The following is a four-part comment from the post I have below, "THE ORDINARY FORM OF THE MASS MUST BE APPRECIATED AS THE NORMAL, ORDINARY FORM OF THE MASS" from an anonymous writer and is self explanatory. I think it was well written and very thoughtful and deserved to be posted as a regular post. Who is this mystery writer anyway?
We have seen this disagreement over terms before. I would like to provide my take on the nature of a disagreement in the hopes that in the future we can have more in the way of good-faith dialogue here and less sniping, in keeping with the wishes expressed by Fr. McD in this blog entry.
Traditio, of course, means “that which is handed on.” And what was handed on from the Latin Mass to the NO Mass? Quantitatively, most things were _not_ handed on: Latin, the silent participation of the laity, the sanctuary and functions related thereto as the exclusive province of the clergy, Gregorian chant, reception on the tongue, kneeling for reception, ad orientum, reception under one kind, the strong emphasis on vertical sacrifice, the very light (if any) emphasis on the horizontal meal, and a bunch of other stuff. (I will not discuss here the irreverence and the liberties taken by many clergy—I will accept arguendo that they are perversions of what was supposed to be, although I _would_ argue that the NO has propagated those things more than the EF does/did.)
So what _was_ handed on? What is it in the NO that is also in the EF that continues to make the NO a valid Mass? Note that even the words of consecration—the very liturgical core of the Mass--were changed—for you and for _all_--pro omnes, not pro multis. So on first—and even on second—inspection, it seems that precious little got “traditio’ed,” if you will. The celebration by a priest and the use of wine and unleavened bread sometimes seems to be just about all that made it unscathed.
With this as background, then, there are three possibilities:
1) The NO mass is valid based on the dictates of reason—its adoption was inherently reasonable. But given all the aforementioned changes—more and faster change that has ever been seen in 2000 years of Catholic history, making this situation unique--reason by no means dictates this conclusion. Reason becomes even shakier when the parallels between the NO and Protestant liturgies are so obvious. Catholic history is full of examples of heretical ideas infecting the Church and even being accepted by large numbers of bishops before being stamped out. Is there a truly ironclad, unassailable reason why this _cannot_ be the case today? Especially since the Church has just issued corrections to the English NO? Anyone who says that there is such a reason, I submit, is guilty of hubris, of a sort of snobbish temporal provincialism that says “Our generation is smarter and knows better than any other generation that has ever lived.”
2) The NO Mass is valid because of its continuity with earlier forms of the Mass that were/are valid. Again, given all the aforementioned differences, very little continuity is apparent. The claim that the essentials were retained, to my ear, sounds disturbingly like the usual Protestant/Modernist least common denominator argument: “You may be Catholic and I may be Protestant, but at least we agree on the fundamentals.” No, Mr. Protestant, we don’t. You threw out fundamentals, and claimed what you threw out weren’t fundamentals. I repeat: In the NO even the words of consecration were changed. That’s pretty gosh-darned fundamental.
3) The NO Mass is valid because the Church says it is. But why does the Church say it is? Could the Church go still further and have a deacon(ess) celebrate Mass and still declare it to be valid? Could it change the elements to coke and potato chips and change (even more than it already did) the words of consecration—e.g., “This is my Frisbee that shall be thrown for you”--and still declare the Mass to be valid? Perhaps so. But in that case it would be a matter of naked authority—potestas, not auctoritas--unsupported by reason or history. _This_ is the reasoned fear of many pro-EF people today: that the adoption of the NO Mass, and the changes within it, were unprincipled, supported by neither reason or history but only by potestas. AKA, the Emperor’s clothes.
People who know their liturgy and their church history and their theology can make some very persuasive arguments on this point (i.e., it’s valid not because of continuity or reason but because of a declaration by the Church that it is valid—and this declaration seems in fact to _contravene_, at least to a degree, both history and reason). Since the Church herself has made, in recent decades, a big deal about giving reasoned arguments for why it does things (look at the long pastoral explications in the Vatican II documents, compared to the flat assertions common in earlier councils), the sudden reversion to “shut up and obey” is incongruous, and even gives the impression of duplicity, or at the very least that the hierarchy has something to hide—that the emperor has been caught naked.
In fact, the Church herself opened the can of worms called public opinion. She made changes—forced great changes—on the laity and gave reasons for the changes. Now, when people reply in the mode she herself chose—i.e., through reasoned argument—and when their reason is at least as sound as hers, she suddenly eschews reason for potestas.
The proponents of the EF are often vocal. Sometimes they are argumentative and intransigent (e.g., “The EF is the only true Mass.”) But I think it needs to be realized that folks who talk this way are often—indeed, usually—doing so because they are confused and even fearful at all the ill-explained, ill-advised changes of the last 40 years. As Edmund Burke noted, three ways to upset people are to mess with their system of government, their money, and their religion. By any imaginable standard, the post-Vatican II church in America messed big time with people’s religion—whether for good or for ill is irrelevant.
The NO Mass, with its defects—defects explicitly recognized by the Church in its promulgation of the corrected English translation—was forced onto the laity, who in very large measure neither desired nor were consulted about the changes. Yet, the general tone of most clergy in America today, when asked for more EF Masses, often give as a reason for their refusal that the laity, when implicitly “consulted,” don’t desire to swap NO attendance for EF attendance. The double standard is obvious.
I think that the vast majority of faithful Catholics who prefer the EF nevertheless accept the validity of the NO. (Those who don’t probably left their parishes long ago for FSSP or SSPX or some other such group.) But they do often feel slighted and condescended to, even—perhaps especially—when they can back up their position with very solid arguments in the form of reason, magisterial documents, and liturgical and Church history. In short: they speak out of fear. Being dismissed, or worse, sneered at, isn’t going to do anything to calm those fears. Again: the clergy should respect that these people, for the most part, are going to be the most faithful Catholics that they’ll ever see. Surely that is worth some degree of respect and honest attempt at dialogue, if nothing else. And dialogue, as a mutual search for the truth as opposed to scoring points off the other side, means a willingness of both sides to accept correction and even to change positions.
In short, Pater Ignotus, just waving a magic wand and uncritically calling the NO a “traditional” Mass ignores common sense, reason, history, and the emotional and pastoral needs of some Catholics who are very upset at changes that can appear to be—and perhaps are—simply unprincipled. And belittling them for their small numbers is bad too—Jesus never made this a numbers game (good shepherd, one lost sheep, etc.). and finally, remember that it cuts both ways: if the NO is just as good as the EF, then the EF is just as good as the NO, right? Why all the objection, then, to more EFs?
January 19, 2012 12:09 PM