A House Divided
Archbishop Sample of Portland, Oregon, is definitely one of our best bishops. Articulate, energetic, and intelligent, he is an outspoken defender of the traditional liturgy and celebrates it regularly. In addition, he contributes in concrete ways towards improving the celebration of the Novus Ordo. His participation in this Gregorian Chant workshop held at a Brigittine Monastery is a case in point.
We can certainly go a long way with the sermon he preached in this video. It’s a plea for unity of mission and purpose in the Catholic Church. More specifically, though, he’s saying that adherents of TLM should not be needlessly divisive; that we should be joyful and filled with charity towards our fellow Catholics; that we should refrain from harsh and bitter language; and that we should strive to remove any exaggerated divisions that are the result of liturgical sensibilities. All good advice in a Church where the “angry trad” stereotype makes the job of good bishops that much more difficult. But he also suggests – rather strongly – that traditionalists should not view the Novus Ordo as inferior or defective, and should refrain from criticizing problems in the Novus Ordo milieu. These remarks begin at 13:05 and continue for the rest of the video.
Unfortunately this last bit is asking too much. The Novus Ordo is without question an inferior and defective liturgy, and its defects have had enormous consequences. That doesn’t mean we should always be shouting this from the rooftops – there is a time and place to discuss such things: discernment and prudence is needed – but it would be wrong to give the impression that the TLM is a mere personal preference without any qualitative content. There also needs to be a realization that unity is pointless (or even harmful) unless it is unity in the truth. Unity does not exist for its own sake. The “gospel” preached these days by even the best in the hierarchy, going all the way to the top, is so weak and empty as to be an embarrassment. Are we to be united in the “gospel” of social work, of being nice to people, or even of loving our neighbor? Not even the so-called “gospel of life” counts as the real Gospel. There’s nothing wrong with unity around these admirable things, but it’s not unity in the Gospel or in the mission of the Catholic Church! The Church exists fundamentally for the salvation of souls. Nothing else is even a close second. I’m sure Archbishop Sample would agree, but the point is that Catholic unity is not possible until Catholics actually believe in the tenets of their own religion once again.
There does seem to be a heightened sense among many prelates that division in the Church is, today, reaching the level of a crisis. Catholic unity is threatened as never before. Division in the Church is certainly a scandal, and many of our divisions can be healed with the exercise of simple charity. But there is another kind of division that charity alone cannot bridge. We need to understand that doctrinal dissent and bad liturgy have made certain divisions insurmountable. Mutual love between orthodox and heterodox Catholics doesn’t create unity in the Gospel. Only a return to God and a reverence for all of His gifts, bequeathed to us in the Church, will end the division. The Novus Ordo liturgy and the revolution that followed was, more than anything, a rejection of those gifts. It’s not too late to lay down our arms and receive His gifts again with gratitude.