A Strange Obsession|
The Long Knife of Monsignor Calkins
By Christopher A. Ferrara
"The day is coming when that patrimony will be restored in all its perennial integrity. The Novus Ordo liturgy will die of its own sterility, for it cannot attract priestly vocations in sufficient numbers to perpetuate itself. The ecumenical and interreligious "dialogues" which go nowhere and produce nothing will eventually cease, and the Church will return to teaching and making disciples of all nations. The entire failed experiment in making the Church conform to the empty neologisms of "the New Theology" will be abandoned. Then the judgment of history will be rendered against those who suppressed the Church's patrimony, and those who defended the suppression. Because the neo-Catholics know this in their heart-of-hearts, we can expect their denunciations of us to grow louder and more outrageous as the evidence against their position piles up and history's verdict approaches. No, history will not be kind to neo-Catholicism. Meanwhile, the neo-Catholics will not be kind to us. But we shall bear that little burden gladly."
Reprinted with the gracious permission of editor Michael J. Matt of The Remnant
I have yet to encounter a more virulent calumniator of traditionalists than Msgr. Arthur Burton Calkins, a secretary of the Ecclesia Dei Commission who seems to think that the Commission's primary purpose is to find a way to detach traditionalist bumpkins from the 1962 Missal. That the Commission was founded with a papal command to preserve that Missal as the most recent codification of the Church's ancient and essentially unchanging Latin liturgical tradition does not seem to trouble the Monsignor very much.
In a conversation I had with Calkins in November 2000 he expressed his utter contempt for American traditionalists, whom he generally described as ignoramuses who are "lacking in formation." Calkins, who himself hails from Erie, PA, spoke of his vision of a "merging" of "the two streams of the liturgy," the old and the new, into that ever-elusive "true reform" intended by the Second Vatican Council. This would involve, he said, use of the new lectionary and other post-conciliar innovations. And, of course, there is no problem with communion in the hand or even altar girls, which he said could be imposed upon Indult Mass communities if the local bishop insisted, as the new rubrics "apply to the whole Roman Rite."
Last summer, Calkins gave an address to the Latin Liturgy Association in Chicago. Although entitled "The Latin Liturgical Tradition: Extending and Solidifying the Continuity," the address had little to do with preserving liturgical continuity, but much to do with attacking traditionalists in the same obsessive manner I have just described.
The address begins with the exhortation that in addressing the liturgy and the general state of the Church today "we should focus on the mystery of our redemption through the prism of Mary's Immaculate Heart." (The lecture was given on the date of the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart in what the Monsignor pointedly called "the present Roman calendar.") But the Monsignor was evidently not focusing on his own obligations in charity and justice through the prism of the Immaculate Heart. Within the space of a few paragraphs, Marian piety had given way to invective, as the Monsignor withdrew his long knife and began stabbing away at traditionalists in general and Michael Davies in particular - rather obviously the whole purpose of his address in Chicago.
Concerning traditionalists in general, the Monsignor indulged in perhaps the worst example of rash judgment I have ever seen from a cleric: "Please note that when I use the word 'traditionalist' in this presentation I am not referring to serious Catholics who love the Church, are docile to her teaching and 'are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition' ; I am speaking, rather, of ideologists who have no concern for the care of souls (cf. Jn. 10:12-13) and who are totally committed to a crusade for the restoration of the 1962 Roman Missal at any cost." The only example of such a terrible person which came to Monsignor Calkins' mind in the course of his address on "liturgical continuity" was the evil Michael Davies. (By the way, I was recently informed that the Massachusetts website operator mentioned last week followed with ran an article entitled "The Fall of Michael Davies." When I alerted Michael that he had fallen, he replied by email that he would attend to his fall after he had finished enjoying a game of rugby on television.)
Calkins cited Davies as an example of what he calls "attack mode" traditionalists. He quoted one of Davies' articles in The Latin Mass concerning the Ecclesia Dei commission, wherein Davies observes that the Commission's "permanent bureaucrats do not have the least idea of what motivates the traditional Catholics in their insistence upon Mass according to the 1962 Missal. They consider traditionalists to be ignorant, narrow-minded, and rigid. They do not believe that it is in any way their task to persuade bishops to guarantee respect for what the Holy Father terms the rightful aspirations of traditionalists." That is precisely the truth, as my own encounter with Calkins demonstrated.
In fairness to Michael Davies I ought to mention that Calkins also identified me by name (in a footnote) as "a prominent American 'traditionalist' who admitted that he had 'no formal theological training' [and] presented a list of 64 questions to Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, requesting further clarifications on the Congregation's declaration Dominus Iesus seemingly because of perceived lack of clarity in that document's presentation of Catholic doctrine." What my questions to Cardinal Ratzinger concerning Dominus Iesus had to do with Msgr. Calkins' focus on liturgical continuity through the prism of the Immaculate Heart is far from apparent; but there I am, right in the middle of the Monsignor's address to a prestigious liturgical association. Also mentioned is We Resist You to the Face by Michael Matt, John Vennari, Atila Guimaraes, and Dr. Marian Horvat. More than a year after the pamphlet's publication, its neo-Catholic critics have yet to get beyond the title, but they are still buzzing about it like a swarm of angry hornets, accusing the authors of being schismatics. Meanwhile, as always, they have little or nothing to say about the authors of abounding heresies in the Church. For example, there is Hans Kung's latest book, which suggests that Blessed Pius IX was a psychopath and denies the Scriptural foundations of the papacy. Nary a peep from our neo-Catholic inquisitors, who have yet to apply the appellation "schismatic" to any of the neo-modernists (such as Kung) who really deserve it.
Following the usual neo-Catholic mode of argument, Msgr. Calkins' failed to address the empirical evidence for the traditionalist position presented so exhaustively by Michael Davies and many others. The closest Calkins' speech came to an argument on the merits is his statement that "the Mass promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970 is criticized by 'traditionalists' as a departure from the tradition." Well, of course it is. In his audience address of November 26, 1969 Paul VI said so himself:
"First, we must prepare ourselves. This novelty is no small thing. We should not let ourselves be surprised by the nature, even the nuisance, of its exterior forms…. We are parting with the speech of the Christian centuries; we are becoming like profane intruders in the literary preserve of sacred utterance. We will lose a great part of that stupendous and incomparable artistic and spiritual thing, the Gregorian chant. We have reason for regret, reason almost for bewilderment. What can we put in the place of that language of the angels? We are giving up something of priceless worth. Why? What is more precious than these loftiest of our Church's values?… We must prepare for this many-sided inconvenience. It is the kind of upset that is caused by every novelty that breaks in on our habits."
If that is not the description of a departure from tradition, then words have lost their meaning.
How strange it is that a Vatican functionary would travel all the way to Chicago in the midst of the worst crisis in Church history to give an address in which he goes out of his way to condemn, not any of the true enemies of the Church who have brought her to the brink of ruin throughout much of the world, but Michael Davies, yours truly and four lay authors of a pamphlet whose actual contents are not even addressed. What is going on here?
I think the answer is clear enough. Msgr. Calkins and the rest of the neo-Catholic establishment are obsessed with traditionalists precisely and only because they fear the merits of the traditionalist position, and they see that a growing number of Catholics are becoming traditionalists in a natural reaction against the post-conciliar debacle. Hence, for example, the Vatican Press Office's insanely inappropriate announcement to the world, only one day after the terrorist attacks of September 11, that Father Nicholas Gruner was "suspended" on unspecified grounds (unspecified because they do not exist). It was as if Father Gruner's longstanding opponents in the Vatican Secretariat of State sensed that they must immediately destroy the man's good name, lest anyone should conclude from recent world events that he (along with millions of like-minded traditionalists) was right all along about Russia having yet to be consecrated to the Immaculate Heart. Indeed, the Message of Fatima itself is nothing if not a divine warning about the consequences of failing to bring about a restoration of Catholic Tradition in our time through the conversion of Russia, which appears to be the source of the weapons-grade anthrax now spreading, like Russia's errors, throughout the world. (The U.N. had just issued an alert about the threat of Soviet-manufactured smallpox which may have been diverted from its bioweapons program into the hands of Muslim terrorist groups.) This announcement of Father Gruner's "suspension" was promptly followed by Warren Carroll's monstrous lie on the EWTN website that Father Gruner is "now schismatic" and a "schismatic priest" - a sentence not even Father Gruner's worst enemies in the Vatican apparatus would dare to pronounce. So, the likes of Hans Kung bask in celebrity and their good standing as clerics, while Father Gruner, a faithful and orthodox priest, is drummed out of the church by Warren Carroll. But such is the role of neo-Catholics as the useful idiots of the post-conciliar revolution.
In the end these attacks on traditionalists are bound to backfire. For if we traditionalists were really the bitter, ill-informed, delusional cranks Calkins so viciously depicts in his so-called address on "liturgical continuity," we ourselves would be the best refutation of our own position, and would long ago have consigned ourselves to the oblivion of being ignored by the sane and the sensible. That this has not happened, that our ranks are swelling with young people who are producing large Catholic families, that people like Calkins sense that they must attack us again and again, can only suggest to an objective observer that our position must have merit. The merit is not our own, of course, for we are next to nothing. It is, rather, the infinite merit and attraction of the Church's divinely bestowed patrimony, whose argument in favor of itself is finally unanswerable.
The day is coming when that patrimony will be restored in all its perennial integrity. The Novus Ordo liturgy will die of its own sterility, for it cannot attract priestly vocations in sufficient numbers to perpetuate itself. The ecumenical and interreligious "dialogues" which go nowhere and produce nothing will eventually cease, and the Church will return to teaching and making disciples of all nations. The entire failed experiment in making the Church conform to the empty neologisms of "the New Theology" will be abandoned. Then the judgment of history will be rendered against those who suppressed the Church's patrimony, and those who defended the suppression. Because the neo-Catholics know this in their heart-of-hearts, we can expect their denunciations of us to grow louder and more outrageous as the evidence against their position piles up and history's verdict approaches.
No, history will not be kind to neo-Catholicism. Meanwhile, the neo-Catholics will not be kind to us. But we shall bear that little burden gladly.
For past articles in the archives of Traditional Thoughts, see ARCHIVED ARTICLES