If you have any doubt about the astonishing acting qualities of the Swiss actor Bruno Ganz, you only need to see “The Downfall”, the oppressive and depressive but so utterly human film about the last days of Adolf Hitler and the people in the bunker. Ganz is absolutely breathtaking, leading you to suspect that he was, in a way, more Hitler than Hitler was himself (I had the same impression, it must be said to preserve par condicio, of the great Helen Mirren in “The Queen”).
Ganz conveys the desperation, the hoping against all hope, then the realisation of the approaching end and the atmosphere of Goetterdaemmerung with such clarity and beauty, with such fanatic identification with his character, with such complete realism as to lead you to think whether such a movie would have been possible at all with any other actor than himself. The man was, in fact, so good that a vast number of parodies have been created and put on youtube, all based on his stunning performance.
Why do I mention Bruno Ganz?
Simply because by reading of Archbishop Conti’s sortie against the Tridentine Mass I was instantly reminded of Hitler’s bunker, and of Ganz/Hitler ranting with all the rage of impotence.
This is, my dear readers, what it is all about: the rants of an old guard, of people who in the meantime hear, feel and smell defeat from every part of the front line, whilst the traddie front likes the smell of Universae Ecclesiae in the morning.
Granted, changes in the Church happen far more slowly than world wars, and it would be too optimistic to say that trendy bishops are already living their April 1945. They aren’t yet. But you can compare Summorum Pontificum with the D-Day and Universae Ecclesiae with the fall of St. Lo and the resulting opening of the Falaise Gap that allowed the Allied to start their march towards Berlin.
Fairly soon, then, Bruno Ganz could be asked to impersonate a trendy bishop desperately trying to save what has remained of liturgical dances, altar “girls” of, say, 67, clownish celebrants, and extraordinary ministers, whilst his adjutants tell him with faces of purest stone that one after the other all bastions of resistance are falling and the Tridentine Mass will soon – when his successor is appointed – conquer the Cathedral.
Bruno Ganz would be, of course, just the man for the job. But thinking of it, Archbishop Conti wouldn’t be a bad candidate, either.
He is rehearsing already.
From Una Voce‘s press release, published on Rorate Caeli.
“what is perfectly clear is that the Holy Father has fully restored to the universal Church the traditional Roman rite as enshrined in the liturgical books of 1962, that the rubrics in force in 1962 must be strictly observed, and that Latin and the Usus Antiquior must be taught in seminaries where there is a pastoral need. And this pastoral need must be determined by those who wish to benefit from Summorum Pontificum and Universae Ecclesiae, and not be decided by those many in authority whose natural desire is to prevent their implementation.
Am I the only one noticing a new attitude, a new confidence, and the smell of victory?
Browsing around the Internet in search of reactions to Universae Ecclesiae, I was once again struck by a very clear phenomenon: the absolute, stunning, annihilating prevalence of Conservative Catholics in the blogosphere. Their dominance is now so marked, that one is not even surprised at finding one conservative blog after the other anymore; it is more so, that this is now so natural and so expected, that the chance encounter with a liberal blog would have been – if I had had such encounter – a rather shocking experience.
This reflection should make us proud (I mean with “us” not only the cohorts of bloggers, but the legions of readers who, with their contributions and encouragements, make the entire world of Catholic blogging so interesting and instructive), if it weren’t the case that our existence is, in fact, very bad news.
It is a common fact that people don’t talk much of shared ideas or common values. There are no debates about the influence of pedophilia on society, because there is nothing much to debate. Similarly, there are – after the communist madness shot itself in the genitals – no discussion anymore about whether private property be a theft, and the like. Shared values are, by and large, shared silently.
Similarly, if in the Italy of sixty years ago you would have started a debate about whether it be good to abort or to practice euthanasia, the reaction would have been a non-discussion for the evident unworthiness of the proposer, it being generally understood and universally accepted that legalised abortion and euthanasia were a distinctive trait of the Nazi regime, and such things unthinkable in a Christian and halfway decent society.
And this is the entire point. Western societies have become so indecent, so accepting of typical Nazi values, that what two generations ago would have caused open mockery or ironic commiseration, nowadays causes savage discussions. The same goes for Catholic issues, with your typical aunt of, say, 1942 smilingly dismissing as in great need of rest whoever would have told her that two generations later, millions of words would have been written about the necessity of …….. kneeling before Communion.
Our very existence is, therefore, bad news, because our existence is the clear result of the most elementary common sense having been thrown to the dogs by the senseless pot-generation of the Sixties; a generation still spreading its poison in the form of senior clergymen and senior politicians, roaming throughout the world and seeking the ruin of souls to this very day.
As it is now, hundreds of millions of Catholics can’t remember the last time their bishop has said anything meaningful against abortion or divorce; they can’t, actually, not remember when their bishop has said anything meaningful at all, vague blathering about social justice and environ-mental issues obviously not qualifying. It’s not surprising that such faithful spend part of their evening reading Catholic blogs.
If, on the other hand, the bishops were firing daily from all cannons against modern abominations and the desertion of Christian values, Catholics wouldn’t be here in the evening reading what other Catholics think; you yourself, dear reader, would just be doing something else, needing this blog no more than you need to be informed about pedophilia, or incest, or “proletarian expropriations”. Shared values are taken for granted, and one feels comfortable in the very fact that they are no object for discussion (think about a world where vast masses think that pedophilia is all right: appalling, right?).
The day the Catholic clergy starts doing its job properly and assertively, Catholic blogging will stop being a phenomenon so vast as to even attract the attention of the Vatican. That day, million of fathers and husbands will start dedicating more time to their wives or domestic occupation and less to following endless discussion on the Internet. That day, Catholic blogging will become a far more subdued activity, because the nourishment and instruction the reader seek on the net is just there, available and propagated from the friendly priest near them, as it should have been all the time.
I firmly believe that the Liturgy is the Church. You can’t corrupt the Liturgy without corrupting the Church, and you can’t improve the Liturgy without improving the Church.
Let us hope that Universae Ecclesiae will grow to become an important step toward the end of the massive phenomenon called “Catholic blogging”.
A beautiful example of how the internet is changing the way faithful organise themselves from the always excellent Messa in Latino.
Just a couple of days after Universae Ecclesiae, a reader is published with a public invitation to those living in and near Palermo to write to him to organise a stable group for the Tridentine Mass.
Mind, though, that in Palermo the Tridentine Mass is already available (in Italy the situation is, whilst patchy, certainly better than in the UK) and the scope of the faithful is simply to have more of them.
The internet (blogs, meetup, twitter, facebook, and the like) now allows conservative minded Catholics to rapidly get in touch with each other and make their voices heard. Whilst the gathering together of like-minded people has always been possible, it is fair to say that it has never been as easy as today; similarly, exposing the boycott of a bishop has never been so easy, too.
Universae Ecclesiae is going to give another spallata, a powerful shoulder’s push to the resistance of liberal bishops and now that it is explicitly said that no minimum number is necessary for a stable group, the boycott of the Tridentine Mass will become more and more difficult. Young priests able and willing to celebrate will certainly be available and their number will, in the next years, certainly increase.
Better times ahead.
You would have imagined that the bishops would have been not slow in reacting to Universae Ecclesiae, but I’m sure the speed with which Archbishop Nichols has started to fire his Big Bertha against the Tridentine post is nothing less than remarkable.
Mere hours after the publication of the Instruction, Archbishop Vincent “Quisling” Nichols was already intent at the first trial shots. His analysis of Universae Ecclesiae doesn’t stress the huge importance of the work in terms of the obligations it puts on bishops, or the renewed statement of the importance given to the Tridentine Mass, or its being every bit the equal in rank to the Novus Ordo.
Instead, his analysis focuses on the (now reduced, though he doesn’t say) powers of the bishops and, most importantly, on the stressing of the only weak point of the Instruction: the absence of compulsory instruction in the celebration of the Tridentine in Seminaries.
It is really telling of the Archbishop’s forma mentis that he would immediately point out to the only point that is not overtly in favour of the mounting tide of Catholic conservatism. It is, at the same time, very telling about the spirit and attitude with which at least the bishops of England and Wales will react (react is here truly the right word) to Universae Ecclesiae.
Just a few hours after the release of the instruction, ++ Nichols’ trumpet has gathered his own around him and made clear to them that they may start preparing to battle. As so often in life, the why something is said tells you much more about an issue than what is, in the specific case, being said. This is clearly the case here, with the first distinguos clearly giving the start for the slow, silent, relentless work of sabotage now approaching. The Italians call this seemingly innocuous, but in fact very dangerous sabotage muro di gomma, or “rubber wall”. It is clear here that Archbishop Nichols’ message to his troops is “we may not be able to stop this, but we will certainly try”.
We will see whether he has any success. In my opinion, a prompt enforcement from the part of Ecclesia Dei will cause things to run smoothly from the start, whereas uncertainties in the enforcement will condemn this instruction to certain, if perhaps rather slow, death.
Let us hope the first will be the case.
Universae Ecclesiae is, then, finally out.
In the next days there will be plenty of time to review and examine in detail the aspects and the reactions to this Ecclesia Dei document. I will here only write some short observations about what I think are the main events.
1) The Tridentine Mass is here to stay. No ifs, no buts. Those Bishops who had hoped that the Tridentine would have been relegated to small group of traditionalists have been utterly defeated. The two rites exist alongside, a very powerful way to say what was meant from the beginning but was never understood from the professional deaf. In my eyes, the very expression “Extraordinary Form” should now slowly be abandoned to say things as they were said before the Great Madness: Tridentine Mass, and that’s that.
2) This document is directed to the Bishops. It basically says to them what they must now start to do to do things properly.
3) At the same time, the documents takes the control of the process – at least in theory – out of the Bishops’ hand and puts it in the hands of Ecclesia Dei. Ecclesia Dei will decide about controversies, and bishops can then (merely) escalate the conflict to the Signatura Apostolica. This is in my eyes the clearest sign of the punishment of the bishops for having failed to give honest application to Summorum Pontificum, and of the mistrust they have earned in this matter. How the liberals have fallen.
4) The “stable group” has explicitly no minimum number. This means in extreme cases……. three people? Or just two? No priest can say that the group is not big enough, or not stable enough. Similarly, no priest can say that the group can’t have the Tridentine because they are not traditionalists in SSPX-style. This will be fun.
5) The 1962 missal applies. No bollocking around. No altar girls, no communion in the hand, no communion in standing, no strange vestments, no strange innovations. The praxis of the 1962 missal rules. You can’t kneel? You can receive in standing rather than not receive (as in the past). You can kneel? Well, then….
6) Religious orders can have their own Tridentine as they used to have. The hunt is open for a good Tridentine Mass with the specificities of the orders (say: the Franciscan, or the Dominican one, etc). This will be good in order to see whether some vitality has remained in some of those orders (say: the Dominicans) or whether they are already doomed (say: the Jesuits, the Franciscans).
7) Unfortunately, no provision for the Ambrosian Rite. As Universae Ecclesiae strengthens the praxis of the Tridentine Mass, I’m sure extra provisions will come in due time.
8 ) Only weak point: no compulsory training in the Tridentine for seminarians. This is odd. In the very moment in which it is clearly said that the Tridentine exists alongside the Novus ordo, this “alongside” is not made compulsory. It sounds like a driving school training you in the use of the stick, but not of the clutch pedal.
Clearly, enforcement is where this document will stand or fail as a useful instrument to the practice of the Tridentine Mass. If Ecclesia Dei shows a robust hand in dealing with the unavoidable resistance of the bishops, things will progress smoothly. If not, this will only be added to the long list of documents made to be ignored (a beautiful example is Veterum Sapientia). Also, the silent threat to the priests of liberal dioceses will, at least initially, remain. It is only when the number of Tridentine masses spreads, that many priests will be able to introduce it without fear of retaliation.
I remember very well the alarm at the clearly attempted sabotage of these instructions. It is beautiful, in this day of Fatima, to remember those frantic days and celebrate today’s relief and hope.
This document is a knockout blow to liberal bishops. They will get up and continue the fight, no doubt; but after Universae Ecclesiae, they must feel rather groggy.
Tomorrow is the 13th May, the day of the first apparition of the Blessed Virgin to the children of Fatima.
It migh tbe a coincidence that this be the day for the publication of Universae Ecclesiae, the new Ecclesia Dei document with the instructions about Summorum Pontificum. But I love to think that it isn’t.
The document would appear to be not good, but very good and if the legal part is followed by a robust enforcement (perhaps with the one or other exemplary punishment of some of the most reluctanct bishops, following a pattern that has started to take form in the last months), then this might be an important step forward toward a Church where everyone has reasonable access to a Tridentine Mass.
If I may allow myself the thought, I think it’s fair to say that on the day of John Paul II’s death – around only six years ago – no one would have imagined that things would have progressed so far, so fast. Again, we now need a healthy enforcement.
In all this there was, mind you, no schism. Schism is, I think, rather an excuse for inactivity than a real danger.
Such is the name of the famous, long-awaited Instruction on Summorum Pontificum.
More on this on Friday, when the text is released.
“Universae Ecclesiae” is expected to be far from the original fears, but not entirely satisfactory, either.
EDIT: By following the comments on Father Z’s blog it would appear that Universae Ecclesiae is to be, contrarily to what I have written above, extremely satisfactory! And this, in the day of Fatima!