Starting Points

Well, Shawn and I have a few.

“If I read you correctly, to you, Church documents and decrees are mere ‘starting points.’ This says something. And yet you then try to claim that it is I whom is over-inflating his positions.’”

In the sense that the overall purpose of liturgy is twofold: the worship of God and the sanctification of the faithful, yes, even the texts of the liturgy itself are the starting point. As a liturgist, I also believe that the Church’s liturgy and rubrics are at least on a par with documents and decrees.

“You mention going through the Vatican II documents, but thinking about it, I haven’t seen you do as such, at least over at the NLM, I’ve only seen you criticize these things.”

I’m unsure about the problem here. First, as I stated above, I think the liturgical rites themselves are part of a set of foundational guidelines for worship and sanctification. To use a timely example, the current English translation of the Mass is heavily criticized, yet it went through an even more rigorous approval process than, say, Musicam Sacram. The notion that liturgical documents for implementation are above criticism, yet the liturgy itself is not—this seems to be off kilter. One example: I can criticize the English translation of the Gloria. Am I being a hypocrite for using it on Sunday? Or for enjoying the particular setting I use because the people sing it and the choir and musicians have fun with it? Sometimes we live with imperfection. Often, it’s an occasion for turning it over to God. Your point about, “and with your spirit” illustrates this I think.

“The question is, when we do make these arguments and critiques and propositions, do we do so earnestly trying to be formed by the mind of the Church as seen through the Magisterium, through her decrees, through the letter of this Council and those before it, and through her living tradition? Or on the other hand do we do it based solely upon what we happen to like, what we feel and so forth.”

I would add two important aspects to this list, with which I would agree in principle. First, would be the actual texts and rubrics of the liturgy. And second would be the baseline objectives of worship and sanctification. I cannot help but bring the pastoral element into the discernment. And given the near-universal tenor of liturgical criticism, we cannot help but consider the obstacles to sanctification, and address those issues, even if it means a criticism of particular points presented in particular documents.


“To put it in the words of Pope Benedict, are we acting in a spirit and hermeneutic of continuity, continuity with the 2000 year tenure and tradition of our Church, or are we acting within a spirit and hermeneutic of rupture?”

I think there are other choices, and I’ve blogged about them. There is also a hermeneutic of resistance at work in the Church: a distrust of change and reform, and a willingness to work against them whenever possible.


“Second, your listing of this past few days posts is quite silly, as though I’ve suggested that every post pertains to Church decrees. Please Todd, let’s not stoop to such pettiness and elementary level of ‘argument.’”

Not silly at all. There is room in all of those posts for a lively discussion under the umbrella of orthodoxy.


“Finally, you act as though you’ve never been engaged. Indeed you have been. The problem is, we often cannot get beyond this first point. If you haven’t figured it out yet, that is our topic, and until we get that one down, there cannot be any further points argued.”

Good enough. This particular exchange hasn’t been as focused on one topic as I would have liked, but it’s a good start. I think there’s a possibility for a more focused format, but this hasn’t worked out too badly.

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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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