Saturday, October 18, 2014


Over at another Pray Tell blog, they seem to be jumping for joy that Paul VI is being beatified.  What is it with this sudden rush for popes to canonise their predecessors?  It's downright embarrassing.  How much longer before a pope decided to canonise himself?

I have no idea whether Montini is in heaven, but he certainly put us all into a liturgical purgatory, if not hell.  This was a pope who believed he had the authority to abolish the liturgy of ages and replace it with a rite concocted by Bugnini & Co.  Even if his mass was an improvement--and it wasn't, by a long shot--popes don't have the right to do that.  It's not their liturgy, it's ours.

Question:  why are proponents of Montini's mass so keen to quash free discussion and debate?  Is it because deep down they realise his rite is banal and inferior?  Is it part of the same authoritarian streak Montini himself exemplified?  Is it because they know, but cannot admit to themselves, that Montini's mass violates the instructions of Vatican II?  Do they want readers to believe that 'most people' think the same as they do?  Are they trying to convince themselves that's the case?  Or do they just like to control people?

In any event, here's a couple comments their censors wouldn't publish:

[in response to a post praising Montini's 'diplomatic skills' (!) in picking up Vatican II after John XXIII's death:]

'To this task Montini brought considerable diplomatic skills'--and that's all he could bring. Montini had no pastoral skills; he was born to privilege and never 'smelled of the sheep', for he never served a parish.  The closest he came to this was when he was exiled to the see of Milan, where he spent a few years before they let him back into the Curia.

Montini's pontificate was an unmitigated disaster and a shameful exercise in papal aggression.  He did what no other pope had ever presumed to do--he abolished the Mass of ages and substituted for it another rite.  No pope has the authority to do that.  His legacy?  Empty pews, empty churches.
(Note:  The  US Catholic bishops' conference is equally fulsome in their praise of poor Montini.  Apparently they too only publish comments that agree with the party line; their inquisitors suppressed a comment that made these same points.)
[in response to a post likening the current 'synod on the family' to Vatican II:]
The big difference between this synod and Vatican II:  it's one thing for a bunch of celibate males to come together and draft documents about religious liberty or scripture, or to make (very modest) proposals on liturgical tweaks.  It's another thing for a bunch of (purportedly) celibate males--of which a huge proportion are homosexuals, certainly far more than would be predicted from the homosexual prevalence in the general population--pontificating to us about 'the family.'  Give us a break, please.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

La beatificazione sì--er, forse--l'ultramonatismo no!

Over at another Pray Tell blog there's an interesting post on Paul VI, the pope of my childhood who for some bizarre reason is being beatified.  The blogmeister took exception a when someone commented, 'It’s amazing how many people turn ultramontanist when the pope says things that suit their cause/ideology.'  Here's how he responded:  'Quoting a pope is ultramontanist?  You have a problem with what was the cause/ideology of a (soon-to-be-beatified) pope?  Sorry, I reserve the right to quote Paul VI, and to agree with him!'

But of course, Montini's reign was the ultimate exercise of aggressive papal hubris.  No other pope in history ever dared to produce his own liturgy and ban the Mass of ages--and how many bishops had the courage to stand up to him?  Just two that I know of.  But then, we've arrived at a place where the pope gets to appoint bishops and to dismiss them.  Corrupt?  You bet.  Sounds like this is the sort of thing that needs reform, no?

This other PT blog isn't what you'd call a haven of free speech, by the way.  But then, you know the joke about the liturgist and the terrorist, don't you?  Here's one comment the censors didn't allow on their combox:

I certainly have a problem with beatifying Paul VI.  I have no idea if the man was (or is) a saint, how holy he was in his personal life.  But he was one of the worst popes of modern times.  This is not a judgment of his character, but of his competence.  Keep in mind, this is a man who had absolutely no practical pastoral experience, and it showed.  The closest Montini, born to a life of privilege, ever came to serving a parish was when he was exiled to the see of Milan.

The liturgy is ‘the work of the people.’  No pope has the right or the authority  to sweep it away and replace it with a thing of his own making.  This was the ultimate act of papal arrogance, exceeding even the shameful engineering of the proclamation of papal infallibility at Vatican I.  An act of profound hubris, and in that the Roman Church, whether through divine providence or an accident of history, has been the bulwark of Christianity in the west, an act that was profoundly anti-oecumenical.

It’s disingenuous to pretend that the Mass of Paul VI represents the mandate of Vatican II and everyone here knows that—such wilful acts of self-delusion are not becoming to intelligent people.  But what’s most disturbing is this totalitarian view that everyone must march in lockstep.  ‘You must worship my way.’   Clearly there’s a vocal minority who are deeply attached to the Mass of Paul VI (the vast majority of remaining pew-sitters not giving a toss either way).  I admit this baffles me—surely, given the banality of that rite, their motivation can only be ideological rather than liturgical or aesthetic?—but I’m content to let them get on with it.  But, appealing to a shibboleth of ‘unity’, they don’t want to extend the same courtesy to me. Is that what Vatican II was supposed to be about?   (Meet the new boss…)

For all I know Montini was a good man.  But he was a dreadful pope.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Reid, Grillo and the Censored Combox

In my last post, I mentioned some of the discussion that was provoked by the exchange between Dr Grillo and Dom Alcuin on other blogs. Unfortunately, one of these blogs in particular has a habit of deleting comments so as to give an artificial, skewed presentation of the conversation that ensued. My obvious goal in setting up Pray Tell Unchained is making sure any comment I want to make on such conversations stays on the internet. Another goal is to explain why certain liturgy buffs are so keen on control.

Curtailed exchanges: a representative example

One thing you'll find at 'the other' Pray Tell Blog is an overriding insistence the Pauline Mass is the one and only form of worship that can be allowed in the (Latin rite) church. Everyone must conform. When I made the comment (no.10)

Really, we all need to stop telling each other how to pray. We need to give up the desire to control others.

this was the reply from the blog-owner (no.12):

The Vatican II. It really does come down to whether we accept Vatican II or not. The carefully-wrought [sic!!] argument of Grillo is that the EF is not compatible with Vatican II....Arguments for tolerance are distracting us here from Grillo’s central point.'

That pretty much sums it up.  Tolerance is irrelevant, Vatican II is everything (how will that fly with our separated brethern?)  My rejoinder—which he declined to post on the blog—was this:

"But neither is the OF compatible with Vatican 2!

It is perfectly reasonable to accept the notion that V2 was an oecumenical council with some sort of binding, authoritative force and still find the EF superior to the OF. Yes, V2 put forward some moderate reforms—allowing the vernacular for the readings and perhaps for the people’s parts, adding the Bidding Prayers (‘Prayers of the Faithful’) permitting the chalice to the people on certain occasions, etc. Did it happen? Some would say the reforms proposed by V2 are still awaited. (Others would say they occurred in 1965.)

The document that V2 endorsed, Sacr. Conc. was a compromise forged from the opinion of multiple factions. If you read it you’ll struggle to find the Mass of Paul VI in there. But if you read Hans Küng’s ‘The Council, Reform and Reunion’, written when V2 had hardly got off the ground, you’ll recognise it immediately. (How did that happen? Clearly the Consilium threw the compromise out the window and did what they wanted, anyway.

One admission here: when it comes to the authority of V2, I’m with Hans Küng: it’s silly to pretend V2 was an oecumenical council, or V1 for that matter, or any of the post-1054 councils. I think V2 was a large regional synod that was made up of fallible men, who made some mistakes. But I’m voicing this (perhaps heterodox) opinion only in the interests of full disclosure. It’s perfectly possible to have a unquestioning loyalty to V2 and reject the OF—indeed, for the reasons I’ve noted above, logic demands it.
I’m bemused the notion that tolerance distracts from Grillo’s point. I will say this: Benedict was tolerant. What Paul VI did—even if you accept he had the authority to change the Mass, even if you think his mass was superior—was cruel and insensitive. And we as a church have suffered for it."

So there, said it.  But to my other point—why censor?  In the PTB universe, there seem to be a pair of fundamental syllogisms at work:
  • A1. Oecumenical councils are infallible.
  • A2. Vatican II was an oecumenical council.
  • A3. Therefore, Vatican II was infallible.
  • B1. Vatican II mandated liturgical reform (1962)
  • B2. The Pauline Mass (1969) was liturgical reform.
  • B3. Therefore, Vatican II mandated the Pauline Mass.

Now if there’s anything wrong with the initial premises (A/B 1-2), it follows that the conclusion (A/B 3) may be faulty. At PTB, you can be pretty sure that if you question any of those premises, your comment will be consigned to the dustbin. They simply don’t want to consider, for instance, that Vatican II wasn’t really an oecumenical council in the way that Nicaea was, or that the Pauline Mass wasn’t really a ‘reform’ but a series of innovations that Vatican II didn’t call for and which you might even argue were a violation of Vatican II. Such thoughts are anathema.

And another thing...

Don't want this post to get too long, but here’s something from the same Combox that I found hilarious (no.15):

When B16 was asked why he was resigned he said and I quote: “God told me to”. What a rebuke to Benedict and everything he stood for. If God told him to leave I conclude...Benedict was WRONG [i.e., about the liturgy]. Now I can hear the howls from the traddies and the personal attacks against me but either God did tell B16 to resign, or B16 lied or B16 suffers from delusions. Regardless, it doesn’t bode well for what he tried to accomplish.

Strangely enough, my reply didn’t get deleted (no.20); ‘I suspect God has told a lot of popes to resign. What a pity so few of them listened!'

Now how did that one get through?

Yes, a lot of popes should have resigned.  Paul VI should have done so--the day after he got elected would have been nice.  And (I thought after posting this comment)  many another bishop should have resigned too.  And then it occurred to me that maybe God's been telling all of us to resign...take up his cross...etc.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Andrea Grillo, Alcuin Reid, and Control

Two Liturgy Geeks Face Off

It started, I think, on 21 January, when Dom Alcuin Reid posted what I believe is usually called a ‘scathing review’ of Dr Andrea Grillo’s Beyond Pius V on Amazon. (Hey, at least he gave him 2 stars.)   The New Liturgical Movement also posted the review  (identical but for an additional comment about The Liturgical Press).   Dr Grillo then posted a response to this review on his blog (Come se Non), to which Dom Alcuin replied on NLM, to which Dr Grillo replied again on CSN. Thus far the story.

Meanwhile, discussion of this virtual debate was noted elsewhere, for instance at Fr Auge’s blog Liturgia Opus Trinitatis (qui e qui; don't be fooled by the Latin blog title!).  Our good friends at Pray Tell Blog noted the exchange here and here. (Note that the English translation of Dr G’s book is published by The Liturgical Press, hence the connection to PTB, which has duly been promoting it, and hence the comment on the first NLM review.)

A Confession

Dom Alcuin has written a book, too, The Organic Development of the Liturgy, which I think you can safely say is the polar opposite of Dr Grillo's.   But I haven’t read either of them, yet.  I’ve promised Dr Grillo I’d read his (and now I need to find a cheap used version—the beginning is available free, here).  I’ve read Dom Alcuin’s PhD dissertation, on which his book was based, because that was free too.

Missing comments and a question

Now according to a comment on NLM, some comments from LOT ‘disappeared’, but all I can say is  Fr Auge has been polite to me on his blog, even though my Italian is pretty horrific and I keep misspelling his name.  Nor has Dr Grillo played the censor, though sadly his blog seems poorly trafficked. Go on over and say ciao.

At PTB, on the other hand—this will shock those of you who know that blog—some of my comments just evaporated.  Not all, just some.  And the funny thing is, the drum I kept beating was, 'Why can't we all listen to each other?'  Which is hard to do if comments get zapped.  And I have a funny feeling I'm not the only one, either.  So I thought it would be fun to comment here on the things I’m not allowed to comment on over there.  And if anyone cares to do the same, or just join in the fun, they’re more than welcome.

But here's my question:  is there a correlation between (i) wanting to control a conversation and (ii) wanting to control how people worship?  Because the party line at PTB is:  'This is how the liturgy must be; you must do it our way.'  Thoughts on this question welcome.


In my next post, I'm going to call out some of the more interesting comments made in the two PTB posts linked above, add my own thoughts, and of course invite further comments from anyone who cares to chime in.