Saturday, May 03, 2003

Universal Indult for the Tridentine Mass?

A report in the British Catholic weekly The Catholic Herald claims that the Pope is soon going to grant a Universal Indult for the Old Mass. According to the report by Simon Caldwell:

John Paul II is understood to be ready to grant a "universal indult" by the end of the year to permit all priests to choose freely between the celebration of Mass in the so-called Tridentine rite used up to 1962 before the disciplinary reforms of
the Second Vatican Council and the novus ordo Mass used after 1970. It will mean that a priest who wants to celebrate old rite Masses will no longer need to apply for an indult to Ecclesia Dei...

This report has, as of now, not yet been confirmed by any Vatican officials. And given the recent furor over the false rumors of reconciliation with the schismatic traditionalists of the Society of St. Pius X, this report has to be taken with a grain of salt. But the Catholic Herald is sober and reliable, and Britain's national Catholic weekly. Caldwell seems to have access to some inside information, as he cites Vatican inquiries of Scottish and English bishops regarding their provision of the Old Mass.

Rome has given the Old Mass a higher profile in the last year or so: The holy father celebrated a Tridentine Mass last year, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos will celebrate a Tridentine Mass at St. Mary Major in Rome on the 24th of this month, and the Pope just issued an instruction granting permssion for any priest possessing the indult to celebrate the Mass of St. Pius V at St. Peter's. All of these things taken together make the granting of a Universal Indult quite plausible.

What would the effects of such a grant be? Well, it would certainly cause great consternation among those more "progressive" types who have been attempting to redefine the Mass as a "celebration of community" or a "sacred meal" for the last 30 years. The grant of such an indult, with the Pope's most recent encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, could only be seen as a ringing re-affirmation of the Church's traditional understanding of the Mass as first and foremost the re-presentation of Christ's sacrifice on the Cross. Conversely, such a move would be a great source of consolation for many Catholics who have been discouraged and dismayed by the perceived "dumbing-down" of the Mass in recent decades.

The grant of a universal indult would also end the "second-class citizen" status of the Old Mass and its adherents. It would put an end to the efforts of a few still-hostile bishops to thwart the "generous" application of the Ecclesia Dei indult by obstructing the Old Mass. This would probably, over the course of time, help to further stem the tide of liturgical abuses. It may also further efforts toward a "reform of the reform" of the post-conciliar liturgy.

Finally, it would in all likelihood be a big step towards reconciliation with the Lefebvrists and other traditionalist schismatics. As such, it would help us to fulfill Our Lord's prayer that "they all be one."

Friday, May 02, 2003

The Divine Emmylou Harris

I was cleaning my office this morning, with my mp3 collection playing at random on my computer in the background. The computer started playing Emmylou Harris' version of the old country-gospel standard, "Satan's Jewel Crown", and I had to just sit down and listen again.

I could, by no means, be called a "fan" of what we know as "Country" music, at least of the variety you hear on country radio stations. Travis Tritt, Shania, The Dixie Chicks (even before their repulsive conduct) etc., leave me cold. Most country music seems to me sappy, canned, and ersatz. It has all the authenticity of a Hostess Fruit Pie.

However, I very much like traditional Bluegrass and country-gospel music. It is music that actually has some depth and history: it is a music from a real tradition of real people. And like all true folk music, it contains the expressions of a people's collective soul.

Perhaps the best exponent of that folk-gospel music today is Emmylou Harris. Whatever she has produced in the country genre, I assure you, is far outclassed by her work in folk and gospel music. When she does folk music, she is wonderful. When she sings gospel, she is sublime. Emmylou has a voice of haunting purity, and lets the beauty of the music come through unencumbered.

Unfortunately, her folk and gospel offerings don't have as high a profile as her standard country output, which is too bad. And some of her best gospel performances are scattered in collaborative collections or commercially unreleased. But anyone interested in hearing her sublime voice performing this wonderful music could start here, with Angel Band. It's one classic after another, performed with an elegant simplicity.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Why Do People Leave?

I may be a little late in blogging on this, but it seems to me that one benefit of being Catholic is that the world already thinks we're backwards, so one doesn't have to worry about being au courant. And since Blogger ate this when I tried to post it yesterday, I have a double excuse.

Last Saturday, Fr. Andrew Greeley, in a column in the Chicago Sun-Times, discussed the reasons why many people "leave the church," and why he is unimpressed with those reasons:

However, most of the reasons I hear advanced these days are not of this sort. They are rather tales of what some priest did or said, of what some nun taught you, of some lunacy propagated by a bishop, of what some RCIA [Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults] director tried to impose upon you, of what some chancery office bureaucrat told you, of some rule that a liturgist said you had to obey, of the moronic failure of the church to deal with the pedophile crisis, of the denial by so many priests that there is a sexual abuse crisis, of the failure of the pope to support our eminently moral president, of the failure of bishops to speak out against the war (which they have, of course, though no one hears them anymore), of the pastor who is spending huge sums of money on a church the parish doesn't need. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Since I have already had to deal with this sort of thing in my not-quite-two-years of priesthood, it seems apropos for me to throw my two cents in. I think Fr. Greeley is on to something here: I know a man who "left the Church" when the priest he and his fiancee talked to about getting married had the audacity to point out that their cohabitational relationship was not a good preparation for marriage, and was objectively sinful. He then had the further gall to suggest that the best thing for them to do was to separate for the remainder of their engagement. This man had to make a choice between seriously examining his life in light of the Faith, or going it on his own. He decided to go it on his own (he is now on marriage number 3) rather than admit that this priest, or the Church, had anything to say to him about his moral decisions. In college and graduate school I knew many people who would provide elaborate rationales for why the Catholic Church was backwards, or "medieval"; or for why Faith was beneath their superior intellects. But when I got to know the people, and got "underneath" their rationalizations, I discovered that what really motivated them was the desire to live as though they were morally unaccountable.

Most of us do not want to hear hard sayings about sin, and our own culpability in it. Last year, after I gave this homily about The Situation at one of our Sunday Masses, a woman approached me, quite angry about it: she said that it was "hateful" and that I "obviously had contempt for women" (I had criticized one of Anna Quindlen's vapidities in my homily), and vowed that she would never attend one of my Masses again. She was evidently so wrapped up in her own agenda that she couldn't hear the message of my homily. All I could say in response was that I was sorry she was so upset that she had missed the whole point of my homily.

But at least she had the honesty to confront me face-to-face with her displeasure. I have occasionally heard "through the grapevine" that this or that parishioner has complained about something I said or did. I have even been told once or twice that someone has left the parish and begun attending Mass elsewhere over something I said. Unfortunately, these people have done so without ever talking to me about their complaints. While I will never apologize for preaching the Whole Faith boldly, nor for speaking unpopular truths, it nonetheless pains me that people may have acted so precipitously, as I never intend to wound. But I confess to a certain amount of frustration over these situations, as I think such behavior is cowardly and unjust. It is cowardly to speak critically of a person when one is unwilling to voice that criticism to the person's face. Furthermore, it is unjust, because the person has formed a judgment without giving me the opportunity to clarify myself or dispel any misunderstandings. If I have a serious issue with someone, I believe I have a moral obligation to speak to that perosn face-face about my concern. That is my obligation under Christian charity and justice. That's the way adult Christians are supposed to behave. I expect adult Christian conduct from people who profess to be Catholic. I admit that it's hard for me to believe in the good will of someone who is unwilling to even deal with me honestly.

That being said, I recognize the truth in Amy's concern for those who have been wounded by "the church":

It's not simply that people's feelings are hurt. It's that their faith is shaken. If a person who has been entrusted with passing on the Faith lies to you or hurts you or teaches something that is wrong, it is difficult for many to separate that relatively small moment in the present from the weight and breadth of Tradition.

That is why it is so important for us to reach out to people (and most of us know such people) who feel in some way alienated from the Church. The Church's central message is the Mercy and Grace of Christ, given to us through His passion, death and resurrection. That is why it is so important for priests to preach on the power and meaning of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and to avail ourselves of it frequently. The more we confront our own sinfulness and need for God's mercy, the more authentically and convincingly we can witness to it for others.

Monday, April 28, 2003

I HATE @@$^*(&%$$^) BLOGGER!!! $%()*%#@$!!

I just spent 45 minutes working on a post only to have it disappear into the Ether when I hit the "Post" button and was greeted with the message " has refused your connection. Please try again later." I have other things to do, so I'll have to come back later and try to re-construct it. In the meantime, this gives me new impetus to find a different hosting service than the increasingly-flakey Blogger.

What I had written was really pretty good, you'll have to trust me on that until I can try again.

I suppose from now on I've learned a lesson: write my posts in a WP program, then cut and paste it into Blogger...