Rorate Caeli

Further thoughts on “inculturation”: Why ignore the liturgy that sustained the evangelization of the entire globe?

Yesterday's article naturally raises many questions. With thanks again to Monika Rheinschmitt of Pro Missa Tridentina, I would like to share some further thoughts about the contrast between the Zairean "use" of the Roman Rite (?) and the traditional rite that once nourished Catholics in every country and culture -- and still does, wherever it gains a new foothold.

On our precise topic, Archbishop Arthur Roche stated in an interview on May 16, 2022, when announcing that a document on "Liturgical Formation" would soon be published:

Let me mention two particular aspects of Sacrosancutm Concilium. The first is liturgical inculturation.
     This is that there are some cultures, in certain societies outside Europe, especially in mission countries, where the Roman rite can be enriched by the genius of each place, which is not always easy.
     On this subject, I have often said to the bishops that we have spent the last fifty years preparing the translation of the liturgical texts; and now we must move on to the second phase, which is already foreseen by Sacrosanctum Concilium, and that is the inculturation or adaptation of the Liturgy to the other different cultures, while maintaining unity. I think that we should start this work now. But I would like to point out that today there is only one liturgical "use", not a "rite", and that is in Zaire, in Africa.
     It is important to understand what it means that Jesus has shared our nature, and in a historical moment. We have to consider the importance of the Incarnation and, if we can say so, of the action of grace being incarnated in other cultures, with various expressions that are completely different from what we have seen and appreciated in Europe for so many years.

One wonders, of course, how it can be that for over 1600 years it has been possible to unite vastly diverse cultures, from the ancient Romans to the multitudinous wild tribes of Europe and well beyond by means of the classical Latin rite -- and still today, traditional Catholics in (for example) Nigeria insist on celebrating this authentic Roman rite, with Gregorian chant, beautiful vestments, altar boys in rochettes, even if they do not have Baroque churches or Gothic cathedrals at their disposal.

Such Catholics reject the idea that in Nigeria one can only celebrate Mass with drums and dances. Let's have some examples, from a priestly ordination and a First Mass:

And there are, of course, countless examples of the same phenomenon, which one may see displayed or discussed many places online (see, e.g., this article, this one, this, and this). Particularly noteworthy are the photo albums one can find of the Institute of Christ the King's apostolate in Gabon (see here and here for starters; in the latter, one has to scroll down a bit to get to "Notre Dame de Lourdes – Libreville, Gabon").

All these pictures look somehow different than the ones from Rome that we posted yesterday...

Could this be related to the fact that the Zairean rite was devised/created by European theologians and "liturgists" and by people they trained? A rather modern construction of how Westerners think Africans should celebrate their Mass?

If there is anything we can learn from considering (a) the diversity already allowed by the Novus Ordo's own rubrics, (b) the diversity added on top of this by official or unofficial attempts at "inculturation," and (c) the further diversity created by rampant abuse and bad custom, about which the Vatican pretends to care but never takes concrete action, we are justified in reaching the following conclusion:

The unity of the Novus Ordo consists exclusively in not being the traditional liturgy.

There come to mind the melancholy words that Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson places on the lips of a character in his novel By What Authority? about the Elizabethan persecution of Catholics: "In darker moments it seemed to him and his friends as if any wild fancy was tolerated, so long as it did not approximate too closely to the Old Religion, and they grew sick at heart."