What Would We Do Without Experts?

Elizabeth Harrington is the education officer with the Brisbane archdiocesan Liturgical Commission and she has something to say to all you amateurs. Shut up and Keep Away.
SOMETIMES it seems that everyone is an expert on liturgy and that personal preference carries more weight than the considered judgement of someone with years of study and experience in the field.

The self-proclaimed liturgy “experts” will often quote liturgical law to prove their point.
Yes. Yes. But I also know that it was 'experts' with 'years of study and experience in the field' that have gotten us into the mess that we currently find ourselves. It has been the 'rebellion of love' conducted by these amateurs that has perhaps turned the tide. It is the fact that the tide may be turning that so annoys the experts. Ms. Harrington has some more advice for you:
The correct approach to understanding and interpreting such documents involves:

* Reading them with an open mind to discover what they are really saying and not relying on media reports or hearsay. [I know that here in the blogoshpere, we are all about the documents. The motu propio is a perfect example]

* Looking at the overall thrust rather than zeroing in on selective bits that support one’s particular “hobby horse”. [Yes, yes, of course. Let's worry about the spirit of the document rather than what it actually says. Where have I heard this before?]

* Putting them in the context of other liturgical and Church instructions rather than treating them in isolation. [True] For example, liturgy documents must always be viewed through the lens of those liturgical principals so strongly espoused in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy from Vatican II.[The problem is that the experts take parts of the constitution and read them in isolation and often misinterpret them. Full and active participation, anyone? So maybe it is not just the amateurs]

* Waiting for directives from the diocesan bishop or liturgy office before acting, or expecting others to act, upon new directives. Interpreting and implementing documents require the expertise of those with authority and training in theology, liturgy and canon law. [Yes, we should give the experts an opportunity to dissemble and ignore the clear directives. Only those with training know how to get around the clear language of the documents.]

* Considering who the document is written for and directed at. Confusion and hurt sometimes arise when documents intended for the guidance of diocesan bishops, not for the general public, are widely circulated. [In other words, these documents are above your pay grade and you have no right to know what they say. Clearly, some documents are meant for the Bishop, but the general public is involved. Take Ecclesia Dei for example. That document was directed at the Bishop. It called for the Bishop to be 'wide and generous' in his application. Didn't the public have a right to know that? To expect that their bishops to actually be generous?]

* Using common sense when it comes to expecting instant compliance. [Yes, we should always be kind, patient, and reasonable. But we should still expect compliance.]

* Keeping fully informed about the issues by reading Catholic papers and liturgy journals. [Liturgy Journals? Don't get me started.]
The whole thing just smacks of elitism. You amateurs cannot possibly understand the plain language of these documents, so butt out. Liturgy experts have led us to the edge of the precipice. Now, they are annoyed that we may be waking up and turning around rather than following them like lemmings off the edge of the cliff.

What would we do without experts?


  1. These are the words of someone who is terribly insecure with their knowledge and authority! To begin with, there are many "liturgy experts" who routinely ignore Church documents, substituting instead vague "principles intended by the document". Liturgiam Authenticam comes to mind, particularly regarding the translation of the Missal and the recent "Directory for Music and the Liturgy"... both of which have tried to get around very clear language in LA and put in place other "principles for translation" which the experts have determined make greater sense. You are also right in noting that much of the mess we are in is due to the meddling of experts who feel obligated to get in between the Holy father and his faithful and act as interpreter...

  2. Putting them in the context of other liturgical and Church instructions rather than treating them in isolation. [True] For example, liturgy documents must always be viewed through the lens of those liturgical principals so strongly espoused in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy from Vatican II.

    Edyukayshun shoulda inklooded the schmarts to distinguich betwixt "principAl" and "princiPLE."

    And while we're at it, a REAL understanding of liturgy begins with having read and understood documents and principles beginning...oh, just for fun...with the Acts of the Apostles.

    It might even include knowledge of the Gregorian reforms, Trent, and the Reforms begun at Regensburg in the late 1860's.

    But maybe that's too much for one poor M.S. to read, eh?

  3. Well, as a liturgy expert myself (I teach liturgy in a seminary), I can tell you that there are amateurs who are faithful to the Church, and there are experts who are faithful to the Church. There are amateurs who are well-intentioned but mistaken, and there are "experts" who have many diplomas but are just plain in error. The reason we do what the Church does is because staying with the mind of the Church keeps us from having ingorant, idiosynchratic people making bad decisions. Of course, because of the Fall, this happens all too often nonetheless.

  4. 1. Brisbane is the most liberal Archdiocese in Australia; everyone in authority there seems to think that Catholicism began with Vatican II. They'd probably be happy to re-start the calendar at "year 0", if only they could agree on whether the reference point for the "year 0" should be the commencement of VII, the laying aside of the Papal Tiara at the conclusion of VII, or the promulgation of the 1970 Missal.
    2. Anonymous makes some very interesting points.

    3. Wasn't it Cardinal Newman who said that it was the faithfullness of the laity in the age of St Athenasius that saved the Church from Arianism?

    4. Those referred to in para 1 of this comment, and many others have no concept or understanding of the pre-concilliar Church, and absolutely refuse to bring to bear any appreciation of Trent, Nicea, Chalcedon, Constantinople, Vatican I etc etc in into their interpretation of Concilliar and post-Concilliar documents.

    5. This may sound terrible, but women should only be allowed into the sanctuary to clean it, and then only as a last resort. In my experience, they almost always clash with the Priest, and almost always want greater and greater roles in the celebration of the liturgy. I bet this "liturgical expert" thinks that priestesses are "inevitable, in the 'Spirit of Vatican II'".

  5. Could you please provide links to original sources, please?

    It would be nice to be able to read the entire article on the matter.

    Gratias tibi ago,


  6. Mark,

    The link to the original article in The Catholic Leader is:


    Hope this is of help


  7. Mark
    I thought I had it in there. Fixed it.

    Thanks David!


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