Wednesday, October 24, 2012


His Eminence Cardinal Godfried Danneels gave the following lecture in the Amigo Hall, Saint George’s Cathedral, SE1 on Thursday, 18 October 2012. You can read the entire text by pressing this sentence

My Comments first: What you can see in reading Cardinal Danneels' reflections on the Second Vatican Council is the great enthusiasm that his generation who experienced the Council first hand had for it and continue to do so. He is so optimistic and triumphantly so with only a few cautions on the Liturgical reform, but very few but these cautions are in line with what Pope Benedict desire. These cautions are at the end of the quotes I have below.

What we see in his presentation is what I call the triumphalism of Vatican II or at least of its spirit. This triumphalism is a carry-over from the pre-Vatican II Church and the apex of the pre-Vatican II triumphalism applied to dogmatism but now and unfortunately applied not to dogma but to Vatican II's pastoral theology which is anything but solid and easily victimized by the interpretations and whims of people, places and cultures.

We also see in his remarks a move from a "masculine" ethos as it concerns the Church and her liturgy to a more feminine ethos as it concerns both. Danneels sums this up in a way that I had never considered before but he makes explicit: "Furthermore, there is the new style and the new language of the Council: pastoral, positive, and not legal and juridical. It is empathetic speaking, emotive, inviting, and not commanding. The style is more than a detail. It flows from a particular new way of thinking. The spirit of the Council is certainly more incarnational than Augustinian."

I do not mean to denigrate the feminine in this regard but to acknowledge that perhaps one of the flaws of the council is moving the Church from one extreme of entirely masculine concepts to the other extreme of the feminine and the deleterious effect this will have on vocations to the priesthood as even the priesthood and its pastoral ministry is feminized thus alienating a good percentage of men who might otherwise consider a more masculine ethos in the priesthood and Church. Danneels perhaps has unwittingly placed his finger here on the crisis of vocations brought about by Vatican II's feminine pastoral nature?

Cardinal Danneels: End of an era. A new breakthrough?

Vatican II was a council unlike any preceding one. It was a special event for many reasons. Even though it stands in a long line of councils: it was in many respects a new kind of council.

The harvest of Vatican II is impressive. Often people have forgotten what happened and how much was achieved in practice. So many things are now just taken for granted as common that the faithful are not even aware that such a sensitive change was due to the council.

But if one would make a list of all the fruits of Vatican II, one would see how greatly the Council has changed and renewed the Church.

Liturgy and rituals were thoroughly reformed. Eucharist is the main focus; and Baptism is strongly emphasized as the foundation for the priesthood of the faithful and the fundamental equality of all. Eucharist and all the sacraments have a word service in the vernacular and the reading schedule for Scriptural texts has a two‐ or three‐year cycle. Scripture is called the soul of theology. The Eucharistic prayers were expanded. Christ is presented as a servant and friend of all people. The Council underlines the dignity of every human person; there is a new arrangement in the hierarchy of the ends of marriage. The dignity and mission of the laity and co‐responsibility are stressed. The ideal of the bishop as a servant and shepherd is stressed. The ministry of the Church to the world, the role of the young churches, the problem of a just war, and nuclear armament are more issues addressed by the Council. The value of democracy and the relationship between church and state, freedom of religion ..... And much more.

Furthermore, there is the new style and the new language of the Council: pastoral, positive, and not legal and juridical. It is empathetic speaking, emotive, inviting, and not commanding. The style is more than a detail. It flows from a particular new way of thinking. The spirit of the Council is certainly more incarnational than Augustinian. The collegiality of the bishops was confirmed; but there was no agreed‐ upon framework on how to achieve this. Once the council closed, the trend towards greater centralization began again. Power shifted back to the centre. The contribution of the periphery ‐ bishops and people ‐ was not always strongly supported from the centre.

The liturgy. Sacrosanctum Concilium

The spirit of the Constitution on the Liturgy is clear: the baptized are not passive spectators in the liturgy: they take part in the liturgy and have their own role in the celebration. The term "active participation" was born. The idea was not new: it was already found in the liturgical movement: active participation, both inwardly and outwardly.

Already in the preliminary draft, presented to the council, by A. Bugnini, there was a clear formulation of the fundamental principles of liturgical reform. One could read in this presentation the fruits of decades of the. pre‐Vatican II liturgical movement, especially since the Congress of Malines in 1909 and the contribution of Lambert Beauduin. Liturgy was not primarily a matter of rubrics and regulations. It was a full‐fledged discipline with a doctrinal basis. The main emphases of Bugnini's draft were: deep respect for the great liturgical tradition and a solid foundation of the liturgical action on the data of faith and doctrine. Great importance was attached to liturgical formation, especially of the clergy, and on a stronger participation of the assembly celebrating the liturgical action. Liturgy was not purely a canonical textbook for the "doing" of the celebrant, but the making present of Christ's paschal mystery in its fullness: passion, death, resurrection, and ascension. No.7 of the subsequent Constitution would later become the key text for understanding of Christ's broad presence in the liturgy: in the praying people, in the person of the celebrant, in the proclamation of the Word, and in the communal praying of the psalms. Finally and above all in.the Eucharistic bread and wine. It was the rediscovery of the patristic vision of the liturgy.

The deep divide between celebrant and celebrating community was closed. The marginalization of the people but also of the celebrant. Liturgy was also a relational happening: between God, the priest, and the. people. Very soon, the vernacular was introduced everywhere. And so the tradition of the unchangeableness of the liturgical practice and use was overcome. Changing the liturgical language was the breakthrough for making changes in other areas.

The liturgy

Without a doubt, the Constitution on the Liturgy is the best followed‐up on and put into practice of all conciliar documents. The reform of the cult has had a profound impact on the lives of the baptized. Everywhere there was a good reception of the liturgical reform. Yes there were some wild experiments in some countries; but the positive fruits of this conciliar text are evident everywhere. The liturgical books have been renewed; and around the world, there has been a general introduction of the vernacular. Attention to the Word of God has increased and contact with the Bible expanded more fully. Yet there remains much to do to make that Bible more accessible to the people of God: more Bible study and greater familiarity with modern exegesis are required but raise new problems as well.

The language used for the liturgical texts and prayers is often not up to par. It's not enough to just translate texts into the vernacular. Liturgy demands more than the home, garden, and kitchen language. Liturgical language is always something sacred and transcending popular language. For the "mystery of our faith," we need a loftier way of speaking then just the language of daily conversation. And there are words that belong to the language of Christianity and deserve interpretation that is reverent and deep. Liturgical language cannot simply coincide with the ordinary language.

It is also true that rites and rituals are present and practiced in all religions. Often today there is resistance to repetitive and stereotyped repetition of the same words and gestures. Moreover, they are not always immediately understandable and they are not productive and efficient. The ritual, on the other hand, is not utilitarian, but it's goal is itself. The Eucharist, for example, is a meal but a cultic and sacrificial meal not intended to satisfy our physical hunger. Trivialization or omitting certain ritual aspects, deprives the celebration of its reference to the underlying mystery. Besides, symbols are always meagre: just think of "symbolic" punishment.

Furthermore, the "active participation" of which the liturgy document so often speaks has to be understood as an overall participation. It is not limited to the outer do, talk, sing, and move. It concerns as well the inner part of the soul. The Bible is full of texts that talk about believing or praying with the heart and not merely with the mouth and lips. Silence is an essential component in this active participation: it links the way from outside to inside. The language of the heart is more than that of the mouth and lips. Another challenge is to find a balance between word and sacrament. The council has returned the Word to its rightful place. But here and there, the care and great attention paid to the Word has led to an underestimation of the sacrament. In terms of its duration and the attention given to it, the word service in the Eucharist is often celebrated at the at the expense of the table service. Balance is needed.

A similar problem is that of balance between horizontality and verticality. There is sometimes a danger that the Eucharist gets reduced to just the meal dimension. But it is also a sacrificial meal. Of this there are no more examples in our current culture. The celebration facing the people suggests in the first place the local community and puts less focus on God. But the Eucharist is both: a convivial meal and an act of worship and sacrifice. Much depends on the attitude of the celebrant. Eye contact should be there for the celebrating community, but first to God.


Kitchener Waterloo Traditional Catholic said...

By their fruits we shall know them.

Mass attendance in France is 5% and declining. Vienna is set to close 75% of its parishes. The majority of American Catholics will vote for a pro-abortion president.

The documents were misinterpreted. The 'spirit of V2' changes have failed miserably. It's time for clerics such as Cardinal Danneels to admit this and take responsibility for the damage. The proper interpretation and Church repair will be done by the next generations.

John Nolan said...

Call me a sceptic, but his Eminence's poacher-turned-gamekeeper act is unconvincing. Five years ago I spent a week in Brussels, once a Catholic city, and visited many of its historic churches. One of them was occupied by illegal immigrants. Another showed signs of liturgical life but it was a Byzantine-rite congregation. Yet another had a modern free-standing altar but had erected something the size of a coffee-table in front of it for the Holy Sacrifice. In the Cathedral a priest without a chasuble was ad-libbing in French at another coffee-table 'altar'. This abomination of desolation is what Danneels and his ilk have the cheek to call 'renewal'. They remind me of the old Soviet leaders who thought that if you kept on lying long enough people would eventually believe you. The 'spirit of Vatican II' is for them an ideology, as Marxism-Leninism was for Brezhnev and co.

I did find a handsome 19th century church in the Leopold Quarter (in fact Belgium's national shrine) with a decent Missa Cantata, packed with young families who sang Mass I (Lux et Origo) alternatim with the (female) schola, and an orthodox homily. The confessionals were manned with several languages on offer. This church is served by the SSPX.

Danneels's successor at Malines-Brussels is sound, but he has his work cut out trying to repair the damage caused by his predecessor.

ytc said...

I'm sorry, but the common pedestrian celebration of liturgy has hurt my _faith_ personally. I am not old enough to have a nostalgia for the old Mass, yet I prefer it in almost every way.