Monday, 14 July 2008

Re-capturing the Church through liturgy: what is the best strategy?

Fr Zulsdorf has a nice spruiking of a review by Alcuin Reid of the important new book on liturgy by Lawrence Hemming, Worship as Revelation. It is prompting an interesting debate.

One commenter, 'King David' noted that notwithstanding Summorum Pontificum, the reality on the ground is still pretty bad, and many liberals will leave the Church rather than give up things like communion in the hand.

Another replies that while Traditionalists are in principle ready to start trying to reclaim the Church, in practice they don't really know how. Mark says:

"Dear King David:

I completely agree with your sentiments, but consider that Traditionalist Catholics, by necessity, dwelled in ghettos for the past few decades. The goal was to survive, and changing the reigning new order was, until recently, out of our reach.

Now, Pope Benedict XVI has given us not only a pass out of the ghetto, but a mandate to re-plant the Traditional Latin Mass in every parish. The enthusiasm to do this in my opinion is there, but what’s lacking to a large degree is the practical knowledge on how to accomplish this mission.

For example, how many TLM Traditionalists have made contact with the NO Conservatives and established some sort of solidarity? Also, a few of us have become habitual ghetto dwellers.

We do need to learn how to translate all this verbiage we’re generating into concrete actions. Our progress will be measured by the rising number of parishes where both liturgical forms coexist..."

Is the number of bi-form parishes the test of success?

Now personally I agree with this analysis. If we want the Church to change, we must build a support base, and I don't think we should underestimate the importance of the dictum 'Lex orandi, lex credendi'.

Reform of the reform and bi-ritualism are not ends in themselves that traddies will generally be satisfied with. But they may well be useful short-term steps on the path towards our ultimate goal of re-traditionalising the Church!

But my impression is that many Australian Traditionalists do not agree with this analysis. And I'd be interested in having a bit of debate on this if anyone is game.

Now in large part this is a debate over strategy - where do you start?

The first strategy, and where we have been in the past, is to concentrate on building more TLM only communities in each diocese, where the whole panoply of the sacraments and traditional catechesis can flourish, and then use this as a base from which to expand. You have to start of course with whatever you cna get - the odd mass here and there, the once a month approach, and so forth. But in a sense the only sensible strategy (given the reluctance of most priests to say the TLM in the past, and the active antagonism of many) really available to us up until now has been to work towards a dedicated TLM community.

A sub-option to this, particularly over the last year, has been to work on increasing the size of existing congregations, although this brings its own problems - some traditionalists seem to be worried about the problems of incorporating charismatics and others who don't necessarily start from the same theological perspectives into their communities.

A second option, made possible by SP, is to work with novus ordo parishes now and attempt to spread the TLM as widely as possible, knowing that it will affect everything else the priests and people who experience it do. Ideally of course, one would pursue both approaches simultaneously, as they are pretty complementary.

But do we really want to connect with the wider Church?

One reason I think traditionalists have been reluctant to embark on the path of spreading the TLM springs from the wounds of the past. It is pretty hard to psych oneself up to ally with someone who for the last many years has treated you extremely badly, but now, because the Pope says the EF is OK, jumps on the bandwagon. It's an understandable reaction, but perhaps not entirely consistent with notions of Christian forgiveness, let alone pragmatism (Be as wise as serpents...).

Moreover, I may be wrong, but it does also seem to me that the reluctance to engage with the wider Church is underpinned by some doubtful theological positions.

There is still a deep suspicion of priests who use both forms of the Mass on the part of many traditionalists.

There are some who argue that the highest (or indeed only) sensible priority is encouraging and supporting TLM-only vocations rather than working to encourage novus ordo priests to learn the TLM and say it regularly.

And there is a view around that many conservative novus ordo clergy hold eroneous theological positions (which is probably not true - there is a big difference between heresy and legitimate differences over theological opinions, and many traddies seem to struggle with what this difference is). There is a feeling that these theological differences somehow detract from the worthiness of the priest or bishop in offering the sacraments (something I would strongly dispute).

What is the way forward?

One of the biggest problems in my view, for either strategy, is that we still lack the most important foundation for moving forward, namely a traditional contemplative monastery or three! Without people to pray for us, only limited progress can be made.

So in my view, doing whatever we can to encourage religious vocations (and particularly encouraging young people to make a path to the same overseas monasteries, and thus build up a core group who could make a foundation once trained), as well as supporting potential emerging communities (yes, many have tried, and yes, more will yet fail, but we must give them a chance) comes before anything else.

But in the meantime, those called to the active life, whether clerics or laity, should do what they can on the wider front. And that means working to expose more people to the TLM, whether through special event masses, or encouraging bi-form parishes. It means educating ourselves more thoroughly in theology so we can help counter error and assist newcomers in our communities. It does also mean fostering priestly vocations.

And most of all it means putting the pressure on priests and bishops to meet our legitimate requests under SP!

But I'd be interested in hearing other perspectives....

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