Tuesday, January 10, 2012

More on Maryland's post Vatican II heritage even before Vatican II

Pius VI who was Pope at the time
of the American Revolution and
later named John Carroll as the
first Catholic Bishop for the new
I had mentioned in an earlier blog that colonial and early American Maryland Catholicism bore more resemblance to contemporary Catholicism than to the pre-Conciliar Church in which many of us grew up.  While the Mass was in Latin and celebrated with the priest’s back to the people in eighteenth century Maryland and the liturgy—in general—was the same liturgy (for the most part) we all knew up until the 1964 changes began to introduce a thorough revision of the Mass, there was still much with which we would feel comfortable today.  Priests, on their own, had put some of the sacraments—especially Matrimony, Baptism, and Penance into English, either in whole or in part.  Many of the funeral rites were celebrated in English.  It went so far as that in order to have some uniformity in rites a “Baltimore Ceremonial” was drawn up and that was done without any reference to Rome.  Unlike today when any perceived variation in the liturgical text or form is reported to Rome, this was not a problem in an American Church that recognized its own maturity to deal with the pastoral needs of its people without constant reference to purpled desk-jockeys from a foreign culture who had themselves never undertaken a pastoral ministry much less one in what was then a missionary land.  The first American bishop (and first Archbishop), John Carroll, fostered loyalty to the Holy See among American Catholics, but according to the website of what was his archdiocese, Baltimore,” he was not overly generous in the information he supplied the Roman authorities nor overly conscientious in following their directives.”   (The website is new—Carroll was pretty modern but not that modern.)  During much of Carroll’s episcopacy the popes—Pius VI and Pius VII—were kept by Napoleon in exile from Rome which somewhat naturally separated papal loyalty from curial obedience, a healthy distinction.  
      When Carroll built his Cathedral in Baltimore, now known as the Basilica of the Assumption, he hired Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the architect who built the United States Capitol despite the fact the Latrobe was not a Catholic.  Carroll wanted a Cathedral that did not reflect European heritage but the ideals of the new American Republic.  The consequent church, like the public buildings of the republic, embodied reason, order, discipline, and harmony.  It’s crisp clean lines, not in gothic or baroque but in American Federal style speak of the American faith experience: enlightened, rational, discreet, and hopeful.  But Carroll, for some reason, never thought to put a single statue in his basilica—that would only come with Archbishop Maréchal, Carroll’s second successor who was Archbishop from 1817 until 1828.   The basilica recently underwent a restoration and has proved itself to be suitable for the current liturgy without doing violence to the original design. 

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