Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Tu es Petrus...

Summorum Pontificum famously says that you do not need permission, indeed you never needed permission (numquam abrogatam and all that nonsense - methinks that Pope Benedict needs revision), to use the liturgical books of 1962. Apart from the obvious shortcomings of just about everything about this utterance (the liturgical books of 1962 were juridically abrogated, successively, throughout the 1960s - apart from things like Sacram Liturgiam 1964, the New Order of Mass 1965 etc, one can just take for granted as a rule of thumb that a previous edition of the Roman Missal is replaced by a new one) it does shine light on this very modern Roman understanding of the Papacy, a residue (not cleaned up by Lumen Gentium) of the Ultramontane mentality of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Summorum Pontificum says ''no permission necessary'' - but by implication it says that you do need permission (that of the Pope), because it envisages a scenario of before and after; before being where the diocesan bishop had some semblance of his former dignity in his own diocese (a scenario denigrated by Traditionalists), and after where the authority of the diocesan bishop is compromised by the latest Papal decree. Are we beginning to see a reversal of the, in my opinion, healthy reaction against the centralized Papacy since the 1960s? It seems to me that Rome's typical response (I say typical because it has always had the same response, from St Leo's Tome to Nicholas' interference in the Ignatian scandal) to dissent is simply to reassert Papal authority, without really dealing with the issues. ''Obey Rome no matter what,'' seems to be the mentality here.

St Cyprian of Carthage took the famous Tu es Petrus verse in St Matthew's Gospel to mean the authority possessed in each see by the bishop of that see. In fact in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy the bishop (just like the Abbot in a monastery) represents Christ among us, hence the removal of the Blessed Sacrament whenever a bishop celebrates Liturgy, and the curious placement of the Bishop's throne in the apse of the Church, where he presides over the assembled faithful (this does not mean that Mass was ever celebrated facing the wrong way - and you either celebrate Mass facing the right way or you don't - a Crucifix and a row of candles mean nothing). If as Catholics we take the verse to refer to Christ's promise of unique authority on the Bishops of Rome we naturally read the verse in the light of this tradition, but it's certainly interesting if we consider Summorum Pontificum from an actual liturgical and scriptural perspective rather than an authoritative or bureaucratic one. Summorum Pontificum denigrates the authority of the Bishop in his own diocese (leaving aside for now what we might think of our own bishops), partly because the general thrust of SP is towards private celebrations of Mass. I may have become lost here but does not SP render Pontifical liturgy superfluous?

It is a fact that most of Christianity has some objection to the Papacy, to one degree or another. My chief objection is to Papal mutilation of Liturgy, which is blindly accepted by most Catholics woefully ignorant of Liturgy. If you're of Ian Paisley's persuasion (not necessarily Protestant though) you think that all popes are Antichrists, exalting themselves in the Church of Christ and perverting the Christian doctrine. If you're a mainstream Protestant you may just have reservations about confessing that your identity as a Christan is mediated by the Pope (especially since Roman Canon Law states that the definition of schism is refusal of submission to the Roman pontiff). If you're some form of ''heretical'' Catholic in communion with Rome (the ''spirit of Vatican II'' type) you may just quietly (or not) repudiate the contents of Pastor Aeternus, Munificentissimus Deus etc as superfluous to the Gospel. If you're a moderate Orthodox you cling to the age-old Orthodox perception of the Bishop of Rome as the primus inter pares of the Bishops, speaking on matters of faith and morals with the consent of the Tradition of the Church and the collegial ratification of the rest of the episcopate (some Orthodox fall into the Ian Paisley category though). My view is that this is an unrealistic and underdeveloped understanding of primacy, but my personal relationship with the Bishop of Rome is more enhanced.

One of Fr Z's famous quips is that Pope Benedict XVI is the ''pope of Christian unity.'' I understand that there was a discussion on his blog recently about the exercise of the Petrine ministry in the Church, and different hermeneutics of primacy (I never read it, but it's interesting that his latest podcast disappeared). I would beg to differ on this point. My view is that while the intentions of the Pope are well his approach to the Ecumenical movement has been misguided at best. The decision to drop the title Patriarch of the West (whilst retaining such titles as Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff) was a mistake in my opinion, since this title is especially relevant theologically to Western-rite Catholics. We all have a different relationship with the Pope. If you live in Rome he is local bishop, Metropolitan, Archbishop, Patriarch and Pope all at once. If you're an English Catholic he is neither local bishop nor Metropolitan, but merely Pope and Patriarch. If you are an Eastern-Rite Catholic he is merely Pope. So is there a Western Patriarchate anymore? The loss of the title seems to have enhanced his other titles beyond their respective proportions - it seems that the Pope thinks that he is Patriarch not only of the Western provinces, but of the Universal Church. No wonder the Orthodox objected to this move (as I did at the time, and still do).

To heal an internal schism Pope Benedict lifted the excommunications on the Lefebvrists, and no doubt one of the aims of Summorum Pontificum was the healing of this schism. Again I think this was a bad move, and it was certainly unfortunate that the Williamson (whom we all knew was a nutcase even before his latest controversy) affair happened in the immediate aftermath. I have a very low opinion of the Lefebvrists - because I think they are liturgically inept, I cannot understand a mentality that would prefer schism to unity of the Church, and most Lefebvrists espouse a pseudo-Sedevacantist mentality. I do not want communion with them, and would certainly never communicate in their churches. They seem more interested in reviving untraditional and prejudiced understandings of Ecumenism than the Sacred Liturgy, which for me is the flash-point in the modern crisis in the Church. The celebration of the Sacred Liturgy is as much a summons to unity of the Church as it is to unity with the Risen Christ. Sadly the Lefebvrists use the liturgical books of 1962, which can only work greater evil in the Church. I do not think that the Holy Father will ever be reconciled with them, and this is something I do not lament.

Then we have the Ordinariates. I know one or two Anglo-Catholics (close friends of mine) who have expressed little interest in this Ordinariates scheme. I sympathise with them, really. I have counselled them that the grass is no greener on this side of the Tiber, and certainly coming over to Rome entails picking up a lot of baggage (acceptance that the Pope can do whatever he wants for instance), and why bother with that when you can have traditional Catholic Liturgy without having to worry about what the Pope says? Leaving these questions aside for the moment, let us consider conversion. Conversion is a highly personal matter, and entails serious prayer, meditation and thought. The Ordinariates scheme seems to compromise this, and seems to be a way of annexing the Church rather than coming into communion completely - being theologically and liturgically Anglican, but in communion with Rome. I am highly suspicious of mass-conversions like this. At least in 1994, when there was a huge influx of Anglicans into the Catholic Church because of the ordination of women, these were more ''personal'', although lots of them later went back. Again this seems to be a serious modern fault with Rome. I have puzzled many Traditionalists by going off recently to various churches for decent Liturgy, churches that are not in communion with Rome. Why does it matter more who you are in communion with than what you believe? If a church not in communion with Rome can manage to get the Lex Orandi right, then I see no problem in participation in their Liturgy. I personally think that the Ordinariates will fail. I think this because liturgically-minded Anglicans coming into the Church will be highly disgusted by most Catholic clergy and their parishes.

Deep down I think that Summorum Pontificum will eventually render the union of the churches impossible, as if it wasn't bad enough before that. It clings to a false understanding both of Liturgy and Papal primacy. The liturgical books of 1962 are pernicious and divisive, and the primacy exercised in its promulgation renders the authority of the local bishop naught; what more sublime expression of the catholicity of the Church was there than in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy with the Bishop? I could have said more but I am already late for work...perhaps more in the comment box!


  1. I agree with most of your sentiments, but I wouldnt be so absolutist about it. Summorum Pontificum may still represent a lot of the bad attitudes on the part of the Vatican, but I am very grateful personally nonetheless as it has allowed me to experience (more-)traditional liturgy (albeit of the 1962 variety) and has put the question of liturgy and tradition back on the table. And that's a step. Though I'd like to see a total restoration right away too, there is some truth to the "brick by brick" notion, and I'd rather a world where the Pope over-uses his authority to allow the Old Rite (however mutilated in its modern form; which isn't as much as you make it out to be) than bishops who use their proper authority to enforce the Novus Ordo. It's a stepping stone along the way.

  2. Interesting points, I want to bring some rigorous distinctions here, I think that the ecumenical movement will never achieve its goals, and that it is a failure. The Church fathers saw things far more clearly than us, they saw more clearly,who was a heretic, a schismatic,they saw this because they did not practice ecumenism. Ecumenism is very modern, and its main principle is to try to convert other heretics without ever wanting to "fully condemn" their heretical doctrines.
    The main reason for the failure of the ecumenical movement is the failure to make clear distinctions in doctrine and dogma. A protestant is an heretic, period, if one denies dogmas, one is heretical, and one has to renounce his error to be fully in communion again. Now, schism is a very difficult matter, as I said before, doctrinal schism(FSSPX and some of the Orthodox Churches), is the least grave of schisms, and generally, these schisms place the schismatics outside the "structures of the Church", but they are still members of the Bride of Christ. The dogmatic schism as the Filioque and about the Papal infallibility(I think this dogma has brought us terrible consequences and that it should have never been promulgated), are also moderate schisms. Heresy is something else, and trying to bring people back to the Church without pointing to their doctrinal and heretical errors is something the Church fathers and the saints have never done. This brings us to the liturgy, the distinction made by the Pope about the ordinary and extraordinary form is, a big mistake, and will only make matters worse. As for the FSSPX, yes they are big-headed, but without them many of the facets of Catholicism would have simply been extinguished, in a time of doctrinal madness, they were the only ones, in that time to make some of the clear distinctions, and they rescued many families from leaving Catholicism altogether, compare this to many Catholics who are Catholics in name only. This pope knows well that the excommunication of the Lefebvrists was unjust(the liturgical question is worth a doctrinal disputation!), He was there, back then, as chief negotiator with Mons.Lefebvre, and deeply lamented the excommunication decree. Christian unity is primarily about liturgical tradition, but also about dogmas and doctrine. The Orthodox Churches have been far more precise, as to see heresies, their patristic way of seeing things, is more simple(without strings attached), but also more profound than the modern "get together at all costs" of the Catholic Church. How long has it been since the ecumenical movement started? Has it achieved much? I don't think so, it made doctrinal distinctions harder to see for everyone.

  3. According to "conservative" Catholics, the pope has absolute power over history and the rules of logic. Therefore, when the pope asserts that the traditional Mass was never abrogated, it is so, despite the fact that for forty years, it was ridiculed and caricatured and those who loved it were demonized and marginalized. But it was never "abrogated." Ahem. I still find your own position rather slippery, if you don't mind my saying so. SSPX is schismatic, but you feel no qualms about attending any church that has good liturgy. So it's OK for a private individual to behave like a schismatic as long as he doesn't do it as part of a group of like minded people? I'm sorry but I'm confused.

  4. Thanks all for your comments.

    A Sinner, just because '62 looks superficially like the Old Rite for much of the year does not negate the fact that it isn't, and I find Traditionalist acceptance of '62 as a ''lesser of two evils'' rather difficult to understand, for this mentality treats of even the slightest change as rather trivial. As for the New Rite, in many ways (such as Holy Week) it is far superior to '62, and Paul VI restored things that were far older than the Missal of Pius V - the restoration of a Sacramental concelebration, Communion under both kinds and the permanent diaconate being noteworthy points.

    maire, the Petrine ministry needs to be better understood by the Catholic Church before she can seriously consider ecumenism. The modern Ecumenical Movement started in 1910, but it was started by Protestants in Scotland with a view to healing their own internal schisms. The Catholic Church didn't take Ecumenism seriously until the 1960s (Pius XI's Encyclical letter Mortalium Animos is sufficient to show this), and is still one of few churches not to be a member of the World Council of Churches. I can't personally see the reunion of the Churches ever happening, but certainly an increase in charity is one thing. And five minutes of prayer with the Pope and Ecumenical Patriarch in the Vatican avails nothing - there are deep-seated prejudices and ignorance on both sides of the divide. As for Protestants, I am not really interested in them.

    Tawser, the SSPX aren't interested in the Sacred Liturgy, which is the real summons to Christian unity. They are more interested in perpetuating the errors of the pre-Conciliar Church. As for my going to different churches for decent Liturgy, my view is that if your average Catholic church cannot even get the lex orandi right then why bother worshipping there when you can have a more aesthetic and religious experience, worshipping in Spirit and in Truth, in a ''schismatic'' church?

  5. I think that Catholic Church is not a member of the World Council of Churches, for one good reason, it is well known that the World council of Churches is a freemasonic idea, from the eighteenth century. Pope Leo XIII warned about this, there were enough ex-freemasons back at that time who told Catholic prelates about the plan of freemasons to create a world council of churches, all of this to make Catholic Truth less visible. Ecumenism is also one of the freemasonic goals, their lodges are full of such plans.

  6. According to "conservative" Catholics, the pope has absolute power over history and the rules of logic. Therefore, when the pope asserts that the traditional Mass was never abrogated, it is so,.."

    Tawser, I would suggest that is making it up as one goes along. Lady Marchmain may have found the 'Alice in Wonderland side of religion' charming but I am afraid I cannot see the attraction.

    More generally, to use another Brideshead reference, my prediction is that if anything good does come out of Summorum Pontificum it will be the unplanned and unpredicted outcomes.

    As to the $$PX preserving facets I would argue strongly that (a) other fine and distinguished clergy were preserving things before the $$PX was founded and (b) the $$PX doesn't preserve anything other than being an antithesis of the 'official' RCC and exhibiting an equal, but opposite, contempt for good liturgy.

  7. maire, news to me about the WCC and freemasonry. Naturally I am just as suspicious of Freemasonry as your average right-thinking Catholic. My mother, who is a lapsed Catholic, still shudders at cremation and Freemasonry (which is why none of us in this house like the police much - they're all corrupt Freemasons). Naturally the Pope's stance on Freemasonry is one of the few things I'll listen to him about...

  8. What a pitiful shambles.

    I'm instinctively averse to glib oversimplifications, but some things fall squarely into category of the blindingly bleeding obvious. You simply can't go on like this, thrashing around in the smoke and the wreckage, grappling this twisted component to your bosom, spurning that one, or battering it desperately with a hammer. At some point you have to take realistic stock of your circumstances in their totality; to recognise that the boilers have blown, the hull is hopelessly compromised, the crew is mutinous, the pumps have failed and being holed repeatedly by jagged rocks is a pretty fair indication of having lost your course some time ago. Neither sobering up the captain nor administering a hair of the dog will mend anything at this point.

    What is the Church? What is communion? What's it all for? What does it mean, to be "saved"? How many cracks does one get at the business? How much time do you have?

    To revert to a more domestic metaphor, I think it was St John of San Francisco who observed that state-of-the-art wiring is completely useless if you aren't hooked up to the grid.

  9. ...on the other hand, you could always don a fresh bib and tucker, join Fr Z and his cronies in the first class saloon and toast one another in Veuve Cliquot to the sound of a string quartet, until the whole beastly business below decks sorts itself out...

    Clearly, the Reformation was a reaction to the distortions and malfeasances of Medieval Catholicism. The reformers did not, however, return to Orthodoxy. They simply grappled other, characteristically Roman Catholic elements to their bosoms and ran off a cliff with them.

    Equally clearly, perhaps, present disorders are an equivalent reaction to Counter-reformation Catholicism, the Iron Beehive of Trent having popped its corroded rivets.

    To paraphrase Lady Brackenell, one Reformation may be excused; two looks like carelessness (or heedlessness). Will you repeat the mistakes of the earlier "Reformers", or learn the appropriate lessons and do what they ought to have done?

    My unabashed mission here is, ironically, perfectly expressed by Newman (as quoted recently by Fr Blake), mutatis mutandis:

    You can have no trust in the Establishment or its Sacraments and ordinances. You must leave it, you must secede; you must turn your back upon, you must renounce, what has—not suddenly become, but has now been proved to you to have ever been—an imposture. You must take up your cross and you must go hence.

    The Established Church has no claims whatever on us, whether in memory or in hope … they only have claims upon our commiseration and our charity whom she holds in bondage, separated from that faith and that Church in which alone is salvation. If I can do aught towards breaking their chains, and bringing them into the Truth, it will be an act of love towards their souls, and of piety towards God.

    The 16th Century Reformers had the plausible excuse of lacking any real contact with, or opportunity to experience, living Orthodoxy. We don't.

  10. I can't understand my fellow catholics' shudders of moral sanitation at the mention of free masonry, and i'm here speaking of the Anglo-saxon variety. If there is one organisation that has been and continues to be mistreated by world media and the rest, besides the Church, it could well be masonry. But this is clearly not an argument. I must confess i come from a background that is not foreign to the craft,yet staunchly catholic. Joseph de Maistre, that rabid champion of ultramontanism, was an operating mason for many good years. etc, etc.Again not an argument, but the facts that Clio records speak louder that arguments and a priori logic. Patricius, if i had to write a (friendly) reply to your 'Gay' article, i would entitle it 'Mason'. Its practices and rituals are purely symbolical and should be treated as means to virtue(in the true sense of manliness). It is a pity that the rule of secret has been lost in the Church in favour of mass-religion, which in my opinion, is the very antithesis of the Church- mass movements, and the like. When i read the Areopagite- who is becoming a favourite- i can but wonder at how much we have lost in terms of initiatic path in the mysteries of christianity. Do you still believe in Leo Taxil's spoof or Walton Hannah's and Jesuit's literature?

  11. As a convert to Orthodoxy I concur with Moretben's assessment, but like Lot's wife I can't help continuing to look back. What is going to happen to this magnificent liturgical tradition which is now effectively homeless? I was recently watching a DVD of a Solemn High Mass at St. John Cantius. I have grown to love the Orthodox liturgy, but the traditional Roman rite is so beautiful. I still find it hard to believe that the Roman Catholic Church has actually committed suicide. John XXIII and his successors succeeded where Luther, Voltaire, etc failed.

  12. Moretben, I can't claim to know all the answers anymore than you can or anyone else, and it is certainly not my intention to oversimplify things. The point of this post (if it actually had one at all, I just sat down and typed) was to illustrate the ecumenical problems of Summorum Pontificum and the 1962 liturgy.

    F.G.S.A, I share your aversion to ''mass event'' things, such as huge football stadium Masses, which only serve to degrade the Liturgy, and all present, in the sight of the gauping world, but I don't like Freemasonry at all - the very concept makes me shudder.

    Tawser, the best thing for the Traditional Roman Rite is for it to be taken out of the hands of traditionalist Catholics and placed into the hands of the Orthodox (ROCOR for instance), who have a better grasp on things liturgical than your average traditionalist.

  13. Speaking as an Old Roman Catholic "schismatic" I'd like to point out that Old Catholicism had a lot to do with the founding of the World Council of Churches and that Freemasonry had nothing to do with it... Though I have sometimes wondered if Freemasonry might have had everything to do with getting Pastor Aeternus through a turbulent First Vatican Council!