Fighting amongst those who should be closing ranks

I have a strong sense that the Enemy is extremely active right now, attacking with great viciousness.  Several friends of mine are under attack in parishes.  I have had some nasty flack.  It is centered on the use of the older form of Mass.   The "anatomy" of the attacks are similar.

I read this from Damian Thompson‘s place.   It distresses me.  It saddens me.  I have great respect for those mentioned.

This is not the time to have a fight.

In just I preface this by saying that there must be other sides to the matter

That Latin Mass Society of England and Wales is in turmoil following the decision to cancel its annual training session in the Traditional Latin Mass at Merton College, Oxford. Dr Alcuin Reid and Dr Laurence Hemming, the organisers of last year’s outstandingly successful event, have been dropped, a source tells me – and Fr Andrew Wadsworth, Catholic Chaplain of Harrow School, is reported to have resigned as director of tuition.

As far as I can work out, some sort of class warfare has broken out in the LMS, between old-style members who consider the Merton event "elitist" and a new generation who are expert in staging High Masses (and tend to be scholars into the bargain). Let me quote from a very untidily written email sent by David Lloyd, former LMS chairman and one of the anti-Merton dissenters, to other committee members:

Our Society is constituted to provide the Mass to as many catholics as possible from all walks of life in churches and chapels the length and breadth of England and Wales, the majority of those who attend these Masses would not have understood anything of the splendour of Merton. It is wrong therefore for the favoured few to be able to indulge in the obvious luxury of the liturgy provided. Many people (laity) have worked for the LMS for many years for no more than their expenses and a good number of them have not claimed for anything at all. Look then at the tuition fees and the expenses paid from the figures provided for 29 first time and 15 second time delegates from England and Wales. The clergy were in awe at the generosity of the Society they must have been laughing all the way back to their presbyteries at the size of the party bags distributed as gifts. The whole concept of Merton (an Anglican institution) is privileged, the cost of Merton is obscene, continually asking our membership to subsidise elitist events is wrong. The direction the Society is taking is a cause for concern, high profile and elitism are the flavours of the day, committee must resist this, it must resist any thought of returning to Merton any proposal to do so must be overturned.

"Obscene," eh? "Luxury"? You’d think we were listening to a chippy Portsmouth Sandalista. The"whole concept" of Merton is privileged, we learn, and it’s an Anglican institution. But Merton chapel wasn’t built by Protestants: it was built by Catholics, and the traditional Masses I’ve seen celebrated there were especially moving because these were the ceremonies for which the chapel was constructed. Also, Fr Wadsworth’s tuition was magnificent: authoritative and prayerful.

I feel sorry for Julian Chadwick, the splendid chairman of the LMS, who had already announced that the next Merton conference would take place from August 24 to August 28 next year. Now, apparently, it won’t – not least because, now that Drs Reid and Hemming are out of the picture, Merton is no longer happy to host the event. (Incidentally, I gather that the Oxford MCs were not responsible for the ceremonial at Cardinal Castrillon’s Mass at Westminster, which may explain why there was so much faffing around in the sanctuary.)

What a mess. The Tablet will be thrilled. Well done, everyone.

I will keep the combox closed.   You can send me e-mail on the matter and I will consider it.

Isn’t this infighting all so … imprudent?

For years now I have just locked in the grip of frustration. So many individuals and groups on what I, and many of you readers, know to be the correct side of things get mired in defending their own little bits of turf. 

This division means that they are not able to form a large enough unified force for change.

On the other time, those on the other side for decades have acted as agents of discontinuity, agents of the Devil in my opinion.

This other sort of discontinuity, this division we experience between friends who are purportedly on the side of the Holy Father’s vision of continuity and reform serves a diabolical aim.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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One Comment

  1. I received this from a reader. My emphases and comments:

    1340hrs GMT, 13 xii. a.D. 2008, St. Lucy

    Reverend Father Zuhlsdorf:

    Please consider opening the comment box. [I don’t think so.]

    I cannot comment on the actual issue in the UK. I do think that there is a deeper issue involved that friends of the MEF should discuss. The issue of polarity between the “elitist” aesthetics and the “popular” pietists is actually a quadrangular issue: the aesthetic, the rational-erudite, the emotional, and the pietist. [Interesting]

    1. One can be too aesthetic, however important the beautiful is. The example is Anglicanism: beautiful liturgy in High Church Anglicanism, but at the expense of dogmatic and moral theology and the loss of a Magisterium. Exhibit A: Bishop Robinson.

    2. One can be too rational. This example is Liberal Protestantism of the 19th C German school, and its Catholic camp followers among the Modernists. Thus liturgy becomes didactic; Sunday School becomes more important than church (my Methodist experience [I’m now Catholic]); people flock to hear the great Liberal preachers as “men of learning”, often with “Dr.” replacing “Rev.” as the title; saints are thrown out of the calendar because they are putatively “legendary”, etc. The danger here is that the faith becomes the personal discovery of the great preacher, not instead a tradition. This error also ignores that people not only have brains, but also eyes, ears, noses, taste buds, and touch.

    3. One can be too emotional. The example is the Evangelical-Pentecostal-Dispensationalist church. For these people, the need is to feel their faith, which usually means a sensation in the central nervous system, and unless the feel it, it isn’t real to them. Often this emotionalism is reduced to sentimental sugary kitsch, so omnipresent in the Santaclaustide season. The result among Catholics: the clap-happy liturgy. The problem is that a very accurate imitation of religious emotion can come from sources that are not “washed in the blood of the Lamb”. And a sentimental religion is a mere Christmas religion, devoid of Good Friday, and even the victorious joy of Easter. I know a number of Evangelicals who opposed Gibson’s film, not only because they said there ought be no pictures, only preaching, but also, I suspect, because the sight of someone scourged doesn’t give “warm fuzzies” but “cold pricklies”.

    4. And one can be too pietist. Here folks flock to church to see the clergyman as a great man of faith. The problem here is that the clergyman becomes a showpiece. But the clergyman is in fact also a sinner, and in need of hearing the word of God and obedient to the Magisterium. He ought be frank when something is a hard saying, hard even for him. “I find this hard also, yet this is what Our Lord is telling us.: If we mean instead the tradition of Rudolf Otto, das Heilige also needs the rational, the aesthetic, and a bit of the emotional.

    In short, the Golden Mean proves its wisdom.

    Regards and thanks for all that you do.

    [Very interesting.]

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