Clarifying Some Categories

Thanks for the comments taking me to task on my characterizations of some conservatives. Over the past few years, I’ve been especially careful in my criticism of ideologies within the Church. You can pretty much read what I write as what I mean–no more, no less.

I’m far from the belief that all liberals are good and all conservatives are bad. That would be just silly.

Within the greater Church, there is a spectrum of people who love and/or know the liturgy: from deeply to fairly shallow. Along that line, there are also people who have what I would consider a conservative worldview, and others more progressive. With varying degrees of shading between, there are liberals who are pretty ignorant about liturgy, conservatives who have a refined and intelligent view of it, progressives devoted and knowledgeable, and alas, liturgically-ignorant conservatives.

Double alas that many people in liturgical power in the Catholic Church are in that fourth category. Certainly the meddlers of the English interpretation of MR3. The CDWDS. Probably the pope. I don’t think there’s a malicious intent with these people. I think they mean well for the good of the Church. I also happen to think that liturgically-ignorant liberals mean well too, by and large.

Having more number twos in play would be an improvement. The full spectrum between two and three would be ideal.

Now, a warning about all this. Categories are helpful to a limited extent. They operate in the larger realms of sociology. They will often fail when dealing with individuals. Individuals, I’ve found, will surprise with a broader spread among ideology, devotion, knowledge, attitudes, and opinions. When I correspond with individuals I’ve encountered on the internet, I’m a lot more careful to the nuances they bring to a dialogue.

But on the other hand, I won’t shy away from characterizing the Liturgiam Authenticam movement as being more ignorant of liturgy, and far removed from three important aspects of liturgy: beauty, pastoral ministry, and scholarship. Then you top it all off with bureaucratic nincompoopery and its a recipe for disaster. Except that pastors and liturgists will be pulling this puppy from the jaws of defeat. Eventually.

If the bishop in question at that last link thinks we might be pushing implementation off to 2012, we’ll have a fine example of catholicity in the English-speaking world. Tourists beware.

- South Africa began their implementation in 2008.

- New Zealand is set for 2010, and even has MR3 translated into Maori, which is a fine trick to be managed.

- On New Year’s Day 2011, you can sing the new Mass settings in Australia, but everything else gets phased in through the year.

- Then the US in 2011 or 2012, supposedly.

Advocates for uniformity have to be dropping their pom-poms to grit their teeth on this, don’t you think?

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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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4 Responses to Clarifying Some Categories

  1. FrMichael says:

    The Pope is probably in the category of liturgically-ignorant conservatives??? Is that what you really meant to type? Sadly, if that is true, I think that this blog has jumped the shark.

  2. Todd says:

    Fr Michael, thanks for dropping in.

    My assessment, not really original, is that the pope is a fan of liturgy, but he lacks scholarly depth. My own reading of his writings on liturgy (a sample, mind you, and admittedly not exhaustive) is that he has a devotional approach to the Mass. His promotion of the altar crucifix, for example, speaks volumes of his personal emphasis in something he does, and not something he, as a priest, leads others to do.

    Does he intend to place, for example, a corpus on both sides of his crucifix? Or should we trust that Jesus is on it, if we can’t see it, or if it’s too far away.

    And he’s a conservative. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all.

  3. FrMichael says:

    The category of “liturgically-ignorant conservatives” is yours, not mine. Putting Joseph Ratzinger into it calls into question your criteria.

    For example, I doubt many American graduates with a MA in Liturgical Theology could read the majority of his sources for “The Spirit of the Liturgy.” Does that automatically place the majority of liturgists in this country into the progressive and liturgically ignorant category? Could you write such a work? Could your average parish liturgist? Should I, a conservative pastor, consider the liturgists who work for me and others ignorant of the liturgy because they could not compose such a book?

    IMHO your “conservative” and “liturgically educated” category is a null set, populated by nobody since your criteria for “liturgically educated,” is probably something along the lines of “one whose liturgical writings are in-line with the progressive liturgical pre-occupations of the day.”

    Feel free to prove me wrong. Who would be a liturgically-educated conservative by your criteria?

  4. Todd says:

    It’s pretty simple, Fr Michael.

    I don’t think the pope is a liturgical scholar. He’s written a popular book, sure. But Paul McCartney has written orchestral music with classical pretensions, too. I like the effort. But I’m still gonna go with Jennifer Higdon, Arvo Part, Jonathan Leshnoff.

    I appreciate being put into the same room as the pope, but comparing parish liturgists with popes misses the mark. We’re the orchestra players of Leshnoff, Higdon, etc.. We know when we’re assigned to play pops. And we know when serious music is on our music stand. “The Spirit of the Liturgy” is not a serious scholarly work.

    So if you want to find conservative liturgists who are writing and teaching about serious liturgical things, you go to peer-reviewed journals and graduate school faculties. Not the best-seller list.

    And let’s be clear: the opposite of ignorant (my word) is not educated (yours). Pope Benedict is a refined and educated man. I admire him as a mystagogue. But six candlesticks and kneeling communicants are fluff.

    Are you looking for me to produce a list of ideological conservatives? Or are you looking for a guy like Aidan Kavanagh who took aim at dancing bears and jingles? There are people who consider me pretty conservative. But I’m not going to put myself on your list.

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