Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Letter from Martin Mosebach Responding to “Pastoral Clergy”

NLM is delighted to be able to share with our readers an exclusive translation of a refreshingly direct letter written by the German novelist Martin Mosebach, who is well-known to lovers of the traditional liturgy for his book The Heresy of Formlessness, recently back in print in a revised and expanded edition by Angelico Press (see here).

Mr. Mosebach’s letter, which appeared in Die Tagespost on July 28, was prompted by an article of Fr Engelbert Recktenwald FSSP that had appeared in the same paper exactly one month before. (Readers may recall that Fr Recktenwald’s charges of aestheticism, rubricism, and purism have been the subject of two rebuttals at NLM: this and this.) Those who love the usus antiquior will find this letter a most succint and elegant statement of the essence of the matter. Our thanks to Stuart Chessman of the Society of St. Hugh of Cluny for his translation, and to the author for his permission to publish it here.

Lefebvre Provided Emergency Aid to the Church

We only can agree with Fr Recktenwald FSSP when he regards with pride and joy the thirtieth anniversary of the Fraternity of St Peter (of which he is a cofounder). There can’t be enough orders, fraternities, and institutes that are dedicated to the preservation of Tradition. Based on this success, it would perhaps also have been still possible not to emphasize all too strongly the conflict with the FSSPX from which the FSSP emerged. It is an incontestable fact that liturgical Tradition would have come to an end except for the actions of Archbishop Lefebvre. In a critical hour in the history of the Church, Lefebvre provided emergency assistance to a Rome impaired in its freedom of action, and in so doing took upon himself the odium of disobedience. It seems that Rome also has adopted this view, by revoking the excommunication of the bishops consecrated by Lefebvre and by the papal declaration that the old Rite had never been abolished because it really never could be abolished. Gratitude for the 30 years of the FSSP must always go hand in hand with gratitude towards Archbishop Lefebvre — even if the FSSP arose from a conflict with him.

Very surprising is Fr Recktenwald’s criticism of laymen knowledgeable in the liturgy, who stand up for Gregorian chant and the reading of the Gospel in Latin. As for the preservation of Tradition, Fr Recktenwald obviously has in mind the practice of the 1950’s, in which the singing of lengthy hymns often obscured the liturgical action. The liturgical reform was felt necessary in part just because of this two-track situation. Whoever would like to get to know the old rite better is disturbed by the singing of (not always first-class) hymns. The locations where the old rite is celebrated are not so numerous that a great variety of celebrations of the Mass can be offered. He who is seeking out the old rite will primarily be looking for a Mass that is “totally other” than the usual celebrations of the Eucharist — even, it should be noted, those completely reverential new Masses that fortunately exist in many places. But adoration is impaired because the priest, not the Cross, is the center. The norm of the Mass is precisely the solemn chanted liturgy.

Fr Recktenwald should rather rejoice that the liturgical crisis has brought forth so many laypeople knowledgeable in the liturgy. But it may be difficult for him that this same crisis has discredited the concept of “pastoral.” “Pastoral” is understood more than ever as a clerical paternalism that pretends to know “what’s good for the people.” We cannot reproach anyone for this distrust. We continue to remember that the great crisis proceeded from the clergy. In this respect, the movement for liturgical Tradition belongs absolutely to the new spiritual movements, which are distinguished by a strong participation of the laity. In the interest of justice, it should be mentioned that, internationally, the line propagated by Fr Recktenwald is probably in the minority. The grand liturgies in Ssma Trinità dei Pellegrini, the Roman church of the FSSP, can be considered exemplary for the universal Church.

Martin Mosebach
60322 Frankfurt am Main

(The original German may be found at the Pro Missa Tridentina website.)

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