Vulnerability

I was alerted to Richard Clark’s piece on Corpus Christi Watershed on “Continuity and Vulnerability …” It might not be the most popular bit published there. The author does make the suggestion that liturgical rites have a continuity from 1570 to the present.

I found the notion that liturgy has a vulnerability to be an interesting premise. The reformed liturgy is vulnerable “largely due to decades of comfortable custom.” It’s a fascinating reason and not the one I would have chosen. It might suggest the 1570/1962 Missal is even more vulnerable due to centuries of custom. 

Richard chooses a tussle or two unwisely, I think:

For example, the fourth option of the GIRM (General Instruction of the Roman Missal) has become the first and standard option: to replace antiphon propers with hymns and songs.

Alas, the long practice of excluding the assembly from the propers is itself a fourth choice, which the GIRM places behind dialogues with cantor or choir, or the assembly singing the antiphon and all the verses.

One of the deepest vulnerabilities in the Roman Rite is a lack of curious scholarship. Many of us don’t read and reread the praenotanda of the rites. And while we might have favorite passages in the GIRM, we don’t bother so much with the Ordo Missae and its instructions. Scholars among us often fail to read widely outside of our own circle of comfort. We have honored our own mentors, of course. They gave us the big lift into ministry and service. But many of us don’t bother with the opponents of our formators in liturgy. 

I confess I read CCW on occasion and lurk here and there on traditional-leaning sites. I have a book or two of theirs and I’ve poked into their journals. But the vulnerability there is notable. Some TLM advocates just don’t have the depth and breadth of scholarship to tackle the flaws in their own worldview. Even Richard misreads the intent of the Council and its follow-up documents a bit. The long practice on many sites is to ban uncomfortable viewpoints. On social media this weekend, I’ll note that in response to a few criticisms of the linked piece, one Big Name in TLM circles just posted a few memes in reply.

The greatest vulnerability are our own blind spots. I know it’s been true of me in liturgy, music, relationships, faith, and life. 

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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8 Responses to Vulnerability

  1. Liam says:

    Richard J Clark is quite different from more voluble members of the traditionalist sects; he is not a proponent of the preconciliar missal and the parochial praxis commonly associated with it historically in this country. His own musical training is larger than theirs, he’s well versed in jazz and in American musical idioms in addition to the more traditional Roman Catholic heritage. He’s practiced in the reformed liturgy his entire career, until 2018 in a notably progressive (liturgically speaking) parish, and is devoted to it. He has seen and observed much in his decades of service without ever getting into polemic. What he has patiently undertaken at Boston’s cathedral (after years of renovation and then a major hiatus triggered by the pandemic) has attracted a diverse array of congregants as well as musicians. He is a demonstratively humble, generous and patient sort who also elicits the desire for excellence (and not just from musicians) and sees how liturgical music serves the larger call of discipleship in sacramental liturgical action. He doesn’t have the same chips on his shoulder as others do and has done a remarkable job of de-fanging the ones he could have instead nurtured and allowed to fester.

    • Liam says:

      PS: I had posted a followup with a link to a CS post from 2018 about Richard.

      PPS: I should perhaps clarify the resource context of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. It is most emphatically not like, say, St Patrick’s Cathedral of NYC. It does not have a large endowment to finance its operations. (The 5 year renovation was in part paid by ground leasing out a block across from the apse of the Cathedral for redevelopment, and that did not cover all the costs, which had to be raised by the RCAB by fundraising, at a more modest level frankly than many wealthy parishes in the archdiocese do.) It is adjacent to a Depression-era public housing project, and many of its regular parishioners are poor and of mixed immigration backgrounds from the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania. The cathedral’s operations are pretty much hand-to-mouth, and no ministries operate on a well-funded basis, including but not limited to the music ministries. Richard Clark’s attractions arise from his character and work, not any endowment of material resources other than the restored Cathedral itself (the historic organ has hundreds of thousands of dollars of renovations that go undone, for example).

  2. Perhaps that is why I found a few elements in his piece a bit … off. A desire for excellence, as you put it, cannot exclude a critical and searching look at liturgy. We are vulnerable simply because we are human. And if a half-century of reform finds us limping in a few places–a reality I would not debate–certainly 450 years of the Tridentine observance leaves us in a less tenable position given the accretion of so many human customs.

    Let’s say I’m surprised by his association with the alternative view to that.

    • Liam says:

      Perhaps one can start by investigate an assumption that it’s a single alternative view, among other assumptions that people who do not come to quite the same alignment of conclusions are necessarily excluding “a critical and searching look at liturgy” including “the accretion of so many human customs” but can nonetheless be another reasonable good-faith implementation of the conciliar reforms without lapsing into comfort that should be ruptured. Richard is one of many on the reform side, not the traditionalist side, but it seems you’ve lapsed into an assumption that he’s not or can’t be or is only so deficiently because he doesn’t cling to where you draw the line.

      You have a longstanding quiver of opinions about the period from Trent to Vatican II that is something of a mirror image of that of the voluble traddies, it’s just that what’s awful in your quiver is wunnerful in their quiver; but not everyone shares that B&W binary quiver, and in fact doesn’t have a polemicized approach to it.

      The period of 16th century reforms is instructive here: while there were Luther, Zwingli, the Magisterial Reformers and the Radical Reformers, there were also Erasmus, Ignatius, Philip Neri, Angela Mereci, Teresa of Avila, Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal et cet.

      • Liam says:

        Typo: Angela Merici.

      • Let me offer one thought on his main point of vulnerability. The point of it is not any particular rite, but the people leading it, performing it, or serving at it. I think it’s a myth that the modern Roman Rite is more vulnerable to, say, egoistic presiders. Maybe the ego trips in the TLM are more subtle, but they are present. What I object to is the singling out of problems that are less a factor if rite and more of human nature.

      • Liam says:

        Perhaps he has experienced the TLM less frequently than you have and so lacks that experience to be as aware of that?

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