Monday, May 18, 2015

Prophets of Truth in a Decadent Age

We are so accustomed to hearing praise heaped upon the liturgical reform that we can too quickly forget the many clear-sighted men and women — and not just Ratzinger, even if he came to be the most famous — who spoke out against the Church’s marginalization and destruction of her own heritage at the very moment it was happening. What follows is but a beginning, a sampling; readers should feel free to add their favorite quotations in the comments below.

Monsignor Celada wrote in Lo Specchio of July 29, 1969:
I regret having voted in favor of the Council constitution in whose name (but in what a manner!) this heretical pseudo-reform has been carried out, a triumph of arrogance and ignorance. If it were possible, I would take back my vote, and attest before a magistrate that my assent had been obtained through trickery.[1]
Archbishop Dwyer (1908-1976)
Perhaps my favorite prophet from the Church’s hierarchy is Archbishop R. J. Dwyer, who very early on spoke with a Jeremiah-like fierceness. For example, in the newspaper Catholic Twin Circle, he wrote on July 9, 1971:
The great mistake of the Council Fathers was to allow the implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy to fall into the hands of men who were either unscrupulous or incompetent. This is the so-called “Liturgical Establishment,” a Sacred Cow which acts more like a White Elephant as it tramples the shards of a shattered liturgy with ponderous abandon.
Again, in the issue of October 26, 1973:
Who dreamed on that day [when we voted for Sacrosanctum Concilium] that within a few years, far less than a decade, the Latin past of the Church would be all but expunged . . . ? The thought would have horrified us, but it seemed so far beyond the realm of the possible as to be ridiculous.
Council Father Ignatius Doggett, an Australian-born Friar Minor and bishop emeritus of Aitape, New Guinea, opined in 1996 that the conciliar debate on the liturgy was
horrible, if we judge the debate on the liturgy as we have it today. Very few bishops would be proud to say they had a hand in it. Communion in the hand was never mentioned in the debate, neither was the word table (mensa) to take the place of altar, the place of sacrifice… In my opinion the debate on the liturgy has been hijacked. The Council was to reform, not to change completely.[2]
Bishop Paschang (1895-1999)
Bishop John L. Paschang, the veteran emeritus of Grand Island, Nebraska, observed:
In my opinion the innovations were a mistake. We should have retained the substance of the former Mass. “By their fruits you shall know them.” Church attendance has declined. Few people … go to the sacrament of Reconciliation. People are losing their faith. Almost 50 percent of the faithful no longer believe in the Real Presence, etc. etc.[3]
The Divine Word Missionary and emeritus of the Indian diocese of Indore, Bishop Frans Simons, noted, in a similar vein:
Progressives expected a great deal for the effect and attractiveness of the Church from the use of the vernacular and the simplification and what they considered the adaptation of the liturgy. Nothing of the kind has happened. Since the introduction of these features, within 30 years, church attendance dropped to 10-20% of what it was before in several western countries.[4]
John Senior (1923-1999)
Some of the sharpest observations outside the hierarchy came from John Senior, the great teacher and founder of the Integrated Humanities Program at Kansas University, who saw the 1970s without rose-colored glasses and criticized, without sentimentality, the ecclesiastical anti-culture: “Anyone can see the Church is steering straight into the looming ice of unbelief.”[5]
Once embarked safe and sound on the boat of the Church, I was desolated to see it go straight towards the shipwreck from which I had just escaped. A worldly Church and a world without the Church were on the edges of the abyss.
There is little comfort in the visible Church now. The liturgy, set upon by thieves, is lying in the ditch; contemplatives are mouthing political slogans in the streets; nuns have lost their habits along with their virtues, virgins their virginity, confessors their consciences, theologians their minds.
A well instructed man can shut his eyes and ears at a Novus Ordo mass and teach himself from memory that this action is the selfsame sacrifice at Calvary offered under the unbloody appearances of bread and wine, but it is not possible for ordinary people and especially children who have no memory of such things to keep the faith in the face of an assault on the senses, emotions and intelligence.
Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966)
And, of course, there are the famous letters of Evelyn Waugh and John Cardinal Heenan, collected by Dom Alcuin Reid under the title A Bitter Trial, and well worth reading for their mordant commentary on the unraveling of the liturgy during the 1960s, a time when it still retained some kind of organic connection with the past. Waugh was spared the trial of seeing the new Missal—a shock that might have killed him if he had still been alive.

I have often said that the countless Catholics who either fell away from the faith due to the liturgical reform or who drifted into schism are the “unremembered dead,” the nameless casualties of a triumphal march of progress that did not care about its victims, who were deemed (if we may borrow Benedict XVI’s words in another context) a necessary if unfortunate sacrifice to the Moloch of the Future.[6] These people deserve our sympathetic remembrance and prayers, and our hard work today to reverse something of the damage that traumatized and alienated them. In particular, we should be assiduous in collecting and publishing whatever prophetic judgments and critical recollections survive from that conciliar generation, so that the whitewashing official propaganda can be challenged every step of the way.

Fittingly, let us give the final word to Jeremiah:
     And they healed the breach of the daughter of my people disgracefully, saying: Peace, peace: and there was no peace.
     They were confounded, because they committed abomination: yea, rather they were not confounded with confusion, and they knew not how to blush: wherefore they shall fall among them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall fall down, saith the Lord.
     Thus saith the Lord: Stand ye on the ways, and see and ask for the old paths which is the good way, and walk ye in it: and you shall find refreshment for your souls. And they said: we will not walk.
     And I appointed watchmen over you, saying: Hearken ye to the sound of the trumpet. And they said: We will not hearken.
     Therefore hear, ye nations, and know, O congregation, what great things I will do to them.
     Hear, O earth: Behold I will bring evils upon this people, the fruits of their own thoughts: because they have not heard my words, and they have cast away my law. (Jer 6:14-19)

[1] I am grateful to Hannah Graves for this and the two subsequent quotations.
[2] From Alcuin Reid, “The Fathers of Vatican II and the Revised Mass: Results of a Survey,” Antiphon 10 (2006): 170–90, at 175. 
[3] Ibid., 183. 
[4] Ibid., 185. 
[5] This and the following quotations drawn from Dom Francis Bethel, O.S.B., “A Dark Night: John Senior and the Society of Pius X,” available here.
[6] In the original context, Pope Benedict XVI was writing about Marxism's demand for social revolution: "What we have here, though, is really an inhuman philosophy. People of the present are sacrificed to the moloch of the future—a future whose effective realization is at best doubtful. One does not make the world more human by refusing to act humanely here and now" (Deus Caritas Est, 31b).

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