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 Behind the Times 

July 12, 2007 
Tridentine RitePope Benedict keeps reminding me why I am a Catholic. If I hadn’t converted as a boy, I would now. In the space of a few days he has moved to correct the very things that once helped me (along with my own sins) to lose my faith.

Today's column is "Behind the Times" -- Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.Tridentine RiteFirst, he took steps to restore the ancient Tridentine Rite, commonly known as the Latin Mass. This beautiful liturgy connects today’s Church with its ancestors all the way back to the days of persecution in ancient Rome, and its use has given worshippers the sense not only of antiquity, but eternity. I still love the responses I learned as a youth: “Domine, non sum dignus ...”

Tridentine RiteI never understood why anything so gravely beautiful and venerable should be abandoned for jejune modern vernaculars; what was gained by the supposed “reform”? The Novus Ordo liturgy has always made me feel as if I’d dropped in on a slangy Unitarian ceremony.

Tridentine RiteThe liturgical “reform,” moreover, backfired miserably on its own terms. It impaired belief itself; and Mass attendance, Catholic education, frequent confession, and big families decreased sharply along with belief. These were the opposite of the happy results the liberal reformers confidently predicted, and the Church lost both its authority with Catholics and the wider respect and influence it had enjoyed among Protestants and even in the secular world.

Tridentine RiteThe entire world has suffered from the misguided changes wrought by the Second Vatican Council. Try to imagine the solar system if the sun dimmed and lost its attraction for the planets, and you have the idea. If the Council had never occurred, would the U.S. Supreme Court have dared to strike down laws against feticide? Would the Episcopal Church be ordaining sexual perverts today? Such questions answer themselves. The world has never seen so consequential an abdication of authority. It has been like the effect on a family of a father’s suicide.

Tridentine RiteThe Pope has also reaffirmed the supremacy of the Catholic Church, a doctrine never denied, but certainly soft-pedaled since the disastrous Council. For some reason this has irritated many Protestants, who seem to think their sects can thrive without the strong presence of Catholicism. Incredibly, one Protestant editor has referred to Catholicism as a “denomination,” rather like Mormonism. Does he know what the word means? He might as well speak of the sun and moon as “planets.”

[Breaker quote for Behind the Times: Where we belong]Tridentine RiteLike its Founder, the Catholic Church has an unending power to inspire hatred in those who reject it. The world’s hate is one of the proofs of its divine origin and authority. After 2,000 years, it is still persecuted, still treated as a threat. But no worldly persecution could have damaged it as much as Vatican II.

Tridentine RiteAnd yet the Church never compromised the essentials of faith and morals. Amid the hysteria of a “population explosion” in the Sixties, even the weak Pope Paul VI, against tremendous pressure, refused to relax the Church’s condemnation of contraception. Now look. White Europe is depopulated and overrun with aliens; its very survival is in doubt.

Tridentine RiteBut the last thing man gives up, even in the face of death and damnation, is his pride, and very few Europeans, even in formerly Catholic countries, can bring themselves to admit, “We were wrong. The sexual revolution has been a calamity for our civilization. The Church was exactly right.” Europe could finally see that communism was a dreadful failure, but it still can’t bear to repent. Even as the end draws near, the syphilitic Prodigal Son is still whoring away. God wants to save us so much more than we want to be saved!

Tridentine RiteAs G.K. Chesterton, one of the greatest and most joyously funny writers in the English language, wrote seventy years ago, “The Church is always in advance of the world. That is why it is said to be behind the times.” “Only the Catholic Church,” he also observed, “can save a man from the degraded slavery of being a child of his age.”

Tridentine RiteIt’s ennobling to belong to a church centuries behind the times, as they say, and indifferent to the fashions of the day; but it’s supremely undignified to belong to a church five minutes behind the times while always huffing and puffing to catch up. Benedict’s papacy is already a glorious one.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2007 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
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