Friday, July 14, 2006

Myths or Misperceptions on the Liturgy:
(With Kevin Tierney)

[Prefatory Note: This text (except for a few minor tweaks) was written on or before June 28, 2006 and was posted to The Lidless Eye Inquisition yesterday. -ISM]

Recently, Kevin decided to respond to a response I wrote to one of his pieces some time ago. This will be an interaction with his latest response...his words will be in black bolded font, my previous words (as quoted by him) in blue font.

Popular Traditionalist Myths on the Liturgy
Posted: Friday, June 02, 2006
Last Update: Friday, June 02, 2006

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi. The law of prayer determines the law of belief. If there is one law in the Church worth preserving, it is this law. Prayer is not just discussion with God. Prayer calls to mind certain tenets of the faith that we reflect upon as we pray. This rule holds especially true with the Christian liturgy. Not only do we worship God, but the faithful are edified by instruction, and most importantly the Blessed Sacrament. The Council of Trent, when ruling against the vernacular, still noted that the Mass “contains great instruction for the faithful people.” (Session 22, Chapter VIII). This was confirmed by Vatican II in Sacrosanctum Concillium, chapters 14-20.

I agree with everything in the above paragraph.

The reason this is important is because since the promulgation of the Novus Ordo Missae, a sharp decline has been evidenced in many things pertaining to the Catholic faith. Devotion to angels, strength of belief in purgatory, and Eucharistic piety took a steep decline, despite the constant affirmations (especially about Eucharistic piety) from Popes Paul VI and John Paul II. Some of these things also happened to be those things eliminated from the Classical Roman Rite when the New Mass was implemented.

This is true but (I would argue) a bit misleading. To unscramble this egg properly, one has to touch on more than just the liturgy since it can be argued that a lot of what we have seen would have happened anyway even if the liturgy remained untouched from what it was in the 1962 Missal. But that is a subject for another time and if Kevin would like to discuss it, he knows how to contact me.

Now to what degree this is the cause is debatable.


But to deny it is even a cause is to I think be blind to reality.

Not necessarily. There were deeper issues involved and the liturgical modifications were if anything pretty minor factors by comparison. Again, if Kevin wants to discuss this in more detail later on, I would gladly oblige him.

My colleague I. Shawn McElhinney is one who tends to favor this view, when he says such things as:

There is this tendency towards viewing the Mass as some kind of verbal theological treatise and feeling that if certain doctrines were more explicit in the rite that the problems of today would be corrected. With this view it is not uncommon to proclaim that a decrease in belief in the Real Presence or in other doctrines are the fault of the Council or of the Revised Missal. Unfortunately, the blame should go squarely on the shoulders of poor catechizing programs and the secular humanism of today which have had devastating effects on the Church. It is there that our focus should be, not the "tilting at windmills" approach where the naïve assumptions are made that if we just reinstate the Tridentine Missal and impose communion by mouth that all problems would subside. No matter how simplistic or complex a liturgy is, there will always be complexities that the text is capable of arousing. With the TM, many of its ambiguities were covered over by the Latin and properly explained through a prudent catechizing program. The PM, because it is predominantly in the vernacular, tends to have its ambiguities more readily noticable.

Those words were written by me over five years ago and I still stand by them in the context they were written in. For readers to assess that, they can read the essay in its entirety HERE.

While elsewhere Shawn has affirmed to this writer that his view is a bit more nuanced than this, I think the sentiment he expresses here is a rather common one in those who give critiques of the traditionalist movement. However, at the same time, I have never heard it seriously argued that the Mass is some sort of verbal theological treatise.

It is an argument that is made by implication Kevin, not one that is explicitly made. And everytime someone argues about the Classical Roman Rite{1} and tries to argue against its replacement with language that bemoans the supposed "reduction" of one doctrine or another in the liturgical text, the argument I noted is logically implied.

In regards to the second one (reinstate these things and the problems will go away) one is reading traditionalist critiques far too simplistically.

It depends on whom we are talking about. I remind my good friend that it is no more possible to define one particular viewpoint on this among the so-called "traditionalists" than it is to define pne particular viewpoint amongst any other group. If Kevin wants to claim that the so-called "traditionalists" should not argue in that fashion then fine but not a few who use that term to describe themselves do precisely that. Others are more nuanced but certainly it is not the "all or nothing" situation that Kevin presents it to be.

Simply judging by the content of the prayers, the Latin mass does more substantially touch upon several factors of the Catholic Faith.

Yes and it also obscures other factors. ALL liturgies do this.

However, the way in which it does this is a bit more subtle, precisely because most people are either not going to understand a theological treatise, or will simply be bored out of their mind in attempting to do so.

The reader is reminded that Kevin will now show the value of proper catechesis in his analysis which proves the very point I have made for many years now...

For example, constantly throughout the Latin Mass one is taught about the intercession of the saints. This is not done by explaining a Biblical basis for such a belief, or how they intercede, but by constantly imploring their intercession.

But the Classical Roman Rite fails to make a clear demarcation between hyperdulia and dulia. Whatever one says about the Revised Roman Missal, it does make this distinction clearly in a few spots.

Also, certain saints are named, as ones which the Roman Rite holds of special prominence. St. Peter and Paul are invoked numerous times throughout the classical liturgy. As the founders of the Roman Church, the first pontiff and “the apostle to the gentiles” the faithful are reminded of the very special and prominent place they hold in Christian thought. Today, they are not mentioned in the Revised Missal, unless the traditional Roman Canon is used. (And realistically speaking, this is maybe 5% of masses if one is lucky.) One goes from hearing about them every Sunday, to never hearing about them at all. Does the person holding the position outlined above mean to tell this writer with a straight face that there is no correlation whatsoever?

If Kevin wants to argue that the Roman Canon should be featured more prominently in its usage, I would not disagree. However, it is also important to remember that the Revised Roman Missal is more than just the mass of the city of Rome (which is what the Missal of Pius V was prior to 1570) but indeed is a universal liturgy. It embraces elements of all streams of the Great Tradition and not just the practices from the Roman dioceses prior to the Council of Trent. Readers who read my essay from which Kevin quoted above will see that I was making this same argument in that writing -albeit in much more detail than I intend to do here.

When the critic states that the fault lies with catechesis, not the liturgy, that position is more telling then they seem to realize. If the problem exists with the catechesis level and not the liturgy, did this problem exist before Vatican II? Everyone agrees this was the case. Then why were catechesis mainly ignored, and so much attention given to changing the liturgy?

The presumption seems to have been that things were generally speaking on a more solid footing than they turned out to actually be. To explain the liturgical changes it helps to remember that the liturgy had been the focus of a lot of critical studies over four centuries (post-Quo Primum) and there were areas which became clearer over time were deficient and needed to be tended to. I do not say "deficient" as if to imply that the liturgical usage was dangerous to souls or any of that garbage; however, there were some points which were not completely correct theologically viz how they were expressed. There was also the recognition of the problems of evangelization in areas of the world where the Classical Roman Rite and the use of Latin was foreign to the understanding of a large percentage of the world's population. Again, I dealt with this subject in the aforementioned essay and recommend giving the essay a read in its entirety to see what one of the motivating factors behind the liturgical reform was.{2}

While catechesis should never be ignored, this starts with the liturgy, and is continued elsewhere for more instruction.

The liturgy is easily misunderstood without proper catechesis.

Catechesis classes not everyone can attend. But Sunday Mass everyone will be at.

I hate to bring this up again but back in the "good old days" probably most people did not understand what was going on during the liturgy. This is one reason why using the liturgy as the first point of catechesis is never a wise idea unless one seeks to do so by implication at best.

When Pius XI wanted Christians to call to mind the doctrine of the Social Kingship of Christ in an increasingly secularized society, did he call for massive catechesis programs?

I will get to this in a moment.

While he did call for more learning on the subject, the primary way he did this was through the sacred liturgy, as he tells us in Quas Primas:

That these blessings may be abundant and lasting in Christian society, it is necessary that the kingship of our Savior should be as widely as possible recognized and understood, and to the end nothing would serve better than the institution of a special feast in honor of the Kingship of Christ. For people are instructed in the truths of faith, and brought to appreciate the inner joys of religion far more effectually by the annual celebration of our sacred mysteries than by any official pronouncement of the teaching of the Church. Such pronouncements usually reach only a few and the more learned among the faithful; feasts reach them all; the former speak but once, the latter speak every year -- in fact, forever. The church's teaching affects the mind primarily; her feasts affect both mind and heart, and have a salutary effect upon the whole of man's nature. Man is composed of body and soul, and he needs these external festivities so that the sacred rites, in all their beauty and variety, may stimulate him to drink more deeply of the fountain of God's teaching, that he may make it a part of himself, and use it with profit for his spiritual life…. The festivals that have been introduced into the liturgy in more recent years have had a similar origin, and have been attended with similar results. When reverence and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament had grown cold, the feast of Corpus Christi was instituted, so that by means of solemn processions and prayer of eight days' duration, men might be brought once more to render public homage to Christ. So, too, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was instituted at a time when men were oppressed by the sad and gloomy severity of Jansenism, which had made their hearts grow cold, and shut them out from the love of God and the hope of salvation.

Of course this was a reference to a new feast day in the calendar which is not (of course) limited only to the liturgy.

The most effective way to reach man is through the liturgy, according to Pius XI.

Pius XI was referring to the institution of feasts in the Church's calendar with the above phrasing. The word "liturgy" or its equivalents was used only four times in the encyclical and on all occasions it spoke of the insertion of the feast into the calendar for celebration on a Sunday during the liturgical year. Furthermore, Pius XI seemed to think the inclusion of this feast in the calendar would accomplish a lot of things and I know I need not remind Kevin that papal opinions are different from papal teaching.{3}

One doesn’t need advanced catechesis to understand the basics that the liturgy should be giving.

It depends on how basic a teaching we are talking about. Even the notion of Christ the King has more to it than meets the eye -as Pius XI noted in devoting an encyclical of moderate length to the subject.

Furthermore, could we not also argue that emphasizing these things briefly in the liturgy will spark man’s interest to attend additional instruction in regards to these things?

Yes we could. Lest there is misunderstanding here, I am hardly saying there is no educational value in the liturgy. My point is that the liturgy is subject to misunderstanding in not a few areas for those who are not properly catechized. And if not for the appearance of denigrating the Classical Roman Rite, I would use it to illustrate this point in spades.{4}

No doubt this is the case. When the feast of Corpus Christi was instituted, Eucharistic piety amongst the faithful soared, and learned theologians began to give wonderful developments on the teaching of such an august sacrament.

This is true.

Had they waited for catechesis programs, chances are they would still be waiting today.

It is not an issue of wait[ing] for catechesis programs as much as it is recognizing that the liturgy is not the perspicuous source of education that many presume it is. One can also consider how Pius XI in writing a lengthy encyclical on Christian education four years after Quas Primas devoted less than a sentence to mentioning the liturgy but mentioned other subjects pertaining to education far more frequently in that encyclical letter. The reason of course is that there are many ingredients that go into baking the cake of a solid Catholic education including the liturgy as well as art. But proper catechesis is indispensible if one is to understand the liturgy properly. I do not even see how this point is debatable but (of course) it apparently is in the minds of some people.

For those who likewise caricature traditionalist arguments by saying “you guys just think that if we restore the Latin Mass the problem will be solved” they are guilty of grossly oversimplifying the issue.

It depends on the party in question. Kevin is aware that there are a panopoly of self-styled "traditionalist" views and statements on this matter. With some this is not a caricature at all whereas with others it undoubtedly is.

The fact is, this argument has not been said.

See my previous comments.

What has been said is that either a greater promotion/restoration of the Latin Mass would be an important and prudent step in eliminating some of these problems.

This is probably true. However, it would reintroduce others that previously existed.

Some would be eliminated outright.

See my previous comments.

By restoring the discipline of the priest only distributing communion, the plethora of “Eucharistic ministers” (frowned upon by the Vatican) would vanish overnight.

I for one favour intincture for reasons I have stated more than once over the years. I also favour the re-establishment of the acolyte and the imposition of it only onto married men: something I will gladly explain my reasons for later on.

From there, we can work to what is proper participation on the basis of the faithful. One can agree or disagree with these sentiments. Such straw men serve no purpose in a fruitful discussion however.

I agree with Kevin except for the idea that straw men were introduced into this by me in anything I have written. Hopefully what is noted above amply explains my reasons for this.


{1} I do like that terminology a lot better than the Traditional Latin Mass one: far less deceptive and far more exact.

{2} And one I might add which in my experience has rarely if ever been recognized or dealt with by those who claim to be "traditionalists."

{3} What methods are or are not best and most effective are by their very nature normative and therefore largely subjective.

{4} Not that the Revised Missal is free from such things of course: this is germane to all liturgical forms that have existed (or ever will exist).