Fr. Anthony Ruff has been characteristically modest in publishing, in America (and in excerpts on this blog), his “Open Letter to the U.S. Catholic Bishops on the Forthcoming Missal” (America, February 14, 2011). The letter is quiet, even though it means what it says. If you have had any trouble finding the complete document along with the 77 responses to date, here is a link, at least for now. The Pray Tell response area was closed to comment, which is the privilege of anyone who writes a main article.
In America, most of the responders praise Anthony for his “courage and wisdom”—virtues we have witnessed on Pray Tell. But, and I did not count them, significant “ad hominems” are there as well, going after the man, not his position. He is said to have “a problem with his vow of obedience and acceptance of authority.” One person prays that he will overcome his faith issues and return to his vows. He is not “brave,” another says, because “brave is being a faithful, obedient Catholic in today’s material world.”
I suppose Anthony opened himself to such kinds of personal diagnoses by writing a letter about his actions and reactions. But I have known Anthony for years now and I believe him literally when he says that he has wept over the matters he refers to. All of us should acknowledge that he knows a lot more about the spidery trail of the translations than any of us do. He has been in a position to see what happened. True to his vows, to the advice of his confessor, and certainly in consultation with his Prior, he has chosen to keep silent on a great many of the egregious mistakes that have been made. I am proud of him for that, and I believe his words, “I love the Church, I love the sacred liturgy, I love chant in Latin and English, and I treasure being involved with all these as a monk and priest.”
I do have respect for the America respondents who think he sees “the authority of the Church in general as a ‘top down imposition’.” But I don‘t find that sentiment in the letter and I do not for a moment think he referring to the Pope. Anthony talks about “a larger pattern of top-down imposition by a central authority.” Who is that? He does not say, but he nowhere says we should get rid of obedience in the Church. I believe he is asking for restoration of the practice of consultation, something Vatican II established as an integral part of obedience. He implies that matters for decision need to be shared so that the Holy Spirit can speak not only in the name of God but also in the name of God’s presence at the various levels of the Church.
Vatican II had more widespread discussions and consultations than any other council in history. These are mistrusted by some, I know, but they do show how the Church itself values shared discussion as opposed to ubiquitous secrecy. I think this is what Anthony is pointing to, and especially in the present case. I hope his eyes will remain opened, and help us resolve what has turned out to be pretty messy.