Faggioli on U.S. Traditionalism: A Response

At Commonweal in “Traditionalism, American-Style. A new kind of opposition to Rome,” Massimo Faggioli notes that the reaction to Traditionis custodes in the U.S. has been

“hostile (from those already militantly opposed to the pope) or lukewarm (from most of the U.S. bishops).”

The more hostile reaction is seen in the recent book From Benedict’s Peace to Francis’s War: Catholics Respond to the Motu Proprio ‘Traditionis Custodes’ on the Latin Mass, which has chapters by Cardinal Raymond Burke and Archbishop Viganò. Faggioli says that the book “represent(s) an escalation in the rhetoric against Francis.” He sees “a crisis in urgent need of a Catholic-to-Catholic ecumenism.”

In Faggioli’s view,

“the center of Catholic neo-traditionalism is no longer exclusively French-speaking Catholicism in Europe, but conservative Catholicism in the United States. (In this sense it should be noted that the “globalization of Catholicism” does not necessarily make the Catholic Church theologically more progressive.) While there remains a French component to the opposition to Pope Francis and synodality, … the voice of American Catholic traditionalism has become louder than the French.”

Faggioli notes that

“though the new traditionalists make up a very small minority of Catholics, they nonetheless have an outsized voice both in conservative mainstream media and on social media,”

and that

“neo-traditionalism is attached to and benefits from the momentum of a political crisis in the United States.”

It overlaps with “Catholic Trumpism.”

In Faggioli’s telling, there are two sides in things liturgical. Either one supports Vatican II and the reformed liturgy to the exclusion of the preconciliar liturgy, or one shows greater or lesser openness to the preconciliar liturgy, which seems to be equated with opposition to Vatican II. This way of dividing things up was more or less the position of Paul VI, and it seems to be the position most compatible with the directives of Sacrosanctum Concilium.

But that doesn’t mean that everyone behaves themselves today by aligning with one or the other side. It would be interesting to explore further the mindset of those people who don’t fit neatly in either camp – those who, for example, happily worship primarily with the Vatican II liturgy, but don’t see the preconciliar liturgy as particularly bad or harmful and don’t mind attending it at times.

Perhaps these people are mistaken: the case can be made, and has been made ably by many, that the preconciliar liturgy is incompatible with the large advances made by the Second Vatican Council in ecclesiology and liturgical theology and inculturation and all the rest. What to do, then, with those ambivalent Catholics who do not see the incoherence of their liturgical sensitivities?

The number of such Catholics may be small, but they are overrepresented among younger clergy and laity, which means their influence, for better or worse, will likely increase in coming years. One can only hope that Francis is able to inspire these folks to adopt his and Paul VI’s interpretation of Vatican II, but that remains very much to be seen.

But Faggioli’s primary concern is not those whose somewhat conservative-leaning liturgical sensitivities impair their full acceptance of Vatican II. His focus is on the traditionalists who are most hostile to Pope Francis. And Faggioli calls out Benedict XVI for his role in setting up the current divisions these traditionalists are fomenting:

“(T)he rupture that Benedict XVI created in advancing liturgical traditionalism (see 2007’s Summorum Pontificum) and in his policies on Vatican II is something today’s traditionalists can exploit—and they do.”

In my view, and I don’t think Faggioli would disagree, Benedict XVI made a tragic miscalculation. He did not see that the liturgical infelicities and abuses in the manner of celebrating the postconciliar liturgy (Richard J. Neuhaus spoke of the “silly season”) were already in a process of self-correction by the 1980s and 1990s, and that the liturgy of Paul VI was beginning to come into its own as a beautiful and reverent celebration of the entire community. A sort of liturgical “re-Catholicization” was happily underway, but now, at its best at least, rooted in the genius of the reformed rite.

Benedict was still reacting to the liturgical problems of the 60s and 70s and thought, oddly, that the existence of the old liturgy would somehow improve the way the reformed liturgy is celebrated. We should take Benedict at his word that he accepted the so-called “ordinary form” of the Roman rite. He was never in the traditionalists’ camp, however much they appealed to him. He was in fact passionate about a more worthy celebration of the liturgy of Paul VI. His manner of getting there was questionable. If anything, Summorum Pontificum slowed down the process of “re-Catholicization” of the Pauline liturgy by pushing people into two opposing liturgical camps, thereby making defenders of the Pauline liturgy (the much larger camp) more defensive about  the status quo.

Faggioli’s piece in Commonweal helpfully portrays the liturgical divide between those who fully accept Vatican II and those who do not. I hope my comments here help fill out the picture by also taking into consideration those who fall somewhere in between these contrasting positions. With their divided loyalties and their idiosyncratic understandings of Vatican II, they are a group to be taken seriously.

awr

21 comments

  1. I think the most grievous practitioners, be they of silly liturgy or schismatic anti-Francis folk get an overly large share of attention. Then policy/legislation is enacted accordingly. Priests riding in on live donkeys on Palm Sunday and Pius XIII are really two sides of the same coin.

    I think the slowdown happened at least a decade before SP. All through the 80s, I remember colleagues looking forward to the next Sacramentary, the first to be carefully translated, harmonized with the revised Lectionary. None of us loved the MR1. We all saw it as a first effort, a stepping stone to the next stage of reform.

    TLM promoters had nothing to do with the scuttling of MR2. It was Roman people who misread the situation on the ground. In my less charitable moments, I might suggest it was the grave sin of envy. But who knows, and at this point, who cares? We are back to where we were forty years ago, and likely worse off: people are tired of reform; many have left active ministry or the Church or this life; there is no expectation of MR4. We have literally liturgical dregs in MR3: a poor translation, a closed process, tinkering with widespread annoyance. Vatican 1.5 in essence.

    In a way, I’d almost be happy to trade: take the TLM as you wish, and leave the Roman Rite the **** alone.

    1. With SP that seemed to be the direction we were heading in! No TLM enthusiast had much interest at all in how the P6 missal was revised or translated.

      And then came July…

  2. It seems quite clear that Benedict’s action in issuing Summorum Pontificum was prompted by nostalgia of a man in his dotage. Here was a pope who had been raised in a certain tradition and who thought that the ideal liturgy was a Eucharist incorporating a full-blown performance, orchestra and all, of Mozart’s Coronation Mass. He was simply replicating pleasurable experiences from his childhood. It is difficult to maintain that this shows a real understanding of the post-Vatican II liturgy, no matter how much he wrote about it, and it makes one wonder whether ultimately Benedict ever espoused Vatican II at all. He had, after all, entered into a pact with Medina to undo it.

    Another area in which Benedict appeared to err was his conviction that the liturgy had been handed down from on high — was almost an ontological entity by itself — and so could not be touched or adapted. This stance was well in line with Guéranger, who was the first to try to put the liturgy on a pedestal in a glass case. This view flew in the face of the history of the liturgy and did more harm than good. We are still suffering from the ill effects of Guéranger’s liturgical restoration, which was typical of 19th-century antiquarianism, and has doubtless helped to fuel the present dispute.

    A third mistake, due no doubt to having been very badly advised by people who told him what he wanted to hear, was Benedict’s attempt to pretend that Paul VI had never abrogated the Tridentine Mass, despite the fact that he had followed the same procedure as all his predecessors when they abrogated previous practices. At the time, liturgical scholars went into contortions, trying to justify what was clearly an error by the pontiff. Now Francis has untied that particular knot by abrogating in his turn.

    At some point in the future, with a sense of perspective, people will see the parallel existence of two forms of the Roman Rite as just a blip in liturgical history. The problem is that, at the moment, that 14-year period is one of the primary reasons for all the anger and resentment on the part of a group which has had its toys taken away.

    1. Have you ever read anything that Ratzinger ever wrote about these issues? You may be surprised by what you find if you actually read him. Your statements betray a deep ignorance of your thought matched only perhaps by your deep hatred and condescension. I for one think that only someone in a state of dotage themselves would think that your claims about Ratzinger are true.

  3. I think Father Ruff is correct: there is a tertium quid.

    I would suggest that efforts toward them should consider that:

    -arguments from authority are not persuasive when they are rooted in the thesis that Benedict was wrong and Francis right;

    -for many in the tertium quid, Paul Inwood’s image of Benedict being fond of Mozart Masses is probably more appealing than the typical Sunday Mass they experience.

    The tertium quid, I suspect, does not care that the paschal mystery is more heavily highlighted. They don’t care that we now have more pericopes from Deuteronomy. They don’t care about alleged benefits from pneumatological references or suppression of anything that smacks of anticipated consecration.

    The tertium quid does care, instinctively I suspect, if:

    -clericalism is alive and well in the person of an omnipresent cantor or other talking head (usually needlessly amplified) who constantly seeks to “foster unity” by telling the captive audience exactly what to say and sing to prove participation is full, conscious, and active;

    -music is dreadful, such that the old Low Mass seems a welcome escape from the banality and misery;

    -the experience is a time warp to 1975 in terms of music; vestments; church decor;

    -there is a pervasive bleakness, occasioned by the nearly bare sanctuary (devoid as it of artwork) and especially by the fact that most of the Pauline liturgical texts have been reduced to such an anodyne state that it is all too easy to forget what one just heard, even if what one heard was spoken in the vernacular (and probably amplified).

    The tertium quid doesn’t simply accept that the Missal of Paul VI is better than what preceded it. And in a pandemic era where it is all too easy to get a sense of what is done weekly in many places worldwide, it is easy to see why a tertium quid exists. Outright abuses may be relatively rare…but the above realities are all alive and well.

    1. I would suggest that it’s pretty rare for music to be in a time warp of the mid-1970s (at least in the USA); but that I’ve certainly encountered places where the apparent center of time gravity of its hymnody and psalmody congealed around the early 1990s, roughly 3 decades ago. That would perhaps because the dominant groups of pastors and maybe music directors came out of formation around that time and formed around what the “market” offered then. One wouldn’t necessarily know that the choral sacred music world has been in something of a golden age (in relative terms) in recent decades, more so than instrumental music on the non-pop side of things.

      All that said, the people in the pews are invoked as the reason for the choices, but rarely surveyed in ways that allow genuine critical feedback but mostly that (probably mostly unintentionally) encourage a strong measure of selection/confirmation bias. And the people who are no longer in the pews also remove themselves from the equation entirely – and generally not noticed because we don’t typically do that in dominant (for then and for now at least) Anglo-American Catholic culture. People motivated by good liturgical music and good preaching often will, if they can find alternatives, take themselves elsewhere if they have nothing else to anchor themselves in a parish – and that seems to be the default formula for “resolving” this dynamic. While their money might be missed, otherwise, probably not so much.

      * * *

      Thank you, O Lord, for all the blessings and answered prayers you have given me, especially those that I don’t know of, don’t understand, don’t appreciate, or take for granted. Amen.

    2. Lee is correct, IMO.

      For me, another issue I have when coming here is understanding where the big proponents of the OF are coming from. The supposed richness and fuller participation of the new Mass is lost on me. I would say my participation at a well celebrated OF is roughly equivalent to my participation at a mediocre EF High Mass or average Low Mass. Reading how folks like Paul or Fr Anthony talk about the reform it almost seems as if the difference is magic, or simply an article of blind faith and not based on real experience. Perhaps I would feel different if I were ever moved to be a lector or EMHC.

      I think those against the continued use the of the EF are stuck on the nostalgia angle as the answer to everything. The majority of people at a typical EF grew up only knowing the OF and are “fleeing” it to something they perceive as richer. I recall my experience of Eastern Catholic Mass being similar. About half of the people I talked to were “refugees” from the Novus Ordo looking for something richer.

  4. As a member of the tertium quid I can thank Paul Inwood for providing a perfect caricature of the progressive liturgist to show what’s wrong with that side of the debate. To dismiss Benedict’s decisions as mere mistakes by a man in his dotage is frankly offensive, and shows an unwillingness to engage with the issues. I wouldn’t believe that an intelligent man with a public profile would say something so blinkered in writing if I hadn’t seen it for myself.

    I converted to Catholicism in adulthood because I wanted to find something older and stronger than modern consumer society, and I saw in the Church something ancient that would still be here in 1000 years, when all the current fads and fashions have passed away. I emphatically did not want its public worship to be modernised or rationalised: I wanted hieratic and ritualised worship conducted using forms that looked, felt, and were genuinely old, and provided a vivid encounter with the sacred.

    The new liturgy (*as typically celebrated*) does not provide that, which is why my wife and I now go to the TLM regularly instead. We don’t have ideological objections (or other objections) to Vatican 2, we just think that the liturgy that came out of it was a misstep, and that to bulldozer all those centuries of liturgical tradition was an act of self-harm, as though the Church had demolished all the Gothic cathedrals of Europe and replaced with them modern concrete ones. It’s also personally upsetting to see the hierarchy setting off down this path again, after the sanity of the Benedict years: why do they want to take our religion away from us? I can well understand that some people might get very little out of the old liturgy and vastly prefer the new, but the Church is surely big enough for us as well as them.

    Benedict/Ratzinger wrote in a private letter (quoted in print) that in the long term he wanted a return to the traditional rite, with perhaps a few additions from the new Mass. That is a recent Pope’s opinion, so it can be mine as well.

  5. I find these sorts of comments sadly amusing: “the experience is a time warp to 1975 in terms of music; vestments; church decor”.

    Karl is right. 1975 found a depopulation of organ lofts in progress and the pre-conciliar four-hymn sandwich at the beginning of a handoff to the one folk Mass on the parish schedule. More amusing is the “remembrance” of “On Eagles Wings” and early 80s repertoire as folky strumming music when it was almost anything but.

    His testimony that the early 1990s represented a crystalization of a “national” repertoire is fairly accurate. It took about twenty years for many organists to disappear, for pianos to be brought into suburban churches, for the psalm and unified Mass settings to settle into broad use, if not in the majority of parishes, and for the publishers to settle into something of a sharing of songs. Each corporation has kind of gone their own way since, especially with a new generation of “youth” oriented music. And if parishes have any kind of continuity (one music director or a careful succession) the build-up of quality has continued, if a bit more slowly.

    If people can’t agree on the facts of history (not just their favorite or hated parish) then the discussion seems rather lacking of roots or hope.

    That B16 might have been traumatized by 1968 or in dotage in 2007 isn’t relevant. He probably got the history as wrong as any other Catholic. He had his view, just like anybody else that lived through the last third of the 20th century. Either he made a mistake or took bad advice or his experiment will come to a premature conclusion.

  6. This false dichotomy that pits those who fully accept Vatican II and the reformed liturgy to the exclusion of the preconciliar liturgy, and those who show greater or lesser openness to the preconciliar liturgy and are thus oppose Vatican II, is not helpful at all. This mentality is indeed part of the problem. Nor does it improve the situation by saying that there is a middle ground made up of those who do not outright reject Vatican II but only, mistakenly, fail to realize how the preconciliar liturgy is in reality incompatible with Vatican II.

    I fully accept Vatican II but, like Pope Benedict XVI and others, I see it as a reform in continuity with the past rather than a rupture and repudiation of it. The reform that the Council called for was an adjustment of the received liturgy, not its replacement. Even Pope Francis reminds us in Traditionis custodes that the Council asked that “the rites be revised carefully in the light of sound tradition” and that “whoever wishes to celebrate with devotion according to earlier forms of the liturgy can find in the reformed Roman Missal according to Vatican Council II all the elements of the Roman Rite.”

    The true middle ground is not those who do not fully understand and appreciate the large advances made by the Second Vatican Council, but those who fully accept Vatican II and the reformed liturgy but who would take advantage of those options already present in the reformed Missal for a traditional form of the Mass. It has been the suppression of these options that has led many to seek refuge in the older form of the Mass. Until a fully traditional form of the reformed Mass is acknowledged and accepted as being completely legitimate and in accord with Vatican II and the reformed liturgy, the calls for the abandonment of the old Mass will ring hollow since those making that call themselves reject the reform liturgy as it has been promulgated.

    1. You make the point about traditional options in the OF being suppressed frequently, yet few here seem interested in grappling with the issue. However, I think it is one of the biggest keys to understanding the evolution of traditionalism over the past half century and it would have been the single largest preventative measure to any supposed division taking place now. Aside for a couple major cities worldwide, most notably London it seems, an even vaguely traditional celebration of the OF simply didn’t exist and any requests for such a thing were ignored. I even know people who were told by priests back in the 80s and 90s that such celebrations were forbidden By Vatican II or were even more difficult to be granted permission for than the 1962 Mass since it required direct Vatican approval. The idea that traditional Novus Ordo Masses were readily available and people simply didn’t want them is a major revision of history.

      1. Unless we are to assume that Pope Francis was being disingenuous in his remarks then we have to accept that Traditionis custodes is not only calling for all Catholics to be united in the reformed liturgy but that there needs to be a new openness to a traditional form of that rite as the proper alternative to the preconciliar liturgy.

  7. Some weeks ago, I asked whether Pray Tell readers who love the older Mass would want a future pope to ban the new. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that most commenters here took an irenic stance, as with Jack Wayne’s comment:

    …I am live and let live. People’s spiritual lives are more important than your or my preferences. I see it as cruel to take away something that harms no one but brings them closer to God.

    But some widely read online voices are louder. They see Traditiones Custodes as overly restrictive – “religious liberty!” – but would be happy for a future Pius XIII to get rid of the Mass of Paul VI. They see it as, at best, a valid form of consecration, and entirely inferior to the older, no matter how celebrated. The liturgical, canon law, and disciplinary reforms of the 20th century, starting from Pope Pius X, have been described as a sin against the Holy Spirit. And some online “integralists” would roll back many of the teachings of Vatican II, in particular on religious liberty, or reinterpret them entirely. Many approve of the abduction of Edgardo Mortara. One of the most prominent “integralist” writers says that, in certain circumstances, the Church needs should call in the secular arm to put heretics to death. “This power can be abused, but it also has a legitimate use.” All this without obvious irony. And the old Mass is tightly linked to this agenda, in their publications.

    This is a problem, not because religious liberty is an absolute good, but because they are calling for liberties to be used in order to get rid of religious liberty. That has not gone so well in the Middle East. How would today’s shrillest internet “traditionalists” have fared when the Index Librorum Prohibitorum was in use? How would the “integralists” who are rehabilitating the Inquisition have been treated back then, when they attacked the pope?

    Is every opponent of TC such a “traditionalist” or “integralist”? Surely not. Nonetheless I think Faggioli and Anthony raise an important question. The “traditionalists” and “integralists” are getting heard, sometimes in high places – I think of Carlo Maria Viganò and his access to EWTN, or to advisors to the former Trump administration – including the mainstream academy. If their agenda were really limited to allowing the old Mass to be celebrated alongside the new, or to celebrating the new in a “more traditional way”, there would be less cause for concern. But it goes far beyond those objectives.

    1. Perhaps there is an analogy between the integralists/tradinistas who would establish a confessional state and/or abolish the reformed liturgy and the purveyors of clown-Masses, do-it-yourself Massess, etc. Neither is entirely a fiction (I was actually present at an academic conference where the kidnapping of Mortara was defended and I have been to a number of Masses where the Roman Missal was nowhere to be seen), but neither represents anything approaching a majority on either side. Perhaps those of a traditional inclination need to see that integralists etc. hurt their causes and are in some sense more of a problem for them than most of those who are enthusiastic about the liturgical reforms, just as those who support the reformed liturgy need to see that sloppy, lawless liturgical celebrations are more of a problem for them than most of those who might want to attend Mass celebrated according to the 1962 Missal. Mote, beam, etc. has communal relevance as well as individual.

    2. On this question of banning the Novus Ordo, I thought it was worth quoting Ratzinger (as he then was) at some length:

      “The Roman rite of the future should be a single rite, celebrated in Latin or in the vernacular, but standing completely in the tradition of the rite that has been handed down. It could take up some new elements which have proved their worth, like new feasts, some new prefaces in the Mass, an expanded lectionary – more choice than earlier, but not too much, an oratio fidelium, i.e. a fixed litany of intercession following the Oremus before the offertory where it had its place earlier.”

      Whether this “single rite” would be essentially the TLM reinstated with some minor changes or the Novus Ordo reformed so as to bring it into line with “the rite that has been handed down” is an open question, but presumably it would be one of those two things, and the other one would logically cease to be used.

      Now, these are the the words of arguably the most senior cardinal at that point (2003), who then became Pope, and who is still alive today and wearing white. I doubt he is the only senior churchman to hold this view, at least privately. On the question of liturgy it therefore isn’t feasible to say that trads are somehow going against the Church, as Faggioli etc. like to suggest, because this position is an integral (ho ho) part of contemporary Catholicism at the highest levels. It isn’t going away.

      1. This is a fascinating quotation!

        I do find it quite surprising that he talks of a different rite in the future, “standing completely in the tradition of the rite that has been handed down.” When he wrote this it was in fact the position of the magisterium that the Missal of 1970 DID “stand completely in the tradition of the rite that has been handed down.” Anyone could find the numerous times that the pope (Paul VI) made that point.

        I suppose some readers are getting tired of us going over the same ground over and over, and at some point I can wrap up this discussion, but for now I’ll say just once more: the position of Benedict is an outlier, compared to the magisterial statements of Paul VI and Pope Francis.

        But as you say, Ratzinger did say this. Although maybe we should note that this was a statement by a theologian who was not pope, and I don’t believe he said something this strong in his papal function of articulating the magisterium’s position.

        Thank you for sharing the quotation.

        awr

      2. My head will probably explode if I start trying to work out when and to what extent papal statements about the liturgy become Magisterial rather than being essentially statements of policy, but I suspect that’s part of this whole thing. Some would argue that the Pope saying “the new liturgy is traditional” is rather like Waugh’s example of a Pope saying that it is raining outside when it isn’t: the correct answer isn’t to say that it must be raining spiritually but we are too sinful to see it.

        I would be really interested to hear someone tell me what teachings of V2 are supposed to be expressed by the new rite and cannot be seen expressed by the old, which seems to be part of the Faggioli position. And also to hear whether such teachings are in fact expressed by a “trad” Novus Ordo which lacks e.g. lay lectors or versus populum. The things traddies typically most object to are optional, from what I can see, so it’s hard to be convinced that one should just submit to them in obedience to the Council – I don’t need to be obedient to a liturgical fashion that I might disapprove of.

        My own feeling is that “accepting” the new Mass and “accepting” the Council and “accepting” Humanae Vitae were all equally necessary in Paul VI’s view because to do so meant accepting Church and papal authority. I also think the new liturgy plays a similar role to that of the Prayer Book in the English Reformation: a compromise liturgy backed by authority which all parties in the Church are expected to accept as a means to unity and stability rather than on its own merits. That makes sense in political terms (if bishops were publicly dissenting from my big encyclical I’d be darned sure to stop them ignoring my new liturgy as well), but it’s hard to see how it is actually a logical requirement of orthodoxy.

        Oh, that Ratzinger quote is in The Banished Heart, by an author whose name escapes me at the moment. Very happy to find the reference if anyone is interested.

      3. Edward, thanks for this comment. I think you’ve stated well the central neuralgic question: “What is the magisterium’s position on liturgy?” It is related to the question, “What all is binding in the pastoral statements of Vatican II that represent a change of worldview but are not, strictly speaking, doctrinal formulations?” I don’t think we have an answer to that.
        awr

  8. Fritz, we could go back and forth about the frequency of clown Masses, in both the normative and the older rites.

    Joking aside, I agree with you. The current translation is terrible, but celebrants have no business editing it on the fly or imposing novel ritual elements. We, the people, deserve a celebration that’s predictable and “by the book”, without folderol that interrupts prayers and calls attention to the priest.

    The frequency of weird pronouncements from the “trad” camp is low — e.g. this defense of the Inquisition from the US SSPX website — “an honest tribunal, which sought to convert heretics more than to punish them, which condemned relatively few people to the flames, and which only employed torture in exceptional cases.” Scroll down to see its gruesome description of the methods of torture, which we are supposed to approve because they “bore no resemblance to the sadistic tortures of the Gestapo or the KGB.”

    I am not making this up.

    Low frequency, high severity. For me, this kind of thing is far worse than a priest inserting a “the” before “many” in the prayer of consecration. But others may weigh these matters differently.

    1. Perhaps we need to clarify what we are talking about when we speak of traditionalists, especially regarding TC. I don’t consider someone attending the 12:00 EF put on by a regular diocesan priest or a ICK/FSSP Mass to be in the same camp as the SSPX. Discussions about TC and traditional Novus Ordos may have some implications for reunification with that group, but they otherwise are not affected by those things. The EF could be banned tomorrow and they wouldn’t have to do anything different. There’s an SSPX Mass near me, so I rarely if ever encounter those who attend it since they don’t go to the same EF that I do. While I know folks sympathetic to them, or who have family with them, and who would like them to reunify, I don’t consider them the same “camp.”

      Now, I have encountered people in real life at both the EF and OF who have been taken by crazies like Vigano, but that problem strikes me as something that will not go away by merely banning the EF.

    2. I don’t think anyone’s head should explode over the “the” inserted before the “many.” But at the recent funeral of a deacon I was treated to a celebrant who thought it good to introduce the Our Father with an anecdote about (I kid you not) Jack Nicholson jogging, and I did feel like someone had planted an IED in my head. He was of a certain generation, and I think this sort of thing doesn’t happen often these days (as you say, low-frequency; high-severity), but it does still happen.

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