Happy Despite Them: The post-traumatic stress of the anniversary of Vatican II

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Leila Marie Lawler. Short (I hope) ramblings.

Happy Despite Them: The post-traumatic stress of the anniversary of Vatican II

As the tentative and notably uncelebratory observations of the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council wafted around the internet the other day, I was struck again by the phenomenon of commenters of a certain age (around my age and from my milieu, so I recognize their sort) keeping a desperate grip on the fantasy that the Mass of Paul VI, the Novus Ordo, can never be left behind — that it is a permanent fixture. 

They think this even though the Novus Ordo itself was imposed with cataclysmic sudddenness, which certainly implies that it could as readily be changed back. Despite the obvious reality that the whole Roman Catholic world worshiped according to the 1962 Missal when it was promulgated, they insist that today’s (virtually) universal practice of worship in the new form is decisive to its permanence, and they call it a fantasy to think otherwise. But theirs is the fantasy!

Permit me to wonder if their commitment to this dream-that-is-a-nightmare perhaps arises from their investment, academic or otherwise professionally, in the workings of the modern church — even in their opposition to its worst manifestations. Some of them work for bishops. Some work at universities in which their positions depend on the status quo. Some depend on publishing houses that arose to offer a much-needed conservative voice in a time of turmoil but have not responded to unfolding events, culminating in Traditionis Custodes, appropriately.

Whatever the provenance of their loyalty, it is a kind of tribe, going by different and formerly respectable names (such as “the Reform of the Reform”), in which their prestige finds a home. But of course, Christianity cares nothing for prestige. To follow Christ means to follow the Truth. Perhaps they are and were wrong; perhaps they did their best at the time and now information that changes one’s position, or ought to, has been revealed. But they are having difficulty admitting it.

They reserve to themselves the right to criticize the state of things. They often lament the situation in the church, a situation so dire that most of it is hidden even now. But they also hold in contempt those who, with ample evidence regarding the machinations of the past 60 years, seek to restore Tradition and rescue our precious Church from the continual process of liturgical and doctrinal destabilization. That is, they are angry at those who are not content just to deplore but seek a remedy. These traditionalist critics by necessity attack the fantasy of the permanence of this regime of change, and for that they are dismissed as fools.

The Novus Ordo defenders, who as far as I can tell have found rare bunkers (call them bubbles if you prefer a less besieged metaphor) where they are somewhat insulated from irreverence, can’t face the internal contradiction of their position. Nor do they demonstrate much pity for those not able to find the same sort of refuge. 

This state of denial makes them testy and causes them to reject factual arguments with contempt and ad hominem attacks, or to cheer on those who do so even if they themselves refrain, which speaks to some private conversation amongst themselves (to which I too have been privy, back in my Reform of the Reform days) that is even more extreme. 

This attitude is dishonorable. They should either go all in on all the sequelae of the imposition of the Novus Ordo, along with accepting the virtually universal episcopal acquiescence of the decline, or they should face the conclusions of the evidence before their eyes and change their minds. They should not play both ends against the middle and cling to the juvenile pleasure of complaining without being willing to change.

Honor requires following logic to its conclusion, regardless of how that leaves one in worldly terms.

You can read more about why I say all this here, about Asking the Right Question:

“The liturgical situation, made so (uncharacteristically) clear by Pope Francis, leaves us then with no choice. We simply cannot accept a liturgy that has within itself the mechanism to become ever more banal and worldly, and the custodians of which demonstrate that they consider it to be in rupture with the past.”

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