Mass without the Faith; Roof without Walls

There’s an interview up at WDTPRS with +Fellay of the schismatic Roman Society of St Pius the Xth. As you may recall, they’re the ultra-traditionalists who believe that Vatican II introduced grave errors into the Roman Church and thus split off to preserve their orthodoxy. Clearly I disagree with them on a number of points…

In any case, I noted this particular exchange:

Q: Contrariwise, would you say that the fight for doctrine has become more important?

Fellay: No, the fight for doctrine is and remains always as important. If we do not have the Faith, we have nothing, not even the Mass. The Mass without the Faith is like a roof without the walls. Doctrine is and remains the fundamental reason for our battle.

While Fellay and I no doubt disagree as to what is included within “the Faith”, I do believe this is an essential point. The liturgy—Mass and Office—is our great entry into the mysteries of reality as we understand them in light of the Triune God. It is the entrance into the encounter with the Living God that shapes us intellectually, emotionally, affectively, and morally. I sometimes emphasize the affective elements of the liturgy because I think the tendencies of the protestant tradition (and my personal tendencies) over-emphasize the intellectual. Indeed, I think the bishop’s words could be interpreted that way as well, but I read them as I believe the tradition has always read them: the liturgy alone without the way of being that the liturgy calls us into and calls forth within us is empty. There is intellectual content and affective direction that we must hold to and actively engage.

And if the Anglican “prayer book catholicity” that I and others speak of is to be fully realized, it’s those things I think we need to be more explicit about.

16 thoughts on “Mass without the Faith; Roof without Walls

  1. The young fogey

    The few people who’ve heard of RC traditionalism and this split think wrongly that it’s about people who want everybody to pray in Latin and probably believe all non-RCs are going to hell, no exceptions. Bishop Fellay alludes to the main, real reasons for the SSPX’s walling off (not a formal schism) from the rest of the RC Church. It’s interpretation of policy which they see as impingeing on doctrine: religious liberty and ecumenism. The identification with the Tridentine Mass was always secondary!

    Anyway, yes, the Mass without the faith, without doctrine, is like a roof without walls as the good bishop says. But you knew I’d think that as after all, although he and I don’t agree on everything we agree much more on what constitutes ‘the faith’ than you do. There are also some cultural church things we share and he doesn’t.

    There’s my point about an infallible church which he agrees with of course.

    Getting back to faux catholicism, to me it seems to be credal orthodoxy and the Mass and sacraments but where one’s orthodoxy doesn’t conflict with modern received opinion in any way.

    A roof without walls.

  2. Derek the Ænglican

    Getting back to faux catholicism, to me it seems to be credal orthodoxy and the Mass and sacraments but where one’s orthodoxy doesn’t conflict with modern received opinion in any way.

    So it may seem to you—doesn’t seem that way to me.

    You’ve expressed before a preference to go back to the time where people just winked and nodded at Father’s “gentleman lodger”. You seem to think it’s better for what is proclaimed as Gospel to be openly contradicted by the priest’s life. I guess spoken orthodoxy is what’s important, not lived orthodoxy. Sounds to me like a roof on rotten walls.

  3. Dan

    Derek, I couldn’t be more in agreement with you. And I think we both sense that the so-called schism in Anglicanism right now proceeds from this disagreement. I remember last summer (I think) reading Abp. Orombi’s definition of Anglicanism, in First Things of all places. For him, authentic Anglicanism originates from two places: the Bible and the Martyrs. He says nothing about the mass, the daily office, common prayer, etc… Incidentally, First Things never printed a counter opinion. Neo-Con catholicism and the conservative Evangelical elements of Anglicanism seems to be doing all it can to obscure what I think are really the more traditional elements of Anglicanism and catholicism – the liturgy.

  4. The young fogey

    Regarding ‘tolerant conservatives are hypocrites’, that most Catholics are sinners doesn’t mean the walls are rotten. Want lived orthodoxy? There are the saints. Continuing your priestly allusion there are SS. Philip Neri and Jean-Marie Vianney, and in Orthodoxy SS. Seraphim of Sarov and John of Kronstadt, whom I’m fairly sure weren’t keen on gay weddings. Because for us the great unwashed still fumbling towards that holiness, when we sin we don’t say we can bend the church to say it’s OK. Protestants do – a power the Pope never dared claim!

    I imagine even Bishop Fellay of the Jansenist-tinged SSPX, as he is from a Latin culture that has understood the sinless church/sinful people paradox for more than a millennium, would agree.

    Evangelical Anglicans and neocon RCs may be fun to run down but one is against and the other may slightly distort the Catholic position.

  5. Dan

    “Evangelical Anglicans and neocon RCs may be fun to run down but one is against and the other may slightly distort the Catholic position.”

    I hope you don’t take my criticism of the above as a thinly veiling criticism of the RC as a whole, of which I have great admiration.

    As for this: “when we sin we don’t say we can bend the church to say it’s OK. Protestants do – a power the Pope never dared claim!” I’ve never heard a Protestant identify “sin” and say, “Oh, that, well the church tolerates sin now!” I think it’s kind of ridiculous that you accuse “protestants” of that, pell mell. But, let’s say you’ve identified sin in a church; it’s one thing to say “that church has unwittingly embraced something you consider sin and needs to be corrected in charity,” and another to say “that church has intentionally embraced a sin that it knows is a sin.” But let’s not go around accusing churches of harboring sin as if we all have the same idea of what is and is not sin. That’s naive in my opinion

    By the way, what are referencing with ‘tolerant conservatives are hypocrites’?


  6. Derek the Ænglican

    Dan, that’s one of the Young Fogey’s stock phrases. It’s the classic Anglo-Catholic position that gay priests are fine as long as they stay in their closets. I call it “institutional hypocrisy”, he calls it “tolerant conservativism”.

    Someone once said “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men.”

    Of course since he said “phylacteries” and not “fiddle-backs” Young Fogey’s off the hook…

  7. Brian M

    I understand the TC argument to be that we are all sinners in need of grace, and we don’t know whether our brethren have moved from impure thoughts to impure deeds, so we shouldn’t assume or speak out of turn about the matter. We ought to leave it to our priest-confessors to deal with such matters. I can see the potential for hypocrisy and heterocentrism there, to be sure, but at the same time I see that as a fair position in the debate, until I can be covinced of a more liberationist position based in either Scripture or Tradition.

    (did you get the scans?)

  8. Derek the Ænglican

    I did, thanks! Did you not receive my reply? I may have bounced it…

    I’m being mean and testy from not enough sleep and moving anxiety and for that I apologize (I went for a long run; I’m better now… )

    However, this is exactly the same logic according to which Luther should have just gotten a “housekeeper” and shut up.

    It would be one thing if this were a general crackdown on clergy and parishioner sexuality—but it’s not. As long as those forcing the issue have divorced clergy in high positions (Christ Church Plano, anyone?) I’m gonna call hypocrisy.

    In the main I’m actually in agreement with the notion that we had best consider our own sins than spend too much time accusing our neighbors. But I’m gonna call hypocrisy when a group of folks reads the Bible one way for one set of folks and an entirely other way for another (especially if they fall into the latter… )

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. The moral law of the Gospel is virtue that leads to perfect love. Show me the fruits and I’ll show you the sin. 9 times out of 10 this matches up perfectly with the (inherently Stoic) vice lists in the NT–but I’d argue based on fruits that committed same-sex relationships are that 1 out of 10.

  9. Marshall Scott

    Young Fogey said (once again): “when we sin we don’t say we can bend the church to say it’s OK. Protestants do – a power the Pope never dared claim!”

    Yet, that was the “conservative” position on ending slavery and accepting social desegregation. We might forget or dismiss too lightly that for many that kind of “inappropriate mixing of kinds” and ignoring “the curse of Ham,” both Biblically established, was understood not simply as socially unpopular but at sin, as violation of Scripture, and of God’s plan for the world (preached as late as the apartheid regime in South Africa).

    Or, consider the comments of the Russian Orthodox regarding Roman ministry in Poland, especially when Polish princes took political control of areas with largely Orthodox populations. The Romans were not spoken of as if they were “separated brethren.” They were labelled as “heretics.” (It pops up now and again for those of us who use the lists of Orthdox observations collected by James Kieffer for Mission St. Clare in our prayer lives.)

    Indeed, most of our ecumenical efforts of the past century were identified by someone as sin not that long before. Clearly, the Church Catholic has indeed changed its perspective, and has had schismatic groups leave, over what the larger group found to be sin no longer.

  10. Marshall Scott

    By the way, having sought shelter (albeit briefly) in both walls with no roof and a roof with no walls, the inadequacy of either really depends on what one seeks shelter from. From that summer storm, I’ll appreciate the roof, walls or no. From predators, animal or otherwise, I think the walls provide more relief.

  11. The young fogey

    Anglo-Catholics stood up to apartheid then were vilified by other Anglicans not long after because the one and the same Catholic faith maintains the inherent dignity of people, made in God’s image, and that the apostolic ministry is unchangeable. Knew a priest kicked out of Namibia in the 1960s who by the time he died was supplying at a Continuing church. Must have been nothing but a bigot.

    The author of Black Like Me wrote that in his investigative travels in the American South disguised as a black man RC institutions were among the few places he was welcome. The Pope agrees with conservative Protestants on homosexuality.

    Spanish, Portuguese and Russian colonists in the Americas weren’t perfect (as the Catholic de las Casas made clear!) but they intermarried with the natives. No question of the latter being anything less than people even though they weren’t always well treated.

    Thanks; play again.

    There’s the other high-church Protestant (liberal AND conservative; I’ve had Continuers throw this at me) argument that because there’s more than one claimant to being the true church, the biggest being Rome and Orthodoxy, there’s no one true church, or there’s the Anglican branch theory of a Vincentian-canon Catholicism shared by several branches out of communion with each other.

    However you define it ultimately there is a one true church.

    Poles historically are very nasty to non-Poles under their rule including Russians and Ukrainian Greek Catholics (it doesn’t matter that they’re under Rome; they’re not Polish!).

    Sinful people; not the same as a sinful church, also as you know the Catholic answer about slavery.

  12. Derek the Ænglican

    Of course there’s one true church. It’s the Body of Christ and those joined into it through Baptism, through words, and through works.

    I fail to believe that its contours match any of our ecclesial boundaries.

  13. Derek the Ænglican

    I wrestle with that…

    I think churches need bishops. I think Scripture tells us churches need bishops. Holy Tradition which provides us the examples of thousands of bishops…seems kinda mixed.

    The bottom line is that the heart of Christianity is not its structures. It’s about living lives in the presence of God and striving for holiness and righteousness as best we can with the Scriptures, sacraments, and the community through all ages to guide us as we grow into the mind of Christ.

    Or am I wrong and Jesus is just calling us to be part of an institution with certain structures?

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