside metaphor and the language of piety, in the strictly theological sense, it is correct to say that the Mass and the Faith are not the same thing? I want to make sure I am not in error on this point.

Before I present their answers, here is a breakdown of the credentials of the nine respondents:

Respondent 1: Graduate student with MA in Theology
Respondent 2: Traditional priest who regularly says the EF Mass
Respondent 3: Priest of the Oblates of the BVM; not sure if he says EF, but he wears the cassock
Respondent 4: Theologian with an STD from International Theological Institute who attends the EF exclusively
Respondent 5: Graduate student studying Thomistic theology at the Angelicum for an STL
Respondent 6: Dogmatic Theologian with an STL from the Pontifical University in Rome
Respondent 7: Mainstream Catholic apologist who usually disagrees with me but has some good sense
Respondent 8: Traditionalist Catholic writer with MA in theology
Respondent 9: Traditional minded Professor of Philosophy at a Catholic seminary

Here are their answers to my query on whether it is correct to say "The Mass and the Faith are not the same thing":

Respondent 1: I am presuming by “the faith” you mean the Deposit of Faith. So, according to the Catechism, the Deposit of Faith is “the heritage of faith contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, handed on in the Church from the time of the Apostles, from which the Magisterium draws all that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed.” And the Catechism gives as its definition for the Mass: “The Eucharist or principal sacramental celebration of the Church, established by Jesus at the Last Supper, in which the mystery of our salvation through participation in the sacrificial and glorious resurrection of Christ is renewed and accomplished. The Mass renews that paschal sacrifice of Christ as the sacrifice offered by the Church.” 
i.e., they're not the same.

But I do not think it is so cut and dry and simple. The Catechism also says, “The Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith.” (CCC 1327). But I would also say that one needs to think about the use of the word Eucharist, which can sometimes refer to the entire action of the Mass. It can also mean the substantial presence of Jesus Christ (who is in fact the content and object of the faith) in the Sacrament of the altar...The Mass is the mystical exposition of the entire faith. I would never say 'The Mass is not the faith', nor would I say 'The Mass is the faith.' Neither would acknowledge the necessary nuance.

Respondent 2:  I read the article and thought it was a mistake. I knew what you were trying to say, but you communicated your thoughts very poorly...Also, as a lay person, you have no idea what it is to offer the Mass. You may imagine it's just about words and rubrics, but it isn't. You have no idea how it effects the faith of the priest. Because you are not a priest, you can never know. Our connection with the Mass is profound and intimate. I could not function without the Tridentine Mass...Again, I actually know what you were trying to say. You were trying to say that the complete deposit of the faith is not contained in the Mass, but it doesn't therefore logically follow that priests should "stay put" if forced to say only the Ordinary Form of the Mass. Please don't take offense, and certainly don't take it personally. I'm simply trying to explain, in my personal opinion, where I believe you went wrong and why people (including myself) have had the reaction they have. [I had to redact some of this commentary because he went into a lot of other issues not related to the question, hence the ellipsis. This is his full commentary on the immediate question, however. -Boniface]

Respondent 3: Obviously [there is a distinction]. After all there are four parts of the Catechism and the Eucharist is one element of one part, although obviously the center of our reality. The Catechism of the Catholic Church which is the summary of the Faith and it has 4 parts of which the Eucharist is one element of one section of one part of the four parts and takes up 22 pages out of 904. (Not taking away, again, that the Eucharist is the Center of Our Reality). Of course one wants to tread lightly and phrase correctly so that there is no scandalous effect to the piety-faith of receivers. Not to mention Korea which was evangelized by laity way before any priest arrived and even after that received only baptism until the first priest arrived to give the fullness of the sacraments. Of course, the Eucharist is the ultimate goal (in our earthly dispensation as it is) of all the rest of the Faith. But, yes, your distinction is correct.

Respondent 4: In the strict sense, of course, the Mass and the faith are not identical things. The Mass is an integral part of the faith. And since a denial of any part of the faith is formally a denial of the faith as a whole, one could say that a denial of the Mass entails a denial of the faith. Again, since the Mass is the unbloody sacramental sacrifice of Calvary, one could say that the Mass is at the very heart of the faith. One could say that the Mass is the primary means by which the faith is learned, lived, and handed on from generation to generation. But one could not simply and literally say that the Mass is the faith, much less of course a particular rite of the Mass.

Respondent 5: You are not wrong when you say what you say, if you mean it in a certain sense. I understood what you meant, and found nothing objectionable about it; although, it would be good to follow up with a whole post on how the liturgy is, in a restricted sense, the Faith.

For brevity's sake, Mediator Dei lays down how the liturgy is a legitimate theological source, something which expounds the Faith, but does not necessarily define the Faith. The whole section is copied below, but the money quote is "In the sacred liturgy we profess the Catholic faith explicitly and openly, not only by the celebration of the mysteries, and by offering the holy sacrifice and administering the scaraments, but also by saying or singing the credo or Symbol of the faith... The entire liturgy, therefore, has the Catholic faith for its content, inasmuch as it bears public witness to the faith of the Church."

I think I see the liturgy in different terms than the way you express it, not as genus and species, but rather as a different expression of the same Deposit of Faith. The dogmas and doctrines express the Deposit didactically, but often this is a negative theology, stating what is not the Faith. The liturgy, however, expresses the Faith positively. Through the liturgy, we have physical, continuous contact with the Sacred Tradition. Thus, it is (or should be) the normative expression of the Tradition.

I think that the reason why your statement might be so objectionable is because for the non-student of theology (either formal or informal), the only real understanding of the Faith is that which they have through participating in the liturgies and pious devotions which they have been raised with. They have a connatural understanding of the Faith that is the fruit of a life lived in the heart of the Church, but couldn't tell you the first thing about notions or relations or persons or processions in the Trinity. But they will probably get to Heaven before me!

Respondent 6: The Mass is the mystical exposition of the entire contents of the Faith in ritual form. Therefore, one can say, ‘The Mass is everything!’ and be quite accurate. The Mass is NOT however THE faith. The Faith is typically understood to be the depositum (above). However, post consecration, the priest says, ‘Mysterium Fidei.’ The Sacrifice of the Mass represents the Mystery of the Faith. The Sacred Liturgy is meant to convey in rite what theological discourse conveys in writing. Both express the Faith in their own way.

Respondent 7: The Mass is obviously not the [whole] faith. It has very little, e.g., about the Blessed Virgin Mary and a number of other things that are part of the faith.

Respondent 8: Your position is correct, provided it is clear that the importance of the Mass is not minimized. With respect to particular locations, people can maintain and practice the faith (e.g. the Japanese Catholics for 300 years) without a priest, sacraments, or the Mass, and the faith continues. So clearly, the Faith is more than the Mass. Yet the Mass is so connected with the faith that if you excised the Mass, you excise the faith as well, for the Mass is at the same time the source and summit of the Christian life. Therefore, it appears to be a both/and.The Mass is a limited concept, embracing many of the truths of Faith and teaching them; the Faith is the broader concept of which the Mass is a part. You're suffering from Trad ignorance of higher theology. We are burdened with the fact that because Trads tend to understand their religion well, they think they understand theology, which is a science.

Respondent 9:  My two cents: On the one hand, there is a well-established tradition that links the Faith with our prayer or worship: lex credendi with lex orandi...I remember reading, somewhere in Geoffrey Hull's marvelous book, The Banished Heart: Origins of Heteropraxis in the Catholic Church (which I can't find right now), that liturgy was once referred to as "first theology."
On the other hand, even if liturgy is in many ways the font of much if not all of what we believe, it seems to me a matter of common sense that the Faith is something larger than liturgy. One could reasonably argue that doctrines like the Hypostatic Union of Christ's two natures are somehow implicit in the liturgy, but what about the immorality of contraception or masturbation, or the magisterial teaching on a "just wage"? I doubt that the Faith and the Mass can simply be equated, though I would agree that they are closely identified. My immediate response would be to agree with you that the Faith is larger than the Mass, though maybe in the way that an Oak is larger than the acorn from which it sprang.

These are the responses of the nine people I queried. Based on their answers, I feel somewhat vindicated in this question about the Faith being a broader or more encompassing category than the Mass. Some, like Respondent 1, agreed, but wanted to be very careful with the nuance. Others, like Respondent 2, reluctantly agreed with the narrow point in question but denied that anything else I asserted followed from it and thought the general line of argumentation was a mistake - which I accept (see retractions above). Most others said my assertion was more or less correct, but stressed that this should not be taken to imply a denigration of the importance of the Mass, with which I concur completely. So, all in all, though the particular angle each respondent took was different, I feel overall I am vindicated on this point.

That being said, because it caused such a backlash and confusion, it would probably be prudent to avoid phrases that lend themselves to oversimplification, like "The Mass is not the same thing as the Faith", as Respondent 1 suggested. I much prefer how Respondent 2 worded it, "The complete deposit of faith is not contained within the Mass." Although, as others pointed out (Respondent 5), the two are intimately connected and both the dogmas and the Mass express the faith but in different ways.

So, there you go. Very sorry for the dumb things I said. I will most likely delete those posts or at least heavily redact them. Thanks for correcting me and helping me get over a severe but momentary case of rectal-cranial inversion.


Anonymous said...

Sir. Even the saints made errors of judgement. We all fall short of the ideal. Keep the Faith!

Anonymous said...

This is wonderful because of the information contained here...but also because it does point out that the horrors of the NO have forced Traditional Catholics to cling to the Latin Mass.
This has given us a skewed picture, a truncated picture of our Faith.
One of the respondents stated it well. We who want our Church back from the grasp of modernists must learn The Faith in all it's complicated richness.

MaestroJMC said...

I certainly think that in theory, the distinction between the Mass (or better, the liturgy generally) and the faith is legitimate, but of what use is it in practice? It is also important, I think, to realize that the Mass, while not identical to the faith, is not simply one aspect of our faith among others, either. It is the central aspect, the heart of the Church, the primary fount and culmination of the Christian life, the first context wherein we encounter the mysteries of faith and render our assent to them. The central and most important truths of our faith (i.e. think the Creed) are all celebrated in the liturgy on so many levels. Just to have an intellectual grasp of the truths of faith would indeed be fruitless if we did not live our faith by celebrating it and participating in its mysteries through the liturgy. So the liturgy is not just one aspect of our faith among others, but its heart and center. Read Dom Gueranger's preface to the Liturgical Year, or the traditional Benedictine commentaries about the liturgy, to get a good glimpse of the traditional Catholic understanding of the relation between liturgy and faith.

He said...

I like how the Thomist both says "for brevity's sake" and goes on to write write the longest response, except for the professor of course, but that comes naturally.

Boniface said...

Yeah, like when St. Thomas says the Summa is written "for beginners" and then goes on to write one of the most profound theological treatises ever.

Anonymous said...

An apology to the SSPX is in order too! Anyone who has studied the sspx with humility and honesty will have found that the sspx were illegitimately punished.

Boniface said...

I don't think so, for two reasons:

(a) I disagree that they are "illegitimately punished." To consecrate bishops not only without a papal mandate but against a papal mandate is a punishable offense.

(b) Even if they were punished "illegitimately", illegitimate or errant canonical penalties still must be observed in the external forum even if we know/believe them to be assigned wrongly.

Anonymous said...

Whats up Unam

I wanted to get your opinion on if you think that we are living in the time period that the Virgin Mary was talking about at Fatima, Akita, Good Success. And are they set in stone, or can they be mitigated by our prayer? I had an interesting conversation with a fellow Catholic my age (20's), and she is convinced that we are living in the final days, as 2017 approaches (100th anniversary of Fatima). I would like to get your opinion on this. I wonder if there are a lot of people who read/comment on your blog think this?

Quovadis7 said...


I won't presume to speak on behalf of Priests who refuse to offer Holy Mass other than via the TLM.

However, I think you have missed the point entirely for why many such men feel compelled to do so. I do NOT believe that it is because they believe "the Mass is the Faith", as you have asserted in your series of blog posts....

There are a whole litany of other reasons why, but perhaps the most prominent of them are:

1) the TLM is light years ahead of the Novus Ordo wrt being more theocentric, majestic, mysterious, and imbued with the fullness of our Catholic faith,

2) the Novus Ordo, inherently, has promoted a modern mindset for "turning away" from Catholic tradition (many converts admit that the NO has a Protestant "flair" to it), and

3) the TLM is inordinately better suited than the Novus Ordo toward helping the faithful to "die to self" (which the use of Latin inherently helps to covey), and to properly attune and immerse themselves in the renewed Holy Sacrifice of Our Lord which happens right before their very eyes during Holy Mass.

In a word, Priests who refuse to offer the Novus Ordo (despite virtually all of them probably agreeing that it is a valid form of Holy Mass) have that attitude because the Novus Ordo has been the "tip of the spear" used by liberals and dissidents within the Church to promote their novelties and mayhem.

One could make a legitimate case, however, that Catholics today are so catechetically deprived and spiritually starved, and so poisoned by our hedonistic and narcissistic Western culture, that there is an enormous chasm between them and the TLM; and that a reverently offered Novus Ordo Mass could/should be used as a "bridge" before exposing them to the TLM. Such a reverently offered Novus Ordo DID play a role in my and my family's "journey to tradition", and I'm sure it has been for many, many, other faithful and devout one-time "Novus Ordo" Catholics.

But, in the end I think that we need to respect the consciences and the prudential decisions that "TLM only" Priests have embraced. We almost certainly know it is because they have made it a priority in their ministry to:

a) give the greatest glory to God in their worship of Him, and

b) strive diligently for the "salvation of souls",

which they fervently believe the TLM is much better suited to help them achieve than the Novus Ordo.

It is scandalous, a travesty, and and an unjust use of their authority for Catholic Bishops to impose that a Priest MUST offer the Novus Ordo, or cannot offer the TLM. We all know that violations of Summorum Pontificum by our Bishops are widespread.

But, such is the current horrific state of the Church and her many misguided leaders, which numerous approved apparitions of Our Lady have predicted....

Pax et benedictiones tibi, per Christum Dominum nostrum,


David said...

Regarding the first issue, I still think you were/are correct. I thought that the bishop was the "owner" of the sacrament in his diocesis, and can forbid any priest for whatever reason the ofering of mass. Therefore he can forbid the Extraordinary form if he pleases. He will have to respond to God for his decissions, but so will we.

Quovadis7 said...

@ David,

That is baloney. The Bishop doesn't "own" anything in his Diocese; he is merely a steward.

If he thinks that he does "own" anything, then that is proof positive that of utterly mistaking his role as a spiritual leader; and, he has as well grossly misconstrued his role to "pass on" what was given to him from his predecessors (see 1 Cor. 15:3), and not merely those of the past 50 years.

The love of novelty is rampant and an additction in the modern Church....