Spirit Daily


For First Time Since Vatican II, Momentum With Liturgy Swings To Conservatives

We live at a fascinating time, and there is confusion all over the place. There is also dishonor. We tried to point that out recently by replaying a link to a little clip of film (from YouTube) that had actors pretending to have been involved in an apparition.

Perhaps it was meant as a simulation, but such is best left alone and hopefully was not intended (from the start) as a mockery.

There is comedian Robin Williams. He got on national TV to brazenly insult priests. There is that other comedian, Bill Maher, who makes fun of core beliefs (and our holiest figures). There are shows like "The View" that (we are told, for we do not see television much) take constant pot-shots at Catholicism.

There is certainly enough of that these days -- irreverence, and even persecution -- but there is power coming in that the Church is now reaching back into its strong recent past and many Catholics will now be able to attend Mass in Latin. The Pope has signed a document allowing that to occur without special diocesan permission and it is scheduled to be released on July 7. Throughout the world, priests can now choose to perform the liturgy as they did before the last Vatican Council.

We respect the way Mass is said in our current time, which has many good attributes (and is totally, powerfully valid), but we also recall the mystery attached to the Tridentine Rite -- the disappearance of which was not met by good fruits. Is it just sentimentality? Or will the mystery of Old Religion translate into a bold march against the forces of modernism?

As we pointed out when he was elected, Benedict, in this regard, was always expected to take action. Such could be discerned from his books, including The Ratzinger Report, in which he said that we must oppose "confusing claptrap" and "pastoral infantilism."

"These things degrade the liturgy to the level of a parish tea party and the intelligibility of the popular newspaper," he said in 1985. "With this in mind we shall also have to examine the reforms already carried out, particularly in the area of the Rituale."

In a more recent book, God and the World, Benedict had expressed a "new openness toward the use of Latin" -- although when asked if all Masses should be in that language again, he said "that is no longer going to be possible as a general practice, and perhaps is not desirable as such."

This indicates that his coming move is not the first step toward tossing out the modern style of the liturgy, known as Novus Ordo. Many have pointed out the very beneficial features of Mass in the native tongue, and Benedict in open to variance.

But his words hint that aside from allowing wider use of Latin -- which is at the heart of the motu proprio (as it is called) -- the Pope may make moves too in restoring some of the mystery in other aspects of the Church, including art. Already, he has made rumblings against much of the music used at Mass since Vatican II.

"Many treasures that were still intact have been squandered away," the Pope said in The Ratzinger Report.

There thus may be be a move toward reversing other abuses of Vatican II, which he said has been misinterpreted.

Given enough time, something more may be at hand.

The Pope's concern for Mass is indicated by the fact that he once wrote a book, The Feast of Faith (or Das fest des Glaubens), on how important the liturgy is.

"One shudders at the lackluster face of the post-conciliar liturgy as it has become, or one is simply bored with its hankering after banality and its lack of artistic standards," he has said -- indicating that there may be more in store.

"The liturgy is not a show, a spectacle, requiring brilliant producers and talented actors," he wrote. "The life of the liturgy does not consist in 'pleasant' surprises and attractive 'ideas' but in solemn repetitions.

"It cannot be an expression of what is current and transitory, for it expresses the mystery of the Holy.

"The Council rightly reminded us that liturgy also means actio, something done, and it demanded that the faithful be guaranteed an actuosa particiaptio, an active participation.

"But the way it has been applied following the Council has exhibited a fatal narrowing of perspective. The impression arose that there was only 'active participation' when there was discernible external activity -- speaking, singing, preaching, reading, shaking hands. It was forgotten that the Council also included silence under actuosa participatioi,  for silence facilitates a really deep, personal participation, allowing us to listen inwardly to the Lord's Word."

In words that should send a warning across the bows of many parishes, the future Pope added: "Many liturgies now lack all trace of this silence."

The Pope, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, made it clear that as for the legitimacy of the current style -- the Novus Ordo -- Catholics are not to agree with those "who question the legitimacy and doctrinal reliability of the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969."

"We need to counter this by reinstating the whole range of possibilities within the unity of the Catholic liturgy," he said in the 1980s.

But with the new move to allow wider use of Latin, Pope Benedict begins to make his make the "conservative" mark for which many have been waiting.

Will there be moves toward protecting the majestic statues that in many parishes have been relegated to the dustbin (or trash heap)?

Will the document allowing priests to say Mass in Latin without permission from a local bishop lead to various factions?

Will it be but the first step in reversing a number of abuses in the wake of the Council?

The view here is that it will either begin a trend of reversing liturgical modernism -- one that may end up reinstating Latin -- or cause a sharp division. It could well sharpen the differences. There is a gravity about Latin that will cause certain elements to fall into place.

"Pope Benedict has been hearing resistance from cardinals and bishops, many of them in Europe, who argue that the change would divide the church by promulgating two very different official rites," reports The New York Times.

"They say that it could create rifts in smaller parishes that cannot agree which Mass to use, and that it would burden already overburdened members of the clergy, many of whom do not know Latin and were never trained to perform the older rite’s more complex choreography.

"Catholic experts agree that the debate is not merely about ritual, but about the legacy of the Second Vatican Council, which met from 1962 to 1965.

"Some Catholic traditionalists regard the introduction of the modern liturgy as the start of what they see as the church’s slide since Vatican II and hope that the Tridentine Mass will rejuvenate the faith. Church liberals fear that if the Pope undermines the modern Mass, it may lead to the reversal of other Vatican II reforms, like more open relationships with other faiths."

In the Tridentine Mass, noted the newspaper, the priest faces away from the congregation and prays, sometimes in a whisper, in Latin, a language unfamiliar to most of the world’s one billion Roman Catholics. The Vatican II reformers intended the modern Mass to be more accessible by allowing the priest to face the congregation and to involve the worshipers in prayer and song, mostly in their native language but including some passages in Latin.

In the process, however, many parishes -- and dioceses -- went too far, bringing in musical instruments that cheapened the liturgy, dancers who were better placed in a variety show, and taking away the accent on devotions, including the Prayer to the Archangel Michael, which had been said at the end of Mass and which we believe should be the next move in reinstatement as the Church faces coming huge battles with secularism.


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