17 March 2008

Creating Division

I recently visited a blog run by people who proclaim themselves to be traditional Catholics. The writer of the post asks a simple question: What should "we" call Catholics who attend the Novus Ordo Rite? Her curiosity, she claims, is simply to come up with a name for that "group" so she and her acquaintances can more effectively have conversations about "them". She bandies about several terms "Novus Catholics", which she finds awkward, "Nordites" which is some kind of abbreviation of Novus Ordo Catholics, and a few others based on the Novus Ordo term. She sees no reason why anyone would take offence at her attempt to name the difference. After all, we do admit to differences. Families do sit on different sides of the church at weddings, which is an example she feels should clarify everything.

First of all, a simple problem: technically, there is no Novus Ordo. Following the publication of Summorum Pontificum the terms for the two forms of the Roman Rite are "Ordinary Form" and "Extraordinary Form." With that in mind, any attempt to name the "group" of Catholics should have been based on that terminology, not "Novus Ordo," but somehow the term "Ordinary Catholics" escaped her notice.

One of the commenters noted that Pope Benedict has said "We desire that this practice… of using distinctive names by which Catholics are marked off from other Catholics, should cease; such names must be avoided… [they] are neither true nor just… they lead to great disturbance and confuse the Catholic body.” Clara (the author of this article) responds by saying the Pope's words "just seems like an assault on common sense. "

The mentality of many catholics I have known, both in adherents to the EF and OF often give me great concern. We are in danger of creating a Anglican style break among ourselves: a "High Church" "Low Church" split. We are in danger of creating the problem described by CS Lewis in The Screwtape Letters. We become connoisseurs of churches, looking for a certain kind of church with a certain kind of liturgy, with certain kind of fellow attendees. We turn church into a kind of club, and where we should have a congregation of people of different classes and psychology brought together in worship and adoration we have a faction, defined by its differences from the other faction. This would be a disaster for us all, and to no purpose whatsoever. The Pope himself has said such practices are to end. Our "common sense" (or lack thereof) should not put itself in opposition to the Pope. Our Faith sense should unite us to his intentions.

A few weeks back several of the blogs circulated a letter by the then Cardinal Ratzinger in which he stated that he felt that two rites could not survive, and that the future should be based on the older rite, with some innovations that have proven themselves - he used the example of the increased lectionary- added to the rite. I pray that the Pope's intention comes to pass.

In the meantime, another little history. The trads frequent condescension towards the ordinary Catholics. Many times I have heard them speak of how they have kept the light of the true faith alive in their little enclaves. They alone kept the truth when all else stepped aside. Here's an alternative view. When the changes to the liturgy were instituted, the vast majority of practicing Catholics went to Church the next Sunday, and continued going to church. Some liked the changes, some didn't, but they still continued going to Mass, they still put money in collection plate, kept the lights on, kept the building warm. Did the trads keep the light of truth going? perhaps. But if you see a Catholic church standing, if you see people going in, if you see a place to which the EF can be brought back, the odds are more than ninety nine per cent that it was kept standing by- you know, those people.

As for the question that started this rumination- there is a good term for describing those people who kept with the Novus Ordo/ Ordinary Form, one which would cause them no offence whatsoever. That word is "Catholic".

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