Monday, May 28, 2012


Pre-Vatican II Ecclesiology?
Post Vatican II Ecclesiology?
And this was given to me yesterday by someone in our EF Community after the 2:00 PM splendidly Gregorian EF Mass for Pentecost! The Law of Prayer is the Law of Belief:

Ecclesiology is the study of the nature of the Church. It is said that in pre-Vatican II times the ecclesiology was too clerical. That is captured in the first picture above where the Mass is the clerical domain of the priest and his private celebration as he has his back to the people, says many of the prayers, in particular the Roman Canon, quietly and there is a clear distinction between his prayers and the prayers of the congregation, for example the double Confiteor at the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar and the double "Communion Rite" for the priest and then for the laity.

Apart from altar boys who were meant to be seminarians in recruiting, there was no lay participation in the first picture, such as lay lectors and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. The emphasis is on the ordained priestly action, not the priestly action of the baptized which the second picture captures as the priest is facing the people and the people have a "buy-in" to what he is doing.

The nature of most post-Vatican II parish is less clerical today. Lay people bring Holy Communion to the sick and home bound. There are full-time ministries for lay people, such as DRE's and Youth Directors, Music Directors and pastoral assistants. Even our schools are totally lay run with principal and teachers. This is decidedly a different model of ecclesiology than what most parishes experienced prior to Vatican II.

It is important to understand that the battles over the liturgy are tied into a perceived ecclesiology also.The Second Vatican Council called the laity to holiness although I am not sure that means busy-ness, liturgical or otherwise.

The ecclesiology of holiness means participating fully in the Liturgy of the Church by praying the Mass. The move to encourage the laity to cease with devotions during the Mass such as the rosary or other devotions, coming in late and leaving early was an important shift. (It was said, you still fulfilled your obligation if you came to Mass for the Gospel reading and technically you could leave after receiving Holy Communion which many people did in the pre-Vatican II Church!)

But I believe apart from the legitimate participation of the laity in the parts of the Mass once reserved to the altar boys and choirs (which was meant to be a symbolic participation of the laity anyway)that the ecclesiology of Vatican II was meant not so much for churchy ministries but for the laity's life in the world and bringing the Catholic faith and morals to the marketplace or the public square.

What has happened though is that the laity have brought their distorted "private devotions" to the public square, not the Church's faith and morals. By that I mean they bring not the actual participation of the faith and morals of the Church to the public square but something that is a parody of that, such as pro-choice beliefs, pro-contraception beliefs and a whole host of beliefs that are not in keeping with the faith and morals of the Church.

Maybe we need to revisit Vatican II's ecclesiology and emphasize it to the priests and laity of the Church. Maybe on this 50th anniversary of Vatican II we should actually read the documents of Vatican II and begin to implement them. What do you think?


ytc said...

I think the big question here is:

Did Vatican II really seek to change the internal structure of the Church? And if so, to what extent?

The Universal Call to Holiness is directly and unequivocally OPPOSED to changing the interior structure and workings of the Church, if I say so myself. The Universal Call to Holiness isn't meant to be some democratization of the Church. It is meant to be a rallying call and a noble and fully attainable goal for people to try to achieve.

The Universal Call to Holiness is, essentially, a missionary and evangelical thing. It is not to be something as stupid as making 400 roles for laypeople, from "pastoral assistant" to "DRE." (That's not to say that these aren't sometimes needed) It is meant to be a way for laypeople to share their faith and the example of it.

The Universal Call to Holiness has nothing to do with the inner workings of the Church. That's where this whole Vateken Tew thing got completely screwed up in the first place.

And liturgy, oh please. Were there problems before the Council? Yes. But so what? For every liturgical gain that we have now, there are ten negative points.

VP celebration is, for the most part, a moronic and short-sighted idea. It works in giant places like St. Peter's where the Papal Altar is very far from the laity. However, it is a dumb idea in parish life and usually leads to other stupidity like churches-in-the-round and thrust-stage style sanctuaries. Not to mention it RUINS the ESCHATALOGICAL ORIENTATION (which BY THE WAY, SISTER PANTS, is LINEAR in Christianity...) of the liturgy.

ytc said...

And, good God Father, I love your bumper sticker!

You do know that those are Fr. Z's design, right?

Have a good day Father and please keep the posts coming.

Kitchener Waterloo Traditional Catholic said...

The subject of active participation in the liturgy is certainly an interesting one. I've read that the original purpose of the Sanctus bells was to get people back to the nave, away from side altars, statues, etc, where they were doing their own thing (devotionals).

Of course anyone who's taken an interest in this subject knows of the little old lady saying her rosary pre-Novus Ordo. Although I'm sure it doesn't happen quite as often, I've seen it done in the new form.

Certainly it is not ideal to be praying a private devotion during the liturgy, but is it worse than the people sitting there day dreaming about anything other than the Sacrifice?

In my experience, saying the Kyrie, Patre Noster, or Sanctus in the vernacular does not necessarily increase active participation. Most people have those prayers memorized and are fully capable of repeating them mindlessly.

I tried praying the Ordinary Form with my own hand missal once - it doesn't work. There's no point, plus you don't know which Eucharistic Prayer the priest will say, among other options available to him.

The most active anyone can participate in the Mass is to follow along with their hand missal in the Extraordinary Form. By reading along you place yourself at the foot of the altar along with the priest.

However, reading is not required. Lately I prefer to use my missal only as required because I know the Mass enough to be able to follow without it.

Prior to discovering my local Extraordinary Form Mass I thought the Mass was a re-presentation of the Last Supper. I thought the only time the liturgy is focused on Calvary was on Good Friday. I'm sure I wasn't alone in that misunderstanding.

It's not the Novus Ordo's fault the typical Sunday liturgy has devolved into a happy communal meal, but it is certainly the reality in most parishes.

Once the average Catholic comes to believe Mass is just another weekly good time, Father never talks about sin or salvation, and that God loves you know matter what - the importance, reverence, and necessity of the liturgy disappears. That's one reason people don't make their Sunday obligation.

The re-presentation of Calvary should be the highlight of the faithful's week. Sunday is the start of the week, the Lord's Day. We need him to help us get through the week. The phrase, "Go, you are dismissed" sends the laity out to actively participate their faith, to be shining examples of God's love.

We don't need to take on any of the priest's roles in order to get something out of the liturgy, nor does he need to face us for a connection to the divine. I'd be worried if any bus driver turned around to face me in an effort to be more friendly and get me riding more often.

When the gates of Heaven open during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the miracle of Transubstantiation occurs, no one should feel neglected as only the priest elevates the consecrated Host.

Most parishes have dropped the word "Holy" from referencing the Mass. Many use the word "Liturgy" or "Eucharist" instead. There's a direct correlation between not using the word "Holy" and irreverence. When something is not holy it isn't as important.

Anonymous said...

"Apart from altar boys who were meant to be seminarians in recruiting, there was no lay participation in the first picture, such as lay lectors and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion."

Surely, you would not seriously suggest that a handful of readers and EMHCs represents participation of the dozens or hundreds of faithful in the congregation (any more than an handful of altar boys). Their purpose (whether valid or not) is to provide needed liturgical functions, not to serve as proxies for the people.

"the second picture captures as the priest is facing the people and the people have a "buy-in" to what he is doing."

Can anyone seriously argue that versus populum celebration promotes actual participation of people in the action at the altar? When I discovered the Catholic Mass in the 1950s, I was impressed that most in the congregation--apart from a few men reading bulletins in the back and sometimes a few little old Italian ladies with their rosaries--most were following the Mass with their hand missals, as do most at any ad orientem Mass today. Whereas most at a versus populum Mass are not following it with similar prayer attention.

Anonymous said...

Clericalism during the EF Mass wasn't the real problem that needed was the clericalism outside of the Mass.
Sometimes the pendulum simply has to swing too far in order to settle back in center.
We're gettin' there! It's on it's way to the correct position.

Dan said...

Father, you know that generally, the extreme traditionalists seem to be the ones who lean sedevacant. But have youheard the news, that if Pope Benedict allows the SSPX to be normalized in the Church, the far left led by Hans Kung, will become sedevacantist?

Anonymous said...

I have two comments:

(1) Father asks: “Maybe we need to revisit Vatican II's ecclesiology and emphasize it to the priests and laity of the Church. Maybe on this 50th anniversary of Vatican II we should actually read the documents of Vatican II and begin to implement them. What do you think?”

This is an excellent suggestion. Before forming an opinion on the proper interpretation of any text, especially regarding what it proscribes or discourages and what it permits or encourages, it would seem prudent to read the text itself. This is, of course, subject to the usual caveats – good translation of an original language text, structured and trained guidance in reading the text, etc.

A widely shared understanding among priests and laity of what the Vatican II documents actually say should contribute significantly to proper implementation of Vatican II and acceptance of such implementation. I am looking forward to such a learning opportunity in my own parish, and the 50th anniversary seems like an auspicious time to do it.

(2) Regarding “active participation of the laity,” more particularly the issue of inattention and distractibility during Mass, this is of course a universal problem in an era of constant chattering, general over-stimulation, and shortened attention spans. But I digress.

I do not doubt that sometimes I am just as guilty of inattention and distractibility during Mass as the next person, however hard I may try to focus. That said, the real issue would seem to be mindfulness – participating in the Mass with our whole mind, heart, and soul, our whole selves. And, once again, we cannot easily do that if we do not understand the meaning of the words, the meaning of the Mass, whether the Mass is in Latin or in the vernacular. However, there are ways to help develop mindfulness.

Thus the comments today have prompted me to pull from my bookshelves a short but very lovely book by Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, entitled simply “The Mass” (1985). This book, which gives a beautiful and lucid explanation of each step in the Order of the Mass, is based on a series of weekly talks Cardinal Lustiger gave as Archbishop of Paris on Radio Notre Dame in 1985.

I also have another book, by Father Gerard Weber, entitled “The Mass: Finding Its Meaning for You – and Getting More Out of It” (1970). Despite the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur it received, I suspect that this book may contain some statements that readers of this Blog may find more controversial than Lustiger’s book. However, it also contains much of value.

My books are relatively old now, and there may be better ones available. Perhaps Father and others have additional suggestions. I mention them mainly to make the point that there are easy ways to help increase our mindful participation in the Mass.

Pater Ignotus said...

A proper understanding of our ecclesiology is essential. A few years ago, Bishop Emeritus Raymond Lessard gave 4 or 5 presentations on this very subject at St. James in Savannah. As usual, he was superb.

For a relatively short take on the Ecclesiology if Vatican Two, try:

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for the link, Pater. There is a lot to digest there, but very useful nevertheless. Also, the final section underscores that texts, especially those that result from compromise, do not always clearly answer the questions that one brings to them. Thus there may be a range of possible interpretations that can be the subject of ongoing conversation within the relevant community, or communities, of interpreters.

Presumably, any good study of the texts of Vatican II will bring ambiguities or other types of vagueness in those texts to light. But presumably also, we will not know what these are until we study the texts themselves.

Is it your sense, then, that parishes could fruitfully study these texts or would such an undertaking be too difficult and/or risky?

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Anon, Ignotus thinks they can handle the convoluted and apostate nonsense of Margaret Nutting Ralph, so why not the documents of Vat II? LOL!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

PI's post on VII is dated but good. However it was revised in the last century and thus is not 21st century thinking as it does not take into account the Holy Father's hermeneutic of continuity that is so much needed and promoted today now that we celebrate both forms of the one Latin rite. So PI give us 21st century thought not thought from your church traing in the last century especially that horrid 1980's period at that horrid Mount. This did not serve you well.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Fr. MacDonald...PI HAS been giving us 21st century thought...secular/Modernist 21st century thought.

Pater Ignotus said...

Good Fr. McDonald - Where do you find Fr. Komonchak's take on the ecclesiology of Vatican Two to be lacking in terms of Benedict's
"hermeneutic of continuity?" Maybe you could cite a specific passage or two in Fr.K's work, along with a reference to B16's showing the problems you think exist with the former?

Anon - Of course a parish or an individual can study the documents fo Vatican Two. They can be difficult to understand and digest, as is true of many Church documents, so some help is needed.

Twenty-Third Publications has published a Study Guide for the documents - I am sure there must be other, similar resources from other publishers.

It must be remembered that there are also authoritative implementation documents that should be avaialble/referenced.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Actually I liked this 1999 take on Vatican II because it takes a razor to those who think Vatican II supports all their post-Vatican II crazy ideas especially as it concerns the democratization of the Church and most of all the horizontalization of the Liturgy not to mention unbridled inculturation.

From Komonchak:"The ambiguity and compromise-character just noted with regard to Gaudium et spes are visible elsewhere in the Council's ecclesiology and may serve as the first of several final reflections. It is a long-standing conciliar practice to work to achieve the greatest possible consensus, which, when achieved in conditions of freedom and charity within a common faith, is regarded as the work of the Holy Spirit. This method tends to frustrate intransigents of all colors because it requires them to be conciliatory and to work for compromise-statements that do not settle legitimately controverted questions but rather express what all can accept as statements of the common faith. Still, the Council respected that tradition as is apparent in its final statements on the relationships between Scripture and tradition, between primacy and collegiality, between the whole Church and the particular Churches, between the primary and secondary ends of marriage, or on matters such as the morality of nuclear war or the authority of episcopal conferences, etc. This is perhaps the reason why it is not rare that some people who reread the conciliar documents today or others who read them for the first time find them rather colorless; it is certainly the reason why some people appeal beyond the texts of the document to the "event" of the Council and why some people prefer to appeal to the "spirit of Vatican II" rather than to its latter, this "spirit" often seeming to mean "what Vatican II would have said if there hadn't been any conservatives there." Justice to the Council, and to what it did in every case by overwhelming majorities, recommends caution in such interpretations."

Pater Igntous said...

Good Father - Yes, but that was not my question...? Where do Komonchak and Benedict diverge on ecclesiology? Can you cite a few passages from each?

Anonymous said...

A highly recommended and widely used source for study of the documents of Vatican II is

Harvesting the Fruit of Vatican II
Salve Regina Publications

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

PI, I don't have the time to do that research, but I'm sure you do, so please look it up and get back to us.

Pater Ignotus said...

So, Good Father, without having done any research, you know that Fr. Komonchak's and Pope Benedict's ecclesiology diverge. Now this IS amazing.

Surely, since you seem to know Benedict's eccelsiology so thoroughly, you have time to provide some smidgen of evidence for your assertion? A quote or two, maybe a reference or two...?