Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Three cheers for Archbishop Conti (or why I am leaving the aether)

I had intended on giving up on the aether. The Catholic form of that world has been colonised by inhabitants of EF-land, who seem to have great difficulty in seeing beyond their own borders and interests.

From what I have seen of Archbishop Conti's remarks about the Extraordinary Form in his ad clerum, I do think that he is fundamentally correct about two things.

1. In the Catholic Church, despite the impression that some might like to give (based on the fact that more people are interested in the EF than before, and that more of those people are young people - and all this is true), the vast majority of Catholics do not have any attachment to the EF. There is very little "demand" for it, though the concepts of supply and demand borrowed from the culture of commerce are perhaps not the best concepts to use. One might say that the pastoral need is very limited. Now if the inhabitants of EF-land could shift themselves into the realms of the wider ecclesia - one might compare it to the Schengen zone in Europe, you can cross to-and-fro without having to show any sort of passport or identity card - they might actually see that EF-land is a pretty small territory, and not as important as its inhabitants think it is. Instead, though, they set about attacking Archbishop Conti in terms of "contempt" for the EF. Pope Benedict's letter to the bishops of the world accompanying Summorum Pontificum acknowledged the minority nature of the interest in the EF, referring to the particular liturgical formation from which such interest arises and recognising that it is not very widespread in the Church today.

2. As I argued in posts at the time of the publication of Summorum Pontificum, that motu proprio and the accompanying letter to Bishops gives absolutely no mandate for a campaign of "promotion" of the EF. It gives no mandate whatsoever for the idea that there should be "an EF Mass in every parish"; none whatsoever. On the contrary, the accompanying letter asserts that it is the Missal of Paul VI, when used in a manner that is reverent and obedient, that will unite parishes. Archbishop Conti is fundamentally correct to argue that there is no requirement arising from Summorum Pontificum to promote the EF.

There might well be some aspects of Archbishop Conti's ad clerum - such as the phrase "harking back" - that have not accurately expressed the position of those who do have an attachment to the EF. Comment on those by all means. But, dear inhabitants of EF-land, do get real and get out and about a bit. If you take no interest in the Ordinary Form - and the Catholic aether is increasingly giving me the impression that you aren't interested in it, that you identify Pope Benedict's "liturgical reforms" with the promotion of the EF when there is nothing to suggest that that is the case - then you should not be surprised if an Archbishop writes an ad clerum like this one. If you have a real care for souls in the Church, remember that the vast majority of them will be reached through celebrations of the Ordinary Form, so your engagement with the mutual enrichment agenda - funny how you don't talk about that very much - would be a much more valuable and generous thing across the whole piece.

What I have really come to resent over recent months is that those with an attachment to the EF do not seem to want to respect the stake in Summorum Pontificum that others have, too. That stake arises from the idea of "mutual enrichment" referred to in Pope Benedict's accompanying letter.  The recent instruction from the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei also indicated a possibility that that commission likewise does not consider the interests of people attached to the Ordinary Form as part of its brief. That may be to do with the membership of the commission, which should perhaps include some representation from those without specific attachment to the EF; or it might mean that the oversight of provisions with regard to the EF should be extended to include other dicasteries that can represent the needs of those without attachment to the EF, while Ecclesia Dei itself focusses on the needs of those institutes dedicated solely to the EF.

[If you send a comment to this post, please be aware that I might well not see it to post it. It won't be a matter of any censorship on my part. It will be simply that I have reverted to my decision to give up on the aether. Unless Catholic blogging changes quite a bit and becomes more of an exercise in "communio", I am not really interested any more.]

[Updates: A couple of comments at other blogs here and here.]


madame evangelista said...

oh please don't give up - yours is one of the best catholic blogs!

berenike said...

Maybe you're just reading the wrong blogs. Most of the Catholic blogs aren't focused on the EF, nor indeed do most of them mention it at all. Further, some people get their EF stuff off their chest online, because it's the only place they can do so. They do their parish and charitable and evangelising and social engagement (friendly and political) off the internet.

Do you comment much on other people's blogs? It's always a good way to get a discussion going (provided the blogger is not the kind who doesn't bother to reply to comments).

Fr John Abberton said...

Please Joe, do not go! Surely you need to stay around in order to say these things. You are right to say them and they need to be said and people need to read them and discuss them. I have said myself regarding liturgical reform that EF is not the answer. However, for the time being it is part of the answer. The 1962 rite needed and needs reforming. it should have been reformed and many of us at the time thought that this had happened. it didn't - a different rite and missal were produced - and now that has had to be reformed.

We badly need balance in these blogs, and we certainly need someone who knows his theology and liturgy - and that means YOU Joe.

berenike said...

I forgot to say: I often find what you write interesting and useful and sane and realistic.

Priest's Housekeeper said...

I think it would be terribly sad if you left the aether. I enjoy your blog, it is informative, and you make me think.
I am afraid that thie obsession with EF has caused a rift in our church. In this blogging world I would be labelled a liberal becasue I do not embrace the EF. I believe the EF has a beauty all its own, but I don't think we should go back.For me the Mass is The Mass is The Mass. Neither lesser or greater than the other.
However, I am tired of being attacked for my views by a bunch of narrow minded bullies, who lack charity and kindness and who are well prepared to tear this church apart to make their point, destroying good people along the way, ecusing their behaviour with their faux loyalty to the Magesterium.
Do what you do best, but don't let anyone drive you away.
Blessings and prayers,

Patricius said...

As one who is not "attached" to the Extraordinary Form I should be sorry to see your disappearance from the blogosphere/aether.

Joe said...

Dear colleagues:

Thank you for your kind comments.

Perhaps I am reading the wrong blogs - berenike, could you re-direct me to some of the right ones? Commenting on other blogs is a good point ... But I have sometimes found I want to say so much I have had to do it as a linked post on my own blog.

In the immediate future I have the small matter of some 380 examination scripts to be marked to tight deadlines. I therefore don't have the time to do anything until mid-July.

berenike said...

If you're fed up with people banging on about the EF as the Answer to the Universe, then I suppose the wrong blogs are those that bang on about the EF as the Answer to the Universe.

Jack said...

Dear Joe,

Your blog is a refreshing and necessary counterpoint to the nonsense published elsewhere. Please do not be discouraged by the EF enthusiasts. They are causing more harm than good for the cause of authentic tradition. Their reading of papal documents is unwarranted in many instances, as you have so rightly pointed out.

“With every day that passes, the conflict which sets Catholic against Catholic in every order – social, political, philosophical – is revealed as sharper and more general. One could almost say that there are now two quite incompatible Catholic mentalities in France. And that is manifestly abnormal, since there cannot be two Catholicisms.” Maurice Blondel History and Dogma (London: Harvill Press, 1964) p. 221.

The incompatible mentalities identified by Blondel are very much alive today, and in the so-called “Catholic press” the factions are led by Damian Thompson and Catherine Pepinster respectively (Thompson reminds me of Charles Maurras and Action Française). Your blog provides an alternative, nuanced, and intelligent commentary on Catholic affairs, which is much needed. You have on occasion mentioned your blog stats, so your readership is much greater than the paucity of comments might suggest. I suppose quoting Blondel favourably makes me an “evil modernist”, but then, where does that put Pope Benedict, who belongs in the same tradition?

“By this fact [the new evangelisation] the worldly quarrel perpetuated by Modernists and anti-Modernists in the closed field of the Church is found to be relativised with respect to a third party – the Roman Pontiff, powerfully seconded by Cardinal Ratzinger... it has set to work on a project of vast proportions: the evangelisation of our former Christendom, a project with which the two rival parties have been constrained to situate themselves, and which they see – O paradox! – only as an intrusion. This is why establishment Modernism has developed, with respect to John Paul II, in the universal Church which it occupies unduly, a right pathological hatred; while the ‘schismatics’ of Ecône have been reduced to ruminating over some inconsistent grievances, some doctrinal scraps fallen from the papal table which, with their flair for infallibility, they judged to be poisoned.” Jean Borella, The Sense of the Supernatural, (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1998), pp. 42-3.

I wonder if your sparring partners will ever understand “communio” as you put it, as it seems to me that they are more committed to the spirit of the Sodalitium Pianum. What you write is on the right track, and for purely selfish reasons, please keep blogging as I feel that my own views are normal and not beyond the pale when I read your posts! I am not a cradle Catholic and I have come to the Church by way of intellectual argument, so I cannot relate to the polemical and ideological wars that characterise the public face of the Church (and parishes) in the UK. I am heartened too, by your coverage of French articles recently. Too often in the blogosphere the state of the Church in France is the object of caricature and negative criticism. But where is our equivalent of KTO TV, or the Collège des Bernardins; or why is the papal initiative “the courtyard of the gentiles” not happening here, but in Paris? Your blog, seriously, goes a long way to make up for that lack. Perhaps I should pluck up the courage and start a blog, so you do not feel so isolated.

Jack said...

You are spot on about "mutual enrichment". Patricius (who seems to be a regular visitor) can perhaps collaborate on this point, the memory of the EF was strongly imprinted on the liturgy at Liverpool Cathedral (especially over Holy Week) during the Worlock years. It gave the liturgy a solemn character which touched a lot of people, but they couldn't quite explain what it was. This character was lost after the present archbishop arrived. Ironically, the present archbishop had proposed to revive the EF at the cathedral, which would have been nice, but that plan was ruined by wildly inaccurate reporting in the press.

Mark said...

Sitting directly to the side of your last sentence is the person currently doing "Prayer for the Day" on BBC Radio 4 who has recently returned to the blogosphere, and who, I am sure, would be delighted to communicate with you in an unbiased, informative way.
Like you, examination papers will be taking priority but I would urge you to share a chat before you abandon the aether.

Anonymous said...

zero says
Joe recently told me of his decision to stop blogging and I was in the process of preparing an obituary for his blog which could be a last post! Maybe, all your valued commments will make him re consider

Anonymous said...

could it be that these "Trads" consider themselves to be the "Finest" or "taste the difference" wing of the church?

JamesP said...

I don't agree with everything you write, but I certainly find it useful and informative.

John Kearney said...

Joe, I think you are quite right to go. Everytning you see is wonderful and we are all doing a good job. The real world is not like that, and perhaps it is better you do not see this. For example the trouble is people are not `being reached` in the Mass in the Novus Ordo Mass, there were 2 million practicing catholics in 1980, now there is less than 900,000. You are right of course, ignore this figure, keep your eyes on the `pie in the sky`. That is why young people go to the EF form, they find there something that is missing in their local parish Masses, reverence and people who are `Christ centred` and not `community centred . You are right of course they blabber too much - what does that matter, it is the quality not the numbers. After all many people only go to Church every three or four weeks - real dedication. But take these young people who go on and on, they have survived and Good Catholic Education, and do not get upset if they tell you about the 97 who leave school alienated from the Church - there is nothing you can do about that - or course there isn`t. No, Joe, everything is wonderful, do not let them destroy your peace of mind. STop blogging and be a faithful and not a divisive member of your community.

parepidemos said...

Dear Joe,

I prayerfully ask that you ignore the sarcastic and uninformed comments of those such as Mr. Kearney who has perfectly illustrated the very narrowmindedness about which you are so rightly concerned.

As Jack mentioned, you are a necessary counterpoint to those who are arrogant enough to actually believe that they know the mind of the current Bishop of Rome.

Autumn said...

I read this post with interest...

I have made my home in the Novus Ordo Mass, and am quite at peace with that decision. What turned me off the EF (having attended an EF Mass for a while) was the pervading attitude of those attending of superiority and being made to feel somehow inferior and "not a proper Catholic" if I went to a Mass in the OF. Plus, in my experience I have become aware of a "cult of decorum" that has grown around the EF Mass which I believe has placed more importance on how we behave and what we do than Christ.

I agree 100% with Priest's Housekeeper's comment above. I came into the Churh as a convert in 2006, and I don't want to go backwards. I want to go forwards. The EF was never my Mass, and was always out of my experience. What drew me to the Church was the OF Mass, and when done well, it is beautiful.

I would be sad to see you go. I am not a regular commenter, but I am a reader, and would miss your thoughtful posts. And you are always welcome to visit my blog.

God bless you, Joe,
Autumn :)

Auricularis said...

It seems that your true colours have unfortunately come out in this post. I cannot help detect a hint of bitterness in what you write. What a sad way to go.

Michael Clifton said...

You should continue blogging. I like the Old Rite but I am not mad about it and agree that many of its followers do indeed think themselves superior to other Catholics and worse still will never attend any other type of Mass. However I do find it intolerable when people attack the old rite on liturgical grounds.