Friday, June 10, 2016

The challenge of being universal: Different rites and churches, but one church and one faith

Catholics be like East side, West side. Venerable Fulton J. Sheen agrees!
The church is international, multicultural in the true sense (not Erastian or a national mascot); secular liberalism is a ripoff. One set of truths for all.

Archbishop Sheen was knowledgeable about the Christian East as all Catholics and indeed our clergy should be, and as part of that, for his own edification and to educate the Latin Rite faithful (for instance, reminding people of Russia's deep Christian, yea, Catholic roots despite Communism and the Cold War) in his media apostolate, he was biritual, having permission from the Holy See and the Ruthenian Church to use the Byzantine Rite.

Fr. Romanos Russo of St. Michael's Russian Catholic Church*, New York, writes:
That is the nub of the problem: as well-intentioned as he was, he was a Latin bishop dressed up as an Eastern bishop. I can't imagine he was imbued with the spirituality or theology of the Byzantine Tradition! Good man, solid philosopher, though!
Fr. Romanos brings up a good point. You're both right. We should preserve the integrity of each ritual church, and some in those churches have a calling to express our shared Catholic doctrine (which is the same for all Catholic churches and is not negotiable) in those rites' terms; they aren't costumes but legitimate, diverse schools of spirituality and even theological opinion and method. Hard to do because Latin Catholics are an overwhelming majority, but good work. Also, part of the Catholic Church including many cultures is these churches themselves are a spectrum of practice. Catholicism never intended to latinize them and never encouraged it, but the ethnic members often latinized themselves. Cultures aren't museum pieces if they're alive. Unlatinized good Catholics need and deserve support, but the spectrum of latinized members deserves respect too. Biritualism can be a well-intended problem for the ritual churches' integrity as Fr. Romanos points out, but it's always the exception. Most of Eastern Catholicism (all rites) isn't like that but generational, ethnic born members. Our challenge as Catholics to is strike a balance between on one hand reducing the rites to the Latin Rite dressing up and, on the other hand, schism (putting the rite and cultures above the church, the sin of the Orthodox et al.**). We haven't always honored our Eastern family as we ought (causing Slavic schisms in America) but our teaching is still true; it's a matter of living up to it.

Eastern-rite churches, including the Orthodox, don't thrive in America after three generations here but Eastern-rite Catholicism here has much potential because 1) not only did Vatican II leave Eastern Catholics' rites alone, it encouraged the unlatinized forms as the church always has and 2) it's Catholic traditionalism without our cultural baggage (you are allowed to do the rites in the vernacular, for example***), great for evangelism and calling back the lapsed (who thought they knew everything about the church).

*Been; it's great. Born Latin Catholics who switched, loving Russian culture but understanding the nature of the church so remaining Catholic.

**Born Eastern Catholics don't buy that; their people often stood up to the Communists to remain Catholic. "Converts" from the Latin Rite and elsewhere are few, but too often online, understandably in love with their new rite (it beats the Novus Ordo, hands down), they fall for that, get fed up with Catholics, and eventually leave the church. A few stay and become a version of what Fr. Romanos is criticizing, Novus Ordo liberals in Eastern garb, denying our doctrine, in this case, in the name of being Eastern. The Communists, like the Byzantine emperor****, Turkish sultan, and Russian tsar, hated the Catholic Church because they couldn't own it. A schismatic church is an owned church.

***Hieratic/liturgical languages are natural; Jews have Hebrew, and English-speaking Protestants did that with the Book of Common Prayer and King James Bible. Eastern churches have them, historically using them more often than vernaculars. Greek Orthodox use medieval Greek in church in Greece; Eastern Slavs Slavonic (resembling medieval Russian). For the most part, Eastern-riters in America, Catholic and Orthodox, did what the Latin Rite should have done, just translating the services into English, not writing new services.

****The last emperors were Catholic again; the Russians, who went back into schism in the 1400s after reunion in the 1300s, saw the fall of Byzantium as divine judgment. The Russians have their empire so they think they don't need us; they think they're the church, in the Byzantine manner. The Turks re-separated the Greeks from the church in 1484, after they took over 31 years earlier.


  1. Don't forget that a good portion of Eastern Catholics are also Arabic-speaking.

  2. Why didn't the Council Fathers simply move to translate the Tridentine Mass and Missal into vernaculars (hieratic would have been nice)? Why did they think the milquetoast overhaul was necessary?

    1. Not the bishops so much as the theological elite at the council believed in space-age progress: out with the old, etc.

  3. The initial "liturgical reform" of 1965 was, indeed, little more than a translation of the Tridentine Mass into the vernacular, with its "slight simplification" (such as, e.g., the omission of the Last Gospel). It was only in 1966 or 7 (IIRC) that Annibale Bugnini got the pope's agreement to devise those "further reforms" that resulted in the 1969 Novus Ordo Missae.

    1. I think that's what the bishops and most other Catholics assumed would be the extent of the changes; writing Eucharistic prayers as alternatives to the Roman Canon was unthinkable. They didn't know what Bugnini was up to.

    2. The Novus Ordo Missae was on the table at the Lugano Liturgical Conference in 1953, a decade before the Second Vatican Council and the subsequent liturgical decrees and motu propria. All the revolutionary features of this rite, such as Mass facing the people, omission of the prayers at the foot of the altar, the new lectionary, new eucharistic prayers, &c, &c were being planned well in advance, and had the enthusiastic support of Pius XII and the then Archbishop Montini. Sacrosanctum Concilium had almost no influence on this process. (And by the way, since you brought him up; Fulton Sheen celebrated a vernacular mass in 1955 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, long before that was technically allowed in the Roman Rite).

      To what extent the Episcopate knew about this, I am not sure. But probably they knew enough and this was another one of those "let the people eat cake" matters. Certainly the lower clergy were none the wiser, given the evidence that after the new Holy Week was introduced in 1956 a great many parishes simply carried on with the Old, thinking that Pius XII had gone mad and that when he died things would be back to normal. What a pity they were wrong.

    3. Patrick is correct on this one. If one of the main aspects of the New Liturgy is facing the people, this was experimented with as early as the 30's in Germany. Although Dr Tighe is correct about the time-line, but even Roman had to be careful to slowly introduce liturgical revolution. But the movement was always to introduce a new liturgy into the Church, and Vatican II gave such supporters, always few in numbers, the power to do this.

      But we also need to be careful about the use of vernaculars, the Roman rite was indeed celebrated for a very long time in several local languages; this included Arabic, Greek, and Church Slavonic (actually the most ancient form of Church Slavonic, the Glagolitic has always been used in the Roman rite and not the Byzantine).

      Too many so-called traditionalist Roman Catholics confuse Latin with the Roman rite, unfortunately. The real issue is not language, and never was, but the theology of the liturgy. The New Rite does not express the ancient Catholic Faith, it is not a living tradition linking us to the Apostles it is a committee driven religion.

      But before some, especially the Orthodox, get on to too much of a high horse, they have the same issues. Mass has been celebrated and broadcast on the local television with an Orthodox Mass facing the people. The western rite of the Russian Church in Exile, or whatever they are now calling themselves, has adopted many aspects of the Novus Ordo, including the very defective offertory prayers into several of the experimental western rites, and finally the OCA monastery of the "New Skete" has adopted a very Novus Ordorized Byzantine liturgy; their liturgical books are quite odd actually.

      What is also problematic is that by limiting even the very defective 1962 liturgy to Latin it has no future. It will become an interesting artistic expression, but not too much else.

    4. At the parish level if you had the liturgical movement it was something good, trying to teach the people to love the Mass and office as they were, not write new services. It brought me that staple, the hand missal, where I learned much of the Bible long ago.

      There was a heretical element (Bugnini) plus some bad scholarship (the idea that the early church had Mass facing the people) and some unhistorical ideas from the dialogue Mass in Germany, such as the people liking the response to Orate, fratres even though historically it wasn't one of the people's parts.

      Thanks to Benedict XVI's reform, the Novus Ordo in English does express the ancient Catholic faith even though the old Mass is better and our normal way is to let rites evolve, not to create and impose them. Is it a new rite? I'm inclined to agree with Msgr. Gamber's suggestion that it's a Latin rite but no longer the Roman Rite, no longer exclusively using the Roman Canon and having so many other changes.

      Thanks for the reminder about languages other than Latin in the Roman Rite; Croatia used Glagolitic before Vatican II.

      One of my favorite expressions is "it's not about Latin."

      New Skete are ex-Catholics; originally a 1960s novice class at the Ruthenians' Franciscan friary in America. (The surviving members are still this community; nobody can break into that circle.) Popular novice master. This group split the community, angering the Ruthenians so the new group, New Skete, was under the local Latin bishop until it schismed in the '80s (I don't know why). They seem part of a phenomenon you've noticed, Catholic liberals who, being politically correct/multicultural, play with the Byzantine Rite. The anti-Westernism appeals to some Orthodox, as you've noticed, which might explain the Russian metropolia's taking a liking to this crew.

  4. "[N]ot only did Vatican II leave Eastern Catholics' rites alone"; true and not true. The Byzantine rite has been perhaps the least influenced by the liturgical "reforms" of Vatican II, but even amongst them Mass facing the people is not unknown. The other eastern rites have all succumbed to the "spirit of Vatican II" and almost universally celebrate an eastern rite in the spirit of the Novus Ordo, including facing the people. I was at a Maronite Mass twice last year, it is almost exactly the same as the western Novus Ordo, including having all girl servers, facing the people, and mass celebrated mostly from the throne. I attended a Byzantine Mass last summer in Rome, which was celebrated facing the congregation, this was in the Basilica of Saint Mary in Cosmedin.

    1. Correction the mass facing the people Byzantine liturgy was at Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere.

    2. The big difference is the authorities didn't push Eastern Catholics to modernize; quite the opposite (because ecumenism was fashionable; the Novus Ordo being done at the same time made us look like hypocrites). Some well-meaning latinized ones did on their own, much like the Greek Orthodox you mentioned. The Maronites are an almost unique case; regrettably, their own ceremonial had all but disappeared so the call to recover their patrimony left them at a loss regarding what to do, so they mimicked the Novus Ordo, facing the people and all. I've been. But if I recall rightly, I've been told the Maronites were originally an uncanonical offshoot of the Syrian Jacobite church so why not use that traditional rite as a source? But I understand the larger Catholic answer to the Nestorians, the Chaldeans, Iraq's biggest church, did something similar copying the Novus Ordo. Then there's the matter of imposing some scholarly correct thing over people's real customs, ironically, one of the Novus Ordo's problems too.

    3. "Correction the mass facing the people Byzantine liturgy was at Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere."

      It may be the case that for the celebrant to "face the people" in this church is also for him to face Eastwards as well, as is the case with other old Roman churches, although I don't know for sure. It is one of my favourite Roman churches, alongside San Clemente, Sta Prassede, and Sta Maria in Cosmedin.

    4. Not all Eastern rites have succumbed to the Spirit of Vatican II. The Malankara rite hasn't succumbed; I had went to one, and I felt "This is so sublime!" The Malankara rite is one of the most beautiful liturgies I have been to.

  5. "I've been told the Maronites were originally an uncanonical offshoot of the Syrian Jacobite church so why not use that traditional rite as a source?"

    The Maronites originated as Syriac-speaking Christians who appear to have accepted "Monothelitism" in the middle of the Seventh Century. (What I don't know is whether they were previously Chalcedonian or anti-Chalcedonian - or perhaps drew from both communities; as a community they appear to have originated as Lebanese "mountaineers" resisting Arab conquest.) After the Arab conquest of the 640s/660s, the imperially-recognized Patriarch of Antioch fled to C'ple, where a line of successors resided for the better part of a century before returning to Syria, while the anti-Chalcedonian line of patriarchs remained in Syria. Around 685 "the Maronites" chose their own Patriarch of Antioch. Their intention seems to have been to remain in communion with C'ple and the imperial church - but C'ple ignored their existence thereafter - and ca. 1120 they came into communion with Rome, in which they remained ever since.

    Their liturgical tradition in its origins was virtually identical with that of those who became, and to this day remain, the (anti-Chalcedonian) Syriac Orthodox Church, but from the 16th Century onwards they were heavily Romanized, and in the 1970s they did what amounted to their own "Novus Ordo Qurbanae" sort of "reform."

    In a way, the Maronites (being rustics and dwelling remote from urban areas) preserved in their liturgical books an ancient "fossil anaphora" (unused by them since at least the 16th Century) entitled "the Fourth Anaphora of St. Peter" (or Sharar from its incipit), which is a version of the Nestorian/Assyrian/East Syriac Anaphora of Addai and Mari, only containing an Institution Narrative at its end. Its existence (and comparison of it with A&M) has led some scholars to speculate that the West Syriac manner of celebrating the Liturgy (and especially as regards the general structure of its anaphoras) stemmed originally from cosmopolitan Antioch, and in the Fourth/Fifth centuries began to be adopted by Syriac-speaking churches throughout the Roman East, replacing in the process an older Syriac liturgical and anaphoral tradition stemming from Edessa, which survived, partially - for the other two Assyrian anaphoras, those of Mar Nestorius and Mar Theodore (which seem to be of Sixth-Century origin) seem to blend a predominantly West Syriac structure with some East Syriac bits - as Addai & Mari (and also as the Maronites' Sharar).


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