Saturday, July 17, 2021

On the Extraordinary Form Mass, the Benedictine Office, and enduring hardship

We woke up today to the purported abrogation of the right to freely say (for priests) or attend the Traditional Latin Mass, the ending of the rights clarified by Summorum Pontificum and Universae Ecclesiae.

Does it apply to the Office?

For what it is worth though, the new Motu proprio, Traditionis Custodes, does not explicitly refer to the Office, and so it can be argued I think, that, consistent with the canonical principle that restrictions should be read narrowly, permissions broadly, these changes do not apply to the Divine Office.

But even if it does, for those who use the Benedictine office, my understanding is that the 1962 books remain the only actually approved official books of the Benedictine order. The 1975 Thesaurus and Offices developed from it by individual communities are based on the ad experimendum permissions granted to religious orders post Vatican II. So there is no official Benedictine Office of Pope Paul VI...

This means, I would suggest, that monasteries can continue to say the traditional Benedictine Office, and so too can oblates.

Assuming I am correct , that will be cold comfort if we are then denied access to the Traditional Mass that is so integrally linked with the Office.

What possible justification can there be for this action?

It is hard to understand what possible justification this attempted suppression of the Traditional Latin Mass (EF) could have.

In my own diocese, as in many, the Traditional Mass community is the most vibrant parish in the diocese, with the youngest demographic, and a wide range of charitable, catechetical and social activities.  

In my country (Australia) it is our two traditional monasteries that are attracting young people to test their vocations, while older monasteries with an ageing population of monks and nuns are either struggling to survive or actively winding down and turning over their apostolates to lay people.

So is the aim to see the collapse of Catholic practice altogether?

And how can there be an issue with 'church unity' around having different forms of the Mass in use?  

The Mass of Paul VI, after all, provides for multiple options, and is said in many languages; and what about the Eastern Rite churches, such as Maronite, Melkite, Ukrainian, Chaldean and Syro-Malabar?  Or will these too, next be required to say the mass only in English or perhaps Italian, and in the form of the Missal of Paul VI?

As for the claim that Traditional Mass attendees might reject the Second Vatican Council, again I call bullshit.  Many do of course legitimately debate the level of authority it has and even its relevance some fifty years on: it was after all, proclaimed to be a pastoral council, and the last decades have seen the world transformed.  But that is hardly a ground for suppressing a legitimate form of the Mass that has nourished so many saints down the ages!

On the face of it this legislation marks one last deaththrow of that ageing generation of 60s clericalists trying desperately in cement in a destructive cult that has done so much to harm the Church.

Practical problems

But regardless of its claimed rationale, the Motu Proprio does not seem to be very tightly drafted and it has some serious practical problems.  

If a bishop were to deign to give permission for the Extraordinary Form Mass to be said, for example, apparently it can't be done in a parish church.  

So just where is it to be said?!  

In some places I suppose cathedrals, monasteries and shrines may be an option, but are the rest of us to be banished to house Masses?  

Could that in itself not have perverse outcomes, diametrically opposed to what is surely intended!

And in other places, where bishops are not generous, this move will surely drive some into open schism.

Perhaps it is time. 

I for one am sick of going, as I occasionally or even regularly have had to do in the past, to a local Novus Ordo parish (since any Mass is better than none and for health and other reasons can't always get across to the other side of town for the TLM) and being shocked at the outright heretical things preached in sermons, and the liturgical abuses that continue to be perpetrated, often, it seems at the direct direction of the diocesan authorities.

In the early centuries of the Church, Catholics refused to attend Arian parishes, perhaps we should too?

The call to obedience?

I think we all need to think and pray through this, and let some time pass before we decide decisively how to react.

But as followers of St Benedict, I would suggest that our first instinct should still be to obedience, even  - perhaps especially - if it brings with it hardship and suffering.  

St Benedict's instructions on humility, after all, urge us to meet obedience even when we face difficulties and contradictions, and even injustice.  He tells us to hold to obedience, and neither tire or run away but endure all things, however contrary.

Rather than being dejected, we should be pleased that God is putting us to the test, for it he who fights and endures who will reap the reward.  As St Ambrose puts it in his commentary on Psalm 118:

"Victory is the ornament not of soft and pleasure-loving people, but of those who are toughened by hard toil and diligent exercise...[he who]  accepts sufferings for sins.  He is neither overcome by weariness nor broken by fear.  He does not faint from labour.  He is not ungrateful nor is he downhearted."

Let us remember those years St Benedict spent in the wilderness of Subiaco, not even knowing, until God sent a priest to him, that it was Easter Sunday: with the aid of our patron saint we can ensure.

But we must pray hard and work for this appalling legislation to be ignored by our bishops, and quickly overturned.