Several recent stories have once again highlighted just how much disdain for tradition, and specifically the Latin Mass, still remains in the Church. Sadly, as many faithful simply seek a more reverent manner in which to worship God in the Holy Mass, they repeatedly encounter clergy who dismiss out of hand the Church’s liturgical patrimony. At the parish level, and despite the papacy of Benedict and the occasional tradition friendly bishop, many Catholics are still subjected to the misconceptions and prejudices held by their priests.
In his recent article “As Latin Mass gains popularity, some in North Jersey reluctant to ‘turn back’”, writer Bill Ervolino noted the resurgance of the Latin Mass in areas such as Pequannock, Jersey City and Newark. That many of the faithful of North Jersey “get” the traditional Mass is thankfully obvious from the article:
Patrick O’Boyle, 40, a lawyer from North Arlington, first became acquainted with the Mass in the early 1990s, when he attended a Latin service at Our Lady of Fatima in Pequannock.
“It was a wow experience for me,” O’Boyle said, “a beautiful celebration that more fully represents the sacrifice of Calvary. I love modern music and architecture. Art is always evolving because it has to. But this Mass is not about old or new. This Mass is timeless.”
At the same time, however, we are presented with a significantly different point of view in the article from a pastor in the Diocese of Paterson, NJ:
The Rev. David Pickens, 55, of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Haskell refers to renewed interest in the Latin Mass as “a kind of ‘Happy Days’ syndrome — a younger generation getting nostalgic for this. I do think it’s a beautiful liturgy, but the problem I have is that the priest faces the altar. There is a role for women in the modern Mass and in many ways, it’s just more flexible. I think a lot of people prefer that.
Pickens doubts he will ever celebrate a Latin Mass for at least one very good reason: “I was ordained in 2009,” he said, “and I don’t speak Latin.
Fr. Pickens reference to his ordination in 2009 is puzzling to say the least. As Pope Benedict issued Summorum Pontificum in 2007, it would seem that the recently ordained would be the most likely candidates for offering the Latin Mass (what the Church now calls the Extraordinary Form of the Mass). Indeed, this is exactly what we are seeing amongst an increasing number of younger priests.
In many ways the views expressed by Fr. Pickens echo those of Fr. James Heft, S.M. of Holy Family Catholic Church in South Pasadena. At 1:25 of the below clip, Fr. Heft gives the faithful in the pews his impression of the Mass of his youth. In one fell swoop he denigrates both the use of Latin in the Mass and the offering of the Holy Sacrifice ad orientem.
While I applaud Fr. Heft for preaching about purgatory on All Souls Day (a subject sadly missing from many homilies today), he further demonstrates contempt for tradition from the 6:00-7:00 minute mark of the clip. In just under one minute Father manages to praise Martin Luther while dismissing those saints and blesseds of Holy Mother Church (such as St. Catherine of Genoa) who have shared their visions and knowledge of purgatory with the faithful.
Sadly, the faithful are deprived of the depth and beauty of Catholicism when a priest chooses rupture over continuity. The overt hostility towards all things pre-conciliar amongst the clergy should not be tolerated by brother priests, bishops or the faithful. This manner of self-loathing Catholicism must be relegated to the past, left behind with that generation of clergy and laity who sought to destroy what had been entrusted to them.
Finally, there is yet another troubling story from the Archdiocese of San Francisco, where the embattled Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone continues to courageously defend orthodoxy where it was long neglected. As reported by the California Catholic Daily:
During what one participant described as an “explosive” meeting, the San Francisco archdiocese’s Council of Priests in mid-February addressed Star of the Sea pastor Fr. Joseph Illo’s decision to phase out altar girls as well as the designation of the parish as an oratory-in-formation.
A copy of the meeting minutes was obtained by the National Catholic Reporter from an anonymous priest. Of the many troubling comments made during the meeting one stands out: the words attributed to Auxiliary Bishop Robert McElroy. As noted in the Cal-Catholic piece:
Toward the end of the meeting, then-Auxiliary Bishop Robert McElroy suggested that San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone issue a directive stating disagreement with Illo’s exclusion of altar girls, the minutes report.
McElroy, whose appointment as bishop of San Diego was announced March 3, “distinguished between personnel issue and the policy issue,” the minutes say, explaining that personnel issues belong to the archbishop.
However, the minutes continue, McElroy said “excluding girls from being altar servers is ‘invidious discrimination’ and to do this in this day and age in our culture has no justification.”
For those who most disdain tradition ultimately see it as a threat. Destroying the past means exactly that to the revolutionaries. Summorum Pontificum spoke the language of mutual enrichment of the two forms of the Roman Rite. It was a truce in the liturgical wars. For those who reject continuity (the ones who rejected Benedict and the raison d’être of his papacy), it is rupture and rupture alone they seek.
In the end it is a comment by Fr. Cyril O’Sullivan during that February meeting which best serves to illustrate what this is truly all about:
Dominican Fr. Michael Hurley, pastor of St. Francisco’s St. Dominic Parish, questioned if any council members had visited with (Fr.) Illo about the recent issues. The minutes indicate no responses. Hurley criticized “casting aspersions and making wide sweeping generalizations and recommendations prior to actually speaking with him.”
Responding to Hurley, pastor of St. Cecilia in Lagunitas, Calif., Fr. Cyril O’Sullivan argued that “the onus should have been on Fr. Illo to first talk to his brother priests, especially being new in this archdiocese,” the minutes state. O’Sullivan said Illo should be taught about “where we are in our Church today; if he wants to be pre-Vatican II he needs to be told, ‘We’re not Vatican I, we are Vatican II.’ ”
Brian Williams is a convert who entered the Catholic Church in 2006. He is a graduate of Long Beach State University with a BA in History. Brian blogs on life, liturgy and the pursuit of holiness at liturgyguy.com. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with his wife and five children.