My visit last weekend to the Evangelical Catholic Institute’s conference in Madison WI seems to have put the cat among the pigeons. It engendered my largest (and most passionate) thread of comments yet. My own opinion is that all this blather has generated more heat than light, but there it is…we’ve all had our say, and I hope we all feel better….
The debate was between those we may categorize as ‘traditionalists’ who took objection to the term ‘Evangelical’ and thought it should not be associated with the term ‘Catholic’ and those who were happy with the term and the agenda of Evangelical Catholics.
Of all the comments, this was the one I found most interesting:
This past fall I heard our bishop say mass at the statewide charismatic conference. He made a passing comment to that audience about the forthcoming widening the use of the Latin Mass, and the whole congregation cheered. You could not have found a group of people who were happier to get this news.
This cheered my heart no end. There is nothing I would like better than to attend a Tridentine Charismatic Mass. Tambourines in place of the sanctus bell. Cool! I can think of lots of mutual benefits: charismatics like to speak in tongues with no one translating. They’d be happy as can be in a Mass that is unintelligible. Both sides would benefit: the charismatics could swap their felt banners for some decent embroidery and the Tridentine folks could learn to lighten up.
Seriously now, if charismatics are happy to hear that the Tridentine Rite will be more widely available then there are some very interesting conclusions we must draw.
First of all, it indicates that we must make a real distinction between charismatics and liberals. Although both may enjoy informal types of worship, they are not both liberal in their theology. Charismatic Catholics are usually theologically and morally conservative. They are usually very loyal to the pope and to church teaching. They like informal worship, they go in for healing, speaking in tongues and evangelization. They are zealous and perhaps sometimes a bit wild eyed with enthusiasm, their thinking is sometimes tainted with a Protestant type of individualism, but they are not (for the most part) liberals.
In addition to this we have to distinguish between ‘Evangelical Catholics’ and Charismatics. Evangelical Catholics are not necessarily charismatics. They do not necessarily go in for praise and worship music. They are often suspicious of the charismatic movement and have criticisms of the excesses of Charismatic Catholicism.
If the Charismatics were delighted to have the news that the Tridentine Mass will soon be more widely available then there are some other conclusions to be drawn. One conclusion (which must make the more stuffy traditionalist think twice) is that Charismatics are clearly more open to ‘the other side’ than the traditionalists are. In other words, (if the report is true) Charismatics seem not only tolerant of the Tridentine Rite, but are happy for it to be more widespread. We must assume, therefore, that they would attend and support it if possible. One assumes that they would do so, while still being happy to attend happy clappy charismatic worship from time to time. The Charismatics therefore seem to score the most points on being tolerant, open minded and encouraging towards the Tridentine Rite folks, while most of the afficionados of the Tridentine Rite still throw up their hands in horror at the idea of charismatic styles of worship. Who’s more likely to be right?
The final conclusion from all this is a reminder that whether we like it or not, our church has a variety of expressions of worship. It has a wide range of apostolates, ministries and sub-sets. Those who long for uniformity of worship may lament this variety. I admit it has many disadvantages, but it also has advantages: in a multi-faceted society with a wide range of people and nationalities moving everywhere across the globe we have a flexibility and adaptability that will help keep our worship alive and fresh without it necessarily becoming totally rubbery and relative.
This is the main reason why I also look forward to the expected motu proprio allowing a wider celebration of the Latin Mass. In the midst of all the liturgical variations the Tridentine Mass will provide a balance and a check. It will provide an anchor and a standard that will correct the others and provide a star to steer by.