I have in the past mentioned the comment made by Card. Heenan when he experienced the Novus Ordo for the first time. The comment leads a longish piece posted at Rorate (which no longer links to this blog, btw) by Fr. Richard Cipolla in Norwalk, Connecticut (whom I have met). He peels back, onion-like, layers of the Novus Ordo to expose problems with its core. The whole thing is worth your time, but is too long to represent here, alas. Some highlights.
The correspondence between Cardinal Heenan of Westminster and Evelyn Waugh before the promulgation of the Novus Ordo Mass is well known, in which Waugh issues a crie de coeur about the post-Conciliar liturgy and finds a sympathetic, if ineffectual, ear in the Cardinal. What is not as well known is Cardinal Heenan’s comment to the Synod of Bishops in Rome after the experimental Mass, Missa Normativa, was presented for the first time in 1967 to a select number of bishops. This essay was inspired by the following words of Cardinal Heenan to the assembled bishops:
At home, it is not only women and children but also fathers of families and young men who come regularly to Mass. If we were to offer them the kind of ceremony we saw yesterday we would soon be left with a congregation of women and children.
What the Cardinal was referring to lies at the very heart of the Novus Ordo form of the Roman Mass and the attendant and deep problems that have afflicted the Church since the imposition of the Novus Ordo form on the Church in 1970. One might be tempted to crystallize what Cardinal Heenan experienced as the feminization of the Liturgy. But this term would be inadequate and ultimately misleading. For there is a real Marian aspect of the Liturgy that is therefore feminine. The Liturgy bears the Word of God, the Liturgy brings forth the Body of the Word to be worshipped and given as Food. A better terminology might be that in the Novus Ordo rite of Mass the Liturgy has been effeminized. There is a famous passage in Caesar’s De bello Gallico where he explains why the Belgae tribe were such good soldiers. He attributes this to their lack of contact with the centers of culture like the cities. Caesar believed that such contact contributes ad effeminandos animos, to the effeminizing of their spirits. But when one talks about the effeminization of the Liturgy one risks being misunderstood as devaluing what it means to be a woman, womanhood itself. Without adopting Caesar’s rather macho view of the effects of culture on soldiers, one certainly can speak of a devirilization of the soldier that saps his strength and resolve to do what a soldier has to do. It is not a put-down of the feminine. It rather describes the weakening of what it means to be a man.
This is the term, devirilization, that I want to use to describe what Cardinal Heenan saw that day in 1967 at the first celebration of the experimental Mass.
This role of the vir of faith is radically different from the priest who believes his job is not to lead the people to the altar of Sacrifice but rather to dialogue with them and to make them “understand what is going on”. Then the Eucharistic Prayer with its altogether brief dialogue between priest and people becomes another extension of the priest’s dialogue-banter. Here there is no walking up the mountain together; [Like Abraham taking Isaac up the mountain: priest and victim.] there is no turning to the Lord together; instead there is the terrible and stultifying stasis of the condescending and overbearing mother trying to connect with her child and in the process destroying the child’s freedom to walk up to the mountain of God.
Before turning to the important question of the continuity of the Novus Ordo rite with the traditional Roman rite from the viewpoint of the devirilization of the liturgy, I want to offer comments on two practical results of the devirilization of the liturgy and of the priest. The first is this: the music that the Novus Ordo has produced, both for Mass settings and songs to be sung at the liturgy, is at best functional, at worst sentimental junk that makes the old Protestant evangelical hymns sound like Bach chorales. When Mass is reduced to a self-referential assembly, then music becomes merely functional at best, at worst something to rouse the feelings of the people. This functionalism is a mark of the chilling, outdated and anti-liturgical stance of the liturgical establishment that still controls much of the liturgical life of the Church in the Roman dicasteries, in seminaries, in dioceses and therefore in parishes.
The devirilized priest confuses detachment with arrogance or superiority or coldness or clericalism. Ironically quite the opposite is true. The post-Conciliar period has seen the rise of a clericalism that masks itself by claiming that the priest merely “presides” over the assembly but who in fact presides over everything. The priest must never be a presider, for this is like being a fussy wedding planner. [Do I hear an "Amen!"?] To love his people the priest must have this sense of detachment from them, lest he become another collectible Ken doll in a collar.
Heh… heh… that’ll win him some new friends!
I am glad he brought up “clericalism”. I have in my reading lately noticed an uptick of the use of the term and I am left with a sense that it is being misused. We priests need to build strong bonds and have our own healthy sub-culture. Yes, there is a negative “clericalism”, but there is a positive as well. I also will repeat what I have written so many times on this blog regarding a dreadful sort of clericalism, often seen in the context of the Novus Ordo. A false notion of “active participation” drives many priests to devalue the dignity of lay people. Priests – usually well-intentioned - wound the dignity of the laity when, in their largess, they grant to lay people permission to do something clerics should be doing. The dumbing down of the priest’s role to that of a mere presider is the flip side of the same coin.
Some of Cipolla’s points are a bit over-played, but I’ll give them a pass. In the balance, he makes a good argument.