Thursday, 12 August 2010

Traditional Ordinariate?

Two things, two quotes in fact, from The Lord of the Rings (although they are obviously not verbatim - kudos to any reader who can tell me which character utters them, and give a reference):

''And you?'' she said, turning to Sam. ''For this is what your folk would call the Tridentine Rite, I believe; though I do not understand clearly what they mean; and they seem to use the same term of the deceits of the Enemy.''

''I am not altogether on anybody's side, because nobody is altogether on my side, if you understand me: nobody cares for the Liturgy as I care for it...''

One is hard put to it to find decent Liturgy nowadays, and those who provide Liturgy of a more traditional countenance very often disappoint in some way (I am not talking here about lace cottas, which I am willing to overlook sometimes, but consistency and faithfulness to Tradition - for example, why do traditionalists insist on organising High Masses for modern feasts such as the Sacred Heart or the Precious Blood rather than an older, more liturgically proper, feast such as the Nativity of St John the Baptist?) - I went to a church this year for the traditional Feast of Sts Philip and James, a sung Mass in fact, and expecting Miranda I was greeted by Caliban. Someone else suggested once that I go to a training conference in ''traditional Liturgy'' under the auspices of the Latin Mass Society - again, why would anyone think I'd be impressed by any of this? The '62 Rite is not the Old Rite - as a certain character aptly describes it in The Lord of the Rings - it is a deceit of the Enemy. The '62 Missal is not the last ''unreformed'' Missal before the Missal of Paul VI, with a few unnoticeable reforms and curtailments here and there - it is an aberration. Certain traditionalist organisations, who sponsor the liturgical books of 1962 officially, are as far removed from Tradition as the tambourine-waving yokels in the nearest parish - and I am not niggling about minor points here but real ruptures in liturgical tradition, with pernicious consequences.

Another quote from The Lord of the Rings:

'''And listen, Gandalf, my old friend and helper!' he said, coming near and speaking now in a softer voice. 'I said we, for we it may be, if you will join me. A new Power is rising. Against it the old allies and policies will not avail us at all. There is no hope left in Elves or dying NĂºmenor. This then is one choice before you, before us. We may join with that Power. It would be wise, Gandalf. There is hope that way. Its victory is at hand; and there will be rich reward for those that aided it. As the Power grows, its proved friends will also grow; and the Wise, such as you and I, may with patience come at last to direct its courses, to control it. We can bide our time, we can keep our thoughts in our hearts, deploring maybe evils done by the way, but approving the high and ultimate purpose: Knowledge, Rule, Order; all the things that we have so far striven in vain to accomplish, hindered rather than helped by our weak or idle friends. There need not be, there would not be, any real change in our designs, only in our means.'

'''Saruman,' I said, 'I have heard speeches of this kind before, but only in the mouths of emissaries sent from Mordor to deceive the ignorant. I cannot think that you brought me so far only to weary my ears.''' (The Lord of the Rings, Book II, Chapter II).

In other words, I am not prepared to go along with the '62 Rite with the ultimate goal of one day (in some far distant day) being free to have the real Old Rite unhindered by legal positivists and the '62 police, and people who counsel me otherwise are just as bad as emissaries sent out of Mordor to deceive the ignorant. If someone gets fed up with liturgical abuse and turns to a traditionalist organisation for decent Liturgy, and that ''traditionalist'' organisation provides them with the '62 Rite, which as readers are no doubt aware was only the middle-stage in a well-planned and thorough reform of the Roman Rite, that organisation is guilty of deception, hypocrisy and other grave sins. You cannot remedy faults and abuses in the New Rite by recourse to the liturgical books of 1962 - this is counterproductive; by this logic firemen would extinguish house-fires with more fire.

For all these reasons (and I have long ceased to communicate with traditionalists) what would my readers say to the idea of setting up a truly traditional Ordinariate? A society where one didn't have to put up with things like lace cottas, which make a travesty of Liturgy...We would try to have days devoted to the singing of the Office, we would use the Old Roman Rite (with Communion under both kinds), follow the Julian Kalendar, use the traditional surplice (and for great feasts have the Acolytes in tunicles and the cantors in copes)...but sadly this is not very realistic. Very few people think like me, and all these things cost money, and like so many other good things it would soon wane...

The above painting, by the Tolkien illustrator Ted Nasmith, depicts my escape from the LMS (although I never was a member)...


  1. The first character is the Lady Galadriel with the original words spoken to Sam and Frodo by the Mirror of Galadriel; Bk 2, Ch. VII.

    The second character is Treebeard in conversation with Merry and Pippin when they meet him in Fangorn Forest; Bk 3, Ch. IV.

    I suspect the problem of a Traditional Ordinariate is somewhat akin to re-arranging the deck chairs on RMS Titanic - it might be (theoretically) comfortable and look good but it doesn't solve the root cause of the problem.

  2. Well-spotted Rubricarius, and I'm glad you referred to the actual books and not the falsely-designated ''trilogy'' names, reluctantly accepted by Tolkien for reasons of publication and necessity.

    I expect that my design to set up my own ''ordinariate'' might be construed as setting up a new church divorced from modern Rome but married to Tradition, and sometimes one wonders which is better - communion with an authority I no longer recognise, and which has gone into schism with its own Tradition, or blind acceptance that the authority exists legitimately but taking no notice of it...

  3. Oh dear, oh dear !

    Why is it so hard to accept that one purpose of the papacy is to guide and shape tradition and the practice of the Church - strictly in conformity with the Deposit of Faith, of course - to meet the needs of God's people in every age ?

    Refusing to accept any change is just as unreasonable as insisting that everything must change; and will probably alienate just as many of the Faithful.

  4. Dominic Mary, that definition of the Petrine ministry seems fraught with problems and smacks of doctrinal and traditional relativism to me. If the Pope said one day that belief in the Divinity of Christ was superfluous to the Gospel would you believe him then? And yes this is possible - if the Pope can change Liturgy at his whim then Doctrine comes meet the needs of the age of course.

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  6. (Replacing earlier post)

    Sorry, Patricius - continuing the conversation from the earlier thread - my opening comments about glibness and oversimplification were directed to likely perceptions of my own subsequent apologetic, not to your analysis. I maintain nevertheless that in the present case the simplest explanation is the correct one.

    Look, if the Roman Church's exegesis of Matthew 16:18 is true, then Dominic Mary is right, and despite appearances to the contrary, the Tradition (that seamless garment of dogma, theology, liturgy, spirituality, ascesis) is in every age more robustly maintained, more tightly focussed and better articulated in the RCC than anywhere else. You must, therefore, for the sake of your salvation, to find a means of putting aside all bitterness, anger, distrust and disputatiousness and learn from Ignatius Loyola to believe that what appears to be black is in fact white.

    If, on the other hand, the Papal claims are an imposture, foreign to the authentic Tradition, then the entire system erected upon and around them is radically unsound, requiring an ever-increasing input of energy and apparatus on every front to maintain the appearance of solidity; in consequence of which the Tradition is progressively attenuated, compromised, blurred, confused. If this is the case, then the RCC is clearly not "the Church", but something else.

    I can't tell you which of these views is the more correct (though obviously my own conclusions are clear enough) - you must decide for yourself, on the basis of the historic and patristic witness of course, but also and indispensably by a dispassionate, non-partisan determination to be truthful not least about "fruits", pre- as well as post-Conciliar.

    You do need to decide, though, because you cannot live and grow as a Christian in your present situation; and then you need to act, because you need the Church: the only thing you can do on your own is perish. Schism is insanity.

    All of this is of course on the assumption that it is in fact Christ you want - Christ as He really is - and not some kind of "hobby religion" or self-gratifying ideological construct. You can only really discover the truth about that in silence.­

  7. Moretben, my apologies for misreading your previous comment - I had thought you meant my post, which confessedly was more coherent in my head than it appeared on the blog. I just sat down and typed...

    My frustration is mostly because ''things need not be like this.'' For all the catastrophe of the last 60 plus years I am still convinced of the Roman claim to be the One True Church (sorry to disappoint earnest non-Catholic readers). I just think that certain institutions need drastic reform in order to bring them into line with Early Church standards, and this is not archaeologism, nor am I convinced of some ''golden age'' of Christianity where everything everywhere was pristine. Does not Our Lord say that we must expect scandals? Yea more, the liturgical crisis is the most serious crisis to face the Church in all her long history, but it is certainly not the first (Iconoclasm for example). As Martin Mosebach says in his book The Heresy of Formlessness, perhaps we might see one day an end to the liturgical crisis and establish a feast similar to the Triumph of Orthodoxy? What needs to happen, of course, is a complete repudiation of the '62 books on the part of Traditionalists - this is the flash point. The two biggest obstacles to Tradition are the liturgical books of 1962 and acceptance of Papal innovation as legitimate exercise of the Petrine office. A future Ecumenical Council should draw up a Magna Carta for the Papacy, telling popes what they can and cannot do within the canonical discipline of the Church.

  8. A future Ecumenical Council should draw up a Magna Carta for the Papacy, telling popes what they can and cannot do within the canonical discipline of the Church.

    Like Constance? This simply can't happen without dismantling the developments of the second millenium, and RC self-understanding with them. Where does that leave Vatican I's dogmatic assertion "ex sese et non ex consensu Ecclesiae"?

  9. Patricius,

    Linked to Constance do read Oakley's 'Council over pope?' Of course what was agreed at Constance didn't last very long...

  10. I have to say Patricius - I like your thinking! A happy blend of "English" (Sarum) aesthetic with traditional (at least pre'50) liturgy would certainly warm my heart. I much prefer full surplices and flowing Gothics than the Baroque stuff (which I do appreciate). Your theology is also rather consistant with my own too... We're not very large but we are something of a "Traditional Ordinariate" the Old Roman Catholic Church in Europe... If I wasn't already committed I might have been persuaded!

  11. Canon Jerome, thanks for your kind comment.

    Naturally such an Ordinariate would be a dream-come-true, to use a cliche, where I would be in charge for a change...

  12. Sorry, Patricius; but as Moretben quite correctly observes in a way different from my turn of phrase, the Pope's control of tradition and practice - which must include liturgy - is precisely to protect doctrine; so that your (and my, for that matter) opinions on liturgical practice are unimportant . . . the content of Summorum Pontificum is what we all need to accept, as being definitive of the Church's teaching at this present time.
    Repudiating this is merely rejecting the authority of the Papacy; which is in turn rejecting the authority of the Church, and thus of Almighty God for Whom it stands.