Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Guest Post: Retreat to the Ivory Tower

[Nov 1 2022] Today I am happy to present a guest post from Kevin Tierney, who has often graced this blog with his insights over the years. Today the topic of his reflection is the article "Papal Responses to the Emergence of the TLM Movement," another stinker published in Church Life Journal by usual suspects John Cavidini, Mary Healy, and Thomas Weinandy.

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Today in Church Life Journal, a theology journal at the University of Notre Dame, several eminent professors (including one who is otherwise a staunch critic of Pope Francis) made the claim that the continued existence of the Latin Mass is a betrayal of the Second Vatican Council and the Council Fathers, who only willed one form of worship for Catholics in the documents of Vatican II.

Ignoring for a moment the existence of Eastern Liturgies (which complicate both the argument of only one form of worship and contain a lot of the things they hate about the TLM), I think it should be noted that even if this were true (it isn't), its also irrelevant. The so called abandonment of Vatican II didn't begin with Benedict XVI; it began with Paul VI. Let's do a historical lesson.

When Paul VI promulgated Missale Romanum in 1969, giving us what is now known as the "Novus Ordo," he sincerely believed that of course everybody was going to sign on enthusiastically to celebrate the New Mass. While almost everyone did, a lot of elderly priests not only didn't, they refused to do so, on the premise that to force them, in their advanced age, to suddenly relearn everything was impractical and cruel. Accepting reality, Paul VI made an allowance for them, creating a carve out that was, in his mind, for the good of the Church.

In 1971, Bishops in England and Wales came to him, armed with a letter from numerous scientists, artists and intellectuals, many not even Catholic, telling Paul VI that his desire to destroy the Latin Mass was an act of destruction not just of Catholic civilization, but of Western Civilization. Even though they were firmly committed to celebrating the Novus Ordo, the bishops were sympathetic to this argument, and asked Paul VI, for the good of the Church, to consider a change. Paul VI issued what is known as the "Agatha Christie Indult" (because the non-Catholic author Christie was one of the prominent signatories of the letter), allowing a bishop to give permission to celebrate the TLM when it was judged for the good of the Church.

It was at this very moment, not even 10 years after Vatican II's conclusion, that the Church realized the attempt to suppress the TLM had failed. Now it was a discussion of what terms the Church could live with. The architect of the New Mass, Annibal Bugnini, surprisingly told Paul VI to let the SSPX celebrate the old mass, as enacting further restrictions risked schism, and the juice absolutely wasn't worth the squeeze. Paul VI ignored that plea.

Upon his accession to the throne as John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla decided to have the Congregation for Divine Worship study the issue of what terms he could live with, as he wanted to bring the Conciliar fighting to an end. The study concluded that while most had adopted the new liturgy, some had not, and that this "problem" was one they could not solve by brute force. It was also pointed out that the UK had conditions for the celebration of the TLM nobody else had, and that this was unfair. As a result, John Paul II universalized the Agatha Christie Indult in 1984. He also requested a commission of Cardinals study the status of the TLM. Was it suppressed? Was it abrogated? Did a priest need permission to say the TLM?

The Commission found that the TLM was never abrogated by Paul VI. They further found that a priest did not require permission from the bishop to celebrate a lawful and valid rite of the Church. The tension came between what was permissible in private, and how to balance that permission with the authority of the local bishop to regulate the liturgy in his diocese. Completely ignored were the desires and practical issues facing lay Catholics, as the Church did not give a crap what lay Catholics thought at this point. The Commission presented their findings to John Paul II, who basically ignored them. He sympathized with them, but felt that taking this kind of definitive action would cause a wound in the Church, and could leave the impression that the Church had abandoned its commitment to the liturgical reform.

As that internal debate was happening, relations with the SSPX had deteriorated even further, especially after Assisi; the SSPX and Rome entered the darkness of winter. After the illicit consecrations of the four bishops, John Paul II increasingly came to the realization that the Church's treatment of the TLM was at least partially responsible for the SSPX schism. After announcing canonical penalties, he not only told bishops to be more generous with the 1984 Indult, he erected numerous pieces of ecclesiastical infrastructure to see to it. The Pontifical Commission of Ecclesia Dei was founded. Religious orders were given authority to celebrate the TLM exclusively. The Fraternal Society of St. Peter was founded. From 1988 to 2005, the story was one of gradual acceptance of the TLM within the life of the Church.

This was the situation when Joseph Ratzinger ascended the throne as Benedict XVI. Far from the revisionist history of liberation of the TLM being something that was wholly of his own vision, he was simply taking the suggestion of those cardinals from the mid 1980s, finally deciding to change the Church's approach. No longer would the Church merely make peace with the TLM's continued existence. Instead she would welcome its continued existence as a great benefit to the Church.

Whatever you think Vatican II did or didn't will, Summorum Pontificum was the logical end not of 2005, 1988, or even 1984. It was the inevitable result of 1971. It was the final admission that the attempt to impose the Novus Ordo on the entire Church was a failure, something that Paul VI and John Paul II had recognized, even reluctantly. It is the height of folly, hubris, and stupidity to attempt to yank the Church, by force, back to 1970, a move Paul VI and even Bugnini himself admitted was a failure and not worth it.

As for the Church Life Journal article, imagine arguing about the relevance of CDW decision from 1974 that couldn't conceive of the TLM having any bearing on the world in 2022, let alone existing independently of the Novus Ordo with four decades of growth! Having lost the argument on the ground, they have retreated to their ivory towers arguing academic theories.


Kathleen1031 said...

This is one of those times one gets to share one's personal experience, because it might be helpful, one hopes, in the chance that a person with some influence, might see it.
As a technical convert, I started attending Mass in the 80's. I became an "EWTN" Catholic, and Mother Angelica and her outstanding network brought me in to Catholicism to the almost-full. I say almost, because I did not at that time know about the TLM. If I had, I'd have embraced it then and there. It was what I was looking for. Long story short, my family is Catholic, I raised my child Catholic, we have been practicing Catholics, who always supported the church, but now, we have an animosity toward our own church that is not going to be easily reversed. In fact, I could say in all honestly, I despise the men who run the church, from Francis on down to many bishops. I despise what they are, what they teach, what they practice. It is not Catholicism, and I want no part of it. It is nothing but secular humanism, at times paganism. Francis has made it clear my kind (actual Catholics who love actual Catholicism) are not wanted, have no part in the church, and will be insulted and punished or tormented, at every opportunity. The feeling is now mutual.
So THERE'S the "renewal" they were always looking for.
They couldn't do a better job of destroying the church if it was intentional, which I believe at this point, has to be the case. (Nobody is this bad by accident.) At some point even simpletons can see things are not working out as planned. So apparently it's all going swimmingly.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you!
I was raised in the NO church and became more and more traditional as I raised kids and aged. I loved and studied liturgy, both independently and in university. I bought into the hermeneutics of continuity
Covid ended all that for me. I found myself at the Ordinariate, the only place I could find a balance between C restrictions and reverence . Once the restrictions were no more I made my way toTLM with the help if the wisdom of Dr. Kwasniewski. I mourn the lost decades when I could have been giving God his due, but it had been denied me.

Marissa said...

What a good "mini-apologetics" article, if you get what I mean. I have never heard of Church Life Journal and I have to say I was a bit discouraged to read that there are still people writing that the TLM shouldn't exist at all. It seems like that horse has bolted. But then I looked up each author: Thomas Weinandy (age 76), John Cavidini (~69), Mary Healy (age 58 - a spring chicken in comparison with the other two).

The lady teaches seminarians in Detroit and thinks "that women should be involved in the formation of Catholic seminarians. She said, 'The presence of faith-filled, spiritually mature women in positions of authority is important for helping young men mature in their masculinity and preventing the development of clericalist attitudes.'"

I'll have to politely disagree.

I do wonder if there are that many people under 60 who even have these beliefs about the TLM.

English Catholic said...

Great summary. I have one nitpick:

"Completely ignored were the desires and practical issues facing lay Catholics, as the Church did not give a crap what lay Catholics thought at this point."

Clerics are not the Church. Please don't equate the two. I know people repeat this point over and over, but it's important to be accurate. The Church is Christ's body, and when clerics abuse and demean those subject to them, it's not the Church acting, but individual, fallen men. Conversely, when (for example) a layman teaches his child the faith, this is an action of the Church, not merely of a fallen human being.

Equating clerics with the Church is disastrous. It has some horrible effects and warps our thinking in subtle but important ways. Let's be careful not to do it.

Boniface said...

English Catholic,

Agreed, but I don't think the author is making this equivocation. We all know the Church is not the hierarchy, but like it or not, it is a linguistic convention to sometimes say "the Church" when we just mean the hierarchy. This has been common in western history, and since the whole essay is about the hierarchy I think the choice of wording is fine.