I’ve been out of pocket most of this past week for reasons I’ll explain later, but coming back to the blog there’s one topic I’d like to comment on: the Occupant of St. Peter’s see’s downgrading of the celebration of what we used to call the Tridentine Mass, or now TLM. This has been coming for some time and now we are here.
I’m going to skip most of the back and forth as to who is “really Catholic” in this situation and make one observation: those who are devoted to this form of the Sacred Mysteries are almost to a person seriously dedicated to the Church. It’s also worth observing that many of those who oppose them are basically “box checkers” and prefer the box checker church to the exclusion of all others. Evidently the Occupant feels the same way. It isn’t the first time: his Jesuit predecessors (with the connivance of Louis XIV) beat down the Jansenists, and in nearer times the Charismatics have suffered the same fate.
The Roman Catholic Church is a large institution, ethnically and socio-economically diverse in a way that most non-Catholic churches can only envy. It’s hard to make a case that a few TLM preferring Catholics are a real threat to the unity and integrity of Roman Catholicism: indeed, as this article notes, “It is more like amputating a finger to treat a hangnail than it is anything else.” Nobody votes for the leadership in a meaningful way, so the threat of democracy, the inchoate fear of our own secular elites, is not on the table.
But the Occupant and those of like mind to him are threatened by enthusiasm that isn’t exactly their own. They prefer a church where, to use Cardinal Suenens’ quip, the laity know when to kneel, when to stand, and when to reach for their wallet, and that’s just about it. Such a church is sure to die, perhaps not in all places but in many. When institutional control is the main objective, however, institutional death is an assumed risk.
I am sure there are bishops out there who have enough sense to see this. But most, in North America at least, won’t, not in the long run and with the inevitable pressure from the Vatican and their own peers. The main beneficiaries of this will be the Society of St. Pius X (who is probably facing a rough ride of its own) and to a lesser extent the Anglo-Catholics.
Roman Catholicism’s distaste for serious enthusiasm amongst its faithful is the single most distasteful thing I find about the Church, and in my opinion has caused much of the bleed of parishioners the Church has experienced over the last half century. But any church who cannot channel the dedication of the faithful to its mission will find itself with no faithful and in the end with no church.