Apologetics or Polemics

THERE IS ALWAYS a little frisson of alarm through my frail flesh whenever Google Alerts tells me my name has appeared afresh on the internet. Thankfully it is rare, and overwhelmingly the mention proves to be benign, often merely incidental. Occasionally it is not. Today is such a day.

Catholic apologetics is a noble apostolate. Classic figures include such greats as the lay Australian publisher Frank Sheed, or the American prelate Fulton Sheen. In more recent years converts such as Scott Hahn have made important contributions to sound apologetics, Dr Hahn able to write attractively for cradles and yet speak in a vocabulary that engages those formed as Protestants. He writes with the happy zeal that marks the best of the evangelical tradition, and it is contagious.

Not all convert apologists are so positive. America seems to have a goodly share of convert apologists who began well and have deteriorated into polemicists. They even seem to manifest what is called by many now hyper-papalism, and any word of criticism, however mild, oblique or muted, against Pope Francis is the dog-whistle for them to attack. And attack is the word. (more…)

Pope Francis Doubles Down As He Further Plays His Hand

A RESPONSE FROM ME to some of the traditionalist critics of the papal motu proprio Traditionis custodes (TC) has been politely requested. Not because I am in any sense an expert, but out of sheer courtesy, I will do so, and I am working up to it. Perhaps my fallible voice is sought because I sit in a liturgical no-man’s land, neither in the trenches of 1962 nor of 1970. 1970 (well, its 2008 iteration to be precise, or its 2011 English iteration to be even more precise) provides my daily Mass. Yet, to hold the new Mass as legitimately expressing a totally new departure from liturgical tradition—a rupture with the previous tradition to employ a current term—is to deny a fundamental mark of the Church, its teaching and its liturgy: it does not change, but it grows and takes on clearer shape and more detailed form. Thus, to hold 1962, and the centuries-old tradition it grew within, is somehow a closed chapter of little relevance today, is self-defeating from a Catholic point of view, especially evangelically and apologetically. Either the Church’s teaching and liturgy is, and always has been, and always will be, true; or it is not, in which case, why should anyone listen to us?

1970 is imperfect; it embodies a very marked departure from the decrees of Vatican II; it has been attended by a laxity in rubrical observance and enforcement that is almost, surely, unparalleled historically; its use has been contiguous with a precipitous decline in Catholic practice and affiliation. Yet, the Council clearly, and almost unanimously, called for a revisiting of the Church’s liturgy. It sought a streamlining, a tidying up, an opening up to some vernacular in the Mass and the other sacraments—it wanted to people to love their liturgy even more, and to participate in it even more rather than just attend it—hear it—however devoutly. The Mass, after all, is offered not only for them but, to some (real) degree, by them. Moreover, the congregation offers itself, in each of its individual members, with Christ to the Father; hear St Paul to the Romans: “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (12:1)

So sticking with 1962 as it was, itself a revised Missal, was not really a long-term option. 1970 is valid but flawed. Much of what gave power to the traditionalist programme to adhere to 1962, what made it all the more attractive to those not versed in the finer points of liturgy, was the woeful celebration of 1970 in so many places, and for a time perhaps in all places. The chaos of a circus liturgy, subject to the whim of a pastor, attended by wholesale rubrical abandonment, inevitably made the rubrical order and unmistakable divine focus of 1962 all the attractive, a port in a storm. (more…)

The Problem is not the Mass

WITH SO MUCH commentary on Traditionis custodes (TC) buzzing around the ether at the moment, it will not be hard for the reader to find examples ranging from those belligerently outraged by TC to those passionately pleased. The large middle ground is composed of those trying to make sense of a document so poorly composed, quite apart from the propriety of its intentions. With some of these commentaries in mind, as well as conversations with people both well-formed and well-informed, a few things seem to be settling into place, in my mind at least.

More and more it is clear that the problem is not the vetus ordo of the Mass per se. TC did not say a word against it. Of course, how could it, since it was this Mass, with small variations, that nourished the Church for over a millennium and a half. So what was the problem? If one accepts that TC is not a tissue of lies (as I do), notwithstanding its imperfections, inaccuracies, loaded terminology and “editorial bias,” then one must take it at its word:

the concord and unity of the Church…“[and the] ecclesial communion of those Catholics who feel attached to some earlier liturgical forms”

para 2

And in particular, regarding those so “attached,” of concern is a perceived tendency among some to:

deny the validity and the legitimacy of the liturgical reform, dictated by Vatican Council II and the Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiffs

ibid.

The Letter from Pope Francis to the world’s bishops, which accompanied TC and serves as a sort of interpretive lens for it, has a gentler and more expansive tone. For the sake of balance, it seems necessary to ensure that any analysis of TC includes this papal letter. The sixth paragraph of the Letter is, for me, crucial. In it Francis states that he is

saddened by abuses in the celebration of the liturgy on all sides. In common with Benedict XVI, I deplore the fact that “in many places the prescriptions of the new Missal are not observed in celebration, but indeed come to be interpreted as an authorization for or even a requirement of creativity, which leads to almost unbearable distortions”. But I am nonetheless saddened that the instrumental use of Missale Romanum of 1962 is often characterized by a rejection not only of the liturgical reform, but of the Vatican Council II itself, claiming, with unfounded and unsustainable assertions, that it betrayed the Tradition and the “true Church”…To doubt the Council is to doubt the intentions of those very Fathers who exercised their collegial power in a solemn manner cum Petro et sub Petro in an ecumenical council, [14] and, in the final analysis, to doubt the Holy Spirit himself who guides the Church.

TC is a juridical instrument, and one cannot expect too much from it by way of commentary or rationale. The Letter provides these. The issue central to TC, as Shaun Blanchard recognized, is the reception of Vatican II. For all their irreverent and secularising antics, “creative liturgists” nevertheless cite (however misguidedly) Vatican II as their authority, and they in no way deny the validity of the Council’s decrees. They might twist and distort them, misapply and misread them, but they accept them and the Council unquestioningly. Some will complain that the Council remains unfinished business, but in doing so they accept that its business as begun was valid. However doctrinaire or even strategic their appeal to Vatican II, their acceptance of it is not in doubt. (more…)

Facing Reality in Liturgy and Authority

WHATEVER ITS FUNDAMENTAL INTENT, Traditionis custodes (TC) has stirred a storm of comment and controversy as great as any other document issued over the signature of Pope Francis. It has caused both glee and gloom, merriment and mourning, resignation and resistance.

Before you read on here, please read Dr Shaun Blanchard’s piece at Notre Dame’s Church Life Journal. He identifies that TC is about liturgy only as liturgy offers a casus belli: the real issue is the reception of Vatican II. Dr Blanchard recalls the tradition of papal appropriation and steering of ecumenical councils and their decrees. German, as ever, has a word that covers this phenomenon: Deutungshoheit: literally “interpreation sovereignty,” Dr Blanchard defines it in English as “sovereignty over a narrative, which is the power to control meaning.” TC is thus just the latest in a papal tradition of controlling conciliar narratives. (more…)

The Motu Proprio: Two Challenges

TO THE EXTENT THAT ONE IS ABLE to establish a little emotional distance from Traditionis costodes, and cast an objective eye over both it and the reactions to it, one may be surprised by what emerges into view. Some of the responses from the traditionally-minded have been very heartening; some have been dire. The man-the-barricades mentality has produced some unhappy rhetoric that rather proves the papal point.

Some responses are just plain unhelpful or unfruitful. A frequent one has been: the progressives have for decades just as guilty of causing division, if not more so, through their disobedience of the Church’s rules on the new liturgy. As they opine, indeed it is not fair. But that this can be a justification for disobedience on their own part is not tenable. I cannot help but think of a child who is caught sneaking candy from a jar, whose defence on being caught is that Timmy did it too, so why isn’t he in trouble?

The question comes to me forcefully now: what is the true and necessary fruit of the Church’s liturgy? It must surely be charity. Where charity and love are found, there is God. There can be no true and abiding unity without charity.

So perhaps a question all Catholics should be asking themselves, be they adherents of the old or the new liturgies, is this: to what extent is my liturgical life bearing fruit in real, unmistakable charity? I mean the charity that is essential to the divine identity: self-emptying, self-giving, self-sacrificing. This seems to me to be the litmus test of the fruitfulness and value of a Christian’s liturgical life. If the traditional liturgy can be shown to be bearing fruit in unmistakably Christian charity, the arguments against it will fall away.

Seen from a supernatural perspective, could perhaps TC be something allowed in order to reset Christians of whatever liturgical stamp on the right integration of life and liturgy. To be honest, when I see social media posts glorying in cappae magnae, lace and fiddlebacks, and birettas bouncing off heads, I cringe. Cringe, because this seems to be precisely not the thing to be doing. Dazzle us with your charity not your liturgical accoutrements. A focus on the latter is merely to give flesh to the straw man of TC.

Now for a challenge in another direction, a note that I hope commentators might address to our benefit. If TC cites Church unity as its fundamental motivation, what precisely is the conception of Church unity that it presumes? Liturgical uniformity at any one moment throughout the world? On so many levels that seems a simplistic and deficient conception of unity. It is certainly hard to reconcile with the Council.

Surely we must remember than Church unity is not just synchronic but diachronic: not just as a phenomenon that exists in every place in the “present”, but one that exists also across time, stretching back into the past as well as forward into the future; one that exists not just here in the natural world but also in the supernatural, a unity of Church Militant with Church Penitent and Church Triumphant.

I am struggling to see how TC serves, or even acknowledges, this fuller, richer and truer understanding of unity in the Body of Christ. Maybe a defender of TC could show us how it does.

Because if it does not, if falls at the first hurdle in pursuing its own professed intention. In that case, TC will necessarily be a very temporary document indeed.

TC, no more than everything and everyone else in the Church, will be judged by its fruits. That really should sober us up pretty quickly, whatever our view of liturgy.

Pax.

The Motu Proprio: An Opportunity?

For an audible minority last week’s motu proprio (TC) was a victory; for a louder majority it was at one turn a defeat, at another an outrage, but at every turn a tragedy. The belligerence of a few among the latter is not helping their cause, but rather proving TC’s point.

But let us step aside from that imbroglio, and cast a more searching eye over the document. Looking beyond the issues of its actual authorship, its canonical sloppiness and imprecision, and ambit liturgical claims that bear little scrutiny before wobbling at their knees; looking beyond all these, let us look at what might be the providential opportunity offered by TC. Remember: we must be lighting candles, not cursing darkness.

In the late 1980s, when I was briefly a baby Jesuit in Australia (and let the reader note that I would not trade my prior 10 years of Jesuit schooling for any other), the whole concept of the Church’s liturgy had collapsed. There was a plague of books on “pastoral” liturgy with dozens of alternative “eucharistic prayers” to use instead of the officially-sanctioned variety found already in the new missal. Priests often made up their own off the cuff. Novice sisters might be invited to extend their hands in quasi-concelebration at these “eucharists”. Women would often preach the homily as well. Vestments were barely tolerated, the more moderate radical tolerating an alb and stole as a concession to sensibilities. Outdoor “liturgies” with paten and chalice placed on the altar of the “presider’s” bare knees were not unknown. No doubt many a reader to add to this small catalogue of liturgical decomposition.

Apart from the occasional cursory and formulaic exhortation to liturgical obedience that might be provoked from a bishop or superior, this chaos was left unchecked. In practice, even otherwise sensible bishops tolerated it. Liturgical diversity was the new norm; rigidity was out. Liturgies were now to be seen as celebrations of the particular community not as a sharing in the worship offered by the universal Church.

So, the question arises in the context of TC, how did the liturgical chaos of the immediate post-conciliar period express the unity of the Church? Where was the devotion to the unity of the Church then? Why is it that the champions, or fellow-travellers at least, of liturgical diversity in the name of the Council have now become champions of liturgical uniformity in the name of the Council and unity? What changed?

One might suggest the obvious change is that the liturgy devised by committee for the active participation of the people has failed to attract them. Year on year in most western parishes the congregations have been on a consistent downward trend in terms of numbers. Where there is growth is more often than not in centres of traditional worship. Even more disturbingly, those traditional centres have a congregational demographic that any ordinary parish would envy: the young abound.

In other words, the growing attraction of traditional liturgy exposes the consistently declining attraction of the new. The uber-zealous advocates of the new would rather kill off the competition than change to accommodate it.

The story of Cain and Abel comes to mind. Think about it…

Yet, this newly-discovered need for unity in uniformity, and the de facto abandonment of unity in diversity, at least liturgically, begs a fundamental question, one that both TC and the zealous advocates of the new Mass blithely answer without offering satisfactory proof.

The motu proprio states:

Art. 1. The liturgical books promulgated by Saint Paul VI and Saint John Paul II, in conformity with the decrees of Vatican Council II, are the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.

Art 3, § 1. [the bishop or ordinary] is to determine that these groups do not deny the validity and the legitimacy of the liturgical reform, dictated by Vatican Council II and the Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiffs;…

The conformity of these “liturgical books…with the decrees of the Vatican Council II” is always assumed, never adequately or plainly demonstrated. If one feels that this conformity cannot be proved logically but accepted at best by an act of faith, then one could still accept the “validity and legitimacy of the liturgical reform, dictated by Vatican Council II” without accepting books that cannot be adequately proved to be in conformity with the reform mandated by the Council. (Yes, I have omitted the interpretative role of the “Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiffs”, yet this inevitably relies on the substantial reality of the liturgical conformity in the first place; no pope has the magisterial authority to say white s black, or that 2+2=5, pace some modern theologians.)

Here is the elephant in the room, and its presence offers an opportunity that it would benefit the whole Church to embrace: how truly do the current liturgical books conform to Vatican II’s decrees? Rather than blindly accepting, in post hoc ergo propter hoc fashion, that simply because this is what the Consilium ended up producing they must necessarily express the lex orandi articulated by the Council, let this be demonstrated clearly and plainly. If Rome wants people to accept with willing heart the liturgical reform as delivered, let it demonstrate how it expresses the will of the Council. It is not self-evident.

Thankfully, TC can be vague at times, and seems in principle to distinguish between liturgical books promulgated before the Council and after it. That would allow the Ordo Missae 1965 to be acceptable today. This is self-evidently in conformity with the conciliar decrees. Let Rome demonstrate that it is not.

Rather than man the barricades, bombard Rome and our bishops with polite questions, that they may prove the assumptions they so blithely expect us to accept, assumptions not self-evident, and in fact pretty much the reverse.

Carpe diem.

Mea culpa—A Glaring Omission

IT HAS BEEN HARD to keep up with things in the last 48 hours; that is, to keep up with the reaction and uncertainty surrounding the motu proprio, Traditionis custodes (TC). In my previous post I set out how the Law of Unintended Consequences might bear on TC. Of the three class of consequences I gave specific examples for unintended benefits and unintended drawbacks. Of the third class, perverse outcomes, I did not give an example.

To remind ourselves, in the Law of Unintended Consequences, a perverse outcomes is when the action exacerbates rather than resolves the issue in question; in other words, it makes the problem worse, not better.

What is the principal outcome expressly desired by TC?

I now desire, with this Apostolic Letter, to press on ever more in the constant search for ecclesial communion.

Traditionis custodes, Preamble, para 4

The obvious perverse outcome would be if TC worsened “ecclesial communion” rather than facilitated it.

Given the outpouring of grief, hurt, pain, anger and expressions even of something approaching schism from those who “adhere to liturgical forms antecedent to the reform willed by the Vatican Council II” and the apparent gloating of those who scorn any liturgical book before 1970 (I have only seen Austen Ivereigh’s Twitter gloating, but have heard of others) in response to TC, I think we can safely conclude:

Perverse Outcome Realised

The Motu Proprio & the Law of Unintended Consequences

FOR THOSE STRUGGLING to remember it, the Law of Unintended Consequences is a sociological maxim, with origins in the thought of John Locke, which holds that a positive, deliberate act of one kind or another may result in unintended or unforeseen outcomes. These outcomes fall roughly into three categories: unintended/unforeseen benefits; unintended/unforeseen drawbacks; perverse outcomes (that is, when the act exacerbates rather than resolves the issue in question).

Keep this Law in mind.

We might be in a position already to foresee what some things the author(s) of Traditionis custodes (TC) apparently did not foresee, let alone intend.

Collegiality

On Facebook, which correctly and responsibly used can be a very helpful tool, users have been posting the letters from their local bishops in response to the motu proprio, mainly American ones. They all have a similar basic theme: we need time to reflect on this and work out how best to implement in our dioceses, so for the time being nothing changes. Examples include Archbishop Sample, Archbishop Cordileone, Bishop Hying, even Cardinal Gregory.

This approach, of course, is entirely consistent with Article 3 §4 of TC, which requires those priests delegated by the bishop to exercise pastoral care for the flocks which adhere to the old books. How much more is this required of the bishop himself, and not just his delegate.

Indeed these bishops seeming to be adopting a pastoral tone that is in marked contrast to the “paternal solicitude” (TC, preamble, para 2) of the motu proprio. (more…)

Traditionis custodes and authority

This is being typed on my phone, so the spelling may prove interesting.

Some of the comments both on the last couple of posts and on their link pages on Facebook have sparked a train of thought in my rather over-taxed brain this evening. Sociologists might have a field day with this, or dismiss it entirely. Buuuuuuut…

Does today’s motu proprio, Traditionis custodes, represent a highwater mark in the modern crisis of authority in the Church, a crisis just as evident in the secular world?

Can one successfully legislate for unity by imposing, unilaterally and by decree, uniformity?

Moreover, can the newly-minted Synodal Way for a purportedly shared exercise of authority and governance only be established by an act of magisterial authority by the Supreme Pontiff? It as if the pope were saying, “By my authority I order you to be democratic and collegial.”

Recently, I was asked by a priest if I accepted that the Synodal Way was the new official paradigm for the the governance of the Church; I replied in the negative. Aghast, he asked if I accepted that the Holy Spirit was speaking through the recent archdiocesan synod; I replied that I had seen no evidence of this. His impassioned, and presumably sincere, response was to declare, “Then you are not a Catholic!”

There is a lot to unpack from this exchange, regarding authority, tradition, truth, coherence and communion. Suffice it to say, the implication is that all of these are to be determined, it seems, by acts of authority. Ironically, the charge often levelled against papal infallibility – if the pope declared black to be white, Catholics would have to believe it – can be employed anew with a vengeance.

If, I say if, for example, the pope were to declare the Church to be synodally governed rather than apostolically governed, could that act of authority stand? Christ founded the Church on the pillars of the Apostles; he mentioned nothing in any way redolent of synodality. The apostles and their successors developed councils and synods not to govern the Church, but to resolve conflicts and problems in the Church. Therefore, to declare me not Catholic because I do not accept synodality in the regular governance of the Church is a meaningless statement.

Likewise, it seems much the same for the decree by authority that the post-conciliar lyrical books now, newly and uniquely, constitute the lex orandi of the Church; it is ultimately a meaningless statement which renders futile the exercise of authority behind it, and undermines the same authority in the future.

It is self-defeating, an own goal. Someone needs to penetrate the web of the incompetents who sent to be advising the pope, and offer the alternative, and authentic, view. Indeed, I pray that Pope Francis might consult not some synod, but his own predecessor in the Apostolic See. Might this be the reason why the pope emeritus lives on still, after his abdication 8 years ago?

If I’m preaching through my posterior, tell me gently.

Pray for the pope; if we do not, then are we not to blame in part for any misstep he might take?

And rather than cursing the darkness, light a candle, eh…

Pax.

Traditionis custodes: A Few Questions et al

MY PREVIOUS POST was somewhat along the lines of automatic writing, expressing immediate reaction more than cool analysis. So, now I find myself noting a few other things, and a raising a few questions, Maybe someone wiser than I might address them. (more…)

Traditionis Custodes: a New World of Hurt

THIS MORNING, being distracted by other things, I was not paying attention to social media. When finally I checked my messages I realised I had been oblivious to an ecclesiastical tempest that had erupted late morning, UK time. The publication of the motu proprio Traditionis custodes (TC) over the signature of the Bishop of Rome surprised not the suspicious who had been reporting rumours of the suppression of the Extraordinary Form (EF) of the Roman Rite Mass over the last few months of, and left those of us who could not see the cause for alarm from the evidence adduced, with the rug swiftly and completely pulled from under our feet.

Before I begin some attempt at an initial analysis, let me state at the outset that I have never celebrated the EF, and have only seldom assisted at it as either a sacred minister or member of the congregation. So, on one level, I have no dog wholly my own in this fight. I am not fully a Traditionalist, in this particular sense. How I am a traditionalist, as rational Catholics must be if their faith is to have any objective reality to it.

In short, I cannot see how any argument can be raised to prohibit to any degree the form of Mass which, with only minor changes, had been the source and summit of the Church’s life and existence from the days of Gregory the Great (†604), and in substantially the same form for many years earlier.

If the Mass of Paul VI (or Ordinary Form—OF) is to have any practical validity (quite apart from sacramental validity) this can only be insofar as it can be shown to be an organic development of the liturgy that preceded it. This organic thread is not wholly accepted (and herein lies one of the moot points surrounding today’s document) but it is officially asserted. TC itself asserts this in Article 1, though it asserts it in a wholly exclusive way, granting the OF the honour of being “the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.” By using “unique” the document signals what is to come. It is synonymous here with “only.”

This is an extraordinary development, if you will pardon the pun. (more…)

The Real Cost of the UK’s Monarchy

ORIGINALLY I WAS GOING TO FOCUS on the actual topic of a BBC online article which exposed to further view the tangled web the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have woven for themselves, in this case with regard to the alleged cutting off of Harry from his father’s funding. It looks like it might be a question of dating, but that rather proves the point: how tangled their web of claims and assertions.

However, being part of the modern world, I found myself triggered by one little paragraph in the article:

Accounts for the Sovereign Grant show the monarchy cost the taxpayer £87.5m during 2020-21, an increase of £18.1m on the previous financial year.

How long must we endure this misrepresentation , from the BBC no less (though, of course, the BBC has no longer any claim to objectivity in its reporting).

The monarchy costs the taxpayer nothing at all. Zilch. Nada. Nihil. The Sovereign Grant is paid out of the income of the Crown Estate, which remains the personal property of the sovereign but, since 1760, the revenues from the Estate go to the Treasury and put at the disposal of Parliament. In return for these perpetual revenues, a portion of them is granted to the Royal Family for its maintenance in light of the official duties of the Royal Family and the monarch’s constitutional role.

Last year the net revenues of the Queen’s Crown Estate were £269.3 million. Out of these revenues, (more…)

Obsessive or Prudent? Our Life Online.

PERHAPS WE ALL HAVE at least one obsession. Maybe it is a guilty obsession we keep to ourselves, or maybe it is one to which we feel an apostolic commitment. Some of us have more than one. This post is not directly about religion, but in a world ever more militantly secular and intolerant of dissent, dissent from the world’s norms has become a form of treason the penalty for which is “cancellation”. It is not government alone that tracks deviants from the prevailing norm, but also (and even more) big tech—through social media especially. Even as it assists in persuading us to accept the prevailing secular norm, so it exploits us through data mining, and channelling our economic activity for their own profit.

The Uighurs in western China may perhaps serve as an emblem for this. We are to be rid of our religious culture, and made to conform to the socio-cultural, and economic, priorities of the establishment. I mean no belittling of the plight of the Uighurs. They are the canaries in the global mine. Their plight is a warning to us. The late Martin Niemöller’s lament is as relevant today, with only the names changed:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—but there was no one left to speak for me.

Once I hd been a fervent supporter of Google—former motto, Don’t be evil. I am not kidding you: they have ditched that from their Code of Conduct. Recently its underlying marketing principle has emerged clearly into the light of day: offer free things, make them really great, hook in the users till they are as good as dependent, and then start charging money in the expectation that most users will find paying up an easier option than changing. If necessary, buy up others’ programs, expand their user base by offering them for free, and then kill off the program and replace it with a Google alternative, eventually requiring payment.

The Problem

(more…)

Marx and the Masses

LET’S BEGIN WITH the Masses. I mean not the proletariat of course, but the sacred liturgy. It seems that Mass is yet again le sujet chaud. Only because there is a rumour, the heat of which has been increased by the appointment of Archbishop Roche as Prefect of Divine Worship, that the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (until very recently the only form) is to be forbidden again. The mechanism suspected is an abrogation of Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum.

Given the incomprehensible, indeed incredible, prohibition recently of so-called private Masses at St Peter’s in Rome, a fantastical rumour that turned out to be accurate (though the act is arguably illegal), the fears are not irrational. Yet one can hope they are unfounded. It would be a remarkable own-goal should an attempt to inhibit the old Mass be repeated. As Rome, including Pope Francis, is battling to avoid the schism that looms on the horizon with the upcoming German general synod, to forbid the old Mass would be to throw a match into the ammunition dump marked ”schism.“ For what good purpose? To champion the Ordinary Form of the Mass? To make the Mass the cause of schism would be as good as sacrilegious. If the Ordinary Form really needs such draconian measures to bolster its uptake then there is an elephant in the room that needs to be dealt with. Then we have the utter absurdity of portraying as divisive the Mass that served, united and nourished the western Church for a millennium and a half. There is a loud faction in the Church that cries for liberty in morals but rigid uniformity in liturgy. (more…)