Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Liturgical Rupture in Southwest Missouri

THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: I've met Father Dennis personally, and I can testify that he is a very kind and gentle man. I've not seen any indication from him that would be contrary to the Christian spirit of charity. Likewise, I've also attended masses he has presided over, and I can testify that he is mindful to some ancient and historic traditions common in the Church prior to the introduction of the 1970 Missal. So this pastoral letter comes as all that much more of a surprise to me: PDF bulletin here.

I think in Father Dennis' letter we have a perfect example of the kind of misunderstanding Pope Benedict XVI is earnestly trying to correct. Father Dennis is right about two things. He's right that there are elements within the Church today (some calling themselves "traditionalists") seeking to bring strife and disruption by abolishing the 1970 Missal entirely. He's also right that in ancient times, it was the custom of the Church to present the mass in the languages most commonly understood by the people. But I believe that's about it. The rest of his letter seems to be rife with misunderstanding. I was saddened to read it.

Equally disruptive is the knee-jerk reaction of progressives in the Church seeking to advance the progress of the new missal. Their common assumption is that all tradition-minded Catholics are "traditionalists" in the most extreme sense. The common assumption is that all tradition-minded Catholics, want to usurp the 1970 Missal, abolish it, and bring back the old Latin mass exclusively. Neither assumptions are accurate. Speaking as a tradition-minded Catholic myself, I can say that I have no desire to disrupt the Church, nor do I intend to usurp the 1970 Missal. I recognize the value of the vernacular mass, and I would never want it abolished. On the contrary, I look forward to the approved English reforms of the 1970 Missal, that will soon bring it into greater conformity with the beauty intended by Pope Pius VI. I look forward to the positive influence the old Tridentine mass will have on the celebration of the new vernacular mass and vice versa. I look forward to the reintegration of the Church's ancient traditions with the progress of the new liturgy. I eagerly await a day when a new Missal will be published, that brings the two forms of the mass together in one book, and we can put all this petty squabbling behind us.

I pray for Father Dennis, because he is a good man, but his letter typifies the kind of "rupture" Pope Benedict warned us about. We must strive to rise above this, listen to each other, and learn.

Addendum: 10-21-2007
My sources indicate that there is more to this story than meets the eye. Apparently, Father Dennis may have been the victim of a insidious game of 'gotcha!' My sources tell me that Father Dennis was approached about saying an Extraordinary form of the mass in his parish in a very confrontational and overly aggressive way. Apparently, a small group of women badgered Father Dennis, and his congregation, into providing an Extraordinary form of the mass, against their will. As a result, my sources tell me, Father Dennis' letter was the product of righteous indignation spelled out in a very flawed and human way. The women who frustrated him, are now using his words against him in a formal complaint to Ecclesia Dei. Personally, I don't know what the truth is in this matter anymore. However, if what my sources say is true, it would appear that Father Dennis' letter was just as much the product of pushy traditionalists as it was Father Dennis' over reaction, and this good man (and I know he's a good man) has been manipulated an played by some unscrupulous folks.