SS Progressive Titanic

The lead editorial in the December 28thissue of the National Catholic Reporter entitled "Liturgy reform: No going back." One gets the sense in reading it that the editors of NCR are trying to convince themselves that even though they have lost a few battles lately, they will win the battle to destroy all that came before and create a "new" church. Look at their view of that awful time before they set it all right. They are poster children for the hermeneutic of discontinuity.
By invoking the church in biblical terms as the pilgrim people of God and as the body of Christ, Vatican II set the stage for a crucial shift away from the juridical “perfect society” embodied in the unabashedly monarchical church of Trent. Nowhere would this be reflected more clearly than in the way the church prayed. The throne room protocols of the Tridentine Mass, the elevations, barriers, brocade, structures and language separating clergy from laity gave way to a worshiping community in which all the baptized were called to full, conscious, active participation. A new way of worshiping marked the beginning of the end of the vertical ecclesiology that for 500 years had shaped every aspect of the church’s life and ministry around hierarchical and clerical preeminence. The council carried the same biblical imagery and expansive approach into the major constitutions on the church and the church in the modern world.
They also have a few choice words for those who haven't hitched their wagons to the progressive bandwagon.
If liturgy has characteristically been below the radar for most Catholics, opponents of Vatican II knew from the outset that the one way to preserve Trent was to halt liturgical reform. To look back over the 42 years since the close of the council is to see that progress in the reform has been real but slow, and to admit that any awakening of Catholic laity to their full baptismal identity is still in the future. At the same time, those devoted at many levels to a pre-Vatican II model of the church have worked hard to bring down many aspects of liturgical reform. Frustrating the process of vernacular translations, crimping the rubrics for Mass to accentuate the ordained and, most recently, restoring the Tridentine rite, are among the more visible signs of successful retrenchment.
They encourage each other that is all is not lost even though they have lost a few lately. They cite none other than Archbishop Piero Marini as evidence.
But there really is no turning back. “Vatican II helped us to rediscover the idea of the priesthood as something universal,” Marini said in an interview. “The faithful don’t receive permission from priests to participate in the Mass. They are members of a priestly people, which means they have the right to participate in offering the sacrifice of the Mass. This was a great discovery, a great emphasis, of the council. We have to keep this in mind, because otherwise we run the risk of confusion about the nature of the liturgy, and for that matter, the church itself.”
No turning back, so says Marini. Don't they see the irony that the good Archbishop was just sacked in favor of the other Marini. He was sacked precisely because his vision was limited to this small concept of the post conciliar church. So even though they have lost most of the battles of late and their guy just got the boot, they are still encouraged. They remind me of officers aboard the Titanic assuring their passengers that this iceberg business is nothing to worry about, the ship is unsinkable.


  1. It's interesting that the term "liturgical reform" has begun to take on a new meaning, at least for the younger Catholics who were either not born yet or at least were very young during the Vatican II years. For many (including myself) what is happening now is the "liturgical reform". Is it just me, or has anybody else observed this? After all, wasn't the Council of Trent a "liturgical reform" and wouldn't that then make Vatican I the "reform of the reform" and Vatican II the "reform of the reform of the reform".... etc? I wonder at what point do we see something as the "status quo" and changes to it as "reform". Apparently, the progressives still se the pre-Vatican II Church as a status quo and Vatican II as the reform. For an increasing number, the post Vatican II Church is the "status quo" and the new movement towards tradition is the reform. Just an observation...

  2. Why is it that the NCR editorialist focuses entirely on the western (Roman) rite and ignores the Eastern rite within the Catholic Church? The Eastern rite Divine Liturgy is even more "monarchichal" than the traditional Roman liturgy. Actually, it probably evolved out of the imperial court in Byzantium which constantly interacted with the Church for over a millenium. Hence the iconostasis, the royal doors separating laity from the sanctuary, etc. What the lefties at NCR lose sight of is that the modernized Roman liturgy has lost the sense of awe that is so integral to the Eastern rite. In my opinion, Benedict's promulgation of Summorum Pontificum enhances the prospects for union between Rome and the Orthodox churches. NCR takes a very narrow, westernized, europeanized view of the liturgy. The magazine's editorial policy is headed in a different direction than the rest of the Church under the leadership of the Holy Father.

  3. How can the Church go back on what it decided in the 1970s? That is an insult to the authority of Vatican II, Paul VI and the world's bishops. How can we go back from reading Scripture in Church to the tiny selection allowed by the old mass, over the long centuries in which Catholics were denied access to the Bible in vernacular tongues? You cannot put the toothpaste back in the tube.

  4. Wow, anonymous, I guess you don't know much about VII, then? Nowhere did the documents of VII say that Latin was abrogated, nor, to my knowledge, the TLM. Now, I would actually agree with you that the expanded readings of scripture in the Mass are generally a good thing. But if you think that Catholics were denied access to the Bible in the vernacular pre-VII, then you are frankly out of your everlovin' mind. I was around in those days and my family certainly had a Bible (English translation). In no way was it "denied" to us. Oh, I'll grant you that the Church did not encourage Bible study by laypeople in the manner of our Protestant brothers and sisters (and I am very glad that we are more open to Biblical study now), but to say we were denied access is untrue. Oh, and in those "Long centuries" to which you refer--few people were literate, and those who were could certainly also read Latin!


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