28 November 2022

Unconvincing Propaganda Against the Latin Mass: The Public Embarrassment of Cavadini, Healy, and Weinandy

Dr Kwasniewski adds his thoughts to Dr Shaw's remarks on the attack on the Gregorian Rite by Dr Cavadini, Dr Healy, and Fr Weinandy.

By Peter Kwasniewski, PhD

Earlier today, Dr. Joseph Shaw posted his brief response to the five-part Church Life Journal series by Cavadini, Healy, and Weinandy (CHW). I would like to add a few thoughts on CHW's embarrassing exposé of intellectual ignorance, of which its authors should be ashamed—not to mention the Journal in which it appeared, whose reputation has been thereby tarnished.

Firstand not to put too fine a point on it, they really haven’t a clue what they are talking about, either academically or experientially. The scholarship is slipshod, superficial, and highly selective. They appear to have no sustained experience with traditional liturgical rites of either East or West (as evidenced by certain remarks about, e.g., ad orientem and “repetition”). It’s like the blind talking about colors, or the deaf talking about music.

They appear to have read no good books on the history, form, and theology of the traditional Roman Rite (e.g., Fiedrowicz, or heck, even Fortescue or Guéranger).

They seem to have no notion of how constant is the presence of certain liturgical practices and elements across the entire history of Western worship and, moreover, Eastern Christian worship too.

They appear to be unaware that Pius XII’s Mediator Dei was describing the virtues of the Tridentine rite and cautioning the Liturgical Movement against the very excesses that were soon to be embraced by the Consilium and pushed even further, to the dismay of many faithful who wanted none of this experimentation.

They do not mention Bugnini even once (!), in spite of the fact that, whether he’s a Freemason or not, he was involved in liturgical reform from 1948 to 1975, and obviously the key mover and shaker under Paul VI, as Yves Chiron meticulously documents. Imagine, for the sake of comparison, a 5-part series on the Protestant Reformation that never mentioned Luther.

Nor do they acknowledge the hesitations and regrets later expressed by major figures involved in the reform (e.g., GuardiniAntonelliSticklerMartimortBouyer...), or the plentiful evidence that it went far beyond what the Council Fathers had asked for.

Did they ever notice how much has been written about how the liturgical reform as it transpired deviated from some of the manifest indications of Sacrosanctum Concilium of the Second Vatican Council? Here are seven articles that are easily found by someone who has heard of Google:

    Shaffern, “The Mass According to Vatican II
    Shaw, “What Sort of Mass Did ‘Vatican II’ Want?
    Shaw, “Vatican II on Liturgical Preservation
    Stickler, “Recollections of a Vatican II Peritus
    Reid, “The Liturgy, Fifty Years after Sacrosanctum Concilium
    Reid, “Does Traditionis Custodes Pass Liturgical History 101?
    Kwasniewski, “Is Your Liturgy Like What Vatican II Intended?

They can’t even get right a basic fact like how old the content of the 1962 Missal actually is. They say “400 years,” when it is easily 800, 1200, or 1600, depending on which layer you are speaking of. And again, this is readily available information.

They don’t seem to recognize that their entire argumentative approach aligns with the Protestants and Modernists who maintained that the worship (and indeed the doctrine: lex orandi, lex credendi) of the Catholic Church had become corrupted and that only a “return to antiquity” could correct it: the error Pius XII castigated as “antiquarianism.”

Perhaps most strikingly, they barely mention the name or work of Joseph Ratzinger, in spite of his unparalleled contribution to liturgical theology both as a scholar and as Pope. In a damnatio memoriae, even as they denigrate most of what came before Vatican II, so too they denigrate what came before Pope Francis, and take only enough time to chide Benedict XVI for his naiveté. Again, this would be like doing a 5-part series on the Counter-Reformation without mentioning Trent or Pius V.

Speaking of Pius V... it would also appear that CHW are unaware of (or deliberately chose not to mention?) the commission of nine cardinals summoned by John Paul II in 1986 to investigate the question of whether Paul VI ever legally abrogated the old missal; eight out of nine concluded that he had not, which served as the basis for the clarification of Summorum Pontificum on this matter. (See, among other sources, this report by Cardinal Hoyos, in Italian.) Salza and Siscoe, in chapter 16 of their book True or False Pope, also demonstrate that the new missal was never promulgated in such a way that its use was canonically obligatory, although anyone who dared to exercise his freedom in this regard was punished until Benedict XVI took steps to remedy this injustice. Readers may also wish to consult the careful canonical study of Fr. Rivoire, Does “Traditionis Custodes” Pass the Juridical Rationality Test?

Secondtheir basic premise seems to be a variation on Chesterton’s old quip about Christianity. The new version: “The liturgical reform has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

The trouble is that there’s only so much “suspension of disbelief” that one can allow to a certain idea or ideology before it is exposed as fraudulent. The apt parallel here is Communism. For a while the mentality even among Western academics was: “Communism has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

Yet Communism helped itself to the blood of millions of victims in order to establish its new paradise on earth—a paradise that never came. It was discredited by its own internal contradictions, its absolute impracticability, its failure to deliver even basic goods like bread and clothes.

CHW tell us that all we need to do is give the liturgical reform another chance, more time, more effort! They admit that for 50 years things have not gone well; abuses, irreverence, lack of mystery, secularization, the whole works! But the trouble isn’t—couldn’t be!—the reform. (Remember, the Holy Spirit, who according to them was so curiously remote over so many centuries of unfolding liturgical life, roused Himself from inactivity and made up admirably for lost time!) Rather, it must be our lack of enthusiasm for it, our unwillingness to implement THE PROGRAM!

Meanwhile, the reform helped itself to the souls of millions of victims in order to establish its new paradise of active participation. Millions left the Church, confused, bewildered, scandalized, bored. Millions more who stayed have lost their faith in the Real Presence, in the Sacrifice of Calvary, in the unique dignity of the priest. Many of these warm bodies fell away in recent years when Mass was treated as an unessential service. The demographic sinkhole widens and deepens.[1] (In their vast enthusiasm for increased “active participation,” CHW need to be reminded that the most basic form of participation is to show up for Mass—something fewer and fewer in the modern West choose to do, except at booming Latin Mass parishes... at least until they are shut down by bishops who hate tradition more than apostasy.)

The liturgical reform has been discredited by its own internal contradictions, its absolute impracticability, its failure to deliver even basic goods like sound faith and reverence. We may still be waiting for our “Berlin Wall” moment, but it will come. Indeed, it has already come in the vitality of the traditionalist movement and the impossibility of writing convincing propaganda against it.

My thanks to Matthew Hazell for the edited image of the Soviet poster.

[1] Nor is the evidence from the Third World as hopeful as CWH seem to think it is. The growth of the Catholic Church in Africa, for example, was proportionately much higher prior to 1970, that is, at the tail end of the "Tridentine" period (see this chart). Since then, the Church has grown roughly in proportion to the population, whereas Protestant and Pentecostal sects have exploded in numbers (including in their ranks fallen-away Catholics).

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