If you want to have an immediate perception of everything Vatican II represents, look no further than these two photos, courtesy of the always excellent Rorate Caeli blog.
I do not need to tell you which one is the old altar and which one is the new one. I would like to make the following observations:
1) The doubt whether the bishop (this is the Cathedral of St. Vincent in Viviers, France) who considers such a movable (look at the carpet) and almost casual device suitable for a Consecration believes in the Divinity of Christ is fully justified. I’d say the more intelligent question at the sight of such an opprobrium is how long ago the bishop in question has lost his faith, or whether he ever had one.
2) If I had even someone as infinitely lower than Christ as my King or Head of State at supper I’d never dream of dedicating to him my kitchen table, or my movable camping device, or the small breakfast table in the balcony. I would think that to prepare for my guest the best that I can offer would be the most elementary sign of my respect for my guest, and of my fitting tribute to his rank. I am rather sure the bishop who had the idea of commissioning such a sacrilege thinks the same, too and would never dream of receiving his distinguished guests in boxers and flip-flops, nor of inviting them to dinner and let them sit on the portable table in a corner of the patio.
Whenever I see such altars I can’t avoid thinking of someone who receives you in his undies and thinks it cool. This goes together with the modern times, when young idiots wear their undies as substitute for the back of their trousers and think it cool, too; but at least, they aren’t bishops.
3) I am very much in favour of the Holy Father talking, as he does here, of the necessity for the priest to “oppose the trend of the time”, to be “like a tree that has deep roots” as opposed to the “portable” ideology of the post- V II clergy. But I can’t avoid noticing that the Holy Father is very shy in walking the walk and that he – not to put too fine a point on it – continues to allow what he criticises. This is the same spirit of encouragement instead of demand already championed by Paul VI and John XXIII and about which I have already written here. It hasn’t worked these last 45 years and I can’t imagine that it can start working now.
This altar is a shame and a mockery of Catholicism. The downplaying of what happens on the altar is so evident as to make explanations superfluous; nay, I go as far as to say that the reason for such an altar is to make the downplaying of the Consecration perceivable to the dimmest wit. Symbols and images are very powerful and say one thousand words with a single statement. In this case, the statement can’t possibly be overheard.
Such clergy (the bishop, and those attuned to him) need our prayers, but they need to pull themselves together more, and they need correction the most. Beautiful speeches about the need for the priest to “not be chaff” are not really useful unless they are accompanied by the opportune measures and by a robust enforcement of the behaviour requested of them.