A puritan is a person who pours righteous indignation into the wrong things. G.K. Chesterton
I've written before about the motu proprio, but for readers who've recently joined me I'd like to summarize my post on it:
1. I think it will be a good thing for the Church.
2. I like the Novus Ordo Mass.
Lots of bloggers of much higher stature than I am have written much, much more, talking in a learned and scholarly way about when they think it will be released, what will be said, what it will mean, and what it will all boil down to. I've enjoyed reading what they've had to say; much of it has informed me about aspects of our recent liturgical past that I was unaware of.
And Bishop Trautman's "John and Mary" article that I blogged about earlier this week helped to put something in context for me: the appearance of an arrogant sweeping away of all that went before us that was very present to those who actually endured, and remember enduring, the post-Conciliar changes. It is not surprising in the face of that kind of condescension to find that so many people, frustrated for so long by a spirit of experimentation and novelty that is anything but holy, long for a return to the ways of the past, to the Tridentine Mass, to a type of worship that, to them, will foster a rich rebirth of worship and holiness throughout the Catholic world.
But as deeply as I sympathize, I'm beginning to be a bit concerned.
When we study the history of America we can't help (unless we're in a public school that strictly forbids any discussion of it) noticing the role played by the Puritans. In point of fact, this role ended up being good for America; the Puritans were so convinced of the rightness of their own views (they never called themselves Puritans, preferring the simple humble term "the godly") that they ended up throwing out those who didn't disagree; many of the more illustrious of those people then went and founded their own colonies, or at least settled in large numbers in colonies that weren't under Puritan control.
The Chesterton quote above points out the danger of harboring, and using, righteous indignation as a weapon. Righteous anger may indeed be justified, and often is. God doesn't expect us to accept blithely the misuse of the liturgy or the outright abuse of it; He Who threw the moneylenders out of the Temple not only understands, but approves, the flame of indignation that may rise unbidden in our hearts if we are so unfortunate as to hear a priest, for example, refer to God as "She."
But Satan weaves around even our best motives a web of intrigue and deceit. We may begin by hating the abuse of the liturgy, and progress to hating the abusers of it. We may sincerely despise the "Gather" hymnal, and from that point start to despise the choir who sings from it. We may abhor the casual clothing some people chose to wear to Mass, and end by abhorring the people wearing it.
Nowhere has this been more evident in the recent past than the casualties of the anger, truly righteous indeed, fostered by the Scandal and the apparently weak and inadequate response to it. No just person, hearing or reading tales of the horrific abuse of innocent children, could fail to be moved to tears for the children and to anger at those who betrayed and defiled them; nor could that anger fail to be exacerbated by the further knowledge that many in the Church's hierarchy seemed more interested in protecting themselves than in putting a stop to the problem, and showed little sympathy to the victims and their families while secretly moving the abusers from parish to parish, school to school, religious institution to religious institution.
But as justified, as necessary, and even as holy in some cases as that anger was, it was also dangerous.
Like a malevolent spider, Satan spins around the core of what is good, our righteous indignation, picking it apart with his malice and redirecting the strands of it to his evil purposes. Some who began by hating the Scandal ended by losing their faith, and leaving the Church: victims, those who worked with them, those who supported them in word and deed.
And the same thing has happened since the earliest days of the Novus Ordo Mass: some who began by raising what seemed to be mild objections to some of the changes ended by deciding that the "real" Catholic Church existed elsewhere, or that it was up to them to go off and start it, even going so far as to elect their own popes.
The motu proprio will, no doubt, be a very wonderful thing, but I'm afraid that like most wonderful things, it has grown impossibly wonderful in anticipation. There will, most probably, be some element or provision in it which will disappoint. Even if it exceeds the wildest dreams of those who long for it, there is the danger that the automatic rebirth of traditional Catholicism many of them all but expect will not take place. And there are many peripheral issues that some will continue to insist must be settled, right now, or they'll never trust those modernists in Rome again: issues like veils and vestments and Communion rails and extraordinary ministers and female altar servers etc., most, if not all, of which the motu proprio will not mention at all.
Righteous anger is only good when it serves God's purposes. It can quickly become unrighteous wrath directed against God, His Church, and His servants. Whether you long for the motu proprio with all your heart or are only mildly interested in it, it's important to remember how horrifyingly destructive anger can become, when instead of being godly it becomes corrosive, poisonous, and a grave danger to the soul.