I have spent the better part of three days collecting my thoughts on recent events within our Church, and have been trying to look at this from all angles, and finding some charity in my thoughts. In case you are uninformed, or have been living under a rock for 3 days, the Holy Father Pope Francis released a Motu Proprio, or something “In His Words” instructing the Latin rite church (whom he is supreme Pontiff) in how to continue carrying out the pastoral care of those who are drawn to the so called Traditional Latin Mass – In Short, previously folks could request the mass in any community, and as long as there was a stable group, and a competent priest, no one could deny them that right. This was done originally as an attempt at pastorally unifying the church. However, this has not completely occurred, in fact, if we shed our arrogance, we can see that the church became further divided on this, as Traditionalists simply went off into their oratories, and quite often, created a pseudo schism based off of attitude and interaction.
I grew up in the 80’s, and I can firstmost tell you my catechism was a mess – What I learned about the church, and what I should have learned before I was Confirmed, couldn’t have been any further from the truth. It was only through a lot of falling, self study, challenging Dogma with Heresy to only see the eventual correctness of Holy Mother church, that I discovered he richness, one that exists beyond simply the Latin Rite, and quite frankly in an unperfect union, between the “Orthodox” and “Catholic” churches. The Bottom line is the Church is a Big Tent, one that can and does accommodate a myriad of different expressions.
I explain this, because so many people who are currently at the front lines of this movement, are in the Gen X to Millennial range, that same generations that frankly, the church let down the most in formation. This same disenfranchisement is what led to them at best seeking out traditional pockets with in the church, but often in more extreme cases, seeking out structure outside of the church, both with examples of the SSPX, and others leaving for Orthodoxy, based off of a desperate need of knowing what is right, and what is wrong.
Make no mistake, the Novus Ordo done correctly (the mass most folks are acquainted with this day and age) , when done reverently, Ad Orientem, and with the Vernacular used as needed (and not in entirety as its often done, and contrary to the 1969 Missal) is something truly beautiful, and Deo Centric. My Generation and the 1-2 that followed were frankly given pre chewed meat, rather then allowing us to experience a choice cut of beef. Its not wonder that we often felt a need to take things into our hands, as we were often ridiculed, and segregated. I know personally I was at times thought of as Rigid, or “old fashioned” simply for even making the suggestion of more Chants, or English chants of the Propers. This was a give and take process though, as many of us who were pushed away, simply walled ourselves up, and eventually became as guilty as some of the reformers became, of being authorities unto ourselves.
The Holy Father, I am convinced, is doing what he consciously feels Is the most pastoral, based off of how some of us who hold tradition dear, have acted. We have pushed the limits of Summorum Pontificum, and that allowed Traditionis Custodes to become a reality. Folks got an inch, and took about 2 miles. Many weren’t content with the allowed missal (the 1962 Missal), and began interjecting and sometimes replacing completely , aspect of the pre 1955 Reforms, as well as other surpressed items. Couple that with the overall attitude of some, who delve from being anti Vatican II, Vatican I, to the opposite end of being Sedevacantists and becoming authorities unto themselves. There has also been a lack of filial devotion to the Holy Father, from claims that he isnt really the Pope (of which even Benedict 16th has repeatedly said), to that he is a Heretic. Add in the constant “whataboutism” that comes into context, and frankly a stream of insanity with some of our current “heroes” (See Father Altman, et al), is there any surprise that our communities would be given this document?
Is the Pope perfect? No, and frankly he never has been. Starting with Peter and ending with Francis, we have had more popes who were wrong about things then we can count, Peter himself denied Christ 3 times and hid during the Crucifixion. He even was even quick to Chastise the Magdalen on her claims of the resurrection. As Father in his homily pointed out today, Peter was often upside down on things his whole life, up to and including the way he entered Salvation, being Crucified upside down. The moral is sometimes Peter can do things that are needed, but still be wrong in his approach, and this is how I feel about the recent document he penned. I feel in his heart, he saw there was a deep pastoral issue, and attempted to deal with it. However I think the heavy handed approach was partially vengeful from both what he was seeing (and frankly experiencing), and others around him who took advantage due to their own trepidation with the Ancient forms of the mass.
I think we can disagree with the document itself, and still identify that there is a problem on both sides with the church currently. We cannot say that traditionalist communities have a problem with authority, when often that authority has been abused for decades. However, pendulums swing hard, and if we don’t realize that when we were given the Gift of Pope Benedict in his Motu Proprio, we acted poorly enmasse, then we have no right to complain about the gift of discipline that came, granted it was overkill, but it is discipline none the less.
However, there is a light at the end of the Tunnel. Many Bishops have decided to exhibit great pastoral care in this issue, and have through one way or another, made it possible for those communities to continue, in one form or another. Most Importantly, I think the best thing we can do at this point, is to respond with Charity, regardless of the perceived lack of Charity from others in this case, or even our own groups lack of Charity.
We need to remember that the Liturgy, belongs to no one. It is the work of the people, collectively, for praise and worship of Almighty God. It is incorrect to say the Novus Ordo is what unifies us, because that disregards the number of other Rites under the dome of the Catholic church. Rather its important to remember that the Eucharist is the Focal point , and that Eucharistic Celebration does take different forms. It is vital to remember that fact, otherwise we will cease to be able to call ourselves a truly “catholic” church. The church is more then the Roman Rite and the expressions of faith from it. What we can do thats most vital at this point is show the beauty of our Expression, and by doing so, we will as both Summorum Pontificum and Traditionis Custodes intend, encourage not only a deeper and more reverent liturgy as a whole, but a deeper understanding of our faith as Roman Catholic.
Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi. The law of Prayer is the Law of Belief. This will become more true in the coming days, as we will be able to truly show who we believe in. Many Traditionalists have made an idol of the Liturgy, rather then realizing that its just a tool to help us to Heaven. I believe if we can adopt that attitude towards things, we can see our way through this desert that we find ourselves in. God always has something in store even in the darkest of perceived times. Let us entrust ourselves to His countenance and grace.