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April 04, 2008


The young fogey

I met Abp Weakland in 1991 and found him cordial. I asked him, more or less, why not support 'reform of the reform' Novus Ordo or translating the Tridentine into the vernacular à la Anglo-Catholicism 90 years ago and he said something curious: 'if it would get people away from the Tridentine I'd do it'.

Of course one can reverse all of Vatican II. It didn't define any doctrine! Things that have been defined that V2 happens to repeat are of course irreversible. It was a well-meant 'pastoral council' in the same realm as rules like one had to read one's office in Latin for it to count canonically - the return of which I'm not agitating for BTW and I agree with V2 on religious liberty and ecumenism, the real bugbears with the Lefebvrists.

ICEL's the Cliffs Notes of liturgy. Hooray for Pope Benedict for moving to get rid of it. The Anglicans mastered worship in English, an example that's yours for the asking.

If the Tridentine is so manifestly bad why on earth are old liberals so afraid of it?

A funny thing I'm reminded of when catching up with your blog is ***I'm a liberal*** but a classical not a modern one and a Catholic not a Protestant or Modernist (so I share many beliefs and practices with the Lefebvrists for example) so today's liberals mistake me for a reactionary. See above on religious freedom (separation of church and state; gay unions are a different issue, a state/civil one, from the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony) and talking to other churches and faiths. The vernacular in services is a great idea (my traditionalism isn't about Latin though I like Latin too) as is 'full, conscious and active participation' in worship (like teaching people chant and pushing wider recitation of the office). And I'm a papal minimalist.

Your side not only hates the beauty of traditional worship as Thomas Day explains so well but also hates Catholic orthodoxy. You seem to want to turn the Roman Church into a non-Anglo-Saxon (you don't want to be Episcopalians even though you agree with them - inverted class snobbery?) version of the liberal Protestant denominations (which are dying BTW - they peaked in the 1960s). The Hans Küngs, Edward Schillebeeckxes and Godfrey Diekmanns nearly succeeded in so doing but now the tide is starting to turn - Popes JPII and Benedict had/have the support of the churchgoing kids.

I dare say the objection here is not to papal authority (the Orthodox reject it and are not liberal) but to the fact that the Pope is Catholic.

The great mopping up of your generation's mess is under way.

P.S. Dorothy Day had more in common with my beliefs than with today's church liberals.

Spirit of Vatican II

Young fogey, while it is true that John XXIII insisted on the pastoral nature of Vatican II (in a battle against the curial organs who wanted a dogmatic council in the style of Vatican I), nonetheless Vatican II has great "doctrinal riches" as Paul VI said. If one wants to think with the Church (sentire cum Ecclesia), one can hardly do better than seek to learn from the wisdom of the gathered church in its most recent expression.

The proposed new ICEL transations are catastrophic, from all I have seen of them. We need to improve on the current ones, not to opt for these horrendous literalistic texts that are both unbeautiful and unprayable. They will send another batch of Roman Catholics over to our sister church, where the majesty of the liturgy is clearly in evidence.


I was away from the Church for quite a few years. I'm back, grateful to God for his mercy. Abp. Weakland once said that persons who want to give up on the Church should make a commitment to try to attend Mass with the same congregation for a year (to experience community) and should volunteer in a soup kitchen (or other charitable, hands-on apostolate) for the same year. This is advice I am taking now (and it makes lots of sense -- Abp. Weakland was and is very wise). I've read the Catechism. And I am studying and reading the 16 basic Documents of Vatican II (there are doctrinal and pastoral riches in those texts -- I wish more people would read them as opposed to making assumptions about them). I also pray the Liturgy of the Hours and practice Lectio Divina with the Bible. Of course I've gone online and I've sought out Catholic blogs. I was amazed at the hostility towards and unchristian villification of certain popes and Church leaders (living and dead) on some blogs. Pope Paul VI seems to be the target of a great deal of abuse. I also see some open disrespect and even contempt towards some members of the Church's hierarchy on a certain Catholic television network. I have stopped watching that television network. And the purveyors of this malice and hostility seem to, interestingly, be of one American political party (so dangerous for Christians to be uncritically allied with a partisan political organization -- some asserting that it is even a mortal sin to vote for members of another political party). People who prefer the Tridentine Rite are seeing themselves as "correct" while those of us who worship using the Mass of Pope Paul VI are "irreverent, in error, modernists" (and other pejoratives). This mentality seems uncharitable and even arrogant (and smacks of the soulless and lifeless ritualism of certain pharisees at the time of Jesus). I have studied the Mass of Pope Paul VI as best as I can. It's a very dignified and holy rite, certainly valid! And having the Mass in the vernacular, I think, aids in the Church's evangelism in our cultural milieu. I imagine any existing liturgical text translation could be improved (I find the new American Bible's English somewhat clinky and I use a Catholic RSV for my personal study). But I fear that a radical revision would be disorienting and confusing for many people. Maybe more subtle textual changes should be pursued. I have a feeling that, one day, the package of proposed (ICEL) changes will show up abruptly in a missalette and will be handed to the faithful without much catechesis or explanation -- just plopped in their hands. This will be a disaster. I don't mind if some folks prefer the Tridentine Rite. But I've never understood that permission to use an older liturgy somehow gives one permission to question the very validity and holiness of the newer, post-Vatican II Eucharistic Rite (or to write off Vatican II as totally flawed and irrelevant). Admittedly, I dislike some of the folk music which is heavily used at some American celebrations of the Mass of Pope Paul VI. But there are options to use Gregorian Chant (and even segments of the Mass in Latin) in the newer Rite. Reading the Catechism, Lumen Gentium, Gaudium et Spes, and other texts helped motivate me to return to the Church. In some ways I was profoundly moved by what I read in the two Vatican II documents I cited (even finding myself praying over some of the insights I gained reading those documents). I am a layman (not an expert on the Church or theology). I like your blog "Spirit of Vatican II" and I am bewildered by the heavy-handed and malicious comments of some Catholics about Vatican II. It seems as though the second Vatican Council is being scapegoated for everything that is wrong in modern culture and for everything that is wrong in the modern Church. I'll continue to learn from your blog. Please say a prayer for my continuing conversion.

Anne Danielson

Actually, Will, it is the misinterpretation of Vatican II, that has caused all the chaos. As Catholics, we believe that there is a Divine Truth, The Word Made Flesh, Our Savior, Jesus Christ. One does not debate Divine Truth. Only Christ's Sacrifice, His Passion, Has the Power before God, The Blessed Trinity, to Forgive sin and lead us to Salvation. If we believe in Jesus Christ, out of Charity we must let His Truth be known simply because Perfect Love requires desiring Salvation for someone.


"If the Tridentine is so manifestly bad why on earth are old liberals so afraid of it?"

Speaking as an old liberal, I don't think we are. Liberals spend precious little time worrying about it. Conservative bishops have often been much more discouraging of Tridentine worship than others.

In fact, I took some interest in Pope Benedict's remark that it is old liberals who are able to have the best appreciation for the former Mass rites.

I can tell you as someone around during the mid-sixties, it was us liberals who were quite accepting and even active proponents of the concept of a certain diversity of liturgical styles (including the former forms) while a certain element of conservative insisted on re-imposing a new uniformity to the liturgy.

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