A great deal of attention has been paid of late to the story of Fr. Justin Wylie, a priest of the Archdiocese of Johannesburg, South Africa, who was unceremoniously relieved of his duties in the United States where he served as attaché to the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission at the United Nations.
During his time in New York, Fr. Wylie was a frequent celebrant of the traditional Mass at Holy Innocents in Manhattan, the only parish in the Archdiocese that offers the traditional Mass daily and now finds itself up for possible closure in spite of reportedly being debt-free and financially self-sustaining.
The priest’s dismissal was apparently triggered by a strongly worded homily delivered on May 18, 2014, in which he called for adequate pastoral care for the so-called traditional community.
Citing the fact that a similar home for these faithful is unavailable elsewhere in the Archdiocese should Holy Innocents close, Fr. Wylie called their potential displacement, “an injustice which you [the parishioners] should bring to the attention of your shepherd.”
“You are fully-fledged members of the baptized Faithful, for heaven’s sake,” he continued. “Why are you scurrying about like ecclesiastical scavengers, hoping for a scrap or two to fall from the table for your very existence?”
Had he preached in support of “gay marriage” he may have received a “Bravo!” from the Cardinal’s office; as it is, he received his walking papers.
(A more detailed account of the events leading to Fr. Wylie’s dismissal is available at Rorate Caeli.)
In his remarks, Fr. Wylie contrasted the 1980s and 90s – a time when the faithful were forced to organize celebrations of the traditional Mass in whatever parishes were willing to accommodate them – with today, saying:
“In a post-Summorum Pontificum Church, after Pope Benedict courageously proclaimed that the extraordinary form of the liturgy pertains equally to the fullness of the Roman rite, this approach cannot any more, I think, be characterized as true magnanimity.”
While one can hardly be surprised that Fr. Wylie claimed recourse to Summorum Pontificum, the fact of the matter is, it’s part of the problem.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Summorum Pontificum was a profoundly important step in the right direction. At the same time, it has always been a ticking time bomb that was destined to blow up in the faces of the very people who received it with an abundance of gratitude.
The reason is simple; it’s constructed upon a mixture of truth and falsehood, and all of us know what a little leaven does, do we not?
“There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the Liturgy growth and progress are found, but not a rupture. What was sacred for prior generations, remains sacred and great for us as well, and cannot be suddenly prohibited altogether or even judged harmful.” (Letter of Pope Benedict XVI to the Bishops on the publication of Summorum Pontificum)
In the three sentences cited, Pope Benedict made three important claims; the first two of which are simply untrue. What’s more, all indications are that even he realized as much, but offered them just the same in a calculated attempt to pacify skittish bishops as a means to an end.
Tick, tick, tick…
I suppose one could labor over the precise meaning of “contradiction” and “rupture,” but I’ll leave that to those who prefer such distractions to the nasty work of addressing the bitter reality of the situation.
For everyone else, there can be no question whatsoever that there are any number of points of disparity between the two Missals; not simply as it regards mere style points, but rather as it concerns profoundly important elements, some theological in nature, that speak to the very essence of the sacred liturgy.
In other words, one Missal communicates (“dictates”) one thing about the nature of the rite; the other Missal something different (“contrary”). That, in my book, is the very definition of “contradiction.”
This is so much the case that we may add a related “little white lie” to the Summorum Pontificum mix, as all but the most gullible among us know perfectly well that the Missal of Paul VI is a rite all its own, and not, as Pope Benedict asserted, another “form” of the one Roman Rite.
The folly that unfolded after the Council, wherein a handful of so-called “liturgical experts” (with input from Protestant, ahem… “observers”) sat around a conference table to concoct a new “order” of Mass, is anything but an example of authentic liturgical “growth and progress.”
Based upon certain liturgical insights freely shared by Josef Ratzinger prior to his elevation to the papacy, it would appear rather obvious that Pope Benedict himself recognized very well that the birth of the Novus Ordo Missae is so antithetical to the legitimate organic process observable in the sacred liturgy over many centuries as to constitute a genuine rupture, and a very painful one at that.
So, what have we in Summorum Pontificum?
A much needed act of justice that also happens to be flawed by the presence of half-truths and calculations on the part of its author.
Can a case be made that Pope Benedict was acting as wise as a serpent to avoid a nasty split in the Church?
In order for that dog to hunt one must first accept the premise that a split hasn’t already taken place; i.e., one has to buy the “continuity” illusion hook, line and sinker, and I, for one, do not.
Returning to the case of Fr. Wylie, by failing to state the plain truth; namely, that the Mass of Pius V is far the superior to the Novus Ordo Missae, and promoting instead the false notion that both Masses are of equal dignity, Pope Benedict gave the Captains of Newchurch all they need to feel justified in dismissing the South African priest’s legitimate concerns.
One can very well imagine them reasoning, for example, if indeed the two “forms” are mere equals, sending the flock of Holy Innocents out to forage for themselves in Novus Ordo Land is ultimately no more unjust than feeding a hungry man a chicken instead of a steak.
So what is the lesson?
In spite of any good intentions and otherwise favorable results, whenever a pope hesitates to rule with the firmness and charity demanded of fathers and kings, choosing instead to tiptoe around the hypersensitivities of his unruly children, such as Pope Benedict appears to have done in Summorum Pontificum, eventually his actions will come back to haunt the entire family.