A few posts in the ’62 Missal thread brought up the question of liturgical awareness as regards the laity. Let me toss another potential incendiary into the discussion.
I suspect that most Catholics both before and after the Council had a dim awareness of liturgy, its rubrics, and other practical or theological aspects. Lots of Catholics are more concerned about social justice, the rosary, book learning, their families, or their Friday night card game than the Mass. As long as they don’t neglect the essentials, it’s okay to be ignorant about the liturgy relative to other life aspects. This is cafeteria Catholicism in a good light.
More Catholics today than fifty years ago are liturgically aware, and that includes more conservative Catholics.
Conservative Catholics seem emboldened by two aspects of the culture: cable tv (EWTN) and the internet (blogs). Thanks to both of those, as well as adult formation in parishes and dioceses, lay people can either be more informed or think they are more informed about liturgy. It is far easier these days for somebody to You-Tube a Halloween Mass, and find another hundred like-minded Catholics to ridicule it, e-mail the Vatican about it, and mourn about putting together hell, liturgy, and handbasket.
Some Catholics–and even present-day Catholics–cared little for liturgy and assumed that whatever Father said and did (or says and does) goes. I do think that today, among both conservatives and liberals, there is more blatant distrust of authority. But authority still gets a nod when it aligns with personal preference. (Is this cafeteria Catholicism? I think so, but maybe not of an entirely healthy sort.)
In other words, if I dislike what my liturgist is doing, I’ll tell the pastor. If I don’t like the pastor, I’ll go to the bishop. If I don’t like any of their answers, I’ll refer to EWTN or write to Zenit. And if Arnize or the pope don’t give me my due, I’ll go to the way-out fringe, read some far out theologian, and say it’s all a conspiracy going back to not-so-good Pope John.
One of the fruits of Vatican II was a more informed laity. Note that I did not say a 100% more informed laity. Just a laity more informed than fifty years ago. Post-conciliar Catholics also know a heck of a lot more about a lot of theological stuff than the previous generation. And there’s also a lot of hogwash being trotted around out there. Including both the liberal and conservative sides.
But the phenomenon frequently discounted by liberals and conservatives both is the universal lowering of regard for authority. And that is a rampant symptom in conservative circles at least as much as it is in liberal ones.
I suspect this is one of the main contributing factors to fewer Catholics availing themselves of sacramental Reconciliation. I suspect it is why Mother Angelica can call out a cardinal she dislikes and gets applauded. Or CTA folks can remains members and thumb their nose at excommunication threats. It would be a better Church if neither of these things were going on. But let’s face it. They are.
I don’t think ignorance is the problem. I think a lot of the leadership of the Catholic Church lacks credibility with mainstream believers. These people aren’t necessarily apathetic or ignorant of good liturgy. If you give it to them, they’ll embrace it and appreciate it.