The summer school has wound down and the participants have been wending their way, at various speeds, back to home. My return was direct. The change from a sunny but sweaty Côte d’Azur summer to a grey and cool English summer was not entirely unpleasant. The English climate is far friendlier to those of us who wear a habit.
My liturgical impressions of the summer school have already been explored in some detail. To round them off, and to balance them, a few quick remarks are needed.
First, for all the impressiveness, beauty, authenticity and utter tradition of the ancient rites, and their placing of the worshipper into the unbroken, organic stream of Catholic worship over century upon century, there can be no easy waving away of the post-conciliar catechesis and liturgical formation those such as me have received. This is a reality that must be faced if the middle aged are to be engaged in liturgical renewal. For all that I sympathise with those who feel that, liturgically, it is “1962 or bust” for the future, nevertheless this cannot be imposed en masse and immediately without some serious, and counterproductive, collateral damage, to use the modern euphemism.
In a sense those who adhere to the rites of the reformed liturgy are, to some degree at least, innocent. They have been told for decades how wonderful the new rites are, and almost as often how stuffy, ossified, illogical and exclusionary the old rites were. Moreover, we were told remorselessly that these rites were the express wish of the Vatican Council, and to reject these rites was to reject the Church’s authority as expressed in the Council. The Council, we were told, wanted everyone participating in the liturgy, doing things in it, contributing, and not just inanimate spectators or distracted by rosaries.
Now, not least as a consequence of the advent of the internet and the information super-highway, we know that this catechesis was not true. A plain reading of the Council’s decree on the liturgy—and a plain reading is all that is required—leads to the inexorable conclusion that the liturgy we got from the Consilium was not the liturgy conceived of by the Council Fathers. Their liturgy was the liturgy of 1962, and this was the liturgy used throughout the Council. On the floor of the council, and in its back corridors, bishop after bishop were adamant that they had no conception of touching the canon let alone adding new canons/eucharistic prayers or even (and it was almost done) abolishing the ancient canon; that Latin would predominate; that chant would remain the proper music of the liturgy; that reform would never be more drastic than some streamlining of rubrics and ritual.
Moreover recent scholarship, based on sources contemporary to the Council that were long overlooked as unhelpful to the prevailing agenda, has laid bare the machinations of the Consilium, and how crafty some were prepared to be in order to further their own vision of liturgical reform, even down to outright deception. Such reformers as Louis Bouyer, who infamously composed the second eucharistic prayer as a very loose and truncated rendering of Hippolytus’ canon in a cafe late the night before it was due for discussion, repented of the work he and others did. They had been swept away in the spirit of the times, which is so rarely, if ever, the Spirit of God.
Yet getting these corrected understandings of the Council out and accepted is no tall order. After 50 years the machinery of the Church at every level is geared toward promoting the new liturgy, no matter its flaws. Those who were young enthusiasts for the reforms in the 1960s are now ageing rapidly, and struggling to reconcile the fact the liturgy they created for the people, that they might actively participate, has been attended by consistently falling numbers of worshippers. It has failed in its objective, and even though it was created in with modern culture and society in mind, its ageing enthusiasts cannot let it go. They hitched their wagons to the train of the reform as it was imposed on us, and to unhitch themselves is a big ask. It would involve an admission of failure, or worse, and that takes real and great humility to do.
Moreover, even for those of us who are now acquainted with the reality of the reform as implemented and who can see through the desperate and false propaganda of those who would say that to speak against the reforms is to speak against the Council, there is still the lived experience of total immersion in the reformed liturgy to overcome. Those formed in the new rites, as celebrated almost universally (which is not necessarily correctly and in accordance with the rubrics), need it explained to them in a clear and calm manner why it is that the priest should face East at the altar, that Latin is the preferred language of the liturgy, that Communion should be taken on the tongue and kneeling, and so on.
A whole new liturgical catechesis is needed, and it needs time to take root and blossom. The reformed liturgy was successfully imposed so quickly and completely because the reformers took advantage of the habit of obedience that Catholics still had back in the 1960s. That spirit of obedience barely exists in the modern Church. The laity is now better educated, though not always well educated, and far more vocal in expressing their own opinion, and according to personal opinion a status equivalent to magisterial teaching.
It is a reality that even the reasonably well-formed and liturgically-literate like myself can still feel very much an outsider when involved in the pre-conciliar liturgy. I certainly felt an outsider, a foreigner on unfamiliar liturgical soil. But to be an outsider is not necessarily to be alienated or excluded. While I felt the old rites to be be very foreign, I did not find them alienating or exclusionary. In fact they left me with a taste for more, a humbling hunger it must be admitted.
Nevertheless the Council did call for a reform and there is an urgent need to ensure that the reforms the Council actually mandated are actually given to us. That is why the reform of the reform has more life in it than some would allow. That is why we might do well to re-visit the missal of 1964/5 in which we find the most faithful post-conciliar expression of the conciliar mandate for reform.
Liturgy is received not manufactured anew by man from one generation to the next. This is the clear principle of the Old Testament, and in more subtle form it is the principle of the New Testament as well. Cardinal Burke spoke to the summer school of liturgy in relation to the ius divinum, which you can and should translate both as divine law and divine right. In other words, God has given to the Church the fundamental laws of worship, and he has a right to be worshipped according to them, and we have a duty to satisfy his right.
Speaking of Cardinal Burke, I ventured further into uncomfortable lands, though in another direction, and read an article by Michael Sean Winters in the National Catholic Reporter. He takes issue with Cardinal Burke’s critique of the papal approach to sexual morality and marital integrity. He accuses the cardinal of failing to mention Jesus. One is left wondering if he would be happier of Jesus was mentioned every second sentence, like some sort of mantra or advertising slogan. St Benedict barely mentions Jesus in his Rule. Would Mr Winters find fault with the Rule for this reason, even though to any fair-minded reader the Rule is suffused throughout with Christ. Likewise, Cardinal Burke may not be chanting “Jesus, Jesus” throughout his interview but he remarks are thoroughly and faithfully Christian.
More disturbingly Winters accuses the cardinal of “sowing the seeds of disunity” in the Church by his advocacy of the dubia and his desire for clarification of and adherence to the timeless truth of the teaching of the Church and of Christ in the wake of the confusions unleashed in the wake of the papal exhortation, Amoris laetitia. After all, asserts Winters,
The propositions on which Amoris Laetitia are built were passed overwhelmingly by the Synod of Bishops.
This one sentence deserves a whole article to deal with its problems. In short, the point at issue is that the propositions “passed” by the Synod of Bishops are not allowed their full integrity in the papal document. That flawed document is so written as to allow those with an agenda not the Synod’s to further their own ends. So there is nothing new under the sun; exactly the same happened with the post-conciliar liturgy. It should be clearly understood that Amoris Laetitia and “the propositions… passed overwhelmingly by the Synod of Bishops” are not identical. Which do we then obey? This is the whole point of the dubia submitted by Cardinal Burke and his brothers in the sacred scarlet. He is seeking to put a stop to the flawed catechesis that has blighted the Church these last 50 or more years.
So what Winters desires for the cardinal would be better desired for and by Mr Winters and those of his ilk. Mr Winters puts it quite clearly:
The Holy Father should ignore him… They can leave it to us in the journalistic world to make sure there are readily available responses to his challenges on the internet so that souls are not led astray. And, we must pray for his conversion. With God, all things are possible, and only God would be able to change a heart so hardened.
This is our prayer for Mr Winters and those other men of the world like him.