Friday, November 21, 2008

The Frenzy of the Faithful

Fr. Z (who provides a very balanced reaction to the Mass and subsequent statement released by Cardinal Schönborn) and American Papist have brought to the attention of the Catholic blogosphere the video of an unfortunate Mass presided over by Cardinal Schönborn. Immediately, there was a massive comment-box outcry, allegations of grave liturgical abuses, etc., etc. Simultaneously, there were snide remarks about how this sort of thing would NEVER happen at an Extraordinary Rite Mass, but with the Novus Ordo Mess (oops! You mean, Mass?)...well...

As things objectively stand:

1. Two possible liturgical abuses have been observed in the video provided: the bread used looked leavened, and the vessels were of wood.
2. His Eminence's spokesperson has responded that the bread was unleavened.
3. The Mass was incredibly tacky.
4. But! His Eminence conducts himself reverently within the context of the tackiness.
5. And! His Eminence has a history of orthodox thought and teaching.

Several issues have been raised - simply because it is not against the letter of the law to use balloons, or rock instruments, or strobe lights, does that make it OK? Cardinal Schönborn, some say, has participated in this type of Mass (instigated, even) in the past (I haven't seen documentation of this - which doesn't mean there isn't any, just that it falls outside of my scope to judge the truth of this)- does the thought that he might have been 'ambushed' by this liturgy hold any water?

Now the question is: what should a prudent person conclude from all this?

There is enough evidence to say that the Cardinal Schönborn presided at an incredibly tacky Mass.There is not enough evidence to say that participated in the Mass with approval of the liturgical setting, nor that he engaged in grave liturgical abuse - though the use of wooden vessels could constitute a liturgical abuse if they were not of precious materials (like ebony --- I could be wrong on this, though. Crystal and precious metals, I know are licit - precious wood?).

Sometimes the Mass settings are sprung on priests - it happens - and when it happens a prudential judgment must be made as to whether it would be more harmful to the flock to say the Mass (Edit: I mean here something along the lines of how the Mass setting would affect the faithful's understanding of the Mass and what example it provides for others) or to refrain from saying the Mass. Given that the balloons occur somewhat later in the Mass, presumably during the prayers of the faithful, it is possible that the his Eminence thought that the music and lighting were bad but were not such as to warrant refraining from saying the Mass - and began the Mass and was stuck (can you stop a celebration of the Mass?).

Further, the musical settings of a piece may not be known in advance. The Master of Ceremonies may have simply been told that the consecration response would be sung by the "choir." Was he told that there would be heavy metal guitar riffs, etc.? A bit doubtful. I'm in a choir, and the instruments used for a piece are not listed in our program or bulletin - I don't think this is an uncommon practice, but I could be wrong. Also: if Cardinal Schönborn presided at Masses like this in the past, is it possible that he may have expressed a wish for greater reverence and been assured of it for an upcoming Mass? I don't know.

So at this point, I would gently suggest that the prudent person should not conclude - based off of one video that included snippets of the Mass - that a Prince of the Church has kicked the bucket of orthodoxy. Give a guy a chance and wait until more details emerge. At the very least, a prudent person should not begin frothing at the mouth and assume the worst of his Eminence - charity forbids us from doing that.

I think it would be a shame had the Cardinal Schönborn actually participated in this with full knowledge and approval. But I don't know that he did. So I think it is a great shame that many people are willing to go crazy-righteous about this.

And don't be snide about the Extraordinary Rite or Vatican II (the council, not the "spirit"). Taking delight in perversion because it furthers your stance is...well...sick and icky! It's like laughing at a little child who falls down, cuts up his knees, but looks absurd. HAHAHA! (?) Or - worse - it's like taking a smug joy in the fact that one of your friend's boy/girlfriend cheated on them and you sit back and say "I tooooollllld you he was nasty. If you'd only listened to ME this wouldn't have happened! What DIIID you expect!?"

Meanwhile, your friend is uncontrollably weeping.

See, you people give the rest of the people who love the Extraordinary Rite a bad name because that's how you sound to us.

Finally: so maybe Cardinal Schönborn exercised bad judgment here. I'm not going to expend my energy raging about a possibility. I'm going to pray for my pastor, for priests, and for holiness.