Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Often when one thinks of the FSPX, one thinks of liturgical, dogmatic and moral rigorism and rigidity. To the outsider, it appears that they want nothing to do with the Ordinary Form of the Mass even if celebrated in Latin, with only boys and men serving and minor clerics reading and only the schola singing and ad orientem. I don't know if this is completely true, but I think it is. They are rigid, rigid, rigid and quite judgmental to a fault toward Vatican II and the vast majority of faithful Catholics who have embraced it.

But this same rigidity is also found at the other spectrum. There are some post Vatican II Catholics who claim to be very faithful Catholics who absolutely despise their pre-Vatican II heritage and want absolutely none of it to touch them again. They were schooled in the secular school of suspicion of authority a la 1960's, fierce individualism when it comes to morality and contempt for natural law. Situation ethics is their foundation.

Being dogmatic and moral relativists, they fight tooth and nail, like the FSPX but in a different orientation, to keep what the FSPX want out of the post-Vatican II Church. They hate the pre-Vatican II Liturgy, now called the Extraordinary Form and are aghast and flummoxed at the suggestion that the EF Mass should enrich the Ordinary Form and that any of the so-called accretions to the EF Mass should return to the OF Mass, such as the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, the EF's Offertory Prayers and the Last Gospel, not to mention the quiet Canon.

Somewhere in the middle is the vast majority of Faithful Catholics who will accept what the Magisterium proposes to them although they may be flexible in terms of their own personal morality and acceptance of others who reject the Church's moral teachings.

They have a live and let live attitude about the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, but do like clarity when it comes to moral teachings and the dogmas and doctrines of the Church, even though they personally struggle to accept them all in our pluralistic society and Church.

The great sleeping giant that is the majority of faithful Catholics will always support their Church and accept good Liturgy in whatever form they encounter it.

They want warm community, personal relations with faithful Catholics and a transcendent and awe inspiring Liturgy that is also warm and appealing and touches not just the mind and soul, but the heart and emotions.

If the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, the EF's Offertory Prayers were restored and the Last Gospel added to the reform of the reform of the Ordinary Form of the Mass, they would like to know why and then within six months if not less be totally at home with it.

And if the Magisterium banned guitars, bongos, snare drums, pianos and other non-liturgical instruments, and, let's say, only allowed no instrumentation for singing or the pipe organ, brass and classical strings, not to mention the tympani, I think they'd handle it a bit better than the extremes I mention above.

Where do you situate yourself in the grand orchestra of faithful Catholics and how flexible are you?


Marc said...

Of course, the difference is the FSSPX is relying on 1,500 years of written liturgical tradition in the Roman Rite and 1,900 years of dogmatic Tradition for the teachings they espouse.

The liberals whom you claim are doing the same thing on the opposite side are relying on their own interpretation of a perceived change in both liturgical and dogmatic tradition in the past 50 years.

That is a huge difference.

At any rate, rigidity is good for people. People need to know what to do, how to do it, and when it should be done. The Church has a long history of rigidity and no history at all of this laissez-faire sort of attitude currently being passed around as "truth."

Let's not forget that many of our Fathers in the Faith died for concepts like the truth of the hypostatic union, the reality of the Incarnation, and the use of Holy Icons - things that seem abstract and are often denied by those who claim to be in the communion with the Church today.

It seems like your line of thinking would have said to those great martyrs, "It's okay, let's not be too rigid about these things. If the Pope or the bishop says it, it must be fine. We must be united to them visibly at all costs, even at the cost of falling into error because visible unity is more important than unity of Faith and believing the Truth."

So, I would say the burden is on those who think the liturgy should not be rigid to make a compelling argument that they are correct in light of the LONG tradition in the Church? Things do not change just because we feel like changing them...

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

To remain fully Catholic, I would say that rigidity should reside with fealty and fidelity to the Holy Father and the living Magisterium, the bishops in union with the Holy Father. Our Fathers in the Faith died in union with the Church not in opposition to the Holy Father and the bishops in union with him.
In two thousand years, the Ordinary Form will have quite a history too and I suspect it will look more like the Tridentine Mass but not completely.

Marc said...

Perhaps you are right about the Ordinary Form still being around in 2,000 years - who knows? That's an interesting thing to think about!

I don't know if there is actually that long of a history of saints caring that much about "fealty and fidelity to the Holy Father." For the first few centuries, quite a few canonized saints did not seem to really have too much interest in the Roman See.

Of couse, you have saints who directly defied their bishop or the Pope himself: St. Joan of Arc, St. Catherine of Sienna, and St. Athanasius of Alexandria come to mind off the top of my head.

I'm not advocating any of us should be making those sorts of judgments. We have to adhere to the Truth in the confines of the visible Church, which necessarily implicates an invisible unity of Faith (historically, at least). The fact of the matter is the Pope really has very little impact on the daily lives of Catholics. Since we're hypothesizing about the OF 2,000 years in the future, let's think about the laity 1,000 years in the past -- they probably had no idea who the Pope was, what he wrote about, or whether he was a "good Pope" or a "bad Pope." Was their salvation jeopardized? What is the difference now? Globalized media? It's an interesting question to think about, I think!

Templar said...

Where do I fit? I am clearly in the rigid column of the FSSPX as you describe them. How flexible am I? I am willing to be flexible on the OF to the extent that it is recognized as being in need of reform, that what we were handed in MR70 was not what the Council was asking for, and that the Heirarchy at all levels is making some progress towards fixing that.

As soon as I am able (read retired) I shall relocate to a location which provides ready access to an FSSP or SSPX Parish so that I can live my Faith as my forefathers before me were permitted to do. My dreams are that this opportunity would be available to me locally, or that the Church itself would accelerate the reforms to make the matter moot, but experience tends to make me think that will not be the case precisely because that 80% majority of which you speak. They are timid followers, afraid to stand up for what is right, the go along to get along crowd...unless you insult their NCAA Football Team! For that they'll fight, but their Faith, whatever, as long as it's air conditioned and the Social Hall has a new kitchen they're okay with it.

jac said...

As a cradle Catholic born in 1970, I'd put myself smack in the middle of the middle group you described. I'm fairly flexible, but I do have to admit that I find the use of amplification for guitars, and the addition of drums to my parish's music ensemble is more than a little grating (especially given the physical size of the Church building: amplification should ONLY be used for human voices).

John Nolan said...

By the time the Novus Ordo came out in 1970 most parishes had abandoned Latin and traditional music. Mass was versus populum and informal, although Communion standing and in the hand (which I had encountered on holiday in Germany in 1967) was still five years off, and EMHC did not make their unwelcome appearance till the 1980s.

A (very) few priests in the diocese had bucked the trend and not re-ordered their sanctuaries. They kept their choirs and their sung Sunday Latin Mass, although conforming to the changes, including the Novus Ordo. Gregorian Chant still clung on at the cathedral despite the hostility of one or two liberal deans.

Throughout the 1970s Latin, decent music and a traditional ars celebrandi persisted in a number of places but the hierarchy did little to encourage it and by the end of the decade it was mostly confined to London, most unashamedly at the Oratory but in many other places too. I am convinced that it was poor liturgy, and not Humanae Vitae that drove a generation of young educated Catholics away from the Church.

The Usus Antiquior was rare, and I was prepared to accept the Novus Ordo provided it was celebrated decently with at least some Latin. What I would not tolerate was trite music, folk Masses and the chummy informality which was a hallmark of most parish Masses by 1980 and sadly still is. I do not attend such performances since I do not derive any spiritual benefit thereby. I love the Mass and will not tolerate its being abused.

The tragedy is that with only a slight effort and a minimum of resources any parish can do a sung Gregorian Latin/English Mass every Sunday. But it requires a cultural shift which was conceivable 35 years ago but is difficult now as bad habits are deeply entrenched, and based on a profound misunderstanding of the meaning and purpose of liturgical worship. Like it or not, Father, you, the Pope, the Oratory fathers and the SSPX are on the same side. The dichotomy is such that you will search in vain for a via media.

Jacob said...

(To paraphrase Gov. Wallace)
The Extra Ordinary form now,
The Extra Ordinary Form tomorrow,
The Extra Ordinary Form forever.

Henry Edwards said...

Whether a given form of liturgy will still be here in 2000 years, or even 100 years from now, has little to do with preferences--neither those of popes or bishops or of pew-sitting Catholics. Unstable species--whether biological or physical or social or religious--those that inherently admit continual change and mutation, do not survive indefinitely. Never. Not in any field of human experience or observation.

In its present state, the so-called ordinary form--whatever its merit in principle in the sight of God or man or the magisterium of the Church--lacks any semblance of stability of practice in space or time; it may differ drastically from one parish to the next, and in the same parish from one pastor to the next. Because of its numerous built-in options, its norms that fail to prescribe a consistent ars practicum, and indeed are generally regarded as mere suggestions that can be ignored without censure. At present, the OF is continually splitting into what amount to diverse sub-rites, just as Protestant denominations are constantly splitting into sub-denominations (and for the same evolutionary reasons) on a scale of decades.

So the matter is beyond debate. Unless the uniformity of a stable liturgical rite is soon mandated, we can be certain that the present OF will not remain recognizable for any significant span of time on the scale of centuries. If in the absence of any such mandate, it continues to split into multiplicities of different forms in practice, none of them can possibly survive indefinitely. Over a sufficiently long period of time, the law of the survival of only the fittest is inexorable.

Marc said...

I'm with Templar. I really don't think many in the clergy recognize or appreciate the difficulty this situation is causing for many of the lay faithful.

For me, personally, it makes me have serious doubts about the nature of the Church when I seem to care much more about the liturgy and correct doctrine than many (most?) of the clergy, even at the highest levels of the hierarchy.

Then again, I'm pretty sure most clergy would prefer if people like me would leave so they could have more go along to get along sheep donating for their "new air conditioners and kitchens" as Templar so adequately put it.

Ostro Picta said...

I wish I could fulfill every Sunday obligation with the Extra Ordinary Form.

But, for me, this is not realistic. It is two hours (give or take a few minutes) to Savannah and Jacksonville (and Macon) from my home. It is not practical to “give-up” Sunday (family obligations, etc.) to attend Mass in the afternoon with a four hour round trip.

I’m not sure where I fit into the question. I suppose I am a middle-of-the-road cynic.

I tend to see Ultra-Conservatives as people who wrap themselves around the flag, the Pilgrims (Catholics raving about the Pilgrims - which is funny in itself), and the Founding Fathers (whom the majority had no sympathy for “popery”) by practicing old-fashioned demagoguery. Some of these people use (for example) the encyclicals of Leo XIII and St. Pius X to ignore real social problems and chalk all solutions to a Utopian state based around Christ the King and the Catholic Church.

I tend to see Ultra-Liberals as people who hide their heterodox opinions around the methodology of their particular field of study. Nuance becomes an excuse to know better (and “help”) “the poor uneducated masses.” Some of these people worship at the altar of the mythical Proletariat. They use human suffering to advance their modern (or-not-so-modern now) view of what the Catholic Church (fully reconciled with Marx) could become.

It all tends to be two sides of the same coin: demagoguery.

Henry Edwards said...

John: I am convinced that it was poor liturgy, and not Humanae Vitae that drove a generation of young educated Catholics away from the Church.

Of course, any claim that Humanae Vitae drove Catholics out of the Church ignores the fact that HV was never rigorously preached within the Church, that contraception was practiced by a majority of Catholics in the Church, and either implicitly tolerated or explicitly encouraged by a majority of priests. So why would HV have been a reason for one to leave?

Whereas many could well have felt they had to leave to escape offensive and intolerable liturgy.

WSquared said...

"They were schooled in the secular school of suspicion of authority a la 1960's, fierce individualism when it comes to morality and contempt for natural law. Situation ethics is their foundation."

...and of course, they hate it like the dickens that anybody should ever question their dubious authority and self-appointed magisterium-- namely faithful Catholics who feel that they've been robbed of their tradition, and who show even the slightest curiosity (whether it means the EF or an OF informed by the EF, if not both), or the Pope and a Magisterium that ever so gently prods them, whom they then rail in public are "cracking down" on them and are being "reactionary." Oh, please.

Having known nothing else except one heck of a bill of goods, thanks in good part to those types of attitudes you've mentioned, those who espouse them should not be in the least bit surprised that some of us treat them in exactly the same way, with the same suspicion. I guess you could say that they taught us well, and turnabout is fair play. Only we have far better and ample reason than any mere reaction or backlash, all of which points to what it is we profess to believe, and why. And it's not our fault that they never imagined for a moment that "questioning authority" would ever apply to them or be thrown back in their faces.

Furthermore, we tried things their way; we gave it a fair shake. It didn't work. Some of us, by the grace of God, "questioned" the authority of the Church's Magisterium, too, in that, for the first time in our lives, we gave what it had to say a fair shake as well, and found that it has the better argument.

I am only ever relatively rigid or flexible in equal turns in so far as I hold to "lex orandi, lex credendi," and understand the Church as the Body of Christ, wholly visible, and built up in Communion with Him. And of course, that does include fidelity to the Holy Father, the living Magisterium, and bishops in union with the Holy Father, as the Creed that we utter at Mass tends to beg that issue, anyway.

Reform and progress are necessary at times, but it always begs the question of "reform and progress relative to what, exactly?" Summorum Pontificum is a step in the right direction, as is the new English translation of the Roman Missal. Any reform that distracts from Christ as alpha and omega, and right worship, as much of the "Spirit" of Vatican II and its banal and bland iconoclasm did is always a step backward, and will always be dated for not rooting itself in the eternal. Novelty for the sake of novelty, and change for the sake of change, is therefore meaningless, and anything that is not truly rooted in Christ will always ever get left behind.

WSquared said...


I love the EF, and have nothing against the OF per se, in that I've attended the EF, Latin OF, and vernacular OF, and it was the EF that pulled everything together and put it all on the table for me-- it made "lex orandi, lex credendi" more of a reality and a challenge, and then things started falling into place in a way that they hadn't previously.

I can actually see how the OF leads us deeper with each step into the Sacred Mysteries from the procession up the aisle through the Liturgy of the Word, and finally into the Liturgy of the Eucharist. There's more of a sense of linear progression to show the fulfillment of the OT in the NT and Jesus Christ, but I do like that the EF better shows the interpenetration of the OT and NT every step of the way (and I think that emphasis in the EF might well cut down on any tendency to think that in the OT, we had God the Father, a.k.a God the Meanie, and then, with the NT, we got happy-clappy "Buddy Christ" Jesus who was "nice" to everybody). So yes, I honestly appreciate both. And I would absolutely love it if the prayers at the foot of the altar, ad orientem, kneeling for Communion, and the Last Gospel were brought to the OF. Why, when Father expounded on the readings this Sunday during his homily, particularly the part about Christ coming to his own and them knowing Him not, I did actually grin, thinking, "that's the Last Gospel! That's the Last Gospel!"

What I "don't love about the OF" hasn't much to do with the form of the OF per se (or perhaps it does, to some extent?), and it's the EF that has helped me to effectively tune out certain distractions (though I will add that the fact that I or anyone else has to do this at all is plain irritating at times): I don't love that some people have done horrible things to the OF-- and actually like the low form of the OF. I had the best of both worlds when I attended the daily low OF and then the EF on Sundays. I don't love how some people's false humility in the form of progressivist utilitarianism, banality, and pretentious ugliness got imposed on the rest of us in the name of "questioning authority."

I will humbly say that I have some reservations that there are way too many options for the OF, whereas the old Roman Canon laid out everything we believe so fully and so beautifully. With too many options, we end up not really learning any of it well (we tend to treat sacred music that way when we just slot things into the Novus Ordo as though it were a juke box or an iPod playlist, and this sort of practice emphasizes novelty at the expense of stability, and as a result, we barely feel rooted in the Liturgical calendar of the Church. It doesn't have to be that way, of course, but that's what ends up happening). Same goes for the Penitential Rite. Why can't we just have the one Confiteor and that's it, and stick with that? It emphasizes collective and individual responsibility for sin far better than either of the other options, simply for really spelling it out in an age where we like to think that sin is of no consequence, or does not exist. ...all of which is a part of, and can even be brought to bear on public discourse, especially given the timely appearance of Ross Douthat's Bad Religion, which is a plea for orthodox Christianity.

The Mass is the public prayer of the Church, so too much of a nod to novelty is potentially problematic, and in an era where wretched catechesis makes it difficult to evangelize, some "rigidity" in the Mass may well be beneficial in that it would provide some form of basic catechesis.

So, I would say the burden is on those who think the liturgy should not be rigid to make a compelling argument that they are correct in light of the LONG tradition in the Church? Things do not change just because we feel like changing them...

Bingo, Marc.

Anonymous 2 said...

Because of my academic proclivities and because I am a post-Vatican II Catholic who joined the Church almost 35 years ago, I see benefit in healthy and respectful conversation, even robust conversation and questioning, by those of traditionalist or of liberal persuasion. We humans make progress through proper conversation, and I believe that this is just as true regarding matters of faith as anything else. Moreover, shutting down proper conversation can be positively harmful.

As I recall, Jesus engaged in conversation and entertained questions from both His enemies_and_ his friends. And I always remember the sign I saw once with the “cute” but nevertheless cogent inscription: “Jesus came to take away our sins, not our minds.” And anyone who has had discussions with some of our “fundamentalist” friends about the literal interpretation of the Bible, including as applied to matters of “scientific” inquiry, will know exactly what this means and why St. Augustine warned against abdicating our intellects in this way (I am not saying they are necessarily wrong; I am saying it is disturbing that they are so sure they are right)

That said, Jesus often had to teach, or even admonish, His interlocutors. So, at the end of the day, I believe we have to defer to the judgment of the Magisterium if we still want to call ourselves Catholic.

This, then, it seems to me, is the true spirit in which Vatican II sees the proper role of the laity: On matters of doctrine and liturgy we can question, converse, and even consult, but we need to recognize what is above our pay grade. So I guess that puts me somewhere in the silent majority, except for the silent bit =).

Anonymous 2 said...

P.S. Just to clarify, in my comment the reference to “fundamentalist friends” is intended to refer to non-Catholic Christian fundamentalist friends. I think you understand what I mean.

Pater Ignotus said...

Marc - I think you confuse "not caring" about the liturgy with "not agreeing" with your vfiews on the liturgy.

Marc said...

Fr. Kavanaugh, when is the Tridentine Mass offered at Holy Spirit?

Gene said...

I like the FSPX. To even place them in the same paragraph with the braying Wanderoos of the Post Vat II mindset is an insult. I do not accept that authenticity and tradition are "rigidity."
How flexible am I...well, I can sit, extend my legs out wide, grab my toes, and touch my head to the floor. I can do hand stands and a bunch of yoga-like positions...oh, you mean about Liturgy...well, I am at least as flexible as Templar and Marc...well, maybe a tiny bit more flexible about the OF...if it is done like FR. does it. But, when I go to Sacred Heart in Milledgeville or Christ Our King up on Oconee, I want to run out screaming and I become very inflexible and have to remind myself that, yes, this was a valid Mass and, yes, I have fulfilled my obligation.

ytc said...

I largely agree with John Nolan. John Nolan is my new opinion buddy on here.

Joseph Johnson said...

After scanning all these comments ('first chance I've had all day), I would have to place myself somewhere near Gene, Marc, and Templar. While I dream of sanctuary renovations in the direction of restoring tradition, so many in my parish seem more concerned about reflooring the social hall, etc. and aren't even aware of the "Reform of the Reform" much less the option for the EF.

The EF is what I would love to attend regularly but it is only an occasional option for me and my family as that would mean a hour and an half (nearly two hour) trip to Savannah, a further trip to Macon once a month, or very early rise on Sunday and an hour and a half to Jacksonville.

The new English translation is a big improvement for the OF but I still have greater expectations--starting with music which includes bringing some Latin back in on a regular basis (the St. Louis Jesuits and their progeny--aka Haugen and Haas, are way out of the question to my way of thinking!). Getting rid of OCP, GIA, WLP missalettes (the delivery device of choice for the bad music) needs to happen ASAP! We need to concentrate on learning chant but that's asking a lot when our music director is a former Baptist woman in her 70's who is really more of a Baptist tickle the ivories style pianist than an organist. We have a real pipe organ but the piano needs to be permanently exiled to the social hall! We do have the option of kneeling for Communion (a great privilege) in our parish.

I love my pastor (who has done a lot and is sympathetic) and I don't want to sound like a malcontent but I still have higher hopes! As I have "harped" before, the EF should be much more available in the smaller parishes in the Savannah Diocese (like mine), even if it is not every week. On the longer term wish list is a return to ad orientem celebration for the OF, the choir moved back to the choir loft (yes, we have one in our built in 1981 church!), and the installation of a Communion rail. I have not said much in my parish about altar girls and EMHC's (I have two daughters who serve, occasionally) but, privately, I've never really been happy with these developments. EMHC's and Communion in the hand are bigger issues for me because of my earlier training (reinforced by later exposure to the EF) regarding reverence toward even small particles of the Eucharist. Hand patens should be required once again and the rinsing of the priest's fingers restored as part of the ablutions.

Pater Ignotus said...

Why do people who already know the answers to questions pose those questions?

They do not seek answers, because they already have all the answers. They do not seek information, because they are in no way ignorant. They do not look for deeper understanding, because they are satisfied with simplistic understanding.

I don't know, Marc, when is the "Tridentine Mass "(sic) offered at Holy SPirit?

Templar said...

That's a damned fine self portrait of yourself you just painted there.

Gene said...

Ignotus, what in the Hell are you talking about? I do not already know the answer to that question.

BTW, Marc is a defense attorney. He had better never ask a question to which he does not already know the answer...

Marc said...

Oh, I think we all know the answer to when Holy Spirit will have the Tridentine Mass while Pater is stationed there.

Here's a hint: It involves very cold, winged pigs in a state of the afterlife that Pater likely does not believe exists.

rcg said...

I must rise to defend PI on that last point and that he believes in the afterlife. However much he may defend a form of Mass that is presented differently than I prefer, I will say, "Amen" when displays the Host and proclaims the Body of Christ. Of course I will not extend my hands and would prefer to not even have to utter a word, but I will be in the presence of God in any case.

Gene said...

RCG, You don't know what PI believes and neither do we...and he isn't about to tell us.

Pater Ignotus said...

rcg - Thanks for your words, but they will not help. Those who need to believe that I deny some aspect of revealed Truth will continue to do so because it makes them feel superior. It gives them a sense of comfort to "know" that they are right and I am wrong. Such behavior is generally a sign of immaturity or insecurity.

The real harm done is that such an attitude is destructive not to the accused (yours truly) but to the accuser(s). I'm sorry some find it necessary, too, but what can one do?

Gene said...

Oh, I need a barf bag! Ignotus, who has suggested that you deny some aspect of revealed Truth? You are far too clever to do something that stupid. But, since you raise the issue...should we doubt your views on revealed Truth?

Your self-righteousness is showing again...

PI said...

Pin - you state your doubt "You don't know what PI believes and neither do we..." and then you deny doing it. Marc says, " a state of the afterlife that Pater likely does not believe exists."

Yes, I am clever - too clever by far to let you get away with your dissembling.

Marc said...

Oh, Pater, your reading comprehension skills are about as good as your conversational skills: you missed my use of the word "likely."

I know from talking with you on this blog that you are just as (if not more) sarcastic than I am - surely you picked up my admittedly feeble attempt at humor!

Gene said...

Pater, no doubt was stated. I simply said that we do not know what you believe. There is no implication of doubt there.