Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Rome Orthodoxy and the Tridentine Question

There is an excellent essay over at Vivificat on the subject of the effect that the imminent Tridentine indult might have on relations with Orthodoxy. The general thrust of the essay is probably not much. In the short term I tend to agree for most of the reasons stated in Theo’s essay. Rome has a lot of problems that go way beyond a botched liturgical reform post-Vatican II. Those need to be addressed first. But in fairness there are encouraging signs that many of these issues are being looked at. Thus I am not quite as pessimistic as Theo seems to be.

The new management in the Vatican is showing clear signs of a willingness to put teeth behind rhetoric in church teachings and discipline. The expected indult is just another example that Pope +Benedict XVI is shaking things up after forty plus years of anything goes. +John Paul II (Magnus) did a lot during his more than 25 years on the throne of Peter. But he had short comings. One was that while he was generally orthodox in his preaching, he was a soft touch in church discipline. This problem was compounded by the fact that the last five years of his pontificate were ones of greatly reduced leadership due to his poor health. But JP II is gone now for more than a year and there is a new sheriff in town.

+Benedict XVI having waited the customary one year from the death of his sainted predecessor is now starting to put his stamp on the church he leads. He is shaking up the Vatican Curia and reasserting church discipline in a wide range of areas. The Tridentine indult is just a foretaste of what I think is to come. In his former persona as Cardinal Ratzinger he repeatedly voiced grave concerns about the direction that the liturgical reform had taken in the years after the council. Now we see efforts underway to reintroduce Latin into the reformed Mass, affirming a right to offer Mass ad orientem as well as ad populi, prohibiting lay people from the purification of the sacred vessels and so on. Unlike +John Paul II Benedict does not have the political baggage of Polish nationality as a hindrance to establishing a rapport with the Russian Orthodox Church. Also Benedict is respected as a first rate theologian who understands the Eastern Churches better than any pope in many centuries. In short he is seriously respected in Orthodox theological circles. This alone puts the Rome/Orthodox dialogue on an entirely different plane.

But yes, Theo is right. Rome still has more problems than you can shake a stick at. Discipline is horrible and if the new pope wants to change that, it needs to be remembered as a very liberal friend of mine keeps pointing out, that Benedict is in his late 70s. This is not likely to be a long pontificate. And no matter how much discipline is reformed the very serious theological issues which divide Orthodoxy and Rome are not going to get swept under the carpet just because the Pope has issued a letter banning homosexuals from the clergy etc. In this sense I suspect that the real test will come not with this pope but the next one and his answer to a question. How far is Rome willing to go in adjusting its understanding of the decrees of Vatican I? The wording of those decrees is so crystal clear that we Orthodox have a hard time seeing how you can get around them. But the Roman Church has done some pretty impressive theological contortions before in the name of doctrinal development. A couple excellent examples are the current effort to repudiate limbo, and the gradual backing off of the crystal clear language used by Boniface VIII in Unam Sanctum about the fate of those outside the church. Boniface VIII today would be called a Feenyist and labeled a heretic. So who knows. I remain skeptical but not completely without hope.

Still, I do look forward to hearing again the glorious strains of Mozart and Gregorian Chant in the Roman Catholic Church while the last guitar is smashed over the head of the last Extraordinary Lay Eucharistic Minister. Am I asking for too much?

12 comments:

Teófilo de Jesús said...

Slava Isusu Christu!

Thanks for the comments and the referrals! I really appreciate it.

-Theo

Ad Orientem said...

Theo,
I enjoyed your article and think its spot on in many areas. I ran into it over at Free Republic and regret not being able to comment there (I am persona non gratis at FR). Keep up the good work.

John

Russell said...

I just wonder what the heck is wrong with guitars. If I were a Catholic, I'd be there for the Eucharist, and I'd prefer a service I can understand. I'm sure the Tridentine Mass is wonderful, but Christ is present in the Eucharist no matter the language and no matter the musical presentation. And that's that.

Ad Orientem said...

Russell,
I just wonder what the heck is wrong with guitars.

They are not conducive to a reverent celebration of the liturgy. This is not merely my opinion it is also the opinion of the current Pope who has been highly critical of liturgical music post Vatican II.

If I were a Catholic, I'd be there for the Eucharist, and I'd prefer a service I can understand. I'm sure the Tridentine Mass is wonderful, but Christ is present in the Eucharist no matter the language and no matter the musical presentation. And that's that.

The issue of Latin vs. vernacular is a legitimate point. There are advantages to both. The Vatican council intended to introduce some vernacular into parts of the Mass. However it did not intend to overthrow a 1500 year old liturgical rite. What happened after Vatican II was not liturgical development, it was liturgical revolution. It was a break with the entire liturgical tradition of the western church up to that point. And it introduced elements which have caused concern to some theologians both in the East and West. A detailed discussion on the problems with the liturgical “reform” is beyond the scope of a post here. But I would suggest any of the various works by the late Michael Davies as a good place to start. They are in fairly plain language and one does not have to be a liturgist or be fluent in Latin to read get his points.

Stephen said...

I am much more familiar with the Orthodox and Anglicans when it comes to liturgies, and have never been to a Catholic service, so maybe what I'll say is completely irrelevant, and if so please correct me. But what is wrong with having the traditional Catholic mass entirely in English? I mean, the Orthodox throughout history have translated the Divine Liturgy into English, and Chinese, and Russian, and Aleutian, and all sorts of languages so the people can understand and participate. The service hasn't changed, just the language, so why can't the same thing be done for the Catholic mass?

Rusty said...

The fact remains that the Pope is not going to rid the world of the 'horrendous' novus ordo. It isn't going to happen, and Catholics would be better served by preparing themselves for the Eucharist than complaining about Amazing Grace being sung.

Ad Orientem said...

Stephen,
There is nothing wrong (IMO) with having the Rite of Pius V done in English. The often ignored 1965 Missal was essentially a hybrid mix of Latin and English, still using the old rite. Also the Old Catholics use the so called English Missal which is essentially the Tridentine Rite translated into a beautiful High Church English.. In Orthodoxy the Liturgy of St Gregory (Western Rite) is with very minor corrections the Tridentine Rite translated into English. Some WR jurisdictions use an English version of the Sarum Mass. However it must be admitted that the most common WR liturgy here in N. America is the Liturgy of St. Tikhon, a corrected rendering of the 1928 Episcopal BCP.

ICXC
John

Ad Orientem said...

Rusty,
I agree in part and disagree in part. The pope is not going to "do away" with the NO. But assuming he lives long enough, I do expect the NO to undergo a possibly significant reform that will bring it more in line with the liturgical traditions of the Western Church. +Benedict wrote extensively on the shortcomings of the reformed liturgy in his previous persona as Card. Ratzinger. The liturgical revolution has clearly damaged the phronema of the Latin Church. The freeing of the older rite is much more than what pundits see merely as an effort to heal the Lefebvrist schism. It is a first step towards restoring orthodoxy (small ‘o’) to the liturgical life of the Roman Church and by extension to the mindset of the faithful (lex orandi lex credendi).

ICXC
John

J.C. Fisher said...

Still, I do look forward to hearing again the glorious strains of Mozart and Gregorian Chant in the Roman Catholic Church while the last guitar is smashed over the head of the last Extraordinary Lay Eucharistic Minister. Am I asking for too much?

Might we discuss different Eucharistic rites, without mocking the Christ who said "Turn the other cheek"? Or am I asking too much?

"Who Would Jesus Smash?"

Ad Orientem said...

JCF,
Your post gives new meaning to the phrase "subject verb confusion." It was not God I mocked, but rather a banal rite of service.

Yours cordially,
John

Barnabas said...

Not a fan of guitar masses myself....but if I were to design one, I'd have John Williams play his classical guitar...and specifically play Augustin Barrios's music which is so harp-like that anyone unstirred by that music probably has no soul in the first place. Okay...I realize that's an extreme but consider that the origin of the Classical Guitar was in the monastery...so there is no reason it has to banal.

Just as banal: piano-bar masses. You can find them in Rome next to the Spanish steps.

Reform the liturgy and banish the banal. :)

Stephen said...

Thanks for the clarification. It makes a lot more sense that there isn't anything wrong with an English liturgy. I guess my question should have been why is Pope Benedict seeking to reintroduce Latin if no one speaks it anymore? I can understand wanting to return to how things were done, but this seems to me that he is changing the wrong thing. Anyways, these are just my thoughts, and I don't expect you to know why the Pope does what he does. Thanks for the post and answer.