Wednesday, July 11, 2007

On Not Missing (or Avoiding) the Correctives in the Motu Proprio: Lessons for "Two Sides"

A common tendency that I've noticed in our day is that when some sort of document comes from the Holy See that attempts to bring about some kind of corrective, there very often seems to be a number of people, including a number of our priests and bishops, who seem to think the corrective does not apply to them, their parishes, or their diocese. They make the presumption that all is well. They proceed on a "keep up the good work" or "keep on with what you are already doing" philosophy, ignoring how the corrective may apply to them in particular ways.

The recent Motu Proprio issued a corrective to two distinct groups. The corrective is as regards a hermeneutic of rupture. As for the two groups, on the one hand, it is issued to hardline sorts of traditionalists who, as much as they've felt treated as lepers (and they and others as well have been) have historically reacted by themselves treating most anything post-conciliar similarly. On the other hand, it also takes to task those who have misunderstood the Council, interpreting it by the light of their own opinions and will rather than the light of Church tradition and teaching.

Turning to the latter, which is far from being recognized yet, what is continually clear in these documents is there have been many very poor implementations and assumptions going on within the non-traditionalist quarters of the post-conciliar Church. There is need for a "new" approach and re-catechesis. Indeed, if all was going well on that front, there would be little need for a motu proprio of this sort. It's existence as a bridge back to tradition points to this and is intended in part, I think, to help force the issue by re-introducing some corrective medicine back into the body and then allowing it to spread -- regardless of any resistance or false conservativism on the point.

Benedict does not reject the Council itself of course; nor should we reject the Council itself. But what should be rejected is a re-definition or (mis)understanding the Council created to either suit a hardline traditionalist agenda that would serve as a reason to abolish it, or the progressivst re-interpretation and "spin" about the Council which sees it outside the lights of our tradition and Tradition and which attempts to define a "new Church".

The status quo, in this regard, is not enough. It is precisely a part of the problem that Benedict seeks to address. Perhaps this in part is why some just want to characterize this matter as one of diversity, or about reconciliation of the SSPX. Those are part of the considerations behind the Motu Proprio for certain, but such an interpretation reduces it in a way that precisely misses (or avoids) one of the fundamental points that not only characterizes most of the Holy Father's liturgical writing, but also the running theme of Summorum Pontificum itself. There's the saying that "it's not all about you", but in this case, it's not all about addressing someone else (traditionalists) either. Some of it is indeed about "you" in that sense.

Everyone, on all "sides" of the question should take note and ask themselves, where have I personally adopted a hermeneutic of rupture? Have I? Or, looking beyond ourselves, if we are pastors or bishops, where is our parish or diocese falling in this regard? How do we practice our faith, and how are we catechizing priests and laity alike? What are the resources we are using for RCIA programs and others teaching? Is it characterized by continuity or rupture? Are we taking seriously the Holy Father's call to ensuring we adopt a hermeneutic of continuity? Are we really making a proper "examination of conscience" in that way?

For example, today we are hearing many statements that for most Catholics this will not change their Sunday Mass experience. There are a few aspects to this. On the one hand, it is intended to assauge any concern of that one will have to go through an experience similiar to what Catholics went through in the 1960's and 1970's. That is valid, proper and true. Moreover, for most Catholics, things will not change insofar as the "ordinary use" will still be the predominant liturgy found within the Roman church, even with a more freely and substantially available extraordinary use. The use of vernacular in the liturgy will not disppear for example. That is also a proper sense to that sentiment.

But the improper sense of this sentiment is very much tied to this 'false conservativism' and lack of examination of the character of rupture with regard to the present status quo and typical implementation and expression of post conciliar liturgy. Pope Benedict is most certainly not saying all is well and right in that regard; that it is "business as usual" -- though he is also not saying all is bad either. Clearly he is pointing to the fact that the way in which the modern Roman liturgy is celebrated in so many parishes has been one characterized by a spirit and expression of rupture; something which is in need of corrective and which he believes the classical form can help inform. (And it is worth mentioning, while the Pope doesn't explicitly address the matter in this document, which isn't a surprise, there is yet still the subtext of the need for the even deeper aspects of the reform of the reform, which would look at the very form of the missal itself. That project is perhaps yet a decade or more off however). In that sense, while things won't change overnight, they will change. They are to change. There is very much an ongoing call to reform, both in our attitudes and also in our approach; reform in the light of continuity with our tradition.

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