Those Catholics who support the idea of a Catholic University that is actually Catholic have always had an eye on the successes and setbacks of Ave Maria University. It promised much good, has actually brought some of it about, and now stands in a precarious position relative to its mission.

Fr. Joseph Fessio, who used to be the philosophical force behind the University, and its very public face, was a leader in the so-called “reform of the reform” movement. This movement seeks a third way between those who adhere to the tradition of the Church, seeking its restoration, and those who enjoy the novel teachings and practices that arose in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, always claiming that the Council mandated whatever atrocities they perpetrate on the Church at large.

O.K., I am oversimplifying. But the reform of the reform movement seeks to go back to the time of the Council and try to divine the reform of praxis that the Council “really mandated”, which can be, and obviously has been, problematic, because many of the Council’s documents are ambiguous and subject to varying interpretations. None of this should be news to Catholics who have paid attention in the last few decades.

Reform of the reform people have been in the past generally tolerant of the traditional liturgy and those who support it. Lately they have been even supportive, due to the run up to, and promulgation of, Summorum Pontificum. To them, the Pope has spoken, and they submit, which of course is a good thing to do.

However, one must always remember that they consider the current state of affairs to be a temporary thing. That the freeing of the traditional Mass is good, because it puts pressure on the novus ordo to be celebrated reverently, and also because it provides a baseline for their new plans to reform the liturgy. The novus ordo has been a disaster for the Church, and they can see that it is far more sensible to reform the TLM than to rein in the novus ordo.

Traditionalists also see the current state of affairs as temporary, and hope that the Church’s traditional liturgy will triumph over novelty, leaving any changes to it the result of organic development, as was the case for 1965 years before.

However, it has always struck me as odd that those who acknowledge that changes to the liturgy must be organically developed over time can turn around and plan what those changes will be. How can that be organic development?

Well, back on point. Fr. Fessio saw his role at Ave Maria greatly reduced a few years back, leaving the liturgical direction in the hands of those friendly to the so-called Catholic charismatic movement. Even more recently, Fr. Fessio was abruptly sacked by the University, and only a near-riot by financial backers of the place caused them to re-hire Fr. Fessio in a practically ceremonial role.

What does this have to do with the title of the post? Well, look at the pictures here and at the link, and tell me if this is a place designed with the traditional Mass in mind. O.K., tell me if it is a place designed with the reform of the reform in mind. Look at the freestanding altar: it is very nearly impossible to celebrate Mass ad orientem, which is necessary for the TLM, implied in the novus ordo rubrics, encouraged by Pope Benedict XVI, and supported by the reform of the reform movement. It is well-known that Fr. Fessio’s preferred way of celebrating Mass is the novus ordo, in Latin, ad orientem. How is it possible that the University would build an oratory where its own past chancellor couldn’t celebrate Mass? Or, more importantly, where no priest who wishes to celebrate an authorized form of the Roman Rite could celebrate it?

This isn’t a case of there not being enough money to bring this about. So, the question remains, what does this oratory say about the type of liturgy it will contain? And what does that liturgy say about the faith upon which it is based, and which it will inevitably inform? And how does that make Catholic parents feel about sending their children to this institution?