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.]