Saturday, April 08, 2006

Liturgical Complaint
Another interesting discussion on the NLM blog. I always find it fascinating when people try to paraphrase my arguments, or worse, recount their adversaries' views without ever really having listened to the points being made. Maybe there's a certain comfort in that--who knows. I know that in eight or so years of internet haggling with liturgical conservatives, I've had to set aside many of my misconceptions and sharpen my points considerably. (Use as a writing implement, not an arrow or knife, I hope.) Frankly, I don't think much of the rumors of a "liberation" of the 1570/1962 Rite. My regular readers know my opinion: whatever liturgical practice is widespread will also have a widely spread quality in its local celebration. Example: Suppose an imaginary Shakespeare trust only permitted one performance of one of the Bard's plays annually within certain cities or regions. No more high school or college productions. Definitely no community theatre. Overall, you would have a very high level of artistry. In real life, one can roll the dice with non-professional Tempests or Hamlets, and leave the theatre quite possibly disappointed. A 1962 Rite in a few more churches in a diocese might be a good thing for liberals, politically speaking. If Kansas City is a test case, there's likely to be division and upset within an otherwise tight-knit community. I doubt that there's anything the Tridentine community can bring (or would want to bring) to mainstream Catholic worship. I seriously doubt it will ever be the mainstream form of the Roman Rite. Mainstream parishes will still have to struggle to express beauty and artistry in music, art, and architecture. A "liberated" 1962 Rite would contribute little to the Church at large. It might solidify things for a small minority of Catholics. It would reinforce one unfortunate post-conciliar development: ghettoism in parishes and the local diocese. Anyway, on the thread in question, I bring up the simple notion of a universal council. Sacrosanctum Concilium was a document produced by theologians and bishops, debated by bishops and pope, promulgated by a near unanimity of bishops and pope, then implemented by a curia, various committees, and every diocese in the world. And another pope. However, Shawn reminds me that SC is not a "dogmatic document which cannot be rescinded in full or part should legitimate authority so choose. It's important to remember that. It hasn't the level of dogma." So this is something less than a pope's motu proprio? Other commentators accuse me of rigidity or demanding obedience. That's hardly the case. From forty years' vantage point, I see a call for liturgical reform at a council of all the world's bishops. Given the pressure for change on the contraception front, I can't imagine the bishops just channeled their Tridentine-trained energies elsewhere. The Roman Missal, as my friends at NLM point out, is not a matter of unchangeable doctrine. Neither is the absolute notion of organic change--something mentioned only once in the Vatican II documents (if memory serves) and certainly not part of pre-conciliar liturgical thinking. My suggestion is that Sacrosanctum Concilium is the starting point for discussion, but not an absolute one. SC sums up the theological and pastoral approach to liturgy in the Roman Rite. It draws upon Scripture and Tradition. It points in certain directions and gives some sound reasons for doing so. An unsound liturgical approach waits for a papal letter, and pins one's hopes there. Also unsound is to resort to conspiracy theories: the liturgists took power from bishops; the bishops didn't really know what they were doing; the bishops didn't read the documents; a small cadre of Catholic authors and intellectual traditionalists constituted widespread complaint. Were Roman liturgists trying to bypass the curia or trying to sneak something past two-thousand chanceries? Given the distrust of certain curialists (who drastically overplayed their hand in 1962) I find it easier to believe that the intent was to cut out the Roman bureaucrats rather than hoodwink several hundred million believers. To sum it up, if it makes my NLM friends happy to think the 1962 Rite will soon be permitted to be celebrated anywhere, any time, then I'm happy for them. Really. They are right to say that aspects of the 1970 Rite are open to criticism. Of course they are. If I wanted to bother, I might post the whole Ordo Missae from 1570 or whenever and provide my own criticism. Continually missing from pretty much all of my discussions is a concession that I share with them (as many progressive liturgists do) a deep regard for sacred musical artistry that most of Catholicism does not. I think a better and wiser hope is to pool resources and make mainstream Catholic parishes better places to experience art and invite folks to be inspired by it. It's the mark of my adversaries when they cannot even admit they have more in common with my sensibility than they thought. Well, if it makes them happy, that's fine with me. After nearly four years, my parishioners know me well enough to count on me as an advocate for a number of surprising developments. If traditionalist web surfers think a pope's magic letter is going to accomplish more than simple roll-up-your-sleeves and get-to-work efforts in the trenches, then I'm no longer happy for y'all. I feel sorry for you.

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