Jeffrey Tucker asks how the supposedly immanent “liberalization” of the 1570/1962 Missal will affect “Catholic liturgical culture.” You can check the original post here, but you’ll have to look a bit down the cluster of 26/03/07 posts. I’ll comment on each of his theses and add a few of my own.
Jeffrey dismisses the thought of Roman Catholicism returning wholesale to the past. He’s spot on correct: it will never happen. Likewise, he thinks little of the notion that the upcoming motu proprio will signal a return to autocratic ways of the past.
“It provides people more choice, not less. It is granting more liberty, not taking liberty away,” Tucker writes.
I doubt that freedom is necessarily on the minds of promoters of the 1570/1962 Rite or the CDWDS. If it were, a good exercise in freedom would be any number of reasonable liturgical reforms moving ahead for the Church as a whole or for particular groups who would benefit. I do think we’re seeing an era in which uniformity is prized as some sort of magical recipe for liturgical success. The consideration that an unreformed 1570/1962 Rite should be more “free” is a glaring exception as an excuse/benefit, and perhaps something of a hypocritical one.
Jeffrey also doubts a “bifurcation,” a notion I would call the ghetto-ization of Catholic liturgy. It was tried in the 70’s. It’s still found wanting. We can do without the medusa heads of folk Mass, organ Mass, family Mass, quiet Mass, youth Mass, polka Mass, LifeTeen Mass, and the like. I think most mainstream parishes will not see a 2PM Tridentine Low Mass as part of their schedule. Ironically, it will be the traditionalists clinging to the liturgical ghetto mentality as the progressives try to clean the muck off the soles of their platform shoes.
I put less faith in the notion that a “freed” traditional liturgy will somehow inspire a lifting of the liturgical level in the Church. Read Jeffrey’s thesis:
However you look at it, the Motu Proprio revives the classical ideal as a kind of religio-cultural currency. Its status will be re-legitimized. This is hugely important because of one of the grave defects in the modern rite: it lacks rubrics that dictate a certain liturgical result. For this reason, it is too often used as a vessel into which the celebrant and the liturgy teams dump their agenda. Some of this is tendency results from bad intentions but lots of it is entirely innocent. People don’t have the model of the old Mass in their mind. Sometimes it takes only one attendance to create the epiphany: oh so that’s how Catholic liturgy is supposed to sound and feel! This impact here could be huge, and, I think, overshadow the bifurcation tendency mentioned above. There is also this interesting possibility: pastors will be inspired to fix up the new rite and make it more solemn and correct precisely to forestall what they consider a worse choice of actually having to learn the old rite and put it in place as a parish option.
I’m unconvinced by this line of thinking. First, the “certain liturgical result” is dependent on God, not on human beings executing the proper directions. Now, I’m not saying that following rubrics and guidelines is meaningless. I am saying that though horrific errors were made in implementation and in the Mass in many places, the simple fact is that people worshipped God and experienced a measure of sanctification despite holding hands, lay preaching, non-classical music, and even liturgical dancing.
Ironically, it is the traditionalists, who by ignoring even their own potential implementation of Vatican II, have made their own liturgical observance a vessel for their own political statements on ministry, ecclesiology, and culture, not to mention in the most radical fringes, part of an advocacy for racism, elitism, and other unseemly and misanthropic sensibilities.
Will pastors really be inspired to fix up the new rite when their urban parish is crumbling, their rural parish bleeds its young adults, or their suburban complex awaits new computers and labs, a new ball field and gym, all the while their school gobbles upwards of 75% of the parish budget only to feed 8th graders into an elite college prep system instead of Sunday Mass? Fifty to two hundred Tridentine worshippers per diocese will hardly register for pragmatic pastors who are barely trained in liturgy, let alone the guys who want to do right by liturgy, but just don’t see their way out of the forest.
Like the Vatican II documents, Jeffrey ends on a note of optimism. If this happens, I would welcome it:
They will then have to take a new look at mainstream Catholic life in the U.S. and begin to make themselves part of it. They will have to adapt to the new reality, come out of their bunkers, and make a positive contribution to Catholic life in this country. They will also have to adjust to the fact that the major source of their disgruntlement will have been addressed. They will have to be happy again, and, oddly, this change doesn’t always come easy for people who have lived in despair for so long.
The genius of the liturgical reforms of Vatican II included a rejection of the magic-rubric connection. The obvious drawback is that clergy and lay leadership could be emboldened to put way too much of a personal mark on the Mass. Where rubrics were silent, mischief sometimes giggled.
And yet the bulk of the post-conciliar work on better presiding and preaching has come from progressives or moderates such as Bob Hovda or Walter Burghardt. Very little material of consequence to mainstream Catholicism has come from traditionalists. Even progressive musicians and publishers have maintained the offerings of high-quality classical music used in many parishes. Granted, it is hard to collaborate from a bunker. But what are traditionalists asking for? A sense of Sinatra, let-me-have-it-my-way? Is that really Catholic?
To be treated with any sense of collaboration, I do think the traditionalists will eventually have to address areas of conflict with the prescriptions of Vatican II. Naturally, I wouldn’t expect them to adopt everything from Inter Oecumenici on forward, but the conciliar criticisms of the 1570 Rite will indeed require answers on some level. Otherwise, one might logically conclude that a whole lot of Vatican II was optional and why wouldn’t or shouldn’t more license be granted to local Churches beyond what conservatives in the curia or the cathedra might grudgingly concede?
So maybe this freeing will be a fact, and maybe not. These would be my predictions:
1. The secular press will misconstrue it and blow the announcement, if it really does happen, out of proportion.
2. The Catholic press will surface the news on the diocesan level with the blandness of watered-down skim milk.
3. Parish pastors, musicians, and liturgists, will shake their heads, will find the sun rising the following day, and get back to the important work at hand: leading the parish’s liturgy.
4. If the announcement does come, it will be criticized by far more on the right than those who will welcome it. It won’t usher in a liturgical nirvana. Therefore: work of the devil. Or a spineless, fluffy pope.
5. It will still depend on local clergy or imports from afar. Many American traditionalists might find their more progressive expectations in administration a bit befuddled by arch-conservative priests. If you had more than one traditionalist parish within a locale, people would flock to the one headed by the most attractive priest. That can’t be a recipe for success.
6. Essentially, the 1570/1962 Mass will be a centerpeice of a sort of quasi-missionary liturgical activity. Not too different sociologically than seeker services.
7. Pope Benedict is smart enough to see the traditionalists have almost the best of things right now. They can pour resources into isolated locations. Most aren’t burdened with schools, funerals, and the other headaches of parish life. More 1570/1962 Rite observances will divide, weaken, and dilute the efforts to preservation. If you had a Catholic Church with half worshipping 1962-style and the other half looking ahead, I suspect the cream would pour to the progressive end.
But until it’s actually a done, promulgated deal, it’s still all speculation.