22 March 2013

Concern from the Middle of the Road

Catholic Exchange is a journal of opinion from the mainstream conservative Catholic perspective.  What do I mean by this?  Well, today's home page features entries by Amy Welborn, Russell Shaw and Marcellino D'Ambrosio, to give you the flavor of it.  Solid, respectable types.  It is affiliated with Sophia Press, the publishing arm of Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, a very respectable Catholic institution.

Also posted on Catholic Exchange is an article by Louie Verrecchio titled Could the Criticism Have Merit?  An interesting question, which he sets about to answer.  If I were him I would worry about my job security.

Excerpts from the full article follow:

...Before offering my own contribution to the conversation, it may be helpful to establish the guiding principles that inform my approach to the topic:

1. Some Catholics are optimistic about the immediate future of the Church, while others see cause for concern. In charity, one would do well to assume goodwill on the part of all concerned (i.e., they love the Church, are praying for Pope Francis, are open to his teaching, etc.) until proven otherwise.

2. Those who are respectfully expressing their concern are not by that simple fact guilty of “pope bashing.” As St. Thomas Aquinas said, “There being an imminent danger for the Faith, prelates must be questioned, even publicly, by their subjects. Thus, St. Paul, who was a subject of St. Peter, questioned him publicly on account of an imminent danger of scandal in a matter of Faith” (ST, IIa-IIae, Q. 33, A. 4).

3. Those who fail to see “imminent danger” where others do, and vice versa, should not hesitate to make their case leaving straw man arguments and ad hominem attacks aside.

With this limited amount of perspective established, let me say first and foremost that I find Pope Francis’ affection for the flock moving, his spontaneous reflections compelling, and his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary encouraging.

Even so, I also count myself among those who are concerned about the direction in which the Barque of St. Peter may soon be steered on Pope Francis’ watch, in the first place, liturgically.

I would begin by reminding those who might argue that the most pressing needs in the Church lie elsewhere that the sacred liturgy is “the summit toward which all of the Church’s activity is directed; the font from which all of her power flows” (SC 10). Therefore, if the liturgical life of the Church is in some measure wanting, everything else – her outreach to the poor, her attempts to evangelize, her internal governance, all of it – will suffer deficiency as well.


Simple does appear to be supplanting what progressives consider “extravagant;” ermine trimmed mozzette and lace surplices do seem to have fallen out of favor (at least as of this writing), and there is ample evidence that the Papal Mass is deliberately being shifted from high to low.

This being the case, it’s not difficult to imagine why progressives may already be feeling justified in the opinion that the liturgical regalia of tradition is at best mere window dressing, or at worse, an obstacle to Divine union.

In truth, however, the liturgical treasure of the Church – the venerable ritual actions, the sacred music, the ornate vestments and the vast assortment of liturgical finery befitting the service of Christ the King – has never been the property of Benedict XVI or any other pope. This treasury properly belongs to the Bride of the Redeemer who makes use of them in order to honor and glorify her Spouse, and as such, it is the rightful inheritance and heritage of those who belong to Him.

These aforementioned sacred signs also serve to call out to those who as yet do not know the Sovereign Lord, compelling them to embrace His sweet and saving yoke and to join us in offering worship to the Divine Majesty through, with and in Him and His Holy Catholic Church. They are, in others words, among our most effective tools for the work of evangelization.

The same is true of the strictly papal regalia of tradition like the triregnum (triple tiara), the sedia gestatoria (portable throne upon which the popes have been carried) and the labella (the large ceremonial fans made of white ostrich-feathers), just to name a few.

The best intentions of those recent popes who have presumed to dispose of these precious gifts do nothing to mitigate the nature of their offense. While one may wish to see a Church that is arguably more accessible to the common man, no one, not even a pope, has the right to render the Church impoverished.


...Only time will tell, but one thing is all but certain; every indication that this Holy Father has a distaste for the majestic outward signs of liturgical and papal tradition will be interpreted by many, not only as a repudiation of Pope Benedict’s restoration, but as justification for God only knows what they may have in mind going forward.

The realization that it is far easier to destroy than to build only serves to underscore the gravity of the situation. Case in point, the pontificate of Pope Paul VI, who in the course of just a few short years, presided over the unprecedented destruction of many centuries of venerable tradition, ushering in a period of liturgical devastation for which every generation ever since continues to pay dearly.

The lesson is clear: it may take but comparatively very little in the way of encouragement from Rome, intentional or otherwise, to set in motion a speedy unraveling of at least some of the hard earned gains realized over the last seven years.

[At this point Verrecchio describes the Pope's recent decision not to give a vocal Papal blessing with the Sign of the Cross to assembled journalists who were not all Catholic, and his dismay at this incident. Later he concludes as follows:]
No one knows with precision what the immediate future holds for the Church under this fledgling pontificate, but a faithful Catholic can scarcely deny that when the Vicar of Christ is reluctant to make the Sign of the Cross and to invoke the Blessed Trinity in an act of public blessing, there is no motive lofty enough to render it anything other than what it is; “an imminent danger for the Faith” that demands repudiation in defense of “the One who died and rose for us.”

If nothing else, perhaps the optimistic, the concerned, and the content to “wait and see” can agree on at least this much:

All of us must fast and pray on the Holy Father’s behalf, just as he requested on the day he was elected, “that the Lord bless him and Our Lady protect him.”


Morpheus said...

"This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill -- the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill -- you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes."

thetimman said...

I know what you're thinking, 'cause right now I'm thinking the same thing. Actually, I've been thinking it ever since I got here: Why oh why didn't I take the BLUE pill?


Anonymous said...

On point. Gotta love the Matrix paradigm.


Steve said...

Mr. Tinman, do you honestly believe you have more insight into valid liturgy than the current pope? You seem to imply that you've thought about this a great deal, while the poor pope -- who has been a priest for more than forty years, and a bishop, and a cardinal -- just kind of coasts through Mass without reflecting on the significance of the Mass he is celebrating or its constituent parts.

You adore Benedict; you love the lace and the red shoes. Great. How about giving the gospel story and gospel values in all their simplicity a try? Not a bad "fashion" to put on. (None of us have quite succeeded in doing that yet, me included. But I would rather try to do that than get caught up in the clothing choices, etc.)

thetimman said...

Steve, you have managed to miss the point entirely. Or perhaps that is your point?

Steve said...

Tinman, I see that you've offered a non-response by telling me that I am simply "miss[ing] the point entirely."

How about dealing with the fact that this line is included in the lengthy excerpt that you chose to include in your post? "No one knows with precision what the immediate future holds for the Church under this fledgling pontificate, but a faithful Catholic can scarcely deny that when the Vicar of Christ is reluctant to make the Sign of the Cross and to invoke the Blessed Trinity in an act of public blessing, there is no motive lofty enough to render it anything other than what it is; 'an imminent danger for the Faith' that demands repudiation..."

Essentially, the way the pope blessed the journalists (yes, he DID offer a blessing to them) has been condemned. You seem to endorse that condemnation. You know what the pope should do and exactly how he should do it; the pope is clueless. In other words: you insinuate that you and the writer you are quoting are more Catholic than the pope. Perhaps you are the one who is missing the point?

Regardless of church politics, rubrics, and love of tradition: May God be served during the papacy of Francis. May we all benefit from his kindness, his straight-forward example of the love of Christ.

dulc90 said...

It is precisely because of blind loyalty to Rome (I'm not talking about directives from the pope) that so many treasures have been lost. We can be obedient Catholics AND thoughtful, questioning, observant, etc.

Let's not be naive enough to think the smoke has cleared. That is not any sort of specific accusation, just a feeling of caution and vigilance.

Jane Chantal said...

While we're recharging the batteries on our kryptonite detectors, a question: has anyone been pondering the fact that Cardianls Ratzinger and Bergoglio were reportedly the two top vote-getters in the conclave that elected Benedict XVI?

On the face of it, this seems to suggest that both men were held in high esteem -- or at least, regarded as minimally worrisome candidates -- by roughly the same people. If that view of Cardinal Bergoglio had changed during Benedict's pontificate, would he have received the majority of votes this time around -- especially given that the College of Cardinals now contains some Benedict appointees?

I certainly haven't enough knowledge to explain it. Would someone else care to try?