“The issue is now quite clear. It is between light and darkness and every one must choose his side.” G. K. Chesterton

Monday, July 30, 2012

On Msgr. Steenson's Statement on the Traditional Latin Mass

Those of you who are members, like me, of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, established for former Anglicans as a means of entering into full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining elements of our liturgy, have no doubt heard of sharp criticisms of Monsignor Steenson over on the Anglo-Catholic blog.  Specifically, these criticisms surround remarks supposedly made by the Ordinary about the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, the "Traditional Latin Mass."  In response to questions concerning the statements, the Ordinary issued a statement clarifying his position.  You can read it on the Ordinariate website.

One of my favorite websites, the New Liturgical Movement, reprinted the statement.  I felt compelled to respond to some comments, which I've reprinted here.  You can read the comments I'm responding to here:  Statement by the U.S. Ordinariate Around the Extraordinary Form.
 I am quite astonished by the responses to Msgr. Steenson's statement.  There is nothing here that indicates that he has an "unreasonable prejudice" against the Extraordinary Form; in fact, the last sentence of the statement clearly states,   "We also are pleased that the Church has provided for the continuing use of the Extraordinary Form, particularly as a pastoral response to traditional Catholics, and regard all of this as a well-ordered symphony of praise to the Blessed Trinity."  There is also no categorical prohibition against Ordinariate priests learning the Extraordinary Form or even offering it in an Ordinariate community.  He states, "But as the Extraordinary Form is not integral to the Anglican patrimony, it is not properly used in our communities;"  in this context, properly should be read to mean that it is not suitable or appropriate for use in our communities.  And he is right in that sense; the Anglican patrimony, as he states earlier, is based on (1)vernacular worship, and (2)sacral language.  To my knowledge, there is not a history in Anglo-Catholicism calling for a return to the Latin in worship.  While there is nothing in the Monsignor's statement that would prohibit an Ordinariate priest from offering the Extraordinary Form as an option or on occasion, for an Anglican Use parish it should not be the primary form of worship.

But aside from the specific issue of the Extraordinary Form, I have a greater concern as a member of the Ordinariate.  In our short history, there has been a great deal of criticism by laity (most who are not actually members of the Ordinariate) of the actions of Msgr. Steenson in particular and the Ordinariate in general.  These criticisms have included statements casting aspersions on the character of the Ordinary; claiming that the USCCB had highjacked the formation of the Ordinariate; that a small number of bishops were running the process.   Such statements can only do damage to the work of unity.  Does the Catholic Church in America need another group within it that is critical of the actions of it's leaders?  Don't we have enough trouble from the liberals in the Church?  At a time when the Church in America is under assault by its own government, do we want to be among those who wound it from within?
Let's remember that the Ordinariates were a gift from our Holy Father, one he was under no obligation whatsoever to offer former Anglicans.  With the continual move of ECUSA away from any resemblance to orthodox Christianity, and the slow death by attrition and fragmentation of the Continuing Anglican Movement, His Holiness offered a way onto the Barque of St. Peter that let us bring our liturgical baggage with us in order to preserve a style of worship that was integral to English-speaking culture, literature, music, and art.  But why did we leave churches we had known for years to venture into the unknown of the Ordinariate?  Was it primarily to preserve Anglican liturgical forms?  Or (as it was for me and others I know), because we had become convinced that the Catholic Church was the Church Christ established?  If it was the former, then we will become an "Anglican ghetto."  If the latter, then the Ordinariate can become a vibrant part of the Church in America.  But to do so, we must stop criticizing our leaders and their decisions; it is a waste of time.  We have too much work to do.
After writing this on NLM, I became aware of a response to the statement from the Anglo-Catholic blog.  The author makes the following statement:

 I have it on unimpeachable authority that there is on ongoing crackdown on those AU/Ordinariate priests who would dare to learn or celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite on the part of Steenson, Hurd, and Chalmers. The affected priests are naturally frightened, and unwilling to go on record, but make no mistake, the leadership of the U.S. Ordinariate at present has set itself against both Summorum Pontificum and Anglicanorum coetibus. I have it on good authority that this intimidation, an abuse of power, is being reporting directly to the Roman Authorities. And the contention that the traditional Latin Mass has no bearing on the Anglican Patrimony — this simply has me flabbergasted. Is there just a shortsightedness on the part of the Ordinary, or is he ignorant of the history of English Catholicism?
 I am astonished by this.  Why would a layperson post such an attack on men who are laboring tirelessly, with little income, to establish the Ordinariate?  This is filled with innuendo and hearsay.  If this is really going on, why don't the affected priests come forward?  I echo Steve Cavanaugh (who does great work over at http://anglicanusenews.blogspot.com/) in his response:
I question the value of posting it at all; if [the author] has had reports such as he says, he is well within his rights to assist those priests who are being intimidated to seek help from the authorities in Rome, but if those priests are not willing to speak publicly, then it would be better to not publicize this via second- and third-hand reports. It leads to a vast amount of speculation that does no one any good.
I also agree with his statement concerning the Extraordinary Form:
Any community of Anglicans entering the full communion of the Catholic Church who feel led by the Holy Spirit to worship via the Extraordinary Form on a regular basis can certainly do so, but why would they then enter the Ordinariate? Would it not make more sense to enter via the Pastoral Provision and then so order their worship. When I travel to St. Athanasius in Boston, I would not want to find that we were not using the Book of Divine Worship, but instead were using the 1962 Missal. I could travel 2 miles down the road and assist at Mary Immaculate of Lourdes or go downtown to the Cathedral to worship with the EF, and chant, etc. I say this as someone who leads a Latin schola.

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