Sunday, July 26, 2015

More on "liturgical renewal"

Following up on this.
The vast majority of people who are college-educated never read another book once they finish their degree. I think I read somewhere that the number is around 60%. Of the 40% of college-educated people who do read books, the overwhelming majority of those folks only read one or two a year. The idea that the laity are going to sit around and deeply study the history and rubrics of the liturgy is just nuts. People don't read. Not real books anyway. So, the liturgy has to lived out in the parishes in order for it to really affect people. And the best liturgy for that is... low Mass (reverently and well-celebrated). There is a reason why low Mass was the practical normative form of the Mass prior to the Council. It wasn't because of lazy clergy or bored laity (or at least not entirely because of those things). It was largely because it was a utility Mass, one that Italian peasants and Filipino villagers and North Dakota farmers and Argentine shopkeepers could embrace and follow. Poor parishes could celebrate it. It could be celebrated by one priest riding circuit over a range of missions. Tried and true.
In defense of the old liturgical movement, Thomas Day wrote that when ordinary people had the liturgy's treasures unlocked, when they were taught them, they responded. He tells the story of a Latin-American janitor who knew chant and started singing along at something.
One reason why Vatican II's reforms failed is that they require too much of the laity in terms of reading and study. Yes, get your Bible out and the Documents of Vatican II, and the revised liturgy, and copy of Hans Küng's bestsellers and figure out how to live a Christian life. And nobody is going to read that stuff, nobody read it, and people just kind of went to the figuring it out stage all at once, with no formation or guidance. Result = disaster with bad folk music accompaniment.
That and Küng's a heretic. The pre-conciliar liturgical movement was similarly unrealistic about the laity but their heart was in the right place and they were orthodox.
Yes, true. But Küng was recommended reading after the Council, it wasn't until the 1980s that he was disciplined. The basic problem tho is that all the reformers, both before & after the Council, grossly misunderstood the laity and their concerns. They assumed the laity wanted to basically be little priests -- read and understand a lot about theology, Bible, liturgy, etc. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I once had a priest tell me that his goal was for most of the people in the parish Latin Mass community to know Latin. I said that was a great idea for us to learn the responses. And he looked at me with all seriousness and said, no, that's not enough. People need to know Latin. Okay. Well, guess how it worked out?
Right. For example, Latin's great; it's useful as a template for clear meanings and it's pretty. But as I love to say, my traditionalism isn't about Latin. I know perfectly well that the average Joe Catholic doesn't want to learn it or go back to having services in it.
Most people are too busy with work & family to spend a lot of time learning Latin and studying stuff. Years ago I taught RCIA, and the group of people I taught was highly motivated and even they barely kept up with the reading assignments in the textbook and the Bible. As a wise nun told me, focus on the sacraments and the prayers of the rosary, and let the priest worry about the rest. It worked!
A particularly pernicious form of the clericalism (little-priests syndrome) you describe is the misused extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, often just called a Eucharistic minister, in which the ordain-women cranks get to live their fantasy; Mom gets to pretend to be a priest. That hits me hard as a battle-worn Anglo-Catholic alumnus. The long-term effect is fewer Catholics know and believe what the church really teaches about the Eucharist. The old liturgical movement's correct emphasis on community, derailed from orthodoxy; perverted.

As sympathetic as I am and unsympathetic as you are to the liturgical movement, I think we can agree on a point I made earlier that traditional Catholicism a big tent, not a cult, for the learned or not, the bright and the dim, and the pious and the slobs who know they're sinners. The trouble with "liturgical renewal" old and new is just as you say, it assumes everybody wants to be a pious mini-priest. I'll put it in these terms: just like with the English "Reformation," the founding of your least favorite denomination, Anglicanism, it's a reduction of a universal religion to a bourgeois one for the then-new middle class on up who had the luxury of enough time to read and study. Any other kind of religious practice was looked down on as low-class (the way the English look down on Italians now, for example); it makes the church "respectable" in a pharisaical way Jesus hates; "the carriage trade at prayer" as in Anglicanism, which lost the minds and hearts of the English people (already hurt by being literally forced out of Catholicism) at the "Enlightenment." (Circa 1600 things had settled into a "parish Anglicanism" in which the English were resigned to the new religion but treated it reverently like they used to practice Catholicism; the English Civil War and the "Enlightenment" finished the job for the "Reformation" separating the mother country from Christ.)


  1. I think we can agree on a point I made earlier that traditional Catholicism a big tent, not a cult, for the learned or not, the bright and the dim, and the pious and the slobs who know they're sinners. The trouble with 'liturgical renewal' old and new is just as you say, it assumes everybody wants to be a pious mini-priest."

    Good point; this is also how I feel when people criticize the Orthodox Church for having "no theology," just because it does not have scholasticism or many dogmas. Such a strict definition of theology assumes that everyone has the intellectual capability to "study theology," and distorts the truth that the fundamental theology of the Church is found in the divine services, prayer, and general spiritual life of the Church.

    1. As you know I maintain that the Orthodox' folk Catholicism is good. But it's not enough for the church. You need both that and the theology of the intellectuals. The lack of that theology in Orthodoxy points to the fact that it's not the church. Just a rudderless version of folk Catholicism.

  2. How, then, was the Latin Church the true Church before the advent of scholasticism in the 11th century?

    1. Cute. The Anglicans try an argument like that to get around our ruling against their orders. "Since the earliest Roman Rite ordinations didn't have the elements by which you judge our ordinations, then by your own judgment your own orders are invalid."

      We give the Orthodox the benefit of the doubt because all of their defined doctrine, pre-11th-century, is true, and they've never dogmatized anything against our post-schism definitions. That parallels the Latin Church before scholasticism. Again, Newman's theory of the development of doctrine. Our theology was less formed but it didn't contradict what came later.

  3. "Development of doctrine"* is a red herring in this discussion. We were discussing how your positing of "intellectual theology," which derived from scholasticism in the 11th century can be a mark of the true Church when such theology had a definite origin in time. Do the marks of the true Church develop with time, as well?

    *"Development of doctrine" can never entail the preaching of truths that are new and unknown in the Church, per St. Vincent of Lerins. If you are going to believe something, it must have a pedigree. If not, you must reject it, appeals to Newman's Own salad dressing, notwithstanding.


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