TC Letter 6: Abuses

At the same time, I am saddened by abuses in the celebration of the liturgy on all sides. In common with Benedict XVI, I deplore the fact that “in many places the prescriptions of the new Missal are not observed in celebration, but indeed come to be interpreted as an authorization for or even a requirement of creativity, which leads to almost unbearable distortions”.*

That liturgical abuses continue is not in doubt. That they continue to the degree they did in the first decade after Vatican II is in serious doubt. The root of most lie in the problem of clericalism, that priests take liberties to do as they wish. As with many priests, they persist in them for one of three reasons: a mentor’s example, seminary training, or an early pattern in their liturgical career.

I also suspect that liturgical deviations are more common outside of North America. The problem in diagnosis is that the evidence is almost wholly subjective. Nobody surveys abuses, and most amateur sleuths lack the background to discern errors, real options, and true deviation.

All that said, the real problems of the modern Roman Rite are preaching and music–their lack of quality.

Pope Francis turns to the serious abuse on the 1962 side:

But I am nonetheless saddened that the instrumental use of Missale Romanum of 1962 is often characterized by a rejection not only of the liturgical reform, but of the Vatican Council II itself, claiming, with unfounded and unsustainable assertions, that it betrayed the Tradition and the “true Church”.

The key word here is “often.” Is this true? When one researches online, it can seem that “most often” is the reality. Church teaching is crystal clear on tradition, its past, and its future:

The path of the Church must be seen within the dynamic of Tradition “which originates from the Apostles and progresses in the Church with the assistance of the Holy Spirit” (Dei Verbum 8). A recent stage of this dynamic was constituted by Vatican Council II where the Catholic episcopate came together to listen and to discern the path for the Church indicated by the Holy Spirit. To doubt the Council is to doubt the intentions of those very Fathers who exercised their collegial power in a solemn manner cum Petro et sub Petro in an ecumenical council, [Cfr.Lumen Gentium 23] and, in the final analysis, to doubt the Holy Spirit himself who guides the Church.

Often, Catholics are found to be in opposition to their bishops–their own or the larger collectives or prelates. There is often a whiff of pelagianism, that misbehaving bishops somehow sully their position as teachers and overseers in the Church. It’s a difficult time for all. Modern culture has, since WWII at least, endured a deep skepticism in leadership. Antagonism to leaders in government and culture has not spared antagonism to clergy, bishops, and even the pope.

* Benedict XVI, Letter to the Bishops on the occasion of the publication of the Apostolic Letter “Motu proprio data” Summorum Pontificum on the use of the Roman Liturgy prior to the reform of 1970, 7 july 2007: AAS 99 (2007) 796.

Here are the important links:

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Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to TC Letter 6: Abuses

  1. Liam says:

    A potential litmus paper for clericalism is when the cleric in question responds to well-constructed feedback about recurring irregular choices (that is, not acute emergency situations) with some version of “my choices are within the spirit of [choice of missal] and for the good of the people” instead of actually engaging the feedback and the governing documents (and, no, the last canon of canon law is not a magick universal widget to be deployed to defuse such feedback). When the cleric responds that the irregularity is, in so many words, not that important, the cleric should be reminded, in so many words, that perpetuating the irregularity is at least less important; the relative importance sword is Roman … that is, it cuts both ways: if it’s not important to comply, it’s not important to defy. Especially on your own. Clerics come, clerics go: congregations remain to mop up after. Feedback from a pastoral or liturgical commission (the composition of which, over time, will normally reveal a pastor’s own liturgical preferences and reinforcement of them) is not a dispensing tool.

    • I pretty much agree. But over the years I’ve learned that even pastors who hire me to give them my best advice often opt to go with their comfort zone. It’s always a cost-benefit situation for me. Tension can be a slightly worse evil than an “unimportant” irregularity. Younger clergy, though, are a strange lot. The trad-leaning don’t listen to lay people at all. Or they return after a simmer and neither of us says anything when they comply. 30 years ago, I was more of a know-it-all. I don’t need to do that these days.

      Abuse-watchers are often mistaken or act boorishly. An older priest friend of mine was reported to the bishop for choosing to bow instead of genuflect because of a double knee situation. I met the whistleblower, and I found his stance rather unconvincing and lacking in charity. He, a younger man, didn’t think the knees were really all that injured. CCC 2478 in play, as it so often is.

      • Liam says:

        At the risk of TMI, for future folks like the complainer in mind:

        Getting down on the knees is one thing. Getting back up safely is something else entirely.

        After having torn hamstrings to shreds in midlife (the first injury was thrusting back up from a wooden confessional kneeler, no less; the second, three weeks later, was the injury to the other leg from overcompensation, occurring audibly going up stairs). There is no repair to the damage – or the scar tissue. Standing in place is its own purgatory. I dearly miss being able to kneel at Mass for as long as I used to. Consequently, I encourage people who can do so to remember … they may come to a day when they cannot, and may come in turn to miss that ability.

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