I found this fascinating quote in the article From Rio de Janeiro to Rome, from Poetry to Prose by Sandro Magister. In it, Magister quotes the Pope’s take on two opposite tendencies, progressive and traditionalist, present in the Church:
The Gnostic proposal. This is usually seen in groups of elites with the proposal of superior spirituality, rather disembodied, that ends up in pastoral attitudes of ‘quaestiones disputatae.’ This was the first deviation of the primitive community and has reappeared, in the course of the Church’s history, in revised and corrected editions. In common terms they are called ‘ enlightened Catholics’ (to be presently the heirs of Enlightenment culture).
The Pelagian proposal. This appears fundamentally under the form of restoration. Before the evils of the Church, what is sought is a solely disciplinary solution, in the restoration of outdated conduct and forms that even culturally have no capacity to be significant. In Latin America this is seen in small groups, in some new religious congregations, in exaggerated tendencies toward doctrinal or disciplinary ‘certitude.’ Fundamentally it is static, although it can claim a dynamic ‘ad intra,’ of involution. It seeks to ‘recover’ the lost past.
What may be analysed in the Roman Catholic Church will certainly be present in all Churches and ecclesial communities.
This ought to challenge our own motivations, whether we must consciously return to the past to “restore”, or go forward with the flow of history. We should not forget that in time, the cultural and liturgical styles of the 1960’s and 70’s will also be dinosaurs – and are already objects of conservatism. Is that period just as lost a past as the 1930’s or the nineteenth century or the fifteenth? Must history be marked by ruptures through which the past no longer exists?
What is the role of the liturgy? We admire it in Orthodoxy but shun it when our own tradition is in question. Where is Christianity best expressed? In the mass rallies and outdoor Masses attracting thousands of people? In the prayer, toil and slog of everyday life in a small community?
I tend to agree that if we carry on out of a motive of conservatism of the past, we become sterile and irrelevant. Can we carry on with traditional liturgical forms and follow the trajectory of history? Is Continuing Anglicanism an adequate vehicle for old wine in new skins and a resolution of this dichotomy between “right” and “left”?