Sunday, March 12, 2023

Some Nonsense from Cardinal Cupich

[Mar. 12, 2023] Back on February 27, Cardinal Blaise Cupich published an article in America Magazine entitled "Critics of Pope Francis' Latin Mass Restrictions Should Listen to JPII."  In this essay the good Cardinal accused traditional Catholics who resist Traditionis custodes of a plethora of faultsingratitude to the generosity of Benedict XVI and John Paul II, undermining the See of Peter, resistance to the Holy Spirit, and, that most tiresome canard, rejection of the Vatican II. He attempts to tie embrace of the Novus Ordo with acceptance of Vatican II.

It is an interesting piece that aptly demonstrates how out of touch with reality Cupich is about the entire liturgical question. The article is a lament for the refusal of traditional Catholics to accept Traditionis custodes with sufficient docility. Cupich not only says we must accept the suppression of the old Mass, but even thank God for it!—quoting John Paul II, he says, "We should give thanks to God for that movement of the Holy Spirit in the Church which the liturgical renewal represents.” Obeying isn't even enough; the only appropriate response Cupich will countenance is "Thank you sir, may I have another?"

Cupich thus views trad resentment about the motu proprio as unfounded. He wants us to understand that it's for our own good, and most importantly, that we should not assume there is any ulterior motive in Francis' actions beyond the good of souls. Traditionalists should not feel like the pope is out to get them; he merely wants us to reap the rich fruits of the Conciliar reform. Cupich says:

My point is simply this; no one should now suggest that Pope Francis (or, for that matter, Cardinal Roche) has any motivation in issuing “Traditionis Custodes” and authorizing the “Rescriptum” other than the desire to remain faithful to the promptings of the Holy Spirit that gave rise to the teachings and reforms of the council.
According to Cupich, Francis' only motivation for issuing Traditionis custodes is a desire to be faithful to the Holy Spirit (the implication being that if you find fault with Traditionis custodes, you are finding fault with the Holy Spirit!). To refute this assertion we need look no further than the words of Pope Francis himself. In the accompanying letter to Traditionis custodes, Francis was very deliberate in explaining the rationale for his decision, which he returns to multiple times. He gives as his reasons: 

  • That the "pastoral objectives" of Benedict XVI and John Paul II had been "seriously disregarded" by traditionalists who were making a "distorted use" of the grants of the two pontiffs.
  • That the magnanimity of the popes was "exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences, and encourage disagreements that injure the Church, block her path, and expose her to the peril of division."
  • That the "words and attitudes" of traditional Catholics evidences a "close connection between the choice of celebrations according to the liturgical books prior to Vatican Council II and the rejection of the Church and her institutions"; i.e., he thinks the TLM is a breeding ground for dissent, which is manifest in the "words and attitudes" of traditional Catholics.
It is beyond clear that Pope Francis intended his motu proprio to be punitive; he issued it to address what he perceived to be the bad faith of the traditional Catholic community. One need not agree with Francis' assessment to see that this is what Francis believes. Cupich is simply wrong when he asserts Francis had nothing but benign motives. His motives were punitive and he says so himself.

Of course, Cupich would probably argue that such punitive measures are simply part of the big picture of realizing the Council's vision, which Cupich admits still hasn't been accomplished after 60 years. Although (and this is rich!) he claims the failure of the Council is due to "pockets of resistance to the council’s teachings and reforms, especially the refusal to accept the restoration of the liturgy." It is traditional Catholics who have obstructed the Council's implementation! It was not the fault of the liberals who used the Council as a pretext for dismantling the entire Catholic heritage from the ground up. It was the fault of a statistically insignificant minority who refused to participate in said destruction. 

Speaking of the Council, Cupich habitually confounds the Councils and the Novus Ordo, as the chief proponents of the New Mass have been wont to do for decades now. (1) Quoting the ecclesiastical synod convened under John Paul II in 1985, Cupich says:
The liturgical renewal is the most visible fruit of the whole work of the Council...For many people the message of the Second Vatican Council has been experienced principally through the liturgical reform.
This is a remarkable statement that somehow manages to be true and false simultaneously. On the one hand, it is incorrect to equate the liturgy with the Council. The reformed Mass we eventually got was not envisioned by the Council Fathers; it was created by a bureaucratic organ that not established by the Council, incorporated elements never called for in Sacrosanctum concilium, and was not promulgated until five years after the Council's close. It is not only wrong but gaslighting to accuse Catholics of "rejecting the Council" when they criticize the Novus Ordo. Throughout the article Cupich cites Sacrosanctum concilium, implying traditional Catholics are dissenting from it when the Mass Paul VI gave the Church in 1970 was nothing like what Sacrosanctum concilium called for.

But, on the other hand, it is true that the Novus Ordo exemplifies the spirit of the Council. It was the upheavel of the Council that made the Novus Ordo possible. The New Mass truly does reflect the ecclesiology and priorities of the Second Vatican Council. It is the Spirit of Vatican II incarnate.

That the Novus Ordo is not the "Mass of the Council" is also disproven by the existenc of an actual Mass of the Council, the so-called "Missal of 1965." This Missal was a kind of modified 1962 Ordo Missae that incorporated the changes specifically called for in Sacrosanctum concilium. You can read about the Missal of 1965 in this article by Msgr. Charles Pope ("A Look at the 'Actual Mass' of Vatican II: the 1965 Missal," Jan. 2015). The Novus Ordo actually supplanted the real Mass of the Council.

Cupich again returns to his theme of the Novus Ordo as fidelity to the Holy Spirit:
Like St. John Paul II, Pope Francis takes seriously that the restoration of the liturgy was the result of the movement of the Holy Spirit. It was not about the imposition of an ideology on the church by any one person or group

This is simply unhistorical. As we known, Annibale Bugnini and his associates were deeply ideological about all things pertaining to the liturgy. The Novus Ordo Missae was crafted specifically to exemplify the anthropocentric and latitudinarian ideology of the reformers. Furthermore, it is wrong to say it was not imposed by any "one person or group" when it was literally the brainchild of Bugnini and the Consilium. The way Cupich speaks, you would think the Novus Ordo descended from heaven fully, leaping into the Council chambers to the universal acclimation of the bishops.  

He then calls for "acceptance of the restored liturgy" by all Catholics. This word acceptance is so meaningless, as it is never defined. What does it mean to "accept" the liturgy? To merely accept that it is valid? To accept that it is the unique expression of the Roman rite? To accept that it was necessary? To accept that it was a a good idea? To accept that it is the future of the Catholic liturgy? To accept that it is superior to the Traditional Latin Mass? To accept that the pope had authority to promulgate it? What exactly do you mean by "acceptance of the restored liturgy"? Of course, Cupich doesn't say. You see this all the time when normies discuss traditionalism; they speak of the need to "accept" the Mass and stop "rejecting" Vatican II but never seem to consider the variable meanings of these words. I think this is probably intentional. Were these words interpreted strictly, it would be plain that almost all trads already "accept" Vatican II, and hence the critique of trads as dissenters would be deflated; were these words intepreted broadly, however, it would impose a burden of assent so heavy as to be patently ridiculous. Hence, the words are never defined, with the result that even if trads cannot be proven disloyal, they can at least have the stench of disloyalty on them.

When arguing for the acceptance of the New Mass (whatever he means by that), Cardinal Cupich has the audacity to cite Propser of Aquitaine. The citation from Propser says:
Let us consider the sacraments of priestly prayers, which having been handed down by the apostles are celebrated uniformly throughout the whole world and in every Catholic church so that the law of praying might establish the law of believing (ut legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi).

I wonder at times whether men like Cupich are truly so unaware, or if these sorts of quotes are intentional. What irony in citing Propser's admonition to retain rites that have been "handed down by the apostles" as an argument to embrace the Novus Ordo, which was a rejection of what had been handed down! Its citation is positively Orwellian:

The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy: they are deliberate exercises in doublethink. (1984, Part II, Chap. IX)
Cupich concludes his tirade by returning to the age-old staple of anti-traddism: traditional Catholics are disloyaly:
We should name it for what it is: resistance to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and the undermining of genuine fidelity to the See of Peter.
We cannot fail to be amused that only moments ago he was citing Prosper of Aquitaine's admonition to maintain the traditions of the apostles, while now he is accusing trads of resisting the Holy Spirit for refusing to embrace the liturgy that systematically discarded the traditions of the centuries. 

I have said before and will say again, the intellectual momentum is with traditionalists. The power is with the progressives. May the former continue to increase while the latter be found to decrease.


(1) While Sacrosanctum concilium did of course call for a revision of the liturgical books (SC 25), what the Council requested and what actually happened are a world apart. The rites were to be revised only "where necessary," and then "carefully in the light of sound tradition" (SC 4); Latin and Gregorian chant were to be retained (SC 36, 116). There is no call for new "Eucharistic Prayers." There is no mention of versus populum or communion in the hand, the two most notable elements of the Novus Ordo. The Novus Ordo Missae, as experienced in 95% of Catholic parishes around the world, is not the liturgy the Second Vatican Council called for. This is not to say the new Mass would have been acceptable had it stuck to the letter of Sacrosanctum concilium, but it is to say that the Mass we got is not what the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy envisioned nor what the Council fathers intended.

Sunday, March 05, 2023

The Church as a Barnacle Encrusted Ship

[Mar. 3, 2023] It has frequently been observed that the liturgical reform of the mid-twentieth century was founded upon false principles of archaeologism or antiquarianism, a fallacy whereby something is held to be better or purer the older it is. If you are not familiar with the concept of archaeologism, I humbly recommend my essay "What is Archaeologism?" on the Unam Sanctam Catholicam website.

The premise that the Catholic liturgy is better to the degree that is approximates to (perceived) patristic custom depends largely upon an analogy of accretion and restoration—like the hull of a ship, the Church is conceived as something that accumulates barnacles over the passage of time. The accretion of these barnacles is a symbol for the way the Church amasses traditions over the centuries, the way a moving glacier picks up debris as it scrapes across the landscape. If the Church is to be restored to its original (i.e., superior) form, these accretions must be removed. The reformers are thus like seamen scraping barnacles from the sides of a ship to beautify her, returning her to her original splendor by making her "like new."

As well as this idea works for physical objects like ships, it is really not an appropriate analogy when dealing with something like religion. I would go so far as to say the validity of the reformer's historical views only work if one presumes this analogy. But once the analogy is abandoned, we see how errant the reformers ideas truly are, and why this comparison should not be made about the Catholic liturgy or religious ideals in general.

St. John Henry Newman's Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine addresses this issue when Newman treats of the development of ideas. Ideas have an entirely different sort of life cycle than a physical object like a ship. Unlike a car, which begins to depreciate the moment you drive it off the lot, an idea grows stronger with age. Its maturation unfolds new facets of the idea that were always latent within it but are only drawn forth by the vicissitudes of time. In addressing those who suggest primitive Christianity is the highest form of the religion, Newman observes:

It is indeed sometimes said that a stream is clearest near the spring. Whatever use may fairly be made of this image, it does not apply to the history of philosophy or belief, which on the contrary is more equable, and purer, and stronger, when its bed has become deep, and broad, and full. It necessarily rises out of an existing state of things, and for a time savours of the soil. Its vital element needs disengaging from what is foreign and temporary, and is employed in efforts after freedom which become more vigorous and hopeful as its years increase. Its beginnings are no measure of its capabilities, nor of its scope. At first no one knows what it is, or what it is worth. It remains perhaps for a time quiescent; it tries, as it were, its limbs, and proves the ground under it, and feels its way. From time to time it makes essays which fail, and are in consequence abandoned. It seems in suspense which way to go; it wavers, and at length strikes out in one definite direction. In time it enters upon strange territory; points of controversy alter their bearing; parties rise and fall around it; dangers and hopes appear in new relation; and old principles reappear under new forms. It changes with them in order to remain the same. In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often. (An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, Ch. I, Sec. 1, § 7). 

If you have never read Newman's Essay, it is a fantastic work I highly recommend. Chapter I on the nature of how ideas develop in human society is particularly relevant to this discussion.

The Roman rite in its fully developed form—as codified by St. Pius V—is a mature expression of Catholicism, vastly richer than whatever rituals so-called experts fabricated from culling fragments of patristic parchment. [1] This is not to denigrate the role of the Fathers or the immense treasures of our patristic heritage, but it is to understand their proper place. The patristic era stands as the foundation of all that came later; the entire edifice of our faith rests upon like a house rests upon its foundations. Even so, I do not live in the basement of my house, but in the upper rooms the basement supports and makes possible. 

Similarly, we recognize that the perfection of the traditional liturgy is precisely in that it has developed over so many centuries. Where the reformers saw an accretion of barnacles, we see a grand and venerable oak, made splendorous by the passing of time. It is a much more organic view of the Church and its maturation, which is fully appropriate given St. Paul compares the Church to an organic body (cf. 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 1:23). We must cherish our Church's youth, to be sure. But there is a difference between cherishing our youth and trying to return to it. The former is a fitting sentiment for any mature adult; the latter is more akin to an embarassing midlife crisis.

For more related articles on this subject see these two pieces from New Liturgical Movement:

[1] The great irony of the reformer's archaeologism is that the product they created does not even accurately reflect patristic worship. It is not a return to ancient worship, but a modern construction based tenuously on fragments of patristic writing with the (considerable) gaps filled in by sheer innovation.