Following on the conciliar renewal, the situation with regard to Christian popular piety varies according to country and local traditions. Contradictory attitudes to popular piety can be noted:
- manifest and hasty abandonment of inherited forms of popular piety resulting in a void not easily filled;
- attachments to imperfect or erroneous types of devotion which are estranged from genuine Biblical revelation and compete with the economy of the sacraments; unjustified criticism of the piety of the common people in the name of a presumed “purity” of faith;
- a need to preserve the riches of popular piety, which is an expression of the profound and mature religious feeling of the people at a given moment in space and time;
- a need to purify popular piety of equivocation and of the dangers deriving from syncretism;
- the renewed vitality of popular religiosity in resisting, or in reaction to, a pragmatic technological culture and economic utilitarianism;
- decline of interest in popular piety ensuing on the rise of secularized ideologies and the aggressive activities of “sects” hostile to it.
The question constantly occupies the attention of Bishops, priests, deacons, pastoral assistants, and scholars, who are concerned both to promote the liturgical life among the faithful and to utilize popular piety.
The list is interesting, an possibly illustrative. Popular piety, as I’ve understood it, has been a grass roots development. I’m not sure the post-conciliar period can be totally blamed. First, believers experienced a great deal of upheaval in the West, dating back to the 1940’s: a shattering of Europe, disillusionment with religion, distrust of secular leadership, plus the modern developments of mass media, automobiles, and the flight from cities and their ethnic enclaves. Post-war young adults experienced many disruptions former generations didn’t: war, college, suburbs, cars, television.
Vatican II came along at the right time, if not late. But the post-conciliar years lacked a certain creativity in diagnosing and addressing problems.
And it might be said that perhaps the clergy “owned” devotional rituals a little too much. If the clergy abandoned the people, what is there to say? Maybe the piety wasn’t all that deep to begin with.
You can find the full document, the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (DPPL) at the Vatican web site.