Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Monday, June 25, 2007

A shot across the bow.

In a couple of moments I'm going to take aim at somethings which have crossed my radar and mostly displeased me. However, before I do, I think it vital that I lay out (again) my own worldview lest anyone read those upcoming comments through the incorrect prism.

First, I must make explicit I am not someone whose biography contains an unblemished arc of moral rectitude or charitable thought or irreproachable virtue or right-thinking or wisdom.

I am not a progressive, liberal or moderate and make no pretense to being one. I am also not an "Upper Case T" Traditionalist. I believe what the Magisterium teaches, and I am loath to scour texts for wiggle room. I am not striving for "balance" or "fairness" or "growth." I am striving to gather up and digest and disseminate truth, inasmuch as I have been endowed the capacity for doing so. Whatever results from my pursuit of same I'll chalk up to providential grace and let the chips fall where they may. To make a goal of reaching those things enumerated above is to seek the approval of men* -- and these days that means the Self-Anointedly Enlightened -- and since those men are particularly unlikely to sift my heart at the moment of my death, I, frankly, cannot be bothered.

When it comes those SAE people, I will try to be charitable as I express my views. I cannot guarantee I'll succeed, though. My prejudice and biases in this matter are borne of, on the one hand, having an pitying opinion of them and their views and most importantly, their self-concept. My instinct tells me they are, in this one sector, a vast repository of intellectual vacancy. Most probably, most of them mean well. The way I see it, they have inhaled deeply of the spirit of our time, drunk freely of the Kool-Aid of the age and internalized the outlook of the culture at large. Given that at any given moment throughout the trajectory of our history as a fallen humanity, the culture at large oscillates between an outrage and an embarrassment, this isn't good. These are our case study's Useful Idiots. Sadly, as far as I can tell, they consider themselves Illuminated and Clever but they are blinded and arrogant and blinded by their arrogance.

I ought keep in mind that these guys are not guilty in their hearts, just in the corridors of their minds unfortunately open to the sweetened entreaties of the times in which we live. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

But not all are quite so innocent and that brings us to the Fellow Travelers. Perhaps these guys mean well or, at some point, they meant well. But something has blinded them. My impulse would be to say "Heretic Cardinal Heterodox has written an imbecility in Popular Catholic Magazine. Again." Several people on "my" side of the Catholic blogosphere do so, frequently to great comic** effect. While it'd also be accurate to also say "to great and deservedly comic effect" I'll try not to. I won't be easy, given my personal fetish for the comedic jugular (of which this blog is impressive contrary evidence; just ask Karen).

This latter group has an interesting fondness for strutting and swanning about, freely exhibiting their intellectual (such as it is) or hierarchical plumage. Like their brethren and companions in the equivalent secular sectors, the implicit message seems to be: "We are, after all, The Advanced People. You, pointedly, are not. If you choose to dispute our opinions, you are outing yourself as a rube of impressive proportions or the ossified remains of an outdated metanarrative. Now, if you just nod assent, there may -- just may, we cannot guarantee you'll reach our PoMo LitCrit heights, y'see -- be some hope for you."

Which strikes me as very much compatible with the tale of the Emperor's New Clothes. Say that His Imperiousness is buck-nekkid and you might as well parade around with sign proclaiming yourself a barely literate caveperson. If you think the emperor is en dishabillé but you trust your self-professed betters in this front, well, you stand a chance of joining the PostModern Gnostics, or at least of basking in their reflected glory.

Now, all this (including the posts to come directly addressing the matter) was all prompted by the musings of Bp. Trautman on the matter of the ICEL translations and of recent commentaries by prominent Catholics (regrettably, several have been Jesuit pundits) on the matter of the possible motu proprio which would de-restrict the "Tridentine" (or Traditional Latin) Mass.

Hs Excellency's comments in America Magazine, frankly, struck me as somewhere between hallucinatory and monumentally condescending. He posits a notion of today's "average Catholics" as being the barely-lettered teeming hordes of the Ellis Island of 100 years ago, and having set the bar curiously thus, proceeds to make an (unconvincing to me) argument for a position which presupposes an incorrect set of assumptions. That the unlettered hordes that poured forth from all corners of Creation had no problem with the Traditional Latin Mass seems to be absent from His Excellency's (in my opinion) inelegant observations. Even more curiously, the ostensibly unlettered hordes pouring forth as I type and as you read, don't seem to have a problem with the far more accurate translations present in Spanish, French or Portuguese.

If a migrant worker from an excruciatingly poor shantytown in Mexico or Haiti or Brazil can worship and understand the concepts brought forth by an accurate translation in his language...why would some American with 2 cars, a mortgage, a 401(k), a time-share condo and 200 channels of TV be stumped? Why would His Excellency assume it'd pose a problem?

Which leads us to Fr. Reese's comments on the possible derestriction of the Traditional Latin Mass. I must out my views on this as well. I LIKE the Traditional Latin Mass. I'm not of the opinion it is the only valid Mass, or that vulgate Mass is invalid. If and when the TLM is derestricted I'll go every once in a while, but I am unlikely to make it my "main" Mass. I think it'd have a great effect on the Novus Ordo Mass as currently celebrated, the overwhelming majority of which are inexpressively, bewilderingly banal. This would be very, very good.

That said, my views (as my thinking invariably leads me) are pretty black and white: Is it a valid Mass? Check. Will anyone be forced to hear said Mass? No. So what's the problem? There are people for whom this liturgy better allows them to connect with God. Some people like bongos and tambourines and, maybe, that sort of liturgy resplendent with macramé (which they inexplicably consider to be "just as beautiful*** and meaningful as the TLM") actually does bring them closer to Christ.

Perhaps I am being too much of the libertarian, but I cannot but think "What's it to you?"

The argument is posited that to have all these flavors of Mass available will mean there will be a "balkanization" of parishes. This manages the feat of being both risible and demonstrably incorrect, as anyone who has been to parishes where Mass is said in English and one or two other languages (Spanish and French, or Latin and Vietnamese, or whatever) each and every Sunday. If the rubrics are invariably observed (granted, a ginormous "if") those parishes and their parishioners -- gasp! -- manage to function well in their roles as a section of the Body of Christ.

The other argument made is that the possible Motu Proprio will not so much derestrict the TLM, as restrict Bishops from prohibiting it in their dioceses. The implication is that the vast majority of Bishops are stalwarts for the faith and this damages the precious (if relatively novel) concept of "collegiality." Frankly, this'd carry a LOT more water if I had seen the current crop of Bishops being more stalwart and less enuretic. Why, I don't even have to mention names...even those of you reading this, with your systolic rising in disagreement, know who these guys are.

The Holy Father said as much at CELAM, calling upon the Bishops to be Bishops. When JP2's original Motu Proprio came out he asked the Bishops to be generous in their permission. If anyone thinks an Archdiocese with X million Catholics and one indult Mass is an example of generous application of the indult, then this'd be a strange and new definition of generous of which I was not previously aware. Roger Cardinal Mahony openly stated this position, so it's hardly uncharitable Traddie speculation to state it.

The fact remains that the Mass (regardless of rite) is greater than the Bishops. The Mass, where the transendent union of the temporal and eternal occurs, where Our Lord is present under the appearance of bread and wine, is an inestimable treasure. And it must be cherished and nourished against all who would -- even unwittingly -- harm it.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?



* By this, natch, I mean both men and women, but my position on inclusive language cannot be accurately stated without swerving sharply into an uncharitable view (of the basest sort) of the proponents thereof, and so I shan't. I hope you somehow muster the Will To Go On.

** Do a Google search for "Bishop Trautperson" if you wanna get an eyeful. If you find something that makes you laugh, shame on us.

*** I'm not making this up.


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