Tuesday, April 6, 2010

As the day-glo fades to black

The Catholic news and blogging world is full of the story: Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio is to be the Coadjutor-Archbishop of Los Angeles, with full rights of succession. Here are just a few of the many links on the story:

Whispers in the Loggia gives many details about Archbishop Gomez and what this appointment will mean to Los Angeles;

Shouts in the Piazza gives us a glimpse of what Archbishop Gomez' coat of arms will look like in the future;

Deacon Kandra has many valuable items, including this latest in which he shares the UK Telegraph's spin on this story;

and The Catholic Key takes a look at how this new appointment, interestingly, returns the Archdiocese of LA to its historical roots.
I don't know that much about Archbishop Gomez, myself, though what I've read so far seems encouraging. What I do know is that once again, as has happened in so many places, so quietly, for the last five years or so, a changing of the guard is taking place.

It's not just that Archbishop Gomez, an Opus Dei bishop, is reportedly far more orthodox than Cardinal Mahony. It's not just that Archbishop Gomez will likely give some relief to faithful Catholics in the Los Angeles Archdiocese who have been dismayed by liturgical abuses and similar ills.

It's simply the reality that Cardinal Mahony can be called a conciliar cleric, and Archbishop Gomez, a post-conciliar one. Cdl. Mahony was ordained a priest in 1962, the same year that Vatican II began; Archbishop Gomez was an eleven-year-old boy at the time, and was not ordained until 1978--long after the Second Vatican Council's changes to the liturgy had been implemented.

Why does this matter? I think that those priests and bishops and archbishops and cardinals who were young, idealistic priests at the time of Vatican II are more likely to have adopted a spirit of experimentation, of rupture from the past; they are more likely to be enamored of the idea of change for change's sake, and less tied to tradition and antiquity. This is, of course, not a universal truth; there are many exceptions, our pope among them. But when I meet priests of a certain age, I am less likely to assume that they are orthodox in their theology and liturgical practice--and it is more often then not the case that they are not.

There still exists, I think, among some such clergy members a sense of disappointment that Vatican II did not change as much as they would like; there is a rejection of the notion of the "hermeneutic of continuity" and a belief that Vatican II really did intend to change and sweep away all that had gone before. Some, not all, of these priests, bishops, etc. were so committed to that notion that it has continued to guide them up to the present day. I can't say certainly that this is true of Cardinal Mahony, but it does not seem, from the reports from his diocese, that it is at all a stretch to think so.

The younger priests and bishops, bishops like Archbishop Gomez, have not necessarily tied themselves to this ideology or philosophy. While appreciating Vatican II, many of them also honor the great Catholic traditions and experiences of the past; they do not necessarily think that music and art which was popular and trendy in 1970 is the best sort of music and art to incorporate into the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; they tend to like statues, and are rather indifferent to banners. This does not mean that all of them are eager to celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the liturgy, of course, or to institute the personal favorite liturgical reforms of any particular group--but they are at least more likely to believe that the Mass ought to be a sacred, solemn, Catholic sort of affair, and less likely to smile on day-glo garbed liturgical dancers pirouetting around with smoking bowls of incense as they invoke the elements, or something; they are less likely to be tolerant and permissive when it comes to allowing lay leaders to wreak merry havoc on the Mass, and more likely to set an altogether different liturgical tone, one which actually looks to the various documents on the proper celebration of the Mass more than it looks to the trite, trendy, and evanescent, or to the notions of haughty Haugenites and proud professional liturgists.

For the sake of the people of Los Angeles, it is my hope and prayer that Archbishop Gomez will be the type of the post-conciliar cleric I've described here. It's high time, even in an excruciatingly conventionally unconventional city like Los Angeles, that the garish shades of day-glo faded to clerical black.


Carmela James said...

I attended a Catholic university in San Antonio for four years, and I remember always being pretty happy with the job that Bishop Gomez was doing.

For example, during the 2008 election campaigning my university invited Hillary Clinton to speak without asking Bishop Gomez's permission. Boy, did they get in trouble.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Since Mahoney got into trouble over the sex abuse scandal, rather than having a co-adjutor appointed in response to his supposed fidelity to Vatican II, I can't help wondering whether your perfectly sincere expressions of relief are a mirror image of those who use the sex abuse scandal to attack the very existence of the church.

His possible responsibility for covering the sins of priests in his diocese is being played up, perhaps more so than the equal sins of others of his brethren, because it provides a convenient cover for certain factions within the church who dislike his leadership in other, unrelated, areas? I remember him as a sincere friend of California's farm workers when he was Bishop of Stockton, and I am rather saddened that his current office has also been subject to scandal.

I must admit I have no admiration at all for Opus Dei, although I have no fear that it is going to take over the world and restore the Inquisition or any such things. I enjoy listening to medieval music, including, although I am a Protestant who recognizes no celestial role for Jesus's mother, listening to a tape of Ave Maria. Its a beautiful song, and was written in veneration of God, as well as of the view that Mary can be an intercessor.

There is much that I admire about Vatican II: the definitive abandonment of doctrinal anti-Semitism, toning down rhetoric about "the scandal of Protestantism," (which in turn makes it possible to tone down anti-Catholic nativism), and some room for worship to be conducted in the vernacular, although there is a certain beauty in Latin also. Guitars can sound good in a worship service -- they can also become a distracting fetish. That is equally true in Protestant liturgy.

Anonymous said...

AB Gomez' stance on illegal immigration is disturbing. He's pretty much for amnesty.