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Sunday, February 23, 2003

The Intolerance of the Liturgy People™ in the American Church.

Prosecution Exhibit A.

The estimable Fr. Rob Johansen, fellow Michiganian and priest of the Diocese of Kalamazoo, recently posted about his visit to the Nebraska seminary of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, better known as the FSSP. He related several common-sense points:

It is most unfortunate and unfair, it seems to me, that so many "moderate" and "progressive" Catholics have relegated faithful Traditionalists such as those of the FSSP to an Outer Darkness of sorts: Such people love to portray themselves as champions of diversity within the Church, but somehow that diversity doesn't include the riches of our own Latin liturgical patrimony. The fact is that the rites of the 1962 missal fulfill the spiritual needs of a large and growing number of Catholics. If that's not diversity, I don't know what is.

* * *

I attended a couple of seminary liturgies, and while at Vespers last Saturday evening I was struck by the true austerity, a beautiful austerity, of the liturgy. Those who pooh-pooh the old rite as overwrought or difficult to follow, it seems to me, simply have not made any effort to understand it. That liturgy wasn't complicated: what it was was reverent. And it seems to me that that Novus Ordo opens itself up to irreverence in a way that the Old Rite doesn't.

Then Fr. Johansen related a tale of the visceral, neurotic hatred of Latin held by far too many in positions of influence. A parishioner made the mistake of inquiring as to the addition of Latin to the Mass in the presence of the parish Bolsheviturgist:

The only real die-hard opposition to Latin in the liturgy anymore comes from the aging-hippie set. Many such people have a virulent hatred of Latin or anything that smacks of tradition. I recall an incident I witnessed at a parish some time past: A parishioner innocently approached the parish music director and asked if we could have "some Latin at Mass". She literally drew back her shoulders and declaimed in her most authoritative voice "We don't do Latin at this parish. Latin isn't accessible to the people." The parishioner (who was by no means elderly) spoke of the beauty of Latin and how much she and many other parishioners would enjoy it. I then chimed in and said, "Why couldn't we? We would have to start with simpler stuff, but why not? I'd be happy to help." She then turned to me and with a voice of cold fury made it clear that there would be no such goings on at that parish. When I pointed out that a couple of parishes in the diocese (including, at that time, the Cathedral) in fact had regular Latin Masses, she harrumphed and said that unfortunately there was nothing she could do about such pastors.

Interesting, but hardly surprising stuff. When our cantor added the Agnus Dei in Latin during Easter, there was tut-tutting amongst the "The Nuns Were Mean To Us In The Old Days" crowd. Still and all, a fairly innocuous post from Fr. Rob.

So, of course, his Bishop ordered him to cease posting to his blog.

Another good priest in the Diocese offered the reason:

The chancery has received complaints that Fr. Rob's description of an incident several years ago involving a former member of the diocesan liturgy commission [who lied to Rob and parishioners about a diocesan ban on the Novus Ordo Mass -- no such ban exists] [I think he means Latin in the NO--DP] was inflammatory and imprudent, and casts aspersions on the current diocesan liturgy commission, whose chairperson is a member of Fr. Rob's parish. I have no idea if this parishioner/chairperson is the one who reported Fr. Rob's "inflammatory" blog to the chancery -- I doubt it strongly, as I know this person to be a good person, not given to overreaction, and generally well-disposed to Fr. Rob. In other words, no axe to grind here.

Fr. Rob's comments made no judgment upon the current diocesan liturgy commission, but simply described an instance of deception by a former member, who is no longer a resident of the Kalamazoo diocese. I am extremely disappointed in the action taken here to Fr. Rob. I have known him since he first started studying in the seminary for the diocese, and he has been the subject of much scrutiny and criticism by the "ageing hippy" element among the presbyters of this diocese. The mere fact that Fr. Rob has degrees in classical languages sets their false teeth on edge. That he is of a more traditional turn theologically and spiritually does not win him any further support among this crowd.

This reminds me of something....It's on the tip of my tongue.... Don't worry: I'll figure it out.

In the legal profession, the gripe about impugning the commission is what we call a facially-invalid complaint. Quite simply, how can it "cast[] aspersions on the current diocesan liturgy commission" when it makes no reference whatsoever to it? Re-read the post a few times: of the phrase "diocesan liturgy commission," only the term "liturgy" appears. There's no indication that Kate, the parish music enforcer, was a member of the DLC. Accepting fully the description of the good faith of the Bishop, it is still indefensible. What we have here is the iron hand of a bureaucracy that tolerates no deviation, and no dissent.

Except for itself, of course.

Adding some Latin to the Mass? That's not "inclusive." It's not "accessible." Note the profound condescension of such a position. Even as OCP promotes the addition of Spanish hymns to the Mass--a few lines of Latin would be incomprehensible to Joe and Mary Catholic. Spare me.

Why, the temerity of such a suggestion! Msgr. O'Brien of the DLC has requisitioned the rat cage for Fr. W. Smith. He will learn to love Big Haugen.

But for the proles, the Thirty Five Year Plan will continue. FACP quotas will be achieved. Folk music will be sung. Parishes will be renovated. Sacred meals will be celebrated.

Churches will empty.

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