The Hermeneutic of Discontinuity

Mass in Leigh-on-Sea, Sunday 1st August 2021
Mass in the Vetus Ordo at Leigh-on-Sea, Sunday 1st August 2021

As I've said numerous times before, I feel fortunate that we have a very reverent Novus Ordo Mass at my Parish. The fact that the Mass is so reverent insulates me to a large degree to the pain and the division in the Church currently. On Sunday at my Parish we had our monthly Vetus Ordo. The 11.30am Mass which we usually attend was being said for a family friend and my wife wanted to go to that Mass. A family conference ensued and all the children wanted to go to the Latin Mass. So my wife went in the morning and I took everyone in the afternoon to the old rite.

Sometimes I go to to the Latin Mass and just pray, I often feel I can completely lose myself in prayer in the Vetus Ordo. Sometimes I join in by following everything in the Missal and that was how I felt this Sunday. Following the prayers and instructions as the Mass proceeded I felt deeply moved by the careful repetition, the way the priest begins the Mass by addressing God and continues to lead us in prayer before God throughout the Liturgy. Also the focus on humility; the humility of the priest who offers the Sacrifice and the humility of those of us seeking to approach the altar of the Lord. This instantly feels like a more reverent approach to the blessed sacrament and the act of Communion, it also teaches us to examine our words and actions and atone for the things we do wrong; to cultivate an attitude of responsibility and repentance.

Ultimately this process is the ancient process of Sacrifice: our recognition that we are broken before God and need to atone; to offer something to God like a child bringing a flower to a parent. In itself, this deepens our understanding of the process of theosis: which is our conforming our hearts and lives to almighty God.

At the end I felt struck by a thought that I have tried to avoid for many years. It is a different religion.

Let me qualify that a little: I don't think it has to be another religion, but I think that all too often the direction of travel is a new religion.

It's not the Mass on its own. It's what goes with it that struck me; perhaps primarily the reduction of the Sacrifice of the Mass to a shared meal. It starts like this: the teleology is clear:

Pope Francis isn't just clamping down on the old Mass. What Pope Francis is clamping down on is any dissent from his own promotion of the idea that God doesn't care about sin or atonement, who has no interest in right action or responsibility (except, perhaps, environmental responsibility!) and does not judge us. He is clamping down on criticism of his declaration that God wills a plurality of religions, criticism of his betrayal of the Church in China, the scandals around Cardinal Becciu, his promotion of McCarrick's protégés, his crusade to embed a homosexual culture in the Vatican:
But more importantly, it is his lack of faith in the supernatural reality so explicit in the Old Mass.
The reality of Traditionis custodes to anyone paying attention is discombobulating because with it we have a pope taking aim at a group of the faithful within the Universal Church and casting very direct aspersions about their loyalty to the very faith they hold. The faith which (it seems blindingly obvious) those very individuals take very seriously: why else seek out the traditional liturgy? 

It also has a real and immediate (not to mention callous) effect on people’s lives. Priestly vocations thrown into crisis, thousands of families disenfranchised from their parish communities. Is there any way Pope Francis' profile as a gentle mediator can survive such a torpedo?

I think it can — because most Catholics aren't watching. Most Catholics, untouched by much real understanding of the faith (they've never been taught it) don't care about the old Mass (do they care much about Mass at all?) and, if asked, would agree the Church needs to change to accept homosexuality, abortion, drop its commitment to marriage, etc, etc. That's because they have not been evangelised. They have never heard the Church's argument. And that's because it is a different religion which finds itself at odds with much that went before. 

Where it won't survive is amongst those who do care. Any vaguely objective assessment of Traditionis custodes leads one to conclude that the pope is either deeply prejudiced against what he constantly refers to as "rigids" (what can that mean except those who take the faith seriously and believe it??) or he is hopelessly incompetent, having issued this Motu Proprio without the statutory vacatio legis, a period of time between the promulgation of a law and its taking force, as well a numerous well documented ambiguities and errors. As Cardinal Burke explained, the vacatio legis provides the faithful and especially the Bishops time to study the new legislation regarding the worship of God, the most important aspect of their life in the Church, with a view to its implementation. The Motu Proprio is a reactionary document which does not speak to any real problem in the Church, instead it seeks to divide and punish those who hold to the timeless truths of Catholicism.

When one considers the forceful imposition of the New Mass in 1970 and the re-imposition of Traditionis custodes it is difficult not to discern a note of desperate authoritarianism which betrays a kind of fear. Fear that the young are being drawn to a more solid reality; a clearer exposition of what it means to be a Catholic; firm answers to the more taxing questions of our existence. The Catholic Church has failed to engage with these questions and answers for fifty years or so now, choosing instead to flirt with secular culture in an attempt at appeasement. But with advances in technology, young people especially are finding that the Catholic Church does have answers. The faith deposited on earth by Jesus and His Apostles contains a discernible truth. If we are asking questions about out lives, we should choose a church or faith not because of how it makes us feel, but because it is objectively true and objectively good for us. So while the liturgy is a flashpoint for this discussion, it is not the whole of the discussion.

The Church Pope Francis wants to enforce on us is one where there are no clear answers. As was posted on the New Liturgical Movement blog yesterday, this is tantamount to the Church attempting to enthusiastically erase itself. This is so clear to me now, crystallised by Pope Francis and the Motu Proprio he has so savagely promulgated.

As NLM put it:
"There can be no clearer sign that the post-Conciliar revolution has lost its power to persuade, and knowing this, grows afraid, and resorts to doing by force what it cannot do by persuasion."

NLM echoes a lot of voices which suggest that is a last, desperate rear guard action by the St. Gallen Mafia: that group of ageing progressives who wanted a "modern" leader for the Church. NLM suggests that the revolution is now over. There is growing evidence to support this as the bishops Pope Francis uses to justify his actions abandon him, opting instead to value the Traditional communities and their contribution to their dioceses. This is only sensible as, as has been objectively demonstrated time and time again, these are the communities which continue to grow and attract followers.

Pope Francis has rejected the hermeneutic of continuity, an expression of Pope Benedict XVI in his address to the Roman Curia on 22 December 2005 which constituted a valid effort to unite the post-conciliar factions, and embraced the hermeneutic of discontinuity:

The hermeneutic of discontinuity risks ending in a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church. It asserts that the texts of the Council as such do not yet express the true spirit of the Council. It claims that they are the result of compromises in which, to reach unanimity, it was found necessary to keep and reconfirm many old things that are now pointless. However, the true spirit of the Council is not to be found in these compromises but instead in the impulses toward the new that are contained in the texts.

We can clearly see this from the way in which the Motu Proprio cites Vatican II documents, seemingly ignorant of their context: this is classic "Spirit of Vatican II" modus operandi.

I think this Pontiff has already seriously damaged the office of Pope. This particular fight may be entirely the wrong one for him as an individual to have picked as it sets him against truth, against beauty, against continuity and the deposit of faith. He is saying that what previous generations found good and holy are no longer holy. 


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