UPDATE: A time capsule from 1980! Michael Davies on the Liturgy and Pope John Paul II's theology and renewal. Very revealing!
If sociologists asked non-Christians to attend two forms of Catholic Mass (one in the Ordinary Form Mass with Contemporary Music, church building in the round and casual atmosphere, and the other an EF Mass in a traditional church building with hushed silence and strict reverence) on two separate weeks and then pose questions to them about the "reverence" of one or the other of these two Masses and which one was more reverent and transcendent in their way of thinking, I wonder if we would get some sense as to why 88% of Catholics in many places no longer attend Mass?
I have my hunches. But it is all anecdotal. It is not just any one thing but the "perfect storm" beginning with the Second Vatican Council and what is called now, "The Council of the Media" which manipulated what the actual Council and its Fathers were saying and teaching at the time. Then after this was the false "spirit of the Council" that continues in some places to this day..
Coupled with this was the social revolution across the world in the 1960's that wrought the sexual revolution and the disdain for authority be it secular or religious. The negative reception of Humanae Vitae by so many, especially in the Church, is a prime example and the failure of Catholics to embrace the Church's teachings highlighted in Humanae Vitae and what it did to the practice of the Faith cannot be underestimated.
And of course we cannot underestimate the effects of the sex abuse scandal and how the bishops of the Church, to include former Bishops of Rome, handled it.
But let's just speak about the negative effects of some of the reforms of the Mass on the ground in local parishes since it is locally and at Mass that the vast majority of Catholics experience the Church and are formed in the Faith.
Does the Mass and our worship of God reinforce what the Church actually teaches about the Majesty of God as the Supreme Being who will judge the living and the dead or does it contribute to a lack of piety, reverence and mystery, a casual approach to God and Church and in the most superficial way?
These are some of my thoughts as to why only 12% of Catholics in many places today attend Mass:
1. Early on and beginning with Folk Music as the four hymns of a Low Mass with the slightly revised 1965 Missal, people grumbled that the reverence of the Mass was being compromised by this style of music, although most at first like the priest facing the congregation and the first translation of the Latin into English but with a goodly amount of Latin still mandated for some parts of the Mass to include the Roman Canon prayed in a low (not silent) voice. (Many contemporary hymns still create this sense of a loss of reverence to this day. Music has played a pivotal role in all of this).
2. The subsequent transition to a more simplified Mass with the elimination of the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar and the revised Offertory Prayers and the elimination of the Last Gospel contributed to more suspicion that the reforms were taking a wrong turn and even more reverence was being removed by the Council.
3. The English translation of a completely vernacular Mass that codified the transitional changes prior to it in Advent of 1969 alarmed many Catholics that even the new English was less reverent than the early English translation.
4. Then priests began in the most clerical way possible to use their own words for the Mass dumbing down further the inelegant new English translation and contributing to even more loss of reverence at Mass.
5. Creativity and planning by liturgists and liturgy committees that presented novelities almost each Sunday at Mass contributed to more of a sense of the loss of reverence at Mass.
6. The removal of altar railings to make people stand to receive Holy Communion and to do so in the hand and with bread that was homemade and with many crumbs that fell to the floor and carpet is perhaps the single worst idea that placed a dagger into the heart of Catholic reverence for Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament and belief in the Real Presence of Christ, for if it didn't matter than crumbs of Holy Communion remained on people's hands to be brushed off or crumbs, large crumbs, fell to the floor, that meant Christ our God wasn't really present because if He was we would not allow it as we had been so scrupulous about not having it happen prior to the changes in the Mass.
7. Then the tabernacle was moved from the Church or demoted to an insignificant side altar or chapel and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament or Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was severely curtailed and lambasted in high places as an "accretion" from the Middle Ages. This killed reverence!
8. The use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, style of dress for them and those in the congregation, talking before and after Mass and a general loss of focused participation at Mass with some chewing gum, getting up to go to the bathroom even at the consecration and other things of this nature certainly creates a less than reverent atmosphere and contrasts sharply with the reverence in Catholic Churches and at Mass prior to Vatican II.
9. While at first with the 1965 missal and the priest facing the people was accepted, it soon degenerated into the priest playing to the congregation in a sort of clerical drama or dialogue and the priest praying the prayers of the Mass as though these were directed to the congregation and not the transcendent God! By clerical drama, I mean the priest as a secular performer whose goal is to please the congregation at Mass during what should be a sacred rite directed to God and not toward human applause.
10. The homily that has no meat or signficance for people's lives or leads them in faith and reverence to celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist which follows and to live their lives in continuity and reverently in the world and homilies that are like stand-up comedy routines.
What do you think?