Is the Catholic Church sliding towards civil war?
"While Church of England bishops recoil from the prospect of gay ‘weddings’ with no precedent in Christian history, their Catholic counterparts are wringing their hands at the growing popularity of services that are too traditional for their tastes.
On Saturday 14 June Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, one of the most senior figures in the Roman Curia and an ally of the Holy Father, celebrated a Pontifical High Mass at Westminster Cathedral. The bishop of the diocese, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, did not attend; nor did any of his four auxiliary bishops. Pope Benedict is rumoured to be furious at this display of bad manners.
What can explain such a breach of protocol? The answer lies in the content and style of the liturgy being celebrated. Cardinal Castrillón processed into the cathedral wearing the cappa magna, a scarlet cape with a 20ft train of watered silk. It is many years since this vestment has been seen in the cathedral — for, although it was never abolished, it is associated with the Tridentine Mass, the ancient Latin rite in which the celebrant faces east, reciting its main prayer in a voice so low that the church falls silent. And that was the Mass that His Eminence celebrated on 14 June, becoming the first cardinal to do so in Westminster Cathedral for 40 years.
Last summer — to the horror of the liberal English bishops — Pope Benedict issued an apostolic letter, Summorum Pontificum, that granted universal permission for the old Mass, which had been effectively banned from normal parish life after the Second Vatican Council. England’s Latin Mass Society seized its chance. It invited Cardinal Castrillón, head of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which is responsible for the old liturgy worldwide, to celebrate the society’s annual traditional Mass at Westminster Cathedral, normally a low-key affair regarded with amused condescension by diocesan liberals.
He accepted, leaving liberal bishops with only one course of action: pleading pressing engagements elsewhere. Hence the absence of Westminster bishops at the Pontifical Mass, though diocesan spies were spotted craning their necks to see if any local clergy had sneaked in (thereby scuppering their chances of promotion). Walking down the nave, I was greeted by a young priest sitting at the back dressed as a layman. ‘I can’t really afford to be seen here, but I couldn’t resist,’ he whispered.
Many Mass-goers are unaware of the fact, but the Catholic Church in England and Wales is sliding towards civil war. A mixture of anticipation and panic is in the air. For worshippers used to the low-calorie ceremonial of Westminster Cathedral, the sight of a curial cardinal presiding over the cruelly complex rubrics of the old Missal must have been thrilling or distasteful, depending on their point of view.
But the evidence of traditionalist revival is not confined to church services: it is scattered over Facebook, of all places, where there are dozens of groups pressing for the return of the ancient liturgy or mocking the caterwauling pseudo folk music favoured by trendy clergy. The internet allows traditionalists in different countries to burst out of the ghetto to which they had been banished by ‘the spirit of Vatican II’. Conservatives hunt down video clips of ‘Sandalistas’ performing arthritic liturgical dances and upload them to YouTube, where they become comic classics. Bloggers share photographs of Corpus Christi processions, and publish private letters in which ‘progressive’ bishops reveal the depth of their hostility to Pope Benedict’s liturgical reforms. These blogs are widely read in the Vatican, where the andante tempo of the day leaves plenty of time for internet surfing..."
Damian does a good job of painting the conflict in terms of the Church Militant:
"In the words of one visitor to a traditionalist website, ‘This situation is comparable to the chief of staff of the army coming down to the 101st Airborne Division as the guest of honour at a division-level parade, and the division commander — and his brigade commanders — does not show up for the parade. Instead, he sends a terse welcoming note to be read by a battalion commander.’
The use of military imagery is significant. In many parts of the world, the response of liberal bishops to the Pope’s plans to revive the traditional Mass has verged on the mutinous. And the sense of impending conflict is particularly strong in England and Wales, which is unique among Western Churches in that not one of its 33 serving bishops is identified with the Benedictine reforms. Indeed, until the last conclave, ‘Ratzinger’ was a swear word in the left-wing circles from which the bishops have been chosen."
But the upcoming war doesn't end at the frontiers of England and Wales. Pope Benedict XVI just fired a volley over the heads of "public sinners" everywhere, especially of the political stripe, with obvious implications for the application of Canon 915 here in America. As the BBC reports (with typical MSM spin -- the Pope has not specifically addressed Berlusconi's situation):
Pope denies Berlusconi communion
"Newspapers reported on Sunday that while attending a ceremony in Sardinia Mr Berlusconi had asked a bishop when the Church planned to change the rules.
But the Pope told a conference in Canada that communion can only be received by those free of major sin.
"We have to do everything... to receive [communion] in a pure heart," he said.
Mr Berlusconi has recently begun a major effort to try and get communion granted to divorced and remarried people like himself.
When he light-heartedly asked the Sardinian bishop when this would be possible, he was told he should "turn to a higher power".
But speaking via videolink to a conference in the Canadian province of Quebec, Pope Benedict ruled out any change to the Church's stance.
Although he did not directly address Mr Berlusconi's comments, he said that communion involved "searching without end, through the sacrament of forgiveness, the purity that sin has stained".
"On the other hand, those who cannot take communion because of their situation will find, nevertheless, in the desire to participate in the Eucharist, strength and effect of salvation," he added."
Patrick has reported on other recent liturgy related skirmishes on this blog:
But the biggest battle to date will be over the Return of the SSPX
Because Rome's offer to the SSPX will by necessity need to be accompanied by the much-anticipated clarification from the PCED of Summorum Pontificum. And as much as Summorum Pontificum itself exceeded the wildest dreams of many, and the worst fears of the modernists, the anticipated clarification of the PCED must make concrete the recent comments of Cardinal Hoyos that the "Gregorian Rite" must be made available in any parish, even on the pastors' own initiative and without the request of a stable group. And it must close the "little tittle" loopholes that many bishops have tried to open by imposing their own guidelines upon Summorum Pontificum.
That is the real war -- this Pope must take back the powers of the papacy that were given away to a false sense of collegiality over the past half century. And this Pope already made clear the nature of that battle and the time it will take to accomplish that struggle:
"How often we wish that God would show himself stronger, that he would strike decisively, defeating evil and creating a better world. All ideologies of power justify themselves in exactly this way, they justify the destruction of whatever would stand in the way of progress and the liberation of humanity.
We suffer on account of God’s patience. And yet, we need his patience.
God, who became a lamb, tells us that the world is saved by the Crucified One, not by those who crucified him. The world is redeemed by the patience of God. It is destroyed by the impatience of man."
--From the Homily of the Inauguration Mass of Pope Benedict XVI, 24 April 2005
We must keep this quote from the Holy Father's Homily at his Inauguration Mass in the front of our minds as the rest of 2008 unfolds.