Saturday, December 7, 2013

Save The Liturgy, Save The World? Not Quite


Father John Zuhlsdorf of the famous Father Z blog coined a phrase which many Catholics, particularly Traditional Catholics, have taken to heart and very firmly believe:  "Save The Liturgy, Save The World."  This phrase has become a money maker for Father Z as he now sells items - coffee cups, bumper stickers, t-shirts, etc. - with this quote, as can be seen in the above picture.  But what does "Save The Liturgy, Save The World" mean?  Way back on January 29, 2007, Father Z posted the following, which you can read in its entirety HERE:
The Eucharist, its celebration and itself as the extraordinary Sacrament, is the “source and summit of Christian life”.
If we really believe that, then we must also hold that what we do in church, what we believe happens in a church, makes an enormous difference. 
Mass is not merely a “teaching moment” or a “celebration of unity” or a “tedious obligation”. Our choice of music, architecture, ceremonies and language affect more than one small congregation in one building. We are interconnected in both our common human nature and in baptism. When we sin we hurt the whole Body of Christ the Church.
If that is true for sin, it must also be true for our liturgical choices. They must also have personal and corporate impact. Any Mass can be offered for the intentions of the living or the dead.
Not even death is an obstacle to the efficacy of Holy Mass.
Celebrate Mass well, participate properly – affect the whole world. Celebrate poorly – affect the whole world.
.  .  . 
So I repeat:

In a much more recent post from August 22, 2013, which you can read HERE, Father Z wrote this:
I will repeat what I have assert [sic] many times here.
No true and lasting renewal of the Church can take place until we revitalize our sacred liturgical worship of God.  The virtue of religion requires this first and foremost.  No other initiative we take in any sphere of the Church’s life will undergo a sound and lasting renewal without also a revitalization of our worship of God.  [Emphasis mine]
Reason #4 for Summorum Pontificum.  
So Father Z asserts that if the Church can just get the celebration of Mass down correctly, everything else will fall into place.   Is that true?

As Father Z said in the first post, "The Eucharist, its celebration and itself as the extraordinary Sacrament, is the 'source and summit of Christian life'."  Absolutely no question about that. The Mass is where we re-present the saving Sacrifice of Jesus Christ to the Father. Without the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we are all doomed to hell.  Quoting Saint Padre Pio: "Every holy Mass, heard with devotion, produces in our souls marvelous effects, abundant spiritual and material graces which we, ourselves, do not know. It is easier for the earth to exist without the sun than without the holy Sacrifice of the Mass."

The Mass is of vital importance in the life of every Catholic, and it is absolutely vital to both the physical and spiritual salvation of the world.  But is a proper and reverent celebration of the Mass THE KEY to a "true and lasting renewal of the Church" as Father Z says?

Many sedevacantist groups have sprung up during the post-conciliar era. Almost without exception, they are "Traditional" Catholics who completely reject everything in the Church that is "post Vatican II", the first and foremost post-conciliar practice being the "Novus Ordo Mass" as they refer to the Ordinary Form of the Mass. When these groups celebrate Mass, it is a wondrous thing to behold, with all of the beauty that the Traditional Latin Mass has to offer. An example of one of these sedevacantist groups is the Society of St. Pius V (not to be confused with the Society of St. Pius X). Here is what the Society of St. Pius V posts on their website:

Welcome to the Society of St. Pius V Home Page

The Society of St. Pius V is an organization of traditional Catholic priests dedicated to the preservation of the Traditional Latin Mass. The priests of the Society do not offer the Novus Ordo Missæ. The priests offer the Traditional Latin Mass exclusively. Likewise, the priests administer the traditional sacraments according to the prescribed rites prior to any of the changes brought about by the Vatican II Council.

Why the Traditional Latin Mass

Priests in the Society do not offer the traditional Latin Mass out of a sense of nostalgia or love of Latin. Nor do they do so for aesthetic considerations, stubbornness, or out of disobedience. They do so because of the content and purpose of the Catholic Mass and because it is the Catholic thing to do. They believe that the new Mass and sacraments compromise the true Catholic Religion and do not convey and profess the Catholic Faith as defined by Our Lord Jesus Christ and passed down to us from the Apostles.

Below is a picture from a Mass offered by the Society of St. Pius V with  "Bishop" Clarence Kelly:


Seems to me that you can't get much more reverent than that. Ah, but looks can be deceiving. This group is in total rebellion against the Catholic Church, completely rejecting all post-conciliar Popes, starting with Pope John XXIII. They may look Catholic, but they are 100% Protestant. As Wikipedia tells us:
The priests of SSPV broke away from the Society of St. Pius X over liturgical issues, and hold that many in the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church no longer adhere to the Catholic faith but instead profess a new, modernist, Conciliar religion. SSPV priests regard the questions of the legitimacy of the present hierarchy and the possibility that the Holy See is unoccupied (sedevacantism) to be unresolved.[1] The SSPV is led by its founder, Bishop Clarence Kelly.

The Society is not in ecclesiastical communion with the Holy See and is independent of the worldwide Catholic Church.
But how can this be? They certainly have the Mass down. There are no "clown" Masses, no liturgical dancing, not even communion in the hand. Everything they do is completely according to Catholic Tradition. Why hasn't the proper celebration of the Mass saved them?
Society of St. Pius X
And what about the Society of St. Pius X, from which the Society of St. Pius V originated? The SSPX is not in formal schism with the Church because they still (nominally) recognize the authority of the Holy Father, but the Society is not canonically recognized because they refuse to accept the authority of the Vatican II council.  (However, with Bishop Fellay recently accusing Pope Francis of being a "modernist", the SSPX may very well be on the edge of schism with the Catholic Church.)  Their priests are not authorized to administer the sacraments, e.g. hear confessions, perform marriages or confirmations.  But certainly no one does the Mass more beautifully than the SSPX. They have it down better than anyone. Why hasn't the Mass saved them? 

Then, of course, there are thousands, maybe millions, of Traditional Catholics who still attend the Catholic Church, but seem to have no hesitation whatsoever in denouncing the Church hierarchy, i.e., the Bishops and the Holy Father, as modernists whose goal is to destroy the Catholic Church.  I had an interesting "conversation" with one such person, John Vennari, on Facebook this week.  This was from a Facebook page advertising a dinner in New York City at which Mr. Vennari spoke on December 6.  I had just posted on my blog about Mr. Vennari in which I exposed an article he wrote completely misrepresenting Pope Francis.  We went back and forth on the Facebook page, which you can read HERE, but Mr. Vennari never addressed my initial question, which was:
Mary Griffin Mr. Vennari, maybe you could explain in NYC why you completely misrepresented what Pope Francis wrote in Evangelii Gaudium.
December 1 at 4:11pm via mobile · Like ·
Vennari totally dodged my questions.  He talked about the Pope celebrating Hanukkah in 2012, he talked about the Pope "receiving a blessing" from a Protestant minister, and called these acts scandalous while at the same time telling me that he is not condemning Pope Francis.  Vennari then recommended a book published by the SSPX on the terrible state of the post Vatican II Church.   But he never addressed the misrepresentations in his article.  

Then Vennari made a statement which, coming from someone who represents himself as a loyal Catholic, I find absolutely chilling:
John Vennari And as for the Pope, it is possible for the Pope to head in the wrong direction. Juan Cardinal de Torquemada (1388-1468) the revered medieval theologian responsible for the formulation of the doctrines that were formulated at the Council of Florence.
Cardinal Torquemada, explaining that it is possible for even a Pope to err [???????], teaches: “Were the Pope to command anything against Holy Scriptures, or the articles of faith, or the truth of the sacraments, or the commands of the natural or divine law, he ought not to be obeyed, but in such commands he is to be disregarded. Citing the doctrine of Pope Innocent III, Cardinal Torquemada further teaches: “Thus it is that Pope Innocent III states (De Consuetudine) that it is necessary to obey the Pope in all things as long as he, himself, does not go against the universal customs of the Church, but should he go against the universal customs of the Church, “he need not be followed” on these points.
December 2 at 10:26pm · Like · 1
This quote by Cardinal Torquemada is constantly made by those who rebel against the hierarchy of the Church. Yet, we have an ironclad promise from Jesus Christ that His Vicar will never lead us astray. In Matthew 16:18, it is recorded that Jesus Christ said that the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church. We, as Catholics, can always rest assured that the Holy Father, no matter who he is and no matter how great a sinner he might be, will never mislead the Church in faith and morals. To rebel against the Holy Father is to rebel against the Church and against Jesus Christ.

Vennari is a great proponent of the Traditional Latin Mass.  But being a proponent of the Traditional Mass has not kept him from constant criticism and condemnation of the Holy Father and the bishops.  In fact, it seems to have fueled his actions, just as it has with the sedevacantist groups.   As shown, Vennari even goes so far as to say it is possible for the Pope to mislead us, thus justifying outright rebellion against the Vicar of Christ.   There was another person posting on the Facebook conversation I had with Vennari who accused me of pope "worship" because I defend Pope Francis.  Martin Luther would applaud this long and loudly.  Again, this was a person who strongly defends the Traditional Latin Mass and condemns the "Novus Ordo" Mass.  In fact, his name for me was a "Novus Ordo Catholic", which in the minds of Traditionalists, is a step below child molestor.

It would seem, therefore, that Father Z's assertion that "Save The Liturgy, Save The World" doesn't play out. Far too many who "save the liturgy" end up in complete rebellion against the Catholic Church and not only do not save the world, but may be in danger of losing their own soul. That is not a reflection on the Mass, which sustained the Church through almost her entire history (and which Mass I personally love). But it does say that the Mass of and by itself does not necessarily bring us into union with Christ and His Church.

So what is the answer? What is a fail-safe way of walking in step with Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church?  The answer can be found in I Samuel 15:22:  
Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
This statement was made by the Prophet Samuel to King Saul. Saul had just captured and destroyed the Amalekites, the enemy of Israel. God had given Saul the victory and through Samuel had told him to kill all the Amalekites and destroy everything that belonged to them, including their animals. However, Saul disobeyed. From I Samuel 15:7-9:
7 Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur,near the eastern border of Egypt. 8 He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword. 9 But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.
Saul thought he knew better than God. Why should all these perfectly good animals be destroyed for no apparent reason? Saul also spared the life of King Agag, which was in complete disobedience. When Samuel confronted Saul and demanded to know why he disobeyed the command of God, Saul answered:
“The soldiers brought them [the sheep] from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”
What could be wrong with wanting to give sacrifice to God? Isn't that what forgave sin? Isn't that a good thing? Samuel's answer to Saul was that obedience is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. King Saul thought he knew better than God, and even though he was liturgically correct in offering sacrifices, this was done in complete rebellion and not only did it not forgive sins, it actually caused Saul and his descendants to be cast from the throne of Israel.

Satan, our enemy, does not care how he gets us. If he can get us through immorality, he will do it. And if he can use our religious beliefs, he will, and often does, do that as well.  As can be seen in the above examples, Satan can even use the Holy Mass to destroy people.  All heresy has come from those who think they know better than the Church.  Pride is much more destructive than sins of the flesh. We have a prime example of this in the case of the Pharisees at the time of Christ. I guarantee you that they were completely 100% correct in their liturgical functions. They did everything by the book, never missing a point.  Their liturgies were no doubt a beautiful thing to behold.  But what good did it do them?

Christ's story of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying in the temple exemplifies the destructive nature of pride, especially spiritual pride.  The Pharisee  pointed to himself as being in exact conformity with the law (Luke 18:11-12):
The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
Jesus contrasts the tax collector:
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
In the next verse, Jesus tells us:
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
The Pope, the Vicar of Christ, is Christ's earthly authority. We may not like everything he says, and we don't have to accept anything he says that is not in regard to faith and morals. But when he sets standards in the Church and says "this is the law of the Church," we cannot question that. To do so puts us in league with King Saul and the Pharisees of Christ's time, and all heretics down through the ages. Just hanging on to the Mass will not save us. In fact, it could spiritually drown us. Yes, the Traditional Latin Mass is a beautiful thing, and it is very holy and can produce great holiness. But if we use it as a weapon against those with whom we disagree, most especially the hierarchy of the Church, Satan will use that self same Mass to destroy us.

Father Z said that "Not even death is an obstacle to the efficacy of Holy Mass." Physical death is not an obstacle to the efficacy of the Mass, but spiritual death is the greatest obstacle. And when we are not in conformity and obedience to the Magesterium of the Church, then even the beautiful Traditional Latin Mass of the Ages can be our spiritual undoing, as we have seen in far, far too many cases in the past 50 years. Many of those who comment on Father Z's blog prove the point. He has to constantly police the comments left, especially those with regard to the Pope, because they are so condemnatory of the Holy Father and the Church. These comments are left by people who love the Traditional Mass. It doesn't seem to be saving their souls.

Father Z doesn't have it quite right. Saving the Liturgy, of and by itself, will not save the world. The only thing that will save the world is obedience to Jesus Christ and His Vicar. "Save The Liturgy, Save The World"? No. "Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifice." There is no other way.


7 comments:

  1. Fr. Zs "save the liturgy, save the world" was and is meant for Catholics in communion with the Holy See. I think Brooklyn has created a paper tiger here. Fr. Z is not presenting the rubrics of the Mass as a magical cure-all but the ancient "lex credandi, lex orandi" connection. Thanks for the reminder that liturgical mechanics does not save anything.

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    1. The problem with your statement is that the sedevacantist groups were praying just as the Church has down through the ages, and yet they are now totally separate from the Church. The SSPX was involved in a rosary crusade, and yet they are now further away from the Church than ever and on the edge of schism. How did this happen? Prayer without obedience means nothing, and that is the point of my post. The Pharisees said all the right things, but their hearts were not right. Why does the Bible say "to obey is better than sacrifice?" You might want to try re-reading my post.

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  2. Totally agree with you - a great post.

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  3. I totally agree with you as well. God bless you.

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  4. Why do you say that SSPX is on the edge of schism? John Paul II said that they were in schism according to my understanding.... Also, a Novus Ordo Mass is also a good and sacred liturgy minus the abuses and done in accordance with VaticanII Documents(as opposed to the "Spirit of Vatican II"). It is not just the estraordinary form of the Mass. All the masses that you have mentioned are NOT the ways that they Church has prayed through the centuries because they are NOT in communion with Peter and all the masses said daily throughtout the world....Saving the Liturgy is not simply and only a question of rubrics as you seem to interpret this...and I am just going by the saying and not an article on it....All the rubrics and imitations in the world cannot make a sacred and valid liturgy if it is not in communion with Peter.

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  5. I also agree with your last statement, too Obedience IS better than sacrifice but we must remember that the Sacrifice of the Mass IS part of that obedience. I do not think that a saying can emcompass a complete philosophical treatise or delineate what it takes to save the world in this day and age.....After all. the world cannot literally be saved because this is Satan's kingdom, but our mission is to save as many souls as possible, the first being our own....Now, this is just a basically uninformed observation as I have not been reading your blog or any blogs for that matter for very long(less than a year) but it seems that this MIGHT be getting a little bit nitpicky with Traditionalist bloggers(I can see why, though, because many of them seem to have gone a little wacky with Pope Francis and they seem to come across as way too judgemental.I doo not believe that Fr. Z has been in that crowd though for the most part. I also don't believe that he is always right, but then, I do not know anyone presently walking the earth who is ;) ). There are many battles to be fought for the Kingdom of God before this is over and there are only we sinners that God has to use as His instruments. It is fine if you think my assessment is wrong. I do not know myself if this assessment is actually true, hence the word MIGHT.. I am just throwing it out there to be considered....

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