Saturday, May 26, 2012


The inelegance of liturgical disobedience--should this then be allowed liturgically?

The southern Church is a bit more conservative than the Catholic Church in the northeast and other parts of the country. This was true also in the 1970's in the midst of radical change and disobedience in the Church all of which left bishops who became bishops prior to Vatican II in a conundrum of not knowing what to do and befuddled by all the disobedient foment of adolescent acting out against their authority. (We've since discovered the apex of this adolescent pathology in adult men occurred about 1974 as that year seems to have had the biggest number of adolescent acting priests acting out with adolescent boys, a tragedy of epic proportions for their victims which include not only the kids abused but rank and file priests and laity who today have to suffer the consequences).

This acting out in adolescent ways by adult priests extended to the liturgy and liturgical renewal. We all know the extreme horror stories of clown Masses, puppet Masses and Masses that don't resemble Mass at all but some demonic deviation of it. These were extremes even in the 1970's and still are fodder for discussion and ridicule today. But these examples are extremes.

But there are three other liturgical abuses born of adolescent disobedience in bishops, priests and liturgical theologians that need to be noted.

1. Ad libbing parts of the Mass that should not be ad libbed: It is true that our former (thank God) sacramentary with the banalized translation of the English Mass allowed for improvisation in a couple of places, for example in the introduction of the Penitential Rite and even at the "Ecce Agnus Dei" and the General Intercessions. But that was it. But very early in the 1970's priests started to improvise on the fixed prayers, such as the penitential rite, the collect, prayer over the gifts, the Eucharistic Prayers and post Communion Prayers. No priest has the authority to do such.

2. Holy Communion in the hand was implemented and contrary to liturgical law, but became so widespread that bishops eventually petitioned Rome to allow it and it was granted.

3. Altar girls were implemented long before it was allowed by liturgical law and came about only because of the fact that girls were in place and bishops had no real choice but to approve it.

Is this the way to reform the Catholic Mass by acts of liturgical disobedience that then causes bishops to approve the disobedience in order for the disobedience not be be disobedience any more and thus gets the bishops off the hook for not confronting the disobedience? Just wondering.

So my question today concerns the reform of the reform and going against liturgical law and I ask, is it going against liturgical law to do the follow in contradiction to what most parish priests do today?

1. To celebrate the Ordinary form Mass ad orientem?

2. To allow for the option of kneeling to receive Holy Communion and by intinction?

3. To add a mix of Latin to the vernacular?

Are any of the three things I post as questions truly acts of liturgical disobedience comparable to the acts of disobedience in the 1970's that led to the disobedience being approved and thus no longer disobedient?


Vox Cantoris said...

Mass can always be celebrated "ad orientem" in fact, the new Missal presumes that is the case. In two places, the Orate Fratres and the Pax, the Missal in red instructs the priest, "facing the people..." Therefore, it presumes that the priest is not facing the people.

Communion can always be received kneeling by the people. Forcing it upon them would seem to be a disobedient act since the USCCB and here in Canada, the CCCB have established "standing" as the normative posture. However, if one distributed Holy Communion from left to right instead of the line-up, there would be nobody in front of the people and many/most/all would automatically kneel. It is instinctive if one believes.

Mass can always be celebrated in Latin in the Ordinary Form and no bishop can forbid it. The OF also allows for the mixing of the languages as one can see and hear on EWTN's chapel Mass. An English OF with Latin music and Gregorian chant, or the simple responses in Latin with the the prayers in English and maybe the Canon is a beautiful experience.

What you refer to is not disobedience, it is how Mass can and should be celebrated in the OF.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Have those three things ever really been against Liturgical in actually forbidden?

Joseph Johnson said...

To my understanding, there is a difference in the first three examples of disobedience (which were used to force change by widespread practice) and the second three examples. None of the first three examples, when they first began, were actual options in the rubrics or any other liturgical law.

As to the second three, let me address them separately--we both know the answers and we've been over these before:

1. Ad Orientem (versus apsidem). This was the traditional way for Mass to be celebrated most of the time in most places throughout the world for centuries. It was a long-standing historical "norm," if you will, for celebration of Mass, at least in the Latin Rite. It is implied in the wording of the rubrics of the current, Novus Ordo (Ordinary Form) Mass despite that fact that we now have a fifty year old "norm" for versus populum celebration which is not based on any rubric or liturgical law.

Nonetheless, a change back to ad orientem would at least require catechesis of lay folk and probably at least running the idea by the bishop to see if he had a problem with its re-implementation. Fortunately, more and more bishops, beginning with the Pope--on certain occasions, are beginning to favor this practice.

2. Allowing kneeling for Communion. This goes against the U.S. "norm" expressly set out by the USCCB but is expressly allowed and cannot be denied, according to the new rubrics, if I remember correctly (I don't have a copy handy). Again, it also has the weight of historical practice, and Papal example, on its side.

3. Use of some (or all) Latin. Unquestionably and always allowed as an option but, in the present state of things in most parishes (where two generations haven't heard it used) it will probably require catechesis (ie. what has been our historical tradition and what did SC actually say about Latin being preserved and the limits on vernacular being expanded). It will require slow, piecemeal, introduction by choirs, as sung Mass parts and it wouldn't hurt to start teaching PRE kids basic prayers in Latin (as well as English), which is in our Diocesan approved testbooks anyway.

Bill Meyer said...

I would hold that none of these are violations of liturgical law, and certainly are more in keeping with the spirit of the liturgy than is current practice. I do not know what the canons say about ad orientem (I suspect it is not mentioned there); kneeling to receive has been thoroughly covered here, and is not mentioned in the canons, one way or another. As to intinction, it appears not to be a violation: "Intinction is a completely acceptable form of receiving Communion in both kinds. No restrictions apply."

I would be thrilled to find a priest in my area who implemented these actions. At present, my hope is for a positive result with the SSPX.

Anonymous said...

"Are any of the three things I post as questions truly acts of liturgical disobedience comparable to the acts of disobedience in the 1970's?

Why the question? Each of the three is explicitly permitted by the Church, and hence is not an act of disobedience of any kind whatsoever, let alone comparable to any other.

The Holy See has explicitly said that a bishop cannot prohibit ad orientem in his diocese (in the "Mother Angelica case"), that communion kneeling cannot be refused to the faithful (which surely implies that accommodations for it must be made), that communion by intinction is always permissible; finally the question of Latin does not arise, since Latin is the official liturgical language of the Latin rite, and hence can always be used.

So, how could any question of "disobedience" even arise in regard to each of these undoubtedly licit practices?

Anonymous said...

"This acting out in adolescent ways by adult priests extended to the liturgy and liturgical renewal."

Indeed, I believe there is a high correlation between these two areas of "acting out", as in:

The Liturgical Impact of Homosexuality in the Priesthood

"I would submit that the impact of homosexual priests has perhaps been brought to bear in a particularly profound way in the liturgical life of the Church"

The author suggests that versus populum celebration exacerbates the effects of narcissism.

My own opinion is that the cumulative spiritual effect of liturgical abuse has been of still more epic proportions than sexual abuse.

Carol H. said...

I think that all of us who comment here recognize that the current "norms" we have been practising are the actual break, and that the tree items mentioned are, in fact, a return to the actual liturgy.

Maybe you are compiling a defense for future implementation for Saturday Mass? You know that we would defend you before the Bishop, if needed.

Joseph Johnson said...

Of course, part of the needed catechesis on all three of the latter examples you cited (ad orientem, Communion kneeling, and Latin as part of our liturgical tradition) can be thrown into overdrive by regular celebration of the Extraordinary Form in parishes, which you do and more diocesan priests should make a priority to learn and do. Let people see for themselves what used to be "the norm!"

ytc said...

I want to give that photo priest counseling...

1. No problem.
2. Currently allowed by the US adapted GIRM, although standing is a "norm," whatever that means; anyone can kneel if he wishes.
3. No problem.

I think the answer to 95% of our liturgical questions is just a good punch in the teeth of common sense.

Templar said...

The first examples you posted were illegal in that they were not noramtive before they were forced upon the Laity. The things you suggest "introducing" are not the common practice in America but are the norms of the Universal Church. I think unless your Bishop has specifically told you not to do them, there is nothing illegal or even rebellious in them.

Father Shelton said...

Father, I think there is a growing number of priests amazed at the ease with which traditional Roman practices were unlawfully replaced with novelties, and equally amazed at the difficulty of reintroducing traditional practices that are perfectly legitimate. They got from their A to B easily and quickly, but we just seem to keep spinning our wheels.
That said, I am convinced that if 'we' established an annual "Going ad Orientem Day", or some such thing, it would catch on and give the Vatican an opportunity to support the trend without having to mandate it.

ytc said...

I thought somebody might like to read this. Not exactly directly related but still on the topic of liturgy.

Have a read :D,%20F.S.S.P.%29.pdf

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Father Shelton, as much as I would like to see some reforms implemented and sooner than later, I do we have to move more prudently than the original reformers right after Vatican II that highjacked the actual reform of the Mass. Their rationale was that they were implementing not just liturgical reform but the ecclesilogy of Vatican II, so the photo I have at the top of this post as ugly as it is as ignoble as it is shows an ecclesiology that liturgists have been trying to ram down our throats now (and other radical theologians) since Vatican II all based on the spirit of Vatican II as to how the Church should be organized or experienced.
We need directives from Rome and our bishops encouraging us to implement what Pope Benedict has been modeling throughout his papacy including ad orientem and kneeling for Holy Communion. These are far from radical reforms to say the least.

Bill Meyer said...

Fathers, I think that the hijack was accomplished with ease because the laity were led to believe that the Council had mandated the changes. The reform of the reform, on the other hand, or even small changes, as described here, are now to be undertaken without the mandate of a Council, so far as most of the laity are concerned.

Never mind that a) the Council did not mandate such changes, and b) that those to adamant that no changes be made now have not read, much less studied, the Conciliar documents.

What I believe is needed is a relentless catechesis, delivered in homilies, that gives to the laity the understanding of what the Council actually wrote, and also makes them aware of what havoc was wreaked in so short a time. Then, with growing comprehension, I believe they would welcome the corrections which are so desperately needed.

We need bishops who are committed, and priests who will make this a routine educational process, not a once every few months mention.

Joseph Johnson said...

I know it sounds like a Vateken Tew overload in homilies but I think Bill Meyer is exactly right. Despite what I wrote earlier about sparing references to VII maybe what we truly need (to get where we need to be in the shortest possible time) is a relentless VII homiletic overload, specifically on liturgical matters! What do you think?

Father Shelton said...

Bill Meyer,
You and the Holy Father think alike. This is exactly what he wants to happen during the Year of Faith that begins in October. In his Message announcing the Year, he said the texts of Vatican II, "...need to be read correctly, to be widely known and taken to heart as important and normative texts of the Magisterium, within the Church's Tradition..."

ytc said...

Joseph Johnson, if that would be the case, then I would certainly welcome a relentless series of Vatican II homilies. And yes, I would even start spelling that Council's name correctly if it was correctly preached about!

Good idea, you and Fr. Shelton.