This is not a liturgical post

19 05 2011

It is with some reluctance that I comment on Geoffrey Hull’s book, Banished Heart: Origins of Heteropraxis in the Catholic Church. I am not really interested in liturgy (as I have stated before), nor did I find the book all that compelling. Nevertheless, even my newly recovered philosophical orientation has not prevented me from pursuing a broad range of interests. A book that claims to analyze the degeneration of the religious ethos of the West can thus be of some interest to me.

First, a mandatory comment on scope and style is needed. The books aims at being magisterial, and I have to state that it misses the mark. That is not to say that it is anything but comprehensive. There is a vast wealth of individual historical data (like the Maundy Thursday Mass in the rite of Chartres being celebrated in Greek) that makes this book desirable to a certain type of religious afficionado. However, what the book sorely lacks, what prevents it from being a good historical book in any sense, is any real narrative vision or synthesis. It is a sprawling work, covering early Church history, the Eastern rites, popular religiosity, modern politics, and so on, without any comprehensive analysis. Facts are brought into the pages without much serious consideration of the categories Dr. Hull employs.

The author’s partisan trajectory in the Catholic spectrum leans towards that of a muddle-headed traditionalist with a hobbyist’s interest in Eastern liturgies. It is evident that Dr. Hull, while he might be a proficient linguist, has little formation in philosophy or theology, and is trying to paint a pastiche of facts that don’t necessarily equal an argument. For example, while he praises scholastic theology for helping to develop such doctrines as the Real Presence, he also resurrects the old canard that scholastic philosophy somehow gave birth to an overly active rationalism in the West. Also, he fails to address the theological implications of baroque scholasticism and Jansenism and their effects on liturgy. The book feels like some scattered notes on Catholic history as read through the author’s Orientalist prism.

Dr. Hull’s attitude towards the Eastern Churches is naive and simplistic for anyone who has any real experience with these bodies. Of course, there is a mandatory caveat at the beginning of the book stating that the Eastern Churches have their own problems, that he does not mean to idealize them in anything he says, etc. After having finished the book, I feel like this caveat was a little in the spirit of, “Don’t take this the wrong way but…” In the first place, Dr. Hull takes the rhetoric that the Orthodox Church employs about itself completely at face value. This rhetoric seeks to create a world where what happened between 1453 (the fall of Constantinople) and c.1940 never happened. There was no “Latinization” in theology, no Ceasaropapism, no serious degeneration of church discipline and monasticism, no intrusion of Western piety into Eastern forms, and so on. He also commits the error of comparing the best of the East and the worst of the West, and of idealizing underdevelopment since it preserves ancient forms. In other words, he idealizes the historically contingent as the model, and absorbs a history that is little better than the propaganda of a few self-proclaimed experts.

The more important question is to ask what is liturgy in itself, and why is it so important. Dr. Hull never questions his own assumptions about the categories over which he is so passionate. If I might be so bold, I would define liturgy as the public worship of the Church as opposed to the private prayers, local ceremonies, and individual pieties of believers. But this is a historically conditioned categorization, dating perhaps in its most definitive form to the creation of the printing press. Differences in discipline and the texts of public prayers were only the real concern of some members of the clergy and occasionally political figures. For most people, a “liturgy” did not exist as a legal category; the prayers of their church, of their local community, were the prayers of the Church. The idea that there is some idealized church order floating in the ether above time and space is an unfounded one.

The last part of the book is the most problematic, in that, perhaps unknowingly, he stumbles back into the same tired traditionalist narrative about the emergence of the Liturgical Movement and Vatican II, without any of doctrinal precision. The same cast of characters, Cardinal Bea, Bugnini, Lefebvre, John XXIII, etc., all make their appearances. The same conspiracy theories, the same portrayals of political maneuvering, are explained in paranoid detail. What is always missing is a sympathetic look at why people could not have cared less about liturgy by 1965; why the “liturgical revolution” wasn’t resisted by anyone of note, and why everyone seems to think, even today, that it was a good idea. The end of the book felt like I was reading print-outs of various traditionalist Catholic websites with some information on the Eastern Churches thrown in to make it seem that the same old tired arguments weren’t just being presented over again. Hull’s breakthrough, if there is one, is that the “Latinization” of the Catholic Uniate churches was a dry-run for Vatican II. That might be compelling if the Eastern Catholic Churches had any real presence other than being ecclesiological trinkets that have little to do with Catholic theology or history in any vital sense.

All of this is not to say that I don’t sympathize with Hull’s arguments on some level. He is very keen to draw out how the emergence of 19th century ultramontanism ultimately paved the way for Vatican II. However, he paints some features of the picture, but never quite gets to a real portrait. While increasing centralization of church discipline is ironically at fault for the “chaos” that the Catholic Church is experiencing in terms of daily practice, such centralization betrays a rather more profound transformation of humanity in the face of the modern world, and the old structure of the Catholic religion itself. The reason no one cared (or cares) about liturgy is because Catholicism is first and foremost a cultural phenomenon. It is the “tribe at prayer”; historically, it was the body of rituals, moral rules, and hierarchies that held together the fabric of society. All of these pieties, liturgical or private, were the exclusive domain of the clergy, in the sense that that the laity were the ones who were supposed to pay and obey (and occasionally pray), while the clergy offered up the “real prayers” for them. It is the collapse of the Catholic feudal order that led to the collapse of this division of labor, and the Catholic hierarchy has ever since had to try to devise ways to make the laity into “intentional disciples”.

One could also say that such a transformation also brought about a change in the nature of God, even for the average Catholic. The old liturgical order assumed that God was in the sky angry at humanity, and needed to be placated through the re-representation of the sacrifice of his own son on the cross. That is not a popular opinion any more, and even when it occasionally emerges, it does so in an entirely different environment. In this frame of mind, it is manifestly unimportant if the people participate in or understand the liturgy. The liturgy works, it does its job, and the clergy exist in order to keep the blessings of an all-powerful God from leaving his people. Today, an entirely different idea of God is in existence, and that is why, for example, the Church has nuanced its position on such doctrines and practices as ecumenism, Limbo, religious liberty, lay ministries, and Eucharistic reception. St. Therese of the Child Jesus’ absolute trust in a kind God is very iconic in this sense, as is the current practice of vesting in white for funerals. Such things would have been unthinkable prior to, say, the French Revolution, just as it would have been unthinkable for “orthodox” theologians to entertain the hope that all will go to Heaven in the end.

That is my theory as to why the liturgy changed: the prior theology of the Catholic Church became “unpreachable”. The legalistic religion that existed prior to the emergence of secular society can no longer exist in our environment, and neither can the accoutrements that accompanied it. Catholic opinion now, even in the most conservative framework, is that God doesn’t care about liturgy, as long as people’s hearts (and heads) are in the “right place”. Only the kookiest of traditionalists believe that irreverent liturgies offend God, and even then, they are often only revealing their own neuroses in the face of a shifting ideological superstructure. To those who would consider themselves believers in spite of historical change, the new order is nothing to fear. In reality, what is going on now is the Church changing in order to stay the same. In this process, there is nothing to grab onto, no vision of the pristine ancient Church where everyone sang Gregorian chant after fasting for three days in church. The only real stability is that nothing is stable. We are used to that in other realms of our lives, we might as well get used to it in the religious realm as well.


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38 responses

28 12 2018
gregorystackpole

I second Turmarion’s request for a more detailed evaluation of scholasticism and over-rationalism.

Also, can “the tribe at prayer” ever really mutate into “the tribe that prays”, as the intentional disciple model seems to aim for?

28 12 2018
Iamblichus

Reblogged this on Reditus and commented:

A slightly revised re-run.

22 05 2011
Bernard Brandt

Diane:

That is such an expressive mixed metaphor that I must, without irony, commend you for it. To conflate “tilting at windmills” and “building a straw man”, and to come up with such an expressive metaphor as ’tilting at strawmen’ is sheer genius, and not the act of a mere ‘geezerette’ (as you claim to be).

22 05 2011
FrGregACCA

So as not clutter up the comment thread any more, one response: how am I putting words in your mouth, Diane?

Regarding the above, “placating any angry god” is the most literal, grammatical meaning of “propitiation” and this is, in essence, what Anselm teaches the cross does. But the Father of Jesus Christ needs no placating. WE need to be cleansed, healed, and reconciled.

22 05 2011
diane

IOW, you are putting words into my mouth I never uttered. You are tilting at strawmen.

22 05 2011
diane

“Not placating an angry god.”

I’m sorry, Father, but that sounds like caricature and distortion.

22 05 2011
FrGregACCA

Also Diane:

“Behold the Lamb of God who TAKES AWAY the sins of the world”.

Expiation. Cleansing. By extension, healing, etc.

Not placating an angry god.

22 05 2011
FrGregACCA

Diane:

“Propitiation” in the LXX clearly means “expiation” and this meaning carries over into the NT as well. (Why would the translators of the LXX translate in this way? Well, one reason might be that humanity being cleansed of its sin – expiated – is in fact pleasing to God.)

22 05 2011
cantueso

Well, just for once imgine the leaf of a tree trying to figure out the nature of the tree trunk and then also the nature of the soil (which, by the way, is made of the tree leaves of former years).

22 05 2011
diane

“…and quite another to understand that salvific event as propitiatory in an old Pagan/Anselmic sort of way”

Father, aren’t you rather loading the dice by coupling “pagan” with “Anselmic”? Sounds rather Matthewes-Greenish to me. 😉

I understand thr Sacrifice of the Mass– which is identical to the Sacrifice of Calvary — in an old Jewish/Anselmic way. If you know what I mean. 😉

Agnus Dei and all that.

“And He is the propitiation for our sins….” Why, it’s downright Biblical. 😉

22 05 2011
FrGregACCA

“Rather, I was fascinated by the notion that the re-representation of Calvary was perpetual interjection of the salvific event into the temporal realm.”

Indeed. This is classic, orthodox theology of both East and West. It is part and parcel of the Tradition.

However, it is one thing to hold this, and quite another to understand that salvific event as propitiatory in an old Pagan/Anselmic sort of way.

21 05 2011
Bernard Brandt

Okay by me.

By the bye, both you and Venuleius, like Arturo, have really cool weblogs. Do please continue.

21 05 2011
diane

As undoubtedly the oldest person in this combox (I am a geezeress, recently turned 60), I can offer a pre- and post-VC-II perspective, albeit limited.

Until I was eight, we lived in an Irish working-class ghetto in a borough of Boston (Dorchester). Life revolved around Saint William’s Church and Saint William’s School (which charged no tuition to parishioners). (Saint William’s Church is no more, alas; after most recently serving as the local Vietnamese parish, it has been shut down and sold to the Seventh-Day Adventists. I assume it was vet another sacrifice to the Boston sex-abuse crisis.)

Anyway, I was too young to have any sense of the relative merits of the Latin Mass (there was nothing to compare it with, anyway). But I did have a sense of all the trappings. Saint William’s was one of those dimly lit churches with jewel-tone stained-glass windows, statues out the wazoo, banks of votive candles, and a general atmosphere of awe and mystery (infused with the mingled fragrance of incense, must, and candlewax). I LOVED it. To this day, when I walk into a church like that, I feel like Proust with his madeleine; it brings back my early childhood. If I could find a church like that within easy driving distance today, I think I would live in it. (Only kidding, sort of.)

I had one early experience of the Numinous at Saint William’s. It wasn’t at Mass, though. It was at Benediction. I didn’t have the foggiest notion what was going on. I didn’t know what Benediction was. I couldn’t have been more than five or six years old. But I sensed the presence of God, although I couldn’t have articulated it like that.

I’m not a trad, though, and I don’t want to return to ’50s Catholicism. It had its dark side: mean nuns in particular. They were well-meaning, but boy, some of those Sisters really did NOT understand young kids and never should have been teaching them.

I am a bit nostalgic, but it’s not so much for Latin. I don’t mind attending a Mass I can actually understand. But I wouldn’t mind prettier hymns, including some of the older ones. And, thanks to my early upbringing, I am an intensely visual person, so stripped-down wreckovated churches do nothing for me. Bring on the statues and the stained glass! Add dim lighting and the aroma of incense and candlewax, and I’m sold.

Diane

P.S. During the early ’70s, I went through a Catholic Charismatic phase. Never lived in any of those “charismatic covenant communities,” though, which turned out to be a good thing, since most of them turned out to be crazy cults; my goddaughter lived in one for 23 years, and it really messed with her mind. Anyway, I used to attend charismatic Masses and prayer meetings at the Cenacle, a retreat house near Boston College. To this day, I have a certain sneaking fondness for rooms full of folding chairs, with book tables at the sides. No, it’s not Proust’s-madeleine-ish, but it brings back pleasant memories. I guess I’ve seen Catholic culture “from both sides now.” And I’m a product of the whole complicated mess. Which is why I would find it too retsrictive to go back to the ’50s model — which is flat impossible anyway; too much water has passed under the bridge. Anyway, just rambling here….

21 05 2011
diane

ooooh, Stanislaus, I want to go to that Celtic Mass! As long as the music is genuine traditional Celtic, that is, and not what my kids call “Plastic Paddy” music. 😀

21 05 2011
owen white

Bernard Brandt,

Sometimes I just have to get my three long winded paragraphs in, OK?

21 05 2011
Bernard Brandt

Chris,

I too would be interested in those thoughts, and those of Mr. White’s as well. The thesis of a magisterium which undermines Holy Tradition, as expressed by A, (and which I fear is borne out by reality) is one of the many reasons why I infest this weblog.

21 05 2011
sortacatholic

Arturo: The old liturgical order assumed that God was in the sky angry at humanity, and needed to be placated through the re-representation of the sacrifice of his own son on the cross. That is not a popular opinion any more, and even when it occasionally emerges, it does so in an entirely different environment.

Strangely, the precise reason I converted to Tridentine Catholicism is the now-unfashionable notion of the Mass as the re-representation of a propitiatory sacrifice. I rarely dwelt on the Holy Sacrifice as the placation of an “angry God”. Rather, I was fascinated by the notion that the re-representation of Calvary was perpetual interjection of the salvific event into the temporal realm. The Mass is the paschal mystery only because of the re-presentation, and not merely as a commemoration as many Catholic theologians now contend. We know what Christ’s suffering and resurrection is only because the Mass makes what is outside-time an inside-time event.

That is my theory as to why the liturgy changed: the prior theology of the Catholic Church became “unpreachable”. The legalistic religion that existed prior to the emergence of secular society can no longer exist in our environment, and neither can the accoutrements that accompanied it.

The Protestant reformers, perched as they were at the very beginnings of secularity and modernity, knew even then that people no longer really believed in the propitiatory sacrifice, the appeasement of the “angry sky God”. The alignment of Catholicism to the Reformation-modernism-secularity-postmodernism thread did not arrive until 1965 not only because of the Counter-Reformation but also the Church’s political resistance to the modern and secular state to that point. By 1965, even Franco’s state failed to convince the Church that confessionalism could be a stable model. The recognition of religious plurality in the “Catholic state” ended the notion that the “sky God” could only be appeased by the Mass and no other worship. And yet, the propitiatory sacrifice survives even among those with no memory of the pre-conciliar Church, children of post-Christianity who should find no relevance in its tenets. This persistence challenges the Church’s semi-official move away from the propitiatory sacrifice.

It is true that Tridentine worship is untenable for most postmodern Catholics because it does not align with secularity. Yet, Catholicism’s path towards the new eucharistic theology is rarely examined with necessary clarity. Hence, so many Catholics were shocked by the changes which, as you have noted, were inevitable in some respects.

21 05 2011
Bernard Brandt

Venuleius,

I’ll see your “For crying out loud”, and I’ll raise you with a “Oh, give me a break.”

For one thing, I would not characterize what I did to Arturo as “castigating”; I think the gerund in question would be “twitting”.

For another, putting aside your characterized “petty band of academics” (and thank you, Mome, for your able putdown of that libelous phrase), I find that the besetting virtue and fault of most Orthodox is that they are hyper-historical: instead of saying that “nothing happened between 1453 and 1940” (as Arturo would have it), they will go into elaborate detail in conversation as to the turkokratia of the 16th through 19th centuries (if they are Greek), the several depredations of the Tatars, the French, and the Soviets (if they are Russian), or the terrors of being made to be dhimmi (if they are Copts or Melkites).

If I wished to castigate, then I would say instead that A’s attempted slight was lame to the point of quadriplegia. But since I don’t, I won’t.

Owen White (from below):

At least Venuleius’ attempted critique above had the advantage of addressing what I actually said. Pray don’t try to put words in my mouth: they don’t taste good to me, and the attempt ill becomes you.

20 05 2011
owen white

The idea that it is the Orthodox weblogistas who downplay the importance of the nuances of Ware, Zizoulis, and SVS in Orthodox life and piety is truly rich. I suspect that the vast majority of dissertations written concerning the work of Zizoulis are written by non Orthodox. Outside of a minority of students and perhaps majority of profs at the three Orthodox seminaries which still care (SVS, Holy Cross, Paris) I would think that those, uhm, dozens of Orthodox worldwide discussing the work of Zizoulis will find that the majority of words Orthodox have to say about him are to be found on Orthodox blogs. In other words, if there is a side of Orthodoxy that is vocally disproportionate with regard to taking into account the nuances here mentioned, it ain’t the haters.

People outside of Orthodoxy who find the ideas of Schmemann and Zizoulis having so much traction in certain theological arenas naturally assume that they have traction within Orthodoxy. I mean, wouldn’t the Orthodox want to take pride in their notable theologians (notably being notable among non-Orthodox academics)? And then they hear the song and dance that traditionalist expressions on the internet are not, lo and behold, like what one finds at Orthodox coffee hours after Divine Liturgy.

No shit sherlocks. Most people at coffee hour in Greek or Rustbelt slavic parishes could give a rats ass about any theology. In most convert parishes the theology discussed (when the latest Dobsonista Republican pro-life work isn’t being discussed, and they are not planning their next Ron Paul rally) is something heard on AFR or from one of the pop presses. They may get a bit of derivative trickle down leftovers of 70s era SVS, but that’s it. News flash folks – Ware, Zizoulis, and SVS have very, very, very little to do with how Orthodox, even in America form and understand their own rhetoric. Campus Crusade for Christ’s old leader Bill Bright has more informed American Orthodox rhetoric (at least in many convert circles) than has Zizoulis. But the lack of Ware, Zizoulis, and SVS influence is true for the trad Orthodox, it is true for the Byzantine Rite Evangelical Orthodox, it is true for the modernist Orthodox in certain Greek and OCA parishes. Some of the biggest American fans of Ware will point folks towards his talks on Orthodox spirituality or his talks on why he converted, but follow that up with a “but he is a bit strange on women’s ordination” or “he does have some peculiar views out of the mainstream on a few issues.” And the folks saying that are hardly the sort embracing Athonite spirituality. Usually the fans of Ware are conservative anglo-catholic types who converted to Orthodoxy but still get off on the Oxford airs of Ware. The fetish doesn’t extend much to Ware’s more pronounced views actually influencing the thought of these folks who are usually Touchstonistas who can’t stand the thought of women’s ordination or being in the same room as Rowan Williams.

20 05 2011
mome

Petty band of academics? That seems a bit facile.

20 05 2011
Venuleius

I feel like this entire book has been spoiled for me even better it gets to my hands via inter-library loan. Even so, it sounds like a few chapters are worth a read.

I am actually intrigued by the willingness of the author to hold up Orthodoxy as some super-norm over what has gone on in the Catholic Church. If he would have started out by asking someone, “What exactly does ‘a mercy of peace’ mean?” he might have seen the whole narrative unravel before his very eyes. But alas, what cannot be explained in Orthodox liturgy is an “ancient” and “venerable” mystery which ought not ever to be explained–never, ever.

I’ve made enough runs to the local SSPX parish to drop enough dollars in their bookstore to realize that something is amiss, but I can’t bring myself to get riled out up about it (even if I’m dorky enough to take an “academic” interest in it). There’s a fairly wide gulf between the alleged wickedness of the villains behind the Novus Ordo Mass and the everyday Catholics you find praying at them, not out of any misplaced sense of “obedience” to the Catholic magisterium, but because they’re Catholic and getting up to go to the 7:30a Mass is what you do if you want to go to Heaven.

20 05 2011
Venuleius

Oh you have to be kidding me…

You’re castigating Arturo as “naive” while you hold up a petty band of academics who are routinely demonized in mainstream Orthodoxy (even in the “tolerant” United States) as normative? For crying out loud. The only book Ware has written which has been read by more than a few hundred people is his primer on Orthodoxy which, itself, has been blasted time and again by right-of-center Orthodox for its alleged capitulations to “academic fashion” and “modernism” (though the version that came out in the 1960s when Ware would still run elbows with ROCOR is generally approved of). These guys may hold “nuanced” views, but they are largely sharing them with one another and the handful of non-Orthodox who take an interest in such things.

20 05 2011
Chris Jones

That chapter is towards the middle of the book and will take me a few days to get to. By that time this thread may have become quiescent, so I will give you my comments by e-mail rather than here.

20 05 2011
Stanislaus

It’s very neoplatonic for you to move in a circle, Arturo. 🙂

20 05 2011
Stanislaus

Owen,

It sounds like you’re describing the L.A. religious education congress.

This was part of their schedule this year:

5:15 pm Eucharistic Liturgies & Evening Prayer
General – Rev. Ed Foley
Celtic – Rev. David Loftus
Jazz – Rev. Tony Ricard
Byzantine – Bishop Gerald Dino
Spanish – Bishop Alex Salazar

I wonder what they mean by general…

20 05 2011
Arturo Vasquez

I used to make these kinds of arguments out of wishful thinking. There is no infallible tradition.

Besides, the modern form of obedience sort of foreshadows Lenin’s vanguard party. The Jesuits were the first Leninists.

19 05 2011
owen white

Chris,
I would especially like to know what you think of the chapter “From Tradition to Obedience” I would also like to know Arturo’s thoughts on that part of the book. Arturo is a hard nut to crack, but whilst Hull’s tone and agenda are different than Arturo’s it seems to me that here Hull’s thesis corresponds to a lot of things Arturo has written about the modern Papacy/magisterium replacing Catholic tradition with its own cult of obedience. Perhaps in my ignorance I am missing the fact that this is all mundane, but as this book by Hull and Arturo’s blog are among the very few places I read anything like such a thesis, I will continue to think of them as kissing cousins.

19 05 2011
C. Wingate

I don’t go to a lot of masses (ECUSA, doncha know) but by and large my experience of them is that no layman really cares much what’s going on as long as it’s over with quickly.

19 05 2011
Chris Jones

Very informative review, Arturo. I’m actually just beginning the book and have already been offended by the Polyanna-ish attitude towards Orthodox liturgy, and the rather pedestrian “ain’t-it-awful” précis of the beginnings of the Novus Ordo. Your review suggests that I am wasting my time and have already wasted my money.

I’ll soldier on, though. Maybe in the end I’ll like it better than you did.

19 05 2011
Chris Jones

Not to speak for Owen, but …

A “Republican Mass” is a Mass celebrated in an upper-middle-class Republican suburban parish, where the great majority of the worshipers are upper-middle-class Republican suburbanites, and in which nothing is said, sung, or preached in the Mass which can possibly offend their upper-middle-class Republican sensibilities.

Such a Mass has a great deal in common with the Lutheran Divine Service at the suburban LCMS parish of which I am a (rather disgruntled) member, including On Eagle’s Wings and taking it from there.

19 05 2011
C. Wingate

What is a “Republican mass”?

19 05 2011
skholiast

I’m confused by one thing:
The old liturgical order assumed that God was in the sky angry at humanity, and needed to be placated through the re-representation of the sacrifice of his own son on the cross. That is not a popular opinion any more… Today, an entirely different idea of God is in existence… St. Therese of the Child Jesus’ absolute trust in a kind God is very iconic in this sense,

Except, didn’t St. Therese grow up under the old order? The one with the angry sky-God?

The past was just as complicated as the present, yes? Sorry if I’m being obtuse.

This aside, as pleasure to read, as always; and to quibble with, as always.

19 05 2011
owen white

I was being somewhat facetious with that list. I wouldn’t know where to go to find a feminist Mass in my town. Unfortunately, the big box churches offering the Republican Masses are legion.

I take your point that it is inappropriate to speak of forced homogeneity when most people don’t care whether there is On Eagles Wings or not.

What is of more interest to me about the new edition of the roman rite in English is the rubrics rather than the language (I suspect most places who take issue with the language changes will ignore them). The rubrics give the local priest the right to, say, face ad orientem if he damn well pleases, and the ordinary bishop no longer will be able to stop this. Such things, it would seem, will lead to more and more liturgical diversity, even within given dioceses.

Here in Memphis since Summorum Pontificum we went from having one Latin Mass done by some really old duff with no altar servers and attended by 15-20 people to having 3 Latin Masses with 2 more set to start by the end of the year. Those 3 Latin Masses each have a different feel. One of them attracts pretty much only trad types, one is a bit of a mix, and one is quite interesting because it is at a big box suburban parish and seems to attract little of the stereotypical trad crowd (they have also had female altar servers at that one, etc.). The local bishop is not interested in anything traditional and has done nothing at all to promote Latin Mass, but it already has 500-600 regular attenders in Memphis and that number will continue to grow, even without promotion (as a side note, I find it interesting that in about 2 1/2 years time the Catholics, with no promotion whatsoever, can get more folks at Latin Masses in this city than there are Orthodox in this city) on the part of the diocese.

I’m sure some of these folks were trads just itching for a Latin Mass not at an SSPX parish, but a good number of them clearly are not that. With the new rubrics and the resulting variations and options in the novus ordo, it will be interesting to see what develops. Here I think large scale indifference is actually a good thing. Were it not for the protection that comes with indifference, there would be the likelihood that the whole game would turn into liturgical cliques and fetish clubs. I talked to one old guy after a Latin Mass here and he told me that he had always gone to the 8:00am Mass, and when they switched it to Latin he just kept going at that time slot. I don’t mean to suggest a metanarrative with all that – only that I find such phenomena fascinating and perhaps all I mean by “better” is that the potential for increased liturgical diversity results in an increase in the potential for such phenomena.

19 05 2011
M.Z.

I’m not sure outside of the suburban Republican parish liturgy that any of the your liturgical groupings are really representative of a community.

While I don’t particularly relish the prospect, there is the possibility that Applebee’s is quintessential Americana. Even the rebels eat at Cysco foods, but they call it quaint stuff like Al’s Dinner. This is a long way of saying that “On Eagles Wings” and “Gather Us In” may just be American Catholicism, and rather than being a forced homogeneity it is just homogeneity of indifference. I would guess your typical parish is seeing a full turnover equivalent every 10 years on average. Turnover and particularity to place are things that generally don’t coexist.

As for the current liturgical reforms, they are an exercise in hubris. I’m not sure who the bigger idiot is, the one who suggests the problems in English speaking Catholicism will be solved by using the word ‘consubstancial’ or the one who agrees with it and implements it. Trust the modern bureaucrat to preach “Procedures Save!”

19 05 2011
Bernard Brandt

The tenor of your review of The Banished Heart reminds me of one by Dorothy Parker: “This is not a book to be tossed aside lightly, but hurled with great force.”

After a comparison of your review with that done by others, and my readings of some of Dr. Hull’s works, I hold much the same view as regards your opinion of Dr. Hull.

In passing, I note that in your abandonment of Christian Neoplatonism for Hegel and Marx, I fear that you have simply replaced one tired mystical dogmatism for another.

For my part, though, I find your characterization of “the rhetoric that the Orthodox Church employs about itself” as itself being “naive and simplistic”. While I dare say that one can find such an attempt to “create a world where what happened between 1453 and 1940. . .never happened” among any number of the soi-disant Orthodox weblogistas with whom you have had run-ins, my readings of Orthodox historians and theologians (Kallistos Ware, Zizoulis, and the good folk at St. Vlad’s Seminary being just a few among them), show a view which is far more nuanced, and far truer to history, than the straw man you present for us.

While I do not doubt that once I read The Banished Heart, I will most probably, like you, be dissatisfied with any number of things in it, I will, like any other cafeteria Catholic, take what I find to be good, and leave the rest behind. But this is what I do with most of the writings in your weblog anyway.

P.S. Love the Youtube clips and the music and art reviews, though.

19 05 2011
Leah

How can one ascertain “what God wants” as opposed to simply using metaphysical justifications for political and cultural positions that one would have agreed with anyway?

19 05 2011
owen white

Quite something that you should post this as I just finished this book today.

I could not agree more concerning his pollyanna view of Orthodox liturgy. The fellow clearly has no awareness of the on the ground realities of Orthodox liturgical life. He does not seem to note that when Orthodox liturgy finds itself in a cultural milieu similar to what the Catholics have faced in more places and for longer, the Orthodox liturgy tends to go in one of two directions – towards a “modernist” cut and paste, or, towards a very self-aware and stylized traditionalist cultus aka SSPX, also a decidedly modern phenomena, no matter how anti-modern it tries to be.

I suppose I thought his thesis corresponded to yours because I had thought (having only read about half the book at the time) that his central thesis was going to be the “the emergence of 19th century ultramontanism ultimately paved the way for Vatican II” bit. He does relate the changes in liturgy to papal power constructs identified as a very modern phenomena. But having finished the book today, I agree with many of your criticisms. I think some of it may have been more interesting for me as I am not as familiar with the “conspiracy theory” stories coming out of trad critiques of the new liturgy. They are fun to read.

I am inclined to think that the current Pope’s liturgical efforts might result in a period in which there is greater liturgical diversity than has been seen in a great long while. If we get to the point where one can choose between a trad liturgy, a novus ordo in Latin, novus ordos in various popular forms (clown Masses, folk Masses, charismatic Masses, feminist Masses, liberation theology Masses, upper middle class suburban Republican Masses, etc.) then would this not be “better” on some level than a dreary homogeneity militantly forced down everyone’s throats? It would be more overt in its cafeterianess, and basically cave in the Church as marketplace of spiritualities bullshit, and perhaps this would prevent it from being anything like pre-Trent liturgical diversity, but I am still inclined to think it “better” than everyone having to sing On Eagles Wings. I say all this as conjecture though – I really have no solid idea and the Masses I like best are short. I go to a Latin low Mass right now (like those damn American Irish Catholics Hull is too good for) not because I am in any way a trad but because it is 50 minutes long and when I sit in the back I can only hear about 40% of it – the rest of the time I listen to the birds outside and the kids playing. When I can’t go to that I try to find an early novus ordo which is unsung and short.

19 05 2011
Turmarion

[Hull] also resurrects the old canard that scholastic philosophy somehow gave birth to an overly active rationalism in the West.

I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you here, but said canard does get tossed about a lot. I’d be interested for a more detailed discussion of this, or to be pointed to some sources. In any case, great post.

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