Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Training priests to say the TLM: managing the fallout

There are two main criticisms of the liturgical changes of the 60s and 70s: first the content of the changes, which I think can be subdivided into two categories; and secondly the way they were introduced.

It is particularly interesting I think to ponder just how much impact the second factor had relative to the first, and consider whether there are any lessons yet to be learnt.

And it all becomes much more important to ponder the relative weight of impact of the different changes in the light of the fallout that is starting to occur as a result of the spread of the TLM and reform of the reform process.

The fallout

The initial resistance of some bishops and priests to Summorum Pontificum was inevitable - this was always going to be a drawn out fight. But some of the stories coming out now really are quite alarming.

Damian Thompson, for example, has been chronicling the story of the English parish that petitioned its bishop to become a personal parish exclusively using Latin (in both EF and OF) - and has now been suppressed altogether by the bishop in response.

And then there are the novus ordo parishes where the EF is being gently introduced - but with a backlash from the ageing boomers who were first brainwashed and then came to gain satisfaction from being able to visibly 'contribute' to the liturgy in various ways, and don't want to lose those roles.

Even (perhaps especially) 'reform of the reform' changes can be threatening to some of these groups - Valle Adurni has a nice analysis of the various categories of novus ordo parishioners (just avert your eyes at the cheap shots at rad trads!) and their likely reactions to changes such as a silent canon, ad orientem celebration and so forth which points to the need to go carefully on some of these issues.

So what can we learn from the past?

Content Mark I - the prayers of the Mass

Most traditionalists I think would agree that the novus ordo mass is at best weak (I'm trying to be tactful here!) in its emphasis on some crucial aspects of the mass, such as the sacrifice, and the nature of the priestly role.

This is an important point to understand I think, because it is probably the crucial dividing line between what I would describe as 'traditionalists' proper, and those who are traditionally oriented, but essentially prefer the Extraordinary Form as an escape from the liturgical abuses and other ratbaggery (by which I mean heretical sermons, jarring gestures in the name of 'community' or 'active participation', and excruciatingly awful music) that seem to have become part and parcel of many a novus ordo experience.

The point is that a traddie would argue that even if the novus ordo were always said reverently, in Latin, ad orientem and using Eucharistic Prayer No 1 (more or less the Roman canon), there would have been some impact on the faith. This is why 'reform of the reform' - unless it means pretty much a return to the traditional mass - will never be the desired final outcome.

Content Mark II - Options in the Novus Ordo

All the same, I suspect most traddies would also grudgingly agree that if it had been introduced carefully, with insistence on Latin, ad orientem and rubrics, the impact might have been very much smaller than the reality we've actually been faced with (yes I know it was all part of an agenda, but let's abstract from all that for a moment and think this through logically and objectively).

Why? Well partly because the very things I've mentioned - the use of the vernacular (particularly in atrocious translations), the priest facing the people, and a sense of reverence - do fundamentally change the dynamics and theology of the Mass. And that's why we should be supporting 'reform of the reform' as a stepping stone in the right direction.

The fact that the prayers and gestures of the TLM are important too, though, is why having TLMs said in as many parishes as possible will prompt a slow but inevitable doctrinal reorientation as more priests are affected by saying it, and more people are exposed to its implicit theology. If we want the Church to return to tradition, more TLM only parishes will only have a very slow, limited effect - they are essential of course, in building to the next stage; but we also need to reach out much more widely.


Still, the other big reason the novus ordo led to such a disastrous impact on church attendance was that it was foisted on people, pretty much without discussion or any real preparation. There were no options to stay with the old, uniformity was the rule. And it didn't change just once, it kept changing, and still is. Instead, simple brainwashing techniques were used, and the lingering after-effects of these are still driving reactions to a return to tradition.

So it seems to me that one of the big pushes now has to be on catechesis - on explaining once again for a new generation - particularly the novus ordo crowd (lay and clerical) - just why we think the TLM is superior. Why the priest should face ad orientem. Why silence is valuable in the mass. And most of all, the basics of how to follow the TLM!

This is why having good internet resources on TLM spirituality is important. And why training courses for priests and laity equally so. All it needs is for someone to stand up and start organising it....


Pastor in Valle said...

Nice post; and thanks for the link. I like your blog, too.
Actually, I incline to the 'rad trad' group myself, (I have done quite a bit of haring round the countryside saying Masses for them, anyway) so what you call the 'cheap shots' weren't, really. I just didn't want to be seen to be heaving all the lemons one way.
Cheers. Fr S.

David said...

Interesting post; I have been thinking along similar lines for some time.

One of the most jarring things to have happened to me of late was a conversation with a 60-something lady who berated me for preferring the EF. She grew up with it and claimed to have hated it. She never went to confession because she "could never think of anything to confess". She told me never to marry a TLM attending woman, because, "you'll end up with heaps of kids" [nothing to confess, eh?], and rambled on with all the cliches about liturgical renewal, blah blah, new springtime, blah blah...

Finally, I think that Valle Adurni is guilty of "terminological inexactitude" in his classification of "rad trads". Group 5, I think are ordinary trads, in so far as they are willing to attend the Novus Ordo where no TLM is available, or other factors prevent attendance thereat. "Rad trads" to me are those who reject outright the Novus Ordo, and even the Council itself. There are some of these people in EF Masses in full communion with Rome; your ordinary SSPX parishioner is probably a "rad trad", and then there are the sedevacantists, who aren't even Catholic.

I dunno, that's just the way I had understood the term: FSSP = Trad; SSPX = Rad Trad; SSPV/CMRI = Protestant!