Shocked I tell you. Joan Chittister, OSB is not happy about the Motu Proprio Wow who could imagine a writer for the National Catholic Reporter not being onboard?
Seriously though, or as seriously as I get, her article is a real gem of silliness and misdirection. First she gets on her favorite hobby horse and rides off into the sunset.
It used to be that if you asked a question about the Catholic church, you got very straightforward answers. No, we did not eat meat on Friday. Yes, we had to go to church every Sunday.
Not any more.
In fact, the answers are getting more confusing all the time. Consider the question of how the newly revised Roman Missal is better than the last, for instance.
They tell us now that Mass texts — including even hymns — may not include feminine references to God. And this in a church that has routinely addressed God as Key of David, Door of life, wind, fire, light and dove. God who is also, they tell us, "pure spirit" can never, ever, be seen as ‘mother.’ Are we to think, then, that even hinting at the notion that the image of God includes the image of women as well as the image of men, as God in Genesis says it does, is dangerous to the faith? Antithetical to the faith? Heresy?
So let me get this straight she liked straight answers just as long as they are not "no" Exactly how is "no" confusing? Are their nuances of no that I am unaware of? Exactly how hard is if for her to realize that we should use the language God himself gave us to refer to the persons of the Holy Trinity and that when scripture uses feminine references to God it is always as a metaphor and not the stronger language involving relationships with God.
Or, too, we learned that the words of the consecration itself would soon be edited to correct the notion that Jesus came to save "all" — as we had been taught in the past — to the idea that Jesus came to save "many." The theological implications of changing from "all" to "many" boggles the mind. Who is it that Jesus did not come to save?
Does such a statement imply again that "only Catholics go to heaven?" And, if read like that by others, is this some kind of subtle retraction of the whole ecumenical movement?
I do love the irony of her using "as we have been taught in the past" for her defense of not using exact language that has part the Latin text for even the new Mass. Unfortunately I seem to not have been along for the ride when she jumped from this issue to it meaning that "only Catholics go to heaven." How you go from many/all to ecumenism is beyond me.
Now, this week, we got the word that the pope himself, contrary to the advice and concerns of the world’s bishops, has restored the Tridentine Latin Rite. It is being done, the pope explains, to make reconciliation easier with conservative groups.
Though of course neither Summorum Pontificum or the explanatory letter say any such thing and I guess she must equate the SSPX as a conservative group and not a schismatic group. Though maybe thinking about her using the word schismatic would be to ironic.
But it does not, at the same time, make reconciliation easier with women, who are now pointedly left out of the Eucharistic celebration entirely, certainly in its God-language, even in its pronouns. Nor does it seem to care about reconciliation with Jews who find themselves in the Tridentine Good Friday rite again as "blind" and objects of conversion. It’s difficult not to wonder if reconciliation is really what it’s all about.
Though of course the word blind is no part of the Good Friday rite anymore. I do wonder what it is about the new Mass properly celebrated that makes this "reconciliation easier with women."
Now you new this would come up in her article:
The Latin Mass, for instance, in which the priest celebrates the Eucharist with his back to the people, in a foreign language — much of it said silently or at best whispered — makes the congregation, the laity, observers of the rite rather than participants in it.
The celebrant becomes the focal point of the process, the special human being, the one for whom God is a kind of private preserve.
The symbology of a lone celebrant, removed from and independent of the congregation, is clear: ordinary people have no access to God. They are entirely dependent on a special caste of males to contact God for them. They are "not worthy," to receive the host, or as the liturgy says now, even to have Jesus "come under my roof."
And the priest facing the people does not become the focal point of what she calls the "process." Funny I thought the priest praying along with the people and facing the altar with the people would be less of a focal point and would be more "inclusive" with the parish. But what gets me the most is just how bad her sacramental theology and understanding of the Mass is in the first place. Might not she have heard that the priest is In Persona Christi? Up upon the cross Jesus as High Priest and victim was that lone celebrant that she dislikes so much. Plus the idea that the Church is saying the people are "not worthy" to receive the host when one purpose of the Eucharistic liturgy is to confect the Eucharist so that they may receive.
The Eucharist in such a setting is certainly not a celebration of the entire community. It is instead a priestly act, a private devotion of both priest and people, which requires for its integrity three "principal parts" alone — the offertory, the consecration and the communion. The Liturgy of the Word — the instruction in what it means to live a Gospel life — is, in the Tridentine Rite, at best, a minor element.
Exactly how do her criticism of the Tridentine Rite also not apply to the new form of Mass? I have been to both forms of Mass and by praying the Mass I guess I must of deluded myself that I was actually participating in it.
In the Latin mass, the sense of mystery — of mystique — the incantation of "heavenly" rather than "vulgar" language in both prayer and music, underscores a theology of transcendence. It lifts a person out of the humdrum, the dusty, the noisy, the crowded chaos of normal life to some other world. It reminds us of the world to come — beautiful, mystifying, hierarchical, perfumed — and makes this one distant. It takes us beyond the present, enables us, if only for a while, to "slip the surly bonds of earth" for a world more mystical than mundane.
And that is a bad thing?
It privatizes the spiritual life. The Tridentine Mass is a God-and-I liturgy.
And constant refrains of "Here I am Lord" don’t.
The Vatican II liturgy, on the other hand, steeps a person in community, in social concern, in the hard, cold, clear reality of the present. The people and priest pray the Mass together, in common language, with a common theme. They interact with one another. They sing "a new church into being,’ non-sexist, inclusive, centered together in the Jesus who walked the dusty roads of Galilee curing the sick, raising the dead, talking to women and inviting the Christian community to do the same.
Wow that paragraph had a real high buzz word content.
The Vatican II liturgy carries within it a theology of transformation. It does not seek to create on earth a bit of heaven; it does set out to remind us all of the heaven we seek. It does not attempt to transcend the present. It does seek to transform it. It creates community out of isolates in an isolating society.
There is a power and a beauty in both liturgical traditions, of course. No doubt they both need a bit of the other. Eucharist after all is meant to be both transcendent and transformative. But make no mistake: In their fundamental messages, they present us with more than two different styles of music or two different languages or two different sets of liturgical norms. They present us with two different churches.
Gee somehow I doubt that she would refer to the new Mass as celebrated by EWTN in exactly the same terms. The music she seems to desire really has nothing to do with the new Mass at all and is in fact mostly contrary to the documents of the very Council she says she admires so much.
So I guess since the Catholic Church has something around 28 different rites that she is made of of 28 different churches or do the Easter rites not count in her world? Different forms of an authorized liturgy do not make different churches. A heavily Protestantized Mass with a lot of "creativity" and divergence from liturgical documents can lead to that though.
The theological questions that lurk under the incense and are obscured by the language are far more serious than that. They’re about what’s really good for the church — ecumenism or ecclesiastical ghettoism, altars and altar rails, mystique or mystery, incarnation as well as divinity, community or private spirituality?
Again more false dichotomy between the two Masses. Plus I thought that Catholics actually understood both/and and not the false either/or oppositions.
From where I stand, it seems obvious that the Fathers of Vatican Council II knew the implications of the two different Eucharistic styles then and bishops around the world know it still. But their concerns have been ignored. They don’t have much to do with it anymore. Now it’s up to the laity to decide which church they really want — and why. Which we choose may well determine the very nature of the church for years to come.
Because this has worked so well for Protestantism.