Of Terrorists and Liturgists

There is the old quip about being able to negotiate with terrorists more easily than with liturgists. The steer looks wistfully at the slaughterhouse door as discussions are held about who will be responsible for the liturgy in the Vatican. Will it be Archbishop Piero Marini who was one of Bugnini’s men who reportedly rewrote one of the official eucharistic prayers whilst forking pasta and saltimbocca alla romana into their mouths in a restaurant?

Quite frankly, Rome and Vatican politics interest me about a much as Sarkozy’s sleaze here in France or the dinosaur of socialism à la François Hollande that now reigns. What would be the best thing? Clearly a system reboot, and a new beginning. This traditionalist Eponymous Flower article is significant. My own thought is the simple question: They believe it is the true Church or not?

There is nothing official about Marini, and the pundits may all be wrong. From all accounts, Pope Francis has about the liturgical sensitivity of Paddy O’Flaherty’s goat and has little or no sympathy with the traditionalists in the RC Church. He does little to shut them down, but supplies them with no fuel either.

I was at Fribourg University in the 1980’s and attended lectures given by “litnicks”. One class was on how to compose a eucharistic prayer. There is a basic theme and Gestalt (structure) on which you improvise. I really wondered what I was doing studying theology! Are the anaphoras we have from the East and West, including the Roman Canon, not enough? Do we have to reinvent the wheel. My love of sailing boats conveys the same message. Nothing new needs to be invented – you just do what has always been done.

One of the greatest concerns here is the continuation of tradition. Can something that is lost be revived? That is the whole question about the liturgy I use, Sarum, which was abolished by the Anglicans in 1549 and superseded by the Pius V rite in 1570 (with the theoretical possibility of being allowed to continue it). The Roman rite as it was in the early 1960’s was for a time only continued by dissident and disobedient groups. It’s use in the current RC Church seems to be on a par with “culture” in modern technological society – put in a museum or on CD’s to be looked at or listened to from the outside. I have often observed this difference between old mainstream religion and the traditionalists.

God help us! Some of them exclaim. But will God show them more concern than the sea for a tiny wooden boat? God helps those who help themselves and do something about their predicament.

Pope Francis seems to have been about making people uncomfortable. Again, it is like Hollande after Sarkozy, veiled plutocracy after the same thing without a mask. Perhaps there is the idea of making Catholics “pure” Christians weaned off addictions like nice churches and liturgies. If that is so, then why bother with church? Perhaps we would be better Christians by practising Zen or sailing the sea in a fresh breeze and an overcast day. Why bother with popes, priests and churches? That is the way most people see it.

I admire the traditionalists for trying to keep something going, but they have to adjust their ecclesiology to justify their disobedience. Some do it by denying that the Pope is truly Pope (sedevacantism) and being in the Church in an “extraordinary” way. Others simply admit that Catholicism is a wider category than canonical subordination to the Vatican and local diocesan bishops. I don’t envy them any more than we anyone else envies us continuing Anglicans. We all live in an absurd world in which God seems to take very little interest. Sorry if that sounds blasphemous, but I have had this thought for many years, even to the extent of wondering whether the time of the Redemption was over and we needed a third Testament. Only later would I discover Joachim of Fiore and his theory of the three ages, the age of Christ being over in his lifetime. Yet, we recite novi et aeterni testamenti as we consecrate the chalice at Mass. Christ’s Redemption is valid for all eternity, but does it look like that in our world? I suppose they asked the same question in the twentieth century, that long “great” war than started in 1914, ended in 1989, or can be argued to be continuing to this day.

Do we have the right to let go, or do we have to “suffer for the truth”? Where is our notion of vocation? Who is calling us to the Lord’s vineyard? Are we thinking of things the right way, without excessively pessimistic prejudices? If we allow ourselves to be influenced by the media, whose job is announcing sensational and bad news, we seem to have little to hope for. We have not to give up, but we have perhaps to look further afield for new horizons. That is indeed “dangerous” for the blinkered traditionalist.

2013 was the year that saw the abdication of Benedict XVI and the election of Bergoglio, and also saw the French presidential election. I accuse Benedict XVI of nothing, but he was unable to cope with the pressures from elements in the Curia. Francis seems to be doing better in spite of his vowed intent to clean the Aegean Stables. Hollande promised to purge the sleaze from French politics, but his popularity has declined. If Sarkozy remains the only mainstream alternative, the scales may tip over to the extreme right. Would that be a possibility in the Church? I don’t think so, because most people would not want to go back to the 1930’s or 50’s. We need to be careful about what we hope for, because we might just get it – and regret it bitterly!

Curia shuffling? It matters so little to we who are jaded and cynical (modern meaning) and our reaction is like the day of an election – Why bother voting? They’re all the same. The way of the Goliards seems not to be too bad…

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4 Responses to Of Terrorists and Liturgists

  1. Xryztofer says:

    I find those possibly “blasphemous” wonderings refreshingly honest. As you pointed out something I’ve been thinking myself lately, that the sap of the ancient Catholic liturgy just isn’t flowing through any of today’s branches. Once you’ve been cut off from a living tradition, I don’t know if its ever possible to be grafted back onto it, and that’s our plight in the post-V2 church. The revolutionaries did their work well, and no matter how much effort is put into bringing back the old ways, it may amount to nothing more than trying to galvanize a corpse.

  2. JV says:

    If it continues, Traditionalism will force a re-examination of papal authority in Rome. A fundamental conviction of Traditionalism is that the pope of Rome can be wrong, even in the public exercise of the authority invested in the Petrine office.

    That the whole tone of the Roman Church can change at the whim of a pontiff should expose a serious gap in Roman ecclesiology….or they’ll just rationalize it.

  3. JV says:

    Liturgists are an extreme and often intolerant group. Many of them, rightly so, sense that a lot of ecclesiological issues are at stake if any waiver is seen with regards to modernizing reforms. To one degree or another the legitimacy of a religion is riding on the legitimacy of the Roman liturgical reform. At least as far as they see it. And maybe they are correct. Traditionalists, in the SSPX sense, have created a quasi-Gnostic ecclesiology; if they are correct, it has terrible consequence for a large swath of the Roman Church. Maybe one day Traditional Catholicism, in the sense of trying to retrieve pre-Reformation Western Christianity, will begin to wield some influence in the greater ecclesia…probably not in my life time, but one day.

  4. Pingback: Liturgical Sun-Tzu | Theologically Modernist, Liturgically Traditionalist

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