We deny to claim "any Superiority to ourself
to defyne, decyde, or determyn any Article or Poynt
of the Christian Fayth and Relligion,
or to chang any Ancient Ceremony of the Church
from the Forme before received and observed
by the Catholick and Apostolick Church."

Norman Simplicity

Norman Simplicity
Click image for original | © Vitrearum (Allan Barton)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

To dream the impossible dream

I asked for this book for Christmas, received it, and immediately read straight through the first few chapters.

As usual, the only one to have truly misled me is myself. I had hoped that the analysis -- with which, in the broadest outlines, I agree -- would point the way towards some solutions. But, skimming through the remainder, I see little prospect of that. Instead the work ends only with an "impossible dream": "the complete recovery of orthodoxy and orthopraxis in Catholic life" as a mere article of faith (to be held, stoutly, in the face of all available evidence).

More correctly, I believe, the Church of Rome is now headed for actual schism: there are now (at least) two separate communities (probably three) co-existing under one, highly ignored head. In this state of affairs, there is absolutely no advantage over the old Church of England, which was an arrangement, as we know, containing three separate ecclesia (giving dominance to either tradition, scripture, or reason). Of course, neither names any circumstance that I had a hand in creating.

Instead, we remain with just three possible "solutions": (1) a traditionalism verging on apostasy; (2) the very broad tent of "reforming the reform" (whatever that means); or, finally, (3) the "re-catholicizing" side, that thinks better buildings and better music alone will perform the required trick. The first is auto-negating, the second too diffuse, and the third too optimistic.

The one redeeming feature of my reading so far is that the real problem this work locates is the disruption of extra-liturgical praxis: once Catholics no longer believed in necessary abstinence on Friday, the ultimate incompatibility of suicide and cremation, or the requirement to delay marriage until after Lent, all things became possible. The mass was, in the end, no more than an afterthought.

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