21 July 2021, The Tablet

The intimacy that a familiar rite produces should not be lightly disposed of

The intimacy that a familiar rite produces should not be lightly disposed of

Pope Francis has abrogated Summorum Pontificum, a 2007 motu proprio that made significant accommodation for those who wished to worship using the older form of the Catholic liturgy: what Benedict XVI labelled the “extraordinary form of the Roman Rite”. Benedict’s hope was that the liturgy wars already bubbling up might be calmed; instead they were inflamed, and Francis’ initiative is unlikely to heal the rift.

I’ve long been hovering round the margins of Catholic circles as a theologian and an Anglo-Catholic, and I have always found the range of Catholic attitudes on liturgy, especially as regards the traditional Latin Mass, rather bizarre. From my tradition’s perspective, a reverent liturgy was the obvious and automatic corollary of a Catholic theology. So it was a shock to encounter Catholics who believed in transubstantiation and the magisterial authority of the Pope but at the same time are obstreperous in their opposition to kneeling to receive Communion and insist on guitars rather than organs. (That’s not to say there weren’t plenty of shocks from the other direction. It was no less bemusing to encounter people who believed it was gravely irreverent to receive the Eucharist in the palm of one’s hand, or thought that reading the Bible in English profaned the purity of the traditional liturgy.)

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