One could write forever about the profusion of novelties during the Pope’s just-completed marathon journey from World Youth Day in Toronto to Mexico to Guatemala. As the Vesuvius of postconciliar innovation reaches (one hopes) the sputtering apogee of its forty-year eruption, the novelties are still coming so thick and fast that merely to catalogue them would require endless pages of inventory. As always, however, the lava flow of postconciliar novelty causes its greatest damage to the sacred liturgy, which in less than a generation has been converted from the most perfect form of divine worship man has ever seen to a steadily degrading, semi-paganized spectacle even pious Protestants find both laughable and appalling.
Recent efforts, here and there, to reintroduce a pinch of liturgical tradition into the polyglot stew that is now the Roman Rite have not impeded the overall process of liturgical decay. Consider the grotesque liturgies at World Youth Day (WYD) 2002. One example tells the whole story: During the pop-music songfest that passed for “Vespers,” a choir sang Adoramus Te Christe, and quite reverently at that. But the choir’s fleeting return to Catholic liturgical tradition was accompanied by… a jazz saxophone. The resulting intolerable combination sounded something like this:
A-do-ra-mus Te, Chri-ste.
Then there was the music that accompanied the Stations of the Cross—a synth-pop soundtrack in which something vaguely resembling Gregorian chant was sung to the beat of programmed drumming: ba-doom-doom-BOP!, ba-doom-doom-BOP!
Et be-ne-di-ci-mus ti-bi.
Boo-WEEE! Boo-WEEE! Bodey-oh-doe!
Would public execution really be too harsh a penalty for the “liturgists” who conceived these atrocities? What more needs to be said about WYD 2002? Not much more than what a Seattle Times reporter observed:
Nuns playing Frisbee. A rapping priest [the supremely ridiculous Fr. Stan Fortuna]. African drum circles. Tahitian dancers. Rock concerts till 3 a.m. Definitely not your average Catholic gathering. World Youth Day, celebrated last week in Toronto, was anything but ordinary — it was ‘church with a twist,’ as 16-year-old Phillip Hayes of Seattle called it.
One could add a few other touches to complete the picture, such as “liturgical music” for the papal Mass that included a lineup of Catholic soul-singer wannabes, doing their best to sound like Mariah Carey as they took turns belting out the endless refrains of insipid pop-rock “hymns,” while the Pope just sat there, slumped over in his chair. The liturgical band included, at various times, conga drums, a full drum set, electric bass and guitar, a soprano sax, and the ever-present amplified piano, which was quite useful in revving up the proceedings with repeated glissandos—shrinnng! shrinnng! The level of talent was generally that of first round losers on the Gong Show.
Then there was the usual plethora of “Eucharistic ministers”—4,000 of them—including a woman in a floppy hat and sunglasses and a man attired in a golf shirt. The very presence of “Eucharistic ministers” at the papal Mass was in open defiance of the Vatican’s recent useless “instruction” that “Eucharistic ministers” should not be employed when priests or deacons (who were in Toronto in great numbers) are available, and that in any case “Eucharistic ministers” must wear some appropriate liturgical vestment. In defiance of the Vatican’s other recent useless instruction, on the grossly defective English translation of the Novus Ordo Mass, the Creed was still recited in the first person plural and “et cum spiritu tuo” was still rendered “and also with you.”
The young man’s phrase “church with a twist” captures the whole spectacle. Decades of reckless experimentation in the laboratory of novelty have produced precisely a “church with a twist”—which is to say, a twisted church. The twisted church that comprises what Tom Woods and I call The Great Façade—essentially a collection of ephemeral novelties masking the perennial faith of our fathers—includes not only an irreparably twisted liturgy, but a twisted ecumenism that openly repudiates the return of the dissidents to Rome. Instead of the return of the dissidents, we now see an endless, pointless, hopeless “dialogue” with such “dialogue partners” as the so-called Church of England.
By the way, the newly-appointed Anglican “Archbishop” of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, favors women “bishops,” the “ordination” of practicing homosexuals as Anglican clerics and authorization for divorce and remarriage by Anglicans. Williams celebrated his appointment by becoming a druid—yes, that’s right, a druid. As UPI reported: “The newly designated archbishop of Canterbury donned a white cloak, stepped into a stone circle and became a druid at sunrise Monday… (August 5, 2002).” The neo-Catholic press agency Zenit.org described Williams, not as the apostate loon he obviously is, but as a “complex heir to the Archbishop of Canterbury,” who “isn’t easy to pigeonhole.” No, I don’t suppose an Anglican druid is easy to pigeonhole. The Pope himself sent a personal telegram of congratulations to Williams, assuring the Anglican druid that “I am confident that with God's help, we can make progress along the path towards unity.”
The meandering “path to unity,” which has replaced the road to Rome, leads further from unity and closer to sheer insanity with each passing hour. But no one in the Vatican apparatus or in the neo-Catholic establishment seems to notice. The Vatican’s ecumenical apparatchiks obstinately pursue their futile dialogue with a collection of Mad Hatters, who have no intention of recognizing the truth because they all belong to religions which are more or less forms of insanity.
Spiritually lobotomized by forty years of Vatican-administered shock treatments, the neo-Catholic establishment is no longer capable of critical thinking or outrage over the growing absurdity of our situation, especially in matters liturgical. Thus it is hardly surprising that the neo-Catholic color commentators were full of praise for the latest assortment of scandalous liturgical novelties trotted out in Toronto, Mexico City and Guatemala City.
For example, the papal Mass to celebrate the beatification of Juan Diego, which began with great dignity, soon descended to sacrilege with the appearance of a band of “indigenous people,” who danced before the altar in the garb of Aztec warrior priests, replete with headdresses and breast plates which left their midriffs exposed. As the choristers sang some hymn I do not recall, the Aztec dancers did their own thing with the snake-like hiss of rattles and the beating of tom-toms.
Confronted by this outrage, EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo, who serves as a sort of Dan Rather for the neo-Catholic establishment—the talking head of postconciliar correctness—offered the following analysis: “I love the way they balance the reverence with the indigenous [sic].” Here we see how the postconciliar revolution has replaced a once-untouchable form of divine worship, the sublime result of the influence of the Holy Ghost over centuries, with the ecclesial equivalent of a Broadway show, in which the players strive for the proper “balance” in their mounting of the piece and are rewarded for their efforts by favorable reviews. Raves from Arroyo! He just loves what they did with the Aztec costumes, rattles and tom-toms. Now, if this is what the neo-Catholic establishment deems just marvelous in a pontifical Mass, what hope is there for a return to liturgical sanity in the Novus Ordo at the parish level? Obviously, there is no hope, barring a miracle of grace.
For Catholics who can still recognize a scandal when they see it, a basic question presents itself: Why in heaven’s name was there a commemoration of the diabolical Aztec culture during a Mass for the canonization of the very saint chosen by God to herald the disappearance of that culture through the miraculous conversion of seven million Aztecs within a few years? Juan Diego was a humble Indian who did not belong to any of the upper social classes of the Aztec empire, such as the dreaded warrior priests whose vainglorious headdresses and breastplates were paraded so proudly at the papal Mass. Juan Diego wore the simple tunic of an Indian peasant, the very tunic on which Our Lady’s miraculous image would be imprinted. It was a tunic not unlike that worn by Our Lord Himself, or by the Franciscan missionary, Fray Toribio, who received Juan Diego into the Church. In its own small way Juan Diego’s tunic, which remains miraculously intact to this day, is a sign of the divine constancy of the Church, just as the liturgy that nurtured the Catholic faith of the tunic’s original owner was, and is, the greatest sign of that same constancy.
After Juan Diego became a Catholic in 1524, he worshipped the true God at the traditional Latin Mass; the Mass that had been brought to Mexico by the Spanish missionaries; the Mass that would soon be defended by the Council of Trent against the furious attacks of Luther and his fellow Protestant rebels. By the time the Mother of God appeared to Juan Diego on the hill at Tepeyac in the year 1531 (only fourteen years before Trent), the former pagan was already receiving Holy Communion—on his knees, on the tongue—at least three times a week. When he attended Mass at his Franciscan parish, Juan Diego did not encounter there any dancing “indigenous people” in headdresses and breastplates, shaking rattles and beating tom-toms. He encountered only the timeless peace and dignity of the perennial Roman Rite.
Arroyo and his co-commentator dutifully defended the indefensible as a legitimate example of liturgical “inculturation.” But Arroyo was not about to address the obvious objection: If the Mass was not “inculturated” in Juan Diego’s own time, what possible justification is there for such absurd cultural atavism during a papal Mass five centuries later? Why in the name of God did we see at a pontifical Mass in the year 2002 pagan excrescences that would have horrified Juan Diego in the year 1531? And this, mind you, from a reformist regime that constantly extols the great ecclesial progress made possible by the Vatican II. The celebration of progress in the midst of what is really the worst sort of primitivism is one of the fundamental self-contradictions of liberal thought. And now we see that same self-contradiction at work in the disfigurement of the sacred liturgy.
The day after the canonization of Juan Diego, the Pope returned to the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe to conduct the beatification of the martyrs Juan Bautista and Jacinto de Los Angeles. Of course, there would be more “inculturation” of the liturgy. During the “Liturgy of the Word,” four women in Indian garb approached the altar with smoking bowls in one hand and bunches of herbs in the other. One of the women doused her bunch of herbs in the smoke emanating from another’s bowl, and then walked over to the papal throne, where she proceeded to perform a pre-Christian Indian “purification” ritual on the Vicar of Christ. The UPI report described this ritual as “a traditional practice originally meant to cleanse people of illness and evil spirits.” As the Pope grew visibly discomfited, the woman rubbed her bunch of herbs up and down his arms and across his shoulders, over and over again. For an exquisitely painful moment, it seemed the woman would not quit unless someone dragged her away, but she finally finished her “purification” of the Pope.
Arroyo and his co-commentator on this occasion, Msgr. Michael Heras of the diocese of Corpus Christi, immediately leapt into action. “Some people,” said Arroyo, might think that what they had just witnessed was the introduction of pagan superstition into Catholic worship.
Well, if that is not what it was, then why would “some people” think so, and why would Arroyo feel compelled to raise the issue on the spot? According to Arroyo, this pagan purification ritual was nothing more than an example of how the Church follows the teaching of Saint Pius X that, in the liturgy, the Church “takes what is pagan and makes it holy.” Yes, we can be quite sure that Saint Pius X would heartily approve of being rubbed down with “holy” herbs by an Indian woman in the sanctuary. Arroyo (or was it Heras?) added that the ritual was nothing more than a legitimate way to express the Catholic petition parce Domine. So, you see, this pre-Christian pagan superstition is really quite in harmony with Catholic tradition—if only we can find a way to pretend that it is. And there is no doubt that Arroyo just loved this “balance” of “reverence and the indigenous.”
Msgr. Heras chimed in that, of course, there was no suggestion here that the herbs or the smoking bowls had any power in themselves. Oh no, the women were merely “cooperating with God” in this ancient Indian form of “exorcism”—yes, he called it precisely that—to rid someone of “sickness and evil spirits.” The power came only from the Holy Ghost, said Heras, not any false god of the Aztecs. Putting aside Heras’ surely unintended implication that the Pope could benefit from an exorcism, neither he nor Arroyo even attempted to explain how the elements of a useless pre-Christian purification ceremony could now serve as channels of divine grace, when neither Christ nor the Magisterium has established this ceremony as part of Catholic ritual. On the other hand, if smoking bowls and herbs are not channels of grace—which, obviously, they are not—then the whole spectacle was as gratuitous and ridiculous as it was scandalous.
Irony of ironies, this pagan ritual from pre-Christian Mexico was made part of a ceremony to beatify two Catholic martyrs, both attorneys general, who were tortured and killed in 1700 because they had alerted local authorities to the clandestine practice of pagan rituals by Indians in the Catholic vicariate of San Francisco Cajonos. The irony was not lost on the press. As UPI noted: “Ironically, Thursday's ceremony was filled with rituals reminiscent of the pagan ceremonies about which the men had warned authorities.” This is more than just ironic; it is insane.
The job of neo-Catholic commentators such as Arroyo and Heras is to discourage Catholics from reaching such obvious conclusions. Their basic approach to the emergence of one scandalizing novelty after another during this pontificate can be summed up with one of Groucho Marx’s best lines: “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?” Throughout the papal trip the neo-Catholic establishment assiduously performed its indispensable role in the post-conciliar revolution: suppressing the sensus catholicus and stilling the troubled consciences of Catholics who have not yet been fully lobotomized by the regime of novelty, assuring them that what they think they see is not really there.
But it is there. The human element of the Catholic Church is now largely in the grip of lunacy. It is lunacy to “dialogue” endlessly with Anglican druids. It is lunacy to play the saxophone during Adoramus Te Christe. It is lunacy to commemorate the canonization of Juan Diego with an atavistic return to Aztec culture in the midst of a pontifical Mass. It is lunacy to allow an Indian woman to rub down the Vicar of Christ with smoked herbs during a ceremony to beatify two Indians who were martyred for reporting pagan rituals. It is lunacy to paganize Catholic worship at the very moment the Aztec cult is rising again in Mexico, and Mexico’s “indigenous people” are abandoning the Church in large numbers to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses and fundamentalist Protestant sects.
And if there is any doubt that this is lunacy, consider that while the Novus Ordo liturgy is now subject to a rampant “inculturation” in order to introduce pagan rituals abandoned centuries ago by Indian converts, the traditional Roman rite of Mass—the very heart of Catholic culture for more than 1500 years—is kept under lock and key, and its use strictly forbidden without special permission. This cannot be anything other than a diabolical inversion of the proper order of things, the very height of lunacy.
During the “Liturgy of the Word” in Mexico City, Msgr. Heras committed a slip that could not be more telling. After the Pope had been “purified” by the Indian woman, he said: “We are now continuing with the liturgy of the world.” Arroyo attempted to repair the damage by adding that, yes, “it’s the liturgy of the world as well.” But Arroyo only dug a deeper hole for his co-commentator to fall into, for a “liturgy of the world” is a contradiction in terms. It is just such contradictions which lie at the heart of the current confusion in the Church—the very confusion in evidence when dead pagan rituals are revived during a liturgy to commemorate the beatification of two Catholics who were martyred for their role in helping Church authorities extirpate pagan rituals.
As Paul VI admitted in a statement that cannot be recalled too often: “The opening to the world has become a veritable invasion of the Church by worldly thinking. We have perhaps been too weak and imprudent.” The results of that invasion are the worst crisis since the Arian heresy—a crisis the neo-Catholic establishment resolutely continues to cover up with a mountain of excuses and evasions. Nowhere is that crisis more apparent than in the spoliation of divine worship in the Catholic Church.
Behold the liturgy of the world.