Saturday, November 08, 2003

Saint Gereon
Saint Gereon is praying for you! To learn more
about this Roman martyr go HERE

Which saint would you be?
brought to you by Quizilla

Thanks for the quiz Mary...

Friday, November 07, 2003

Addendum to Previous Miscellaneous Musings Post:

[I started the previous thread and then checked my mail to find that someone emailed me on the very point I was about to discuss. I decided to complete my previous train of thought -lest it derail- and then comment on what the emailer noted about the particular point I was going to talk about. The result of this deicision is the post you are about to read. -ISM]

Hi Shawn,

Hello XXXX

Re: Thursday, November 06's Points to Ponder you wrote, "Achieving a proper balance is the most difficult of all endeavours and most people - Catholic or not - find it easier to either be an extremist or an indifferentist. Neither position requires much effort."

Actually, I wrote those lines in February or March of 2001 but I stand by them. But that is neither here nor there.

I would like to add that it is difficult to find a balance on one's own.

Agreed. One should try nonetheless.

I think the whole purpose of "balance" is the requirement of another to keep one in balance. What kind of scale has only one cup?

Well said.

And for this reason your last statement, regarding little effort, is ultimately false because it takes quite a bit of effort to be out of balance.

I disagree with you in part and agree with you in part.

Humility and obedience is effortless, rebellion is work.

I would argue that humility is harder in proportion to what you know (or think you know). As for obedience, blind obedience is easy but informed obedience is hard. (Particularly if you honestly believe your superior is in error on a point in which he commands your assent on.)

Iow, to be in co-operation with the Church, and therefore in proper balance, is far more effortless than to have to defend one's extreme or lazy views. :)

I agree that one who accepts the teaching of the Church on the principle of "He who hears you, hears me" has an easier time by far than someone who does not. (This puts them among the "little ones" Our Lord spoke approvingly of in the Gospels.) But the problem with knowledge is that it makes one prone to rebellion and rebellion is not difficult; indeed the teaching on Original Sin is one that emphasizes the Pauline dictum that we carry our treasures in frail vessels.

The proof that rebellion is not hard is shown in the fact that (i) damaged human nature follows the path of least resistance and (ii) most people are rebellious or disobedient most of the time (and all people are at least some of the time). For this reason, practically speaking (iii) in the natural realm of things, rebellion is easy and obedience is hard. But of course in the mystical sense (which may be how you are approaching this) obedience is a sweet and light yoke which unburdens the soul and enables the greatest progress in knowledge and understanding in the supernatural sciences to be undertaken. (And at the most rapid of paces to boot.)


For Catholics interested in a real-life example of what I am referring to in the previous "miscellaneous musings", I have an Andrew Greeley book or two (not romance novels) that I would recommend to self-styled "traditionalists" and a book by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre to recommend for the self-styled "progressives."

There are errors in each source that I have detected, ones that cannot be explained away however cleverly; however in each you have someone whom I believe holds (or held) their views without being aware (at least partly so) of their errors. Provided that someone is (i) not easily swayed by statements that strike at the heart of their outlook and that (ii) they do not uncritically accept or reject such statements, I believe that those of the opposing paradigms I refer to above could profit from the aforementioned sources. (Ones that present a different view than the one they are accustomed to seeing.) But analyzing that further is a subject for another time perhaps.

On Polarizing Views:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

[Update: Upon reading this post again a few minutes ago, it was a bit too cluttered so I unpacked it a bit. Some parts once in the main body of the text in parenthesis were moved to footnotes and the footnotes of the remaining thread were adjusted accordingly. Other adjustments of a very minor nature were made as well which hopefully help in following the line of musing in the post. -ISM 11/07/03 8:54 pm]

The Points to Ponder feature of this weblog is among my favourites because it is directed towards the readers in a way different from most of the other stuff I do here at Rerum Novarum. In starting this weblog, it took roughly a month into this blog's existence before I had all the essential ingredients in place to brew the kind of stew that enables me to not factionalize myself as so often happens when one spends time discoursing in mediums which are of necessity limited subject-wise.{1}

With this weblog, the readers receive theological, historical, political, sociological, philosophical, and even canonical commentary -which one depends on what I want to talk about at a given time. But there is also the occasional poetry, dialogue format posts,{2} quizzes, fiskings, news reporting/commentary, guest editorials where my view is generally absent either completely or for the most part in the thread, in short: whatever it strikes my fancy to do.

But the Points to Ponder feature is different to some extent from the others; it is more than giving the readers my view on a particular subject or even (in the case of dialogue posts) my view contrasted or converged with another person or persons. The Points to Ponder feature is for the readers to stimulate them to ponder on a point or series of points made. (Or a particular viewpoint on a subject posted.) Rarely will I comment on such points myself in the feature -except when setting up the context of a passage is necessary which is not often. This feature at times leads to other subject threads, other dialogue posts, etc. but their intention is to be points of reference to mull over and reflect upon. Notice though that I do not say "think."

The reason I do not say Points to Think is because that term (and concept) is too western and too cerebral. Pondering is a means of reflection that incorporates thought into it but is more holistic. It is as much cerebral as it is intuitive. It respects the element of mystery that must accompany anyone who believes that there is a world above the natural or emperical: vistas of knowledge above the merely natural (or profane) sciences.

I draw the sections used for Points to Ponder basically from whatever strikes my fancy at a given moment. In preparing a dialogue response to my friend Jeff Culbreath, I revisited some of my old writings for material and ran across a particular passage which was on the subject of balance and how so often it is lacking in many people. The summary part of the points feature -from my March 2001 essay on culture and tradition- read as follows:

Achieving a proper balance is the most difficult of all endeavours and most people - Catholic or not - find it easier to either be an extremist or an indifferentist. Neither position requires much effort.

Though the entire passage quoted builds up to this, I want to at this time unpack this part a little with a thought that came to mind this morning which I have mulled over a bit and want to post in this entry at this time.

There is an irony in the way that so many people try to convince themselves that they are more "centered" than most others. This happens not only in generalizing categories but also in particular groupings as well. There is a certain instinct in a person who is functioning normally in the mental or emotional sphere to try to see themselves to some degree as (to paraphrase a bit) "more balanced than thou." I believe this instinct is evidenced in the way most people identify themselves as "moderates" or "centrists."

It is almost as if they want to claim that all principles -and all people with definite stands have to be principled to some extent- are to some extent negotiable. This is particularly the case when a person reacts to another person or group who categorizes them in a manner that they do not see themselves. (Or with an moniker that they find personal insulting.){3} It is an interesting plight of the human condition -almost as widespread as the tendency of people to inform themselves only from sources that agree substantially with them.{4}

Of the latter, I see this as almost a kind of intellectual or moral "inbreeding" and in my view it must be avoided. However, as there is so much out there to look into -and as ninety-five percent of what is published on all subjects is hogwash anyway-{5} this makes for a daunting but not impossible task for people to contend with.

How does one go about selecting sources to inform themselves on??? Obviously it cannot be by a simple majority vote as the truth cannot be made the subject of a mere showing of hands. Obviously it cannot even be by an overwhelming majority because even then one is dealing with a kind of "mob rule" to some extent. Some subjects can be discerned this way -at least in their broad outlines- but obviously one cannot use this as their only criteria.

Further still, one cannot simply go with whomever tickles their fancy because then there is not a search for truth but instead an attempt to confirm oneself in their own positions -which may or may not be correct. And of course there is novelty which -while at times having its own value- nonetheless is the last variable that anyone should take into account. (For a truth often takes time to properly assert itself and far more novelties fail to achieve roots than actually take root.) If I have just appeared to say that the answer is "all of the above" and "none of the above", well to some extent I have. But there are some principles that we can use to navigate a bit in the above areas. Here are some which I will propose on the fly which I may refine later on after reflecting a bit further on them.

---As stability is a requirement for any advancement in knowledge, one should always accept as a kind of "defacto setting" the accumulated wisdom of the past.

This does not mean that one cannot go beyond what was held in the past -or even controvert it. However, there must be a legitimately compelling reason to go beyond it and "curiosity" or attempts to justify ones own view are not by themselves (or even combined) sufficient motives for doing this.

---Recognizing that "to err is human" and that charity should compel anyone to put incongruities in the best possible light they can, nonetheless sources will vary in their accuracy even taking these two factors into account. In that case, one should as a rule go with the source that makes less incontrovertible errors.

The reason I say incontrovertible is that most people chalk something up as an "error" based on either very facile evidences or on the uncritical acceptance of the statements of others that it is. And while most of the time accepting the conventional wisdom will find a person right more often than they are wrong, at the same time, the minority on this equation is still quite large and conventional wisdom does not triumph by as significant a margin as one might presume.{6}

There is also the possibility that a source can be full of errors but that the source itself is erring in good faith.{7} This would be the exception to the rule above but still in my view merits some consideration.

For example, say for a moment that a particular philosopher or theologian adheres to a system of thought that is flawed in some respect. One should first of all not presume that they hold their errors in anything but good faith -as to do otherwise would be uncharitable. So one could in some cases -provided that they detect in the writing or the speaker{8} the kind of conviction that comes from one who is in good faith{9}- continue to use that source (albeit with some reservation).

---If, as a rule, one recognizes that a source with less incontrovertible errors is to be preferred over one with more, at the same time, one needs to remember that consistency -while a witness to the possibility of truth in a position- is nonetheless not definitive proof in and of itself.

I stress the word incontrovertible because I have encountered over the years in many areas of study certain proposed "errors" which in reality were not errors at all. The perception that they were was grounded in a faulty interpretive paradigm on the part of the person studying the source, not the actual source itself.

There is also the fact that certain propositions in one system of thought may not cohere as well in another system of thought. And of course the very nature of "systemized" anything (theology, philosophy, etc) involves a kind of "closed off" environment that can create realities that do not really exist. This does not mean that systemized thinking is bad of course -indeed all thinking must have some degree of order if it is to bear fruit- but one must be careful so they do not uncritically canonize any one particular method over and above all others.{10}

In closing, I hope that these musings will provide some food for pondering in and of itself.


{1} And a limitation which I never liked I might add -though for a long time I thought it was simply a price to pay in this medium. (But of course as this weblog shows, I was fortunately quite wrong in this assessment.)

{2} Responding either to other bloggers, to discussion list threads, to those who email me, and to message box comments -as well as message boards on occasion.

{3} And of course even those who would identify themselves as "reactionary", "traditionalist", "conservative", "liberal", "progressive", or "radical" with other monikers try to situate themselves within their particularly chosen grouping as being "more balanced than thou."

{4} Or only engage themselves on subjects that they do not feel will cause them to have to reconsider a particular position on an issue.

{5} One of the dictums of the mentor of one of my mentors -and a man I highly respect as an original thinker and a kind of "Renaissance man" in no small way. (I have come over the years to concur with this assessment -even in some subjects seeing this percentage as one of charity in favour of the minority of stuff that is true.)

{6} I would say that the margin is at most 60-40 and at least slighty over half.

{7} There is also the possibility that what appears to be an "error" is actually the fault of the individual reviewing the source through a particular philosophical or theological school of thought and that the proposed "error" -if looked at in its own context and not with another foreign context deliberately superimposed upon it- is not really an error at all.

{8} I say "speaker" in the case of a lecture -either live or on recorded tape/CD/DVD, etc.

{9} I should note here that this is a very nebulous principle; therefore one should not as a rule dismiss any source on scant evidences. (Instead some degree of a trackrecord should manifest itself first to mitigate against the possibility of dismissing a viable source -even a source that due to incontrovertible errors must be read with several grains of salt if not an entire saltshaker or more.)

{10} All methods have their strengths and weaknesses after all.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Points to Ponder:

The intention of the liturgical reform was to restore a more fully orbed understanding of the mystery of the Mass. This dual element emphasis had begun to gradually vanish in the ninth and tenth centuries when an over-clericalizing begin to take place. This was when the Church started using non-plural prayer forms, multiplying prayers such as a double confiteor, and emphasizing a near caste system when it came to the priest and the laity. This narrowing of scope coupled with a near-sole emphasis on the Mass as a sacrifice started around the time of the heresy of Berengarius (eleventh century).

The Protestants in the sixteenth century reacted against this narrowing of perspective and asserted the ancient neglected element of a community meal. In doing this though, they unfortunately denied the sacrificial understanding of the Mass. Trent in response defined the sacrifice of the Mass against these errors. In the spirit of one extreme begetting another extreme, most Catholics since the time of Trent have difficulty seeing the Mass as anything but a sacrifice. (Or seeing any of the liturgical functions being performed by someone other than the priest, other clergy, or altar servers.) In neglecting the fuller scope of understanding the Mass, the underlying concept of the covenant is nearly unknown by most Catholics.

Ironically, it took Reformed scholarship to bring this theme to the forefront again in providing the proper understanding of God’s relationship to his people. And how ironic this is since Catholicism proclaims to be the Church and thus (by extension) the Israel of the perfected covenant. Catholicism is interwoven with covenant themes. However, an unbalanced understanding of the Mass makes this paradigm almost undistinguishable at the very core of our faith.

Vatican II and the liturgical reform sought to restore a proper balanced understanding. That there is in many places an extreme tilt to the other extreme should not surprise, as it is human nature to overcompensate to some extent. Achieving a proper balance is the most difficult of all endeavours and most people - Catholic or not - find it easier to either be an extremist or an indifferentist. Neither position requires much effort. [I. Shawn McElhinney: From the essay Confusing Culture With 'Tradition' (c. 2001)]
Guest Editorial on the Liturgical Movement:
(Society of St. John --Part IV of IV)

To read Part III of this editorial thread, please go HERE. To start from the beginning of this editorial thread, please go HERE.



In our last article we considered the importance of the teaching of Vatican II on the liturgy, and the lamentable liturgical crisis that followed in the wake of the Council, trying to indicate some of the reasons for that crisis. In this article, we will consider some of the progress made, during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, towards a 'new liturgical movement' and eventual solution of the liturgical crisis.

What happened to the liturgical movement after the Council is intimately bound up with what happened to the Church after the Council. This is because the liturgy itself is fundamental to the life of the Church. In order to understand the one we must understand the other. So what did happened to the Church after the Council? Answering this question is a difficult and intellectually perilous undertaking, an undertaking in which appearances are easily mistaken for reality.

If we judge according to appearances, the times before the Council might seem like times of unparalleled orthodoxy and discipline, times when the Church was on the move with the prestige and organization of a major corporation. Many who lament the intellectual, moral and liturgical chaos that followed the Council look back to the days before the Council as an ideal time, one to which those who would restore the Church's glories may look to for guidance. But before we can judge whether a particular time is exemplary we have to have a standard by which to judge. By what standard can we judge the health or sickness of the Church? While organization, prestige, and the number of vocations may be signs of health, are they enough in themselves to determine health or sickness? Is it possible that the Church, like any other organism can give the appearance of health while her interior reserves of vitality have been on the wane for some time?

It is not difficult to find the standard by which the life of the Church is to be judged. The Church herself has told us: "The liturgy is ... the font from which all her power flows." This insight, proclaimed at the Second Vatican Council, was the fruit of many years of research and reflection by the leaders of the Liturgical Movement. Indeed the very existence of the Liturgical Movement testifies that the font from which the life of the Church flows had lost some of its force and vigor. One does not start a movement to restore something until it is in need of restoration. In fact one may not even take notice of the thing until it starts to fall apart. Just as water is taken for granted until a drought, and food until a famine, so the liturgy was taken for granted until it began to wilt in the wasteland of modernity.

As we saw in the first article of this series, the liturgical movement was born in reaction to modernity, a modernity that seeks to subject every mystery of God and man to the bar of a constricted human reason. The baneful influence of this rationalism is still with us today. its influence can be seen in attempts to reform the Church primarily through some product of human reason. It is vital to see that the liturgy is prior to philosophy, theology, and every other science, art, and artifact that explains, adorns or celebrates the living contact with God that the liturgy makes possible. Therefore any attempt to reform the Church by reforming these areas will fail unless it also aims at restoring the liturgy. This is because before man can carry out any creative activity at all he must come into contact with the divine source of creativity. It is the living and life-giving presence of God, mediated to man through the liturgy, which quickens every art and science. It is not art and science that found the liturgy, but the liturgy that found art and science. The Church herself was born from the side of Christ as he expired in the life-giving death that the liturgy makes present. "The world turns while the cross stands." It is the fruit of the tree of the cross that the liturgy offers for the life of the world.

If then the liturgy is the primary indicator as well as the source of the Church's life, and the liturgy has been suffering from neglect, misunderstanding, and rationalization since at least the founding of the liturgical movement, then it is perhaps an oversimplification to blame the Church's current illness on the Second Vatican Council. The life of the Church must have been ailing long before the Council. It is important to remember that any diagnosis of the Church's illness must be pursued with love, subtlety and a determination to see the "big picture". It is possible to err from stubborn conviction that the Council is to blame for everything as well as an unwillingness to see the real deficiencies of the Church's policies vis-a-vis modernity. But above all two things must be kept in mind: First the Church is not a human institution, but the body of Christ journeying through time to her final perfection with Christ in eternity. As such she is a mystery, a "work-in-progress" that is being molded by the hand of the divine artist and only he knows perfectly her current state. Secondly, even in the case of purely human institutions it is difficult to judge without the distance time provides.

Keeping all of this in mind, we may ask if the situation prevailing in the Church now is not in a certain way better than that which preceded it. Given that a patient is sick, isn't it better that the illness is in plain sight so that it can be diagnosed and cured rather than incubating below the surface? Before the Council the Church presented a face of unanimity in philosophy, theology, and liturgy. Today pluralism reigns in all these areas. However this pluralism has two aspects: Firstly it denotes heterodoxy and as such it is a cancer that weakens the body of Christ and destroys souls. But secondly it denotes a legitimate variety in areas where the Church has not traditionally demanded uniformity. The first of these is an evil, the second a good. But before the council the legitimate and illegitimate pluralism were intertwined so that it was necessary for both to surface if they were to be untangled. With these words as an introduction, let us now attempt to trace, however tentatively, the path of the recent efforts at genuine liturgical reform within the Church.

In the 1970's the liturgical life of the Church began to spin out of control. As this happened the proponents of the liturgical movement tended to go in one of three directions: some led the liturgical rebellion into ever greater excesses; others continued their scholarly work, shaking their heads at the abuses, but rejoicing in and praising the new liturgy; still others, shocked by what they saw began to raise questions about the work done and the principles that had been applied.

Throughout this period, however, there were small groups and communities who celebrated the new liturgy with care and reverence. The Abbey of Solesmes celebrated the new liturgy in Latin, and maintained its traditions of Gregorian chant. The Abbey of Fontgombault, in a spirit of generous obedience, adopted the new liturgy for many years. There were also some new active orders that always maintained care and reverence in the liturgy. Among these two stand out: the French Congregation of St. John, and the rapidly growing Legionaries of Christ. As early as 1975, Latin Liturgy Association was founded in the midst of the growing chaos to promote the use of Latin in the liturgy. Nevertheless, these seemed but isolated efforts and tiny voices in the midst of a growing clamor of dissent and rebellion on all sides.

Many in the Church in the western industrialized countries showed every sign of losing the Faith. In June of 1972 Pope Paul VI made his famous speech in which he spoke of the smoke of Satan having entered the Church as through some crack or fissure. Later in the same year he said, "Something supernatural has come into the world to destroy and strangle the very fruits of the Ecumenical Council and to stop the Church from breaking out into a hymn of joy, by sowing doubt, uncertainty, problems, unrest, and discontent."

When Pope John Paul II was elected he attempted, first of all, to strengthen the interior attitudes of faith, hope, and charity. His approach can be likened, in many ways, to our Lord's in Nazareth, where being unable to work any miracles because of the lack of faith, He instead went about the villages of the area teaching. In his first Encyclical Letter, Redemptor Hominis, the Pope addressed the problem of faith and hope in order to combat the "doubt, uncertainty, problems, unrest, and discontent" spoken of by Pope Paul VI. In that Encyclical he reaffirmed the Church's traditional faith in the reality of the Eucharistic sacrifice and the real presence. But above all he emphasized the greatness of the mystery, seeking to instill a renewed sense of awe and reverence in the presence of these mysteries. He insisted that all that is said about the Eucharist, whether by the Magisterium of the Church or by theologians, ascetics, or mystics, reaches no more than the threshold of the mystery. Men are "incapable of grasping and translating into words what the Eucharist is in all its fullness, what is expressed by it and what is actuated by it. Indeed, the Eucharist is the ineffable sacrament!" (20)

Consequently, in the celebration of the Eucharist, "the full magnitude of the divine mystery must be respected, as must the full meaning of this sacramental sign in which Christ is really present." While this is "the source of the duty to carry out rigorously the liturgical rules" the emphasis is on the interior spirit that must animate our worship, a spirit of gratitude that returns 'love for love' since "in this sacramental sign He entrusts Himself to us with limitless trust, as if not taking into consideration our human weakness, our unworthiness, the force of habit, routine, or even the possibility of insult." In order to restore this interior attitude, the Pope citing the words of St. Paul, "Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup", gives great emphasis to the importance of the sacrament of penance as a means of preparation for the Eucharist.

The Pope returned to the subject again in Dominicae Coenae his Lenten letter of 1980 to the Bishops. Again, his focus was not on the liturgical rite, but on restoring Eucharistic faith. "It is better," he writes, "that we should now concentrate on what is essential and immutable in the Eucharistic Liturgy." (8)

He called for an attitude of worship given to the Holy Trinity, permeating the Eucharistic liturgy and extending beyond the hours of the Mass (3). Again he emphasized the relation between the Sacrament of Penance and the Holy Eucharist. He also called upon bishops and priests to examine themselves regarding their own handling of the sacred species, citing the words of the Pontificale, "Receive the sacrifice to be offered on behalf of the holy people of God; recognize what you are doing, imitate what you handle, and conform your whole life to the mystery of the Lord's cross."

As he brought the letter to a conclusion he issued a startling plea for forgiveness, on his own behalf and the behalf of the entire episcopate, "For everything which, for whatever reason, through whatever human weakness, impatience or negligence, and also through the at times partial, one-sided and erroneous application of the directives of the Second Vatican Council, may have caused scandal and disturbance concerning the interpretation of the doctrine and the veneration due to this great sacrament."(12) His final words, however, are an impassioned plea for the Church to unite around the sacrament of unity lest it become "a point of division and a source of distortion of thought and behaviour."(13)

While the Pope was seeking to shore up the Eucharistic faith of the Church, Cardinal Ratzinger worked in a complementary manner to open up a renewed and frank discussion of the liturgy. Since the time when he was no more than a professor of theology the Cardinal had lamented the banality and lack of artistic standards that had invaded the post-conciliar liturgy and was openly critical of the degradation of the liturgy "to the level of a parish tea party and the intelligibility of the popular newspaper". As Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, he criticized the abundant liturgical abuses in his well-known interview with the Italian journalist Vittorio Messori, published in 1985 under the title, The Ratzinger Report.

In that interview he pointed out "the contrast between what the authentic text of Vatican II says and the way in which it has been understood and applied." He directed strong remarks against the way in which the liturgy has tended to become a show: "The liturgy is not a show, a spectacle, requiring brilliant producers and talented actors. 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." He went on to critique a one-sided understanding of the Council's teaching on active participation, saying, "It was forgotten that the Council also included silence under actuosa participatio, for silence facilitates a really deep, personal participation, allowing us to listen inwardly to the Lord's word." He lambasted the impoverishment of the liturgy through the wholesale abandonment of Gregorian chant and the rejection of solemnity, saying "In the solemnity of the worship, the Church expressed the glory of God, the joy of faith, the victory of truth and light over error and darkness. The richness of the liturgy is not the richness of some priestly caste: it is the wealth of all, including the poor, who in fact long for it and do not at all find it a stumbling block."

Previously public discussion within the Church had, by and large, been restricted to enthusiastic praises of the reformed liturgy, but with Cardinal Ratzinger's high placed criticisms the doors opened for a more frank and honest discussion of the liturgy. The Cardinal began to speak of a "reform of the reform" and a renewal of the liturgical movement. He himself brought into the limelight the work of the Msgr. Klaus Gamber, a liturgical scholar who, though he died unexpectedly in 1989, had called into question many of the premises upon which the actual reform had been built. Other scholars, such as Fr. Aidan Nichols, OP, the author of "Looking at the Liturgy", began publishing works that were critical of the reforms and began to explore possible solutions to the liturgical crisis.

The Cardinal, by his willingness to speak out, gave encouragement to many of the faithful who were grieved by what they saw happening to the sacred liturgy. He also inspired new efforts to make known the problems with the liturgy and to find avenues for an eventual solution. In 1995 the Adoremus Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy, citing Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger as sources of inspiration, was born. Adoremus'goal was to rediscover and restore "the beauty, the holiness, the power of the Church's rich liturgical tradition while remaining faithful to an organic, living process of renewal." In the same year Msgr. Francis Mannion, then Rector of the Cathedral in Salt Lake City, founded the Society for Catholic Liturgy, an association of Catholic pastors, teachers, and scholars "committed to promoting the scholarly study and authentic renewal of the church's liturgy." In early 2000 Cardinal George of Chicago chose Msgr. Mannion to head up a new liturgical institute located at the Archdiocese's Mundelein Seminary.

The publication in 1996 of Oxford Declaration on the Liturgy, which was praised by Cardinal Ratzinger, was another significant step in the development of a new liturgical movement. The Oxford Declaration accepts, in principle, the conciliar reform of the liturgy, and recognizes as positive fruits "the introduction of the vernacular, the opening up of the treasury of the Sacred Scriptures, increased participation in the liturgy and the enrichment of the process of Christian initiation." All the same, it decries the frustration of the manifest intentions of the Council by "powerful contrary forces, which could be described as bureaucratic, philistine and secularist." Lamenting the near universal disappearance of the Gregorian chant, the declaration states, "Our liturgical heritage is not a superficial embellishment of worship but should properly be regarded as intrinsic to it, as it is also to the process of transmitting the Catholic faith in education and evangelization." It calls for a "revival of the liturgical movement" which would be concerned with "the enrichment, correction and resacralization of Catholic liturgical practice." Looking to the Christian East for inspiration, it calls for a pluralism of rites and uses, and a period of ressourcement and reflection. The declaration further calls on "those who love the Catholic tradition in its fullness" to "strive to work together in charity, bearing each other's burdens in the light of the Holy Spirit, and persevering in prayer with Mary the Mother of Jesus." Recognizing that "the glory of the Paschal Mystery... shines through every Catholic liturgy for those who have eyes to see", the authors of the declaration wait in hope for "the return of spring".

Paralleling these developments, the use of the old Roman Missal was permitted once again. In 1984 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published the document Quattuor Abhinc Annos giving diocesan bishops the power to grant, by way of an indult to certain priests and faithful, the permission to make use of the Roman Missal of 1962. Already in Dominicae Coenae, the Pope had given indications of this direction when he wrote in regard to the use of the Latin language: "There are also those people who, having been educated on the basis of the old liturgy in Latin, experience the lack of this 'one language', which in all the world was an expression of the unity of the Church and through its dignified character elicited a profound sense of the Eucharistic Mystery. It is therefore necessary to show not only understanding, but also full respect towards these sentiments and desires. As far as possible these sentiments and desires are to be accommodated." (10) This expression anticipates the language that the Pope was to use eight years later in the "motu proprio" Ecclesia Dei: "To all those Catholic faithful who feel attached to some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of the Latin tradition, I wish to manifest my will to facilitate their ecclesial communion by means of the necessary measures to guarantee respect for their aspirations... respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of all those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition."

Was this indult merely condescension towards an obscure group of the faithful who were living on the margins of the life of the Church, or did the Pope and Cardinal Ratzinger see a wider role for the pre-conciliar liturgy in their efforts to bring about an authentic renewal of the Church's liturgical life? Last year, the Pope, in addressing the plenary Assembly of the Congregation for Divine Worship, made a reference to the Missal of Pius V, that indicates it has an important and ongoing role to play in the life of the Church: "The people of God need to see in their priests and deacons a conduct filled with reverence and dignity, which is able to help them penetrate things which are invisible, even without many words and explanations. In the Roman Missal of St. Pius V, as in many Eastern Rites, there are beautiful prayers through which the priest expresses the most profound sense of humility and reverence for the sacred mysteries: these reveal the very substance of every liturgy."

The recurring complaint about the reformed liturgy as it is generally celebrated is the lack of a sense of mystery, reverence, and worship. In both Redemptor Hominis and Dominicae Coenae the Holy Father urged a spirit of faith and worship regarding the Holy Eucharist, while Cardinal Ratzinger gave high ranking support to the criticisms of prevailing liturgical practice. No doubt, in opening the door anew for the celebration of the pre-conciliar liturgy they saw its positive importance for restoring within the Church a renewed sense of mystery, reverence, and worship.

In 1988, in the wake of a failed attempt to prevent the schism of the Society of Pius X, the Holy Father, though deeply pained by the schism, promulgated his "motu proprio" Ecclesia Dei, in which he called upon the Bishops to make "a wide and generous application" of the permissions previously granted in 1984. There is no doubt that the "motu proprio" marked the beginning of a tremendous increase in the celebration and availability of the traditional mass, although many would like to see a more generous response to the Pope's request on the part of the Bishops.

Before the promulgation of Ecclesia Dei the French Abbey of Fontgombault, a daughter house of the Abbey of Solesmes, availing itself of the 1984 indult, returned to the use of the traditional liturgy. Following the promulgation of Ecclesia Dei a group of priests left the Society of St. Pius X, seeking to avail themselves of the Holy See's offer of reconciliation that Archbishop Lefebvre had refused. This led to the founding of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. The French monastery at Le Barroux, which had been closely associated with Archbishop Lefebvre, refused to follow him into schism and regularized its position with the Church. Soon other priestly communities making use of the traditional liturgy came into being, such as the Institute of Christ the King and the Fraternity of St. Vincent Ferrer.

The French abbeys of Fontgombault, together with its daughter houses, and Le Barroux, are particular noteworthy because monasteries have traditionally been reference points for the celebration of the liturgy. Their daily solemnization of the liturgy in a monastic setting is providing the Church with a badly needed example in this time of liturgical confusion. When the liturgical reform began, Pope Paul VI explicitly asked the Benedictine monasteries not to abandon their heritage of the Gregorian chant, but only a few monasteries heeded his wish. Those few monasteries that do preserve this treasure render and an invaluable service to the whole Church.

In the summer of 2001 the Abbey of Fontgombault became the center of what may one day be seen as a decisive event in the growth and development of the new liturgical movement. Cardinal Ratzinger himself attended this meeting, together with a number of important figures of the Church in Europe. Also attending were the superiors of some of the clerical institutes that make use of the traditional liturgy, as well as important representatives of groups that situate themselves in the current of the post-conciliar reform. In seeking to establish the necessary and solid foundations of a second liturgical movement, this meeting did not formulate short-term policies or purely juridical measures to counter liturgical abuses. Rather, it was a symposium where a vigorous discussion took place in order to prepare lasting and organic solutions to the liturgical crisis.

With the promulgation of a new "General Instruction for the Roman Missal", and the recent document on liturgical translation, "Liturgiam Authenticam" the Holy See has, in the past two years, begun to take a stronger and more active hand in restoring order to liturgical practice. Cardinal Ratzinger has remained active in his concern for the authentic renewal of the liturgy. The publication of his masterwork "The Spirit of the Liturgy", completed in September 1999, and published in English in the year 2000 has opened up for many the full meaning and riches of the liturgical life.

Looking back over the more than twenty years of this pontificate we can see that tremendous progress has been made since the time when the Pope could do little more than call the attention of the Church to the eucharistic foundations of her faith. Recent years have seen the development of many positive liturgical initiatives within the Church, as well as new initiatives on the part of the Holy See. All this at times seems small in the face of the ongoing and ever deepening disintegration of the liturgy in many places. Nevertheless, looking back at the progress that has been made over these past years we can begin to appreciate the farsighted patience of Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger and take hope that, though we may still have a long road ahead, the bark of Peter is slowly navigating through stormy and dangerous waters toward calmer seas.

Guest Editorial on the Liturgical Movement:
(Society of St. John --Part III of IV)

To read Part II of this editorial thread, please go HERE. To start from the beginning of this editorial thread, please go HERE.



Up to the opening of the Second Vatican Council, many had arduously worked to continue the efforts made by Pope Pius X in the liturgical movement.

Much of the effort had been directed toward bringing about the active participation in the holy mysteries, whereby the faithful are able to imbibe the true Christian spirit as from its foremost and indispensable font. By the opening of Vatican II, however, these efforts had met with little success. When one attended Mass in large parish Church on any typical Sunday, one was likely to find not a robust liturgy with the faithful joining in chanting the Kyrie, but rather a silent congregation with many of the faithful practicing private devotions as the priest quietly went through the ceremonies of the Mass from a distant altar.

In the Two Previous Articles...

In part one of this four part series on the history of the liturgical movement, we saw that the movement was born with a revival of Benedictine monasticism in the early 19th century. From the very beginnings of this movement, there had been a strong emphasis placed on both the expression of the sacred in the liturgy and on the liturgy as a means of participating in the transcendent mystery of God.

In part two we saw that, in the period between World War II and Vatican II, the liturgical movement had become something quite varied and diverse, subject to many influences from those who simply continued the sort of work that had been done earlier by promoting the Gregorian chant, sung Mass and Vespers, to those who engaged in novel experiments, heedless of the prohibitions of the Holy See. Many different parties supported the same program of reform but for different reasons.

In this article we shall consider the liturgical movement during the time of Vatican II. We will see that, while happily many of its principles were made the common teaching of the Church at the Council, it unfortunately failed to a certain extent to put these principles into practice after the Council.

This problem did not stem from the Missal. But the Mass is a greater and deeper reality than what is written and prescribed in any book. At its heart is Christ's offering of Himself in love to the Father. This very same offering made once and for all on Calvary and always present to the Father in the heavenly liturgy is unveiled in every Mass so that the faithful may offer themselves and be taken up into Christ?s eternal love. But when the written words and prescriptions of the Missal were transformed into a living celebration of the Mass, the faithful often found it difficult to understand and participate in such a way as to have the liturgy shape the whole of their lives. It is not surprising then that the pastors of the Church, whose office it is to tend and feed the flock of Christ, should wish to redress any deficiencies with carefully considered and opportune reforms.

From the time of St. Pius X to the time of the Council, the Popes and many bishops became increasingly convinced that a reform of the Roman liturgy was needed. The reforms of the Council were an attempt to bring this about. Consequently, almost all of the Bishops of the Catholic Church, including Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who also thought that some change was necessary, fixed their signatures to the conciliar Constitution, Sacrosanctum Concilium, which decreed, among other things, a revision of the rite of the Mass.

Vatican II

With the promulgation of Sacrosanctum Concilium by Pope Paul VI and the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, the liturgical movement was adopted as the policy, so to speak, of the universal Church. Some of the most important fruits of the movement's research had been taken up by the Magisterium and made the common teaching of the Church. What had been but a small movement within the Church became the focal point of the whole action of the Church. An ecumenical council had now propounded many of its practical proposals. The liturgical movement gained its great moment of triumph. If we take a look at the teaching of the Council itself, we will see that there was a great good in this triumph.

The document on the liturgy

The first part of the Council's document sets the tone for the remaining description of the nature of the liturgy and its importance for the Church. There the liturgy is described as an extension of Christ's redemptive work, given to His Bride, the Church. The section concludes with a definition of the liturgy: The liturgy, then, is rightly seen as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. It involves the presentation of man's sanctification under the guise of signs perceptible by the senses and its accomplishment in ways appropriate to each of these signs. In it full public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Christ, that is, by the Head and Members (SC 7). The document continues, [The liturgy is] a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the Holy City of Jerusalem towards which we journey as pilgrims (SC 8). The relation that the liturgy has to all the life and activity of the Church is then described in this way: the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the fount from which all her power flows (SC 10).

Continuing on the path opened up by St. Pius X, the document speaks of active participationas the aim to be considered before all else in the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy. In this section there occurs a famous proclamation, which perhaps some have overemphasized and others misunderstood: Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in the liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy, and to which the Christian people, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people have a right and obligation by reason of their baptism. The accomplishment of this goal requires, in the first place, adequate liturgical instruction, first of the clergy, then of the whole body of the faithful.

The final section of the first chapter is, perhaps, the pivotal section of the entire document. There the document descends from theory to practice. It sets forth, as an overarching principle, the distinction between the elements of the liturgy which are divinely instituted and unchangeable and the elements which ought to be changed if they have suffered from the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy or have become less suitable. Finally, it sets forth as a goal a greater clarity of expression in liturgical texts and rites. There follows a lengthy treatment of concrete norms. The actual liturgical reforms promulgated by the Holy See in the wake of the Council could be traced back, in one way or another, to this section of the document. For example, the new lectionary for Mass was an implementation of one of the norms taken from the educative and pastoral nature of the liturgy, namely, that in order to make more clear the intimate connection between word and rite in sacred celebrations a more ample, more varied, and more suitable reading from Sacred Scripture should be restored (35,1). The remainder of the document provides guidelines for the reform of particular areas of the liturgy: The Mass, other sacraments and sacramentals, the Divine Office, the liturgical year, sacred music, and sacred arts and furnishings.

What went wrong?

When Sacrosanctum Concilium was promulgated at the end of 1963 it was a cause of great hope and much enthusiasm within the Church. Many looked forward to a new period of renewal animated by a revitalized liturgy. However, we are all too familiar with the lamentable confusion that has afflicted the Church's liturgy since the Council. We are left wondering what went wrong and why the hopes of the Council were not realized. How did we get from the triumph of the liturgical movement at the Council to the serious problems that followed in its wake? This question has led some to ask if the Council itself was not to blame for all this.

Three things are worth considering here: the work of the Consilium for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy; the growing climate of rebellion and disobedience that was beginning to afflict the life of the Church; and the Holy See's de facto loss of control over liturgical practice.

The Council had laid down norms according to which the liturgical books were to be revised; it had mandated that certain concrete changes be made (e.g. restoration of the prayer of the faithful at the celebration of Mass; introduction of a rite for concelebration of Mass); it had provided for a limited use of the vernacular. Nevertheless, most of this needed to be put into practice by means of concrete legislation and the actual revision of the liturgical books. For this reason Pope Paul VI established early in 1964 a committee of Cardinals, assisted by experts in the liturgy, to carry out the revision of the liturgical books. This committee was called the Consilium for the Implementation of the Sacred Constitution on the Liturgy.

The reform envisioned by the Council foresaw a reform not just of the Mass, but also of the entire liturgy, the other sacraments and sacramentals, as well as the Divine Office. The Consilium had been given an unprecedented task and also given a rather vague power to pursue that task. The Council had laid down certain principles, but there is always the realm of prudential judgment when applying general principles to actual practice. Consequently, apart from any excessive enthusiasm for the spirit of the Council or ideological motives that may have influenced the work of members of the Consilium, it is well to bear in mind that they had no easy task. Finally, if they are faulted for having proceeded too quickly in such a delicate matter, it should be remembered that, with the reform already announced in principle, an impatient cry for change was welling up with great strength in many parts of the Church.

Nevertheless, granted that these circumstances may help us understand, in a spirit of charity, certain failures on the part of the Consilium, still it has become ever more widely recognized that their work led to such a radical departure from existing liturgical practice as to have neglected one of the important guidelines given by the Council: care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.

In many ways the Consilium represented the liturgical movement,in its current state of development, with its strengths and weaknesses, thrust into a position of power and authority. The liturgical movement, such as it was, had not sufficiently matured so as to be ready for such a position of leadership, nor did the large body of clergy and faithful have the understanding and prudence necessary to successfully bring about the major liturgical reform which the Consilium had mandated.

The second point to consider regarding the passage from the Council document to the actual liturgical reform is the growing climate of disobedience and rebellion that was afflicting the Church at the time. Already, while the Council was in session, major errors regarding the Blessed Sacrament, including denials of the Real Presence and transubstantiation, began spreading abroad to such an extent that Pope Paul VI found himself obliged to write a major encyclical letter, Mysterium Fidei, published in September of 1965, for the purpose of correcting those errors. A little later, in 1968, before the Novus Ordo Missae was promulgated, the Holy Father's condemnation of artificial contraception in his famous encyclical Humanae Vitae was met with widespread and open rebellion. Many bishops' conferences of powerful nations throughout the world, for example, openly and officially dissented on the Holy Father's teaching. A decade earlier such a rebellion against the Papacy would have been unthinkable. Now it was becoming increasingly evident that the Holy Father could no longer simply give commands and expect Catholics, priests and even bishops, to obey. This encyclical marked a great parting of ways within the Church. By this time also, the great exodus from the priesthood and religious life was shaking the Church, as thousands of priests and religious abandoned their vocations, with or without seeking a proper dispensation.

Some question the prudence of having pushed ahead with the liturgical reform in the midst of such a climate of rebellion. This question, however, revolves around the much larger question, which we do not have time to go into here, of whether this wave of rebellion was the consequence of the Council, or was already in the offing, Council or no. Put in another way: Did the Council give rise to new problems, or did it merely allow already existing problems to manifest themselves?

A final factor to consider is that, because of the ongoing rebellion, the Holy See had de facto lost control over the liturgical life of the Church well before the promulgation of the New Mass. Thus, the New Mass was not the watershed of liturgical anarchy that some have made it out to be, even though it became for some an occasion for further abuse of the Church's liturgical patrimony.

But apart from any abuses, and even apart from any deficiencies that the new Missal may be thought to contain, some liturgical practices which since then have become accepted departed from what was then mandated. For example, many have come to identify the New Mass with the vernacular and the priest facing the people, but this is not altogether the case. The New Mass may be celebrated in Latin and is so celebrated in many places. In fact, the Latin Missal is the norm by which all the vernacular translations are measured. Likewise, Mass facing the people was never promulgated by Rome. Although the new Missal made allowance for Mass facing the people, it seemed to presuppose that the Mass would be oriented as it always had been. As a result, the liturgical practice that came to be identified as "the New Mass", in some ways is not even "the New Mass" as it was mandated by Pope Paul VI.

Thus, the liturgical movement, which had already begun to show both its weakness and divisions before the Council, triumphed at the Council insofar as its basic doctrine about the nature and importance of the liturgy was adopted. This was a great good for the Church. Yet, as a result of a combination of factors, namely, the immaturity of the liturgical movement as it was thrust onto center stage, the growing climate of rebellion in the Church, and the Holy See's de facto loss of control over the liturgy, the liturgical crisis of our own time was born.

In the next article we will consider some of the progress made during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II towards a new liturgical movement and an eventual solution of the liturgical crisis.


To be Continued...
Guest Editorial on the Liturgical Movement:
(Society of St. John --Part II of IV)

To read Part I of this editorial thread, please go HERE.


In Part I of "The Liturgical Movement" (printed in our October Epistle) we saw that this movement began in the early 1800's from a desire to restore an understanding of and participation in the liturgy that had once been at the heart of Catholic life. Arising from the Abbey of Solemnes in the 1840's, this movement is considered to have been founded by the Benedictine monk Dom Guéranger. It was there at Solemnes that both the study and practice of the liturgical movement began, the fruits of which included the 12-volumn tome entitled The Liturgical Year, written by Dom Guéranger, and a renewal of Gregorian chant, led by Dom Moquereau.

In 1903 the liturgical movement was taken up and vigorously promoted by the Magisterium of the Church under the leadership of Pope St. Pius X. This holy pope made the liturgical movement the cornerstone of his pontificate, calling attention to the centrality of the liturgy in the life of the Church, the importance of sacred chant, and the need of active participation by the lay faithful so as to deepen their life of prayer.

By the time of Pope Pius XII the groundwork for a true liturgical renewal had been laid. However, it was during his pontificate that the issues became more complex and the proponents of the liturgical movement began to take the liturgy in varying directions . . .


In recent decades we have witnessed mixed results of the liturgical movement—some postive, some not so positive, some the result of a movement carried away by excesses.

Like most intellectual and spiritual movements in the history of the Church, the liturgical movement has indeed been subject to excesses. However, though many have viewed this as having begun with Vatican II, the liturgical movement was subject to excesses even before the opening of the Council.

During the period between the Second World War and Second Vatican Council, two chief examples of excess in the liturgical movement come to mind. First, there was an attack on private devotions. The liturgical movement had brought to men's attention the great truth that the liturgy, as the public prayer of the Church and the worship of the whole Mystical Body of Christ, was vastly superior to any form of private prayer or devotion. Its proponents had also observed that certain popular devotions that had come to characterize the lives of Catholic faithful—the Rosary, devotion to the Sacred Heart, or adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to name a few—had grown up and developed in the measure that the life of the faithful had grown distant from the liturgy. As a consequence, some of those zealous for reform went to the extreme of rejecting private piety altogether and even attacked as being unliturgical these beautiful devotions which, in the minds of the faithful, had come to be identified with the Catholic spirit.

Second, there were other proponents of the liturgical movement who, enthused by their studies of ancient liturgies, sought to restore former practices without regard for their fittingness in present circumstances and contemptuous of the growth and development that had taken place over centuries.

For all this, neither the Church nor the liturgical movement was lacking in men of prudence. Such men always recognized the need for private piety if the faithful were to participate in the liturgy with a true interior spirit. They recognized that the Rosary had developed as a substitute for the Psalter, that devotion to the Sacred Heart was nothing other than one aspect of the piety of the Mass separated from the ritual of the Mass, that adoration of the Blessed Sacrament grew up when reception of Holy Communion became less frequent. They also recognized that rejecting these devotions was in no way going to lead the faithful to a more liturgical based piety. Since the faithful could draw fruit from such devotions, it was necessary to highlight the connection these devotions had to the liturgy and to use them as certain paths leading back into the liturgy, which is the source and summit of Catholic worship. Nor did these men give way to the seduction of 'antiquarianism', but saw instead that priority needed to be given to a deeper understanding and more adequate practice of the liturgy received from our forefathers, integrating any needed changes with caution and with approval by ecclesiastical authority.

Shortly after World War II, Pope Pius XII gave an official voice to these counsels of prudence when he intervened with his great encyclical "Mediator Dei", whereby he sought to reign in the excesses while encouraging a true and solid liturgical movement, laying the basis himself by means of solid doctrinal teaching. He writes, "While We derive no little satisfaction from the wholesome results of the movement... duty obliges Us to give serious attention to this 'revival' as it is advocated in some quarters and to take proper steps to preserve it at the outset from excess or outright perversion" (Mediator Dei 7). But he also warns, "Let not the apathetic or half-hearted imagine that We agree with them when We reprove the erring and restrain the overbold. No more must the imprudent think that We are commending them when we correct the faults of those who are negligent and sluggish" (Mediator Dei 10).

For the most part the emphasis of the encyclical was conservative. It warned against theories that exaggerated the importance of the external element of the liturgy to the detriment of a true interior participation. It warned against theories that emphasized the objective character of liturgical piety to the detriment of the 'subjective', personal piety. It emphasized that, while the liturgy is subject to growth and development, the introduction of new practices was dependent entirely on the authority and regulation of the Holy See, warning against an indiscriminate 'antiquarianism' that sought a return to ancient practices that would ignore modern circumstances and reject the influence of the Holy Spirit in the development of the liturgy in the Church. Though conservative in nature, the encyclical gave a great impulse to the liturgical movement, providing a solid definition of the liturgy that made evident its great importance for the life of the Church. Pius XII wrote:

"The sacred liturgy is the public worship which our Redeemer as Head of the Church renders to the Father as well as the worship which the community of the faithful renders to its Founder, and through Him to the Heavenly Father. It is, in short, the worship rendered by the Mystical Body of Christ in the entirety of its Head and members" (20).

The Holy Father also furnished a thorough explanation of the manner in which the faithful can offer the sacrifice 'with the priest', and should offer themselves with the sacrifice. Furthermore, in order to promote this interior union with the sacrifice of the Mass, he encouraged active participation, whether by means of the 'Dialogue Mass', the singing of suitable hymns, or by chanting the responses in the High Mass.

The reign of Pope Pius XII also saw the introduction of significant reforms in the liturgy: a new Latin translation of the Psalter, a reduction of the Eucharistic fast to three hours, a revision of the Holy Week liturgy, and a simplification of the rubrics for the Divine Office.

During this period after World War II three influences tended to shape a concrete program of reform that was beginning to characterize the liturgical movement: a desire to foster the active participation of the lay faithful, the rise of the ecumenical movement, and an increased emphasis on biblical studies.

Paradoxically this program of reform took on an appearance very similar to the liturgical reforms of the Enlightenment of the 18th Century. At that time, motivated by the rationalistic spirit of the age, many sought to empty the liturgy of mystery, thus making it more acceptable to the prejudices of human reason.

The liturgical movement, however, had been born from the revival of Benedictine monasticism in the 19th century, drawing its original inspiration from the example of the Middle Ages and nourished by the climate of 19th century Romanticism. Consequently, there had been a strong emphasis on the expression of the sacred in the liturgy and on the liturgy as a means of participating in the transcendent mystery of God.

More that a half a century later, however, after World War II, the practical reforms that were promoted by this movement seemed very like the practices promoted by the would-be reformers at the time of the rationalistic age of Enlightment.

When the proponents of the liturgical movement began talking about such things as an increased use of the vernacular, Mass facing the people, and a single altar in the church which would be kept completely bare when Mass was not being celebrated, they were advocating the very things that had been advocated by the Enlightenment reformers. However, Dom Guéranger, universally hailed as the founder of the liturgical movement, had labored against these very things because he had seen the cold and sterile piety produced by the work of these reformers.

Still, some proponents of the liturgical movement sought to justify their reforms. They argued that while the Enlightenment reformers favored similar reforms, they favored them for very different reasons. The motivations of the Enlightenment reformers, they said, were democratic and rationalistic, opposed to both symbolism and mystery. The motivations of the liturgical reformers after World War II were supposed to have been rooted in a renewed understanding of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ and of the liturgy as an extension of Christ’s function as Mediator. They argued that the same practices promoted in the 18th century from rationalistic motives had a very different significance seen from the standpoint of the 'mystery theology' of the 20th century.

There was, however, a resurgence of new democratizing and rationalizing influences in the post-war period. New biblical studies had become so fixed upon the literal sense of Scripture that the mystical sense, so vital for the use of Scripture in the liturgy, began to be disregarded or even rejected outright. Historical-critical studies had cast a rationalistic chill over anything regarded as 'legendary' and led to embarrassment with the miraculous. Ecumenism led to a desire to minimize the differences between Catholic and Protestant worship. This served as a pretext for abandoning the medieval inspiration that so characterized the liturgical movement of the 19th century and seeking a return to a supposedly purer, simpler, more ancient view of the liturgy.

Two other important influences should be mentioned here. The liturgical movement had grown up in the stately surroundings of the monasteries of France, Germany, and Belgium, but the experience of World War II had led many to identify the 'real' and the 'authentic' with the trappings of poverty and suffering that had so characterized the war and, in many places, the post-war period. A solemn liturgy seemed to them pretentious and false, removed as it was from the grim reality of people's daily lives. Hence, we begin to see the construction of simple, barren churches, the stripping of all liturgical ornamentation, as well as the longing for smaller, less anonymous communities.

The other important influence came from the foreign missions. The liturgical movement had grown up in Europe, in countries that had a millennial tradition of Christianity. Even if those countries had abandoned that tradition, bringing Europeans to a deeper understanding of and participation in the traditional liturgy of the Church meant bringing them into a deeper contact with the roots of their own national cultures. Many involved in the foreign missions, however, whether in Asian countries possessing sophisticated cultures of great antiquity or in African countries possessing more primitive cultures, felt that imposing the traditional liturgy of the West upon these peoples was an act of violence, especially when seen in relation to the European political hegemony in these same regions. As the European nations unburdened themselves of their overseas colonies, the missionaries that were left behind felt embarrassed by anything that associated their work with the 'colonial oppressors'. Hence, the hue and cry of 'inculturation' was raised, accompanied by its ideal of a liturgy rooted in the customs and manners of the native peoples rather than in the traditions of a once-Christian Europe.

All this while, in countless parishes in Europe and America (North and South) the celebration of Mass, devotional practice, parish events, went on pretty much in the manner they had in previous generations, and those practices were identified with the millennial tradition of the Church. If anything of what was going on elsewhere came to their ears, it could only have been a cause for shock and scandal.

It is important to see, however, that between World War II and Vatican II the liturgical movement had become something quite varied and diverse, subject to many influences. From those who simply continued the sort of work that had been done earlier by promoting Gregorian chant, sung Mass and Vespers, to those who engaged in novel experiments, heedless of the prohibitions of the Holy See, there were myriads of different positions and, no doubt, any one proponent of the liturgical movement was subject to his own peculiar combination of influences. Many supported the same program of reform but for different reasons. Many who were anxious to see changes take place would later be shocked when they saw what had actually happened.


To be Continued...
Guest Editorial on the Liturgical Movement:
(Society of St. John --Part I of IV)

To read the Prologue, please go HERE.



If we want to gain a true picture of the scope of today’s "vocations crisis," we would do well not to compare the number of seminarians now to the number of seminarians in the 1950’s, but to the number of priests and religious populating the monasteries and canonries of Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries.

At that time a monk could travel on foot through France and have no need to pass a night away from the shelter of some monastery or religious house. Since the liturgy is the special care of priests and monks, it should come as no surprise that the radical decay of religious life, spanning the course of centuries, was accompanied by the decay of the liturgical life of the whole Church.

Dom Guéranger writes of the golden age of the liturgy: "For upwards of a thousand years, the Church, who prays in her temples seven times a day and once again during the night, did not pray alone. The people kept her company, and fed themselves with delight on the manna which is hidden under the words and mysteries of the divine liturgy. Thus initiated into the sacred cycle of the mysteries of the Christian year, the faithful, attentive to the teachings of the Spirit, came to know the secrets of eternal life; and, without any further preparation, a Christian was not unfrequently chosen by the bishops to be a priest, or even a bishop, that he might go and pour out on the people the treasures of wisdom and love, which he had drunk in at the very fountainhead."

In a word, the whole of the liturgy, with its complex of words and gestures, was the primary source of instruction and nourishment for the Christian faithful.

The ruined or deserted churches of medieval Christendom bear witness to what the liturgy of the Church once was. In France, not far from where Charles Martel turned back the invading hosts of Islam, stands an ancient abbey, the Abbey of Our Lady of the Assumption of Fontgombault, established at the beginning of the 12th century, shut down by the French Revolution, and restored as a daughter house of the Abbey of St. Peter of Solesmes in 1949. In this ancient Abbey, numbering some 60 monks, at 10:15 AM every day the Mass is solemnly chanted according to the Missal of St. Pius V. This chanted Mass finds as its precious setting the chanting of all the canonical hours, from Matins to Compline. Within a distance of 15 miles or so lies one ruined abbey and another abbey that operates today as a simple parish church. Today, only one of these three abbeys is thriving, alive with the full splendour of the Roman liturgy, but in the 12th and 13th centuries all three of them would have been filled with monks chanting the praises of God and offering the Holy Sacrifice with fitting solemnity.

Another striking monument of the liturgical life that once nourished the Church can be found in the ruins of the once great Abbey at Cluny. Founded in the 10th century, it was soon the greatest Abbey of Christendom, and its now ruined church was once the largest church in Christendom, larger even than St. Peter’s. In its heyday it was filled with 1000 monks chanting the praises of God, in a sort of tag-team fashion, day and night. On the eve of the French Revolution there were some 50 monks left in the Abbey. Destroyed during the Revolution, its ruins stand as a witness to the past glory of Christendom, a glory that was rooted in the public worship of the divine majesty— the sacred liturgy.

While it is true that these are witnesses only of monastic worship, we could well expect that where monastic worship was so abundant, some-thing of this same spirit must have influenced the secular clergy and the laity. Indeed, not only was Europe filled with monasteries, but it was filled with large churches, populated with numerous clergy, who were accustomed to assemble together not only for the solemnities of the Mass but also for the chanting of the divine praises in the Divine Office. The lay faithful, upon entering these Churches, would not have found deserted tabernacles, but the joyful sound of the "new song." As late as the 14th century a cultured layman, Dante Alighieri, in composing his masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, fills his work with allusions to the music of the liturgy.

While the contemplative spirit of the liturgy—nourished in a special way by the monks, but the birthright of all the baptized—declined through the centuries leading up to the French Revolution, the Revolution dealt a near deathblow to the Order of St. Benedict—the Order that had, through the centuries, always been the special guardian of the liturgy in the West.

Beginnings of the Liturgical Movement

If we want to trace the history of what in the 20th century was named "The Liturgical Movement," we would do well to set that movement in the light of what the liturgy once was in Christendom so that we might see what was lost and what stood in need of being restored. Perceived in this light, it would not be unreasonable to see in Dom Prosper Guéranger—the founder of the Abbey of Solesmes (1833) and the great restorer of Benedictine monasticism after the destruction wrought by the French Revolution—the true beginning of the liturgical movement.

A later author wrote of Dom Guéranger: "Love for the Scriptures, a sense of their traditional interpretation in the theology of the Fathers, a thorough understanding of tradition and its indefectible continuity, supreme fidelity to the ordinary magisterium of the Church—all of these qualities were to be found in him... These same qualities, though in different degrees, have marked every true inheriter of his thought; they are the cardinal points of the 'liturgical movement'." (Dom Oliver Rousseau, The Progress of the Liturgy, page 12.)

Dom Guéranger wrote that prayer is "man's richest boon," and liturgy (the prayer of the Church) is "the most pleasing to the ear and the heart of God, and therefore the most efficacious of all prayers." Then, after lamenting the decline of the liturgy in the centuries following the Reformation, he notes that "this liturgical prayer would soon become powerless were the faithful not to take a real share in it, or at least not to associate themselves to it in heart. It can heal and save the world, but only on the condition that it be understood."

Within the womb of his monastery was born the great renewal of Gregorian chant led by Dom Pothier and Dom Moquereau—a renewal that was sanctioned and adopted by St. Pius X, leading to a restoration of all the books containing chants used in the Latin liturgy.

Active Participation of the Faithful

St. Pius X himself is recognized by many as the author of the liturgical renewal, and certainly his great Motu proprio "Tra le Sollecitudine" (1903) on sacred music marked the moment when the liturgical renewal was first taken up and vigorously promoted by the Magisterium of the Church.

It is notable in this regard that the Magisterium's first effort was to purify churches of the rather secular sounding music that was turning churches into opera halls and to restore the great treasure that so characterizes the Roman liturgy: Gregorian chant.

In that Motu Proprio he wrote the now famous lines, "Filled as We are with a most ardent desire to see the true Christian spirit flourish in every respect and be preserved by all the faithful, We deem it necessary to provide before anything else for the sanctity and dignity of the temple, in which the faithful assemble for no other object than that of acquiring this spirit from its foremost and indispensable font, which is the active participation in the most holy mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church."

Besides restoring Gregorian chant, St. Pius X revised the Roman breviary, shortening the length of the offices and changing the way feast days were celebrated so as to allow for a fuller use of the entire psalter.

Active participation in the most holy mysteries reaches its highest point in sacramental communion, and so it is not surprising that St. Pius X was famous for promoting frequent communion after many centuries in which the faithful in the West had become accustomed to receiving communion only a few times a year at most.

From Dom Guéranger to St. Pius X, the two hinges of the liturgical movement (i.e. a renewed understanding of the liturgy and the promotion of active participation of the faithful) were well established. The renewal of Gregorian chant was seen by Rome as one of the key elements in promoting the participation of the faithful—hence the importance of St. Pius X's Motu Proprio.

The liturgical movement was born in monasteries dedicated in a special way to the celebration of the liturgy. Its first great proponents—Dom Guéranger, Dom Maurus Wolter (founder of the monastery of Beuron), Dom van Caloen, and Dom Gaspar Lefebvre, to name a few—were all monks. Another Benedictine, Dom Virgil Michel of St. John's in Collegeville, Minnesota, is given credit for bringing the liturgical movement to the United States in 1925.

The Liturgical Movement in Catholic Parishes

So long as the liturgical movement remained a purely monastic movement, it was content to seek a deeper understanding of the liturgy, and various efforts at scholarship flourished. These were assisted by the discovery, towards the end of the 19th century, of important documents that had a bearing on the liturgy, such as the "Didache," dating from the end of the first century, the canons of St. Hipploytus, and the "Anaphora" of Serapion.

The understanding of the liturgy was nourished by the thought of the great German theologians of the 19th century, J.A. Moehler and Matthias Scheeben, both of whom drew inspiration from their study of the Fathers of the Church and from the thought of the Oxford movement in England, led by Cardinal Newman, another great devotee of the Fathers. Moving into the 20th century, the German monastery at Maria-Laach shone with the splendour of its Abbot Dom Ildephonse Herwegen and the works of Dom Odo Casel, who departed from this life after chanting "Lumen Christi" at the paschal vigil, summing up his life in his death.

In the measure that the liturgical movement departed from the cloister, however, education was felt to be an insufficient means to foster the active participation of the lay faithful. The first translation of the missal for the laity had already been completed in the 19th century by the monks of Maredsous, a daughter house of Beuron. Dom van Caloen from Maredsous founded the monastery at Saint-Andrè, where Dom Gaspar Lefebvre published his famous missal. It appeared in many editions, in many languages, and sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Another daughter house of Maredsous was Mont-Cesar near the great university of Louvain. It was a monk of Mont-Cesar, Dom Lambert Beauduin, who sought in a special way to bring the liturgical movement out of the monasteries and into the parishes, making the parish liturgy the center and starting point of a complete parochial renewal.

Two names merit special mention in the popularization of the liturgical movement: Fr. Doncoeur, a French Jesuit who, after World War I, sought to promote the liturgy among the youth by means of the "Dialogue Mass," and Pius Parsch, an Austrian priest, a canon regular who was uncomfortable with his great abbey church and sought a smaller, simpler church. He is known as the first great popularizer of the liturgical movement. As this work of popularization advanced, liturgists began more and more to advocate reform of liturgical structures while the movement, whose origins were so bound up with the renewal of Gregorian chant, became divided between those who would continue to promote the sacred chant among the faithful and those who wished to substitute vernacular hymns in order to promote congregational singing.

Yet for all the growth and development of the liturgical movement, up to World War II it had remained a sort of small group within the Church which, as of yet, had had little impact upon the vast majority of the faithful. Though small, the liturgical movement had already been involved in a few controversies. Dom van Caloen had raised protests when he suggested that communion should be distributed to the faithful during the Mass rather than after the Mass, as had been the custom at the time. The groundwork needed for any true liturgical renewal, reaching to the whole Church, had been laid. Attention had been called to the centrality of the liturgy for the life of the Church, to the whole of the divine office as the fitting setting for the sacrifice of the Mass, to the importance of sacred chant, to the need for active participation by the lay faithful, which would lead them to a deeper understanding of the liturgy. Moreover, and even more importantly, the liturgical movement thus far was not a matter of mere sterile scholarship. It had born abundant fruits in the renewal of the monastic life that inspired and accompanied the liturgical movement. Nevertheless, trouble was looming on the horizon. Bringing the liturgical movement to a vast body of faithful who were far removed in their way of thinking from a truly liturgical mentality raised difficult questions, and some of the proposed solutions were lacking in prudence and, at times, due submission to ecclesial authority. At the same time, the very attempt to rouse the faithful from general torpor in regard to the liturgy was bound to provoke opposition.


To be Continued...
Guest Editorial on the Liturgical Movement:
(Prologue Musings by Rerum Novarum)

Often have I been critical of the stances taken on matters of theology, Church history, liturgical history, and other matters by those who claim to be "traditionalists." However, this has not been a one-sided affair by any means however it may appear at times.

I have often strove to promote the views of those who I recognize as being faithful to the Church whose views to some extent disagree with my own.{1} I do this in order to provide my readers with snapshots of the diversity of authentic catholicity. It also serves as a reminder to myself that the same kind of dogmatizing of opinion that I lambaste in others can just as easily arise in myself. Thus this process serves as an important check so that my own at-times somewhat forceful approach can be leavened a bit.

I have also wanted to do a series on purgative theology -an element that will factor into a planned response to my friend Jeff Culbreath on the subject of liturgical restoration to be completed in the next few days or so.{2}

The value of the series I am about to post in guest editorial format is an article from an apostolate committed to the promotion of the Tridentine liturgy. And though I may take issue with a few points of the upcoming series,{3} the quality of the piece is excellent. I believe the writer (whomever they are) truly strove to address the dynamics in an equitable manner and thus present to you the reader the best essay on the liturgical movement or the liturgy that I have ever come across in cyberspace from an apostolate or apologist primarily involved in promoting the Tridentine liturgy in the Church.

Anyway, without further ado, go HERE to start the guest editorial.


{1} Sometimes this even extends to those whom I view as lacking a certain degree of fidelity to the Church as well. On these occasions it is generally because the person is a good friend of mine. (Even if at times the responses do not appear that way.)

{2} I will try to make that a short and sweet (for me anyway) response Jeff.

{3} Though since I will not be commenting on the sections, the reader will have to guess on this one.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

"Fisking Idiotarians is 'Insensitive'" Dept.

A recent fisking by The Dyspeptic One of a liberal idiotarian was well received in St. Blog's as many linked to and recommended it including your humble servant of Rerum Novarum. But it is not all wine and roses my friends, indeed some have taken issue with Dale's method. One sample is a particular participant in Dale's message boxes whose comments I will interact with at this time. His words will be in dark yellow font.

MMMMMMMM, humor itself is not sophomoric. What's sophomoric is how it's applied. The Mark Shea School of Fisking serves only to ridicule who's being fisked and not deal with the challenges posed.

There are no challenges being posed JJJJJJ. What is idiotic and sophomoric are these kinds of hit pieces by the so-called "progressives." It is a fact of life that if a lie is told enough times that many people will come to believe it. And make no mistake about it, these theologically stunted and faithless so-called "progressivists" are guilty of this crime to no small degree. Indeed they have long been:

---Lying about Vatican II and what it taught for almost forty years.

---Lying about John XXIII in daring to coopt him in their machinations. (Something that anyone who knows a smidgen about Blessed John knows he would never have sanctioned in a thousand years.)

---Lying about Pius XII and his supposed "inactivity" during the Holocaust.{1} This was done as a way to try and discredit Pius' pontificate which -along with the pontificate of Pius XI- paved the way for Vatican II to take place. (As anyone familiar with Church history and the teachings of the Council well knows.)

---Lying about Pope Paul VI -the promulgator of the Council documents. They also played on the insecurities of Paul VI -who was too concerned about contributing to schisms in the Church to be firm enough in his leadership after the Humanae Vitae debacle. (To put Paul's governing of the Church after the Council in a charitable light.)

---Lying continually about JP II for twenty-five years. This drivel about him "overturning Vatican II" or "smothering Vatican II" is pure horse crap.

With regards to Vatican II they have lied in three crucial ways:

---About the idea that Vatican II in any way sanctioned an autonomous notion of conscience apart from magisterium's teaching. The Declaration Dignitatis Humanae is very clear that religious liberty is a means, not an end in and of itself. It is a means to discern the truth about God and His Church and the right does not have an indefinite range as the so-called "progressives" claim. I go over this fact HERE and will not repeat myself on it at this time.

---They have lied that Vatican II overturned any dogmas or doctrines previously promulgated. (Or that the Council in any way envisioned doing this either at its convokation or its ratification thereof.)

---They have lied that Vatican II in any way sanctions dissent from the teachings of the magisterium. Indeed the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium in section 25 contains the strongest teaching about obedience to the magisterium that has ever been promulgated by the Catholic Church:

Bishops who teach in communion with the Roman Pontiff are to be revered by all as witnesses of divine and Catholic truth; the faithful, for their part, are obliged to submit to their bishops' decision, made in the name of Christ, in matters of faith and morals, and to adhere to it with a ready and respectful allegiance of mind. This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and sincere assent be given to decisions made by him, conformably with his manifest mind and intention, which is made known principally either by the character of the documents in question, or by the frequency with which a certain doctrine is proposed, or by the manner in which the doctrine is formulated. [Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium §25]

These faithless people have been dissenting en masse from the magisterium ever since Pope Paul VI promulgated Humanae Vitae (HV) in the name of Vatican II. Now you tell me JJJJJJ: Does Pope Paul VI anywhere in HV claim that the teaching is "optional"??? No he does not. Does Vatican II claim that religious submission of mind and will is contingent on individuals doing what they want??? Not in the slightest.

These people -these faithless people appeal to the theological qualification of HV as their excuse for disobedience. Based on an egregiously flawed understanding of infallibility (which I will not dwell on at this time) they assert that they can disobey the teaching because "it is not infallible." The error on the theological qualification aside for the moment, where does Vatican II (their supposed shibboleth) teach this??? Answer: nowhere.

Read LG §25 again, it states that religious submission is required of the teaching of the pope even when he does not speak ex cathedra. In other words, whether he intends the teaching to be definitive or not, the teaching is nonetheless to be obeyed. Period. And this is just one teaching of many they have not been obedient on.

Obviously, some articles deserve such fisking; I'll leave it to others to decide whether this one does. The point, however, is that the challenges have to be dealt with in an intelligent manner.

Kindly spare us the idea that these people have any valid arguments at all because they do not. Their appeals to conscience are so contrary to the teaching of DH that it is not even funny. Their claims to a right to dissent have no foundation whatsoever in Church teaching or tradition.{1} Indeed, they appeal to VC II but are so obviously ignorant of it that they cannot be taken seriously. And they pin their hopes on future popes or future councils which proves that they have no faith whatsoever since Catholics do not have the luxury of choosing what they will accept and what they will not accept of the teachings of the magisterium.

Just as mocking Hitler was a way of reducing him to irrelevance by the Europeans after the war, likewise these faithless people who have been traitors to the Church these past few decades -and thankfully have been losing the fight for some time now- are of the same calibre except in the spiritual realm.

God only knows how many souls may be consigned to hell because of the actions of these people. And as Our Lord had His harshest words for those who would cause the little ones to be scandalized, I have no sympathy whatsoever for them nor should any faithful Catholic. This is not a case of invincible ignorance with these people, it is instead vincible at best and crass at worst. (Particularly the theologians like McBrien, Curran, Kung, and others who know better.) They should have the decency to stop calling themselves Catholics and stop representing themselves in any capacity as such because they are both formally schismatic and formally heretical.

Until they have the decency to cease calling themselves Catholics -or at the very least represent Catholic teaching correctly- let the brickbats fly. From one Catholic catechized in the wasteland of the 1970s and 1980s, not only do I have no sympathy for them but those who want to hit them with brickbats can borrow my bat if they like. I will even tell them where for the best effect to hit them. And that is the bottom line really.


{1} Anyone who knows their history knows that this is a bunch of horse crap.

{2} There are means of withholding assent which have a venerable tradition in the Church for theologians who are genuinely troubled about a particular point of teaching. However, these people clearly do not understand them. (For such means are intended to eventuate assent.) And the theologians who claim a right in this area to suspension of assent clearly do not understand the protocol involved either. (Or if they do then they are deliberately misrepresenting it and should take Our Lord's statement about millstones and bodies of water seriously.)