Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Society of St. Hugh of Cluny: Major Public Debate in Frankfurt, Germany - over 400 Hear Mosebach [UPDATED]

[The following comes from The Society of St. Hugh of Cluny and is a report on the debate reported a few days ago with Martin Mosebach and Prof. Robert Spaemann participating. The following is an article written in Germany. I've added in a few comments now that I have time.]

To Strengthen the Sacred: a Topical Forum points out Different Paths

An Audience of 400 present at a Discussion on the Reintroduction of the Old Mass

By Doris Wiese-Gutheil

Frankfurt. A topical news forum of the Frankfurt cathedral circle ”Church and Science’ showed that there are totally different ways to revitalize the Sacred in the Catholic Church. On Monday, August 20, around 400 attendees crowded into the main auditorium of the “Haus am Dom” to experience the disputation between recognized experts on a hot topic: “Reconquering the Sacred” and the reintroduction of the Latin mass according to the Tridentine rite. Quite a few others capitulated and left in the face of the overcrowded auditorium.

The remaining 400 nevertheless persevered courageously despite the crowding and heat, enthralled by the exciting and at times caustic discussion. The liturgist and Church historian Arnold Angenendt (University of Muenster) right away aptly characterized the scene as: “Two for, two against – there’ll be fireworks!” Even though both theologians, Angenendt and Albert Gerhards, a liturgist at he University of Bonn, made efforts to reconcile the contradictory positions - as did the philosopher Robert Spaemann – many a cutting word was said.

In particular, Martin Mosebach, the author from Frankfurt and the recipient of this year’s Georg Buechner prize, defended vehemently his love for the old Roman liturgy – just as he had already expounded it in his 2002 book “the Heresy of Formlessness.”

The 56 year old lamented that as a Catholic who hadn’t gone to church between 1962 and 1975, he had found nothing the same upon “the return of the prodigal son.” The Second Vatican Council and the liturgical reform of the 60’s had destroyed the “essence of Catholic Christianity”; the Church today only hangs on to “dwarf forms.” Such a loss, according to Mosebach, is “disastrous for a religion whose core idea is the word Tradition.” Mosebach’s hope is that the Tridentine rite, which Pope Benedict XV legalized again at the beginning of June, will serve as the standard for the New Rite. Even so, the New Rite - in the German language and with the priest facing the faithful – remains the main form of the Catholic mass, also according to the will of the Pope.

The philosopher Robert Spaemann also lamented the “liturgical reform dictated from above” of 40 years ago, carried out in part “dogmatically and with brute force.” It could not stop the disintegration of the church; rather it pushed the adherents of the old Latin Mass onto a “fringe of indecency.” Nevertheless, the 80 year old made a plea that both sides refrain from persecuting each others’ opinions. The pope in his decision deliberately wanted to assure that “the confrontation ceases.”

The two liturgists Angenendt and Gerhards indeed demonstrated various historical errors in the arguments of Mosebach and Spaemann. The rite of the mass was not at all a ”treasure” passed down unchanged for 2000 years but had been reformed again and again, often for the better; [NLM comment: this doesn't follow of course; first of all, its highly doubtful either Spaemann or Mosebach would suggest the Roman liturgy is unchanged. The nature of the changes, reforms and developments need to be further taken into account. Further, how does such mean that "the rite of mass was not at all a 'treasure'"? That seems to be an odd conclusion that doesn't follow.) further – for example, when Christianity freed itself from the idea of female impurity, when the canon of the priest was changed or when the “active participation” of the faithful was revitalized. In the mass one must always struggle to “express the Sacred more profoundly.” According to Gerhards, however, it’s not just the old rite that achieves this: "it takes place through the disposition of the Faithful.”


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