Our friends at Rorate have an interesting piece, which you should read in toto over there.
Here are some salient points.
Can one be a diocesan priest and
celebrate the traditional Mass exclusively?
A true motivational example
[We [Rorate] consider this to be one of our most relevant and inspiring posts ever.]
Soon after the publication of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, three priests of the Diocese of Novara (Piedmont, Italy) tried to celebrate the Traditional Mass exclusively (we reported on these developments here and here). [I, also. One of the posts is here.]
In an interview released a few days ago, Father Alberto Secci tells his story, and presents us with the wonderful account of his life after Summorum. Yes, there is a life for diocesan priests celebrating the Sacraments according to the ancient use exclusively. And it can be beautiful, and powerful, and glorious, despite the normal difficulties of life.
“Can you imagine what would happen if all diocesan priests chose to do this?” This is the kind of weak argument one would expect to hear – it is not one that holds water, not with us, being on the same level as, “There should not be monks, for mankind would cease to exist if all men became exemplary monks”: yes it would, but no they wouldn’t… What we hope to provide by this example is that there can be comfort and consolation for that extremely small number of priests who choose to make use of their right of celebrating in the “Extraordinary Form” in a radical way. And why should that choice shock us? Almost all choose to celebrate the “Ordinary Form” in a radical and exclusive way, and they are not villified for this. [True.] There is tribulation in these priests’s radical choice, [Very true.] and that is fine: the priests who choose this path must be completely aware that they will be removed, moved, transferred, demoted, despised, mocked and ridiculed, made an example; they will have to give up favors, ecclesiastical careers, sabbatical years, special appointments; [Absolutely true... for now still true.] but, thanks to Summorum, they may face all this in perfect peace of conscience, with a Mass, that, in the words of a great cardinal, provides “greater spiritual fruit”. And, as for the tribulation, if you may modestly allow us to quote a great layman, “they therefore, I say, that are in tribulation, have on the other side a great cause to take in their grief great inward comfort and spiritual consolation.” (St. Thomas More, “A dialogue of comfort against tribulation”).
Summorum is the charter of manumission of traditional-minded priests; [Since day one I have been calling it the Emancipation Proclamation.] it is good that those who contemplate making the same radical choice of these Italian heroic priests know that they are not alone, that, when there is a will, there is a way. If at least one single diocesan priest is moved by this translation to at least consider the possibility of following this radical path, then all our work here in Rorate over all these years will have been worth every second. This is dedicated to you, dear diocesan priests: if they can do it, so can you.
[Interview granted by Don Alberto Secci to Marco Bongi]
[Source: Una Fides. Translation: contributor Francesca Romana.]
You can go over the Rorate and read more.
An intriguing, and provocative, post, nicht wahr?
It is also pretty easy for lay people to suggest this to diocesan priests. Lay people, in making these suggestions, have to be willing to stand there with those priests and give them cover and help bind their wounds when they are dealt with (as one can predict) by their bishops. No one in the Church is, these days, as vulnerable to attack from within and without as diocesan priests. Believe me.
BTW… I am adding this entry to my category “New Evangelization”.
But now allow me to rant for a while.
Some questions are raised by this post at Rorate.
I have long said that priests are not ordained “for a book”. They are ordained to serve God’s people. Priests have to be ready to give people what they need from sacrificial love for them, charity. This means looking to what is best for the people, even if it means sacrificing their own preferences.
On that basis, then, we have to think about the state of the Church today in our respective places. Older people haven’t had the older form of Mass for decades. Many haven’t a clue what it is. Some want it or are curious but don’t know it. Consider also the state of catechesis, the weakened role of priests in many parishes and dioceses, the corrosion of our Catholic identity which cannot be reversed by a single stroke, the problems that were caused 40 years ago by sudden changes.
At the same time, I maintain that no renewal of any of these aspects of Catholic life can take place without a revitalization of our liturgical worship. Furthermore, I think that Pope Benedict’s provisions in Summorum Pontificum are a key element in such a revitalization.
Back to preferences.
Long-time readers here will recall that I liken addressing these problems to the feeding of children and the feeding of adults. Think of the Letter to the Hebrews 5:11-12:
About this we have much to say which is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need some one to teach you again the first principles of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food.
In the Gospel of John the Lord says:
“I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”
The hard teaching of the Lord in John 6 notwithstanding, the Lord also said the above in John 16.
Shepherds, modeling their work after that the Savior who is our Chief Shepherd and High Priest, and His Vicar, must give the flock what they can bear and then change what they give as the capacity of the flock changes.
Parents do not give their toothless babes the T-Bone and Cabernet Sauvignon which they prefer for themselves. They give their children whatever goo they need until they can bear more.
Some will find this provocative, but those who think that the Extraordinary Form is more like the T-Bone and the Ordinary Form like the goo, perhaps should consider that we need a little patience in the way we approach the spiritual needs of the flock.
The new English translation will help the flock move from goo to food cut up into tiny pieces. After that, with changes to music, a shift in the ars celebrandi, etc., I – ever an optimist – think that many people will crave the T-Bone and clamor for it. Some won’t. There are always some who will stick to smoothies and tofu (which, by the way, increases estrogen).
I am using these stark images not to be inflammatory, but rather to hammer home the point that priests also have to consider the state of their flock and how fast they can move, personal preferences aside. From charity, it may be necessary for a priest who despises the Ordinary Form nevertheless to use it, with the view of what people can handle hic et nunc… here and now.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not like the liberals or dissenters who ran down and protested the production of a new translation into English of the Missale Romanum. They were for the most part condescending about the capacity of people understand the new language, etc. I think people can adjust well. At the same time, when our Catholic identity has been so eroded, enervated, compromised, is it smart for a priest to try to take people from zero to sixty in a few seconds? Put the whole big T-Bone down in front of the 5 year old?
There may be some communities ready for such a shift because they have had good pastors along the way, men who have tried to apply a “hermeneutic of continuity” in their pastoral and liturgical practice. But what about most communities?
As a matter of charity, priests have the obligation to protect themselves and their standing for the sake of the flock they hope to serve.
Many officers desire to be with their men when they are ordered into battle. Some can and must lead their men into the fire. But there are some officers who must keep themselves safe and alive so that they can direct the battle and help keep their troops alive while attaining their objective. It is irresponsible for officers directing their troops needlessly to expose themselves to harm. Getting killed or wounded in the midst of a fire-fight could result in the death of everyone else as well together with a disastrous failure of mission. Similarly, priests – who are in great shortage and will be in greater shortage – have an obligation to take care of themselves so that they can work as officers for the Church Militant. Since some officers are far better than others, those better officers, knowing what the stakes are, have an even greater responsibility not to get shot up by the enemy (read = chancery, diocesan curia).
Let’s face facts. These days there isn’t always a warm relationship between chanceries and priests in the field. And in some places there is still profound hostility, though the baggage of days is now passing, on the part of some men of a certain age who still hold positions of power. I can show you the scars.
I have great sympathy with the notion that a priest should be able to opt for the Extraordinary Form as his chief manner of saying Holy Mass, administering sacraments, blessing, etc. But there are some other factors which, depending on the circumstances (the history of the parish and the pasts and present priests, the present bishop and his underlings, etc.) may render the choice of the Extraordinary Form less than prudent… at least for a time. And there are the provisions and the words of the Holy Father himself about the Ordinary Form which must not be set aside if we are going to embrace his other words about the Extraordinary Form and its importance in his, as I call it, Marshall Plan.
I think you can tell by what I write in what direction priests should try to guide people.
Some may object along these lines: “But Father! But Father! Going back to your military battle analogy, if someone is badly wounded, you need swift, not gradual action. Sometimes you need to do something invasive, like open a chest or cut off a limb, and you need to do it right now! We are in such a bad state of things today that we need bold action, not gradual. Therefore, we should sweep aside the Novus Ordo and bring in the Extraordinary Form in order to save the dying soldiers of the Church Militant.”
Okay. That is an argument. However, I will go back to the analogy myself. Perhaps the bishop is the surgeon at the field hospital, which the parish priest is the corpsman on the line. While we praise corpsman and chaplains who will risk death to help the wounded, when they get killed there are many others who can no longer benefit from their critical work. Medics need to stabilize the wounded, while bishops do the big interventions. Not many corpsman can, in the field under fire, open a chest or amputate a limb.
Analogies can be multiplied, of course. We can do this all day in comment after comment below. The fact remains that Fr. X can do something dramatic in his place and Fr. Y has to move more slowly. In either case, Father has to weigh the good of the flock against his own preferences.
And doesn’t this apply to liberal, dissenting priests and bishops as well? If they realize that what they are doing is not in keeping with the Church’s teachings or the vision offered by Pope Benedict through gentle examples and the expansion of the rights of priests, then should they not – in charity – set aside their own liberal and dissenting preferences for the sake of the good of the flock and adjust their courses? The key is, I think, discerning what the good of the flock is and, in sacrificial love, work for that good.
Personally, I think that moving in the direction of implementation, at whatever pace possible, will be part of this, because of the critical need to revitalize our Catholic identity. We simply must reintegrate the traditions which work and reconnect with our forebears.
In any event, thus endeth the rant.
The Rorate post will provoke some interesting discussion. I hope what I posted can be seen as a positive contribution.