Bp. Serratelli steps up 2

You will remember that H.E. Arthur Serratelli, Bishop of Patterson  (NJ – USA) started a series of presentations on the recovery of the sacred.

Part 1

There is good stuff Part 2.  His Excellency this time makes a distinction about liturgy as a divine activity, an encounter with the transcedent and what can reduce that encounter or block it.

The Liturgy of the Church is a moment where all the dimensions of our lives come before the living God. [So often since the Council it has been claimed that Mass is a human experience, rather than an encounter with the divine.] It is the place where we have an active encounter with God.  It is the place, therefore, where we can rediscover the sacred in our lives.

Certain settings demand their own particular etiquette. [The aptum et pulchrum has been lost in most dimensions of society, but it is especially lacking in liturgical practice far and wide.]  Dress at a wedding reception differs from dress at a sports event.  Conversation in a bar is louder than in a funeral home.  The more we realize we are coming into the Presence of God in Church, the more respectful and reverent our whole person becomes.  Chewing gum in Church, loud talking, beach attire and immodest dress simply do not belong!

In church, we need to cultivate a sense of God who is present to us.  This is why we are called to observe moments of silence.  Both before Mass begins and during Mass.  Liturgy is much more than our joining together.  It is our opening ourselves to God.  By our singing and praying, we respond to the God who addresses us in Liturgy.  A constant torrent of words and songs filling every empty space in the Liturgy does not leave the heart the space it needs to rest quietly in the Divine Presence.

In the Annunciation, after the angel announces to Mary that she is to be the Mother of the Lord and Mary gives her fiat, there is silence (cf. Lk 1:38).  In this pregnant silence, that Word becomes flesh. Mary remains the model of the disciple before the Word of God.  She reminds us that we need moments of silence for God to enter our life.  We need those moments in our personal prayer and in the Liturgy.  [This is similar in some respects to a sermon I gave in NJ last year, in Camden!]

In the Liturgy recorded in the last book of the New Testament, in the Book of Revelation, the word proskynein (to bow) is used twenty-four times — more than in any other part of the New Testament.  John, the author of the Book of Revelation, presents this heavenly Liturgy as the model and standard for the Church’s Liturgy on earth.  Our body bowed in prayer acknowledges the Lord’s majesty.  It visibly confesses our belonging to God who is the Lord of all. Here is a strong reminder of the place of body in Liturgy.  [So, bodily posture does make a difference.]

We are not just spirit when we pray.  We pray in our total reality as body and spirit.  And so, to recapture the sense of the sacred, therefore, we need to express our reverence through our body language.  The norms of the Liturgy wisely have us stand in prayer at certain moments, sit in attentive listening to the readings, and kneel [KNEEL!] in reverent adoration during the solemn prayer of consecration.  These norms are not arbitrary nor are they left to the discretion of any individual celebrant. [Say the Black.  Do the Red.]

Creativity is not an authentic rule for celebrating the Church’s Liturgy.  In many cases, it humanizes [See above!] the Liturgy and draws attention from God to the celebrant.  The priest is merely the servant of the Liturgy, not its creator or center.

Commenting on this, Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, said: “The greatness of the Liturgy depends — we shall have to repeat this frequently—on its unspontaneity (Unbeliebigkeit)…. Only respect for the Liturgy’s fundamental unspontaneity and pre-existing identity can give us what we hope for: the feast in which the great reality comes to us that we ourselves do not manufacture but receive as a gift (Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 170).  Since the Liturgy is a gift and not something of our own creation, it takes great humility to celebrate the Liturgy properly and reverently.

Observing the norms of the Liturgy helps to create a profound sense of the sacred in each of us at Mass.  Celebrating Mass and observing liturgical norms also makes us visibly one with the entire Church to which we belong.  “Priests who faithfully celebrate Mass according to the liturgical norms, and communities which conform to those norms, quietly but eloquently demonstrate their love for the Church” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 52).  [In Sacramentum caritatis, His Holiness makes a strong connection between who we are and how we pray.  We are our rites.]

Today it has become commonplace at the end of the Liturgy to recite a litany of gratitude for all those who, in some way or another, have made the celebration beautiful["I would like to thank the mother of the lady who folded the napkins for the luncheon to follow…"] No doubt there is a way to express gratitude at the end of Mass.  But is it possible that each time applause breaks out [I know applause was common in the ancient churches, but I just can’t abide it.] in the Liturgy at the end of the Mass for someone’s contribution, we lapse into seeing the Mass as a human achievement? Sometimes even during the Mass after someone has sung a beautiful hymn, there is spontaneous applause.  At such a moment, does not the real meaning of Liturgy lapse into some kind human entertainment?

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53 Responses to Bp. Serratelli steps up 2

  1. Troy says:

    What is there left to say???

  2. JG says:

    WOW! My kind of Bishop! I’m moving to Patterson!

  3. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Thank you, Father, for bringing this to our attention. It’s good to know someone in New Jersey thinks with the Pope. I wonder how he will apply the Motu Proprio.

  4. Red Cardigan says:

    This is very beautiful and exactly the sort of thing needed to foster true liturgical reform!

    I have a minor question; when does Mary’s moment of silence occur in the Bible? The Douay-Rheims has Luke 1:38 as “And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.” I had always been taught that the Incarnation occurred at the very moment Mary spoke the words of the fiat–is that wrong? Certainly our Lady who “treasured all these things and reflected on them in her heart” is a model of silent contemplative prayer, but how is the Annunciation an example of that? Thanks for any clarification!

  5. Giorgio says:

    How did this saint become a bishop? Did someone make a mistake?

  6. tl says:

    Fr Z,

    Thanks for the great blog! Devoted reader, first time poster.

    When you say there was applause in ancient churches, in what context was it? I assume it wasn’t for Mrs. Smith who made the nice lemon squares.

    Thanks for your work.

    –TL

  7. Ben says:

    When trendies call me a spoilsport for not clapping in church (this *has*
    happened!), I just tell them: ‘Like Pope John XXIII, I disapprove of applause in
    church’ – that shuts them up. (It also happens to be true!)

    There was a lovely book for confirmandi by the late Cardinal Heenan, called
    something like ‘Our Catholic Faith’ in which he has this great line: ‘When we
    want to express our agreement with the speaker at a public meeting, we clap.
    WE DO NOT CLAP IN CHURCH. Instead we show our assent by the word ‘Amen.”

  8. Brian Sudlow says:

    How do you Americans get these bishops? Burke, Bruskewitz, Finn, etc. Why can’t we Brits have ones like that!

  9. pjsandstrom says:

    You might remember that there are references to applause during the sermons of
    Augustine — he mentions it himself in response to the congregation. I believe
    St. Ambrose mentions the same. St. John Chrysostom does also.

  10. Royce says:

    In Spirit of the Liturgy, Pope Benedict says that whenever a congregation breaks into applause, it’s a clear sign that they’ve lost sight of what’s really important. That’s usually my response to people who tell me I should clap along. I’ll keep my hands folded, thanks.

    And amen on the kneeling! Even if not all people are physically kneeling, we need
    to not forget that it is the ideal and those who cannot kneel are kneeling in spirit.

  11. Janet says:

    The only clapping I’ve noticed in church has been at the end, on rare occasions such as welcoming our newly confirmed Catholics at Easter Vigil, showing appreciation for our associate pastors who are leaving to new assignments, or congratulating our pastor on his 50th Anniv. of ordination.
    All incidences have been at the very end before dismissal,and have been rare and spontaneous occurences. I can’t see anything wrong with that. How else would a congregation show affection, welcome, and honor in those circumstances other than with a standing ovation?

  12. Tom S. says:

    It’s so good to see that there are Bishops like this. That there are people in authority who “get it”.
    One of my favorite verses from the Bible is from Psalms:
    Be still, and know that I am God

    Thanks for the post, Father.

  13. Royce says:

    Janet,

    Isn’t the public recognition the priest thanking the individual or group on behalf
    of everyone? I think the very mention, at announcement time within or outside of
    the sermon, is quite a show of gratitude. You can always thank the person after Mass
    or send a card, etc. if you’re really impressed. It’s easy to clap, but I think
    it really shows appreciation when someone goes out of his or her way to really thank
    someone. Even if only a few people do it, I think that would mean more than a little
    applause from the congregation at the end of Mass.

  14. Henry Edwards says:

    You might remember that there are references to applause during the sermons of Augustine—he mentions it himself in response to the congregation.

    Of course, a behavior that was religious then may be secular now, and vica versa. Just as beards are non-conformist in some societies, conformist in others, and so forth.

  15. Janet says:

    Royce,
    In all cases I mentioned of applause, we also had a very nice reception, with cards, gifts, good food, and personal expressions of whatever sentiments would apply to the given situation. And it’s not like we were interrupting the actual liturgy in these infrequent circumstances.

    But maybe it’s my Protestant roots showing, since I am a convert. I think Mass should be joyous, and that a little spontaneity apart from the actual liturgy isn’t doing any harm. Does God really want us to be so very solemn and dignified and tied to formal ritual during every single moment of the Mass? (and that’s a sincere question, not just rhetorical. As a convert who’s only attended NO masses, I could easily be seeing this whole issue wrongly.)

  16. Mary Jane says:

    I have mixed feelings about applause. When it happens every week at the end of Mass, it’s obvious that the liturgy has turned into a performance. When it’s extraordinary – at the end of an ordination liturgy, it makes sense – and most congregations aren’t going to shout “Axios!”

  17. mark says:

    “Today it has become commonplace at the end of the Liturgy to recite a litany of gratitude for all those who, in some way or another, have made the celebration beautiful.”

    Fr. Paul F. Morrissey, the pastor at Saint Louis (the Little French Church) in Saint Paul, MN once told us that we were not to applaud the choir, because they were not there to entertain us, but to give glory to God.

  18. Royce says:

    Janet,

    Yes, I would disagree with you with regards to spontaneity. In my opinion, it’s something
    to be avoided at all costs. However, I’m not really sure I can give you good reasons
    for why I feel this way. For me, the rituals of the Mass and the other sacraments
    do express joy. I think the whole range of human emotions, joy to sorrow and everything
    in between, are present in the Mass, and I find them a far more effective means of
    communicating who and what I am to God than anything I could ever come up with.
    Maybe part of it is my background with theatre and how I think about breaking character.
    To me, when the priest addresses the congregation before the penetential rite, the preface,
    or the postcommunion he’s breaking character. I prefer to see all of the other things,
    announcements and so forth, taken care of at the sermon so that the liturgical action
    has only one break.

    I just feel very uncomfortable praising anyone else’s achievements when our Lord
    is physically present in the Blessed Sacrament. It just doesn’t seem right to me
    to, immediately after receiving our Lord, to so quickly turn to the work that others
    have done.

    Does this answer your concerns at all? Could someone else (Fr. Z!) help me with
    this?

  19. Royce says:

    Mark,

    As someone who sings in a choir, I wish our priests would tell our congregation
    that. It’s very embarrasing for me to have the congregation clap for us so often.

  20. Dave Deavel says:

    I feel the same ambivalence that Fr. Z and others feel about applause. Like Fr. Morrissey and Pope Benedict I often believe that things are out of whack (like one of the other posters, I too don’t join in except on extraordinary occasions), but I wonder, too, about the fact that I am in the “Church of the Multitude” as Ven. Newman said and that a Catholic Church is something like a city unto itself–and that, as Chesterton said, the Church is something like a holy “tavern.” Ronald Knox also reflected on the fact that behavior in Church is very different in the Latin countries and that the English notion of good order is something different from other cultures.

  21. Mary says:

    In almost every parish I’ve been in it seems as if the congregation consists of a collection of people rather than a community united in the Liturgy as Pope John Paul talks about in his Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, last paragraph of section 33:

    “Yes, dear brothers and sisters, our Christian communities must become genuine “schools” of prayer, where the meeting with Christ is expressed not just in imploring help but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion, until the heart truly “falls in love”. Intense prayer, yes, but it does not distract us from our commitment to history: by opening our heart to the love of God it also opens it to the love of our brothers and sisters, and makes us capable of shaping history according to God’s plan.”

    Perhaps this is already a reality in Bishop Serratelli’s Diocese.

    Mary R.

  22. Michael C. says:

    An elderly Latin teacher of mine used to tell us that when he was in Austria in the 50s, he would attend these magnificent concerts in old Baroque churches, and even after a perfect performance, the congregation was silent, the women still wearing veils. There was no clapping, and the performers never expected it.

    Do any of the folks who can remember the years after VII remember when people started clapping in Church? Was it about when women stopped covering their heads? It would be unthinkable in today’s world to not clap after a concert, even in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

  23. Xavier Landry says:

    Applause is for Man. PRAISE is for God.

    Why not start an Alleluia chorus instead of clapping?

    I think applause in church has had a detrimental effect on classical concerts. Patrons used to enjoy lingering in the beauty of a piece for a time before someone slowly began the applause to bring us back to earth. Now rude applause breaks out even before the music has faded.

  24. Xavier Landry says:

    Mary R.: “In almost every parish I’ve been in it seems as if the congregation consists of a collection of people rather than a community…”

    When I stumbled upon my first Traditional Mass I was shocked by the sense (that I had never experienced before) that all the people in the church were my personal family. I felt closer to them all than my own natural family. And I hadn’t met any one of them!

    In the New Mass we seem content with UNITY, but didn’t the Lord desire ONENESS for us?

  25. TerryC says:

    Clapping just seems so natural to some people. It’s an uphill battle. Our pastor has had comments posted in the bulletin about why it is inappropriate to clap. He has included it in the announcements before Mass and done just about everything but interrupted the litugy himself to discourage it, and still a good number of people seemed determine to do it.

  26. Janet says:

    Royce,
    Thank you for your explanation and the effort to help me understand. I think once the TLM is finally allowed in my diocese, and I experience what our liturgy used to be, I will probably grow to having the same opinion as you do.

  27. Xavier Landry says:

    TerryC: “Clapping just seems so natural to some people…a good number of people seemed determine to do it.”

    Sometimes I wonder if it’s a reaction to being uncomfortable with anything at all mystical, like nervous laughter.

  28. dcs says:

    In all cases I mentioned of applause, we also had a very nice reception, with cards, gifts, good food, and personal expressions of whatever sentiments would apply to the given situation.

    In that case one can wait for the reception to applaud.

  29. Royce says:

    Xavier, that seems entirely possible to me.

    Janet, thank you for your understanding. I’m not really sure I got the idea from
    the old rite, though. I had a pastor when I was young who forbade clapping at Mass
    and ever since I’ve disliked it. I suppose you could say becoming familiar with the
    old rite confirmed it in me (like my belief that Sunday Mass’s status as the most
    important event of the week should be reflected in one’s attire) but it really came
    from good pastoral leadership. God Bless, and I pray you get to experience the old
    rite in your own diocese soon.

  30. Rob Quagan says:

    I have often called this the “Introductory (and/or Concluding)Rite of Affirmation”.
    Isn’t interesting that the therapeutic culture has crept into the Liturgy to
    pull us back into the Natural realm? What distracts me most is this most always
    takes place BEFORE the final Blessing and the refocus is on ourselves.

    Instead we should take a few moment to meditate on the the awe of the
    Supernatural Reality that has just transpired before us and the Grace of
    Communication with Him. There should be a focus of humble thanks to God
    those realities first and foremost.

    Let’s not encourage chatter and place human respect above prayerful silence
    before our Lord. Leave fraternal affections for outside, the church hall or
    during the rest of the week.

  31. Ben D. says:

    Janet,

    I tend to agree with you that occasional spontaneous applause that’s in character with what’s happening in the context of the mass — at a wedding mass, for example, or an ordination — is nothing to grumble about.

    At my parish, though, someone inevitably starts clapping every week after the choir finishes the final hymn — as if it were a performance (the organist always tries, but never quite manages, to start a postlude before the applause can catch on). I’ve noticed this practice, which is anything but spontaneous, at the two other parishes nearest my home — maybe it’s a regional idiosyncrasy.

    On the other hand, when I’ve attended concerts of the Valaam Monastery Singers, they have always asked the audience to refrain from applauding for the sacred-music portion of the concert, precisely because they’re singing sacred music. Telling contrast.

    Royce, the quotation from Spirit of the Liturgy includes a qualification: “Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement…”. And it’s worth noting that the context of the quotation is a discussion of liturgical dance.

    It’s clearly “because of human achievement” that people applaud at the end of a hymn, or during thank-yous, or — horribile dictu — after a bit of dancing in the sanctuary. But it’s not unreasonable to think that those who applaud a newly-married couple or newly-baptized Christians are recognizing more than human achievement in what has just happened.

  32. Royce says:

    Ben,

    That’s true, but don’t we have better means of thanking or praising God than clapping? To me, the divine work of the Lord seems worthy of so much more than the same thing I do for a great shot at the ball game.

  33. Ben D. says:

    Royce, you’re probably right. Believe me, I cringe whenever there’s clapping in church, whether it’s of the obviously inappropriate variety, or of the more justifiable kind. Just wanted to point out the distinction between the two. When it’s the former I think I’m right to be indignant; when it’s the latter, I’m not so sure.

  34. Sid Cundiff says:

    If this man is the “new wave” of bishops, I have hope.

  35. Stephen says:

    Not to be flip, but the Orthodox church never lost sight of these elements which it seems the west is only now recovering. And, though it may be a Pope who is helping you with tradition, it was a previous Pope that set the state for all you are reacting against. So what then, truly in all honestly, is the value of the Papacy if it can work against you as much as for you?

  36. Raymundus says:

    Just to note that clapping at an ordination is the assent of the people with regards to the ordination of a particular man. It could be any sign, but in the western world it’s applause. If I turn around on my ordination day to a cathedral full of silence, I’ll be extremely nervous.

  37. PMcGrath says:

    Apart from the whole issue of applause, which is a side issue — let’s get to the meat of the matter. These statements from Bp. Serratelli have been very good, so far. Enlightening, even. My question is this: Is His Excellency going to follow up this with positive legislation to crack down on liturgical abuse, along the lines of “An Act To Suppress Such Music Unworthy of the Divine Liturgy,” which would contain a Schedule consisting of the Haugen/Haas/SLJ catalogs? When that happens, now we’re getting somewhere.

  38. tl says:

    To Stephen:

    That seems to be a pretty vague (with respect to the state of the Church) and unfair criticism of the Papacy. Outsiders assume the Pope merely says “Jump!” and every Catholic says “How high?”. I don’t think it is the case that the case that a single man–Pope or no Pope–“set the state all [of us] are reacting against.

  39. Boko Fittleworth says:

    Stephen,

    Yeah, papal primacy is rough. Some great ones, but lots of mediocre ones and some real terrible ones, too. And even holy ones don’t always have the strength to stand up to the evils of the times. I probably wouldn’t have set the Church up this way.

    But I trust in the One Who did order His Church as He saw fit. I certainly don’t glory in His Church’s sufferings from outside. Take your utilitarian arguments against papal primacy up with our Lord. This Catholic is sick of of them.

  40. Ben D. says:

    Stephen, I think your question could easily be rephrased, “what then . . . is the value of the episcopate if it can work against you as much as for you?” Or much more generally, “what then . . . is the value of authority figures if they can work against you as much as for you?” What, specifically, does the papacy have to do with it?

  41. Kim Poletto says:

    If the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is truely a re-presentation of the sacrifice on Calvary, can one EVER think that applause is appropriate at ANYTIME? Holy Mother the Church teaches us that Mary should be our model in regrads to our relationship with Her Son and God the Father. Imagine if you will, what Mary would have done if the beloved disciple, turned to the crowd on Calvary and said,”Let’s have a round of applause for Mary . . . what a gal.” Mary would have walked over to one of the Roman soldiers, borrowed a cross beam and smacked John upside the head for even thinking about distracting attention from her Son or His Sacrifice. God has given us gifts that we should use to honor Him. Thanks should go to God during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass not to anyone else. That is what the Church bulletin is for.

  42. Seb says:

    I think Stephen is alluding to the fact that the reform of the post-Tridentine liturgy in the Roman Church was led by papal initiatives. Breviary reform was considered by a whole series of popes, including Benedict XIV and Pius IX, before being acted on by Pius X with his radical re-arrangement of the Roman psalterium.

    It was Pius XII who appointed members to a Commission for General Liturgical Restoration in 1948 (with the much maligned Annibale Bugnini as its Secretary) and allowed this Commission to effect reforms in 1955 and 1960. Those interested in this period should read H.A. Reinhold’s “Bringing the Mass to the People”, Helicon, 1960 that is quite an eye-opener on the reform process. Paul VI then approved the changes of 1964 and 1967 before the first editon of the ‘NO’ missal in 1970.

    I understand Stephen’s point as saying what it the point of one pope moving the liturgy in one direction when another reverses that direction. Rather like the saga of the supression of the Jesuits…

    Unfortunately liturgy and authority seem not to go well together in any Christian Church. One has only to think of the Nikonian reforms in seventeeth century Russia and their effect (still felt today) to see that.

  43. RBrown says:

    Not to be flip, but the Orthodox church never lost sight of these elements which it seems the west is only now recovering. And, though it may be a Pope who is helping you with tradition, it was a previous Pope that set the state for all you are reacting against. So what then, truly in all honestly, is the value of the Papacy if it can work against you as much as for you?
    Comment by Stephen

    I agree that the Orthodox never lost sight of true liturgy, but that’s all the Orthodox have. They have never done much in education or missionary work.

    And of course, there is the little matter of the relationship of the Russian Orthodox bishops with the KGB. It is true that Paul VI made a big mess, but it was nothing compared to the Orthodox-KGB “friendship”.

  44. RBrown says:

    It was Pius XII who appointed members to a Commission for General Liturgical Restoration in 1948 (with the much maligned Annibale Bugnini as its Secretary) and allowed this Commission to effect reforms in 1955 and 1960. Those interested in this period should read H.A. Reinhold’s “Bringing the Mass to the People”, Helicon, 1960 that is quite an eye-opener on the reform process. Paul VI then approved the changes of 1964 and 1967 before the first editon of the ‘NO’ missal in 1970.

    If you’re trying to associate Pius XII with the present liturgical mess, then you’re wrong. It is true that there were liturgical changes made under PXII, but none were considered a Protestantization of the Eucharistic liturgy.

    It is also true that there was a movement among certain intellectuals toward a Eucharistic liturgy that masqueraded under the name of Ecumenism but was little else than an accommodation of the Progressivist Community of Man Ideology that had begun to flourish after WWI.

    If the intention was to bring the mass to the people, then, as I said before, they were utter failures. By any reality measure of pastoral success, the novus ordo (including the vernacular) has been a flop.

  45. Stephen says:

    Of course problems exist in any organization, but the fact remains that Catholic dogma sets a higher standard for the Papacy than the Orthodox do for their bishops, so you should not be upset if greater scrutiny is attached to the exercise of Papal authority. As Fr. Z can tell you, skepticism was once a valued approach in the West. So, leaving aside the issue of the true nature and extent of the Petrine office, what is the impact on the western Church of the Papacy has it has developed in the West? Concentration of power in any organization leads to big swings, movement from one extreme to the other at a much greater pace and scale than diffusion of power and decentralization. And is not this what has occured in the west, taking Pius IX as one extreme, and Paul VI as the other? Or the Mass of Pius V and the Mass of Paul VI?

  46. Jordan Potter says:

    Concentration of power in any organization leads to big swings, movement from one extreme to the other at a much greater pace and scale than diffusion of power and decentralization.

    The Popes in past centuries had and exercised greater power and influence than the modern Popes, and yet we didn’t have any big swings from one extreme to the other in the liturgy back then, only in the 20th century. That would suggest that the divinely-instituted Petrine authority isn’t the cause of the Latin Church’s liturgical problems.

  47. Jordan Potter says:

    A further thought: while it is true that “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” it’s also true that when power is diffused and limited, it makes it difficult and sometimes impossible to fix major problems. So there are advantages and disadvantages in the diffusion of power and decentralization, just as there are advantages and disadvantages in the centralization of power.

    If you are trying to argue that the abortive liturgical reform of Pope Paul VI is an argument against the doctrine of the Petrine Office, then I would say that you have failed to make your case.

  48. Stephen says:

    I would be interested in learning what evidence exists to support the claim that pre-modern Popes were less powerful than modern ones, especially in view of Vatican I and, perhaps less known but maybe even more importantly, the Code of Canon Law of 1918, which really reduced, if not eliminated, mediating influences between Rome and local ordinaries. These represent high-water marks of Papal power; of course, it probably never occured to the architects of these events, such as the future Pius XII, that this power could some day fall into the hands of the likes of Bugnini, turning the power of the Papacy against tradition via the reforms authorized by Pope Paul VI.

  49. Stephen says:

    Sorry, I meant to say “to support the claim that pre-modern Popes were MORE powerful”, as the evidence I submit clearly supports the proposition that modern Popes are more powerful.

  50. RBrown says:

    Of course problems exist in any organization, but the fact remains that Catholic dogma sets a higher standard for the Papacy than the Orthodox do for their bishops, so you should not be upset if greater scrutiny is attached to the exercise of Papal authority. As Fr. Z can tell you, skepticism was once a valued approach in the West.

    Why would Fr Z have to tell me?

    And what are examples of this valued skepticism that once existed in the West?

    So, leaving aside the issue of the true nature and extent of the Petrine office, what is the impact on the western Church of the Papacy has it has developed in the West? Concentration of power in any organization leads to big swings, movement from one extreme to the other at a much greater pace and scale than diffusion of power and decentralization. And is not this what has occured in the west, taking Pius IX as one extreme, and Paul VI as the other? Or the Mass of Pius V and the Mass of Paul VI?

    1. There is no mass of Pius V. There is a Missal of Pius V, which imposed the historical Roman Rite on all Latin churches.

    2. It is true that there is a mass of Paul VI, and in that sense you’re incorrect in saying that he decentralized the Church (some of which I agree with). On the other hand, this all but total decentralization undermined his own authority. So he ordered Catholics in obedience to disobey him.

    Among popes Paul VI is an historical anomaly. Usually, bad popes have been the debauched and have ignored ecclesial matters. But Paul VI didn’t ignore them, instead changing life in the Church so that it was not oriented toward sanctity but rather toward international diplomacy.

  51. Jordan Potter says:

    I would be interested in learning what evidence exists to support the claim that pre-modern Popes were less powerful than modern ones

    I didn’t say they were less powerful. I said the opposite — the pre-modern Popes were more powerful and influential than modern Popes. Case in point: when was the last time a Pope successfully brought a European ruler to heel, or successfully appointed one or deposed one, and the Popes did many times during the Middle Ages. I can’t conceive of any modern European ruler walking in the snows of Canossa. And if, God forbid, we were to see a modern-day version of the Great Schism of the West, with two or three or four rival Popes, do you think European politics and culture would be shredded into rival papal obediences the way they were back then? By no means could that happen, for the modern papacy lacks the great authority and influence it once had.

    So, despite the fact that medieval Catholicism saw the Pope as supreme in all matters, both temporal and spiritual, we didn’t see any papally-indiced liturgical revolutions until recent times. It seems, then, that your thesis is lacking somewhat: supreme Petrine authority doesn’t necessarily result in the problems we’re having today.

  52. Stephen says:

    Forgive me for not being clear. I am in fact saying that the thrust of the development of the papacy for much of the last several hundred years has been the centralization of Church power – not secular power- into the Papacy. I am also saying that, for anyone predisposed to tradition, the use of this power has up till John XXIII, was in the main used to conserve much that needed to conserving; however, under Paul VI, this power was re-directed against tradition, primarily by undermining the liturgy.

    The power of the Papacy is great; Catholics ask Orthodox continuously to come to terms with it. We approach it seriously. I offer a reasonable hypothesis to explain the Papacy’s impact on the West, which is a reasonable way to understand how the Papacy might impact the east. I believe many Catholics, especially on the blog, have serious reservations about the Mass of Paul VI and the liturgical fallout of Vatican II.

    Do you seriously propose that no connection exists whatsoever between the use of the Petrine Office and the impact of these changes, many of which were authorized by a Pope, and carried on by succeeding Popes??