Brave Italian Priests, and the Pitfalls of Biritualism
This has already made some waves, but I get to write some comment only now.
In Italy, three brave priests have decided that once the Church has put at their disposal the possibility to celebrate the better Mass, it makes no sense to celebrate the lesser one. Mind: none of them says that the Novus Ordo has no sacramental validity. What they say, is that you don’t do things by half, and that they most certainly won’t do it. The three priests have set up a common internet site, called Radicati nella Fede (“Rooted in the Faith”). Truly, these people don’t do “gradualism”.
Rorate Caeli publishes an interesting interview of one of the three, in an English translation. The interview is very interesting to read because it shows people who, whilst not being “extremists” in any normally accepted ways of the word, are hard as granite in their desire to be the best priests they can.
The following concepts of Father Alberto Secci particularly caught my attention; firstly, that he had found at school a more militant Catholic spirit than he subsequently found in the seminary; secondly, that he wore the cassock and gave communion on the tongue even in those pre-Benedict times; thirdly, that he seems to stress the fact that he gave traditional catechism to the children, thus clearly distancing himself from the watered down catechism he must have seen taught around him.
The interview becomes really interesting, though, when Don Secci gets to speak about why he celebrates the Tridentine Mass and no other:
I shall be brief. I find the obligation of biritualism absurd. If one has found that which is authentic, which is best, that which expresses the Catholic Faith more completely, without dangerous ambiguities, why would there be the need to celebrate something much less so? With biritualism, in actual fact, one rite dies and the other stays. With biritualism, the priest gets weary, with the sadness of a sort of schizophrenia, and the people are not edified, instructed, consoled in the beauty of God. I shall avoid discussing the theological liturgical aspects – an interview is not the place for that. I will say only that whoever stays with biritualism sooner or later abandons the Old Rite and manufactures reasons to stay in the world of the reform, lived perhaps in a conservative way, but with an interior sadness, like one who has betrayed the love of God since his youth. I have to add that it was very helpful for me to read “The Anglican Liturgical Reform” by Michael Davies – a fundamental text which is very clear: the ambiguity of the rite leads to heresy in fact. Is it not this that has happened?
Heck, this man is lucid. He has a legitimate instrument that is better than another legitimate instrument, and therefore he uses it. He recognises that the ambiguity of the rite leads to heresy, and acts accordingly. He has the gut to say loud and clear that this is what the Novus Ordo has given us: heresy.
Now, one might legitimately say that the “radical” choice of only celebrating the Tridentine is against that spirit of gradualism and progressive change that generally serves the Church rather well. I think that the argument has, in abstract, its legitimacy. But in practice, in a country like Italy, where every village has its church and the next church is just a short walk or bicycle or car or bus ride away, it doesn’t seem very valid: Piedmont has world-class infrastructure, we are not talking Burkina Faso or even Calabria here. The choice between the rites is given at every practical level anyway and as long as there are parishioners (the vast majority of them, in today’s Italy) who must live without having the Tridentine round the corner, I find it more than acceptable that there should be rare parishioners who must live without having the Novus Ordo round the corner.
I think what explains the motivations of Father Secci (and his colleagues) best are the following words about the present situation:
A great many think they are Catholics, but they aren’t anymore. It’s terrible.
Once again, the lucidity of thought and clarity of expression of this man is admirable (though more accustomed for an Italian, as by us the culture is to say things rather more directly than in the UK). You clearly see this man wanting to obey Christ as best as he can.
Which leads us to the last issue: obedience. I do not know (and the interview doesn’t throw light on the matter) whether the priests are in direct violation of canon law, or whether they are just giving it an unusual interpretation, not very popular among some faithful, certainly unusual and not pleasing the bishop much. If the three are in direct violation of Canon Law, I think this (not the gradualism argument) is the most valid argument against the “radical” choice made by them.
I still can’t escape the impression that these three are wonderful priests, though; and at the cost of appearing – as I sometimes am – rather too sanguine, I also have the impression that these priests are the spear head of a thinking that will soon – possibly as soon as the next papacy, very probably with the one after that – spread all over the Church as the limits and shortcomings of the Novus Ordo become more and more apparent and the generation which created it dies.
As always, whoever looks at the past of the Church, also looks at Her future.