Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Why it bothers me that faithful Catholics are pronouncing 'the reform of the reform' dead.

There is one Mass.

I do not follow the liturgical wars.  I'm not a priest or a religious, I'm a layman.  I am so happy and grateful to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion.  I know there have been serious liturgical abuses since Vatican II - I've lived through all sorts of them.  I try to go to churches where Mass is celebrated faithfully and devoutly, according to the rubrics.  I appreciate the Novus Ordo, whether celebrated in Latin or the vernacular.  I grew up and was trained as an altar boy in what is now known as the Extraordinary Form - in my youth it was the only form.  In Catholic school we learned the Latin responses for Mass and we learned Gregorian Chant for Mass.  I studied Latin in high school, thinking I wanted to be a priest.  I have nothing against Latin.  Today we have the Ordinary and the Extraordinary form of Mass.  I love both, but I personally prefer the Ordinary Form in English.  Privately, I pray the old Office of the Blessed Virgin in English.

What bothers me today when people write or speak about Mass is that many who prefer the Extraordinary Form seem to denigrate the Ordinary Form of Mass, as if it isn't pleasing to God, or in extreme cases, as if it isn't licit, and worse, as if it isn't valid.  There is one Mass in two forms - two missals.  As Bishop Elliot said in his essay at NLM:
However, the integrity of the two forms needs to be preserved and respected, even as the two are meant to influence each other in these times. My hypothesis about a reform of the Extraordinary Form would also be constrained by that current approach.
Please let us keep this important conversation realistic, patient and moderate. The gift of Summorum Pontificum and Pope Benedict’s vision should not be compromised by loudly proclaiming the total failure of the Paul VI post-conciliar reforms. Sweeping claims and an imprudent triumphalism do no credit to some advocates of the Extraordinary Form. Nor is the Ordinary Form respected or supported by those who grumble about the new ICEL translations and others who draw absurd conclusions from a simpler papal liturgical style. 
Polemics also demean and discourage those of us who are still working to enrich the liturgy that is celebrated in most Roman Rite churches around the world. However, to maintain Pope Benedict’s Pax Liturgica, we all need much patience, and often that is hardest virtue on the Christian journey. - NLM

“News reports and judgments made without sufficient information have created no little confusion.” - Pope Benedict

The criticism and mockery of the "Novus Ordo" harms the Faith as much as the liturgical abuse does.  When leading voices in the 'new' liturgical movement disparage the Church by claiming the 'reform of the reform is dead' - it has an effect upon those of us who are  perhaps less enlightened - not part of the liturgical elite, those of us who struggle to live an ordinary Catholic life in fidelity to Church teaching.  The incessant criticism of liturgy, and liturgical styling, and the innuendo over the loss of grandeur in the papacy of Pope Francis can eat away at the spirit of devotion of ordinary Catholics.  It foments doubt among simple believers, and widens the divide among traditionalists and ordinary Catholics.  Those whose faith has been shaken by scandals and mishandling of Church funds, even those prodigals who may be experiencing a sort of 'dark night' of faith, can suffer from the open dissent on the part of their 'older brothers' in the Faith.   When academics use their sites to declare their disenchantment while declaring the death of the reform, it seems to me it only fuels the spirit of dissension.

Two prominent bloggers have written some things that may help explain what I'm trying to say.  It has to do with the indiscriminate nature of media, not unlike what Pope Benedict discussed when he contrasted the influence of the Council of the media to that of the Council of the Fathers when speaking about the implementation of Vatican II.  It seems to me the same dynamic is at work today when people declare the reform of the reform DOA.

I’m just old enough to remember when Catholic theological rumination, especially moral speculation, was restricted to scholarly journals and professional conferences. The understanding in those days was that, whatever merits the latest theological or moral theories might enjoy, it was inappropriate for experts to parade such novelties before rank-and-file faithful lest they jump to premature or erroneous conclusions thereon.
In our day, however, the internet, to a degree that dwarfs the impact of the printing press in its day, has destroyed the old physical and technological restraints on the dissemination of doctrinal or disciplinary speculation. As a result laymen (in the sense of that word implying non-experts) are at the mercy of any Catholic intellectual—and for that matter of any Catholic prelate—who thinks that swaying public opinion in this direction or that is a good way to prove the soundness of this idea or that. - Dr. Peters

The upcoming synod on the family is being shaped by the same phenomenon that influenced Vatican II. But this time the duplication appears intentional, with all of the risks that it involves. - Sandro Magister

For what it's worth.

I'm not sure if the following personal meditation is of any value, but this morning while praying I came across Psalm 78, which opens:
God divided the sea and led them through
and made the waters stand up like a wall.
He split rocks in the desert.
He gave plentiful drink as from the deep... 
We have two walls protecting us on our pilgrimage - two walls - one rock - that gives drink to the thirsty. We have two forms of one Mass.  One Mass - which gives 'plentiful drink from the deep.'

We must trust God.  We must trust God who gives such plentiful drink in the desert.

My apologies if I have offended my readers in sharing my opinions on news items that affect me.  If you find my posts disturbing, please do not link to me and avoid reading what I post.  Your criticisms and corrections are most welcome however.  God bless you.


  1. No crititicism or correction. I agree with everything you wrote. I'll just add that the same media phenomenon occurs with medical and scientific studies that get trumpeted in the news despite the fact that the findings have yet to be digested, evaluated, and replicated by the scientific community. Sometimes I think we just need to turn off our media access.

  2. The Catholic blogosphere, with little exception, has become an echo chamber of competing clanging cymbals and pounding gongs. It's no surprise Christ wondered if there would be faith on Earth when he returns - he knew about comboxes.

    Getting out of the zoo back in September has done more for my faith than having blogged for 5-1/2 years. I don't know if it's because I'm no longer immersed in the media, and thus not afflicted with the attitudes, or not blogging anymore. I pray it's the former - I'm willing to admit it if I'm wrong. But from what I've seen the past few months, since being out of the game, a lot of Catholic bloggers seem to sacrifice mercy for blog hits, and charity for page views.

    Thank you for the thoughtful words and prayers concerning my dad and family. You're a kind man.

    1. I'm believing what you say more nd more every day. I'm hoping I can follow suit.

      Tonight my rosary is for your dad. My sincere condolences.

    2. What Larry said times 2! The few times I get sucked into something unsavory I never comment, but instead walk away and chant my favorite saying - who gives a s*it.

    3. Larry - I just want to "like" your comment.

  3. Thanks for this piece--I think you're spot on, and you've converted me. As always, Mother Theresa had it right. She instructed her sisters to avoid polemics and little controversies about such things as receiving communion only on the tongue etc. Just lead by example and till your little patch of earth. It would have been better if Fr. Kocik et al would have left all this to symposiums and journals.

    The irony about all this is that publicly arguing about anything and everything all the time is a characteristic of a democratic ethos or culture (just ask Plato). And yet those who are publicly arguing for a restoration of the older form are typically very jaded about the value of a democratic culture. Funny stuff...

  4. Declaring the "reform of the reform" dead does not give those of us who are attempting to offer the Ordinary form of the Mass with all the reverence we can muster, much hope. I have noted that when those who prefer the Extraordinary Rite offer photos of comparison, it is usually a solemn High Mass in the ancient rite compared with a folksy, dancing girls or clowns performing Mass in the Pauline Rite. My prayer is that both rites be offered with dignity and grace. However my preference is for the Ordinary Rite because its connection with the Last Supper is more obvious. Sometimes photos of Solemn Mass in the Extraordinary Rite with multiple ministers in copes, make me wonder is this "salvation by haberdashery".

  5. What bothers me is the inconsistency: it's either dead or it isn't. If it's not, then when is it going to actually happen?

    A simple glance at Fr. Fessio's scholarship (one need not be a priest, religious, liturgical warrior, whatever) to see how far things are from what was intended:

    And, if it is dead, well, it would be hard to believe, for, from one leading mind in the Church to the next, there is a sense of disagreement.

    Consider what Cardinal Ratzinger wrote some years ago:

    “[A]fter the Council … in the place of the liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living process of growth and development over centuries and replaced it, as in a manufacturing process, with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product (produit banal de l’instant).”

    – Introduction to La Reforme Liturgique en question (Le-Barroux: Editions Sainte-Madeleine), 1992, pp. 7-8.

    That is essentially what Fr. Kirby said too. You cannot fix something that is inherently flawed to begin with. To truly 'fix' it would either be to start over or to reform it to such a degree that it would likely no longer be considered a 'reform' at all any longer, so different it would be from what came before it.

    By contrast, Pope Francis, via Vatican Radio:

    "The fiftieth anniversary of the conciliar Constitution “Sacrosanctum Concilium” on the Sacred Liturgy – the first document promulgated by Vatican Council II – is an cause for “gratitude for the profound and wide-ranging renewal of liturgical life, made possible by the conciliar Magisterium … and at the same time urges relaunched commitment to welcoming and more fully implementing this teaching”.

    I suppose some questions are fair to pose:

    -Does Pope Francis mean that the document itself is a cause for gratitude because it called for the renewal of liturgical life; or does he mean that we are grateful for the document because of the renewal of liturgical life itself that came from it? There is a big difference.

    -If the latter, did a "renewal" of liturgical life come about? Is it too facile to point to the decrease in Mass attendance and practice of the Faith as well as the many liturgical abuses over the past 50 years?

    -If the former (meaning, that the document is a cause for gratitude but not what came from it - its perversions in practice), then what sense can we make of his comments that it be more fully implemented, which, I think, implies success in implementing it in the first place (contra, perhaps, Fr. Fessio's points above)?

    -What would a renewed commitment and more complete implementation mean? Is it a "reform of the reform"? Or is it "more" (somehow, whatever that may mean) of the original "reform" (the one that occurred in practice) which, as mentioned, and per Fr. Fessio, barely resembles the "reform" that the Council actually called for?

    urges relaunched commitment to welcoming and more fully implementing this teaching

    1. Ratzinger's fully remarks, in context, for those interested:,+living+process+of+growth+and+development+over+centuries+and+replaced+it,+as+in+a+manufacturing+process&source=bl&ots=V0y3WEz9GU&sig=KKI-RYcEMyVpVY76ZR5mlm-PqVY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=vkIPU_X2Oszy2gXipoCwDw&ved=0CCsQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=in%20the%20place%20of%20the%20liturgy%20as%20the%20fruit%20of%20development%20came%20fabricated%20liturgy.%20We%20abandoned%20the%20organic%2C%20living%20process%20of%20growth%20and%20development%20over%20centuries%20and%20replaced%20it%2C%20as%20in%20a%20manufacturing%20process&f=false

    2. I'm sorry. I meant to quote this as well, from the same Vatican Radio report:

      "To our gratitude to God for what it has been possible to achieve, the Pope stated that it is necessary to unite “a renewed willingness to go ahead on the path indicated by the Council Fathers, as there remains much to be done for a correct and complete assimilation of the Constitution of the Holy Liturgy on the part of the baptised and ecclesial communities. I refer, in particular, to the commitment to a solid and organic liturgical initiation and formation, both of lay faithful as well as clergy and consecrated persons”.

      I think that is clearer, and that he means much has be done which is incorrect and incomplete, that what has been done is inorganic (just like Cardinal Ratzinger said). If so, then I'm grateful for this from the Holy Father. The challenge will be that, because what was actually done post-Council was so foreign to what the Council actually intended, a "reform of the reform" --i.e. commitment to a solid and organic liturgical initiation and formation -- will end up jarring the faithful again quite strongly as it did in the time immediately following the Council. It will require an undoing of the original confusion that has set in, which is bound to create more confusion itself at least for a time.

      We may well have to start more or less from the beginning, as Cardinal Ratzinger also once said. A truly "poorer" Church but one, hopefully, that is more pure and faithful now that She is actually heeding the Fathers of the Council.

    3. The point of the post was not to discuss the general merits of the two rites, or what the rites will look like in a hundred years, but to turn these questions into an internet tempest (which it is--there are articles and discussions on it all over the place) does more harm than good. Even if the old rite will emerge as the dominant rite (in the West anyway) that would still be 3-4 generations away, and any substantial reform of the reform would also be at least 2 generations away. And so why aggrieve so many of the faithful and stir the pot at this time? As Bishop Elliot suggested, just keep building up your good parishes and monasteries, continue with your scholarship and conferences and things will shake themselves out in time. As I suggested, it smacks to me a little bit of the love of disputation and interest group lobbying that is so characteristic of a democratic culture. A little "aristocratic" discretion can go a long way here...

    4. While I agree that, subjectively, the tempest can be damaging and scandalous, there are, objectively, real issues at stake that cannot be ignored. The tempest is not mere fighting or factionalism, and to blame it on those, now, who are concerned is a mistake I think. This tempest has been brewing for a long time...

      I was thinking yesterday that for Catholics formed within the last 50 years, they have not had the experience of the liturgy the way that the Council intended. I am not saying they have not had a valid Mass (but that would be minimalism if we simply settled for that). I am also not saying that the reform of the reform is dead. It CANNOT be dead, as a matter of fact. It is impossible, for the Church has called for reform and we would not be Catholics if we ignored Her call from the Council.

      Some have lapsed back into thinking that, since the reform is dead, the TLM is all that was ever good in the first place. But that is false. That too had its problems, as did its affect on the faithful. So Catholics have not had the Mass, as intended by the Council (Fr. Fessio's point).

      The reform has been ignored or misinterpreted, therefore. That is an enormous problem, an enormous scandal. If the Eucharist is the source and summit, and if the Liturgy is our worship of God Himself, then to get the Liturgy wrong is to get a lot wrong - not because the Liturgy, in itself, is some Golden Key to the sanctification of all else ("Save the Liturgy, Save the World" - uh, no), but because it is how many of us are formed in the Faith.

      We have lost the virtue of religion. The world has become charitable and cause-oriented and taken Catholics with it ("I'm a good person"). There is love of self and love of neighbor (maybe) but no more love of God Himself. That is devastating because it is so foundational.

  6. Terry, I truly empathize with your heartfelt post. I was once very much a part of those "Traditionalists" who feel that there is really only one Mass, completely discounting what they call the "novus ordo" as hardly being worthy of attention. Then I slowly started to become more and more aware of my elitist attitude. Traditionalists look at the OF as a man made Mass, while they see the TLM as coming directly from the Holy Spirit. The fact is, both come from the Church led by the Holy Spirit.

    There have, unfortunately been many abuses in the OF which, by its nature, makes the abuses much more apparent. Notice that I use the word "apparent." There were actually plenty of abuses in the Mass prior to Vatican II. They weren't teddy bears and clowns, but in some ways worse - they were abuses of the heart and spirit, with people merely going through the motions which had become pretty much meaningless. The Holy Spirit led the Council fathers and later, Pope Paul VI, to give us a new Mass. We need to ask why.

    Re LarryD's comment, he is so right about Catholic blogging being a zoo. We are all so convinced of our own rightness and point of view. But in my particular case, blogging has actually helped me. My views have drastically changed because by researching and writing on what is happening in the church, I have come to see how wrong I have been. The conclusion I have come to is to turn off all of the noise and listen to the one earthly voice I can trust, and that is the Holy Father. He is the Vicar of Christ. He is Christ's personal representative on earth. He may or may not a holy person, he may be a great sinner (and I say this generally, not about any particular pope), but I am promised by Our Lord that the Holy Father can never lead me away from Jesus Christ. That is not true of anyone else on earth. It is most particularly not true when it comes to myself.

    1. Mary - thanks very much for your beautiful comment - I think Larry would agree your blog is one of the exceptions. Thanks for contributing here.

  7. Mutual enrichment between the two forms of the Latin Rite...that is Benedict XVI's hope from his letter to the Bishops freeing the use of the 1962 rites.

  8. Here is a fine quote from the wonderful Laszlo Dobszay (+ 2011) on the topic of "The Reform of the Reform":

    "The Bugnini liturgy is unsuccessful for the most part not because it has introduced innovations and thus is a reform liturgy, but because it has introduced defective reforms and has thereby caused damage. There is no doubt that a liturgical reform was necessary, but it is not so clear that this liturgical reform was needed. Consequently, I decline to accept the groupings of opinions into "progressive" and "conservative" categories, as well as the attempt to seek the main cause of the present troubles in these "progressive" and "conservative" extremes. I am convinced that the scholar may undertake the awkward task of examining both the old and the new elements in the liturgy, each according to its own specific truth, as long as he is willing to observe the regulations of the Church in daily practice."

    Dobszay discloses that the so-called "Tridentine" Liturgy is only one representative of the traditional Roman Rite, "its outward appearance reflects the private liturgy of the Curia Romana, and consequently, when compared to the medieval cathedral liturgy...of the ancient Roman basilicas, it proves to be poorer in many respects." So the Missal of 1962 is by nature a Roman Rite (its content and form grow organically from the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church handed down from generation to generation - thus transcending time), but not the best example of the Roman family of rites.

    On the other hand, the NO Mass is not a Roman Rite in content and form, it violated Article 23 of Vatican II's Consitutution Sacrosanctum Consilium, it was fabricated by a committee over a few years, and is thus time-bound and culturally bound to the moment of that committee, rather than transcending time by the natural power of tradition.

    So (1) the Missal of 1962 needed reform, and it was impoverished compared to the richer variants of the Roman Rite that were available via "resourcement," and (2) the NO Mass is defective because it was not pursued as a faithful effort to reform the Roman Rite, but rather, an opportunity to innovate a new Rite satisfying the ambition of a man that rejected tradition (Archbishop Bugnini - "I am the change!").

    So ironically, Dobszay shows that both sides, "progressive-NO" and "conservative-Tridentine" are locked in a trench war, and do not conform to the intention of SC for the liturgical reform.

  9. Great post, Terry. Thanks. I too agreed with Dr. Peters' post. Certain deep questions should be explored in places and forums where they don't scandalize people who do not have the background to grasp the finer areas.

    I also agree on the Mass. While I prefer to go to the TLM at my parish, I have no qualms about going to any other Mass there. All are celebrated reverently.

    I liked the bishop's article too when I saw it. He brought out some things I too felt - that you don't just throw in the towel on the new Mass and bringing it closer in celebration to harmony with what was originally intended. In the end, God gave the Church the power to bind and loose, not us. It takes faith to accept as good, what the Church offers us.

    1. Thanks for your good comment Diane.

  10. When the first sentence of the posting is "I do not follow the liturgical wars" then you get what is expected with regard to the subject at hand. Kudos to the author for being honest up front.

  11. With lots of respect for a well-reasoned, non-pejorative approach to a question that is frequently just a flame war, I don't think the matter can be addressed in such a simple fashion. Surely, there's lots of common ground... Both forms are valid and licit. Both forms have relative advantages. Both forms can and do bring about spiritual benefit and edification. But there are other questions which don't naturally lend themselves to simple answers. There are a whole category of questions involving superlatives. For example, we ought to ask, which of the forms - in a truly objective sense - best glorifies and exults the Lord? We ought to ask which form better protects the mysteries of faith from malicious or benign interference? We ought to ask which more truly edifies the soul and lifts up our nature to the One, Good, True and Beautiful? We ought to ask which more faithful communicates the faith?

    The questions that have definite answers should be easy enough for us to agree upon. But the questions which include superlatives have long been dismissed by those who would prefer to claim that there is "no right answer." But that's a mistake at best, a copout at worst. I think more and more experts are reaching the logical conclusion of their comparative studies and settling upon clear and compelling answers as to which form is superlative and which isn't. Of course the form which isn't doesn't become bad simply because it isn't better... That's a classic logical fallacy.

    The truth is that there must be a right answer to the questions of comparison. While I have the utmost respect for the scholars who have said the ROTR must go on and\or dismissed Fr. Kocik's argments, I believe that a great many of them have dodged the comparative questions by very strongly affirming the baseline definitive questions. It's simply dishonest to say that the ROTR crowd has denied that the OF is pleasing to God or that they have claimed the OF is a "total failure." Neither Fr. Kocik, nor any of the other credentialed writers I've read in this vein are hysterical or irrational. Further, it's also a strawman to discuss the SSPX\RadTrad crowd as part of this matter because they are not ROTR. I think an honest assessment is that a great many "sons of the Church" to quote Pope Francis have concluded after a lifetime of honest study that the EF is objectively better than the OF - theologically, spiritually and for the purposes of evangelization. And I don't think anyone needs to feel threatened by that kind of honesty and intellectual integrity.

    * As a disclaimer, I'm a parish priest who offers both the OF and the EF weekly. My advanced degree is in philosophy, not liturgy.


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