How would H.L. Mencken have described Francis’ “Traditionis custodes”?

Card. Müller has a new book out now, in which he talks about, inter alia, the Francis Regime.  If that isn’t a spur to check it out….

However, my main point in this post is to relate what I saw at The Catholic Thing by Casey Chalk.  Incipit:

Liturgy and Imbecility

The Latin Church,” wrote the prolific satirist H.L. Mencken, “which I constantly find myself admiring, despite its frequent astounding imbecilities, has always kept clearly before it the fact that religion is not a syllogism, but a poem.” Given that Mencken was a religious skeptic who wrote columns lambasting fundamentalists at the 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial,” we should consider his remarks on Catholicism a sort of compliment. . . even if the Church is guilty of “imbecilities.”

I wonder what words Mencken would use to describe the recent document from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Responsa ad dubia (“Responses to doubts”), on certain provisions of Pope Francis’ July 2021 Motu Proprio, Traditionis Custodes, regarding the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), which further limits its practice.

Actually, based on what Mencken said about the liturgy, I think I can guess. In that same 1923 essay, he wrote:

“A solemn high mass must be a thousand times as impressive, to a man with any genuine religious sense in him, as the most powerful sermon ever roared under the big-top by a Presbyterian auctioneer of God. In the face of such overwhelming beauty it is not necessary to belabor the faithful with logic; they are better convinced by letting them alone.”

Mencken warned the Catholic Church in the United States to stop “spoiling poetry and spouting ideas,” lest they suffer the same fate as the brands of Protestantism he found so risible. As someone with a graduate degree in Catholic theology, I take issue, of course, with Mencken’s description of Christianity as illogical and only of aesthetic value.

I thought about Mencken’s opinions on the TLM when reading Gerhard Cardinal Mueller’s recently translated book, The Pope: His Mission and His Task.


You can read the rest there.


The Pope: His Mission and His Task


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Francis, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, One Man & One Woman, Pò sì jiù, Save The Liturgy - Save The World, The Drill, Traditionis custodes and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


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  3. Geoffrey says:

    Gosh, I remember back (in the good old days?!) when some were up in arms when Benedict XVI appointed Cardinal Müller as prefect of the CDF. How times have changed!

  4. TonyO says:

    I think Müller got a bit of a bad rep when he was prefect under Francis, because he made a huge effort to square the circle (i.e. to unwind seeming errors in Francis’s statements, and to state the truth WITHOUT directly contradicting Francis.) My sense is that Francis didn’t appreciate it much, i.e. didn’t much appreciate having his CDF prefect trying to pull his worms out of the apple, by (effectively) unwinding what Francis was actually trying to say. Which is what got Müller canned, with pretty near as dismissive a put-down as you get in the Vatican.

    I also guess that maybe Müller’s attitude now is something of a backlash: if Francis had shown a little appreciation for Müller’s attempt to hold two opposed sides together, maybe Müller would not feel quite as ready to criticize openly. And in the end, Müller does see (much) of the damage being done to the Church, though (like virtually all right-ish bishops now in the Church) he is unwilling to lay some of the blame where it belongs at the feet of Paul, JPII, and Benedict for not restraining some of the evils when they had the chance. (Of course, the left wing of the episcopy doesn’t think there IS any blame like that – they blame those popes for holding back the changes.)

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