The best of both worlds
SIR – I am not young, but I am new in the Catholic Church. Consequently, unlike Francis Beswick (Letters, August 9), I had no experience of the Tridentine Mass. Studying the liturgy and Eucharist, I read that the Novus Ordo Mass is said, by some, to obscure the sacrificial signification of the Mass. In order to examine this statement for myself, I began to attend the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and, in doing so, have gained a greater appreciation of the depth of meaning of the Mass (see also Fr Pittam’s article in the same issue).
Released from the necessity of activity, of saying and doing things, I can participate spiritually in a way that I find difficult in the Novus Ordo Mass. This participation is not dependent on a sense of mystery created by the incomprehensibility of Latin, as Beswick suggests, since using a Latin/English Missal allows the Mass to be followed.
On the other hand, I also have a greater appreciation of the positive benefits of some of the liturgical changes following Vatican II. The inclusion of more Scripture, the greater prominence of the Liturgy of the Word and a greater sense of a gathered community all contribute to the richness of the celebration.
I am fortunate that I have access to both forms of the Mass. Perhaps this is an instance when the Catholic principle of “both/and”, as opposed to “either/or”, can lead to fuller understanding of, and participation in, the Mass.
Latin can help us to know Christ
SIR – Francis Beswick (Letters, Aug 9) rejects liturgical Latin, on the basis that the contribution to reverence made by its “incomprehensibility” is not as great as that made by pondering the Real Presence.
It is a poor liturgy, however, which makes no contribution to our ability to perceive the mystery of Christ present on the Altar. The use of Latin does this, not through its incomprehensibility, but because, whether one can understand it word by word or not, one can recognise its sacred character, which lifts us out of the atmosphere of the everyday world. Because (in the Traditional liturgy) one is bound to one’s fellow Catholics around the world, and throughout history, by using the same words as they in worship. Because only in Latin is it possible to hear the masterpieces of spiritual art, in the Church’s musical patrimony.
And because with Latin, one need not be distracted by the interminable squabbles caused by successive vernacular translations.
Joseph Shaw, Chairman, Latin Mass Society
GKC and the Jews
SIR – Bishop Peter Doyle has announced that GK Chesterton’s Cause for canonisation will not proceed because he could discover no “local cult” to the popular writer, no “pattern of personal spirituality” in his life, but also because of the “issue of anti-Semitism” which he deemed to be an obstacle, “particularly at this time in the United Kingdom” (The big story, August 9).
I explored the last issue in depth in Chesterton and the Jews: Friend, Critic, Defender (2015), based on a Masters degree in Jewish-Christian Relations from the Centre for Jewish-Christian Relations in Cambridge, but also influenced by my own family history in the East End of London at the beginning of the 20th century. In those days Chesterton, like most people, was more outspoken than in these PC times, but he also had a definite philosophy on what was called – even by Jewish people – “the Jewish problem”, Jewish communities enduring persecution in a cycle repeated over and over again since Biblical times.
A patriot himself, Chesterton’s answer to this problem was Zionism – a Jewish homeland in Palestine – and although then, as now, there was no unanimity on the subject among the Jewish people, in this he could be seen as a prophet since the Holocaust demonstrated the need for such a homeland.
I found no evidence of “private” anti-Semitism and his friendships with individual Jews were warm and genuine; neither did he make common cause with British Fascists, as might have been expected from an anti-Semite. He died in 1936, but long before that he denounced German Fascists specifically for their anti-Semitism, at a time when it was much easier to be an appeaser.
I share Bishop Doyle’s concerns about anti-Semitism, but the Marxists who would see Chesterton as anti-Semitic see the State of Israel as an illegitimate racist regime, while racist right-wingers would detest him for his defences of the Jewish people against Nazism, the most deadly anti-Semitic enterprise in all history. And while it is clear that he has won many to God – using laughter, not threats – there is no evidence of a racist or anti-Semitic following.
I cannot say if Chesterton should be recognised as a saint, but having mined his works for the merest hint of anti-Semitism, I can safely say that he was not an anti-Semite.
Woodford Green, Essex
Where’s the protest?
SIR – I am perplexed as to why there is not more reaction to the dismissal of the President of the John Paul II Institute, Mgr Livio Melina, as well as the removal of Father Noriega, and of some of the faculty members most closely aligned with Pope John Paul II.
As the former President of the Institute, Mgr Melina has gallantly striven to present the interpretation of Amoris Laetitia, and the conclusions drawn by the Synods of 2016-17, as still being in harmony with the teaching of the Church, as held and reaffirmed through the ages. But though Mgr Melina has stayed “on task”, he has not stayed in his post.
It has been suggested that there is a desire now in the Institute to enhance the teaching aspirations of this great institution. Such an objective, it is claimed, may well require significant changes. To enhance an educational programme is a praiseworthy aim, but if it means that the dedication and beliefs of those who taught there before, beliefs in keeping with the vision of Pope John Paul II, are now to slide into atrophy, then surely the protesting cri de coeur should be deafening.
There is a growing fear in the Institute, among teachers and students themselves, that a relativistic concept of ethics is to be promoted in the curriculum as being the norm, and the existence of absolute truths, with their ideals, to be depicted as simply not attainable.
We have to listen very carefully to the rationale which Archbishop Paglia and Mgr Sequeri have promised to deliver in a few weeks to explain the thinking behind these dismissals. Because sleight of word has become an art form. There is already a precedent for smuggling in a game-changer, curled up in a footnote. We would do well to remember this.
Mrs Nancy Clusker
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.