A Letter Crying Out to be Fisked...
Buy your Traditional Latin Mass t-shirts and gifts here. Fr David Bingham of Mill Hill Missionaries has written candidly to the Herald.
Courtesy of the Letters page of The Catholic Herald, from this week's issue. My comments in orange, bold.
As a priest, I feel the Pope's liturgical initiative is very questionable
From Fr David Bingham (MHM)
SIR - May I make a cri de coeur? [Go on, Father, we know your pain!] On the Feast of Christ the King, I had my first experience of the Tridentine Latin Mass - except it was not a celebration of Christ the King. Apparently the Tridentines celebrate that in October [Steep learning curve, its true.]
I had not expected the total feeling of dismay that I experienced. A small scattering of elderly people - total silence - there was no sense of connection with the activity of the distant priest, no sense that anything religious was going on. [1. Regarding the elderly, "I will go to the Altar of God, to God Who gives joy to my youth". Still, in Brighton the TLM is 'yoof Mass'. 2. Silence can be deafening, but on the other hand, let's not drown out the Voice of God. 3. The Priest is doing the hard part, all we have to do is pray.]
I have felt a sense of similar dismay sometimes at the too "creative" handling by trendy priests [Amen.] of the present post-Vatican Council rites, but this, if I may say, seemingly antiquarian rival of the Tridentine Mass seemed equally disturbing. Nothing of the present is allowed; no concelebration, no altar girls, no lay Eucharistic ministers [No, Father. Just the Priest, the Server and the People of God. So refreshing. Less is more I always say. Is there actually any 'point' to lay Eucharistic ministers?]
This recreation of the past seems totally artificial [If it wasn't artificial in the past, why should it be artificial now? It's not a BBC adaptation of 'Pride and Prejudice' but the Lord, described by St Augustine as the 'Beauty so ancient and new', deserves some form of reverent ceremony. Every time Mass is celebrated, it is as if a King is being Enthroned...Father, He is!]
A prominent member of the Latin Mass Society said to me: "Well, we are on a different bus - but going along in the same direction." I have heard non-Catholics - and even non-Christians - say that sort of thing to me, but it is the first time I have heard a fellow Catholic say that. We do not even share the same liturgical year! [Yep, its a double-decker bus with a small minority partying on down with Pope Benedict XVI on the top deck and a load of stubborn Bishops, Priests and Clergy downstairs grumbling about the noise up above.]
I, though no Latinist, am all for Masses in Latin, when appropriate [When is it appropriate and when is it not? Sounds a little too arbitrary, to me, for the Unchanging God.], using the present rites. Singing the Latin Credo feels rather like singing "Land of Hope and Glory" for a patriotic Briton of the old school [Time to roll out 'Credo I', guys?] I was brought up on the Tridentine Mass, and I, by the grace of God, have always found the Mass to be a mainstay in my life, and one reason for becoming a priest [Good, good! May God be praised!].
I have attended cosmopolitan courses in which we were enriched by Indonesian, Japanese, Chinese and Burmese cultural Masses [But what's a poor Brit to do? What's inclusive about a Burmese Mass? Father, what about a Universal Mass in a language everybody could learn? You can even get translations from the Latin Mass Society.], but always there was the strong sense of the basic unity in belief and practice which is one of the marks of the Catholic Church. But on the Feast of Christ the King I had a dismaying sense of disunity. I was the outsider [Now you know how the Holy Father, one or two Bishops, more than a few Priests and many clergy who loyal to Pope Benedict feel...]. I know that the Tridentine Latin Mass movement is promoted by the highest authority in the Church, whom I greatly respect [Long live Pope Benedict XVI!].
I feel totally secure in the divine guarantee regarding the teaching of faith and morals [Deo gratias!], but I feel that this liturgical initiative - at least on a major scale - is very questionable. Maybe in the Brompton Oratory, with a large congregation, the old-time Solemn High Mass is a moving spiritual experience; but let it be restricted to a few centres, for the Tridentine aficionados [I sense some creeping prejudice there. I know a couple who were homeless for months who said, "I love the Latin and the Vestments, its so beautiful." A week or two ago I went to the TLM at St Mary Magdalen's and a guy with cerebral palsy was at the front in a wheelchair. He knew all the Latin, Father.]
I am certain this letter, if published, will elicit a flurry of responses [My pleasure, Father!]; and I apologise in advance for certainly hurting some people's feelings. I merely bear my own feelings, which may or may not have a sound intellectual basis. I do know that they are shared by a good number of Catholic clergy and laity [...yet not all, Father. The Parable of the Mustard Seed springs to mind. It starts out small, but give it time, Father...It is just like the Apostles, or more recently the story of the Franciscans. Anyway, if you want you can read Fr Ray Blake's post on Priestly Training for the TLM at the LMS Ushaw College, April next year. I expect the TLM is even more moving as the Celebrant.]