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November 2004

The present historical reality.

From Conservatism to Traditionalism

FATHER X
(A priest of the Northern Province)

Introduction: Demolishing the Faith to Idolise Man

I converted to Catholicism at 20 years of age. Eight years later I went to seminary. Here I was told that "it took the Catholic Church 400 years to hear the Holy Spirit at Vatican II and realise that Luther was right".

We were given the tool of Non-Directive Counselling for Pastoral Care, and studied Erik Erikson’s "Eight Stages of Life" as spirituality (hand-in-hand with having Whitney Huston’s version of "The Greatest Love of All is learning to love yourself" played to us as a source of meditation).

Such was my horror that I became a very conservative Catholic who wanted reverent liturgy and faithfulness to the teachings of Rome and Tradition. But conservatism brought about the suspicions of my Bishop, fellow clergy and laity.

I looked back to my first days as a Catholic when I attended Mass with the Society of St Pius X and began to wonder if I should have stayed there. Then I began to see that being conservative was not helpful to maintaining the Faith but possibly damaging to it, for it’s loyalty to Rome means one puts into practice whatever abuse is legitimised by Rome, such as Communion in the hand and lay ministers.

I thus began to realign myself to Tradition and to attend the occasional Mass with the Society of St. Pius X and Latin Masses celebrated in the Diocese under the Eclesia Dei motu proprio. I felt I had come back to the Faith I had converted to and questioned the orientations of the modern Church.

The following pages are a glimpse of how I reasoned that a return to Tradition was the only way forward; why I believe that what is sweeping the Church today is the breaking of the First Commandment and the Idolisation of man. Such idolatry is comfortable. We can go on pleasing ourselves because "God loves us the way we are", which is true as far as it goes but can exclude any real need for metanoia - change in one’s way of life.

I thus came to live a poor priestly life: I did not pray as often as I should; I did not challenge irregular lifestyles as I should; I became more and more the "pal priest" and less and less the Spiritual Father. I was living by the secular rather than in the sacred by counselling more than directing; empowering more than shepherding; and having so open a presbytery that I was vulnerable to wrongful accusations against my celibacy (which I always maintained as a sacred bond to God).

Only later did I realise I was jeopardising my Faith and my soul by compromise. A renewed spirituality was called for: Traditional, Catholic spirituality.

The Importance of Tradition

Tradition was upheld by Vatican II as forming a unity with the Bible in transmitting the word of God (Dei verbum 10). Indeed Tradition was the yardstick against which the Bible itself had been compiled. Thus to ignore or distort Tradition is to deny or distort the word of God and remove the foundations of the Bible.

Sadly, in my fifteen years as a priest I have witnessed modernisers - certainly sincere in their desire to effect Christian Unity and give the Church a face the world will accept - attempt this dismantling and distorting of Tradition and in the process, oppressing those faithful to it. Is this then the time when God’s faithful are persecuted by those who think they were doing a holy work for God? Since I ascribe sincerity to the modernisers I must believe that it is.

Those who promote today’s errors may well retain the title ‘Catholic’ but they are demolishing Catholicism from the inside, giving concrete witness to this by the demolition of high altars and removal of the Blessed Sacrament from Its rightful place front and centre.

They refer to this as re-ordering, but it is a true demolition of faith which gives concrete witness to the new orientation of the idolisation of man.

Idolatry in Pastoral Care

The call today is for pastoral sensitivity, which I fully support. However, I have rarely seen pastoral sensitivity employed. Instead we are awash with pastoral sentimentality where the Faith is side-stepped for fear of hurting persons or coercing a conscience.

Yet informing is not coercing, and by side-stepping into the emotional life we abandon the care of the soul. Such pastoral sentimentality is a grave spiritual injustice, resulting from following modern psychologies, modern sociologies and, in particular, the widespread adoption into Catholic life of Non-Directive Counselling.

This form of counselling posits that the person is intrinsically good at the core and can thus be trusted to make morally correct decisions free from "external ought’s and should’s". From the Catholic standpoint such counselling can only be described as the work of the devil; a replay of the drama in the garden of Eden where rejection of God’s law originated.

The Non-directive Counsellor promotes the clients "I feel, I think" therefore "I will…or I won’t" orientation and thus reprises the role of the serpent who successfully had Adam turn from God’s Law to self-rule. Until such counselling is abandoned in favour of Spiritual Direction, clergy will continue to put souls in danger - especially since Non-Directive Counselling utilises dangerous subjective truth rather than objective Truth.

As an example of the danger let us take the case of a patient with hyper-pyrexia who undergoes what is medically termed a ‘rigor’. He will tremble violently and say he feels "freezing cold". He is not lying. He is telling the truth. But he is wrong about reality. For a nurse to act on his subjective belief and warm him further will cause irreversible brain damage and ultimately, physical death. Such a nurse would be said to have acted incompetently at best; negligently at worst.

When clergy focus on subjective truth in the spiritual realm they expose souls to spiritual death and also act incompetently at best, negligently at worst. Such negligence is, I feel, widespread.

Idolatry In Episcopal Collegiality,
Decentralisation and Collaborative Ministry

Episcopal Collegiality (decentralisation) and Collaborative Ministry have become primary goals for many. Whilst it is true that the power to bind and loose was given to the Apostolic college as a whole, it was given to Peter in a singular fashion.

To Peter alone were given the Messianic Keys; the task of confirming the brethren and the commission to feed the flock. Through his ministry we are fed on "every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4) and kept on track by his binding and loosing.

Bishops bind and loose only in accord with him; to seek the kind of collegiality where Bishops Conferences or International Synods decide what is to be taught or what laws are to be enacted is to abandon the Will of Christ. Such decentralisation would also disempower Bishops within their own Diocese since they could be obliged to put directives they themselves may not have voted for into operation.

Thus, decentralisation constitutes Idolatry of the collective kind, and is just as dangerous as individual Idolatry, for it is akin to a whole ward full of patients asking for the heat to be turned up when all are suffering from the fever of malaria. In their asking, they endanger the whole unit.

As regards lay collaboration, the faithful have been led (deplorably) to believe they have a right to teach and rule in virtue of their baptism. This is contrary to scripture which declares that the Mystical Body is hierarchically ordered: the foot is not the eye, the hand is not the head. Vatican II itself declared the lay apostolate to be geared toward the secular world where they are to be its leaven (Apostolicam Actuositatem 7-8). It underscores this by stating that the ordained priesthood differs not only in degree but in essence, for while baptism inserts us into the Body of Christ, ordination give us the ministry of the Head.

Where parish priests permit Parish Councils to make parish rules - and where Diocesan Bishops allow Diocesan lay Councils to act in similar fashion - they decapitate Christ by allowing sheep to rule shepherds.

It is not that the laity should not be heard; I for one could not function without the advice and support of the Parish Council and Finance Committee. But there it ends: there is no decision-making power wielded by them. Vatican II required that laity be "fully subject to higher ecclesiastical authority" (Apostolicam Actuositatem 20), and I uphold this.

Unbelievably, the reduced number of men coming forward for ordination can engender speculation that the reduction in priestly vocations is a work of the Holy Spirit to provide for the laity becoming "mature members of the Church". Thus emerge lay leadership roles in ‘cluster’ parishes. Yet Our Lord wept for those who were "sheep without a shepherd". So is it the Holy Spirit Who is at odds with Our Lord, or the Bishops?

Regarding clusters themselves, I find no problem in principle, since this term denotes a clustering of parishes under a shepherd. But clustering as we see it practiced (certainly within our own Diocese) is a clustering of clergy, since it means four or five parishes under three or four clergy who move from place to place for Sunday Mass, often passing each other on their way to the parish the other has just left. What a ridiculous situation that is! Which GPs would swap surgeries one day a week and say it is necessary because they are short staffed? The mind boggles at the stupidity of it all.

Such clustering of clergy is a cunning attempt to demote ordained shepherding and put laity in charge, thereby creating sheepfolds without shepherds. Meanwhile clustered priests (other than the Co-ordinator) are unjustly deprived of their rights to stability and a community.

If clustering projects are to continue let them be a genuine clustering of parishes under a shepherd, not a clustering of shepherds to facilitate an inauthentic handing over of the responsibilities of shepherds to the sheep.

Since the role of the lay faithful is the indispensable mission of renewing the temporal order (Lumen Gentium 33) we should be assisting them in this task by supporting their social action (while assiduously avoiding the tendency to become a community of social workers). To focus the laity on ecclesial ministry is to abandon the Council and to discard Scripture and Tradition as vehicles of the Divine Deposit - and thus the Deposit itself.

Doctrine does indeed develop and with it Church organisation, but that development must be in harmony with its origins, otherwise it is not development but corruption; a cancerous growth in need of radical and urgent excision.

The Idolatry of Radical Feminism

As the secular world has progressed we have seen a call for the Church to follow the world and ‘liberate women from ecclesial oppression’, by which is meant bringing an end to their exclusion from ordination.

Such a move, being based on secular progression, would invert the Divinely established order, for the Church is a light to the world, not the other way around. In fact, as the Body of Christ who has overcome the world, we are its teacher, not its student; its shepherd, not its sheep.

It is essential that Catholics remain faithful to the words and example of Christ in the matter of the Sacraments as determined by His Divine Will either directly or by Apostolic Tradition. We must baptise with water, not wine; anoint with oil, not perfume; use bread for Mass, not meat; and ordain men to priesthood, not women.

It was suggested to us in seminary that the matter of the sacraments can be changed on the grounds that Our Lord used what was common in that place and at the time; so that we may use what is common in our own place and our own time - rice and tea for Mass in China, for example. But this is to declare that Our Lord had no choice between water and wine for baptism; between bread and meat for the Eucharist or between men and women for ordination. The argument is ludicrous, resting on the belief that God was limited by the very culture He chose for His Incarnation which took place "at the appointed time" in a specifically prepared woman and in a specially primed nation.

Arguments of historical constraints thus hold no validity. Radical Feminism must therefore drop the demand for women’s ordination. Failure to do so only demonstrates a loss of Faith.

Many other attitudes in radical feminism are not of God: He cannot desire the abortion of those He has created out of love, nor inspire artificial contraception which directly opposes His Will. (Whatever happened to "Thy will be done"? Contraception is a clear abandonment of "Thy Will" in exchange for "I will"; for self-Idolisation). Even when practiced temporarily artificial contraception puts God "on hold" until the "I" decides they are ready to live out their accepted vocation as a married couple.

Sadly, Radical Feminism has influenced Catholics to the point that Catholic women need only shout ‘Injustice!’ to send the Bishops scuttling around their conference room like beetles in a (seemingly undiscerning) desire to placate. This bears a frighteningly close resemblance to Eve’s subversion of Adam.

Ecumenism & The Seeking of Converts

Once again the intention is right: reunification of the Lord’s dismembered Body. But in practical terms it has become a syncretism which attempts to reconcile Catholic Truth with Protestant error. We have to remember that Protestant Churches are still in a state of heretical apostasy, and trying to reconcile Divine Truth with Protestant errors is to corrupt the Truth; akin to creating the poisoned apple to give to Snow White.

In view of the fact that we now undertake social projects with Protestants (which is right and good) and because our reformed liturgy is very close to their own (which is not good because it is thus closer to expressing their faith than ours) many people view Catholicism as one religion among many. This is not the teaching of the word of God deposited in Tradition, or the teaching of Vatican II.

The Council did indeed state that "The Holy Spirit has not refrained from using [other communities] as a means of salvation" but added that "they suffer from defects" and "derive their efficacy from the very fullness committed to the Catholic Church" which is "the all embracing means of salvation" and into which "all should be fully incorporated who in any way belong to God" (Unitatis redintegratio 3).

The active seeking of conversions should thus be a continuing force in Catholicism, yet a number of clerics say we need no longer seek conversions.

As a convert myself I find this attitude appalling, for every soul has the right to the Truth which sets it free; a right to the daily sustenance of the Eucharist which unites it profoundly to God; a right to the healing of Confession when damaged by sin; and the healing of Extreme Unction when approaching death. To deny them all this is a grave denial of their spiritual rights.

Our Lord’s commission is that we actively seek conversions: "Go, teach all…" not passively "Wait, and receive…". How wrong the Cardinal was to see "You-come-inism" as an error.

I have the greatest respect for the sincerity and labours of our Protestant brethren and have worked alongside them in prisons, hospitals and local parishes, but I do not respect their faith systems which are "defective". We do not put our Protestant brethren down by stating we are the True Church of Christ, but we fail them seriously when we allow them to believe errors which are not of God. Ultimately, we fall short in charity when we do not offer them the Truth.

A pertinent question remains which our Bishops must ask themselves in sincerity of heart: are we genuinely Ecumenical? Many parish Churches open their doors to Anglicans, Methodists, United Reformed etc, and call themselves Ecumenical in doing so. Yet they close those same doors to the Latin Mass Society, the Fraternity of St Peter, the Institute of Christ the King and the Society of St Pius X. This indicates two things: first, such door-closers are not genuinely Ecumenical but accepting only of that of which they approve; second, that this approval is Protestant in orientation and hostile to their own Catholic Tradition and Faith.

Idolatry in The Liturgy

Much has been said over the years about the reformed liturgy but we cannot ignore it because what we pray is what we believe. The new liturgy is in grave danger of establishing (if it has not already done so) a new lex credendi to compliment self-directive pastoral care: the centrality of man.

That priests face the people when offering Mass symbolically identifies the community as the important element rather than the Sacrifice or the one to whom it is offered, for one does not offer sacrifice facing the one who is making the offering, but the one to whom it is offered.

To speak of the interior disposition being towards God no matter what the physical orientation of the priest is a deficient argument, for external actions express the internal disposition. Hence Mass facing the people must be seen as an orientation towards man, time and place rather than God and eternity.

It is said that the faithful have accepted the new liturgy with eagerness. Where this is true it is because it allows the focus to be upon self rather than God, which is entirely consistent with the Idolatry of Original Sin; that turning away from God towards the self.

Further, the loss of ritual has created such a gap in the liturgy that it has been necessary to seek ‘inculturation’. Dance, drama, mime, popular music styles, kaleidoscope vestments which only give expression to confusion, have all been admitted to make up for the short-fall in ritual. True, Masses celebrated with dance, drama and pop-style music can be very entertaining, but that is the problem: liturgy is not about the entertaining of man but the adoring and petitioning of God.

The phenomena of applause during the liturgy is a clear sign that people feel entertained, and are adoring and thanking man, which is an appalling deviation from authentic worship. Interestingly, few priests acknowledge that if the congregation are given the right to applaud what they approve, those who disapprove are entitled to heckle.

Reverence for the Mass as the sacrifice of our redemption has thus been consigned to the dustbin in the modern Church; to promote it is almost considered the promotion of heresy. I am amazed to hear priests and people extolling the powerful impact of Mel Gibson’s The Passion which, they say, had them leaving the theatre speechless. Why then, when they have had the very reality of the Passion enacted before them at Mass do they leave Church full of noisy chatter? Because they have lost the understanding of Mass as the Passion and Sacrifice of Calvary, a concept which does not sit well with today’s ‘self-rule’ which automatically rules out self-sacrifice. If priests were celebrating and people participating internally by meditating upon the Passion and Death of Christ, they might be able to leave Mass with an even greater awe than when they watched a mere movie.

Despite the fact that the Council used the word ‘actuosus’ and not activus in speaking of active participation, denoting increased internal activity as well as external participation, this has become "as much external activity as possible". In fact, "participation should above all be internal…" (Sacrosanctum concilium 15[a]). Conversely, and despite the progressives supplanting of activus for actuosus, actions and postures prescribed by the Missal are blatantly ignored: the striking of the breast during the Confiteor, the bow during the Credo’s "et homo factus est". The former omission eliminates a sense of the sinfulness of humanity (as is consistent with today’s Idolisation of man) while the latter denigrates the dignity of God in His Incarnation (which would detract from man’s self-idolisation).

Meanwhile, respect even for sacred furnishings has gone: it is appalling catechesis to have pictures produced by the Children’s Liturgy stuck onto the sacred altar by blue tack or drawing pins since this reduces the altar to the status of Display Board. Would a mother allow pictures to be pinned to her dining table?

I do not believe the ideas behind the Novus Ordo Missae were completely bad: the Church is entitled to admit a choice of Eucharistic Prayers when the sources of such prayers are from the Patristic period and not manufactured in modern and rapidly dating psychological and sociological theories.

I say the Patristic period with reason: the Church’s understanding was flowering at this point, the persecution of the Faith having been long since ended. To return to prayers from too early a period, such as the Mass described by Justin Martyr [c.165] which is frequently paralleled with the New Rite in order to justify its ‘tradition’, is not a return to the pure but to the primitive, for the Mass described by St Justin is a Mass from the persecution period, unable to attain maturity in the open air. It is primitive rather than pure, and just as we should not return to primitive medicine, we should not return to primitive worship. There is no problem having the readings proclaimed facing the congregation because this is God speaking to His people, but this is not the case when Christ offers Himself to the Father through the ministry of His priest.

Nor is it that the Novus Ordo teaches heresy. It is too neutral for that. However, it does not hold a clear continuity with the Tradition. Even where Latin and the Eastward-facing are retained, the new rite remains deficient by reason of the removal of vital elements from the Rite. The purpose of all liturgical rites being to give expression to belief, it is clear that the removal of genuflections, signs of the cross etc., from the new Rite violate this important liturgical principle. By diminished expressions the new Rite can thus be seen as obscuring the expression of Faith by omission.

The following five omissions should never have occurred:

1. The omission of the prayers at the foot of the altar, which demonstrate the humility required before entering the Holy of Holies;

2. The omission of the priest’s individual Confiteor, which demonstrated publicly both the humility necessary to his office and his singular role in the celebration;

3. The Offertory Prayers (which provided the proclamation of Sacrifice);

4. The Eastward-facing position (which demonstrated the Sacrifice);

5. The genuflections before the elevations (which provided a clear proclamation of the Real Presence).

Similarly, five things should never have been admitted to the liturgy:

1. The repetitive Prayer of the Faithful;

2. The reception of Communion in the hand - an abuse voted against by two-thirds of the world’s Bishops and permitted only to prevent schism of the Dutch Church;

3. The Mystery of Faith acclamation (which interrupts Christ’s prayer to the Father for the sake - one can only presume - of giving the people something to say);

4. The exchange of the sign of peace, which interrupts the focus on the Blessed Sacrament to focus upon man;

5. The use of Extra-ordinary Ministers (dispensing Holy Communion is integral to the role of the priest who, acting in persona Christi, is to "take, bless, break and give" – to disconnect the element of giving is to mutilate by amputation that which is an intrinsic whole).

The silent Canon, where mortal flesh keeps silent as Son speaks to Father and pleads for His Church, needs to be restored. Silence allows the spirit to soar above our pedestrian world and encourages the "lover’s glance" where "silence speaks volumes". As scripture reminds us, God spoke to Elijah not in the mighty roar but in the still, calm breeze. As Habakkuk 2:20 says: "The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him."

It only remains to be said that Latin, as the universal language of the Church in both place and in time should never have been lost: note the commands even of Vatican II: "The use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin Rites". "Gregorian chant IS TO BE GIVEN pride of place" (Sacrosanctum concilium 36, 116, emphasis mine). How easily some who claim to be faithful to the Council have dismissed its directives here.

Conclusion

Where am I today?

Although I celebrate the Novus Ordo with as much reverence and obedience to the norms of the Missal as I can - and not without rebuke from fellow clergy - my preference is for the Rite codified by Pope Saint Pius V, granted to priests in perpetuity.

I had thought of suggesting the foregoing modification to the Missal a proposal for bringing the new rite into harmony with Tradition, but what point in trying to re-build a house that is deteriorating when the old still stands in full glory?

Going back 1,500 years to the time of Gregory the Great the Old Rite is THE Mass of the Roman Church; a house for the sacred Deposit of Faith. It was loved by saints and defended by martyrs. Only minor additions were made to it during 1500 years – and no excisions until the Novus Ordo arrived. This New Rite is thus not a reform of that venerable Missal but a stripping of it by demolishing its ritual and excising many of its prayers. The very rituals (eastward-facing orientation, genuflections, signs of the cross) and prayers (offertory, Placeat tibi etc.) excised by the Protestant Reformers to remove Catholic Dogma have also been excised from the Novus Ordo. This should worry anyone who sincerely wishes to retain the Catholic Faith, for such excision does not constitute reform but eradication.

What else could we expect when 6 Protestant advisors helped Bugninni’s Consilium to produce the Novus Ordo?

Unless today’s liturgy moves away from minimilisation of Catholic dogma and the entertainment of man and returns to a God-focused orientation we shall be left with a worship which, being man-focused, misses the mark of true religion and leads us from God to self.

The basic error today is that theology has been sacrificed to psychology and sociology, paving the way for the adoration of man in both pastoral care and liturgy. The worship of God has been diminished, if not lost. It must now be restored.