Father Thomas Rosica, C.S.B. is a Toronto priest and President of the Salt + Light Media Foundation and President of Assumption University at the University of Windsor. He is also a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
As someone who has laboured over 25 years for the reformed liturgy as a hermeneutic of continuity spoken by Pope Benedict XVI and in the Traditional Mass, this speech and his audience gives great cause for concern.
I reprint here the relevant part of his address and the points of concern emphasized. The red is my own comment on his rhetoric. The entire speech is available at the link above on Zenit.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Thank you for the privilege of addressing this important and impressive international assembly of the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors [NCDVD]; the Midwest Association of Theological Schools [MATS] and the Seminary Division of the National Catholic Education Association [NCEA]...
I would also like to address several important questions that are surfacing among those preparing for ministry, and those recently ordained. Why are candidates for ministry and newly ordained priests raising questions about the validity and enduring significance of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council? Could it be because the Second Vatican Council was not "dogmatic" but "pastoral?" Could it be also that God gave us intellect and that the Catholic Church has always fostered intellectual inquiry and that St. Paul urges us to "prove all things?" 1Thess.5.22. Could it be because the evidence of the last 50 years gives us reason to question at least the implementation of the Second Vatican Council and whether or not it was really truly implemented?) Why does there seem to be a fascination with old liturgical practice and things that appear to be external and superficial? (I was present at St. Michael's Cathedral following Gerald Emmett Cardinal Carter's return from the Extraordinary Synod linked here. I have always remembered what he said in his homily and I paraphrase; "all that is old, is not bad and all that is new is not necessarily good.") Why is the divide growing between younger priests and older priests? (Could it be that the younger priests are not blinded by an ideology and have educated themselves by actually reading the documents of the Second Vatican Council. Could it be that they have listened to Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, read their books and their exhortations? Could they even be inspired by the HOLY SPIRIT? How can we foster dialogue and build bridges between the generations of the presbyterate? (Is this what you want Father Rosica? Do you really want to "build bridges and foster dialogue?" Why then do you deliver this kind of address and then see to it that it is promulgated universally?)
The Prophetic Priesthood of Jesus Christ
Before we speak of formation for ministry and the exercise of our priestly ministry, we must look carefully at the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Jesus was not a priest after the Jewish tradition. He did not belong to the line of Aaron but to that of Judah, and thus the path of priesthood was legally closed to Him. The person and activity of Jesus of Nazareth did not follow in the line of the ancient priests, but in that of the tradition of the prophets of ancient Israel. (Fr. Rosica is now going to use Pope Benedict's words to criticise Pope Benedict's actions and declare that those who desire traditional or traditional elements are rubrical discipline are Pharisaical.) As Pope Benedict pointed out in his homily for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi in Rome on June 3, 2010: "Jesus distanced Himself from a ritualistic conception of religion, criticizing the approach that attributed value to human precepts associated with ritual purity rather than to the observance of God's commandments; that is, to love for God and for neighbor, which 'is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices'. ... Even His death, which we Christians rightly call 'sacrifice', was completely unlike the ancient sacrifices, it was quite the opposite: the execution of a death sentence of the most humiliating kind: crucifixion outside the walls of Jerusalem" (So, is Father saying that Jesus never participated in ritual? Is he saying that those who follow the rubrics are Pharisaical? Jesus surely followed ritual, he condemned hypocrisy! That would explain Father's own continued liturgical abuses visible to any of you on Vision TV whilst he says Mass at St. Basil's Church when he takes upon himself to change the words of the Oratre Fratres or Pray brethern..." all in contravention of the Second Vatican Council that no priest has the right to add, change or delete any word from the Church's liturgy--Code of Canon Law, Canon 846)
Unlike the Levitical priests, the death of Jesus was essential for his priesthood. He is a priest of compassion. His authority attracts us- because of his compassion. Ultimately, Jesus exists for others, he exists to serve. He has been tested in all respects like us- he knows all of our difficulties; he is a tried man; he knows our condition from the inside and from the outside -- only by this did he acquire a profound capacity for compassion. For one must have suffered in order to truly feel for others. The priesthood of Christ involves suffering. Jesus truly suffered and He did so for us. He was the Son and had no need to learn obedience, but we do, we needed it and we will always need it. Thus the Son assumed our humanity and, for us, allowed Himself to be 'educated' in the crucible of suffering, he allowed himself to be transformed by suffering, like the seed which to bring forth fruit must die in the earth. Without this fundamental principle and vision, any of our efforts to form the Church of Jesus Christ are in vain.
The lasting significance of Vatican II
When Pope Benedict met with the Roman Curia to offer his first Christmas greetings as Pope back in December 2005, he offered a long analysis of the legacy left by the 1962-1965 gathering of the world's bishops (known as the Second Vatican Council). This papal address is absolutely essential to our understanding of what Benedict is trying to offer the Church through his Pontificate. (Yes Father, and it was in this address linked here, that the Holy Father first spoke of the hermeneutic of rupture which the new seminarians and priest have obviously grasped and the old ones have not!)
One of the most important duties and responsibilities of the Successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ is to preserve the unity of the Church. (Yes, and as Father Z would say, "Pope Benedict is the Pope of Christian Unity") Benedict, in particular, feels deeply responsible for unity, and cares for those who still today find themselves outside of ecclesial communion, but also of those who find themselves in a state of tension within it, and he invites all to a reciprocal openness within the unity of the same faith… that same unity and faith which inspired John XIII fifty-one years ago to convene the Council, and moved and animated Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II in their heroic efforts to give flesh and blood to the Second Vatican Council. (Then if the Pope feels this way, why don't you? Your comments have given the clear impression that you do not care about the laity, seminarians or priests who disagree with you in this regard, in fact, you mock them.)
Nevertheless, there have been several significant events, statements, and misunderstandings these past years that have left us all perplexed. (Any less perplexed than us when there is liturgical dance which is prohibited or countless liturgical and Eucharistic abuses, banality of music the destruction of Altars and patrimony, the virtual elimination of Latin, the insult and marginalisation of the laity who desire that which our ancestors had?) Are we turning the clock back on Vatican II? (No Father, we are trying to implement it!) Are we trying to erase what the Council taught? (What did the Council teach Father? It taught that "Gregorian chant has pride of place" as just one example) In particular, in the area of liturgy, is there an effort to go backward rather than forward? (How is reverent liturgy backward? If you go forward to the edge of a cliff, you need to stop going forward; if you've dug yourself into a hole, the first thing that you need to do is to stop digging!) I have been concerned that among younger clergy and even those in formation, there seems to be a greater interest in and familiarity with recent "Motu Proprios" rather than Conciliar documents. (So, you are discounting the right of the Holy Father to issue a document that becomes legislation by his personal motion-motu proprio? Is he not the Pope? How do you know that they are not interested in the "Conciliar documents?" Could it be that they have actually read them?) There appears to be a trivialization, a fastidious and affected attention to externals more than a deep desire to find meaning, and foster reverence and respect for the Sacred Liturgy. (Here we go, he seems trapped by an ideology and that traditional forms of worship are only external, he mocks and trivialises directly those who think differently from him and considers them to have personality defects with behaviour that is "fastidious and affected.")
The pillar of the renewal of priestly life is the liturgy. (As Father Z would say, "it is the tip of the spear") If the priest does not rediscover the true meaning of the liturgy in his life, he cannot find himself. (Well, he should find Christ, no? I don't find myself in the liturgy and we need to get over that this is all about him and me and you and us and we are church, it is a warped ideology of who we are and how we relate to God through liturgy) The liturgy is the place of education to communion. The protagonist of the liturgy is Christ, not the Pope, the Cardinals in Rome, and not even the parish priest. (And the Church gives us the liturgy Father and that includes the Mass codified in 1570 which dates from Apostolic times just as the other ancient rites--ask the Chaldeans, Maronites, Syro Malabars, Copts and Ethiopians about there ancient liturgies; You as a priest, have NO RIGHT to change a word, it is not yours) By living the liturgy, we can enter into the life of God, and only thus can we priests journey effectively with the men and women of our time and of all time. Nevertheless the liturgical reform must concern itself not only with texts and ceremonies, rubrics and rituals, vestments and the number of candlesticks on altars, (and these are important, but your specific comment about "the number of candlesticks on the altars" seems to be to be direct rebuke of the "Benectine arrangement." Are you criticising Pope Benedict XVI Father Rosica?) but also with the spiritual hungers of human communities that we serve. (Really Father? And does that include the people of Toronto who saw the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter sent out of town? MY SPIRITUAL HUNGER WAS BEING FILLED AND WAS STRIPPED AWAY! WHO WERE THOSE PRIESTS who ganged up on the Archbishop for granting Canadian Martyrs as a Personal Parish for the FSSP? Who then worked to ensure that the Chaplain would be ostracised and treated with indifference hurting his own priestly life? How have you formed the view that those who desire Tradition do not care or attend to spiritual hungers or human communities?) Without authentic evangelization, (and what evidence can you give that tradition is not evangelical?) participation in the liturgy is ultimately hollow– an aesthetic pastime or a momentary palliative; without the works of justice and charity, (because those desiring tradition have no concept of Faith Hope and Charity, is that what you're saying?) participation in the liturgy is ultimately deceptive, playing church (PLAYING CHURCH!!!) rather than being church. (I consider myself a fairly intelligent guy, but I've never been able to grasp the we are church mantra...maybe that's why.)
Nor can we forget that permission for the "Extraordinary Rite" of the Mass was granted for the sake of unity in the Church and nothing else. (NO, THIS IS NOT TRUE, THIS IS AN OUTRIGHT DECEPTION ON THE PART OF FATHER ROSICA. Any priest can celebrate using the Missal of 1962 and the Holy Father also wrote of the hope for a MUTUAL ENRICHMENT. For Father Rosica to say what he did is simply untrue and against the facts and the Law of the Church, the motu proprio which he earlier dismissed) "The Extraordinary Rite" is exactly that: extraordinary. What is ordinary is what the vast number of our faithful celebrate each week. (and it's mostly done pretty poorly) To impose (!) what was meant to be "extraordinary" on ordinary situations does a great disservice to the unity of the Church and goes against the intent of the Holy Father. (Impose what, Father Rosica? Find me one church in Canada or in the United States that has "imposed" the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite on anyone. Nobody has done this, nobody would do this, we do not wish to impose anything. Tell me Father Rosica, why do you deny it to us? To misuse the special permission of the Holy Father for the Extraordinary Rite for political motives causes division. Who is being divisive Father Rosica? You're the one who has addressed seminary rectors and sowed divisiveness. What do you think the reaction will be to seminarians that express their desire in seminary to learn the EF? You have done them and all of us and the unity you so earnestly seem to desire, a disservice) We must be about the work of unity in a Church that is often so divided. (and you have further divided it Father Rosica!)
Another perplexing reality I have encountered, especially among those in formation and those newly ordained, has been in the area of Sacred Scripture and preaching. A number of students, usually in their final years of the Master of Divinity or Master of Pastoral Theology program have complained saying they would never take another Scripture course again; that their previous Scripture courses had nothing to do with the reality of the church and liturgy and that the courses were "without a soul". This topic was addressed numerous times at the recent 2008 Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church, a Synod which I experienced in a very significant way, having served as the English language media attaché to this historic, world-wide gathering at the Vatican.
One cause of the present disinterest and seeming impasse in Scriptural studies has been the atomization and dissection of the Scriptures, and a lack of integration of biblical studies with faith and lived spirituality. Are today's Catholic Scripture scholars and teachers adequately prepared to draw from their exegetical knowledge and their own life of faith and prayer to help fellow Catholics discover the meaning of the biblical Word today?
In his 2001 brilliant and synthetic Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte at the close of the Great Jubilee, Pope John Paul II highlighted seven pastoral priorities that are key to effective pastoral ministry today: holiness, prayer, Sunday Eucharist, sacrament of reconciliation, the primacy of grace, and listening to the Word and proclaiming the Word. The Word of God must be at the centre of our priestly lives and ministries. It is fundamental to the preparation of those preparing for priestly ministry. Unless we build our lives upon its rock-solid foundation, we will not have any roots.
Moving Beyond Ideology
We must be honest and admit that today, some of us are still stuck in the ideological battles that followed the Second Vatican Council. (Then get over it) Perhaps we are frozen (some may be) in categories of left and right; traditional vs. avant-garde; male vs. female; hierarchical vs. lay-led, or prophetic vs. static. Excessive tensions arising from Church politics, gender issues, liturgical practices, language, confusion over the "spirit of Vatican II" and not the whole message of the Second Vatican Council -- all of these influence today's candidates for ministry in the Church. Our inter-ecclesial and inter-community fixations and polarizations on all sides of the ecclesial spectrum can distract us from addressing with requisite depth and discernment the issues facing us today. (Then why don't you do something about it. You write this, after earlier insulting and sowing division?)
Many of today's young adults, including young priests and those discerning or preparing for ordained ministry, are searchers and seekers who desire to be truly Catholic. They seek nourishment in piety and devotion in ways very different from our own. They engage freely and generously in the works of social justice. (Oh, so we can do both?) They refuse to allow themselves to be ensnared by political or politically correct polarization or fashionable ideologies which are ready to exploit their human potential. (So why deny them what they are looking for liturgically. You must be really concerned about this and the general trend or you would not be so vociferous).
Whatever is not purified and transformed within us is transmitted to others- especially to the next generation. When we sell ourselves to cynicism and despair, meanness of heart, smallness of spirit and harshness in ecclesial discourse, we betray our deepest identity as bearers of joy, hope and truth. The manifestations of the Spirit must be accompanied by positive energy- because they are liberating. They ultimately set people free, and do not lead them into depression, sadness, cynicism, indifference or anger.
We must honestly ask ourselves individually and collectively: (no Father, just individually, keep your collectivity for your progressivist cohort) What ideologies have dominated our lives? How do we minister beyond ideology? What have been the dominant ecclesial ideologies at work among us? Is joy present in our priestly witness? What prevents me as an individual and us as a community from giving a robust, joyful witness to Jesus Christ, the Catholic Faith and the Church? (Father Rosica, seems imprisoned by his own ideology and yet, as any so-called "progressive" they deny that they are ideologists and label anyone leaning towards tradition or conservatism as the true ideologues)
Many of us are afraid of the new generation, (BINGO) of their robust sense of Catholicism, their manifestations of piety, their desire to "reclaim" many things that have been lost or forgotten. Deep down inside of many of our hearts, we would like clones of ourselves, and not new, free, thinking beings of a new age. (then why do you dismiss them as above?) There is a great wisdom to the Church's ban on human cloning!
The younger generation easily uses the word "solid" to describe those who are rooted in tradition and unafraid to manifest authentic piety and devotion. The younger generation is wary of those who equivocate and speak around issues rather than addressing them. What can we learn from their questioning? We must learn that we have to avoid the temptation to fudge -- to adapt the Catholic faith so as to make it palatable to modern tastes and expectations. This so-called "accommodationist" approach generally fails. There is a risk in this approach that the Christian message becomes indistinguishable from everything else on offer in the market stalls of secularized religious faith. We have to be convinced that the fullness of the truth and beauty of the message of Jesus Christ is powerfully attractive when it is communicated without apologies or compromise.
The Second Vatican Council recommends that older priests show understanding and sympathy toward younger priests' initiatives; and it advises young ones to respect the experience of older priests and to trust them; trust them; what if they are wrong? it suggests that both treat each other with sincere affection, following the example of so many priests of yesterday and today; the parish priest and other priests, including the religious, are called upon to testify to communion in everyday life.
The resurgence of triumphalism, juridicism and clericalism
Among a particular segment of the Church today, and among some of our young people preparing for ministry or recently ordained, there is a resurgence of triumphalism. The triumphalist approach would like Church leaders and pastors to exercise authority through aggressive condemnation and excommunication and believes that the Church not only has the truth but also all the answers to every modern dilemma! (On abortion this goes without saying, on waterboarding to save thousands of lives, I would disagree) How many of this group would like to use a Catholic Television Network to be the voice piece for such an ecclesial view! Woe to me if I do that with Salt + Light Television! (No diversity, Father?)
Jesus Christ is indeed the Truth, and the fullness of that truth is found in the Roman Catholic Church, but we must seek out with humility and in light of the Gospel how to respond to the many and varied demands of living in today's world. The Church must always proclaim the truth in love and charity. We do not impose the gospel on the world, but propose its alternative vision of compelling beauty, a beauty rooted in faith and reason. We seek to persuade by grace, truth and beauty through our liturgies, our pastoral programs and teaching moments.
Recently we have received a number of requests from our younger viewers and some younger clergy to "feature" the "old vestments" on our liturgical broadcasts. A fascination with such displays is symbolic of an ongoing "restorationism" (Is this like the antiquarianism condemned by Pope Pius XII which Bugnini and other liturgical reformers then used to justify the stripping of the liturgy to apparent apostolic simplicity?) in various pockets of the Church and represents an attempt to return to a triumphal past that the young never knew. (Why do you equate beauty in vestments or furnishings or music or liturgy and anything that came before as "triumphalism?" Is this not the Judas Iscariot syndrome of the ointment? If we are to worship God we must do so in the highest possible manner we mere humans are capable of, that is not triumphalism nor is it Pharisaical.) In the midst of a world-wide pandemic of sex abuse, insistence on these elements is even more disconcerting. What does this message communicate to the world around us? (Well, as a Basilian, you certainly know about sexual abuse in Ontario committed by your fellow Basilians at St. Michael's College but what does the less than 1% "pandemic" and one is too many, have to do with liturgical restoration?).
Again among a particular segment of the Church today, and among some of our young people, there is a resurgence of juridicism that searches out laws new or old to justify personal positions or ideologies in the Church. Juridicists take great delight in focusing on liturgical practices. (Is it because the internet allows people easy access to the truth and what was stripped? We are now educated and don't need to be spoon fed by the priest, especially when he is wrong, I would think that you would support this, as for this being "juridicism" is there something wrong with following the rules? You seem to want the rules followed as long as it is your interpretation) They often create unnecessary hoops for people to jump through. (No, I just want you and your Basilian brother to stop changing the words to the Mass on TV!) While the Church needs law to insure good order, the purpose of all laws in the Church is the same as for all the works of the Church: for us, for our good and for our salvation. (Then follow them!)
There is also an emerging clericalist perspective that exaggerates the authority of the priest or bishop creating a new authoritarianism. (I know some pretty clericalist and authoritative liberal priests who have insisted to me that I can't sing Latin because it is "not allowed") The clericalist operates as if ordained ministers are entitled to special status and privilege in the Church and in society. It becomes even more pronounced when vocations are few, and those who are preparing for ministry and those recently ordained manifest a certain sense of entitlement because they have responded to the call while many others have not! Therefore they think that they deserve even more respect in this day and age. (I have never met a priest from the FSSP, the Toronto Oratory, SSPX, or Seminarian who thinks or acts this way; Father, we live in the same city, who are they, they're surely not the priests and young men that I associate with. In fact, they are kind, humble, strong, masculine and in love with the LORD! But I have met priests over 50 who do this all the time!) Clericalists gives little merit to collaboration with the laity and the involvement of laity. (What Father Rosica should collaboration involve? The priest has his job, the laity theirs. Is this the priestly equivalent of white liberal guilt?) I encounter this on a daily basis in a pocket of our television viewers who would be content with a whole series of "talking head" priests, sisters and Church leaders who simply "talk at people" rather than engage them in mature, adult conversation. (Well, I subscribe to S+L, maybe I should cancel it and other than your documentaries, I find most of your programming puerile, but that's my right and I can always turn on EWTN for the "talking-head sister".)
Whenever we are manipulated by or become instruments of political pressure groups or tactics that would like to give the Church such new forms of triumphalism, juridicism, and clericalism, we fail in our mission of helping people to grow into a living, breathing, hopeful Church. (And what, pray tell, have we put up with for the last 50 years?)
One of the great insights that came to me during the recent "Year of St. Paul" was Paul's tremendous spirit of collaboration with his co-workers. It was not simply a personal style or political ploy imposed by necessity but flowed from the deepest experience of his faith and his theological convictions. Paul of Tarsus knew that every gift, no matter how brilliant, was subordinate to the gift of charity and the bonding of the community. This must be our approach if the church is to be renewed and our mission to the world sustained.
Our current ecclesial reality
How could I stand here before the Seminary Rectors, heads of theologates and Vocation Directors of the United States and Canada without speaking about the ways that we are being pruned as a Church community, as the presbyterate and the episcopate during these very challenging days for the world Church? Over the past year in particular, the tsunami of headlines about abuse of minors by priests and religious in Ireland, Germany, Austria and numerous other countries, and re-runs of old stories from various places have brought the Church to her knees once again. To watch television networks or read the newspapers, one would think that the sexual abuse of children is a uniquely Catholic problem, one indeed facilitated by a wicked lot of priests and bishops. (And what have you done about this Father other than make excuses for errant bishops which I link and quote from your own writings: "Bishop Lahey is known to viewers of Salt + Light as a kind and gentle pastor, particularly sensitive to the needs of those who have suffered the scourge of sexual abuse."...Father T. Rosica. see link under Bishop's name. Save us the hypocrisy!)
Is it not true that many of us in the Church today feel like we are caught in a flash flood that is unexpected, powerful, destructive and filled with despair? The refrain sounds all too familiar: "Vocations are down, (not everywhere) scandals are up. Problems are more and more complex, and demands are increasing. Complaints are more frequent and more strident. We are dealing with an aging population. We seem to have moved from "mission to maintenance." We feel battered and bruised. (Me too, by Basilian priests in my 13th year and by those who know less than me about liturgy) The flame seems to have gone out and our influence is terribly diminished. (and thankfully, your influence will continue to decline) And the list goes on and on… Many of us have been hoodwinked into discouragement.
The media exerts a powerful influence on the thinking, (and so do the little people in the new media which you can't cope with as you have opined previously and personally to me.) the attitudes and the faith of people. The flash flood bears down with immense force on all of us. Some view our present situation with great pessimism and grow disheartened, depressed, and even cynical. Others don't want to admit what is happening and go whistling in the dark, clinging to the illusion that things definitively past can be recovered and the claims and facts of the present ignored. (No Father, we're not trying to reclaim the past, as an example there was much sexual abuse under the former liturgical practices and in the lolly-pop world of the 1950's; we are taking control of the future!) The media, magnifying various cases of pedophilia throughout the world, have forgotten the great majority of priests and religious who have lived out and continue to live out their fidelity happily and with total and freely given dedication, and whose only goal is to seek God and do good for others. (INDEED!)