It might be good to read these before or after you read what I wrote below:
Fr. Anthony Ruff's Letter to America Magazine
Dr.Jeffrey Tucker, Chant Cafe Blog, has an excellent commentary on Fr. Anthony and historical change in the Church--the best I've read!
The old joke goes that you can negotiate with a terrorist. Benedictine Fr. Anthony Ruff has been stirring the pot against what he perceives to be a bad, new translation of the English Mass in a letter to America Magazine. He's not opposed to the re-translation of the Mass and acknowledges that the 1969/73 versions are dreadful; he simply doesn't like "how" the new one came about. He should know, he worked on the new translation but became disillusioned when the Vatican or "higher ups" made arbitrary, heavy handed decisions and changed things without consultation, the major being the changes made between the approved 2008 text submitted to Rome and what we will actually get with the 2010.
We have to keep in mind that Jesus never promised that the Church would be perfect in its administration. Clergy, meaning bishops and priests are sometimes some of the worst administrators in the world. We didn't have an adequate sex abuse policy until this century; bishops were not held accountable for the scandal which they caused by not having an abuse policy and not managing abusive priests in an open and accountable way. No bishop has really been punished for egregious mismanagement except for a few who resigned from their dioceses.
So administration perfection may not be our strong suit in the Church especially if one views it from a democratic perspective.
Yet the fact remains that we are not a democratic institution, we are a hierarchical Church with clear lines of authority but more consultative than we were in 1965 when the Second Vatican Council was shoved down many people's throats too, if we only recall that, not to mention the 1969 reformed Roman Missal, in Latin and in English. Some have the authority, others don't in the Catholic Church. That's true in the parish too. And this truth is quite transparent in the Catechism and Canon Law.
Even given the fact that some changes were made to the 2008 text without apparent consultation with those who translated it, it is also factual that Rome can do that. There's nothing opaque about that--it's written in the rules! But there was consultation with a great majority of the translation and some would say over-consultation that politicized the process too much.
However, I suspect that even if the 2008 translation had gone through without change, that Fr. Anthony would have then turned his focus and wrath on the Vatican for a document issued several years ago called Liturgiam Authenticam which he believes arbitrarily changed a translation work in progress and almost completed in 1998. That translation was thrown out the window precisely because liturgists had hijacked it and were promoting their own liturgical agenda that alarmed many laity, clergy, bishops and eventually the Vatican. The old saying that "hell hath no fury than a woman scorned" can certainly apply also to many liturgists and musicians when it comes to their personalities. They don't just get mad, they get even. There's no turning of the other cheek in other words.
Is this on the same level as bishops' mismanagement of egregiously abusive priests in the 1960's, 70's; 80's and 90's? That would be a bit of a stretch and terribly unfair to our sensibilities.
While Fr. Anthony Ruff may have some points about Church administration and reform that may well be needed, he needs also to recognize the mess that liturgists have brought to the Catholic Church in the last 40 years beginning with those who reformed the 1962 Roman Missal. Most clergy and certainly the majority of practicing Catholic laity don't trust liturgists at all; in fact they may well be despised. If you read some of the nasty comments toward Fr. Anthony in America Magazine and U.S. Catholic, you'll see that, although many are totally uncharitable which is another story when it comes to blogs and comments.
Liturgists have done some good too, (as bishops have) I won't neglect to write that, but they hold a great deal of responsibility for the state of Catholic worship, music and architecture today that was shoved down the laity's throats in the most undemocratic and uncharitable ways possible since 1965. If Vatican II had been given to the clergy and laity in a less authoritarian way and without the embellished "spirit of Vatican II" nuances in the immediate years following 1965, I suspect our Church today would be far more fragmented in discipline and diversity and that what many call the "fruits" of Vatican II would not have been realized on the scope that it was.
I think the following letter to the editor in America Magazinecaptures the sentiments of many, that the main difference between some liturgists and some terrorists is that you can negotiate with some terrorists:
Posted on American Magazine By Tom Piatak | Friday, February 04, 2011
11. Frankly, I don't care what the "liturgists" want. For far too long, they have been able to experiment with the Mass, Catholic architecture, and Catholic music, imposing changes they (but nobody else) wanted. They've disparaged kneeling. I've been instructed at Mass to stand during the Eucharistic Prayer, contrary to the norms for the Mass. They've deprecated cruciform churches and traditional Catholic design, giving us instead "churches in the round" without kneelers and without statues and even without crucifixes, churches that are uninspiring at best and ugly at worst. They've shunted tabernacles off to the side and, for years, there was a de facto ban on Eucharistic devotions in this country. (Fortunately, Eucharistic adoration is making a comeback, because it is so deeply rooted in Catholic culture and so inspiring that people who are exposed to it naturally want more of it). They've waged war on even the vestiges of Latin, depriving people of exposure to traditional Catholic music, and substituted generally bad folk music instead. (I think a handful of the new hymns are good, but most are dreadful). When I got married, the pastor allowed my wife and I to put together a schola to provide music for the nuptial Mass, all of which was in Latin. (The Mass was in English). Afterward, I received many compliments on the music, both from Catholics, who missed hearing this type of music, and from non-Catholics, who were pleasantly surprised because they had come to associate Catholicism with bad music.
Fortunately, there are signs that many of these trends are now being reversed. And if the small change represented by the new translation actually heralds the recovery of some of the beauty that was tossed aside for no good reason, it will be a good thing.