Friday 13 December 2013

The Franciscan Oath

"I said, is the modern Roman Rite an authentic expression of the liturgical tradition of the Church?"

"Hmm. This is tricky. Just give me another ten minutes. I need to think about this one."

Ten minutes later...

" you mention it..."
A very interesting question

I think first we need to consider very carefully, soberly and judiciously the employment of the terms 'authentic', 'expression' and with these, too, the term 'tradition', since, while perfectly valid, the modern Roman rite, at least in the manner in which it is widely celebrated, does certainly appear to be an aberration or constitute some form of rupture in a long-standing period of authentic expression of the Mass in the liturgical tradition of the Church. Under Benedict XVI, we were encouraged to see in the two rites of the Church a 'hermeneutic of continuity' in a process of 'mutual enrichment'. I agree with this. Attending both rites aids devotion and prayer in each, though I find it harder to pray at the Novus Ordo - more noise!

While we do not believe that the Church began in the 1970s, as Catholics we must surely accept the modern Roman rite as valid, but how do we determine the use of the word 'authentic' in this discussion? How do we define 'tradition'? To be 'authentic' would be to be true to oneself. Tradition takes in nearly 2,000 years! Is the modern Roman rite wholly true to itself? It is certainly the Mass, but is it an authentic expression of the liturgical tradition of the Church? This is certainly an area for debate (or, at least, it was, last I heard), for if it is, some caveats may be required.

In the first instance, Mass in the vernacular is a particularly modern innovation that appears to constitute a near total break with well over a millennium-held tradition in the form of the Roman rite of the Latin Church. So how easily does this fit in with the Church's 'tradition' of liturgical expression? What is the starting point? Does not Mass in the vernacular represent a sizable and dramatic U-turn in a long tradition in the Church's liturgical custom? Did the Second Vatican Council explicitly even call for Latin to be abandoned and for Mass in the vernacular everywhere? I think not! Thinking about all this makes me want to do a course at Maryvale. I find it all fascinating, where some would find it dull, but I expect, over time, Maryvale may experience a 'make-over'.

Certainly, the recent new translation of the Mass determined to make this modern rite more 'true to itself' and is surely a vast improvement. And yet even this is surely unable to communicate as effectively as the Mass in the Extraordinary Form the 'Otherness' of God, the holiness of the Mass and the universality of the Church. Mass 'facing the people', too, appears to be a modern innovation that crept in under the 'spirit' of the Second Vatican Council, that depletes the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass of an essential component in the sacrality of the liturgy, encouraging Mass to be seen as a 'community' celebration within an 'enclosed circle'.

It would appear that the modern Roman rite, for very complicated reasons, appears culturally within the Church to be particularly vulnerable to a wide range of liturgical abuses certainly not called for nor explicitly envisioned in the documents of the Second Vatican Council. This is certainly less the case for the Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Fr Volpi raises a very interesting question that remains one that needs great and urgent consideration.

An atmosphere hostile to debate?

There remain a variety of other issues for consideration within this debate, sorry, 'oath', such as the modern phenomenom of the reception of Holy Communion standing, on the hand by the Faithful, as well as the employment of 'Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion' within the Mass, whose services are, more often than not, wholly unnecessary. Again, though, these customs do not form part of the modern Roman rite, but are attending customs.

May I recommend to Fr Volpi a wonderful book on the subject by a Cardinal named Joseph Ratzinger who later became Pope Benedict XVI, now Pope Emeritus Benedict. It was called, The Spirit of the Liturgy.

It was this Pope that was derided as 'Soviet' and under his reign that orthodoxy in belief produced a 'Catholic KGB'. With the persecution of the FFI now in full swing, what a salutary irony that is! It would appear that under the reign of this Pope, now Pope Emeritus, debate on this subject was promoted, rather than stifled. It was heresy that was viciously suppressed, mostly by means of polite and courteous letters from the CDF. May I also suggest that while liturgical abuse, as well as sacrilegious communions, appears to be a highly common feature in the modern Roman rite, that the Mass in the Extraordinary Form has a long-standing and notable success in limiting and, to a large extent, removing entirely, these abuses and scandals. The hermeneutic of continuity meant, under Benedict XVI, that we should not be fearful of our holy tradition, but see in it a school for holiness and authenticity. After all, this Mass was the Mass that nourished, among other giants of the Church, St Francis of Assisi himself!

These liturgical scandals, rather than devotion to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and the Church's rich and glorious Sacred Tradition, should surely be a priority for those in authority, under whom are placed the care of religious orders endeavouring to be faithful to the vision of both their founders and their heavenly patrons for whom the modern Roman rite might constitute something akin to a Protestant import into the Bride of Christ, albeit, when followed according to the rubrics, entirely valid and perfectly licit. did ask!

Is love for Sacred Tradition, the Latin Mass and the Magisterium really the greatest threat facing the Catholic Church?

The question is, why do those placed in authority in the Church not deem it necessary that God be given the maximum glory, worship and honour due to Him in the Mass!? If you invited St Francis of Assisi in the 12th century to the Novus Ordo and then asked St Francis of Assisi to take the oath, 'The modern Roman Rite is an authentic expression of the liturgical tradition of the Church', would he say, "Sure, if you say so!" or, "This is a joke, right?" I attend both the Novus Ordo and the Mass in the Extraordinary Form. I've no problem with attending the modern Roman rite. I have a preference for the Usus Antiquior and rejoice that I have been been privileged to attend the Mass that nourished our forefathers. What was held as sacred to previous generations, I hold sacred today.

Mass is always holy - an encounter with the Lord. However, if someone were to ask me to sign an oath to say that I believe the Novus Ordo to be an 'authentic expression of the liturgical tradition of the Church', on the balance of things, I think I would want to say that perhaps, in my humble opinion, the Church should probably wait another ooohh...40 - 1000 years to decide on that.

I say this because, in terms of Her presence on Earth, the Novus Ordo as we generally experience it is still relatively new to the Church and that while 'Mass is Mass', the Mass in the Extraordinary Form is demonstrably superior and gives greater glory to God. I mean, the very fact that the 'Novus Ordo' has the word 'new' before 'order' suggests that we're on unchartered, even experimental territory liturgically speaking. Can such a divergence from the holy tradition of the Church be seen as part of that same tradition? I'm not absolutely sure. The great irony in this is that only a 'liturgical obsessive' or 'self-appointed guardian of doctrinal orthodoxy' would ask the question, nevermind coerce someone to sign an oath on the matter!

That's a personal opinion, of course, but in order to remain 'authentic' you have to stay true to yourself. The other 'option' is to lie in order to please others and that would be surely some kind of a sin.

Let us not underestimate the gravity and importance of an oath

So, I take issue with Fr Hunwicke because what at first appears a very easy 'oath' to sign for the FFI is perhaps a little more complicated than it may at first appear. In the heart of hearts of some, it may produce some 'prisoners of conscience' as they ask themselves, 'Do I really believe this?' or 'Am I even qualified to answer this?'. This question, raised by Fr Volpi would make for a cracking theology dissertation, or exam question, worth at least 35 marks, but I don't think it is a very fair 'oath' to place on the FFI or any Catholic. The last time Catholics had to sign an oath, things went a bit pear-shaped. Oh, but then there was the oath against modernism. That was my personal opinion. I already signed that online relatively recently so if the persecution now experienced by the FFI goes general, I guess I'm in a bit of trouble. But hey, I guess that at the end of the day, my personal opinion isn't important.

After all, Fr Volpi...

Or not, as the case may be. Let's face it, there are plenty of religious orders, other Franciscan orders, where you can find the Novus Ordo, day in, day out, but most of them are said to be gradually dying out. Only the traditional orders, like the FFI apparently, are (or were) genuinely thriving. In a hundred years time, the Church might blend the the two rites into one glorious fusion, so 'what if we just said wait?' before loyal sons of the Church are coerced into signing an oath with which they feel uncomfortable under the penalty of being labelled 'schismatics' and 'heretics'. Eerily, indeed increasingly eerily, there was a man that predicted something like this coming to pass. His name was...


Lynda said...

Well said. The imposition of this oath seems arbitrary and wholly improper.

Jacobi said...

This oath, regarding the NO, if truly required, is improper and indeed insulting.

The NO, the Pauline Mass is valid. Nevertheless, the various amendments which have come about since 1969 have progressed an implicit attack, in this Rite, on the Mass as a Sacrifice, the Real Presence and the Ordained Priesthood able to act “in persona Christi”. This must be put right in the “Reform of the Reform”, but understandingly in the meantime some priests may not wish to say it.

The Vetus Ordo is the traditional Catholic Mass which has never been, and never could have been abrogated, as per Quo Primum and Summorum Pontificum, is now fully established as a co-equal Mass of the Catholic Church and therefore no permission is needed by any priest to say it, unless that priest has joined an Order that specifically forbids it. I do not think such an Order exists.

The Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate up till now, have not been required to say the NO, as such. I suspect the matter simply hasn't arisen.

If they are now required to do so, then the Friars must have the option of opting out to another Order.

Lynda said...

Aged Parent makes a guileless, heartfelt plea for an explanation and justice on his blog, An Eye-Witness.

Our Lady of Good Success-pray for us. said...

I'm clapping my hands, but you can't hear me!

The NO is 'particularly vulnerable' to change, innovation, exclusion, inclusion, superfluousness, noise, laughter, technology hiccoughs, the 'vulgar' tongue, the Ordinary 'meal' aspect - the sort of things that you can do for the other six days and 23 hours a week, but why leave all that for an hour? it all depends on how anchored in Holy Tradition the pertinent clergy is; who can say? There does seem to be a 'spirit' accompanying it that bows to the world, whilst simultaneously, bowing to God.

"The question is, why do those placed in authority in the Church not deem it necessary that God be given the maximum glory, worship and honour due to Him in the Mass!? - answer because then we wouldn't be able to have 'Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion' within the Mass, whose services are...wholly unnecessary.'

'Benedict XVI -we should not be fearful of our holy tradition.' I get the impression that a lot of pre-vii Catholics have something of a hate for holy tradition. I think it reminds them of hell, and I think the NO 'helps' Catholics and everybody to get as far away from the NOtion as possible without being an athiest or a reincarnationist.

The Holy Traditon of the Church is not the greatest threat facing anyone one but satan.

Cardinal Burke described with much discretion, the EF as, 'a more palpable expression of the Divine action of the Sacred Liturgy'.

Imrahil said...

Well said. I agree entirely.

akp5401 said...

Excellent! Written with Charity. God bless you.

gemoftheocean said...

I just wish Pope Frankie would knock it the hell off. The question is sort of banal. No where did this order say the NO was invalid. But to ask them to take an oath the NO reflects the "tradition" of the church, PARTICULARLY with a small "t" is insulting. There's Tradition, and tradition. "T"radition implies to me "deposit of faith" items. So in that regards, yes, you can say that the NO reflects that. Valid Communion. But as far as tradition, which developed over time, not really. Although, if you want to be technical about that the first Mass was said with everyone around in that circle. For nearly 1000 years people in the western rite did receive Communion, and in the hand at that.

The order of the elements at Mass, are more or less the same, but the way the NO is done all in rush was in a way that was not organic.

Frankly, this is an asinine move and isn't fitting of the Vatican to be carrying out a witch hunt, while the people they SHOULD be going after are getting away with genuine abuse.

Pope Frankie, and minions - just. put. a. sock. in. it.

William F. Buckley, Jr. (a noted Catholic conservative) once said something along the lines: "If [some] in the church say the Latin Mass is "elitist" and "for the educated few", then surely mother church, in all her kindness can do something for the "educated few."

Nicolas Bellord said...

I think we have misunderstood all this. The Franciscans of the Immaculate have been accused of a "crypto-lefebvrian and definitely traditionalist drift". Now that is not accusing them of being full blown lefebvrians but it does accuse them of drifting towards traditionalism which must mean tradition is a bad thing. Thus if they are being asked to swear an oath that the NO is an expression of the liturgical tradition of the Church what they are being asked to swear is that the NO is a bad thing. Got it?

Celia said...

I keep wondering what's behind all this. As far as I understand it a few members of the order disliked increasing use of the EF and complained that they felt pressured to celebrate it. If that was so, then surely some less drastic measure could have been taken. Are there senior people in the Church who see an increase in interest in the EF and tradition generally as a threat to the reforms credited (often dubiously) to Vatican II and to their vision of the Church? I seem to remember amid the papal logorrhea of the last 9 months something about the danger that people use a preference for the EF as a way of challenging the authority of the Church.
'Tradition' these days is anything you want it to be. I was recently involved in an online argument with someone who claimed that the 1973 OF was 'traditional' because it had been around for 40 years. Since he also claimed that the Church had only been 'valid' since Vatican II (so you can forget St Francis and 260+ popes)I didn't pursue the argument.

Vincent said...

"Under Benedict XVI, we were encouraged to see in the two rites of the Church a 'hermeneutic of continuity' in a process of 'mutual enrichment'. I agree with this. Attending both rites aids devotion and prayer in each, though I find it harder to pray at the Novus Ordo - more noise!" Hmmm.

I felt I was going backwards as a Catholic after attending the NO for a year, in the best parish I could find. Sure, a lot of it was influence from university, but I have never been so insecure about my Faith. Of course it's valid, but it's not tradition - that's the whole point about it isn't it? It's the Mass, but not the same one that was before, it wasn't intended to be by those who drew it up...

Surely the document that Archbishop Lefevbre and several other Archbishops and Cardinals wrote made that clear about the changes introduced in the Novus Ordo Mass, regardless of the 'innovations' of more recent times. Also, let's not forget that the "Lefevbrist" position is that the Church is the One, Holy, Roman, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It would appear that nuanced, respectful debate about something is more 'harmful' than outright contradiction (which happens a lot and never seems to receive the same level of attention).

We get hung up so much about 'Tradition' and 'Lefevbrist' and all the rest of these labels that we forget that 'Traditionalists' love the Church and Her traditions, as do the 'Orthodox' people who support the NO. This isn't even close to looking at the right area. If you're Catholic, you're Catholic. If not, then you're a 'cafeteria catholic' as Michael Coren calls them. I know many good Catholic families, traditional or not, SSPX Mass goers and not. Get over it, get Catholic. I'm rather tired of hearing that the "Lefevbrist" position is dangerous, that's just a word. It has no meaning in reality. Poor Archbishop Lefevbre only wanted to defend the Church. SSPX will some day be regarded as the the Jesuits of the 21st century. Sorry and all that, but it's true. They and their followers are lovers of the Catholic faith.

Anonymous said...

Even the most faithful of those Orders who love the tradition and teachings of the Church are not going to find things pleasant in the present age.

Let us hold fast to tradition as best we can while we await a more tolerant age.

Deacon Augustine said...

Nicolas Bellord, the first time I read your comment, my reaction was "Eh, what's he talking about?" But after reading it for the third time, I think you have hit upon an interesting cognitive dissonance which resides in the mind of modernists.

In his correspondence, Volpi clearly articulates the idea that "tradition = bad". And yet he insists that the FFI make an oath saying that the NO is an "authentic expression" of tradition.

If he is really trying to hold both concepts in his mind at the same time then he is quite irrational and clearly not fit to be overseeing any group of Catholics, let alone a religious order. That might explain why he is behaving like a pettifogging tyrant and imposing unjust commands upon them. He should not only be removed from office, but if Italy has the equivalent of the Mental Health Act, he should be sectioned.

RuariJM said...

RuariJM says:

This all seems to be getting a bit heated.

I am not immediately involved - thank goodness - but the more I find out, the more uneasy I become.

I don;t particularly like the NO - the language in it has been a sore trial to me for many years! - but Pope Benedict reaffirmed that it is a legitimate liturgy and form of the Mass. When someone is asked to reaffirm that is the case, what is the problem? If something has gone so badly wrong that an oath is required, why blame the person who requires you to confirm, in unequivocal terms, that you accept and wholeheartedly agree that the NO is legitimate? I don;t see any requirement to swear that you like it, just to recognise its legitimacy.

The tales of 'movement of funds and property' is a matter of great concern. Regardless of when exactly it started, it is evidence of some kind of shenanigans going on.

I am reminded, I fear, of the Legionaries of Christ incident. Not directly comparing what has been going on but more the general reaction. There was all sorts of heat and anger spread about the place. Tempers were raised and I particularly recall the accusation that it was all a put-up job by those 'Spirit of Vatican II' guys. In the event, the Holy Father was proved to be absolutely right.

It might be an idea to give His Holiness the benefit of the doubt on this; he (and his appointed agents) might know more of what has been going on than immediately meets the eye.

Nicolas Bellord said...

RuariJM: As to movement of property you may be interested in the following comment which I posted on Fr Ray's blog:

As I have mentioned before, possibly on the Bones's blog, there is a serious allegation of possible civil and/or criminal embezzlement of funds by transferring them to members of the Founder's family. There is now an exchange of letters on the FFI website at:

My Italian is not marvellous so I may have got some of this wrong. The first letter is from a lawyer acting on behalf of the founder's family complaining that Father Volpi has made extremely defamatory statements about them i.e. an accusation of embezzlement. It is a classic letter before action for libel.

Volpi replies to this letter. He mentions the Associazione Missione del Cuore Immacolato. I do not know what this Association is or does. Is it the legal body which holds the FFI's property? It is said to own the building of the Curia Generalizia.
Apparently at a recent meeting of the Association it was decided that the "associati" (trustees?) of the Association should in future be laymen rather than religious. Further the Superior General would no longer have power over the Association. Whether all the religious were replaced by laymen is not stated but the important point is that the founder's brother in law was appointed Secretary. It is suggested that in that position he can dispose of the assets. That seems rather unlikely to me - I would have thought that the associati (trustees?) would alone have the power to deal with assets.

Anyway that is the extent of the founder's family being involved. One can see that the rest of his family - accused of embezzlement - would be rather upset. What the legalities are in all this I have no idea not being familiar with Italian law. It could all be quite lawful or not. What the purpose was of these changes in the organisation remains an open question. However to accuse a whole family of embezzlement is way over the top. It does not reflect well on Volpi and may indicate impetuosity?

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