Mr Mosebach is the author of The Heresy of Formlessness: The Roman Liturgy and Its Enemy and Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness: Why the Modern Age Needs the Mass of Ages. I highly recommend both.
From Rorate Cæli
With the kind permission of Una Voce Korrespondenz, CathWalk publishes the following interview, translated for Rorate Caeli by Stuart Chessman of the Society of St. Hugh of Cluny. Dr. Angela Kirsch posed the questions.
Una Voce Korrespondenz: Before we begin our conversation you pointed out, almost like giving a musical key, that we can hardly draw any guidance from the past, that what we are experiencing today cannot be compared with any of the previous times of crisis - even when in the details earlier eras produced similar phenomena. In your view what are the similar phenomena? What areas have been affected, what has been repeated? And what are the decisive differences that make a recourse to experience so difficult?
Martin Mosebach: The congruence of prior and current phenomena is obvious. Large sections of today's Church are Arian, iconoclastic, Protestantizing, anti-sacramental, secularized. But in contrast to the past the believing people, who always forced a return to Tradition, are missing. At least in Western Europe that is very easy to explain. After the absence of fifty years of any orthodox religious instruction the Catholic religion has become unknown even to those who still practice it. Many of the theological catastrophes of the past never reached the little people, the real flock of Christ. They continued to be Catholic regardless of whatever heresies to which the leading social strata adhered.
Today the Church has amalgamated most intimately with the dominant antireligious economic and political powers. She has gambled on complying with the demagogical demands of forces that are totally alien to the Church but, without a doubt, have won over the majority. It is true that the Tradition of the church is “out of season,” just as it was out of season at the time of the Apostle Paul. This thought stirs up panic among her current representatives instead of being understood as a great challenge. To decisively counter the totalitarian tendencies of this age could even mean a great political opportunity. At the present time, however, this has not yet been grasped at all.
UVK: Once again, is this a German phenomenon? Or is it only especially apparent in Germany because of the institutionalization of the synodal path?
MM: Germany is the land of the Reformation, of schism, of secularization, of atheist philosophy, of the atheistic totalitarian systems of communism and national socialism. In the last 500 years not much good has come out of Germany. In the 20th century, the Catholic Church here has submitted totally to the neo-Protestant post-Lutheran theology. Moreover, our unhappy country is also rich and can spread its bad influence everywhere by buying poorer countries. But this cannot disguise that the current decline of the Catholic Church can be found in all countries of the West. In many places it is not yet as severe as in Germany but a diminution, a draining away of the lifeblood, is emerging even in the most traditionally Catholic countries like Ireland and Italy, not to mention France, the so-called “oldest daughter of the Church.”
UVK: I suspect most of the practicing and also pious Catholics, the clergy included, do not know the old Mass. At the same time some will recognize that in the Traditional rite there's no place for liturgical atrocities and that in the circles of the Catholics committed to Tradition no place for a society open in all directions. Can we hope that a wave of synodal refugees will come? Seeking rescue on the rock that withstands the tempests? Surviving in Tradition? And in this time of synodal confusion what does it mean that the Holy Father releases a motu proprio which blows up access to the old Mass?
MM: The adherents of the Traditional liturgy must acknowledge that there was a popular movement against the new liturgy -- but it wasn't a movement for the old one. Rather it led to a total exit from the Church. That wisdom that is so fondly ascribed to the Catholic Church deserted her totally in the 20th century. She dared a “reform of the Mass” that was, in truth, a revolution from above. She didn't consider that in an age of mass democracy a revolution, even when imposed by the actions of authority, must very soon become unmanageable. We must accept the sad fact that a great part of the believers who have remained in the Church have been in the meantime reeducated. Goethe calls attention to the anthropological fact that reverence is not a natural characteristic of man, but that he must acquire it. In the formlessness of modern society, the old liturgy is really a foreign body. She attracts those who have an internal readiness for resistance. These will always only be a small elite, not in the sense of academic titles or economic power but of spiritual force and independence of mind. It is to be found at all levels of the society.
The catastrophe in the faith has created a paradox. The old liturgy lives from reverence for hierarchy and order, but her defenders have an anarchistic temperament. They distrust every institution and authority that is not willing to subject itself to the Tradition and that means most representatives of Church and state. The ruling pontifex, whose stated goal is, after fifty years of post-conciliar developments, to wipe out those remnants of the Tradition of the Church that are still present, has correctly recognized that his work will remain incomplete as long as the old rite is successfully transmitted to future generations. The old liturgy contains everything that a Catholic needs to be Catholic. It is even capable of replacing for a while a pope who doesn't understand his mission. The current pope understands this very clearly and this thought is unendurable to him.
UVK: Once again, regarding lack of knowledge: does the fact that many Catholics do not know the Mass of the ages hold a certain potential for rebellion? Especially among otherwise well informed pious and perhaps conservative Catholics - those with the intellectual capacity to inform themselves about the history of their mother the Church. Shouldn't one expect here a certain knowledge of the “family history”? Why is there this gap in education?
MM: You bring up something that's also a puzzle for me. I know many truly pious Catholics who suffer under the current decadence of doctrine and liturgy and fill my ears with lamentations regarding the latest excesses at children’s’ communions and Christmas Masses. But my question is always: “but why do you still go there”? In many places there are alternatives - a chapel of the SSPX or the FSSP or even the old Mass celebrated by diocesan priests - after all it’s a duty to support them. And I again always experience what Our Lord encountered from the rich young man: “he went away sad.“ Among German conservatives there's a spiritual lethargy that still just manages to express anger - but from this anger no consequences are drawn. The commitment to the old Mass is something weird to them, it departs too far from the mainstream. In the Rotary Club, in the Order of Malta, in the circles of fellow employees in the editorial offices, it is viewed with distrust: could this be a radical speaking? And, after all, religion is nothing so important that one would stick one’s neck out for it….
UVK: And what is the role of Catholics who are committed to Tradition? To wait things out and accept all with open arms or seek after the lost sheep? What does a Traditional mission look like?
MM: Like many, I am convinced that the official German Church is right at the point of total collapse. It is as hollow as a nest of termites. The stupidity and tastelessness of its representatives are not even attractive for modernist liberals, at least insofar as they are intelligent. A small remnant will remain, and orthodox Traditional Catholics will gain influence among these. What is critical in my view is that the official Church with its myriad lay employees finally disappears.
A Traditionalist shouldn't be afraid of the schism of the German Church. Rather, he should long for it, especially since it's in no way a schism but the public apostasy of the official Church. There's no basis anymore for the acclaimed “dialogue.” Also, whether Tradition one day could be victorious doesn’t concern me anymore. It must be sufficient to us that Tradition most closely approximates the religion founded by Christ. Who recognizes that, realizes that the pseudo-Synod of the German Church is simply an assembly of ghosts. An American priest with whom I have often discussed the current situation of the Church ends our conversation every time with these words: “it is important to persevere.” I cannot say anything more.
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