Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Spirit of Vatican II Catholics made and make an idol out of the "spirit" of Vatican II. Please note that spirit is not capitalized.

In what ways has this idol worship (worshiping false gods in other words) manifested itself? Keep in mind that Moses had to contend with the Chosen People doing the same thing and this continued in the history of Israel in various ways.

1. In terms of morality, personal Conscience was elevated to godlike status. While conscience holds a place of ultimate importance in moral decisions but never divorced from Scripture, tradition and authoritative teachings on morality especially natural law, a product of Divine Law.

2. In terms of liturgy, the liturgy itself, renewed, restored, more like the early church and open to creativity and manipulation by priests and laity has and is an idol (false god) to many people; the liturgy becomes the object of worship and adoration rather than God who is present under the veil of the liturgical and sacramental actions. For example, a preoccupation with the signs and actions of the liturgy become idols, the type of bread, the lavish gestures, the kind of table, the arrangement of laity, the liturgical ministers, all these become a source of preoccupation and truly become gods, so much so if anything is out of order or not as progressives conceive it should be, the action of God is diminished.

3. Traditionalists too fall into the same pit when a preoccupation with what is wrong with the post Vatican II liturgy blinds them to the truths that are revealed in this liturgy when celebrated according to the books, "doing the red and saying the black."
In these "spirit of pre-Vatican II Catholics" the pre-Vatican Mass and other ways of celebrating the Sacraments become idols.

Now for a confession on my part: I too have fallen into this idol pit. When I go to other churches for Mass, I become so critical of what is wrong in my mind that it prevents me from receiving all the grace that God wants to give me in that celebration. I'm preoccupied by the idols and don't fail to give God my attention and worship in order to receive the graces He bestows.

Prior to Vatican II I don't think most lay Catholics were preoccupied with the style of the Mass or its language or ceremonies. These were a given and there were three ways to celebrate the Mass, low, high and Solemn High. The laity weren't preoccupied about the idol of the personality of the priest either or what kind of person he was/is. What was and is important was experiencing in a sacramental way the One Sacrifice of Jesus that is for us and our salvation in the here and now, the "nowness" of God and His actions to save us in salvation history. The same was true with receiving Holy Communion. Catholics were/are concerned almost to the point of scrupulosity about recieving our Lord worthily and observing all the laws of the Church concening this reality. The predictability of the Mass and clear canons on what was expected avoided the pitfalls of idol worship or lack of reverence for what is celebrated in the Mass.

So, no matter your preference for the Mass, has the Mass become a false idol or is God the "Object" of your worship? Just wondering.


Bill said...

Interesting reflection. We were at Mass on Saturday at the parish nearest our house. OF, but with more care and reverence (in my view) than at our home parish.

I find I am more focused on worship in the local church, and more distracted in my home parish. In the local church, I find consistency, and adherence to the texts; in my home parish, I seem to be greeted each week with some new variance from form.

I wonder whether it is truly that I have made an idol of the EF (which I am not attending), or simply that when the OF is celebrated in accord with the Missal, it is recognizable as Mass, while the celebration at my home parish seems to creep ever closer to Lutheranism (though not sufficiently formal, I would guess, for most Lutherans).

Anonymous said...

"God is Spirit, so those who worship him must do so in Spirit and in Truth."

And then our Lord spoke of feeding us his body and blood - and when the disciples recoiled he said his words "were spirit and truth".

He also challenged us to ponder the mystery of what He was before (The Word before it became flesh and dwelled among us), if the concept of his Body being real food, real drink because of the Spirit should scandalize us.

It's a paradox: what we see in the Man Jesus is not all that's there -so if we accept that he is true man but also true God (hypostatic union), then we have no grounds to deny His words are spirit and truth when he asserts "this is my body...this is my blood...".

That Presence of Jesus is the focus - everything else, the language, the rubrics, the trappings, the gestures, the place (upper room or jeep hood) are auxilary means of leading us to the Presence of Jesus through the word, the sign, the Spirit.

I believe we humans tend to drag things down to Idolatry because we can control Idols - it's the living God that we can't control and that terrifies us, as God terrified the Israelites at Sinai.

But it's in accepting the mystery of Jesus' presence in Mass and the mystery of the Kingdom that exists in the Church as a seed of something "not of this world" and yet something that is coming to this world... that we discover liberation from the terrors of the world, the flesh, and the devil that no idol will protect us from.

Anonymous said...

"Prior to Vatican II I don't think most lay Catholics were preoccupied with the style of the Mass or its language or ceremonies."

I think this describes the attitude of those in my Latin Mass Community who attend only the EF Sunday Mass.

There's another group who attend the EF on Sunday and the OF daily, and go both ways liturgically. Of course, these--perhaps to the extent that they really love Our Lord--may be hurt keenly if and when they seem Him mistreated in the liturgy. But, for most, surely, this is a question of showing Him fitting respect and reverence, rather than of mechanical observance of rubrics (most pew-sitters being pretty oblivious to rubrics as such).

ytc said...

Why can't we just have beautiful liturgy, always and everywhere? Instead of political liturgy that exemplifies the [outdated] trends of what some think the early Church was like?

Making an idol of something inherently assumes that the conception is not really what is there. There is no idol in the EF because the EF is genuine inasumuch as it is a direct product of the fullness of liturgical development. There is an idol in the notion of the OF because it is a rupture with the past, the idol being the conception of what the "early Church" was like.

There can be no idol in what is genuine.

Anonymous said...

Yes! That is EXACTLY the problem I have in the 'liberal' parish I attend. The Mass is about everything but respectful worship of God. In fact, instead of teaching people the virtue of respectful behaviour, it teaches a vulgar familiarity that inserts comraderie into the Mass.


Carol H. said...

I don't think modernists understand or worship the True God. What they do worship is this ideal being that they create in their own minds. So they like to play with the Mass to see what works for them, and what doesn't. The feel inspired by their own creativity and they call it 'worship.'

Traditionalists (I consider myself to be one of them) find all of that nonsense irratibly distracting. We just want to pray the Mass and give worship and reverance to our One True God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We want to pray the Mass, not be distracted by it. We want our Priests to join us and lead us in that prayer and worship, not switch things up and call our attention to themselves instead of to God. You and Fr. Kwiatkowski do this quite well.

Sometimes it may seem that traditionalists worship the Mass itself because we tend to be sticklers with the details. This is because proper worship needs a certain amount of predictability. When details are not adhered to, they become a distraction and we lose our focus on God. I'm sorry if we are irritating at times, we really don't mean to be, and we all deeply appreciate everything that you have done for the Latin Mass Community.

I really like this blog and the way you open up to dicussion the Mass-what should be encouraged, what should be avoided, why some changes with good intentions had bad consequences, and so forth. I honestly think that if this technology were available at the time of V2, many of the abuses could have been avoided.

Gene said...

If we truly understand the Mass as the Sacrifice, a re-living of Christ's Passion, then I would like to ask the following questions: How many clowns do you suppose were at the foot of the Cross? How many people do you suppose were dancing? How many people were playing guitars and singing folk songs? How many were giving each other the glad hand and the sign of peace? The Mass should encourage and inculcate a spirit of humility and awe, of a quiet joy chastened by grief and repentance. The OF, as it has been interpreted for too long, does not lend itself to this. I do find St. Jo's to be an exception, as our Priests afford it the greatest dignity and solemnity. It can be done, but too few are making the effort. I have attended the OF many other Churches and I usually want to run out screaming.

Carol H. said...

Please see Fr. Z's blog, he has a good article posted about Card. Ranjith and liturgical vestments.

Also further down he has a link to Time Magazine's poll of the 100 most influential people in the world. He is encouraging people to vote for Card. Dolan to be included on the list. (I also voted against Fluke).

Sorry this is slightly off topic, but good vestments do go along with good liturgy. I hope we see many more Cardinals and Bishops encouraging better vestments like Card. Ranjith.

ytc said...

Father, continuing from the slightly off-topic comment above, maybe you could do a post in the future about vestments?

Anonymous said...

"good vestments do go along with good liturgy."

Beautiful vestments imply respect for the liturgy, and conversely.

Modern Gothic polyester vestments are not beautiful.

Therefore, modern polyester vestments imply lack of respect for the liturgy.

(Each of these statements may be interpreted either absolutely--that is, in the eye of God--or in the eye of the user, in which case the final statement is that the user lacks respect for the liturgy.)

Gene said...

Answering the title question: No.

TCR said...

Because I have fallen into this very error myself, I now pray Psalm 40:6-8 before Mass, especially when I travel and never know what I may encounter.

In zeal, I often "strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!" Reminding myself of the Lord's promise never to abandon His Church helps me to focus on His will for me at each Mass. I do realize the danger of idolatry and am shy to look in a mirror for fear I might see a Pharisee who worries about the borders of his garments gazing back at me.

----a humble and contrite Traditionalist

Rosalinda said...

Well, I have been studying the Old Testament with a small group and our observation has been how could so many of the clergy fail to understand that details were very important to God when it came to building and offering worship in the Temple. At this time, our diocese has ordered all Catholics to remain standing throughout the communion procession until the last person has received. Liturgists have attempted to explain this by warning the faithful that to fall into private prayers of thanksgiving too soon appears to neglect the presence of Christ in the Communion Procession and worse yet, objectifies the host. A pastor and professor, making another rather feeble attempt to persuade reluctant Catholics, who are disgruntled with our bishop's new standing mandate, has written in the diocesan paper that during the medieval period the laity rarely received communion.Fair enough, many have heard that before but have you ever heard this? 'There is an over emphasis on Christ's physical presence in the Eucharist.' Not a typo error, the priest wrote that in the present tense and that is a direct quote. Frankly, the whole business makes me queasy because it smacks of "idol worship." I get down on my knees for good reason and there are a good many Catholics in Canada who would rather be on their knees but they don't dare cause scandal.

Joseph Johnson said...

Carol H.,
Thanks for your excellent comments explaining the mindset of "traditionalists" (I count myself among the "traditionalist" mindset you described). Also, thanks for the reference to Cardinal Ranjith. He is one of my favorite bishops--especially when it comes to his mindset regarding liturgy!

He (apparently) cares a lot about liturgical details, too. I doubt he has ever been accused of making the Mass, or its "externals," idols unto themselves. He simply, for the good of the Church, wants to restore dignity, continuity, and a basic predictable uniformity to the liturgy.

ytc said...

We should fire all the "liturgists!!!!!"

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Liturgical theologians should assist bishops and priests to pray the black and observe the red. This isn't about creativity and making it up as you go. We also need then to help understand the liturgy , it's history and the hermeneutic of organic development. I've learned much from good liturgists, but poor ones have been in control for far too many decades. Liturgists like musicians can be controlling and arrogant, but not all!