Monthly Archives: July 2012

Saint Mary’s University Parish in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan: “Farewell, dear Father.”

“Farewell, dear Father.” Cletus Raphael says goodbye to Father Prospero.

The Awesome Rooster Revisited [Saint Louis, Michigan]

Saint Louis, Michigan

Published in 2011: Still Relevant Today: “Simplex Priests Now!”

Simplex Priests Now!

Michael F. Hull, S.T.D. in HPR makes a passing reference to “simplex” priests without suggesting that we need them now. [“Challenges to preaching Paul” by Michael F. Hull, HPR (July 2008)]. A simplex priest does not have faculties to preach or hear confessions. To require a priest to read a printed and published homily from the bishop’s office might give many of the faithful more content and information than they usually get, at least in the United States. Maybe getting some form of a simplex priesthood back again is not a bad idea. Perhaps through them we could get more of Paul’s preaching.

Under the 1917 Code, faculties for preaching (17:1337) had to be specifically granted to clerics, unlike today  (83: 764) where faculties to preach are automatic upon ordination. Preaching  faculties are only subject to revocation by the Ordinary under specific conditions. Regarding confessions, under the 1917 Code the restrictions on faculties to absolve were stricter than they are today (limited to territories, and sometimes only available after successfully passing an examination [17: 871-878]).

So, under the 1917 Code, a priest might not be granted faculties to preach, and he might not hold an office to which faculties for confession were attached (e.g., pastor); so therefore he could well be without faculties for confession. Such a priest was known as “simplex” even if the term was not used. A simplex priest could celebrate Mass (usually), but because there was no preaching allowed it would more likely be a private Mass with only one server present.

But the revival of the simplex priest, a priest with restricted faculties, quickly becomes political in the Church. Bishops since the Council of Trent are accustomed to “seminary” priests; thus returning to the apprentice model or adopting any other type of training seems foreign. Yet seminaries were not made in heaven, and far too often their products are found wanting. A revived simplex priesthood would not be about “seminary-trained” priests.

Most urban and rural parishes have traditional, pious laymen who are daily communicants. Perhaps we can cite a fictional Dr. Michael McGillicuddy to be our example.

Dr. McGillicuddy was professor of French Literature for decades at the local state university. His beloved Maureen died last year. All six of their children are grown and married, and they have moved away to other cities. Dr. McGillicuddy goes to daily Mass at his parish, and he is what we call a “literate Catholic” who studies. He keeps abreast of various aspects of worldwide ecclesiastical life. He knows something about Hans Urs von Balthasar. He was involved in relief efforts for Mosul. Professor McGillicuddy is 66 years old and in excellent health. He even lives ten minutes away from the cathedral.

One day the bishop requests a meeting with him. “Mike, I have known you for many years. We were in high school together. Despite dark days you have been faithful in every way. Christ has always been the center of your personal life and your family life. Now we need a priest at the cathedral. Monsignor is too overburdened, and I am afraid he just has too much to do already and the situation is worsening. Would you be willing to be ordained to the priesthood? You would be responsible for celebrating a quiet daily Mass at the cathedral and for anointing the sick at two local hospitals. Effectively, you would put in three hours each day to help with our sacramental needs. You would not have to go to a seminary. You would not have to preach, and you would not hear confessions. Simplex priests go to the clergy meetings, but that is all. You would be required to make an annual retreat and to serve under the strict supervision of Monsignor who is the rector of the cathedral. I will suggest a few books for you, but probably you have already read them before I even think of what might be suggested.”

Let us say Dr. McGillicuddy accepts the position that the bishop requested. The bishop informs the Holy See that he intends to ordain a simplex priest within the next months; by special arrangement given to our episcopal conference, the permission is granted. A simplex priest is expected to provide for his own finances, and our retired professor has enough retirement money to take care of himself.

It is reasonable that Father McGillicuddy would have ten good years to give to the Church. Ordaining a widower would soften the voices of those who say we have a shortage or that the Church should ordain “married men and women” when we know this is contrary to authentic tradition and nuptial theology. A man should be of one wife, and that wife is the Church. A woman does not image the Christ but rather the second Eve, His Body the Church. Thus she cannot offer the One Sacrifice according to ancient tradition and the Divine Will.

Father McGillicuddy would lead a humble and low-profile life. Perhaps from time to time he would be asked to take care of some extraordinary assignment for the bishop that his background in academics would equip him to do. It is feasible that he would draft pastoral letters for the bishop who tends himself to be too busy and who could use some fresh ideas.

One bishop (again fictitious for our purposes) does not approve of the simplex priestly vocation, and the neighboring diocese does not ordain them. The bishop—and he is not alone—is afraid of a “race horse/ plough horse” division in the presbyterate. He does not wish to see a rivalry. But then he is reminded of other divisions that coexist—liberal/ conservative, old/ young, homosexual/ heterosexual, 2007 motu proprio/ anti-motu proprio, and versus populum/ ad orientem. Since Father McGillicuddy has a doctorate and is well-published, it would be hard to consider him a “second-class” priest. In fact, given his erudition, he provides an example for other priests who allegedly have not read a book since the day they left the seminary.

Not long ago I met a man who is fifty years old and who was newly married. A few years earlier he applied to his diocese and was told by the vocation directors that he was too old to be considered for the seminary. Before that I met another man in his late forties. He was told the same thing by another diocese: that he was too old to fit into the pension plan for diocesan priests. These artificial judgments are a conspiracy to deprive us of dedicated priests. If a man can support himself or even if he cannot support himself, and if he can be judged worthy, then the bishop should be free to ordain him simplex. Going to a seminary should not be required in all cases, and restricted faculties render a candidate maximally suited to assist with our real needs. A case-by-case scrutiny may reveal no impediment for men who do not fit the classic “seminarian” model. Every diocese should have a few simplex priests. Just a few for now.

Seminaries were invented by the Council of Trent. Before then we had the apprentice system in most of Europe. A candidate would live near the priest who showed him what he needed to know, and then the priest would recommend him to the bishop when he believed the candidate was prepared.

During the Ottoman period when they had no institutions, the Greeks did not even have seminaries. The bishop would travel to a village where the priest had died, and there he would identify an older man who was pious and who knew the Divine Liturgy by heart. He would ordain him for the village, equivalently “simplex” with no added faculties to preach or hear confessions. This work was done by itinerant monks during the holy season of Lent.

Can we say that seminaries are beyond criticism? Can we ask if they have always helped the Church or sometimes hindered the Church by at times producing candidates who are neither doctrinally orthodox nor faithful celebrants of the Church’s liturgy? Could we predict that men drawn from the ranks of the faithful to alleviate the clergy shortage on a highly selective basis would serve less well than the ones we have from the seminary system?

At least in North America and in Western Europe the so-called “shortage of priests” is used to justify all manner of proposals which deviate from the norm of celibacy and masculinity. Sacramental signs are not arbitrary, and we should never think of them as negotiable. Simplex priests would maintain the full sacramental symbolism.

Why should simplex priests be preferably older candidates? They do not have to be older. But generally a man with a successful career is respected in the community. Father McGillicuddy is both well known and revered in his parish and even throughout his diocese. To elevate him to the priesthood is virtually a normal step in view of the death of his wife and the independence of his children. The bishop can rely upon a man such as Dr. McGillicuddy; he can be trusted to carry out his duties; his maturity is beyond doubt. The bishop should also be free to ordain young men as simplex priests, at least in principle.

Some bishops are afraid to endanger the “seminary only” model. They fear any competition with it. The Holy See has not been accustomed to thinking in terms other than the “seminary only” system. But both Church History and our practical needs come to the rescue to help our thinking. The pope could authorize this with the stroke of a pen. More unexpected things have happened in our lifetime!

We should never discard any method of identifying candidates for the priesthood. Minor seminaries should be retained; the apprenticeship method should be retained; the seminary system as we have it—but reformed to reflect more accurately our doctrinal and liturgical tradition—should be retained; and the introduction of a small number of simplex priests as we had in former times, before the 1983 Code of Canon Law attached faculties to priestly ordination itself, should be supported.

Anything new should be monitored, but simplex priests are nothing new given the wider perspective of history. We are not talking about “part time” priests like Pentecostal ministers who work at the post office and who preach on Sundays. We are talking about men who have received the Sacrament of Holy Orders and who offer the One Sacrifice in persona Christi.

Early in 2009 in the Diocese of Linz, Austria, the secular press carried an article about Dean Josef Friedl who lives in concubinage. He is one of the priests protesting the potential appointment of Gerhard Maria Wagner to be the Auxiliary Bishop of Linz. Would it not be desirable for the Ordinary, in the style of St. Francis de Sales, to send Father Friedl to a life of reserved penance and prayer in a monastery? Then the bishop could proceed to fill this vacancy by ordaining “Dr. Wolfgang Schneider,” a respected linguist and academician of the parish and the fictitious equivalent of our “Dr. Michael McGillicuddy,” as a simplex priest. Schneider could serve as temporary pastor until other arrangements are made and the damage to the parish can be corrected. Why not?

Father Schneider would be either a celibate or a widower, in keeping with nuptial theology and the tradition of the Church. He would be carefully chosen for his life of virtue and fidelity even in the sad times of the former administration. The bishop would help by sending a printed homily each week to Father Schneider to read on behalf of the bishop. A monk could visit the parish periodically to hear confessions and preach a mission. It is not necessary in this context for Father Schneider to have a degree in theology or philosophy. He has a sufficient understanding of the Mass and the sacraments to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice worthily, more worthily than his predecessor.

The reintroduction of simplex priests is not the perfect solution to the need for more priests, but it is a preferred solution to refute those who would step outside the tradition. People attending Mass either in the ordinary form or in the extraordinary form should not be able to tell by looking whether the celebrant is a seminary priest or a simplex priest.

Reverend Brian Van Hove, S.J.
Alma,  Michigan
A version of this article appeared as “Recovering Simplex Priests”  in Homiletic and Pastoral Review, vol. 111, no. 9 (June/July 2011): 24-27.

Re-read Martin Mosebach’s “The Heresy of Formlessness”

The Heresy of Formlessness: The Roman Liturgy and Its Enemy
by Martin Mosebach
translated from the German by Graham Harrison
San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006
Pp. 210, no index; paperback $16.95
ISBN 978-1-58617-127-8
ISBN 1-58617-127-5
LCCN 2005938824
Review-Essay by Reverend Brian Van Hove, S.J.
Alma, Michigan
Posted on Ignatius Insight 21 May 2008

Martin Mosebach writes to convince the reader of the spiritual superiority of the classical rite, the Mass of the missal of 1962. With the talent of an artist and a dedication to Jesus Christ, he tells the story.

The church is torn by a civil war over liturgy. Some hold that the reform did not cut deep enough, that yet more radical adaptation and accommodation are needed. Others think the reform can be reformed, and in this camp we include the pope and the policy of Ignatius Press. There are those who believe that only the old rites, restored fully and integrally, provide the solution to the crisis. And of course a large number of Catholics are apathetic and accept the present situation uncritically (and unthinkingly).

Mosebach chooses the path of restoration, and he does so with quality, intelligence and sophistication. He is a thoughtful religious man of a type hardly found any longer inEurope. His meditation on Mary, chapter eight, is enough to prove that. His essay “Revelation through Veiling in the Old Roman Catholic Liturgy” (pp. 161-173) is a work of religious art.

Louis XIV was crowned in 1654. It was said nobody at court in theRheimscathedral understood the rare liturgy for the coronation of a king. The masters of ceremonies just followed the prescriptions set down from time immemorial. They assigned seven archdeacons to stand here, and seven archpriests to stand there, and so on. The choreography was perfect, and no ingredient was left out of the complicated recipe. The music was excellent. The new king was anointed. Everybody knew he was crowned, and everybody had a sense of the sublimity of the occasion. Even so, later proponents of liturgical reform would criticize such a liturgy on the basis that only a few technician-clerics engaged in any kind of “active participation”.

Mosebach rejects such an analysis as a caricature. Without mentioning it by name, he would insist that this particular liturgy carried the soul aloft, despite any alleged lack of rational grip on the archaic rite. Prayer and rationality are two wings of a bird, two distinct modes of understanding. Only when the holy is concealed is it revealed. A “see-through glass chalice” is a contradiction in terms.

The author makes no reference to Catherine Pickstock, but in After Writing (1998) Pickstock lamented that owing toTrent, and especially to the historical work and interpretation of Josef Jungmann (1889-1975), the Tridentine liturgy became highly rationalized, and this rationalism broke with the medievalMass. Her explanation was complex, but she was not a believing Catholic, and Jungmann definitely was. Jungmann accepted transubstantiation and sacramental realism, whereas it is unknown what Pickstock really believed. While Mosebach disagrees with the post-Reformation Jesuits who introduced dominating vernacular hymns into the liturgy in Catholic Germany (pp. 42-43), he is not inclined toward Pickstock’s philosophical evaluation of the rite so mildly revised afterTrent. As an orthodox, believing Catholic, he is not her ally. Let traditionalists on this side of the ocean know that.

Mosebach opposes the idea that the missal ofTrentwas a break with medieval ritual and symbology. If he follows any contemporary writer on the subject, it is Klaus Gamber (1919-1989) who decades ago exposed the faulty archaeology and weak liturgical history upon which the reform was built. (p. 32) It is the missal of 1969 which is the product of pure rationalism, not the missal of 1962 which the author prefers to call “The Mass of St. Gregory the Great”.

The First Liturgical Movement (1860-1960) called for clarity and simplicity in the rites. In that precise historical setting this was something good and needed, so the argument went. Such a call was not then doctrinal in nature. On the contrary, the movement hoped that doctrine would become better understood through uncluttered liturgy when the ancient beauty of the church could be seen for what it was. Scraping off the accretions was claimed to help the ship sail faster.

A pity the dream of the older generation of scholars, especially Jungmann and a host of Benedictines inEuropeandNorth America, was incrementally hijacked by a dedicated cadre during and after Vatican II. Can anyone say that transubstantiation was understood by the average member of the church in 1980 better than in 1950? Paul VI had to issue an encyclical defending it! (“Mysterium Fidei”, 1965).

Mosebach’s list of German-speaking culprits in this saga of liturgical reform differs from our list, but for us here inNorth Americawe count McManus, Dieckmann, Funk, Mitchell, Empereur, Hovda and Huck among the best known “modern liturgy” and “celebrational style” practitioners. The historic break between Rembert Weakland and Richard Schuler shows that at least a few, like Schuler of St. Agnes inMinneapolis, offered resistance in the worst decades since the council. Like Michael Davies in the English-speaking world, Mosebach blames the dark side of the reform on Pope Paul VI (pp. 24, 91, 115); unlike Davies, Mosebach does not focus on the role of Annibale Bugnini. The author is obviously critical of the German episcopal conference. (p. 63) These and other bishops went well beyond the reform introduced by Paul VI. (p. 172)

Thus, we can now speak of “going back” to the reform of Paul VI! The real reform of the reform may just be the original reform intended by the council and the pope.

In Europe, both Louis Bouyer and Hubert Jedin in 1968 and 1969 publicly objected to the reform process directed by Annibale Bugnini, but they were ignored. (Bugnini did not leave Rome until 1975—it should be remembered by us readers that Frederick R. McManus wrote the lines found on the dust jacket for the English translation of Bugnini’s personal account of his role in the reform.)

Privately, Jungmann denounced the altar “versus populum” (or “coram populo”) as an aberration. Later, under his own name Gamber took the same position.

In 2003 Lauren Pristas analyzed the Latin of the revised Mass (and since then of other revised rites). While not using the expression herself, she concluded that it consists of “junk Latin”. (“Theological Principles that Guided the Redaction of the Roman Missal [1970]” in The Thomist 67 [2003]: 157-195). An exception is Eucharistic Prayer IV which was composed in a much finer Latin. Here Mosebach rejoins that what matters is that such texts are “received”, not “composed”.

A surprising number of motivated reformers promoted a conscious, deliberate rupture with our liturgical past. They quietly ignored the principle of organic development, though this principle was an official one. A stubborn, misguided and iconoclastic anti-traditionalism created an unnecessary catastrophe. Contempt for the old rites was mood-driven and self-conscious.

In chapter four Mosebach gives a vivid example of exactly how the iconoclasm unfolded in 1968 in Neuenheim nearHeidelberg. The cameo-like story is familiar to all of us who lived through that time. It was the same inIowaorOntario. Mosebach shows his knowledge of art history in order to explain the deeper philosophy behind iconoclasm. The destruction of the interior of the parish church at Neuenheim is heartbreaking.

The Benedictine monastery of Fontgombault in France is the living ideal of liturgical spirituality for the author. He does not mention that a very high percentage of the monks are Americans, and probably he does not know that the monastery happily celebrated the Novus Ordo Missae in Latin until the abbot imposed the old rite on the monastic community in the 1980s. The abbot made the point that it was the rite of his ancestors who died in the French Revolution. Many say that the abbot was influential in gaining the indults associated with the Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, though Mosebach himself does not say this. He idealizes the monastery’s every detail, which will cause some readers to be suspicious. No place can be “that” perfect, and one is reminded of the axiom “the only perfect liturgy is in heaven”. But the affairs of Fontgombault are the exception.

Nearly everywhere, the Mass today fails to unite Latin Rite Catholics, even juridically. Liturgical law is rejected, ignored or paid mere lip service by the modernizers (whom Mosebach calls “late Catholic Puritans”―p. 135) who always know more than the Church. Some years ago, reformers replaced the older formalism and legalism with the formlessness decried by Mosebach in his book’s title. Formlessness is the enemy. (For an articulate discussion of what he means by the contemporary rebellion against “form”, see pp. 104-106; 147). A denial of beauty produces formlessness. Formlessness is a heresy when it refuses certain revealed truths. They are mediated by material, concrete signs and symbols which are in themselves beautiful. In a word, Mosebach is preaching sacramentalism. Loss of form means loss of content! (p. 206)

On the other side, most of the antiquarianism Martin Mosebach so well understands is lost on contemporary Catholics, as it was said to have been lost on the French court in 1654. People know too little of their own church history and they have already for too long been deprived of their liturgical tradition. Those who still go to Mass in the industrialized West are minimally catechized. Perhaps it was always this way, everywhere. The elite with Mosebach’s level of erudition could be stuffed into a telephone booth, as a professional liturgiologist once expressed it.

But Mosebach rejects that line of thinking. He tells from his own experience how today simple South German women instinctively, without instruction, wash the purificators after an old rite Mass. Seemingly for him, things would naturally fall back into place when the old rite is restored universally. (pp. 28-29) However, he is pessimistic that this will happen soon. (p. 73)

In our culture wars―broader than the narrower Catholic liturgical crisis―a few voices have been raised to promote and defend beauty. Beginning with Dostoevsky, renewed by Solzhenitsyn, and expressed by Gregory Wolfe, the tradition is formulated in the phrase, “beauty will save the world”. (Gregory Wolfe, “Beauty Will Save the World” in The Intercollegiate Review 27:1 [Fall 1991]: 27-31). Using different vocabulary, Mosebach subscribes to this cry. His chapter six is named “Liturgy is Art”. “Christ desired to make his sacrifice ever-present, and so he poured it into the shape of liturgical art.” (p. 111) The liturgy is like a finished sculpture―all it needs is unveiling.

But practically, what to do? Pastors need a strategy. Mosebach argues that the liturgy itself is the strategy. Of itself it will bring light and salvation. The liturgy “is not a human artifact but something given, something revealed.” (p. 71)

So what went wrong with the reform? We know that after the Second Vatican Council the church lacked pastoral liturgists. Nobody knew what to do, and nobody knew how to implement the norms found in the revised books. The mood of the times was unstable and anti-institutional. Liturgy became highly politicized. What filled the vacuum left by an older certitude was confusion, fashion, whim, ephemeral enthusiasm, and then a surprising agenda to abolish the sacrificial nature of the Mass.A prominent theologian said in this reviewer’s hearing: “I am no longer able even to pronounce the word ‘sacrifice’.” Thus a “protestant-fellowship-meal” resulted from too much talk about banquets. What ensued was a doctrinal battle. Just a bit earlier, this state of affairs was unthinkable.

Horror and devastation remain. Ugliness and confusion reign. With the symbolic language interrupted and its sweet speech broken off, the mystery is reduced to wordiness and meaningless motion and chatter. Aroma therapy is more exciting to some than the holiness of the Mass.

Unbelievers or secular art historians, who happen to visit our churches, remark about the vulgarity and banality. Those from other liturgical traditions which have not degraded as completely, scoff at the debris of what once was the Roman Rite. The “New Mass” is unhesitatingly thought to be something absolutely distinct from the old, even if, in some instances, the new rite is celebrated with concern for aesthetic detail and perfection. Those instances may be found more inEurope, of course, than inNorth Americawhere a greater tolerance for philistinism is acceptable.

Everyone knows from the 1950s that the old rite was usually celebrated in a perfunctory, mechanical manner. (pp. 38-39) Mosebach adds that at least it had potential, whereas the new rite is so deeply flawed that it has no similar potential. One cannot “invent new forms” and expect them to succeed. This is not exactly what happened with the Missal of Paul VI, but it is very close. Those favoring the “reform of the reform” are well advised to make the new rite look as much as possible like the old rite, or face extinction. The lefebvrists think they are the true church, and that the “novus ordo” church will eventually disappear. The Western Rite Orthodox use the most archaic rites possible.

Mosebach’s insights are precious and serious, but he gives no blueprint about how to educate our people in beauty. Yes, one of the first acts of the new pope after his election was to restore Latin to St. Peter’s Basilica in 2005. But his efforts, including the ideas in his books from the 1990s, have not trickled down to parishes in California or Michigan (or Bavaria) where the “new rite” is carelessly and sloppily performed.

In fact, Ratzinger’s books on the liturgy were received with outright hostility in places where, of course, nobody ever expected him to become pope. They shuddered in their boots on the day of his election as it was no secret he would be “the liturgy pope”. In 1992, writing in the preface to the French edition of a book by Klaus Gamber, Ratzinger took the position Mosebach takes in judging the missal of 1969― “a liturgy that had grown organically had been pushed aside in favor of a fabricated liturgy”. (p. 192)

In a short time, the situation in most parishes may become desperately irreformable, so total is the rupture with the heritage of the old rite(s). The “sit down” masses among aging, graying Religious illustrate the finality of this rupture and the abject failure of the official reform. Mosebach says, “A detailed study would be required to show why, for the Catholic Church, an attack on her rites has almost fatal consequences―but space forbids.” (p. 192)

Mosebach’s criticism of the reform employs an underlying philosophy of liturgy. He rejects the very concept of liturgical reform. (p .34) “We are constantly being astounded by the reform introduced by Jesus Christ―the only reform that deserves this name.” (p. 70) We do not shape the liturgy. Rather, the liturgy shapes us. This may be easily understood by his reference to Pavel Florensky, the Russian priest executed by the Communists in 1937.

Eastern churches shun the temporal and locate their worship in eternity. The Divine Liturgy is not made by human hands, and neither hierarchs nor scholars may tinker with it―goes their thinking and that of Mosebach― “academic answers are completely useless in questions of liturgy”. (p. 30; 35) Sacred Tradition formed the Liturgy, and only the Holy Spirit can change it, not bureaucrats inRome, much less diocesan dim-lights. Mosebach is suspicious of bogus scholarship which has been used to promote an agenda. The Eastern Church provides a model of failure when the reforming Patriarch Nikon (1605-1681) was responsible for the Old Ritualist schism in Russia.

The Orthodox Church is rooted in Christian Platonism. The Orthodox Liturgy is described as an ontology, something true in itself, seen in this imperfect world imperfectly, but faithfully representing and accessing our goal in the Heavenly Liturgy. Mosebach favors something like this view for the Roman Liturgy―“We can say that, like Jesus, it is ‘begotten, not created’.” (p. 35) Or again, “Since Holy Mass had no author, since a precise date could be allotted to practically none of its parts―as to when it originated and when it was finally and universally incorporated into the Mass―… it was something eternal, not made by human hands.” (p. 35) In the chapter on the physical structure of the liturgical books themselves, there is a touching passage explaining the celebrant’s submission to the traditional order of prayer as something not made by him, as something given or received. (pp. 200-201) The Book of Seven Seals is the missal, the church’s revealed worship! (p. 209)

In our church few have written from this point of view, not even Klaus Gamber who was no friend of the official reform. Mosebach appeals to him for aid to build his case. The Roman Rite, and liturgy in the West more generally, have traditionally been regulated by pontifical legislation, not one-sided organic evolution. Attila Miklósházy wrote about the “theological foundations” for liturgical renewal and this assumed both the orthodoxy and the need for prayer reform.

We all knew the role of conciliar and pontifical legislation when a post-Tridentine pope suppressed local liturgies inEurope. Very few survived the reform of Pius V—the Mozarabic and Ambrosian Rites are still living, but barely. The old Celtic liturgies vanished. The Old Sarum Usage disappeared from the life of the church. It is known only to scholarly specialists.

If a liturgy is an “ontology”, no pope could abolish it. But rites were indeed suppressed by ecclesiastical authority. Mosebach minimizes this history, though he claims to have done his homework. (pp. 25; 32). He knows about the “two-track” history of parts of the old Mass, and this shows a higher degree of historical knowledge than most amateurs. (pp. 42; 52)

He does not mention that the missal of 1962 already shows sign of pontifical reform because, for the first time in the history of the Roman Missal, the rubrics were minutely codified and systematized. This codification by the Congregation of Rites undoubtedly was an effect of the First Liturgical Movement and Pius XII’s “Mediator Dei”.

Yet, Mosebach presents an airtight case for restoration. Once you enter through his door, it will shut behind you, and you are inside his liturgical world. He writes this meditation for the young, for priests and seminarians of the next generation seeking relief from the conflict of our vexing civil war. He writes for those who find the liturgy a difficult burden. He writes for the whole church, though he is forced to say the prospects for a liturgical Christianity are poor. (p. 72)

Our hunger and thirst for beauty will never leave us. There is hope for the future because of the way we are made. We are made for beauty. Superficiality and ugliness are a choice, not an inevitability. Some of Mosebach’s deepest insights, what might be called his spirituality, must be part of that future in the church. Perhaps there is more reason to hope than Mosebach is willing to admit. Only “perhaps”.

In the Second Book of Kings, Chapter 22, we read that the book of the law was lost in the rubble of the temple. When later it was found, it was presented to King Josiah who rent his garments out of grief.

If Mosebach is correct, something analogous to this exaltation can happen when our youth discover the enduring Mass which is “ever old and ever new”. “I take up the old Missal as if I had found it on some deserted beach. I open it and enter into its rich and ordered life, full of meaning. Here is the standard.” (p. 49)

On Saturday, 7 July 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued an Apostolic Letter, “Summorum Pontificum”, on the celebration of the Roman Rite according to the Missal of 1962. Martin Mosebach might reply that this is only the beginning.

Posted on Ignatius Insight 21 May 2008