fredag 17 februari 2017

New Mass translation proposed

When I first read this on another blog I thought it was more false news. Not so. Pope Francis is apparently reviewing Liturgiam Authenticum, which stipulated that liturgical texts must be close to the definitive Latin.

The present English translation, which came into use in 2011, is awkward in places, and is far removed from the kind of English that is used in daily conversation, but it is a huge improvement on the banal 1970 version.

At least having yet another new version will help to keep printers in business. Nowhere is all these endless discussions about liturgical language is the point made that the universal use of Latin is both a sign and a instrument of the Catholicity of the Catholic Church. Once it was discarded, the church, and indeed, parishes, split up into national language groups. This is the great, and most valid, argument against the Orthodox, who have at least held faithfully to their forms of worship.

Once the Catholic church abandons its traditions so that the Sacrifice of the Mass looks like a re-enactment of the Last Supper - the Protestant interpretation, and abandons the use of a common language of worship, one has to ask what is left of it and what is its purpose?

fredag 3 februari 2017

Another look at why Orthodoxy?

I have always had a an open mind about Orthodox Christianity. As a convert to the Catholic church in England in 1975, the eastern Orthodox churches were not something that I had even thought about. They had next to no presence, since the only Orthodox churches were the expatriate Russians - this was during Soviet times, and the Greeks, immigrants from Cyprus.

The subject crops up from time to time, however, partly because there are many more Orthodox parishes where I live now, and partly also because I have a friend who is Orthodox. A few years ago I wrote this blog piece on the subject. My friend had been under instruction to be received into the Catholic church, but at the last moment he took exception to Papal Infallibility and joined the Orthodox church instead. That led to the problem of which Orthodox church to join. He ended up in the Euphorbian Orthodox church, an expatriate group with a congregation of about twenty. He has to make  a long journey across London every Sunday morning to attend their Liturgy. As a result of this contact, and because of the proximity of Orthodox parishes where I live, I sometimes attend an Orthodox liturgy, usually in the Serbian church. Contemporary Catholic liturgies, in comparison, are poor fare.

There are exceptions, of course. There are more or less traditionalist groups such as the Oratorians and the congregations committed to the Extraordinary Form. The Catholic church here in Sweden, and in particular, my own parish, is one such oasis; last night, we had a Tridentine Mass for Candlemas, a liturgy of great beauty and devotion. Parishes where this happens are growth points.

The bigger picture of the Catholic church in Europe and the English-speaking world, however, is of a crumbling structure. Ireland, for centuries a bastion of the faith, it has all but collapsed. In the USA, it is imploding. The situation in the UK, France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands is little better. Vocations to the priesthood have all but vanished for the past four decades. The age profile of the present priests means that numbers are about to plummet, with many parishes needing to be closed.

Strange news, and often contradictory messages, have been coming from Rome ever since the resignation of Pope Benedict; that was itself a strange event. We are in for an interesting few years. For more than a century there has been tension in the church between modernisers and traditionalists. Are we now approaching rupture?

How Catholic is the contemporary Catholic church in reality? One sign of Catholicity is the presence, in congregations, of people from all the nations of the world. But because of the way the foreign chaplaincies operate, our own multi-national parish is split into a dozen different language groups, each with its own vernacular Mass, plus one in English for everyone else. The post-Vatican 2 adoption of the vernacular in the liturgy is un-Catholic; Latin was both a means and sign of the Catholicity of the church. Once it had been cast aside, what was left of the Catholicity?

This raises a disturbing question. The church has survived major shocks before. There is the precedent of the Arian heresy and the preservation of the orthodox faith by the remnant, followers of St Athanasius, who was sent to a remote place in the empire. But that was before the Orthodox/Catholic split. Already in the sixth century the Western church was starting to go its own way as the Papacy was beginning to evolve.

Only once before has the Catholic church had to face such a crisis apart from the other ancient patriarchates. That led to the Reformation and Counter Reformation. Are we about to see another great split? Could this be the end of the Catholic church in the form it has taken since the Great Schism?

We have always assumed that the church, under the leadership of the Bishop of Rome, is the main branch of the tree, but this rests ultimately on an interpretation of Matthew 16:18. What if we have been wrong all along? What if the main stem is the churches of present nine Orthodox patriarchates? It is a disturbing thought.

Ricardo’s Law in brief