|The Palace of the Popes, Avignon, built by Jacques|
de Fournier as Benedict XII
Today in the United States we implement the new translation of the missal. The monastery where I often attend mass has been using it for over a month now and I am getting used to it. There are features that I like, and there are features with which I am not impressed. Ok, that is one man’s experience and I don’t expect the world to revolve to my preferences. But I do see two curious things.
One is a strong distinction between the sacred and the secular in language—the use of a language that is not the language of us mere mortals. We don’t speak of “the dewfall,” ineffable is a word that my electronic thesaurus doesn’t recognize, and I am a bit taken aback to hear a carpenter’s cup called “a chalice.” And then there is the entire matter of “and with your spirit.” Why is there a need for sacred/secular—body/soul dichotomies? I am all in favor of elegant language and graceful vocabulary but I am suspicious of dichotomies that undermine the mystery of the Incarnation in which the Divine enters fully into our human experience. There is always something of the Gnostic in everyday Catholicism that suspects the world and denigrates human experience. It is subtle but this dichotomizing ultimately undermines the mystery of the Incarnation.
Equally problematic is the issue of he “for all” and “for many.” I have written on this before but it is hugely problematic as our Catholic faith condemns as heretical any idea that Christ did not die for all. He did not die for some, nor even for many, but for all. The Jansenist heresy taught that Christ only died for those who would ultimately be saved. Like Catharism at Montaillou, Jansenism is alive and well beneath a veneer of orthodox Catholicism among many American Catholics. This was not the time to put into the liturgy that Christ died “for many.” It will be used to reinforce the unhealthy piety of those who have deceived themselves into believing they are the “elect” culled from a world that stands outside salvation. Just check out some of the (supposedly) ultra-Catholic websites and blogs and you will see a Catholicism riddled with Jansenism and other very uncatholic ideas. There are other heresies alive and well beneath the veneer of pious and traditional Catholicism—Quietism is one, illuminism another—but Jansenism is the one that scares me most because, as Jean Jacques Olier said about four centuries ago—Jansenism eats charity out of the heart of the Church. I see that today in figures such as Michael Voris and his “Real Catholic TV” who promote a Catholicism of anger and self-righteousness. I see it too in the “vigilante” Catholicism represented by self-appointed arbiters of the faith such as the “Catholic Media Coalition” or “Tradition in Action,” or Trinity Communications/Catholic Culture. Henri Bremond wrote of the Jansenists of his days as “Before penetrating into the depth of the mind Jansenism ruins the peace, condition of all true religion. Before making converts it makes partisans, sectarians, whom it fatally severs from the mystical currents of their time.” As it was in the past it is now too.