Monday, May 09, 2005

From blog member Samer al-Batal
RIP Fr Gommar De Pauw
Each weekend hundreds of loyal Roman Catholics travel miles and miles to attend the unchanged traditional Latin Roman Catholic Mass, offered each Sunday at 9, 10 and 11 o'clock at the Ave Maria Chapel in Westbury, Long Island...
- Intro to the Radio Mass

Samer has told me that Fr De Pauw, the Belgian-born former canon-law professor who started one of America’s first traditionalist chapels (in a New York hotel hall — it’s been in Westbury since 1968), died the 6th May, aged 86.

Here is more info from Free Republic.

22 years ago he was a small part of my formation — through his taped votive Low Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary broadcast every Sunday night on the radio in New York he introduced me to the sound, the prayers and the language of the Roman Mass! (I knew what it was thanks to my old-school Episcopal liturgical formation and understood it as by then I knew Spanish.) Essentially he got me started learning Latin! His bass voice with a thick Dutch (Flemish) accent was unforgettable: ‘Hail, Holy Kveen’.

(Here is a quickly downloadable .ram video of the Fr De Pauw experience: A look round the Ave Maria Chapel, his position in his own words and then a complete video of his votive Low Mass of the BVM.)

Interesting fellow — he served with the Belgians and then in the Polish Army as a chaplain during World War II, having been priested in 1942.

Then he was a respected canonist teaching at Mount St Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. in the 1950s and 1960s.

That’s what he was really — an academic and a lawyer, not a pastor or a liturgist.

When the end of the world happened in the 1960s he tried to do what Fr Nicholas Gruner tried and succeeded at 10 years later (and got away with for 20 years): Lawrence Cardinal Shehan in Baltimore went after him and he tried to get himself incardinated in Italy, in the Diocese of Tivoli, but Shehan wouldn’t excardinate him. So for decades afterwards Fr De Pauw either had two bishops or none depending on your POV... he was listed in the Catholic Directory, I think under priests of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, until the 1980s.

He wasn’t without his faults. There are many excellent ways to defend the Roman Mass but his niggling, eccentric reading of canon law (‘Quo Primum is irrevocable’, etc.) isn’t one of them. (QP, with which St Pius V issued the Tridentine Mass, is written in standard Roman legalese as Father well knew and in fact the Roman Mass was fine-tuned several times after the Pian missal was issued.) As he was functionally a vagus (he refused to affiliate to Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s group) he was a bit of an ego trip, a legend in his own mind. There is a strong whiff of ‘worship of the 1950s’ in his brand of traditionalism, and part of that was his toadying to the US government and its civil religion, the Establishment... the immigrant as super-patriot. Unlike SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson, Fr De Pauw wrongly was in favour of the war in Iraq. (The cult of the US military was big in Fr De Pauw’s 1950s-worship.) Like a mouse standing on top of a Republican elephant, vicariously being a big shot!

So what you ended up with was a kind of caricature of 1950s suburban ethnic-Irish RC practice, big on devotions but weak on ecclesiology (‘Which bishop are you under?’ is as basic and traditional as it gets) and the essentials of ‘Mass-and-office’ Catholicism as emphasized by the legitimate liturgical movement that Vatican II killed. And of course the social-justice and peace aspect of the faith is too important to be abandoned, left to liberals!

In a sense he was ahead of his time — he tried to save the Roman Mass a few years before others tried — and while his refusal to cooperate with other traditionalists isn’t exactly excusable it’s partly understandable — maybe he deserved credit he didn’t get.

As for which bishop he was under, canonist that he was, he tried to solve this by the book — as a travelling priest of a foreign diocese, just like Fr Gruner was for 20 years — instead of going under a retired bishop without ordinary jurisdiction (what Abp Lefebvre was) so he gets some credit for that. He couldn’t find a way to make it work though so functionally he was ‘his own Pope’ with all the possible cult-of-personality dangers of that.

(Speaking of liturgical abuses, tell me what’s wrong with this picture.)

But Fr De Pauw deserves a grateful tip of the biretta and of course our prayers as he kept the Roman Mass going in his part of the world when nearly no-one else was.
O GOD who didst cause thy servant Gommar to enjoy the dignity of a Priest in the apostolic Priesthood, grant, we beseech thee, that he may evermore be joined unto the fellowship of the same. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Jesu, mercy; Mary, pray.

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