Wednesday, April 2, 2014


In the video of Archbishop Wilton Gregory giving a lecture on the Liturgy, he did a very nice, but somewhat tedious, survey of the Liturgical Movement of the early 20th Century that led Pope Pius XII to begin to make certain reforms in the Mass of that period. The apex of that development prior to Vatican II is the 1962 Missal that has been released from the bondage of the Church's history museum.

Sacrosanctum Concilium and later the Vatican Commission Consilium brought to bear many of the changes proposed by the Liturgical Movement of the early 20th Century.

Among these are:

1. Mass facing the People
2. Vernacular
3. More Scripture in the lectionary

Often when a group of academics begin to critique something about the Church they do so independently of the people who are formed by what is critiqued. For example the Mass prior to the Second Vatican Council had formed Catholics and their piety and spirituality and their way of life for centuries. One might say for 1500 years.

In the 20th Century these Catholics while diverse in zeal and authenticity of faith, at least attended Mass on Sunday. Some estimates in this country prior to and right after Vatican II is that almost 90% of Catholics attended the Mass that academic theologians have so denigrated in the last 100 years.

Now that many of the recommendations of these academic liturgical theologians have been applied to the manner in which the Mass is celebrated, in this country we are seeing about 20% of Catholics actually attending Mass each Sunday and in some places it is even lower. In Europe it is abysmal.

Yet without scientific evidence or sociological studies of any kind, those who think that the manner in which the reform of the Mass has progressed in the last 45 years still insist that if no changes had been made in the Church's liturgy things would be worse today than they are. This seems to me to be an incredible statement based upon opinion, subjectivity and no legitimate analysis.

On top of that of the 20%, more or less, of Catholics who bother to attend Mass on Sunday, one cannot presume with any certainty that the majority of that 20% actually believes what the Church teaches about the Mass or any other doctrine or dogma of the Catholic Church.

Often, in describing the fruits of the reformed Mass of Vatican II, academic liturgical theologians are quick to point out that the Mass embodies today the post-Vatican II ecclessiology. I wonder how many Mass goers of the 20%, more or less, who bother to come to Mass are impressed with this fact, that their gathering somehow shows better what the nature of the Church is compared to the 1962 Missal?

I am a realist and thus accept the Ordinary Form of the Mass as the Ordinary Form even though I think all that needed to happen to the 1962 Missal was more vernacular, especially with the changing parts of the Mass and more Scripture in a revised lectionary, and the congregation participating actually, both internally and externally, that nothing more really needed to be changed. I would go so far as to say that the "Liturgy of the Word" with lay readers and in the post-Vatican II fashion could easily have been incorporated into the 1962 Missal.

What did not need to take place and caused undo strife and division in the Church and has led to a diminution of the pure faith and morals of the Church are:

1. Mass facing the people--has led to a form of clericalism on steroids and the manipulation of the Mass by the clergy.

2. The loss of sacred silence while prayer to God is actually happening--especially in the Eucharistic Prayer--restoring silence to the post-Vatican II Mass always is independent of actual prayer ritual of the Mass and becomes a private, quiet devotion period for all, such as after readings, after the homily and after Holy Communion and is a bit tedious if too long--silence while some ritual action of actual prayer is quite different, such as the Roman Canon prayed quietly allowing for the priest's bodily gestures to be a sort of sign language in the sacred silence. 

3. The loss of Catholic piety and reverence at the time of Holy Communion by eliminating kneeling for Holy Communion, allowing Holy Communion in the hand and the proliferation of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion with little or no expectations of who is chosen and consistency in training.

4. The loss of sacred silence in the Church and the moving of the tabernacle to obscure places, the treating of the Church building, nave and sanctuary simply as a meeting place and nothing more.

I am a realist. I don't expect that the Church will significantly change the Order of the Ordinary Form of the Mass or mandate Latin for any parts of the Mass. I do pray and can hope that at least ad orientem will be encouraged and not mocked and that kneeling for Holy Communion and receiving in the traditional manner will be restored. Simply doing these two things will have a dramatic impact on going back to the past in order to come back to the future.


rcg said...

I think a significant number of the 20% believe the NO as performed in their parishes embodies the goals of Vatican II because that is what they are told. The NO is advertised as being about community and worship as expression of the community's identity. The sort of person who is attracted to that is attracted to those parishes and would, naturally, make up the majority of the congregation there. Without intending a slam against anyone, I would say that many of the people who stopped attending Mass when it changed were confused because perhaps they misunderstood the Mass even it's old form.

So here is a three part question: if a Methodist minister performs a Liturgical mass IAW the EF form, is it a valid Mass? If a Catholic priest performs a Methodist rite, is it a valid Mass? What is the difference in those situations what we have today in the various parishes?

Kneeling Catholic said...

Thanks, Father!!

May your blog blossom!!

Rood Screen said...

Father McDonald,

Agreed. Priests are morally obliged to defend the reformed missal, but while it has many apparent improvements, the statistics just don't support arguments in favor of it. By every measure, especially the prominent VCII measures of evangelical and ecumenical effectiveness, the practical application of the reformed missal has been mostly unsuccessful so far.

However, even now and in accordance with the reformed rubrics, a celebrant may offer the Eucharistic canon ad orientem and in Latin, the faithful may Communicate kneeling and on the tongue, etc. Therefore, it's really just a matter of celebrating the OF in continuity with the EF, as you often suggest. If every parish offered just one such celebration every Sunday, perhaps within a couple of generations we could prove the VCII reformers right!

By the way, I agree with you on point no. 1, but only for the second half of the Mass. The first half is appropriately kept facing the congregation. I'm in agreement with you entirely on points 2-4.

Pater Ignotus said...

"Priests are morally obliged to defend the reformed missal,.."

Where do you get this idea?

John said...

The future does not look good does it? If the situation is so dire, and I agree that it is, one would think our bishops would be in competition to make the necessary reforms. Instead, we get more accusations, backbiting and/or loads of indifference.People are forced to attend liturgies that are upsetting Sunday after Sunday. What is the point?!

If the way we pray is the way we believe, what does it (state of the liturgy) say about the health of our faith and our Church?

James said...

The Ordinary Form: "Revive '65!"

Tom Makin said...

I couldn't agree more with your last 2 thoughts. The loss of the reverence in favor of the popular has had a profound impact on my sensibilities. These two aspects would change everyone's perspective immediatley and significantly without upending things.

Rood Screen said...

Pater Ignotus,

As you know, the reformed missal was issued by Paul VI in response to VCII. Our moral obligation to defend a decision of a pope made in response to an ecumenical council flows from several virtues, with the virtues of unity, peace, fraternity and obedience coming immediately to my mind.

I would suggest that a priest lacking any moral prompting to defend decisions of a bishop of Rome made in response to an ecumenical council is a priest suffering from a vocational crises. This would apply not only to the reformed missal, but also to the Ritual, the Office, the Code and the Catechism.

Rood Screen said...


The so-called 1965 missal, issued by various episcopal conferences, was merely the 1962 Roman Missal with some vernacular and with the incorporation of some rubrical changes. In other words, it was a modified "E.F." missal, in essence. In no way can it be related to the O.F. missal, which features a completely reformed Order of Mass.

Anonymous said...

"Priests are morally obliged to defend the reformed missal,.."

As a Roman Catholic layman, I feel obliged in loyalty to the Church to support both forms of the Roman rite, and that it is a moral failure not to do so.

Does not every Roman Catholic cleric have the same moral obligation? (Especially every bishop who has a sworn duty to promote and defend Church and Faith.)

Anonymous 2 said...

Father McDonald writes in point 2: “[R]estoring silence to the post-Vatican II Mass always is independent of actual prayer ritual of the Mass and becomes a private, quiet devotion period for all, such as after readings, after the homily and after Holy Communion and is a bit tedious if too long.”

I would be interested to know what others think about silences being “a bit tedious if too long.” I have not yet encountered such a silence that is “too long.” In my experience the Mass is rushed, and what is needed is to slow down and take time, including longer silences. Now, wouldn’t_that_ be counter-cultural? =)

Pater Ignotus said...

JBS/Henry - We have a moral obligation to support that which is doctrinal. There is no such obligation to "support" a specific translation which, in the minds of many, is in need of reform.

Further, the translation we have is not the "decision of a pope in response to an ecumenical council." The Second Vatican Council can hardly be considered the source of Liturgiam Authenticam. Neither can the current English translation of the Roman Missal be considered the result of a Conciliar act.

A priest who, rightly, recognizes the errors in the current translation is not suffering a "vocational crisis." He is recognizing what many professional translators have pointed out regarding the weaknesses of LA and the translation of the Roman Missal that has resulted. He's not in crisis, he's using his God-given intellect.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Clericalism PI, pure and simple. An ecumenical council called Vatican II stated in Sacrosanctum Concilium, 22.3:

"Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the Liturgy on his own authority."

How in the name of God and all that is holy can you justify by using silly academics with an axe to grind, your position is beyond me!

Cameron said...

I simply refuse to believe that the changing of the Mass had *nothing* to do with the drop off of Mass attendance. I don't think it was the only reason, perhaps not even the primary reason, but to believe that it was not a reason at all is an extremely childish kind of pious belief.

Pater Ignotus said...

Good Father - One man's axe is another man's legitimate objection.

The rules given in LA and the resulting translation of the Roman Missal are not what they should be, for several reasons.

And many of those who raise objections, who are far better Latinists and translators than you and I, are not clerics. You can't accuse them of clericalism, unless you are resorting to that troubling practice of clericalising the laity.

Anonymous said...

What reasons do you guys have for thinking that the form of the liturgy is a major factor in mass attendance or lay understanding of orthodox doctrine? It seems like folks on this blog are always attributing the secularization of Catholics to the changes of Vatican II but similar secularization has occurred across almost every Protestant denomination and non Christian religions too. The root causes of the rebellion (passive or active) against the Church must involve factors much more complex and subtle than change in the liturgy.

Православный физик said...

God bless you Father

GenXBen said...

I don't know how many of the 20% credit the Mass to V2 but I know that I pray for the day when I don't have to hear about V2 any more. It's a boomer obsession.

Regarding the Mass, I believe that most priests I've met are not that worried about it. I doubt that even 20% (to reuse your statistic) would be willing to tell their liturgist to cut down on the Haugan -Haas.

When Francis was elected Pope all the old Jesuit jokes came out: a well run Jesuit liturgy is one where no one gets hurt. It was patiently explained that Jesuits just don't get hung up on the liturgy. It's not part of their training beyond the rubrics. In my experience, that adequately describes diocesan priests. Not one in my experience has ever said to himself "what this parish needs is a better Mass," Instead they focus on the school, the ministries, adult-ed and the like. The Mass is not front and center.

Actually, there WAS a priest in our diocese who put a lot of effort into the Mass and Litugy of the Hours and Latin. His poor parish gained membership, raised enough money to repair the building and was starting to thrive. Then our former Bishop exiled the priest to the hinterlands for unknown reasons.

Joseph Johnson said...

As to this blog, I usually sit back and don't comment on what I consider to be "no-brainer" noncontroversial posts. It is usually the posts which deal with liturgy which draw out my comments.

However, as to this post, the need to re-establish ad orientem prayer in the OF Mass and to re-establish the practice of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue while kneeling (in the OF Mass) are NO BRAINERS!

The importance of the spread of the EF in more parishes is because it helps rebuild and reintroduce the liturgical culture in which these things are considered normative. The re-introduction of these practices into the OF will be considerably slowed (or stopped altogether) in parishes where the EF is not offered. Once again, watch the recent homily by Archbishop Sample of Portland. We won't turn things around until we have more bishops who think as he does!

Pater Ignotus said...

Anon 5:16 - The point you make - that the issues we face in the Church have their origins (and their solutions) beyond the walls of our churches - is accurate.

Many traditionalists don't or won't understand that simply making changes in the language, the rubrics, or the orientation of the mass will not result in the transformation of society.

This view explains, I think, why so many here reject the Church's teaching on Social Justice. It is too "outside the walls" to make sense to them or to have an effect on their hearts.

"Rebellion" may be too loaded a word to describe the cultural changes that have affected members of the Catholic Church. There have been legitimate and needed changes in culture that have influenced our ecclesial practices in a sort of mutual enrichment process. One would be the growing acceptance of women in societal roles that were once closed to them - CEO, Senate, Doctor, College President. Although on the College President level, it may well have been the Church that promoted women to this leadership position early in the development of their roles in larger society.

As long as the view of traditionalists doesn't extend beyond the walls of their individual parishes or their Personal Prelatures or their "traditional" religious orders, their arguments will impede the Church in the fulfillment of our mission to be yeast in the dough of the loaf for the world.

Anonymous said...

This is a good day for us to step beyond the walls of our churches...maybe step out among the sanitation workers in Memphis. On this day in 1968, a true prophet of our time, made his famous, inspiring, moving "I've been to the mountaintop" speech...the night before he became a modern martyr. Look it up and watch and hear it on YouTube. Be's not about lace and Latin.

John Nolan said...

No, Anonymous, it's about a heretic and serial adulterer making a political statement and then getting shot by a weirdo. Martyrdom requires more than that.

Anonymous said...

John, your pomposity is exceeded only by your self-righteousness.

Rood Screen said...

Pater Ignotus,

I appreciate your comments on the present English translation of the missal. However, I wish to point out that I made no reference to particular missal translations in my earlier comments on this post.

The typical edition of the reformed Roman Missal is in Latin, with various translations of it being subject to discussion by persons other than myself.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous says to John Nolan: "Who are you to judge?".

John Nolan responds: "I am not judging. I am just stating the facts.".

Pater Ignotus said...

Many martyrs, when they pointed out the failings in the behavior of the people, made what can be called "political" statements. That demanding an end to segregation was also a political goal does not lessen the fact that it is also a moral goal, one that is wholly supported by the Christian moral tradition.

Yes MLKJr is a martyr for justice. And if perfection is required for one to be considered a martyr or a saint, then there would be none.

Anonymous said...

Being perfect, John doesn't understand or tolerate or forgive imperfection. (This may get censored.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for freedom of the press.

Nathanael said...

I think most of us all know King’s certain peculiarities in the sphere of sexuality (and the understandable anti-Catholic sentiment he grew-up with). That, of course, in a member of the clergy is not good. I, for one, do not know how to feel about him. I believe his goals to be moral; but I do not believe him to be a moral man. And if the human tragedy of Memphis did not happen, it is uncertain how he would be remembered. I do not particularly like Malcolm X; but I believe him to be a moral man and honest (perhaps caught-up in a not-so-nice organization) in a way King is not.

What stands out for me with King (and this changed the way I looked at him) is the case of what happened in Albany, Georgia. One of the criticisms of King (and the upper echelons of the SCLC) is their high-handed approach to local black (and white) activists who put the ball in motion on the ground long before the bigwigs in Atlanta moved-in. The problem of Albany is there was no Eugene Conner to overreact for the cameras. Hence, King and the major players could not get their needed provocation to expose the ugliness of segregation for mainstream white America on the nightly news. And the local activists were, essentially, left to their own devices for white reprisals in Albany.

But it is wrong to dismiss King as a heretic and deviant.

Anonymous said...

Let he or she who has never deviated say "I am not a deviant.".

Anonymous said...

Pretty soon John will start speaking Latin.

John Nolan said...

Sine nomine:

Cur loqui latine? Secundum Patrem Ignotum linguam latinam nemo intellegit. Olim talis scientia hominem eruditum, non inflatum, indicabat.

Pater Ignotus:

In all the years that you used the now superseded 'dynamic equivalence' version were you ever concerned that it did not render the Latin with any degree of accuracy? Did you criticize Comme le prevoit with the vehemence with which you now criticize Liturgiam Authenticam? Did you ever look at the original Latin of (say) a Collect and ask yourself why the English version you used year in, year out, not only missed a lot out, but also inserted material that was never there? Did you ever consider that it might not be the translator's job to alter the meaning of a text to suit his own preconceived ideas? Of course you didn't. Had ICEL 1998 not been rejected I suspect you would have praised the 'inclusive' language and seen nothing wrong with: 'May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands to the praise and glory of God's name' regardless of the fact that in avoiding the masculine pronoun the redactors were clearly implying that 'the Lord' and 'God' were different entities.

The many priests who celebrated in both Latin and English had far more cause to criticize the English version they were obliged to use than you have to object to the current one, which although not perfect, is at least a translation and not an inaccurate, deficient and frequently tendentious paraphrase. Yet right up until the changeover in 2011 they obediently used it without the whining and whingeing that we hear from you and your ilk.

Rood Screen said...

For the record, I consider John Nolan to be one of the more balanced commentators on this blog, both in content and in style.

Pater Ignotus said...

John - You know that I am not a Latinist - and you have labeled me a philistine for that - so you know that it was not possible for me to be concerned with the accuracy of the translations we used prior to the new Roman Missal translation. And no, I did not criticize Comme le prevoit because I has no basis for doing so.

My "ilk" includes the vast majority of priests who, like me, are not Latinists. The priests studied Latin for 4 or 8 years have told me that they didn't know Latin. They managed to grasp it well enough to pass classes that required it and to celebrate the Sacraments.

I have mentioned before our seminary rector, a very well-educated man, PhD and all, who showed us his seminary moral theology textbook that had the translation into English written between the lines. "That's how we passed the tests!" he said.

Neither are we scholars of Greek and/or Hebrew, so we rely on the translators who provide translations of the Scriptures. This is not a bad thing, unless one approaches every situation, ecclesial and otherwise, with a foundation of suspicion.

John Nolan said...

Thank you, Fr Shelton. I will readily admit to being opinionated, and although I try to be objective, I won't shirk controversy. However, being right-thinking (surely a virtue) is not the same as being self-righteous (a vice to which liberals with little understanding of irony and no sense of humour are particularly prone).

It's fun to spot the 'literalists' and have some sport at their expense. Three years ago I said on another forum that I would be in favour of a European Union if it were under a Catholic Habsburg Emperor with Latin as its official language. Other contributors actually took me seriously!

John Nolan said...

Pater Ignotus

A Latinist is someone who can write, speak and think in the language with ease. I am far from being such; I was taught Latin for five years at school (1962-1967) and we used cribs for Caesar and Virgil. I was required to study some medieval Latin as part of my history degree, and again we made use of cribs (even those who had A-Level Latin - two years of intensive study from age 16-18 - found them useful).

Liturgical Latin and the Vulgate are a lot easier than Cicero or Tacitus and the crib (in the form of a more-or-less literal translation) is on the facing page in both my missal and bible.

I didn't say you were a philistine; but I described a certain attitude as being philistine. Namely, that since very few people are fluent in Latin every trace of it must be removed from the liturgy, including the entire corpus of Gregorian Chant, most of which developed with the liturgy in the course of the first millennium and is uniquely proper to it, not to mention the liturgical music of the second millennium.

It is also philistine, as well as perverse, to equate being able to recite prayers in French or Spanish without being fluent in these languages with the ability to do the same in Latin. What you have written on more than one occasion has led me to make such inferences.

All priests need is a working knowledge of Latin and some familiarity with certain texts. This is easily acquired, and indeed is a requirement for ordination. If a priest cannot celebrate the OF in Latin he is in the wrong job; if he can and refuses on principle to do so, he is perverse.

If I can accept the place of the vernacular in the liturgy, despite there not being much of a precedent for it in the western Church, why can you not accept that Latin also has a place? Is it because I am a moderate and you are an extremist?

And if, as you say, you don't have enough Latin to recognize when a translation isn't a translation, how come you maintained that it is possible to impose Latin syntax onto English, when the two are very different? Did you discuss this with a Latinist? Or are you simply repeating what some liberals said about Liturgiam Authenticam which they chose to interpret in a very literal manner? (Ironic that, given their attitude to formal equivalence as a principle of translation).

Pater Ignotus said...

John - "...a working knowledge of Latin and some familiarity with certain texts..." does not enable a priest, or anyone else for that matter, to "...look at the original Latin of (say) a Collect and ask yourself why the English version you used year in, year out, not only missed a lot out, but also inserted material that was never there."

For the task of translation of such texts a "working knowledge" is wholly insufficient. The men and women who do our translations for us have an exceptional, a prodigious, even an olympian knowledge of Latin.

While my knowledge of Latin is weak, I am able to read English very well. The arguments made against the translational philosophy of LA and the translations made using that philosophy were made in English. You have read them, too.

To my knowledge, every presentation on the new translation by Bishop Seratelli, an ardent supporter of the new translation, was made in English.

Is it so hard to understand that his comments, and those made by dozens of other Latin scholars and theologians on both sides of the question would give me, or anyone else, an understanding of ho LA was intended to work regarding Latin syntax?

Pater Ignotus said...

Cameron - And there were many people who simply *refused* to believe that cholera was transmitted via water, that African-Americans had the intellectual capacity to serve as priests, and that a women could do a reasonably good job as a US Senator.

They were wrong, too.

John Nolan said...

PI, it must have occurred to you that those who rejected ICEL 1998 and produced Liturgiam Authenticam were not primarily concerned with translation techniques; their (admittedly belated) concern was that the English version in use did not adequately convey the full meaning of the Latin text and in some cases deliberately distorted it. A further concern was that the old ICEL, following the 1969 principles of Comme le Prevoit, were composing new liturgical prayers and even leaving options for extemporizing them.

I think that even you would agree that the final decision on liturgical texts must rest with the Holy See. SC made this clear enough. The Council Fathers certainly didn't envisage lots of local liturgies popping up all over the place. It also has to be remembered that the English translation is the most important one, not least because other translations (Welsh, Irish, Pidgin etc.) are taken from it rather than from the original Latin.

It might also have occurred to you that those who opposed LA were not primarily concerned with translation techniques either; they didn't want (for reasons of their own) the Latin text to be accurately translated. This is in my opinion far more sinister than allowing the odd infelicity to creep into the translation; not a result of syntax, but usually because the translators were sometimes too keen to literally translate a Latin word - which in the light of what had been allowed to happen over the previous half century - is understandable.

Anonymous said...


Admitting for the sake of argument that it's a bad translation--which I don't in fact--why don't you do what all of us orthodox believers had to do for two generations of crappy/heretical "We believe" and "born of the Virgin Mary" "for you and for all" and just deal with it? Your generation has had its way with the Church. Now it's your turn to see your preferences dismantled. Suck it up.

And there you go again, insinuating/claiming that if someone is for liturgical reform then he thinks it's a panacea--_and_ he rejects the Church's teaching on social justice. Quit poisoning the well. Debate honestly.