martedì 13 aprile 2010

The Reform of the Liturgy and the Catholic Church

Dal Blog: The Society of St. Hugh of Cluny
Fonte: The European
[Tradotto da "una Fides" in Italiano]

A Conversation with Martin Mosebach
The discussion was led by Alexander Goerlach.

The European: Personally, how do you assess the five years in which Benedict XVI has been in Office?

Mosebach: Benedict XVI has set for himself the most difficult mission. He wants to heal the evil consequences of the Church’s Revolution of 68 in a non-revolutionary manner. This pope is precisely not a papal dictator. He relies on the strength of the better argument and hopes that the nature of the Church will overcome that which is inappropriate to her if certain minimal assistance is provided. This plan is so subtle that it can be neither presented in official explanations nor understood by an almost unimaginably coarsened press. It is a plan that will show its effects only in the future – probably only with clarity after the death of the Pope. But already now we can recognize the courage with which the pope establishes reconciliation beyond the narrow limits of the canon law (through the integration of the Patriotic church in China; in relation to Russian and Greek Orthodoxy) or by his novel fusion of traditional and enlightened biblical theology that leads us out of the dead end of rationalistic bible criticism.

The European: Don’t we also have to prepare for cases of abuse in Catholic institutions in other countries? In your view how should Pope Benedict react to them?

Mosebach: The Church of course always has to be prepared for the fact that individual educators will sexually abuse students in her schools and boarding schools. That’s the nature of things. Wherever children are instructed, personalities with pedophile inclinations are always found. We have to ask ourselves, however, why just in the years immediately following the Second Vatican council the sexual crimes of priests occurred so frequently. There is no way of avoiding the bitter realization: the experiment of “aggiornamento”, the assimilation of the Church to the secularized world, has failed in a terrible way. After the Second Vatican Council, most priests dropped their clerical garb, ceased celebrating the mass daily and did not pray the breviary daily any more. The post-conciliar theology did everything in its power to make people forget the traditional image of the priest. All the institutions were called into question which had given the priest aid in his difficult and solitary life. Should we be astonished if many priests in these years could no longer view themselves as priests in the traditional manner? The clerical discipline that was deliberately eliminated had been largely formulated by the Council of Trent. At that time the mission was likewise to resist the corruption of the clergy and to reawaken the consciousness of the sanctity of the priesthood. It is nice that the leaders of the church ask the victims of abuse for forgiveness but it will be still more important if they tighten the reins of discipline in the sense of the Council of Trent and return to a priesthood of the Catholic Tradition.

The European: How will the Catholic Church look which Benedict will eventually leave behind him?

Mosebach: One would wish that this Pope might perceive himself the first manifestations of a healing of the Church. But this Pope is so modest and lacking in vanity that he hardly would view any such glimmerings as the result of his own actions. I believe that he wants to spare his successor thankless yet necessary labors by assuming them himself. Hopefully this successor will utilize the great opportunity that Benedict has created for him.

The European: The “Reform of the Liturgy” has fundamentally changed the Catholic Church – in what way?

Mosebach: The interventions of Paul VI in a liturgy over 1500 years old are called only “reform of the liturgy.” In reality it was a revolution that was not authorized by the instruction of the Second Vatican Council, to “gently” review the liturgical books. The “liturgical reform” centered upon man a celebration that had been orientated for the last two thousand years to the adoration of God. It undermined the priesthood and largely obscured the doctrine of the Church on the sacraments.

The European: In the late sixties there were many upheavals: the Cultural Revolution in China, the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia, the student riots here at home, the Vietnam War – and the Second Vatican Council. Can we name all these upheavals in the same breath?

Mosebach: 1968 is, in my opinion, a phenomenon that is still not sufficiently understood. Here in Germany we like to occupy ourselves in this context with happy memories of communes and battles over the right interpretation of Marx. In reality, 1968 is an “axial year” in history with anti-traditionalist movements in the entire world that are only in appearance fully separate from each other. I am convinced that, when sufficient distance exists, the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the Roman Liturgical Reform will be understood to be closely connected.

The European: Pope Benedict XVI participated in this upheaval as a theologian of the Council. How do you experience today his commitment to revive individual liturgical elements of the pre-conciliar Church?

Mosebach: Benedict XVI views as one of his main tasks making the essence of the Church more clearly visible – for Catholics and then also for non-Catholics. The Pope knows that the Church is indissolubly bound to her Tradition. Church and revolution are irreconcilable contradictions. He attempts to intervene where the image of the Church has been distorted through a radical break with the past. Now the Church, like its Founder, has exactly two natures: historical and timeless. She cannot forget from where she came and cannot forget where she is going. Especially the Church in the West has problems with this. She has neither any sense for her historical organic evolution nor for her life in eternity.

The European: The reintroduction of the old rite allowed again the petition for the conversion of the Jews, as it was in use prior to the Council. Was that the right step?

Mosebach: When the organic liturgy was permitted again (which had been suppressed, very often violently, under Paul VI) so also was the petition for the conversion of the Jews once again admitted into the official liturgical books of the Church. It dates from early Christianity and forms part of the Good Friday petitions. This early Christian petition, based on wording of the Apostle Paul, contains the wording that God might liberate the Jews from “their blindness” and “lift the veil from their hearts.” These expressions appeared to the Pope to permit the misunderstanding of contempt for the Jews because of recent history. Therefore he intervened when the traditional rite was authorized again and ordered a new formulation in the old rite. It also asks God to lead the Jews to Jesus Christ, but excludes the interpretation of contempt for them. The Pope has been condemned because he permits praying for the conversion of the Jews to Jesus Christ at all. But can the Church of the Jews Peter and Paul be expected to renounce such an intention?

The European: How do you assess the relationship of the Pope to the Jews and Israel?

Mosebach: Benedict XVI is probably the first pope since Peter to understand Christianity so closely from out of Judaism. His book on Jesus reveals in many passages the attempt to read the New Testament with the eyes of the Old Testament. The relationship of the Pope to Jewry is not superficial, political or a mere liking derived from a trendy philosemitism but is theological and rooted in faith. One has at times the impression that if Benedict were not a Christian he would be a Jew. To accuse this Pope of anti-Semitism betrays an ignorance and incompetence that should exclude one from public discourse.

The European: The controversy surrounding the FSSPX has yielded no visible success for the Vatican up till now. In your view what does this group bring to the Catholic Church other than its love for the old liturgy?

Mosebach: Other than the old liturgy? What is there more important for the Church than the liturgy? The liturgy is the body of the Church. It is faith made visible. If the liturgy falls ill, so does the entire Church. That is not a merely a hypothesis but a description of the current situation. One can’t present it drastically enough: the crisis of the Church has made possible that her greatest treasure, her Arcanum, was swept out of the center to the periphery. The FSSPX and especially its founder, Archbishop Lefebvre, are due the historical glory to have preserved for decades and kept alive this most important gift. Therefore the Church owes the FSSPX above all gratitude. Part of this gratitude is to work to lead the FSSPX out of all kinds of confusion and radicalization.

The European: The FSSPX don’t appear to be heading towards Rome.

Mosebach: In the discussions with the FSSPX what is important is the patient labor of persuasion, as is appropriate in spiritual questions. The discussions appear to be proceeding in a very good atmosphere. If one day it is successful in integrating once again the FSSPX in the full unity of the Church, the papacy of Benedict XVI would have obtained a success whose importance exceeds by far the number of FSSPX members.

The European: Christianity is one of the foundations of Europe. In the future will it still be relevant for the continent?

Mosebach: Christianity is the foundation of Europe – I don’t see any other. All intellectual movements of modern times, even when they opposed Christianity, owe their origins to it. We have also received ancient philosophy and art from the arms of Christianity. If European society should turn away totally from Christianity, it would mean nothing less than it would deny its very self. What one doesn’t know or want to know nevertheless exists. Repression cannot be the basis for a hopeful future.

The European: You were in Turkey for a while. Would Turkey enrich the European Union as a full member or is it difficult to integrate a land dominated by Islam into the Western community of values?

Mosebach: You surely understand that I cannot give you a political or legal answer. I can only see that Turkey – especially the anti-Islamic, modernizing Turkey - has had enormous difficulties with its Christian European minorities. Until the 1950’s there was still a Greek-dominated Constantinople. But living together with Christians was intolerable for the modern Turks so they put an end to it. Now they seem to find desirable drawing near to Europe because of economic concerns without, however, rethinking in their internal politics the battle against Christians. I believe that we are very far removed from what you call “integration into the Western community of values.”

Translation by kind permission of Martin Mosebach