Liturgical Discipline, A Tunnel’s Eye View


I found the link on NLM, an interview with Sri Kankan Archbishop Albert Malcom Ranjith Patabendige Don. Before I get to the highlights, let me state a few things so y’all know I’m not operating from my own tunnel.

- First, nobody denies that liturgical abuses serious and minor are afoot in the Roman Rite. They probably always have been. Priests and liturgists are human beings. They make errors in judgment, charity, and sometimes are ignorant of what they should or could be doing.

- Second, the climate has been ripe for it, and the Vatican liturgy documents have blatantly encouraged outraged lay people to report directly to the CDWDS, bypassing staff, pastor, and bishop.

- Third, sometimes the “chain of command” is unresponsive to lay complaints about the Mass.

- Fourth, sometimes the complainants are unreasonable, hostile, abusive, misinformed, or have their own human flaws (see point one) and even when they have something constructive to say, the well has been poisoned to the extent that anything they contribute will be dismissed out of hand.

Every day, the archbishop disclosed, the Congregation for Divine Worship receives new complaints about serious liturgical abuses, and complaints that local bishops have failed to correct them. If the Church fails to curb these abuses, he said, “people will attend the Tridentine Mass, and our churches will be empty.” Liturgical guidelines are set forth clearly, he observed, in the Roman Missal and in Church documents. Now “some discipline is necessary regarding what we do at the altar.”

I wonder if the CDWDS realizes that by setting itself up as a court for complaint, it continually hears the negative side of the Church’s liturgical life. Nowhere in church documents does it say that good preaching, music, architecture, art, or such things are to be praised. No wonder really that Archbishop Ranjith has such an inaccurate view of the Roman liturgy. Especially if he thinks the Tridentine celebrations are rubrically pristine.

Ranjith is close to correct with this assessment:

There are two extremes to avoid: to allow each priest or bishop to do what he wants, which creates confusion, or, on the contrary, to completely give up a vision adapted to the modern context and to be locked up in the past. Today, these two extremes continue to grow. Which is the happy medium? … It is advisable to reflect for a moment, to celebrate seriously and to improve what we currently do.

Successful parishes integrate the best of the past: a sense of mystery, a prayerfulness, and a sense of tradition and add it to the best of the reform: a more open sense of God’s grace, a fuller participation in the sacramental life, a sense that the Church is actually going somewhere.

In my experience, ideological extremes are irrelevant to the liturgical experience. It’s really simple. Fac omnia bene. Do all things well: preaching, music, art. Do them with a sense of prayerfulness and intent that everybody who comes to Sunday Mass can so easily connect with God that only the truly obstinate will leave unsatisfied.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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