Sunday, 15 May 2011

On building the Universae Ecclesiae

I know that should be 'universam ecclesiam', but put up with me, you Latin specialists. Archbishop Nichols's reaction to Universae Ecclesiae sounds remarkably ungracious. Of course we do not know everything he said yet. Still, it did confirm for me that the traditionalist cause is often perceived as a battle being waged on the Universal Church, rather than an enrichment of the Universal Church.

Why is this so? In part because it is true. There is some irony in the welcome being offered to Universe Ecclesiae by people who are not at all convinced of Paragraph 19 which states, in part, that:

The faithful who ask for the celebration of the forma extraordinaria must not in any way support or belong to groups which show themselves to be against the validity or legitimacy of the Holy Mass or the Sacraments celebrated in the forma ordinaria .

Come on, you know this is an issue. Frankly, if Archbishop Nichols sounds defensive, it is because he knows very well that those who will quote chapter and verse in favour of this document's application often reject the forma ordinaria's legitimacy in the concrete.

On the other hand, his remarks are also revelatory of a certain mentality at large in the Church, a mentality which can hardly be said to be quite in keeping with the mind and spirit of Summorum Pontificum. Indeed, it appears to be a mentality which is persecutory and hostile, rather than conciliatory and peaceable. Why don't we ever hear anything on His Grace's lips about the sacredness and greatness of the forma extraordinaria? Why have his comments alighted on the restrictive devices in Univesae Ecclesiae and not on the document's most positive message? No need to answer. Only he can tell us for sure.

Still, in one sense, none of this matters. In my view the only things which will carry the forma extraordinaria forward are the fruits it bears in people's lives, and the way in which it acts as a magnet or conductor for grace, thereby giving the unmistakeable Pneumatic proof of its immense power. Few minds will be won by the arguments. Some may be won by the example. Whether Universae Ecclesiae will ever be as universal as its name proclaims will depend very much on what happens on the ground.

As to that, do we still truly have the patience needed for the building of Christian civilisation (of which liturgical restoration forms a part)? Or do we just imagine Church reform like some holy version of political reform in the controlled state of passive war which characterises the modern state? Not consciously of course, but unconsciously, how easily we sticky-plaster over our modern instincts the holier objectives of a less technocratic age. We cannot, however, reach out and grab hold of Catholicity; we cannot instrumentalise it, as if it were as tangible as a public-relations profile.

These things are not defined; they are only lived, as the fruit of the Holy Ghost in our ecclesial lives. And to my mind, nothing about the liturgy can be restored while it remains prey to an unconscious modus belli of one group against another.

As for Universae Ecclesiae and Archbishop Nichols, only time will tell (and time, so I'm told, takes an awful long time to speak).


Richard Collins said...

Well stated and many thanks.

GOR said...

I suppose it was to be expected that readers of Universae Ecclesiae from both camps – traditional and progressive - would scan the content looking for items to validate their own positions. Thus, the parsing begins – ‘recommended’ versus ‘required’, ‘can’ versus ‘must’, ‘beneficial’ versus ‘obligatory’, ‘Instruction of a Congregation’ versus ‘Papal Encyclical’ and so on.

People frequently complain that the Holy Father is not more dogmatic. They want the big stick rather than the kindly word, the anathema rather than the admonitio. In this we are like children, complaining about the restriction and then lamenting about not being warned. We are our fathers’ children when we should be striving to be Our Father’s children.