Rorate Caeli

Trads 'not on the side of orthodoxy', Mr Bornhoft?

Fr Anthony Mary of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer,
celebrating Mass on Stronsay Island in the Orkneys.
A certain William Bornhoft has written an article patiently explaining that, although he can't think of any deviations from orthodox doctrine or practice with which to accuse those attached to the Traditional Mass, nevertheless:

Whether they realize it or not, TLM Millennials [as he calls them] are not on the side of orthodox Catholicism. They are at odds with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

It is a great pity he can't think of any actual teachings we reject, since the accusation that we are 'at odds with the teachings of the Catholic Church' would appear to imply that it is teachings which are at issue.

It is an old trick, however - and aren't the old ones the best? - to say that, because trads are attached to the Traditional Mass, and have criticisms to make of the liturgical reform, they are

skeptical of liturgical reform, which is to say, they are skeptical of Vatican II.

But we still a long way from any specifications of teachings of the Church which we are supposed to be rejecting, and it is this final logical jump that, like a nervous horse, Mr Bornhoft is shy of taking, despite his desire to be on the other side of it.

Would it not be safer, Mr Bornhoft, to say that in being 'skeptical of liturgical reform', traditional Catholics are accepting, digesting, and making their own the teaching of the Second Vatican Council itself, which said - and these words could easily be a motto or battle-cry for Catholics attached to the Traditional Mass (Sacrosanctum concilium 23):

there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.

This is, in fact, an expression of healthy skepticism about reform, a demand that proposed reforms pass rigorous tests, that the onus is on reformers to show the value of what they propose. Does Mr Bornhoft accept this teaching, and live by it? If he does, he should certainly attend the Traditional Mass, and should criticise the Novus Ordo for falling short here. For only a lunatic could imagine that what Annibale Bugnini and his associates produced conformed to this principle, and the reform's admirers like it precisely because it doesn't

We must concede to these liturgical radicals that a passage like this is not in fact dogmatic, it is a prudential principle, and while we may point out that it has been a principle implicit in the entire liturgical history of the Church, East and West, from Apostolic times until the 1960s, those who reject it are not ipso facto heretics. But then the radicals must concede, by parallel, to us, that if we point out that the experiment of a multi-year lectionary (for example) has been, all things considered, a failure, we may be being 'skeptical' of Vatican II in this respect (see Sacrosanctum Concilium 51), but only in a way which is perfectly legitimate for orthodox Catholics to be. This is why liturgists completely committed to the Novus Ordo, like the Oratorian Fr Jonathan Robinson, feel free to point out the problems of the multi-year lectionary. (For his views and a complete discussion of this issue see the FIUV Position Paper.)

However, it seems to be beyond Mr Bornhoft to distinguish those aspects of the liturgical reform actually floated, however tentatively, by Vatican II, and those which can claim no support from Council texts at all. For the examples he picks to illustrate our lack of fidelity to Vatican II could not be worse chosen. He refers to Sam Guzman of the Catholic Gentleman blog:

Guzman blames the “Novus Ordo,” poor liturgical music, ad orientem, the lack of Latin, and communion in the hand for making the Catholic mass less appealing to men.

This is a very poorly constructed sentence - it must be the lack of worship ad orientem which Guzman is talking about - but presumably we are supposed to say: shame on you, Sam Guzman, for your skepticism about Vatican II (which in the end is a matter of rejecting the teaching of the Church), in relation to poor liturgical music, the abolition of ad orientem worship, the disappearance of Latin, and Communion in the Hand, which for practical purposes are among the distinguishing marks of the Novus Ordo.

But Vatican II did not call for Mass to be said facing the people, it did not call for Communion in the Hand, it opposed the disappearance of Latin, and it pleaded for good liturgical music. Just go and read Sacrosanctum Concilium, Mr Bornhoft, and tell us how you square what it actually says with your local Novus Ordo celebration. When you've done that, you can explain why we should not point out that the failure of the average Novus Ordo celebration to conform to the principles of Vatican II has led to problems. Why, exactly, can't we do that?

And why can't we repeat what Bl Paul VI said in 1966, prophetically, about vocations to the religious life, the ancient orations so mercilessly butchered by the reformers, Latin, and Gregorian Chant?

Moreover, those prayers, with their antiquity, their excellence, their noble majesty, will continue to draw to you young men and women, called to the inheritance of our Lord. On the other hand, that choir from which is removed this language of wondrous spiritual power, transcending the boundaries of the nations, and from which is removed this melody proceeding from the inmost sanctuary of the soul, where faith dwells and charity burns – We speak of Gregorian chant – such a choir will be like to a snuffed candle, which gives light no more, no more attracts the eyes and minds of men.

The 'snuffed candle'. The peak is 1965.

Was Bl Paul VI skeptical of Vatican II, Mr Bornhoft? Was he not on the side of Catholic teaching? Come out and say it, if you have the courage of your convictions.

Mr Barnhoft's claim that the ancient liturgy has nothing to add to the 'New Evangelisation' needs a separate response, which I've put on my blog here.