Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Nicholas Postgate on the Crisis in the Church

The Latin Mass: The Journal of Catholic Culture and Tradition has specially shared with NLM an article by Dr. Nicholas Postgate that appears in their current issue, which has just been mailed out. Readers will find the entire article posted as a PDF, but here are some excerpts to whet the appetite (or sizzle the ears).

Certainly many readers of NLM will not agree with everything Postgate says—and, of course, NLM itself is an open forum for many perspectives ranging from a rigorous restorationism to a broad-minded reform of the reform. However, the work of a new liturgical movement can only be enriched and enlivened by having these perspectives out in the open, unedited, for the consideration of the public, and it is with the intention of promoting the larger conversation that we open the gate for this post.
The massive crisis in the Church since the Second Vatican Council, especially in the affluent Western countries, doubtless has many and complex causes, but I am convinced that the foremost cause of it is the fact that churchmen have betrayed much of Catholic tradition and legislation, and have merited a certain divine punishment as a result—let us call it a period of disciplinary suffering as an invitation to repentance and conversion. Bishops, priests, and sometimes even popes have, practically speaking, turned their backs on the preconciliar liturgy and magisterium as well as on many points in the actual teaching of the Second Vatican Council, and this is a kind of sin against the Holy Spirit, one that serves as a standing impediment to true renewal. This impediment will not go away of its own accord, but only through a conscientious repudiation of discontinuity and a courageous effort to rebuild the desolate city.
For example, the Second Vatican Council, in harmony with the Magisterium before it, says that the language of the liturgy is and shall remain Latin, while allowing for a limited use of the vernacular, and that Gregorian chant has and shall have chief place as the music proper to the Roman Rite. To the extent that the Church has abandoned Latin and chant or allowed them to be abandoned, she has rejected the decisions of the Council and therefore deserves to be deprived of that “second spring” for which Pope John XXIII prayed. He prayed for it sincerely, and he was a saintly soul. But even for saints the Lord does not grant every prayer—at least not according to their own understanding of their intentions—and it is clear that we are still in the midst of the deepest, darkest, coldest winter the Church has ever known. The Church will fail miserably in the New Evangelization unless she first cleans up her own house.
As bishop, cardinal, and pope, Joseph Ratzinger did not believe that pretending or keeping quiet was the approach to take. So many of the faithful clergy and laity have, for decades, sat back twiddling our thumbs while the Church has been crumbling around us, for fear of speaking hard truths. While we must always intend to speak with humility, charity, and respect for legitimate authority, it can never help to tiptoe gingerly around the real issues that face us—beginning with the absolutely unprecendented rupture in the Roman liturgy that was perpetrated by Pope Paul VI. One may not contest the validity or licitness of the Novus Ordo, but one may seriously question its fidelity to Vatican II, its continuity with the Tradition, the pastoral wisdom of its promulgation, and its long-term viability. These are wide-open questions that we can and must discuss for the sake of the Church’s common good—a good that is not exclusively the hierarchy’s concern, although the hierarchy makes final dispositions and judgments concerning it, but one that extends to and involves every Catholic according to his abilities and circumstances.
In a technical sense the pope has the authority to change the human elements of the liturgy, but such an exercise of papal authority risks bringing many evils in its wake. When Paul VI, in virtue of promulgating the new Missale Romanum, abolished the Offertory rite of the traditional Mass or the Octave of Pentecost, did he have the authority of office to do so? Undeniably. But did he do the right thing—was this a virtuous exercise of papal authority, or could it have been a moral abuse of his power, one that was destined to produce bad fruits? A pope should receive the benefit of the doubt whenever possible, but there is by now simply too much evidence, both theoretical and practical, of the failure of the liturgical reform and its implementation to allow us to be ostriches with our heads stuck in the sand of pious platitudes. Can anyone read the sober scholarly work of Dr. Lauren Pristas on how the orations of the new Missal were produced by a modernism-driven committee with scissors and glue, and come away feeling anything other than a sense of profound tragedy and even righteous indignation? The Catholic people were robbed of their tradition. No wonder the Church is in a state of crisis!
The Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, the Missal of Paul VI, is irreparably broken. . . . As far as incremental reform goes (for example, if we look to how some Oratorians celebrate the new rite), nearly every successful step has involved adding or substituting something from the old Missal, or removing something painfully novel. In most respects, the Ordinary Form becomes better by becoming the Extraordinary Form. As such, the Ordinary Form does not so much need to be reformed as it needs to be retired, so that the genuine Roman Rite may once again occupy its proper place in the life of the Catholic Church, as it had done for centuries before.
. . . we will never find a solution to our crisis until we recover our innermost Catholic identity through the celebration of the traditional Sacred Liturgy. When the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Divine Office, and the sacramental rites of the Church are once again offered to God in a manner truly in continuity with Catholic Tradition, then and only then will come that Second Spring about which postconciliar Popes have spoken with such premature confidence; only then will the New Evangelization begin in earnest, with the Mass of the Ages as its pulsing heart.

The full article can be viewed here.