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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Should a FREEDOM of Liturgical Forms Be Permitted?

I have not really said much about this issue because, to be frank, it befuddles me. As a whole it seems to me that the accommodation made possible by Pope Benedict XVI was working. Given the many challenges facing the Church, I really have not discerned any pressing need as did Pope Francis to restrict the old liturgical form. Those who are sowing the seeds of disharmony are largely not among our priests or in the parishes where the traditional and reformed order of the Mass are offered.

I would urge the Holy See to set its sights on the SSPX that has consistently spurned overtures for reunion and gives its own spin on what it can and cannot legitimately do. I suspect that come the next illicit episcopal ordination, they will return to their status as an excommunicated schismatic group. They might wrongly malign Vatican II for the excesses of a few but they are arrogantly blind to their own growing heresy against ecclesial communion given both papal and conciliar authority.

The current papal measure is needlessly hurtful to good people and places organizations like the Fraternity of St. Peter into a precarious and painful position given that they are faithful both to the old form and to the successors of St. Peter.

The permissive stance of Pope Benedict XVI actually reflected a toleration that existed prior to Trent where there were a great many local or national adaptations of the Western or Roman liturgy. This FREEDOM or liberality gave richness to the liturgical tradition. Given the ravages of the Protestant reformation, the Church literally circled the wagons to defend herself. The reforms after the council permitted a few adaptations in local churches or among orders, but generally through dropping and combining elements sought a liturgy that would apply to the whole Church.

Vatican II sought ways in which to better share the faith and the worship of the Church with the modern world. Signs of the coming apostasy and defection were already in the air prior to the council and the reforms. We can argue as to whether or not Vatican II was effective to deal with modern challenges but it was not the absolute catalyst for the problems faced in the 1960’s and 70’s.

Certain traditionalist critics stamp the reforms as heretical or as a type of Modernism. What they seem to forget is that the heresy of Modernism infected the Church and clergy back when the Mass was offered in Latin and according to the old form. Indeed, it was admitted by the Modernist founder Alfred Loisy that he was rigidly faithful to the rubrics of the old Latin Mass even after he had long since stopped believing.

While the accidentals vary, the heart or meaning of the old and the new form of the Mass as true divine worship is the same— a sacramental re-presentation of our Lord’s sacrifice on Calvary in an unbloody manner; an oblation in which we offer ourselves grafted to our high priest Christ as an acceptable gift to the Father; and as a sacred meal through which we receive and are transformed by the “real presence” of the risen Christ (whole and complete) in Holy Communion.

The first Mass was offered in Aramaic and Hebrew as were the Jewish liturgies in Jerusalem. Later the Mass was largely offered in the Greek of the Hellenic gentiles. The witness of Peter and Paul, along with the many martyrs to follow, would lead by God’s grace to the conversion of an empire. The language of Rome became the voice of the Church. Latin became the mother tongue of the Church and the Mass. The languages of men were subject to change but the Latin remained the same. Just as Latin was the vernacular for the Romans, the Church after Vatican II wanted to make room in the liturgy for the vernacular of the many peoples who populate the Church today. Latin will always be the sacred language of the Church; but any and all languages that give praise to God can become holy vehicles for the divine.

3 Responses

  1. I’ve attended SSPX during a time when I was terribly unhappy with what they call the Novus Ordo liturgy and I went to their old school Latin Mass. I received communion on the tongue for the first time.

    At first it was fascinating, particularly during Holy Week. But there was a very serious problem, namely the attitude I felt from every SSPX advocate. They seemed to have a spirit of anger, bitterness, and even hatred. I also noticed a spirit of deception. I was not so far gone that I did not realize this was not the spirit of Jesus Christ. This is not the spirit of our God who is Love. This is not the working of the Holy Spirit. This is schism.

    I soon realized I had made a mistake, one which the merciful God allowed me to make but also to live to regret, and I confessed my sin of collaborating for a brief time with the schismatics. The Catholic Church, with our Pope Francis as its authority, is the true Church.

    I was confusing appearances of things with their essence. There is nothing wrong with the Mass in English. I remember as a new Catholic many years ago how beautiful and reverent those American English Masses were. The disrespectful attitudes of today’s liturgy, the inappropriate dress, the dreadfully bad music, are the appearance but not the essence. It is still the Holy Mass. There is still the Real Presence of Jesus Christ at the Mass.

    We need to bring back the spiritually uplifting elements of the previous decades, but without going back to Latin, which most people do not study in school, nor should they be expected to. We need to throw the commonly used liturgical music into the garbage. There is so much beautiful music we could use. I suspect there’s a money angle at the bottom of the music. Either that or someone in authority has a tin ear, with no understanding of the importance of music in the liturgy.

    We should certainly use the organ, but even the so-called guitar mass I sometimes attended at my original parish church was beautiful. Of course this was an acoustic guitar accompanying some beautiful singers. It was very quiet and full of reverence.

    Still I prefer organ. We need to insist on boys choirs, with the Sistina as our model. Have some Latin hymns as well as some beautiful traditional English ones. We need to insist on altar boys. Bring back incense and bells. All these things existed because they help us come closer to God through the wonderful senses he has given us. Also stop allowing women to distribute communion. Women should not be deacons.

    Make these basic changes, along with allowing plenty of time for confession, and monitor the priests carefully to make sure they preach sound doctrine, and in my opinion we will see a massive return of Catholics to Mass and also bring in my new Catholics who thirst for the bread of life which only the true Church can provide.

    Jesus, I trust in you. Hail Mary, full of grace. St. Michael the Archangel, pray for us. Amen.

  2. As an aside: Could someone please explain to me why so many traditionalist priests wear mainly – or only – the Roman or “fiddleback” chasuble when saying Mass, as it it were some kind of uniform? Why not the Gothic? Historically speaking, the Roman chasuble, which resembles a sandwich board sign, represents a departure FROM tradition. By the late 1400’s, the full, Gothic-style chasubles worn by high ranking clergy had become so stiff with ornamentation that priests had trouble moving in them. Instead of simplifying, the solution was to cut away the sides, and eventually, ordinary parish priests copied the new style.

    St. Charles Borromeo (and at least one pope, whose name escapes me) criticized the cut down chasuble and said that it lacked dignity and shouldn’t be worn. I agree with this belief. Also, the pared down chasuble made what was worn under it more visible, so what did vestment makers do? They gussied that up with ornamentation too! Christ was divine, but also a man, and He embodies in some sense, “maleness”, just as the Virgin Mary embodies “femaleness”, a fact not lost on the Orthodox and Eastern churches. Vestments can be beautiful, even regal, but still masculine. Those worn by many traditionalist priests, dripping with 17th/18th century lace and other gee gaws, do not convey this.

    FATHER JOE: It is a matter of style. Many would disagree. I have to say that the freed arms of the fiddle-back vestments make movement easier and leads to less accidents at the altar. Roman Catholicism has a strong understanding of the Mass as the work of the priest and the vestments are literally his working clothes.

  3. Not once have I seen “progressive” Catholics criticize or condemn Anglican Rite Catholics for being “divisive”. These former Anglicans or Episcopalians use the Sarum Rite, a rite that was common in England before the Reformation. Some parts of it may be said or sung in Latin, but the liturgy typically uses majestic English of Shakespeare, which is perfectly intelligible, and which sets it apart from the mundane world. Ordinariate priests also say Mass ad orientem. Given that the Roman Catholic Church embraces the Sarum Rite and various Eastern Rites, I don’t understand the present pope’s aversion to the Tridentine, and find t bizarre that he would reverse something that Pope Benedict, still living, freely allowed.

    FATHER JOE: The Catholic priests from Anglicanism tend to celebrate both their own variation of the Mass as well as the reformed Mass of the Roman Rite. I suspect that the Pope is upset that many clergy who offer the older Latin ritual refuse to celebrate the new order in the vernacular. But not sure.

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