Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Power of Language

Authenticity and the Speech of Mordor

Fr. Robert Hart

I. Authenticity
In July of this year, Pope Benedict XVI issued the Apostolic Letter, Motu Proprio. The letter gives to all Roman Catholic priests direct permission to celebrate the latest edition of the Tridentine Mass (1962), namely, the traditional Latin Mass that was standard throughout the Roman Catholic Church for centuries. It is not required, but permitted. Reactions ranged from jubilant praise to expressions of sorrow. Bishop Luca Brandolini, called a “progressive bishop” by Inside the Vatican Magazine, mourned the decision: “I will obey the Pontiff, but it is a day of grief. The reform [of Vatican II] is canceled." His reaction does not take into account the fact that Pope Benedict has consistently rejected a picture of Vatican II as a dividing line that separates the flow of Catholic Tradition, teaching and practice.

Readers Of
The Ratzinger Report (a series of interviews with then Cardinal Ratzinger by Vittorio Messori published in book form in 1985) should recall that the current pope has always rejected as false the idea of a pre-conciliar and post-conciliar Church. He himself attended the Council as a priest and theologian alongside of Henri de Lubac and has always insisted that Vatican II is not the actual cause of modern liturgical and doctrinal confusion. It was, in his view, simply misunderstood- some might say, abused. In this light, the recent Apostolic Letter should come as no surprise. Furthermore, its implications address a pattern that is larger than the Roman Catholic Church, visible among other western liturgical churches, notably among various kinds of Anglicans, where a common perception of Rome’s lead was imitated, but to a degree far more radical and extreme.

During the 1960s and 70s, after Vatican II, Catholic Church leaders began to transform liturgy into something deemed relevant to the changing times. With the advent of the
Novus Ordo, Anglicans were moved to make changes as well, beginning with experimental services and then whole new versions of Holy Communion and the Daily Offices. When the Episcopal Church in the United States drew from these services to produce a new Prayer Book in 1979, traditional Episcopalians objected that it was not a new edition of the Book of Common Prayer, though bearing that title, but rather something new and different. Along with changes to the frequently used services, its Psalter is not a faithful translation of Hebrew (which I can judge for myself); neither are other parts faithful to Greek and Latin. And, the Confirmation Rite no longer contains the same meaning.

The opposite response of Bishop Brandolini, namely the sincerely grateful and joyful response to
Motu Proprio, fits another pattern as well. Pope Benedict, in separate letter about Motu Proprio answers the desire of many Catholics, old and young alike, to be allowed a return to the Tridentine Mass, and also mentions the separatist movement led by Archbishop Lefebvre that broke from Rome over the issue of fidelity to the old Missal. Here, too, is a pattern, for it brings to mind the Continuing Church movement in Anglicanism that broke away from the Episcopal Church in the U.S. and the Anglican Church in Canada in 1977 over such issues as women’s “ordination” and foreboding about the new Prayer Book of ‘79 (the Continuing movement has spread to other countries). The issues in the Anglican churches were more radical and severe than in Roman Catholicism, and the Continuing Church movement therefore truly necessary. However, in both cases, the same question arises. What is it that people of various ages, old and young alike, are seeking in older forms of worship? What do traditionalists have in common?

To say they are seeking orthodoxy is misleading, because it requires evidence that newer forms are inherently unorthodox, an argument that is, at best, difficult to make. The burden of proof lies on those who condemn the
Novus Ordo Mass, or the Rite II Holy Communion as “heterodox rites,” and I have seen no convincing argument for the charge. The answer is less extreme. What traditionalists are seeking is something authentic. New ideas and new forms may catch on, and endure; or, they may not. However, the Tridentine Mass, the Book of Common Prayer, and I will add, the Byzantine Liturgy, are among things known, tried and true. They are authentic. We can add that the Vulgate and the King James Bible, Gregorian Chants and Bach Cantatas, and a host of prayers, devotions and hymns, having stood the test of time as well, have an authenticity that gives them a superior place to all new and experimental forms.

Each of these authentic forms and usages was new once, and compared to ancient forms that were first in Aramaic (or very possibly older Hebrew, since Jews were comfortable with this as the language of scripture and of prayer), every liturgy has been through a process of reception by the people. For example, The Book of Common Prayer was met with violence in Cornwall when it was first introduced. But, in time authenticity is established due, in no small part, to orthodoxy of doctrine, a focus on the essentials, and uplifting sound combined with profound meaning that can be produced only by carefully chosen use of words.

By far, the most important element of liturgical and devotional authenticity is language, because language has power. To quote Pope Benedict’s letter that accompanies the actual Apostolic Letter:

"In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church's faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place."

However, the same cannot be said with certainty about experimental forms, especially since we must add translations of the Bible to liturgy, indeed as a necessary part of the liturgy. After all, these are things that go hand in hand; they cannot be separated. Therefore, we must think carefully about the power of language itself. This is the power to teach or to deceive.

II. The Speech of Mordor

To appreciate fully why people want to pray with authentic forms, we should consider how extreme the consequences may be when they cannot, which means looking at more problematic examples than we have considered until now. These include consequences of using language for scripture and prayer that misleads, distorts and confuses. And, it is this rather than simply a new approach, that is the true opposite of liturgical authenticity. Although I have said that traditional Christians are looking for authenticity, and to identify their quest as a desire for orthodoxy may be difficult to prove, it is not hard to prove when we turn to the harder case. The harder case is among some of the churches of the Anglican Communion, where the attempt to imitate post Vatican II Roman Catholicism, by putting a high premium on perceived relevance, developed into radical and consequential errors.

The Episcopal Church still uses the 1979 Prayer Book, and normally the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. This new Prayer Book replaced the tradition of English Prayer, a simplified Regula by which the Anglican faithful were called to live, with a book of public services. Most of these services were not revised editions of the Book of Common Prayer, with a powerful and majestic language rooted in the entire Christian Tradition, often translated from Latin, always drawn from the scriptures according to the understanding of the saints of past ages. Instead, some of the new services were contrived to be relevant in their use of modern idioms and words. And, the Psalter was mistranslated into socially acceptable and new usages of language. As Dr. Peter Toon pointed out, speaking near Baltimore Maryland in or around 1990, with the use of the mistranslated Psalms “there can be no revival; because this is not the word of the Lord.” He pointed out that the first error was in Psalm 1, where “the Man” was now “they who.” The Man, as the Fathers of the Church taught, was Jesus Christ. But, “the Man” was thrown out in favor of Gender Inclusive Language, and replaced with a plural, “they,” for an individual of either sex (popular, but grammatically wrong, and in this case theologically empty).

In the 1982 Hymnal of the Episcopal Church a modern hymn changes the Lord’s own promise from the sixth chapter of John: “I will raise him up on the last day.” Using a rule common to all classical language, the Lord’s promise is to the individual who truly believes and partakes of the food of eternal life. The “Gender Inclusive” version, “I will raise them up on the Last day” gives no promise to the individual about his own soul- or even about her own soul. It speaks of a collective, and just how many of “them” will be raised cannot be known. The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, is also riddled with mistranslation. For example, the Book of Malachi says “he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children.” But, the NRSV arbitrarily mistranslates the Hebrew word for “fathers” as “parents.” There is simply no justification for this. 1

Language of contrived relevance and very modern usage, cannot be used for the Bible and liturgy without violence to the meaning and spirit. This new language, if used for prayer and scripture, is futile at best, and unavoidably deceptive in its effect. Feminism and Gender Inclusive Language combine into a tongue that defies interpretation. As Gandalf was hesitant to speak the language of Mordor in Rivendell, no one can proclaim the word of the Lord in “newspeak.” Saint Paul could speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but the new kind of socially acceptable language seems more like the tongue of demons; it has no word that is understood to mean agape or caritas, since “love,” is too general. Traditional believers are not comfortable praying in this new tongue, and do not want translations of the word of God into such dark and imprisoned language. For them it distorts truth and destroys beauty, muddles all true communication, and twists everything into a lie. It has no word for caritas, because it has no usage of “Father” as the One Who defines love by Himself.

We possess numerous translations, words that cannot exactly haunt us because they are always fresh and alive, though coming from generations long fallen asleep in the dust of the earth. Saint Jerome wrote about his time in the desert: “The flesh I might try to break with frequent fasting: but my mind was seething with imagination: so to tame it, I gave myself up for training to one of the brethren, a Hebrew who had come to the faith. And, so after the subtlety of Quintilian, the flowing of Cicero, the gravity of Fronto and the gentleness of Pliny, I began to learn another alphabet, and meditate on words that hissed and words that gasped.” As Helen Waddell reflected, “the final vintage was to be the Vulgate translation of the Old Testament: he was still working on Hebrew in his old age.”2 As in ancient times, the gift of the Holy Scriptures is only preserved by learning tongues of old, from before the times of our fathers.

The discipline used when translating the King James Bible, for example, flowed naturally from reverence that had motivated Christians of earlier generations to choose words carefully. “Translated out of the original tongues, and with the former translations diligently compared and revised.” In other words, the translators were quite able to make corrections, because they knew Hebrew and Greek. But, they did not take it upon themselves simply to disregard former translations, so when they made changes, it was never arbitrary. But, modern translations, to the extent that many of them can rightly be called translations, too often corrupt their work by contrived relevance. If there is one place above all where we must turn the issue of relevance around, and learn again to apply discipline to our minds so that it is we who become relevant to another’s instruction, it is hearing the word of the Lord. And, if there is one place where our words must be studied and based upon revealed truth, it is in bearing our souls before the throne of the Almighty as we pray.

I am not suggesting that a return to older forms, such as the Tridentine Mass, is the only way to avoid this problem. That would be simplistic and naïve, and require that we embrace a false assertion. But, one advantage to remaining true to authentic forms and translations, updating language and customs only with great care and fidelity and only when truly useful, is the safety of orthodoxy. Authenticity of language helps to avoid error and insure true instruction in the Faith.

To translate the first commandment literally, we are forbidden to have other gods in the Lord’s presence- that is before His face (al-Peni). The only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, along with the other Comfortable, are revealed in the Name spoken by the risen Christ: The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is the Name into which we are baptized. But, this Name is regarded as offensive in the new language, and by invocation of contrived relevance we are bidden not to speak it. Changing the traditions, including the traditional use of language, may appear to make the message more relevant. But, the cost needs to be weighed. When things go too far, the cost is that of knowing God as He is revealed. Which means the cost of contrived relevance through distortion of language is life eternal (John 17:3), a cost that we must decline to pay.

1) The first mistranslation in the NRSV combines the first two verses of Genesis into one sentence, by adding wrongly the word "when," as if the world existed before God’s creation. “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was without form…” The Hebrew simply does not justify this “translation” either. The first two sentences are not joined in the original Hebrew. The older “And, the earth was without form and void...” is literally correct, and it cannot be used to suggest Pantheism.

2) Helen Waddell, The Desert Fathers, (New York, 1998), p.33


Alice C. Linsley said...

This is very informative and thoughtful, Fr. Hart. You haven't overstated your point and you have shown a way forward.

I agree with Dr. Toon that there can be no revival unless it is the true Word of God being spoken in our midst. Newspeak and gender inclusive language brings spiritual sickness.

If readers are interested, I've posted 3 short pieces on St. Ephrem's and St. Chrysostom's understanding of the person of Lamech, the Elder (Gen. 4). This represents a serious effort to hear what the Word is saying apart from newspeak, gender inclusive language and modern Bible criticism. I welcome your comments. Click on the Just Genesis link to the right.

ACC Member said...

I have been taught from childhood that the faith of Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. This teaching is rooted in scripture.

My greatest concern is NOT what changes TEC or the RCC made to the Christian faith. My concern is that they felt they had the right to make any changes at all. I truly do not belive that any Bishop, church convention, etc., can change the received traditions of the faith. To do so is apostasy and worse.

The English Reformation had as its purpose to remove the changes and restore the undivided catholic faith. Let us not forget the importance of the English Reformation and the great blessing we have received as a result.

It is our duty, as the Continuum, to continue that undivided holy catholic faith.

Brian McKee, nO/C.G.S.

Carlos said...

I recently had a long chat with a LaSallian Brother (a former teacher) and I asked him about this recent buissness with Ratziner and the interest that many young people had in Latin Masses and the sort. While I was attending my high school quite a number of students had expressed interest in Latin Masses, and all sorts showy ornamentation that they felt had been lost. He(the Brother) felt that much of it was aesthetic, that they wanted to outside or facade of old tradition cause it "looked" nice but without the theology behind it. I found that rather interesting. Also, as beautiful as the KJV bible is... I must say, it is quite difficult to read, and there is the charge that it is less accurate than other translations available.
As I am not Roman Catholic, the changes made concerning the Tridentine Mass are but interesting to me.

Anonymous said...

Anglicanism (before the ordination of women but after V2) adopted many of the new rubrics and liturgical practices of the Romans; such as, Gospel processions into the nave, celebrants turning to the nave to read the Epistle, processing in causables, batman/spread-eagle "Oremus" hands, etc. Following the advent of women's ordinations, continuing Catholic Anglicans have continued adopting even more novus ordo-isms; such as three year lectionaries, lay readers, Jewish table blessing at the Offertory, cremation, no maniple, extemporaneous dramas before the 'Orate fratres,' as well as noisy, dramatized recitations of the canon.

Fr. Hart, I think you are correct when you say, "What traditionalists are seeking is something authentic." Changes do not de jure invalidate a Sacrament but they cause thoughtful people to wonder how much can the priest, bishop, pope change before we get to a question of validity--how far can they go before we're eating cookies instead of the Body of Christ.

Why not simply trust the authentic, traditional way of doing things. If only each priest would simply begin following the rubrics as printed in their missals and stop being artistic...

If continuing Anglican priests would give up the 'pastiche Mass,' there would be no question as to intent and validity. If you use the Prayer Book or the Missal, then use it and nothing else. Stay true to the liturgy you claim to use.

I believe an option that more priests should begin to exercise is using the English Missal which offers the best of both worlds; the 'dicit secreto' Latin prayers and Canon with the 'dicit intelligibili voce' in the King's English. It's beautiful!

The English Missal (unlike any other missal) is still in print
(amazon.co.uk) and, thanks to Lancelot Andrew's Press, the 9th edition of Ritual Notes is available via LuLu.com.

Beware though; authenticity does inspire people to strong emotion: some to hate and others to piety. Can or should Anglicanism survive in its current state of liturgical chaos?

Unknown said...

Carlos wrote, "He felt that much of it was aesthetic, that they wanted to outside or facade of old tradition cause it "looked" nice but without the theology behind it." Exactly! As a Roman Catholic who has had a lot of experience interacting with the ardent Tridentine folks, I can assure that a lot of it is purely aesthetic. This replicates a problem that I thought I had left behind when I ceased being a Baptist: the substitution of religiously-themed entertainment for authentic liturgical prayer. I understand now that this temptation is a danger present in all sorts of Christian traditions (preaching that is entertaining but content-free for evangelicals, ecstatic practices for Pentecostals, 'smells and bells' for Romans and some Anglicans).
Incidentally, this fixation on aesthetics to the detriment of theology is why, in my experience, the Tridentine communities are not particularly orthodox, but instead are riddled with heresies, Pelagianism, Jansenism, and forms of fundamentalism being chief among them.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Carlos wrote:
found that rather interesting. Also, as beautiful as the KJV bible is... I must say, it is quite difficult to read, and there is the charge that it is less accurate than other translations available.

The advantage to becoming accustomed to the English of the KJV is that you gain a better grasp of today's English, an appreciation for subtle expressions, and a better idea of classical usage in general, no matter what the language may be.

As for accuracy of translation, the KJV is as good as any. In many ways it is far superior for accuaracy. Take one verse as an example:

"If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine." Exodus 21:22

Some modern translations attempt to interpret for us, and have rendered the premature birth ("that her fruit depart") to mean a stillborn baby.Not so the Hebrew, and therefore, not so the KJV. Therefore the line that follows, "life for life" makes sense.

There are no perfect translations. But the people who tell you that the KJV is inaccurate simply cannot know Hebrew or Greek.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Hart, as a Traditionalist Latin Mass attending Roman Catholic, I can tell you that this post is right on the money. That's probably not the kind of support you want, but I think it needs to be said. Very good post, and very good food for thought.

Briefly, I will say something that I think needs to be said. Most of us Latin Mass attendees are not attached to the Latin language nor do we think that the vernacular languages give offence. Rather, we find the Novus Ordo vacuous, vague, practically Arian, and simply put, not Catholic. It looks more like a Methodist service.

That said, if the Vatican II reforms merely changed the language of the Mass to the vernacular and kept the substance of the Mass in tact, I do not think there would be such a division of forces within the Catholic Church. We are not attached to Latin - we are attached to the Mass.

Now I do believe that the New Mass is valid - 100%. But that does not mean that it is therefore equal in every other respect to the Old Mass.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

That brings to mind a question. What happened to the promise of Liturgiam Authenticam? It promised better translations of the Bible and Liturgy. We Anglicans in the Continuum should understand the importance of such details as "and with thy spirit," instead of the empty response both in the '79 ECUSA Prayer Book and the English version of Novus Ordo ("and also be with you."). The singular address to the spirit of the celebrant, his meaning, place and purpose by virtue of the indelible sacrament of ordination that makes his ministry of priesthood within the Church, is all signified by et cum spiritu tuo.

We (Anglicans) have kept the full strength of this phrase in the vernacular, and with the very strong singular use of the word "thy" (thou, thee and thy are all forms of singular, as opposed to plural, address, a loss in modern English). This is only one example.

Anyway, Liturgiam Authenticam promised to give some authenticity and accuracy back to our Roman Catholic brethren with better use of the vernacular. Is it stalled? What's up with it? Is it still in the works?

ACC Member said...

The Novus Ordo Mass and the United Methodist Service of Word and Table are almostidentical. Dave is spot on. I've compared them. Presbyterians are also now using a form of it, at least the church in mu hometown. So, you can get the same service at the UMC, RCC, and the PCUSA.

The Novus Ordo and the United Methodist Service of Word and Table both came out of the Ecumenists who are trying to create a generic Christianity. Both of these services, while they may be valid as far as the communion elements being consecrated, are short on meaningful doctrine. Theses services are purposely generic so as not to offend anyone. IE - they want to get everyone to agree to the lowest common denominator.

From an Ecumenism standpoint, perhaps it is OK, at least for those who value ecumenism more than sound catholic doctrine. But from a doctrinal standpoint they are very weak. The old-time orthodox Bishops of Rome and The Rev. John Wesley would all be ashamed.

Brian McKee, nO/C.G.S.

ACC Member said...

Interestingly many UMs do not use the Service of Word and Table (Novus Ordo). Many choose to use the older liturgies based on the BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER.

In the UMC, when a new liturgy is adopted it does not replace but is added to the list of the approved liturgies. It is still legally acceptable for UMs to use the original John Wesley Prayerbook, given to them by Wesley which was based on the 1662 BCP. In this way, they have avoided schisms over liturgy, such as the Continuum leaving partially because of the 1979 Episcopal book.

It is a shame that the Bishop of Rome wouldn't allow the more doctrinally sound Tridentine Mass to be used in English (or the appropriate language of each country). It seems a shame to only be allowed to use the more sound, correct Mass in Latin. Using the Tridentine in English would be the best of both worlds.

Brian McKee, nO/C.G.S.

Unknown said...

"It LOOKS MORE LIKE a Methodist service."

See what I mean about aesthetics trumping theology?

"if the Vatican II reforms merely changed the language of the Mass to the vernacular and kept the substance of the Mass in tact..."

I would encourage folks who think they know all about the "Vatican II reforms" to actually read the documents. You may be surprised at what you find.

Unknown said...

"The Novus Ordo and the United Methodist Service of Word and Table both came out of the Ecumenists who are trying to create a generic Christianity."

This is historically fallacious. The so-called "Novus Ordo" was an attempt to return the Mass to its apostolic and patristic roots, and was based largely on the extant texts from the first four centuries. The similarity of the other documents is simply the result of the mainline protestant churches aping Rome.

ACC Member said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ACC Member said...

A correction to my above post. I mistyped. The Novus Ordo/UMC Service of Word and Table, etc., were rediscovered by Dom Gregory Dix, who was catholic, and an Ecumenist writer.

The spread of this service/mass order was through the World Council of Churches (Protestant dominated), as part of their effort to bring about union through a common litrugy.

Depending on your opinion of the Ecumenists goals, one might see this as good or bad.

My feeling is that to this very basic Apostolic form (at least they claim that to be the origin) there was added much richness of teaching the doctrine by the Roman Church, the Celtic Church, and certainly by Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer.

To me, to strip away the richness of teaching and understnading added to the basic form is a pity. As the old saying goes, we believe what we pray. Do we really want to only teach our people to believe the "bare bones"?

Brian McKee, nO/C.G.S.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Hart said: "What happened to the promise of Liturgiam Authenticam?"

It passed at the behest of Cardinal Arinze and the changes will be coming forth within another two years. It was a great victory for the orthodox liturgists in the Catholic Church. Among the changes that will be made are:

1) The Creed will be changed to say "I believe" instead of "We believe."

2) "Consubstantial" will replace "of one being."

3) During the consecration, Pro omnibus will be replaced by pro multis. (Hooray!)

4) "And also with you" will be changed to "And with your spirit." (In my opinion it should be rendered singularly "thy spirit" which as opposed to the ambiguous "your spirit.")

Thomas said: "I would encourage folks who think they know all about the 'Vatican II reforms' to actually read the documents. You may be surprised at what you find."

No Thomas, you are right - the Council did NOT allow for the nonsense we now have. The Council directives were largely ignored and stamped upon in order to arrive at the liturgical chaos we now have. The Council called for Gregorian Chant - we can see that that was hardly followed!

Anonymous said...

"My feeling is that to this very basic Apostolic form (at least they claim that to be the origin) there was added much richness of teaching the doctrine by the Roman Church, the Celtic Church, and certainly by Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer."

This is right on. Earliest does not mean the best. Thomas Cranmer did not just invent a prayer book, but rather drew from hundreds of years of tradition in liturgical development. His goal was NOT to create a new Mass but to re-present it in a way cognizant with the Fathers of the western Tradition. Likewise, the Novus Ordo may be closer to what the Apostles did, but it requires completely ignoring over a thousand plus years of organic liturgical development. Such "bare bones" Masses may have everything needed to be a legitimate Mass, but why remove an hundred pounds of lean body mass (heh - no pun intended) that took years to develop organically just because the bare bones work? It is folly, and as Brian put it, an absolute pity.

Anonymous said...

I think there is a persistent tension between remaining true to our apostolic and patristic roots in matters of doctrine (orthodoxy) and a kind of nostalgic attempt to recreate the 'Early Church' in practice, which I read somewhere is the heresy of Antiquarianism.

And Thomas, the 'Vatican II reforms' aren't the things in the Vatican II documents (which were largely ignored), they are the reforms actually put into practice in the 1960s, in apparent consequence of Vatican II, even if they were not true to it. The so-called 'Novus Ordo', apart from being in ugly, bureaucratic English which inaccurately translates in too many places the texts that it actually retains, is also stripped of content. The latest reforms will be welcome (although why they should make the least bit of difference to Anglicans is beyond me, except that in too many quarters the clergy, apparently ashamed of their own heritage, inflict them on us). It also stripped the Mass of much of its content.

And I resent the implication that there is no justification in an aesthetic response, as if the aesthetic judgment is somehow effete. Sorry, but I've tried Anglican priests inflicting their version of Novus Ordo on me and come to the conclusion that it simply doesn't feed me, and I don't think that bureaucratic ugliness of language, trite music and an obsession with taking no longer than 45 minutes constitute much of a worthy offering to God, either.

We Anglicans had our Vatican II in the 1540s, and came up with a superior translation of the liturgies than anything made in the 1960s, or now.

Anonymous said...

It is diverting to read Dom Gregory Dix characterized as "a Protestant ecumenist writer" in the light of the facts of his life and committments, on which see:


And, in fact, the characterization of "a Protestant ecumenist writer" befits Cranmer far more than it does Dix -- who, insofar as he was an "ecumenist" was one of a very different stripe.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Dr Tighe,

Did I miss something? Ohio Anglican called Dix "catholic, and an Ecumenist writer". Who called him Protestant?

Anonymous said...

Fr. Kirby,

It was in the now-deleted post (as I recall), immediately prior to that of Ohio Anglican to which you referred.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

"And I resent the implication that there is no justification in an aesthetic response, as if the aesthetic judgment is somehow effete."

I'm not sure if this was in response to my comments, but if so, let me hasten to add that I nowhere said aesthetics have no place. Certainly they do. The point that I was making was that I have often observed (especially among RCs who attend the so-called 'Tridentine Mass' exclusively) an excessive emphasis upon aesthetics to the exclusion of theology. I suspect that this tendency has analogues in all Christian communities, the Continuing Anglican movement among them. As I mentioned before, at some point an excessive emphasis upon the aesthetic element becomes a substitution of religiously-themed entertainment for prayer. Interestingly, when some traditionalists speak of particular liturgical forms (such as the 'Tridentine Mass'), they invariably end up speaking mostly of the emotional response that the forms arouse in themselves. This particular brand of 'traditionalism' just ends up squarely in agreement with one of the central tenets of liberalism/modernism - that spirituality consists solely in evoking a particular emotional response! For the theologically-minded, it would be hilarious, were it not so corrosive.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I understand that, and have seen it among even some of my fellow Anglo-Catholic types. I heard of a Mass in which a bishop (I know not who) made a ceremony out of putting on some gloves. I have no idea where this came from, but I know it must have been Victorian at the very earliest. What is the result of something like this? The worshiper is distracted from prayer, worship and his preparation to receive into his mouth the body and blood of God. Everything that is done, no matter how aesthetic, either has spiritual and theological meaning, or it is a damn distraction- and I mean it that way. Screwtape wrote to Wormwood that some of their best work was done at the foot of the altar.

Frankly, the question as to how we went from the necessary proclamation of wedding bans to full blown announcements in the middle of the service should be raised. My bishop refuses to make announcements during a service. Anything not covered sufficiently by the bulletin alone is announced at the coffee hour. We call the Mass "Holy Communion" for a reason. The whole idea is that the worshiper is to have an experience of God, something directly affecting the soul and salvation.

Anonymous said...

"The point that I was making was that I have often observed (especially among RCs who attend the so-called 'Tridentine Mass' exclusively) an excessive emphasis upon aesthetics to the exclusion of theology."

I have never witnessed this anywhere. In fact, most Novus Ordo Catholics that I know are the most theologically indifferent people I have ever met. The Traditional Mass is not about aesthetics (though it does possess its heaping pile over and above the NO counterpart - Deo gratias) but is rather about content. Traditional Catholics do care about good liturgy, yes, but we also care about the faith and the practise thereof. Theology, morality, piety, &c. are all integral to the Traditional Catholic faith. Somebody who goes to the Latin Mass just because he hears better music there is not anybody I have ever met.

ACC Member said...


I agree. The by-product of the Novus Ordo Mass is: 1. church members who don't even know basic theology; 2. priests who have grown up with the Novus Ordo who don't even believe in the Ressurection of Christ and other basic foundations of the catholic faith; 3. RCC priests (like several I know personally) who set as their goal as being as much like the Protestants as they can possibly be, etc.

As to #3, being that they are using the same exact service as many mainline Protestants, that is a foreseeable outcome.

The Novus Ordo was adopted in the RCC, and as a trial liturgy in the UMC at the same time. It wasn't a case of the UMC copying the RCC. It was, in reality, that both began to follow the orders of the ecumenists in the World Council of Churches. ECUSA followed orders a few years later.

In my opinion, the goal of the ecumenists was to destroy the heritage and unique liturgy of each church and give them all a generic replacement. They succeeded. The RCC heritage and the Anglican/Wesleyan heritage of Methodism have both been largely destroyed.

Benedict, the Bishop of Rome, is to be commended for allowing faithful RCC communicants to try to reclaim their unique heritage.

Brian McKee, nO/C.G.S.