|Msgr. Alfred N. Gilbey|
source: Fisher House, Cambridge University
In preparation for our series on the traditionalist movement I have been reading more on and by the late Msgr. Alfred Newman Gilbey. Currently, at the suggestion of Mr. Alan Robinson, I am perusing his We Believe, a short volume on the faith based upon a conventional question-and-answer catechism, but expanded to give a prudent and well reasoned synopsis of the Church's understanding and teaching on its topics. Gilbey manages to be both traditional, in the apolitical sense of the word, and fresh at the same time. I would like to draw attention to two particulars of this book that have caught my interest thus far.
This first is Gilbey's treatment of the concept of doctrinal development, so often misunderstood by those who wish to change doctrine or by those who believe the Apostles taught with philosophically loaded terms like "accidents" and "essence." I have already touched on this matter in my overview of St. Vincent of Lerins here, but Gilbey expounds the matter better than I possibly could:
"Someone who has not grasped the concept of the Church as a person finds it difficult to understand her changing superficial aspects. Like a person, the Church is not static at all. Not only is she growing in the obvious, external matters of expansion, organisation and the rest, but she is growing too in an understanding of herself. Just as you now understand yourself better [than] you did at any earlier period of your life, so does she. If you or I were to embark on a new intellectual discipline such as psychology, our understanding of ourselves would increase while our identities would remain unchanged. So, too, the Church has adopted new vocabularies throughout her history to explain what she always believed. She pressed Greek philosophy into her service to provide the precise vocabulary she required to express what she had always believed about the Incarnation. She did the same when she used the terms of Aristotle's philosophy to describe the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist and again when she used the concept of evolution in the nineteenth century to describe the development of doctrines which she had believed in embryo from the first moment of her being.... I.... could not have given this identical instruction word for word 50 years ago. But do I believe something different? By God's grace, no."
The other interesting part is the end of chapter 8, where the monsignor discusses why the Church, a society comprised of people incorporated into Christ, has laws that we must obey: "Take the liturgical changes through which we have been passing. Many people have found them distasteful, but there is no question that you must obey them." Gilbey celebrated neither the Pauline Mass nor the 1962 Mass. He was a strict pre-Pian Missal user. Indeed, he once violently expelled a "EF" Missal that had imposed on his traditional one! The human laws of the Church have value based on their place in the tradition of the Church. It is good to realize Msgr. Gilbey saw that, too.