Saturday, April 01, 2006

Category Three Catholicism
John disputes my contention that Catholic liturgy was in bad shape prior to Vatican II. Many of us have direct experiences of liturgy before and after. Most of us have stronger memories of the "after." We also know people who have shared their stories of transition, though those stories are naturally colored by our own selective memories of their telling. But I think it's hard to totally dismiss them, even the altered tales. Assuming that liturgy can fall into either the "good" or "bad" column--an oversimplification, I concede--I think it's safe to say that four possible base variations exist for any individual Catholic. Logic tells us that liturgy is experienced as either good or bad. And the transition experience was a combination of before and after the Council. Therefore: 1. Some people experienced poor Tridentine liturgy, the Mass was reformed, and the liturgy remained poor. 2. Some people experienced poor Tridentine liturgy, but with the reform of the Mass, their experience was good. 3. Tridentine liturgy was done well for some, and after the Council, it went sour. 4. Tridentine liturgy was done well before the Council; the Mass was changed, and the experience of liturgy remained good. We can quibble individually about what constitutes "good" and "poor" liturgy for us. But the bottom line is that Catholics make judgments along these lines. God may have a different opinion, and the Scriptures suggest that "good" worship leads to social justice, love and charity. But let's not go there right now. It's enough to accept the subjective judgment. People in the first category might have one of four different approaches to their overall poor experience: apathy, fatalism, get involved and try to improve things, or find a parish with better liturgy. People in the second category might also care little, but many parishioners notice when things improve. They might associate correctly or incorrectly that the renewed Missal was all or part of the reason for the improvement. They will naturally be attached to the period of change and will resist efforts to tinker with the system. These folks see Vatican II as a raving success, at least liturgically. It can be very hard for progressive people to be induced to move off point and seek deeper change. Changing pastors and musicians are traumatic enough. Most St Bloggers with memories might fit in category three. Maybe their pre-conciliar parish had great music, beautiful architecture, and prayerful priests. As with category two, the change in fortune might be due to the perception of the liturgical changes. Also as with category two, it might also be due to a random change in parish leadership. Basically, the approach is that the Good Ol' Days are gone and lets work to recover what made them good. People in category four are the rare lucky ones. For these people, if they like the vernacular, new music, and other renewal trappings, their view will be positive. If not, they might wistfully long for a few of the extras, but by definition, they see the new Mass as well done, so they're satisfied for the most part. Some apathetic souls inhabit this category, too, but also others who don't know how lucky they are and they assume every other parish has it so good. Don't we wish. The real question is: How big are each of these groups? Sociological studies on Catholic satisfaction have been done in every decade. I'm not a sociologist, so if you want numbers crunched, go to Andrew Greeley or social scientist. Looking back at the liturgy documents and the journals, and drawing a bit from what people tell me, my contention is that if the Tridentine Mass was being celebrated with grace, dignity, and fervor throughout the Catholic world, it would have escaped the 20th century unscathed. It didn't. Almost every Catholic bishop in the world voted for Sacrosanctum Concilium. Every one of those bishops went to seminary before 1950. More than that, when SC permitted the local bishop considerable leeway to use the vernacular, almost every Catholic bishop in the world promoted it. The Church hierarchy from Rome on down reformed the liturgy out of obedience or enthusiasm or some sentiment in between. There was some pouting, but pretty much everybody was on board. Rome felt that the seminary system, clerical celibacy, the ban on artificial contraception, and the whole Catholic moral firmament was working and went through the 60's untouched (though admittedly not unquestioned). Why would the Mass change so dramatically, beyond ordinary Catholic expectation when certain elements of Catholic teaching and practice remain largely unchanged despite pressure from outside and inside the Church? It doesn't make any sense to suggest that the Catholic Mass was hijacked. Or that the new Mass is invalid or inferior. Or that we've been hoodwinked by Bugnini and his buddies. Or that the world's 2,000 bishops were replaced by aliens. Or that they really didn't know what they were doing. It makes more sense to say that category three Catholics are upset. If their experience of liturgy has gone from good to bad, they have a right to be upset.

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