Thursday, August 06, 2009

Shopping around

I was talking recently to what the media might describe as "a leading Catholic layman". He was concerned about one or two things that might be presented at the Ad Limina visit of our bishops to Rome, which he said was to take place in January. I must say I have heard nothing. Foremost, he suggested, was an attack on Summorum Pontificum which he said was going to be presented as

  • It is not wanted, that there is no demand for the TLM.

  • That Summorum Pontificum is divisive.

There is no demand for the TLM
I think that there might be a bit of mileage in SP not being wanted, but then one has to ask who doesn't want it. Plainly the Pope does, plainly most of those around the Pope do. Despite the huge numbers who attended the Mass celebrated by Cardinal Castrillon de Hoyos last year, one argue that the TLM is not the choice of most people on a Sunday.
I think that is missing point, the issue is that the TLM is a sign of the hermeneutic of continuation, not just of the Mass but of a style of worship that is specifically Catholic, it is about our roots. I am sure the Holy Father regards what he has chosen to call the Extraordinary Form as a sort of gadfly to "annoy" what have become preconceptions of liturgy and theology in short those things we call the "Sprit of Vatican II".

Summorum Pontificum is divisive
Yes it is. It is the gadfly effect. It is also about union and communion with the past, as well as those who adhere to -and have discovered- the older form, I am surprised by the number of young men who attend our weekly Mass.
Creative Minority deals with the division between older and younger priests, it quote s from an article by Andrew Hamilton who says:

...three out of the four priests ordained for the Sydney Archdiocese celebrated their first Mass in Latin. Given the place of the first Mass as a symbolic statement of how a priest views his ministry, this majority choice is of some significance. The concerted choice of Latin suggests that many young priests share a distinctive vision of the Church, of priesthood and of pastoral priorities that older priests would not share.

I don't see much evidence of new priests choosing to celebrate Mass in Latin but I do see that younger priests of the John Paul and now of the Bendictine pontificate are different, but then I think there was a tension when I was ordained 25 years ago between priest ordained before and after Vat II. There often are tensions between older and younger men, whether they are priests or not.
Hamilton goes on to say:

It seems inevitable that the unity of priests under the local bishop will be put under pressure if there are substantial divisions between them about the desirable form of worship, the pastoral needs of their people, their ways of relating to Catholics and the broader society, and about what it means in practice to be a priest. When they gathered around their bishop they would be facing in opposite directions, just as they might do when celebrating the Eucharist.


Will congregations be subjected to the conflicting styles and preferences of priests who succeed one another? Will there be a settlement by which individual congregations are reserved to Latinophile or Anglophile priests? Will Catholics be encouraged to shop around to find priests and congregations that offer congenial brands of Catholic life and worship?

In England and Wales, it strikes me, that our Bishops are justifiably frightened of a division, in imition of Anglicanism, of High and Low Church, but old men have always been crying "Eheu, O tempores, O mores", over 40, it has ever been.

In a city where there are twelve churches within a space of four or five square miles, "shopping around" has been a feature of Brighton Catholicism from time immemorial. People look for a funny, short, English, Irish, traditional, contemporary, youth/child oriented Masses or priests, even a warmer or cooler church.

In recent years, without the rigid rubricism, and legalism of the past Bishops of course have always done their best to ensure there is a "standard product", either by insisting on strict adherence to their own "diocesan" policies or invented rubrics, or simply by moving priests around every few years. Despite this people still "shop". In fact moving priests encourages both shopping and lapsation.

If my "leading Catholic layman" is right, then our bishops will certainly receive a sympathetic ear from those around the Pope because ensuring unity and cohesion is a Benedictine priority but the answer may not be quite what is expected. Summorum Pontificum identifies the role of the bishop clearly: the bishop is to ensure priest's celebrate Mass according to the proper rites. Benedict's policy is "say the black, do the red", whether it is antiquior or recentior. Giving priests the freedom to choose between the newer or older form is actually medicinal, two ends of a liturgical spectrum working on one another, it reflects Benedicts "both and" theology.

There is a danger for us older men in seeing things in "either or" terms, like the bishop who apparently refused to give over a large crumbling church to one of the new movements, saying, reportedly, to his clergy, that he "did not want is a cathedral to traditionalism in his diocese". It is sad if one's care fo souls appears to be narrowed by a refusal to think outside of a narrow box.

The dreadful thing is today we are all shoppers, the wide variety of new movements in the Church reflect our diverse needs, or if you want to be disparaging, our diverse tastes.

In England we have been more than cagey about the new movements, the Friars of the Immaculate had real difficulty not just finding a suitable parish but a suitable bishop, the same can be said about the FSSP, the Institute of Chist the King, Opus Dei, the Neo-Catechumenate, the Legionaries of Christ.


becket said...

I have been shopping too, here in the US. So far I have two choices. Either the Eastern Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Church. I have given up on the Roman Rite, for that same example you shown. The Bishop who refused a traditional Catholic community a place to worship. We have very similar minded Roman Rite clergy like that here in the US. They know nothing of tradition. That Bishop you mentioned should have been defrocked, for refusing Roman Catholics a place, or home, to worship.

Crux Fidelis said...

I'm not keen on shopping around. We were always taught "support your parish". That meant, not just to support it financially, but, wherever possible, to support it by our presence at Sunday mass.

If the priest is not to our liking, or the seats are too hard, or it's too warm or too cold, or they have a better choir at St Jim's, that's irrelevant. Suffer it and offer it up.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Becket, I am sure that bishop was thinking that a possibly popular church would take people from other parishes. He is a good man but a bit unimaginative.

Crux Fidelis said...

I remember in the US in the early 80s many seminarians were "shopping around" and opted for the Eastern Rite churches even though they were not raised in that tradition. I'll leave you to figure out why. The abuse was eventually stopped.

Kneeling Catholic said...


There was a cigarrette commercial a way back, Tareyton's I think, which featured people with black eyes saying:
"We'd rather fight than switch!"

It's high time for us laity to start fighting to help this Pope out! Like the 'Pilgrimage of Grace' peasants who kidnapped noblemen to lead them to battle against Henry VIII's outrages. We cannot wait on leadership from antagonistic bishops and scared priests to lead us. Our Holy Father will grow old and die before enough of them decide to quit ignoring him...

S. P. was an appeal from the Pope directly to us laity...we need to constantly be asking our 'leaders' what they are doing to support the Holy Father's intention.


Kneeling Catholic said...

please email me with responses

Physiocrat said...

If it is not wanted it will wither on the vine so what are the bishops worried about? Anyway, lack of demand isn't the point. This isn't about selling fish fingers.

Given the catastrophic decline in the Catholic Church with the 1969 liturgy, one might say that it has not been a great success.

The real crunch will come when the new translation comes out, in its Shakespearean English. To put it mildly, that is not going to be easy to adapt to. How it will go down in Uppsala is also an interesting question.

It could be that Latin is the easier option and EF with its fixed rubrics means that everyone knows what they are meant to be doing and don't have to make things up on they go along, with the help of liturgy committees.

epsilon said...

At last, after about 40 years, I've come back to the Legion of Mary, for now as an auxiliary member. After all these years, I now see it in a new light and at last recognise its immense value in keeping one focussed on practice and prayer, united with believers all over the world. Deo Gratias!

Scramble said...

Of course there's no demand for the TLM. The TLM has been locked in the closet for nearly 40 years--no one knows that it's in there--particularly those who didn't grow up with it. You can't want what you don't know. The more it's brought out into the light of day, the more people will want to use it.

Francis said...

Fr. Ray,

I wonder why the bishops would voice their views on Summorum Pontificum during their Ad Limina in January 2010 when they will all be required to submit written feedback in July 2010 -- the "three-year review"?

I'm pretty sure that most of the reviews will talk about lack of demand (as much to do with conspiracy of silence as anything else) and will assert that the TLM has produced "that-was-not-my-Mass"-type divisions where it has been introduced.

But I'm wondering whether your highly-placed contact is maybe conflating two different opportunities for papal interaction with the English bishops -- although the general thrust of the alleged message from the bishops sounds genuine, whenever and however they choose to deliver it.

Jackie Parkes MJ said...

I just love the shopping trolleys!!

JARay said...

I do not live in England but my experience here in Western Australia is that I took the opportunity to raise the absence of any Latin Mass in the Northern Suburbs of where I live, with my Archbishop. He simply brushed off my objection by saying that there has to be a stable community which is asking for such a Mass before it should come about.
My reply to that was that I would then continue to support the SSPX which, although not exactly near, was closer than anything which he, or his clergy, supplied.

Jacobi said...

The E.F. is divisive, just as the N.O. was profoundly divisive when it was introduce circa 1970 to an unprepared and dismayed laity who had imposed upon them a profound rupture in the liturgy. This was used as a vehicle to influence and alter established orthodox thinking .
To turn from the E.F. in order to avoid division is to hand victory to rupture. Remember that the Holy Father is not asking us to choose. He has made it clear that there is a place for the E.F. as well as the “reformed” N.O., mutually influencing and enhancing each other in all parishes. When his ideas are realised, there will be no need to shop around.

Anonymous said...

Fr Blake

I think 'shopping' has always been a feature, especially for people living close to several churches. Often it depends upon the personality of the PP and/or curate. I am focused very much on the quality of preaching, and I have found that priests willing to celebrate the EF generally give better sermons than those for the OF. There is nothing worse than hearing another banal 'Jesus loves me, let's all hold hands' reassuring chat rather than something which educates and challenges the congregation. No doubt there would be difficulties with the calendar and the necessity of preparing two sermons, but I see no way around this. In my humble view give the people of the parish a choice between OF and EF Masses at reasonable times, and observe the results.


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