A Sensible Entry in the Liturgy Wars

It alternately cheers me and sets me despairing when I discover in the Catholic Blogosphere that the liturgy wars of my home parish are but one minor skirmish in a conflict plaguing the entire US Church. I’m glad to know that my parish is not horribly worse than others, but extremely depressed to see how passionate people are about tearing down their fellow Catholics.

I found myself nodding in agreement to much of what Jeff Mirus wrote at Catholic Culture. For example:

The mindsets of traditionalism and modernism are characterized by a lack of spiritual detachment. Strong, undisciplined attachments prevent spiritual growth and generally lead straight out of the Church. For the traditionalist, the attachment is to “the way things were”, all the external aspects of Catholic piety and discipline which he finds attractive and from which he derives spiritual consolation. For the modernist, the attachment is to the fashionable ideas of the age, all those perceptions and conceptions which, because they are dominant, appear to be the keys to every kind of success.

Both traditionalists and modernists have a point when they argue that when we discard healthy traditions or ignore the key themes of modern thought, we do so at our peril. It is neither their respect for tradition nor their willingness to engage modernity which gets them into trouble. Rather, it is their profound attachment to these things, an attachment so strong that both groups feel their world is shattered if the objects of their attachment are removed.

Personally, I would go so far as to use a few words that I had all but dropped from my vocabulary: Idolatry, and Evil.

The worship of particular Mass elements is idolatrous — I can’t help it if that word sends some folks into paroxysms of Evangeliphobia. I’ve witnessed it, listened to it, and even tried to compromise with it, and “idolatrous” is the most accurate word I can find to describe it. And it is evil:

sinful or wicked: check
causing discomfort or repulsion: check
causing harm: check
arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct: check

The bad behavior, the harm, and the repulsion from the Catholic Church caused by these battles over liturgy—smells evil to me.

Even this:

a cosmic evil force

seems right on the money. The hostility, malice, and general absence of Christian kindness generated by the liturgy wars is no longer (if it ever was) limited to the category of personal, private sin. The numbers of people banding together within parishes or across the Internet has created a monster greater than its individual members. We’re no longer dealing with some individuals acting in an evil way—we are confronting An Evil.

This sentence bears repeating:

Strong, undisciplined attachments prevent spiritual growth and generally lead straight out of the Church.

Evil indeed: when we put anything before our unity as the Body of Christ and the sacrament of His love on earth, we’ve set the trap for our own destruction.

We are sent to be Good News—and the Good News is not that Mass is in Latin or that Sr. Sara’s folk guitar trio is leading the hymns.

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Published in: on March 31, 2007 at 3:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

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