Wednesday, September 16, 2009

With the Liturgy, "the more things change, the more they stay the same"

The History of the Church is a funny old thing (if you want to find out just how funny, come to Ballarat this weekend and do this course with me). Today's conservatives were yesterdays radicals, and today's true radicals are the ones their opponents call "reactionary conservatives".

Cast your mind back to the joint introduction of the Novus Ordo and the vernacular translation of the liturgy. It wasn't accepted without opposition, and the resistance to it never went away entirely - which is why (TBTG) we have Roman Rite in two forms today (the Extraodinary and Ordinary). Of course, for some, it wasn't just a matter of resisting the new liturgy - it was a matter of refusing it to the death if need be. (Cf. for eg. "The Banished Heart" by Sydney Traddy, Geoffrey Hull)

Now it appears like we are going to see the whole thing over again, but this time with the other mob - the 60's radicals who have morphed into the cultural conservatives of our day - represented by the one whom the Cooees Mob have dubbed "Priest-forever", Paul Collins. His pamphlet "And Also with You" can be downloaded from his "Catholics for Ministry" website. It is a thorough-going rejection of the new translations of the liturgy, calling them an outright "betrayal of Vatican Council II". Which is exceeding odd, since the liturgy of which the new vernacular is a translation is none other than the liturgy that we received after the 2nd Vatican Council, the Bugnini liturgy, the Ordinary Form. The way Mr Collins goes on about it, you would think we are forcing every one back into using Latin (God forbid!).

Every cliche imaginable, from Xavier Rynne's potted history of Vatican II to the usual bewailing of the fate of the poor old Old ICEL, can be found in this tract. The thing is, that one cannot really see what the Ex-Rev. Mr Collins might be imagining he can achieve with this sort of thing. It cannot work for the building up of the People of God, for it is designed to unsettle them and turn them against all due order and right conduct. It is encouraging the faithful to nothing less than disobedience and to active dissension in the ranks around the very Source and Summit of the Church's life.

I cannot see how Paul Collins and his mob can differentiate themselves and their rhetoric from that of Marcel Lefebvre and his society. They might appear to be arguing in different directions, but fundamentally their argument is the same. It is what happens when conservatives dig their heels in so deeply against legitimate development, that they end up becoming heretics.


At Wednesday, September 16, 2009 7:41:00 pm , Anonymous Fr Ronan Kilgannon said...

After reading Paul Collins' article on the new English translation of the Missal on Catholics for Ministry I penned a reply in disagreement. I presumed that this would be printed on the Website. However, it must have been directed to Paul for within a couple of days I received a reply from him. I must say it was the letter of a gentleman. He thanked me for writing even though he did not share my regard for the new translations. I have since heard Archbishop Mark Colridge (Paul's prelate) speak on the work of the ICEL translators and am more convinced than ever that the new translations are a more accurate translation of the Latin original, offer a higher standard of English and also correct subtle (Pelagian and semi-Pelagian) theological errors. I think that the stridancy of Paul's critique is an expression of the dying plea of a decreasing number of Catholics my own age who remain stuck in the 1970s.

At Thursday, September 17, 2009 12:04:00 am , Anonymous Tony said...

And I'm opposed to the comparison too. After all Collins hasn't been excomunicated nor is he calling for a schism!

At Thursday, September 17, 2009 12:24:00 am , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

I am actually opposed to anyone using the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre as a ‘common name’ to be associated with schismatics or figures that rebel against the church in the same way that some in the (Catholic) church uses the name ‘Martin Luther’


Not because I consider myself a follower of Lefebrve, but simply because it is good to remember that he was ‘ex-communicated’ (some would say wrongly) for illegally ordaining four Bishops, not because he was opposed to the ‘reforms’ that happened in the church in the 1960s/1970s.

I take your point, Gareth, but ordaining your own bishops is pretty much the definition of schism (which is why it got him excommunicated). I think the association of Lefebvre with schism is a legitimate one.

Marcel Lefebrve was actually a very holy man . . .

Indeed he was. But so was Luther.

. . . and one could argue that the fact the EF of the Mass is available today can be traced back to his willingness to speak out for its continuation when it was first put on the scrap heap in the late 60s.

Very true. But, equally, many of the criticisms that Luther made were in time taken on board by the church. The majority of his orginal 95 theses, in fact, in time came to represent mainstream Catholic positions. And, had the church been more open to his criticisms at an earlier stage, a great deal might have been avoided. (And you could of course say much the same about Marcel Lefebvre.)

It is only due to his ex-communication that his name is now held in bad light, not due to his opposition to church reform in the 1970s and willingness to form the SPPX. He was in no way a Luther or Collins figure.

I’ll maintain silence about Collins. I have no opinion there. To be honest, I haven’t paid enough attention to him to form one. But I think some of the parallels between Lefebvre and Luther are quite striking.

At Thursday, September 17, 2009 1:37:00 am , Anonymous Schütz said...

Is it possible to be both a holy person AND to take one's call to holiness so seriously that one feels the necessity to act in a way that is contrary to "Sentire Cum Ecclesia"?

Let me put it a different way: Is it possible to NOT be a holy person AND to still make it one's goal to "think with the Church"?

Indeed, I would see myself in the latter category rather than the first.

I do believe that Martin Luther was, in many respects, a saintly man. I am confident that his time in purgatory has not been too greatly extended - or at least much shorter than mine probably would be.

I have no arguements either with affirming either the personal holiness of life of Arch. Lefebvre - or even, for that matter, Mr Collins himself (again, I am sure he is not only a greater gentleman than I and a greater scholar, but also much more saintly!).

My point here in this post (as it so often is) is our obligation to do all in our effort to train ourselves to "Think with the Church". That may not be the only virtue, nor even the highest virtue, but it is a virtue to which I aspire.

At Thursday, September 17, 2009 9:04:00 am , Anonymous Tony said...

Exits stage left, with his bat and ball and grumbling to himself.

Keep the bat and ball David ... just leave the port.

At Thursday, September 17, 2009 8:22:00 pm , Anonymous Tony said...

... and am more convinced than ever that the new translations are a more accurate translation of the Latin original ...

I think Collins deals with this quite effectively:

As the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (issued by the Post-Conciliar Commission on the Liturgy on 3 April 1969) emphasized the translator's task was to find a 'faithful
but not literal' English equivalent of the Latin and that 'the unit of meaning [was] not the individual word, but the whole passage.' Further 'the prayer of the Church is always the prayer of some actual community assembling here and now. It is not sufficient that a formula handed down from some other time or region should be translated verbatim, even if accurately, for liturgical use. The formula must become the genuine prayer of the congregation and in it each of its members should be able to find and express themselves.'

.... offer a higher standard of English ...

Again, I think Collins gives many good examples of where the 'standard of English', at least in terms of communicating meaning, is much worse. Some of the phrasing is quite tortured and ponderous.

and also correct subtle (Pelagian and semi-Pelagian) theological errors.

For example?

I think that the stridancy of Paul’s critique is an expression of the dying plea of a decreasing number of Catholics my own age who remain stuck in the 1970s.


That's one of those sweeping statements that can neither be proved or disproved and contributes very little to the discussion.

At Thursday, September 17, 2009 9:02:00 pm , Anonymous Schütz said...

The only thing that Lefebrve had in common with Luther was that he was ex-communicated under circumstances that were arguable or even due to a misunderstanding in communication

I have some sympathy with this interpretation - but let us just say that the "misunderstanding in communication" was mighty serious.

At Friday, September 18, 2009 12:15:00 am , Anonymous Gareth said...

Here is what Lefebrve would actually say on the matter that he was 'schismatic':

"At the moment, I prefer to consider the man on the chair of Peter as the Pope. and if one day we discover for certain that the Pope was not the Pope, at least I will have done my duty. When he is not using his charism of infallibity, the Pope can err."

"Cardinal Gagnon visited us twelve years after the suspension: after twelve years of being spoken of as outside of the communion of Rome, as rebels and dissenters against the Pope, his visit took place. He himself recognized that what we have been doing is just what is necessary for the reconstruction of the Church. The Cardinal even assisted pontifically at the Mass which I celebrated on December 8, 1987, for the renewal of the promises of our seminarians. I was supposedly suspended and, yet, after twelve years, I was practically given a clean slate. They said we have done well. Thus we did well to resist! I am convinced that we are in the same circumstances today. We are performing an act which apparently... and unfortunately the media will not assist us in the good sense. The headlines will, of course, be "Schism," "Excommunication!" as much as they want to - and, yet, we are convinced that all these accusations of which we are the object, all penalties of which we are the object, are null, absolutely null and void, and of which we will take no account. Just as I took no account of the suspension, and ended up by being congratulated by the Church and by Progressive Churchmen, so likewise in several years - I do not know how many, only the Good Lord knows how many years it will take for Tradition to find - its rights in Rome - we will be embraced by the Roman authorities, who will thank us for having maintained the Faith in our seminaries, in our families, in civil societies, in our countries, and in our monasteries and our religious houses, for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls."

At Friday, September 18, 2009 1:16:00 am , Anonymous jules said...

IMO Paul Collins is in deep denial about the rational thinking behind all the "reforms" . Keep up your great work David! And Tony who appointed you Collin's guard??

At Friday, September 18, 2009 6:11:00 am , Anonymous Louise said...

It is a thorough-going rejection of the new translations of the liturgy, calling them an outright “betrayal of Vatican Council II”

Presumably he just meant that they are an outright betrayal of Paul Collins et al.

At Friday, September 18, 2009 9:58:00 am , Anonymous Tony said...

Rather than a more general enquiry PM I was more interested in the notion of 'subtle (Pelagian and semi-Pelagian) theological errors' in the current liturgy.

At Saturday, September 19, 2009 5:24:00 am , Anonymous Gareth said...

Remember I was only critiquing the notion Collins statement that the new mass translastion was 'betraying' Vatican II, not the actual report itself.

I am asking this statement to put into context with a simple reference to how precisely he has reached this conclusion.

Because to make such a vague statement without reference really does not make sense.

At Thursday, September 24, 2009 12:50:00 am , Anonymous Gareth said...

An excellent review Mike,

Indeed who's vision of Vatican II is Collins thinking of and what actual evidence does he have to refute the statement that Vatican Ii is being betrayed??

These are are the questions Tony or probably Mr Collins himself could not give an answer to.

His report doesn't prove anything besides the fact that the very thing he accuses others of (e.g. being driven by an ideology) is precisely what appears to be doing himself.

To claim that Vatican II is being betrayed is a large stretch of the truth.

At Thursday, September 24, 2009 4:49:00 pm , Anonymous C. David Burt said...

I read Paul Collins paper on the English translation of the Mass at first with some sympathy because I agree with him that a translation need not be literal to faithfully convey the original meaning. I was somewhat mesmerized by his comments on how well the original English translation was received and how meaningful it had become to contemporary Catholics. But when I came to his comments on the Creed I realized clearly what sort of Catholic would reject a literal translation of the original. I really would like to see him debate this with Eastern Orthodox theologians! He says that the new translation is bad because modern Catholics can not understand the philosophical and theological terms in the Creed, so it is better to make it more devotional. He even goes so far as to say that the more literal translation could be heretical, and he makes a very broad statement based on Aramaic linguistics that "pro multis" in the Creed really means "pro omnibus." There you have it! Contemporary Catholics should not be troubled with the theology of the Creed. They should instead find themselves uplifted by it and their universalist sympathies affirmed.

At Saturday, September 26, 2009 4:37:00 am , Anonymous Schütz said...

Thanks, Mike. Your reactions are mine to a tee. There is nothing particulary rational about his attack on the new translations. The only hermeneutic that makes consistent sense of the pamphlet is that he just doesn't like the new translation, was never going to like it, and set his face against it from the very beginning. After that, it was just a matter of looking for reasons not to like it.

He is never, for instance, open to admitting that in some cases the new translations are better. Surely, in the entire sacramentary, he would not have to look far to find such an example? I, on the other hand, could name several things about the new translation that I do not particularly like, despite my overall support for it.

(For those who are curious, my two complaints are the erratic - though logical - use of the vocative "O"; and the rather awkward form that some of the relative clauses take in prayers addressed in the second person.)

At Saturday, September 26, 2009 4:39:00 am , Anonymous Schütz said...

I like "the many" as a suggestion. We accept that it isn't there. I think it is quite healthy to have some criticisms here and there of the new translation - it is simply irrational to reject the whole thing holus bolus.

At Saturday, September 26, 2009 4:43:00 am , Anonymous Schütz said...

If we take the entire liturgy to be as critical for the accurate teaching of the faith as the Creed is, then I think we can begin to understand the concern that the entire liturgy, and not just the Creed, be accurately translated. As we pray, so we believe.


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