Rorate Caeli

It is time for the heresy of formlessness to be anathematized

From Chant Cafe comes the following essay (emphases mine):

Revd Fr Christopher Smith

Reports are coming in that Bishop Olmstead of Phoenix has promulgated a policy on Communion under both species much less restrictive than a document released earlier. It will be interesting to see if the Diocese of Madison will follow suit. “There has been much needless hurt over this issue,” Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo Nevares has stated.

But should this episode not lead us to ask the question, “What is the ultimate origin of this hurt?” Many were quick to blame Bishop Olmstead for the hurt because of enacting a policy, which, although it has now been retracted, is entirely permissible according to the Church’s liturgical law.

People all over the blogosphere were quick to turn to Church documents to support their positions for and against Olmstead’s now reversed decision. I was one of them, and even posted some of the pertinent documents in a post on Chant Café. As I watched the commentary on this issue develop, I came to realize something which frankly makes me quite uncomfortable. Everyone could appeal to authoritatively binding Church documents, without modifying or falsifying their meaning, for their position.

So this begs the question: what is the proper hierarchy of documents related to the liturgy? Theologians before the Second Vatican Council often used a system to rank the relative gravity of theological propositions: de fide divina, de fide ecclesiastica, and so on. That system has disappeared, and so there is a lack of clarity as what the weight of a papal encyclical is as opposed to, oh, for example, a note of the Vatican dicastery Iustitia et pax, or a comment made by the Pope in an interview on an airplane and an instruction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

This is not just a question for theology or liturgy nerds. Its answer is vital to communion in the Church.
Now that Pope Benedict XVI’s principle of the hermeneutic of continuity has become the cornerstone for what some see as a proper interpretation, not only of the Second Vatican Council, but of everything in the life of the Church, we have to ask: how do we establish that hermeneutic?

Where the principles of establishing that hermeneutic are reversed, that reversal is going to be played out in ways which can engender confusion and ill will. When the Visitation of female Religious in America was announced, there were some Sisters who said that religious life had to be interpreted according to Gaudium et spes, while others said according to Perfectae caritatis. The Sisters who honestly reformed their communities according to the former have been treated with suspicion for not conforming to a certain interpretation of Perfectae caritatis. We can argue over how the reform of religious life was carried out, but was either principle false?

In liturgy, these tensions can be seen. Is Redemptionis sacramentum to be seen in the light of Sacrosanctum concilium or vice-versa? Is the Missal of Paul VI to be seen in the light of the Missal of St Pius V or vice-versa? If the Missal of Paul VI does not tell you how to incense an altar, can it be presupposed that you do so in the manner of the Missal of St Pius V? I have heard both sides on all of these questions. And these questions can be multiplied ad nauseam.

It would seem to me that, if we view Church documents as becoming more explicit as time goes on, then precedence should go to the most recent document. One assumes that with each successive document, the Church becomes more specific. If we take this to be the case, then the permission in MR 2002 for Communion under both species has to take into account 2004 Redemptionis sacramentum, which places Communion under both species in the context of the prohibition against the unnecessary multiplication of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, that also hearkens back to the 1997 document On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of the Priest. Then the question becomes: which is more important: that the faithful receive under both species or the avoidance of the unnecessary multiplication of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion?

(An aside: Yet seeing the most recent Church document as more explicit, and thus the driving force for interpretation, would mean that the Missal of St Pius V should be seen in the light of the Missal of Paul VI, and not vice-versa, contrary to what seems to be the thrust of Summorum pontificum and Universae ecclesiae. So which is it?)

Different people come down on different sides of the priority of MR 2002 vs, RS 2004 question, and that drives their response to what Olmstead did originally in Phoenix. The question of priority of document drives the answer to alot of questions.

I am reminded of the fact that, outside of the United States, both Communion under both species and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are comparatively rare. The Roman Pontiff in his Masses employs neither. Do those two facts have any meaning at all, or are they aberrations from what should be the norm? And if they are aberrations, why are they allowed to continue?

Against the bewildering plethora of liturgical documents in different times and places, with no discernible ranking as to their weight and authority, we have several levels of actual practice, which are in turn sometimes enshrined in law. We have the practice of the Roman Pontiff, we have the norms of the Universal Church, the norms of the Episcopal Conferences, the norms of individual Ordinaries, the policies and praxis of individual pastors, then of individual celebrants, and then the idiosyncracies of all of them. In turn, again, we have the multiplication of endless options in the liturgical books themselves for everything under the sun, and then the reality that there are many priests and communities that just do whatever they want.

There are some who argue that this is how the Church is supposed to be. The nature of the Church and the liturgy is such that all of this diversity is part of her constitution. The Church and the liturgy must be in eternal flux, just as the human experience itself.

But, does it not seem, that with every option, every nuance, every legitimate possibility at an increasingly differentiated number of levels, the possibilities for misunderstanding, hurt and the impairment of ecclesial communion increase exponentially? If the Second Vatican Council in Lumen gentium was all about helping us to discover the Church once again as Communion, which Joseph Ratzinger’s theology so eloquently argued that it was, then is it possible that the liturgical reform after Sacrosanctum concilium has hidden within it germs which threaten that very same communion?

There will be those who will gloat over Olmstead’s retraction of a policy barring Communion under both species. Who knows to what extent popular pressure or guidance from other Bishops or the Vatican had something to do with that volte-face. But in essence, it seems to me to be a Pyrrhic victory at best. The liturgical reform at present is a collection of competing rites, books, authorities, documents, and personalities. Those who see the retraction as a vindication of their position, and those of us who maintain that both the previous proposed and the now current policy are legitimate exercises of episcopal authority under the present liturgical law, do we not have to ask ourselves a more pressing question? Why does this situation exist, in which so many possibilities exist which are all equally legal and valid, and consequently set us all at each other’s throats?

The answer to this question cannot be discovered in denunciations of clericalism or papal authority, or appeals to one theological idea over another. We have to go back to basics: What is the point of the liturgy and how does it build up the communion of the Church? Guided by the Holy Spirit, may the entire Church, under the guidance of the hierarchy, untie the knots the liturgical reform has wrought in the life of the Ecclesia orans.

We are almost fifty years out from Vatican II. It is time for the growing pains that inevitably come with change and reform to stop. It is time for the heresy of formlessness which has characterized the last fifty years of liturgical chaos to be anathematized. It is time that we find a way in which the entire Latin Church can actually celebrate the liturgy in a way which respects diversity, but does not at the same time threaten the bonds of communion within the Church.

27 comments:

Kindred Spirit said...

The crux of the matter is this: the liturgy is not about "respecting diversity" at all but, rather, it is about worshiping Almighty God in the manner which He has prescribed.

Sobieski said...

Why does this situation exist...?

Because it seems the munus regendi in the Church has been lost in exchange for the diplomatic mindset. Weren't the reforms of Trent precisely directed at preventing such liturgical chaos?

On a related note, I heard that the indult for communion in the hand at OF Masses granted to the USCCB has expired (despite the fact that it still goes on). Anyone else hear this?

Sobieski

M. A. said...

"...it is about worshiping Almighty God in the manner which He has prescribed."
_________

There is prevalent in the minds of some in the Church, the insane notion that God is indifferent to how His creatures worship Him. As a consequence, the laity as well as "presiders" can exercise their authoritively sanctioned privileges of choosing from among the many options afforded them.

It was a so-called conservative priest who not too long ago told me as much.

There is no hope for the Church apart from Divine intervention. That is my firm belief.

Rick DeLano said...

The author of this essay has correctly diagnosed a most important symptom of the catastrophe enveloping the Church.

There is no longer a sure, clear, authoritative set of documents which allow the sincere Catholic the objective possibility of professing the True Faith, on a very large number of issues *other* than those pertaining to the liturgy.

Inerrancy of Scripture. Death penalty. Even Original Sin (!)

The confusion multiplies.

New Catholic said...

"Everyone could appeal to authoritatively binding Church documents, without modifying or falsifying their meaning, for their position."

Will this mess convince Father that the only possible answer is the Traditional Mass? I doubt it: he is probably one of those who believe that the "new-new-new English translation" and "English-Gregorian-chant" will make much difference... As for myself, I am exhausted of these Novus Ordo discussions and debates.

This is a Novus Ordo matter: let the dead bury their own dead.

New Catholic said...

"Everyone could appeal to authoritatively binding Church documents, without modifying or falsifying their meaning, for their position."

Father is right, of course. It is a pity, though, that some believe that the "new-new-new English translation" and "English-Gregorian-chant" will make much difference... As for myself, I am exhausted of these Novus Ordo discussions and debates.

This is a Novus Ordo matter: let the dead bury their own dead.

Gratias said...

We have communion with wine because it was the will of Martin Luther.

The confusion in laws affects many of us deeply for we cannot only attend the TLM only. In a way it is healthy that we keep a foot in the world of the dead for we might help build bridges - pontifex is what bridge builders are called.

Knight of Malta said...

The formless liturgy was anathematized at the council of Trent. Canon 9 threatened excommunication against those who would say mass should be purely vernacular. Vatican II didn't abrogate that even though it said more vernacular was permissible.

What authority authorized a purely vernacular liturgy?

Tradfly said...

"t is healthy that we keep a foot in the world of the dead"

@ Gratias,

One word: Gangrene
Put in less metaphorical terms, it's an occasion of sin against Faith, to be avoided at all costs. I've observed the faith of some quite pious people being slowly eroded through their years of Conciliar Church "membership". These examples in mind are old enough that they had received proper spiritual formation BTW.

A mom said...

"M. A. said...
There is no hope for the Church apart from Divine intervention. That is my firm belief."

I totally agree.

LeonG said...

True liturgical embodiment of The Roman Catholic Faith can only be represented in The Latin Mass for the Latin Rite Church. The vernacular alternative is antithetical and encourages formlessness because it has revolutionary roots which are fundamentally protestant in nature. Its lack of form has influenced post-conciiar eccelesiastical art, music and architecture which has similarly become formless and even psychologically disturbing. It is already anathematised by The Tridentine Councils and by Pope St Pius V. This explains why the NO is having such a catastrophic effect on the modern church and it will continue to do so until it is finally abolished. Each new edition brings further demise.

Tancred said...

Do Post-Vatican II documents cited by -- and promoting the agendas of -- dissidents have any weight against the constant teaching of the Church?

How is Communion under both species not an attempt to spirit a dangerous theological error into the minds of modern Catholics?

Aren't the statistics about what Catholics actually believe enough to point to the danger of these clearly dangerous post-Conciliar -- and in some cases pre-Conciliar -- practices?

Delphina said...

I disagree that the TLM is the answer to the crisis.

We had the TLM, and it didn't stop the crisis in the Church which began long before Vatican II.

HSE said...

Delphina: "We had the TLM, and it didn't stop the crisis in the Church which began long before Vatican II."

For many Catholics, the Faith was taken for granted prior to V2 and as a result was easily lost after V2.

For years, many have struggled and pursued the TLM in their communities and now they fear losing it . . . We must pray that we never take our Faith for granted again! This renewal of Faith involves personal accountability - as it should.

Spiritual hunger is REAL!

We unite our prayers with those who have yet to have the TLM in their communities. Do not lose hope; continue to persevere! Never tire of asking . . .

Joe B said...

Delphina, I think if the venerable old mass had not been radically replaced on a worldwide scale we would be well on our way to recovery by now. The Novus Ordo destroyed the Catholic identity worldwide and overnight, and with it went the abundance of devout Catholic families, the source of good priests. The old mass was our DNA. Now, with those thoroughly Catholic families largely marginalized along with their mass, it is going to take a lot longer to get the numbers of good priests up to that required for an effective reform.

As for the rest of the changes after VCII, I don't think most Catholics would have been profoundly affected by them since they don't pay much attention to theology anyway. But the new worldwide mass - that was the death of the Catholic identity, and without that, anything could be and was fostered on the faithful like a child who loses both his parents.

Mr. Suppo said...

Delphina,
The TLM did not prevent the disaster. God only knows how much it held it at bay. The NO certainly opened the flood gates, the tsunami came and now we have a ruined city.
If we go back to our roots the City can be rebuilt.

Mr. Suppo

Tancred said...

The uncompromising living out of the Dogmas of the Catholic Faith will be the solution of the crisis. That alone will restore piety and bring peace and clarity to people's minds and hearts.

John said...

"The Novus Ordo destroyed the Catholic identity worldwide and overnight, and with it went the abundance of devout Catholic families, the source of good priests.

"The old mass was our DNA. Now, with those thoroughly Catholic families largely marginalized along with their mass, it is going to take a lot longer to get the numbers of good priests up to that required for an effective reform.

"But the new worldwide mass - that was the death of the Catholic identity, and without that, anything could be and was fostered on the faithful like a child who loses both his parents."

Trads pound the same old and tired drum in regard to the state of Latin Church liturgy.

You drive yourselves crazy with you old, tired complaints and fantasies — that "all we must do is return to the TLM and all will be fine...all will be fine...all will be fine.

Once and for all, get the following straight: The Apostolic See disagrees with your assessment and opinions in regard to liturgy.

The Novus Ordo is the Latin Church's primary Mass.

Deal with it. Deal with it. Please deal with it.

Please.

Gangrene said...

@Tradfly:

Gratias for the laughs. Cheers.

Adfero said...

One you just tried to post anonymously. We appreciate your thoughts but you must follow the instructions on this page and use a name or pseudonym when posting.

Joe B said...

John, then we're doomed, because we now know the Novus Ordo can't produce enough good priests to support a worldwide faith. Fact, John. You also have to face the fact that it doesn't matter how many people like it or don't, it has to inspire good priests.

Of course, since we will never die out, and probably won't shrink to insignificance, something will change.

Hello, TLM.

It would solve our current problems in time, but of course there will be a new set to take their place. Nobody is promising Heaven on Earth, John.

Please deal with the fact that the Catholic faith isn't subject to polls, John.

LeonG said...

It has to be understood fully that when the revolutionary liberals proposed to "raze bastions" in The Roman Catholic Church it could be done only by a modernist liturgical unhinging. This they achieved permitting a collapse of all significant Catholic infrastructure. Further, it is the vernacularised NO which has facilitated the necessary paradigm shift in "catholic thought". Thus, a rupture was the only means of taking the revolution beyond mere theorising.
When The Latin Mass has the NO calendar imposed on it & the other liberalised accretions such as the new Prefaces the final liturgical "bastion" is going to be slowly deconstructed from within by more changes. Doubt this? Wait and see - it is coming.

Delphina said...

I have to agree with HSE, Joe B and our dear "Mr. Suppo".

To be frank, I do not think it is a coincidence that since Benedict XVI released the TLM, things seem to be picking up in the Church. I do think that more graces flow from the TLM.

Also, I do not think that the modernists could have foisted their death-blow to the Church had they not had the novus ordo Mass. For my own part, I witness the devastating effects of that Mass on the faith of the pewsitters each and every week.

Tancred said...

The destruction of the Liturgy couldn't have been accomplished except without the systematic attack on the Dogma which has been going on in the last two hundred-plus years.

The confusion about the liturgy is a bastard of the confusion sewn in the realm of philosophy and theology.

David said...

To John,

Who is pounding a drum and making mantras? To me the "Deal with it." at the end of your post seems more like a mantra to me. No, all will not be fine if we just have the TLM. As Joe B said, we're not promising Heaven on Earth.

One thing I don't think you understand is why people are so sad. But the cry of a banished heart will always come out, the heart longing to adore God as his pre-Reformation forebears did before Luther wrecked it all, the heart aching for beauty, and a heart above all desiring the greater glory of God can not in the end be silenced. And if you don't think God cares about the way sacrifice is brought to Him, then only look at Cain and Abel. Large parts of the Church is infested with the spirit of Cain. What we need is the spirit of Abel, which would mean for instance the restoration of the Gregorian Rite and sound liturgy, the eschewing of the Liturgical Movement's strange ideas on active participation as something exactly equal to visible action, and a piety brought back to the age-old wisdom of our fathers.

This is not an unreasonable or illegitimate demand, it is similar to the demand of a son to his father to feed and clothe him during his upbringing. What we want is food, shelter and comfort against the tides of the world. Is that too much to ask?

Enough with the experiment!

Saint Gregory the Great, pray for us.

In the Sacred Heart,
David

Long-Skirts said...

John said...

"Once and for all, get the following straight: The Apostolic See disagrees with your assessment and opinions in regard to liturgy.

The Novus Ordo is the Latin Church's primary Mass.

Deal with it. Deal with it."

By the grace of God, we have...

IS
NOW...

We have a Home
With a weak-willed Father
When his friends come to booze
They pay us no bother -

Took Mother and siblings
So they'd not start roaming
Out on the streets
From sun-rise till eve's gloaming -

An attached cottage to Home
On Chapel Street
Safe and warm from the world
Bread from shepherds we eat -

We pray for our Father
That he'll make an amend -
So together at Home
"...shall be, world without end."

Jordanes551 said...

You drive yourselves crazy with you old, tired complaints and fantasies — that "all we must do is return to the TLM and all will be fine...all will be fine...all will be fine.

On the contrary, traditional and traditionalist Catholics do not all believe that. Many if not most of them hold that a return to the traditional Latin Mass is necessary but not sufficient to make everything "fine."

Once and for all, get the following straight: The Apostolic See disagrees with your assessment and opinions in regard to liturgy. The Novus Ordo is the Latin Church's primary Mass.

True, it is.

For now.

It remains to be seen if that will still be the case in another 50 or 100 or 200 years, though. The position of the Pauline Missal is still far from settled in the Church's life, as shown by the very frequent revisions it has undergone since 1969.