From a reader… and please note that when I get emails with strings of questions I usually delete them instantly. Answering this is an exception to the rule, which I indicate clearly on the ASK FATHER form. If ya’ll want me to read your email, do me the kindness of reading what I wrote.
We’ve heard plenty, and readers agree, about the superiority of the extraordinary form. We also agree that the novus ordo can be done well, but that it far too often isn’t. We also know, as all recent evidence proves, of the extraordinary form’s blessings.
 So why is the extraordinary form so disliked by some bishops and clergy?
 What are the best arguments they have in the favor of the novus ordo?
 What reasons do they use to cling to it, given its by now obvious flaws? Was there ever a clown or giant puppet mass before Vatican 2?
That reasons many priests give on keeping an obviously flawed mass can only be described as Jesuitical. But this is a mere layperson’s view.
- Among the reasons why bishops and priests might hate the older form of the Roman Rite is because they fear it. People tend to fear what they don’t know. Many priests and bishops today are young enough not to have grown up with the Traditional Latin Mass. Also, the TLM is in Latin. They maybe ignorant of Latin, which means that they do not know the language of their Rite, their Church. That means that they are self-conscious. They don’t want to be revealed as being ignorant of Latin. Another reason is that they perceive the use of the older Mass as being a repudiation of everything they were told about Vatican II, etc. And if they are older – and this pertains to priests in these USA, at least – and they grew up in the halcyon days of protests and Vatican II, their own identity is fused with the mythic, iconic “spirit” of those times. When they see something like a biretta or hear the suggest that Latin be used, or Gregorian chant, a switch flicks in their heads and they go into an anti-authority, anti-traditional mode. Also, if they know something about the older form of Mass, they might realize that they can’t be the center of attention, as they can be in the Novus Ordo. By now so many priests are conditioned to have to be the focus of attention, the driving energy of the “liturgy”, the main event, the ring master, the host of the party. This may not even be conscious, at this point. Lastly, the older form constantly reminds the priest that he is a redeemed sinner and that he, too, must be not just a priest, but a priest who is also victim. More could be written. This is sufficient.
- Christ shares His priesthood with us, lay and ordained. He does this in qualitatively different ways for lay and ordained. Nevertheless, all the baptized and baptized, ordained priests are able to offer sacrifice pleasing to God and to participate with actuosa participatio in the Church’s sacred liturgical worship. Christ is the only High Priest: He speaks, sings, acts in each one of us according to who we are, lay or ordained. St. Augustine, in explaining the difference “voices” in the psalms, says that ever word of the psalms is Christ speaking: Christ the Head, Christ the Body, Head and Body together – Christus totus. We see this in sound Church architecture: there is a sanctuary for the Head, a nave for the Body and the mysterious place of joining which is the Communion rail. During the Church’s various liturgical rites, sometimes the priest (Head) speaks or sings, sometimes the congregation (Body), sometimes both together (Christus Totus). In some ways, the Novus Ordo reflects this three-fold dynamic more often than the older form, according to which there are fewer moments when the Body on its own speaks or sings, or when they do so at the same time as the priests. They are there, but there are fewer. Otherwise, another explanation is one which a lot of people really resent: in this day when so much of our catechesis has been non-existent, poor, or ridiculous, and so many people have little or no idea of the transcendent in worship, sound and traditional use of the Novus Ordo could help them to “grow up” liturgically. Sometimes I – with a touch of whimsy to make the point drive home – will say that when humans are young, they need more or less shapeless goo to eat, stuff out of jars, because they can’t yet handle the steak and Cabernet. Eventually they are given more complicated foods of different textures. They need that kind of food in order to thrive! However, once they grow up more, they need something else. Grown ups, on the other hand, can continue to survive on the goo, but they won’t thrive on the goo. So, now that we are in the state we are in, the Novus Ordo could be, when celebrated well and reverently and with a strong strain of Roman style and tradition – which is exactly what the Council Fathers wanted – a great propaeduetic for something richer and more nourishing, satisfying yet. I could say more but that’s enough.
- Oh yes, there have been priests and bishops who were clowns since our Lord ascended. That’s a constant. And, in way, it can be comforting to recognize how fallible and feeble we can be. This is Christ’s Church and His Church depends on Him, not on us.