Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The hermeneutical system of which this sentence is a part is complete

Let's examine some arguments that have become more prevalent in the mainstream Catholic blogosphere as of late. Over at Mark Shea's blog we see this exchange:
Those who argue for the superiority of the Traditional Latin Mass (whether they deem the NO valid or not) do so for reasons of its emphatically *measurable* doctrinal superiority. The orations of the old mass (over the course of an entire year) are doctrinally fuller and richer than those of the new mass, and teach the Catholic faith more authentically. The old mass is a greater didactic tool. This is not a matter of ‘interpretation’ (a less fancy word for ‘hermeneutic’): it’s an empirical fact, and one that can be measured via a shared, objective standard.
Thesis is followed by antithesis:
OK, I’ve pondered it for an hour and I give up. What is this marvelous “shared, objective standard”? Where is it? When was this extraordinary judgment made? And who were the judges? Because obviously to you the EF has already won. And why don’t people know about this contest?
Oh, because it never happened, of course. And as far as theology is concerned, the only conceivable “shared, objective standard” is the Magisterium of the Church itself. And you will wait a good long time, I think, before the Magisterium makes a pronouncement of the kind you want. No, the only thing that the Magisterium has said is that these are the two forms, both equally venerable, of the one Roman rite. 

I don't think that means what you think it means Ms. Pieper. There are two assumptions here: that the two forms of the one Roman Rite are perfectly equal, and that one does not receive more graces from attending one instead of the other because the sacrament is the same in both. I see three mistakes in the thinking here.

The first is failing to distinguish between sacrifice and sacrament. Remember, the objective graces of the Mass do not depend on our receiving the Eucharist. The second is believing that the objective graces of the sacrament (ex opere operato) are the only graces we receive. Although the merits of the Sacrifice of the Mass are infinite, we finite creatures only receive those graces to the degree that we are able (ex opere operantis.) Someone who is prayerful and recollected will receive more of the subjective graces of the sacrament than someone who does not pray at all. St. Paul says that those who fail to discern the Body and Blood of our Lord will receive the Eucharist to their own condemnation. It is the perennial teaching of the Church that Jesus Christ is truly present in a real and immediate way at every Mass. Given this teaching, it's worth asking if the Mass as it is celebrated in a particular parish reflects this reality or not.

The TLM obviously does a better job at this much of the time. In my experience, even the most wacked out progressives will concede that the old rite is more reverent (if you concede that the sacrament is valid in both forms of the Mass, why would you ever want to attend one which is less reverent?) The NO can be celebrated reverently, as conservatives are always quick to point out. But the fact that we always say that it can be celebrated reverently is a tacit admission that much of the time it is not.

The third mistake is a Sola Magisterium approach that mirrors the Protestant Sola Scriptura. Yes, the Magisterium has said that the TLM and the NO are two forms of the one Roman rite. It doesn't follow that a 1970s hootenanny Mass produces as much recollection and instills as many subjective graces in the congregation than a Solemn Pontifical High Mass.

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