Monday, November 13, 2017

"Has it worked?" the question we dare not ask

In this centenary year of the Soviet Revolution, it is worth reflecting that after 70 years the Russian people actually asked the question, "Has it worked?" It is the question an efficient business asks regularly, I suspect parents in a healthy family ask that question. it should be the fundamental question of the spiritual life.

Fifty years after the implementation of the liturgical changes, it is the question the Church should be asking itself, any business would have product tested before a change of brand. I suppose that Summorum Pontificum was Benedict's way of doing this retrospectively.

Vatican II's liturgical reforms were introduced en masse everywhere and within a few years of the Council, unlike the gradually introduced liturgical reforms of Pius V that percolated gradually as old books were slowly replaced but even then only where the Roman Rite was used, the Milanese, Lyonese, Bragans, Dominicans, Carthusian, for example, continued using their own Rites, and acted as a kind of quality control or reference point for the reformed Roman Rite.

There are two areas where, 'has it worked?' should be asked, the first is liturgical reform, the second is the modern use of the papal fiat that introduced them, it was an unprecedented use of papal power. The second of these, Pope Francis is dealing with very effectively by forcing even the most conservative to ask about the modern use of papal power, "has it worked?". I half think that it is a deliberate policy, a reductio ad absurdum, that the Pope is raising with allies like Fr Spadaro and Dr Ivereigh and other cheerleaders. Are they cooperators who will heroically sacrifice their careers in a successive papacy. Dare one suggest that Magnum Principium might actually be a return of the Church to local Rites and Usages that are mutually enriching? I suspect not but it is a possibility. The Ordinariate Rite after all seems to have this effect where it is celebrated.

Apparently a large number of French Seminaries are closing, as are a whole lot of ancient monasteries and practically every convent has become a retirement home. I am not sure what the number is this year, but last year, in our diocese we had only 3 seminarians. Whilst I was at the seminary we had in this city of Brighton and Hove almost 30 priests, in 17 years time by the year 2030 we will be lucky to have 2 under 65, they will age prematurely out of exhaustion.

The thing is that there isn't an absence of vocations, from my little parish we have three men, two preparing for the priesthood and one in a rather rigorous contemplative monastery but they were very much involved in the Old Rite and have gone to communities outside of the diocese. It isn't even that there is an absence of contemplative religious, there are new convents opening in the Channel Islands and in the Diocese of Lancaster but again the sisters will worship according to Old Rite. The only monastery flourishing, without scandal, in Italy (despite episcopal opposition) is Old Rite, at Norcia. The same in France, where a quarter of this years ordinations were of priests attached to the Old Rite, and where monastic life is retracting but Old Rite monasteries like Fontgombault are actually making new foundations. I am quite willing to accept that it is not necessarily the Rite itself but if it is not then it is the theology that goes with the Rite, or the 'ecclesiological experience' that goes with it. On a practical level the Old Rite seems to work.

Why are we incapable of asking, "Has it worked?", presumably it is because of an ideological attachment, rather like the politburo of the Soviet Union that will not allow itself to question givens until long after they had collapsed.


Unknown said...

Ssssshhhhh. Father, please. Quickly, back under the carpet and let's just move on.

Edison Frisbee said...

It wasn't supposed to work...(if you thought it was done to benefit the Church & faithful).

Unknown said...


I would argue, largely, no. It hasn't worked.

However, I am not sure you can entirely link the lack of seminarians to the Rite.

When I look at your diocese, I see:

196,700 Catholics
94 Parishes
1,930 sq miles

3 seminarians

Now, lets take Arlington in the States

453,916 Catholics
70 Parishes
6,541 sq miles

Hence, if we followed mathematically, we would have something along the lines of 7 or 8 seminarians.

Arlington has 45

It was a diocese that was never particularly hostile to tradition, excepting the old Rite, where it was historically VERY hostile. That changed in 2006 with the authorization of the first two regular old rite Masses, along with the concomitant introduction of 'altar girls'. Though, their use remains at the discretion of the Priest.

One now finds the old rite in 1/3rd of our Parishes, however, the number of seminarians over time has remained fairly stable.

Jesse said...

VII worked. It devastated the Catholic Church and assured the collapse of Western Civilization. It did just what it was supposed to do.

James said...

It's not just the liturgy issue either. Vatican II has been a flop on numerous levels.

Cosmos said...

The answer is, "yes," it did work.

We all assume that everyone wanted the same thing: a stronger, healthier Church that preached the Gospel more clearly and spread it more effectively.

But I don't thank this is the case. The reform--which was presumptuous from the beginning--was very quickly and predictably high-jacked by those who wanted a secularized Church that more amendable to the modern world, less embarrassing to academic intellectuals, and less hostile to its enemies. They got it! It worked!

The conservatives were two busy seeking promotions and comforting themselves with platitudes to understand what was going on, and by the time they did, they went into "defend the institution" mode. These are the same men who reasoned: "Abusing children is terrible, but scandalizing the faithful is even worse! Cover it up!" The same instinct has been applied here.

They were well aware of what was at stake. They overhauled the Roman Catholic Church in the name of the Holy Spirit and their superior wisdom!!! That takes guts. If you screw that up, you don't recover. Ever. They are understandably much more willing to live with a banalized/mediocre Church, than to admit such a COLOSSAL blunder.

We've all somehow been convinced that it is the pinnacle of Christian charity to presume good faith even in the face of overwhelming evidence. So all the great Church Fathers who who did not, who fought tooth and nail for the faith (Nicholas, Athanasius, Irenaeus) when it was threatened, look like unhinged lunatics in comparison with our modern masters of dialogue and diplomacy. The Saints are barely Christian in comparison! Now every Pope is a Saint!

We need to get over ourselves and call a spade a spade.

vetusta ecclesia said...

V2, convoked in 1959, sitting in the 60s, implemented in the 70s, was to present the Catholic Church to the modern world. By what possible stretch of anybody's imagination is it valid for 2017 +?

The Bones said...

Has it worked?

Let us discover the objectives, then we'll find out whether it has worked.

Result: Dearth of priests, drop in baptisms, many religious communities dying out.

Benedict XVI rolled out Summorum Pontificum and made objectives quite plain.

Has it worked?

Well if bishops promoted it, we'd find out!

I'm afraid bishops would rather manage decline than stimulate growth if that means abandoning the project deemed 'too big to fail'.

philipjohnson said...

Fr.You have hit the nail on the head.The oppressive Vat 11 regime(i am 65 yrs of age and am a witness-victim-of it)should be scrapped for it is,and was,a disaster all round.It has become an ideology for many Priests and they would rather manage failure than admit that they have failed for over fifty years now.In fact for some Priests ,and their Hippy congregations,it is evident that they hate The Catholic Church for they don't want to preach,or listen, about the eternal truths therein but continue on the soppy -all you need is love-train-which is heading for the buffers!!Agh!!Long may Tradition gain ground and Vat 11 Hippy Church be consigned to the elephants graveyard.Sooner the better.Great article Fr.

Unknown said...

Post hoc ergo propter hoc? Correlation is causation?

The explosion of the Church in Africa took place AFTER the Second Vatican Council. Nigerian churches are packed on Sundays. All of us sing lustily in our local language. We complain to the Bishop if Sunday mass is shorter than two hours. The seminaries are packed. And nobody misses the old mass, except SSPX people.

Maybe the problem was not with Vatican II, but with the European culture of 'affluenza' that has contaminated you? Laudato Si', and its call to the spirit of Christian poverty, may be the solution to European and American problems.

The American and European churches are not The Church, but part of it.

Cosmos said...


Nigeria sounds wonderful. However, if it suffers a catastrophic collapse of the faith 50 years from now, I will be sure to remind you that Nigeria is "not The Church, but part of it."

I think it goes without saying, that if a major Council is called in order to strengthen the Church, and then the historical heart of the Church crumbles in its aftermath, something went wrong. The goal of VII was to add to the Church, not to shift it to other parts of the globe. The gains in Africa are wonderful, but they do not explain away or justify the losses in America and Europe.

And if you are right that it is "the spirit of Christian poverty" that is the real secret of the Nigerian Church, it is unclear why the Holy Spirit required Europe and America to gut its traditions and reconceive itself in order to achieve this success in Africa.

Despite its explicitly pastoral/prophetic mission, Vatican II did not correctly read "the signs of the times." It did not warn the Church in Europe was on the verge of crumbling because of "the European culture of 'affluenza' that has contaminated" it. Instead, it chose optimism, predicting a new spring time for the Church based on its reforms. That did simply not occur.

In the end, I agree that none of the revolutionary reforms instituted by VII (or in the Spirit) are absolute obstacles to the Faith. The pontificate's of JPII and Benedict XVI demonstrated this very clearly. The issue is whether they were actually successful in their objectives. Whether the radical changes were, in fact, justified. I think it is pretty clear that they were not. It is very difficult to believe that the Church would be in an even worse spot had the Council never happened.

David O'Neill said...

Surely the bishops of E&W should be looking at their brother bishops in the west. Here we have the archdiocese of Liverpool welcoming the EF as well as the dioceses of Lancaster & Shrewsbury inviting societies practising the EF into their dioceses. Most dioceses have redundant churches - many of them built before the desecrations of V2 - & yet the other bishops make no move to utilise those sacred spaces for the honour & glory of Almighty God. They would rather see them decay or (even worse) sell them to Anglicans for £1!!!!!!!

Physiocrat said...

From a long term perspective, the Russian Revolution has worked extremely well.

Enjoy. This Easter, it should link to the Cherubic Hymn and Great Entrance.

Blue said...

The answer to the question "has it worked" depends upon your perspective.

If you are a Modernist revolutionary heretic or an apostate who remained inside the Church in order to help destroy it, it worked beautifully.

On the other hand, if you love Christ and want to be faithful to Him and live the Truths of the Gospel, you realize the true faith is incrementally being destroyed and replaced by a new religion worshipping man and the Protestant and French Revolutionary spirit rather than the Holy Spirit at work.

John Fitzgerald said...

@David - That's right. My diocese, Salford, has recently announced a major programme of closures and mergers. I'm not privy to what goes on behind the scenes, of course, but it would seem that none of the churches slated for closure were offered to Traditional orders. Frankly, I'm astonished by this, especially as Salford is surrounded on three sides by dioceses (Lancaster, Liverpool and Sheffield) where 'failing' churches have been turned around by the ICK or FSSP and are now thriving.

John Fitzgerald said...

Sorry, I meant Shrewsbury Diocese not Sheffield.

Reform of the Reform said...

Cardinal Sarah has been critical of many parts of the sub-Saharan Africa when its Novus Ordo liturgy is more of an occasion for good time partying than profound worship of God. An article in the New York times a few months ago showed how the Traditional Latin Mass in Nigeria is growing fast. In 25 years from now when the TLM is the majority liturgy, Nigerians will be asking for 4 hour Pontifical Solemn Masses everywhere.

Unknown said...


Let us say that Vatican 2 arrived a bit late for Europe, when the rot was already killing them -- it was shortly before '68 and the Summer of Love -- and eventually Vat2 will be the solution. As you say, when faithfully implemented, it works. Patience, holiness, and keep the good work. The gates of Hades shall not prevail, and if it consoles you, you can see it in other places.

Fr Ray's point was that the culprit is the present Mass, and my point is that it is not.

@Reform of the Reform

Yes, there can be excess, but so with the Mass of Pius V: you can get a hieratic priest just pronouncing prayers, with the Frozen Chosen just looking at him.

It is true that we Nigerians get on people's nerves with our zest for life. Even Guineans like Card Sarah, bless him, get irritated. But I prefer Benedict XVI's comment when he came to our neighbours, Cameroon, and enjoyed a true African Mass: he commented and praised it afterwards. Even the journalists, who usually leave after the papal homily because there is no more to report, remained until the end.

It's not about Novus Vetus, Old or New, but piety, and the happiness of meeting the Lord. After all, Mass begins with a kiss and a hug, and ends with a kiss and a hug.

Don't mind Matthew Schmitz. He's a well intentioned guy, but he attended the only Pius V Mass celebrated in the last years by somebody in communion with the Pope.

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