Friday, July 30, 2010

Pray Tell and Liturgical Reform


(This post is much longer than I thought it would be when I started, but I encourage you to read the whole thing.  And I must insist that this post is not, in any way, to be regarded as an affront or insult to the priesthood in general or to the priesthood of my brother, Fr. Charlie; nor as denigrating the piety or sincerity or faithfulness of Catholics like myself who regularly attend the Ordinary Form, like me.)

For the past several months, I have been reading and commenting at Pray Tell, a relatively new (September 2009, I think) blog about "worship, wit, and wisdom".  My personal liturgical and theological views seem a bit more "conservative" and "traditional" than that of the majority of the contributors to the blog.  Some of the commentors (on both sides of the divide) make scathing personal attacks and insults.  (I've been told I know more Latin than I know about the Catholic faith and liturgy, for example, and I assure you, I don't know very much Latin.)

Recently, in order to remind myself to write with charity, I began writing +JMJ+ at the top of my comments.  This was soon met with suspicion and a bit of a side-conversation.  Make of it what you will.

Since the blog's topic is primary liturgy, the new Roman Missal (third edition) is often the subject of posts and comments, especially the impending English translation of it.  Along with that comes a great deal of criticism about the Extraordinary Form (1962 Missal, since edited by Pope Benedict XVI) and its "liberation" through Pope Benedict's Summorum Pontificum.  For example, just this morning a post on the blog reads (with my emphases):
Evangelicals are crossing the Tiber to Catholicism. God bless ‘em. But why do I have this sinking feeling that some of them are way more Catholic than you or I would ever want to be? Watch for more support of the 1962 missal, I suspect.
I recommend you read the linked article.  I read it and didn't notice any particular indicators representing a particular support for the Extraordinary Form.  (Not that I would be opposed to such support; indeed, I would welcome it.)

Now, there's also an ongoing debate on Pray Tell about the Ordinary Form of the Roman Mass, specifically about the degree to which it embodies the Second Vatican Council's decrees on liturgical reform found in Sacrosanctum Concilium.  (This debate has a sub-thread which continually points out how the Extraordinary Form is, so far, un-reformed in regards to Sac. Conc.)  For example, Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB, who has an editorial role at Pray Tell, made this comment in response to someone's remark about the pope's open-mindedness in promulgating Summorum Pontificum (with my emphasis):
Yes – but on the other hand: the bishops of the world begged the Pope not to do this; several conferences implored him. He did it anyway. While his act might seem generous, it is a generosity that cannot possibly be reconciled with the directives of the Second Vatican Council. Vatican II never intended that an unreformed rite would be existence alongside a reformed one. There is no way that the 1962 Mass meets the reformist requirements of the Council. This is a serious problem, in my view. And it is a problem that will compound as the anomaly continues in coming years and decades. How will they ever phase out 1962, as obedience to the Council would require?
I replied, in part, that
I think the 1962 Missal will be “phased out” by slowly but surely applying the reforms clearly expressed in Sacrosanctum Concilium to it. I don’t know how long it will take, I don’t know if I’ll live to see it, but I think the Pope believes that the E.F. and the O.F. are both in need of reform to a “middle way”. The E.F. was not intended to exist indefinitely without being reformed, and the O.F. — and perhaps I’m being wild here — was not the intended result of the reform.
Now, this final remark of mine — that the Ordinary Form liturgy as it exist in the books (and not merely as it is poorly celebrated in many places) might not be an accurate product of the liturgical reform expressed in Sac. Conc. and intended by the Council Fathers who approved that Constitution — is one which others have expressed on Pray Tell and one which is seems completely out of bounds.

I made a later remark where I compared Pope Benedict's act (of approving the 1962 Missal for celebration alongside the Ordinary Form) with Pope Paul VI's act (of approving the 1969 Missal), and asked why it was that the 1969 Missal is regarded as consonant/reconcilable with the liturgical reform expressed by the Council Fathers in Sac. Conc.:

Pope Paul VI, though he did not personally develop the Ordinary Form, approved and promulgated it. But does that necessarily mean it accurately captures the liturgical vision of the 2000+ Council Fathers? Is the way we account for the seeming disparity between certain statements or “decrees” in Sac. Conc. and their relative reception in the Ordinary Form Missal, simply to say that because the Consilium was charged with implementing Sac. Conc. and the Pope approved the final product, it’s official?

In other words, does it come down, ultimately, to the approval of the missal by Pope Paul VI?

Then why is the approval of the yet-unreformed missal by Pope Benedict XVI received differently? Fr. Anthony questions whether it is reconcilable with Vatican II, but some Catholics question how the Ordinary Form is reconcilable with Vatican II as well.
Now, I should make it clear here, as I do at Pray Tell, that:
I’m not calling the [Ordinary Form] invalid or heretical or any of that. I wouldn’t attend it weekly or daily if I thought so. [I should add that I wouldn't be writing a catechetical series on the new English translation of the Ordinary Form if I thought it was invalid or heretical!] I’m just saying it’s possible it’s not what the Council Fathers intended, and that it, like other liturgical reforms of history, may eventually be undone to some degree.
A particular liturgy, as a product of a particular reform, can be official and yet be found wanting or insufficient later and be "rolled back" or re-reformed.  It has happened in the history of the Church.

So how was my question about Paul VI's approval of the 1969 Missal received?  Fr. Anthony replied:
What a strange era we’re in! It is now acceptable to question the approved liturgy of the Church! This ought to be quite daring, and it ought to shock people because it’s bordering on dissent and disobedience. But it is now a commonplace. How did we get to that place? Very strange indeed.

The Council Fathers didn’t prescribe every detail, they laid out general principles. Consilium followed these, without a doubt. Consilium could have gone much further on many points, but they didn’t; they could have been more restrained on some points, but they weren’t. They made their decisions, and the Supreme Pontiff approved them. And so did virtually every single bishop of the Catholic world, all of whom were there for the council debates and decisions.

This chipping away at lawful reform as prescribed by an ecumenical council is scandalous. At least it should be.
I find this comment "shocking", since there are plenty of statements made on Pray Tell which are about dissenting from doctrines of the Church, but they often go unchecked and unadmonished by the editorial staff.  My comment is "shocking" because, as Fr. Anthony has said (on other occasions when I have brought up this unequal reception such comments receive) I am someone who is opposed to the dissenting and disobedient attitude portrayed by certain commentors.  In other words, as someone calling for assent, it is a "shock" to make a statement questioning the Ordinary Form in any way.

I think I need to defend myself and my question.  I am not questioning the Council, nor am I questioning the reform prescribed by the Council as found in Sac. Conc.  However, I am questioning certain facets of the liturgy produced by the Consilium (that is, the group assembled to carry out the liturgical reform).  Yes, their final decisions and the liturgy they produced was approved by the Supreme Pontiff, Paul VI.  But just because he approved them does not mean they were consonant or reconcilable with the liturgical reform as prescribed in the Council documents.  Is it true that "virtually every single bishop" approved the decisions of Consilium?  I thought only the Pope did.  What the bishops approved was the document Sac. Conc. in 1963, not the decisions of the Consilium nor the liturgy they produced in 1969.

I do not know if I can say, with Fr. Anthony, that "the Consilium followed the general principles of Sac. Conc. without a doubt."  There are certain principles and even decrees of Sac. Conc. that they did not uphold very well, and there are others that they adhered to, even to the point of going beyond them.  (I also question the process by which other changes with took place in the Ordinary Form after 1969 — like the rapid proliferation of Communion under both kinds to situations not envisioned by the Council Fathers and expressly forbidden by Rome at the time — but that is for another time.)

My overall question is: must the Ordinary Form (as it exists in the books) be accepted as an/the "accurate" interpretation of the principles and decrees on liturgical reform found in Sac. Conc., simply because Pope Paul VI approved it? (Again, I am not calling into question its validity or licitness.)

And if this "chipping away at lawful reform as prescribed by an ecumenical council is [or should be] scandalous", shouldn't the chipping away at other things said by the same council be decried as scandalous and shocking on Pray Tell as well?

So that's where I am for now.  The trailing part of this post of this will be posted as a comment on Pray Tell, where they don't need to hear all this backstory.


Anonymous said...

just wanted to ask if you went to catholic school because i did and my third grade teacher,sr. marian grace, made us write "JMJ" on top of each of our papers we wrote.

Jeffrey Pinyan said...

No, I didn't go to Catholic school, but I picked up the habit from other people online, and from seeing Fulton Sheen do it.