Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Progressives who embrace the "spirit" of Vatican II grind their teeth in suppressed anger at those who wish to celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and desire strong catechesis based upon sound doctrine.

Those who prefer the EF Mass and Baltimore Catechism look at what has happened to the Church since Vatican II, especially the dramatic decline in the percentage of Catholics who attend Mass each Sunday and the seemingly lack of strong conviction about the faith from those formed by wishy-washy catechesis in the 1970's and 80's, and wonder what planet those who push the "spirit" of Vatican II live on.

Progressives say that the EF Mass stymies participation of the laity, exalts the clericalism of the clergy and thwarts authentic growth in spirituality and becoming an adult decision maker in morality. They also deride the limited amount of Scripture read during this Mass over the course of a year.

Shouldn't there be more discussion and foment from bishops who are the primary liturgists of each diocese and maybe even more leadership from the Congregation of Divine Worship to look at blending the best of both worlds into each form of the Liturgy with the hope of one day having one reformed Mass that doesn't appear to be such a dramatic break with what had preceded it?

Just some thoughts on this, nothing dogmatic:

1. Why can't the EF Mass be celebrated in the vernacular, or at least some major parts of it, except maybe the Roman Canon and quiet parts of the priest?

2. Why can't kneeling for Holy Communion become the norm for both forms of the Mass, thus indicating that the reverence and spirituality of both forms of the Mass are not different and comparisons between the "reverence" of standing and kneeling are no longer a point of contention?

3. Why can't the OF Mass be celebrated Ad Orientem or the EF Mass facing the people? I know that question is a hot potato and I do sympathize with those who say facing the people tempts the priest to look at the congregation while he is praying to God and to become more of a performer rather than a leader of liturgical prayer. I'm inclined to sympathize with the move toward Ad Orientem for a whole host of reasons.

4. Why can't the revised OF lectionary of the Mass become the norm for both forms of the Mass allowing the EF's one year lectionary for Sundays to become a 4th year option, year D?

5. Why can't the soon to be released revised English Roman Missal not also have an "EF" form of the Mass while still keeping the vernacular, all the prayers, calendar and lectionary? That would be oh so simple to do!

Just some thoughts on overcoming current day phobias that exist in our polarized Church and her liturgy.


Anonymous said...

For a very good and insightful article on attitudes about the two forms of the Roman Rite, read Fr. Christopher Smith's recent one on "The Chant Cafe" blog entitled "Why Are Seminaries Afraid of the Extraordinary Form?"

Joseph Johnson

Templar said...

1) I have no problem with this, as it essentially the 65MR. having said that, I really wish our "universal church" had a sacred language for use in Worship, as the Jews, Hindus, and even the Muslims do. Well we do, it's Latin but we're not allowed to use it as it aught to be, or perhaps we're afraid to is a better way of saying it.

2) Amen.

3) Technically I believe one could currently under the existing rubrics. Again we are afraid to do so for fear of jarring the laity. Just like the horrid Hitler Salute in the post above the Clergy should take the hint that the laity want to be led. Explain Ad Orientum and do it and the laity will follow. A few will whine, and dissent, but out of ignorance in my opinion.

4) That's probably the one change to the EF I could get behind strongly.

5) The EF Mass must remain, in my opinion, to the fullest extent possible as it existed when illictly abbrogated after the 62MR. I say this becasue it was the last official Liturgy that developed organicly and wasn't slapped together like the 70MR was. It remains the base line so to speak. Tinker with it too much and we end up with two dysfunctional Liturgies. That may be too harsh, the real problems with the Pauline Mass are the Rubrics. You could probably salvage it with a tightening of the Rubrics so that your local Parish Mass more closely resembles a Mass in St Peter's

TLW said...

I think those who believe the Mass should be celebrated versus populum might do well to read "The Latin Mass Explained". Even if a person favors the Ordinary Form and wants nothing to do with the Extraordinary Form, they will still gain an understanding of the Mass that might finally permit them to see how and why it is a Holy Sacrifice deserving of every ounce of our attention and devotion. It is as much a distraction for me to have to look at the priest's face as it is for him to look at mine.

Anonymous said...

In the comments on the last several posts here it has become apparent to me that we are actually talking about two things, "norms" and rubrics. Until recently, I had never paid much attention to the term "norms" (especially if they are unwritten) but had primarily focused on what the printed red words or instructions(the actual rubrics)say.

Templar says that "the real problems with the Pauline Mass are the rubrics." From what I now know, I would say that the biggest problems with the Pauline Mass (as usually celebrated in most parishes) are the "norms," both written and unwritten.

The first problematic norm is "versus populum" celebration. This is an apparently unwritten "norm" which, it can be fairly argued, contravenes a careful reading of one possibility which appears to be implicit in the wording of the written GIRM.

The validity of this interpretation is powerfully demonstrated by the fact that the Pope has, on certain occasions, celebrated the OF ad orientem. Restated, if the interpretation of the GIRM which presupposes ad orientem celebration is wrong then why would the Pope still occasionally celebrate the OF Mass that way? The answer is because the written GIRM, read as a whole, allows celebration either way (versus populum as well as ad orientem).

Because there is no written or rubrical prohibition against ad orientem celebration of the OF, a priest can legitimately say that he is "doing the red" when he celebrates the OF in either manner. Again, in this case (which I believe matters a lot because it affects the way people understand the Mass) this problem with the Pauline Mass is not so much with the rubric but, rather, with the unwritten "norm" which (apparently) prohibits what the instruction itself allows.

The second problematic norm has the do with the manner of reception of Holy Communion. I must confess that, even though I am aware that reception of Communion kneeling and on the tongue is the universal norm for the Latin Church, I have never seen a written version of this universal norm. I personally believe that universal application of this norm for the worldwide Latin Church would be, from the standpoint of spirituality and reverence, a very good thing for the Church.

Unfortunately, (and I've never bought into this or understood it) and despite the fact that it had been the long practice in America (and elsewhere, up until the 1970's) to kneel and receive on the tongue, the American bishops suddenly decided that modern American Catholics needed to change their manner of reception from what had been the norm for all of America's history to begin receiving Communion standing (I might see an argument for an indult to continue a long-standing custom that contravened the norm--this was not the case, they created a new "custom" that had not previously existed). In addition, they added the indult option of receiving on the hand (with an impression being created, in many places, that this was not just a new option but the new "norm").

Again, the problem is the norm (for America). Did we have different episcopally mandated "norms" in different geographical places for the EF in the days before (and during) the Council?

I regularly pray that hearts may change and The OF Mass will become more in continuity with its predecessor, the EF, and that the EF become more commonplace as a part of regular parish life.

Joseph Johnson

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Joe, much of the norms of this country and elsewhere were insisted upon by liturgical theologians, including the way in which older churches should be renovated and newer ones constructed. In this period after the council, many if not most bishops, not well trained in liturgy or its history, relied upon and trusted the advice of academic liturgists, especially the desire to get back to a more pristine liturgy as celebrated in the first few centuries of the Church. Unfortunately, this liturgists acted more dogmatic than any pre-Vatican II bishop and instigated changes that went against the universal norms of even the 1970's missal, such as altar girls, standing for Holy Communion, Communion in the hand and Eucharistic Ministers. These things were being done on an ad hoc experiemental basis sometimes iwth the permission of the local bishop but more often in defiance of him. Given the fact the Church was already in turmoil due to the major changes the council brought to the liturgy and other aspects of Church life and the rebellion that was fomented by Humanae Vitae in 1968, the Vatican and most bishops approved illicit practices so these would become the "norm" rather than to have rebellion with no correction, which was the style of the bishops back then and even of the Vatican.

Templar said...

Good post Joseph, and to answer your question about "did we have different episcopally mandated "norms" in different geographical places for the EF in the days before (and during) the Council?" I would have to say no we did not. This is another out growth of Vatican 2 which either directly (or indirectly I do not recall at the moment) led to the creation of National Councils of Bishops, and anyone with eyes open can see that very little good has ever come out of the USCCB (or any committee for that matter). After V2 there was a whole host of councils created, from national councils, down to Parish councils, all of which diluted the power of the One Holy Catholic Church, and also degraded the role of the Clergy in the process at the Parish levels. If you need a committee to decide what charity gets precious resources, or to arrange fund raising for a new gym, sure have at it. But committees and councils should be kept out of ANYTHING that has to do with the faith, because the Truth needs no debate or compromise, and that is precisely what Councils and Committees are designed to do. The Truth is handed down, or was once upon a time, now it's handed down, debated and modified at the National Levels, then the Bishops Chanceries, and lastly by Parish Councils. It probably sounded good in 1965 to empower the laity to "active participation" in Parish life, but far too many parishes are now run by their councils and not their Pastors.

Templar said...

Frajm: "Given the fact the Church was already in turmoil due to the major changes the council brought to the liturgy and other aspects of Church life and the rebellion that was fomented by Humanae Vitae in 1968, the Vatican and most bishops approved illicit practices so these would become the "norm" rather than to have rebellion with no correction, which was the style of the bishops back then and even of the Vatican."

How sad, but illustrates my point. On matters of the Faith there should be no compromise. There is Truth and Falsehood. Black and White. Right and Wrong. The Church should have dealt harshly with Bishops who did not (do not) toe the line. One shudders to think of how many souls were consigned to damnation as a result of a desire to compromise to avoid rebellion. Let the rebellion, turmoil, dissent, etc run it's course. In the end The Truth shall always prevail because truth itself has promised us it will be so.

Henry Edwards said...

"the desire to get back to a more pristine liturgy as celebrated in the first few centuries of the Church."

That is, a desire to ignore or cast aside the careful development of liturgical practice and understanding over the centuries under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

This is the "exaggerated and senseless antiquarianism" against which Pius XII warned in Mediator Dei (1947), but which predominated in the post-Vatican II days when churches and liturgy were destroyed.