Friday, November 20, 2009

And the Survey Says....

This week saw the final passage of the last section of the new translation of the Missale Romanum by the USCCB at their Synod in Baltimore. There was some drama surrounding the final vote (see HERE), but in the end it was passed nearly unanimously and now proceeds to Rome for any final changes to be made by the Holy See, and for final recognitio. After that, it will be on its way to publishing houses and then on to Catholic parishes across the English speaking world. A “leaked” memo tells us also that the implementation date may have been moved up from November 2011 to April 2011.

In the words of Jerry Galipeau (WLP)…” So, folks, this is going to happen. No more ‘what ifs’ at this point.”.

But now begins the hard work – Implementation. Essentially, the drama we saw this week at the USCCB, Bp. Trautman vs. Cardinal George, will now be repeated in every parish across the country. The loud, whining voices of opposition will be raised to every Pastor and priest. “If we make these changes”…I can hear them already…”I’ll just have to LEAVE THE CHURCH!!”

I’m making light of this, but it’s really no laughing matter. This will happen. Once again, some people will think that they have a say in whether or not the Pastor implements the new translation, and they’ll use every tactic in the “Spirit of Vatican II” playbook to strong-arm the poor man into going against Church teaching and instead adopting a sort of tyranny of the whiny.

But just what is the Pastor thinking when he makes decisions based on complaints from what is, essentially, a very small but vocal minority of the faithful in a parish? There are many reasons, among them the desire to avoid confrontation and a sense of guilt over the rather authoritarian history of the Church that makes Pastors feel that they have to listen to what “the people” think on every issue, even if those thoughts are most often dissenting and rarely in support of church teachings. But whereas the “voice of the people” may have a legitimate role in some decisions at a parish…whether to take on a major capital campaign or perhaps to buy a new organ or not…there are other decisions for which “the people” have no legitimate claim to having a role. Among these are matters that have already been decided by the Church hierarchy, such as the implementation of the new translation. In such cases, even the Pastor’s decision is limited to how to implement these changes, not whether or not to implement them. The people out in the pews may have an opinion but they have no choice, and Pastors need to understand this distinction as we approach the day when they will have to face their parishioners and let them know this in no uncertain terms.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. During the past several years, we’ve seen a sort of “trial-run” of this with the movement towards re-introducing Latin and re-establishing chant and sacred music in the liturgy. Both of these are decisions that have already been made “higher up”, and which have been clearly and eloquently articulated in Sacramentum Caritatis at the very highest level, and in the USCCB document Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship at the local level. And yet most parishes have been slow to adopt these “recommendations” regardless of how strong they are because of a few very loud complaints – “Oh Father, PLEEEZE… I’ll just have to leave the Church if we go back to using Latin!!” or worse yet the completely unfounded claim …”If we sing chant, then the people won't be able to participate” even though every study yet made as well as an overwhelming compilation of anecdotal evidence strongly supports the fact that people participate MORE in the singing of chant at Mass than in the singing of songs and hymns (try chanting the Our Father at Mass and see what happens…). Perhaps the Pastors of such parishes would rather wait until it becomes a “no-choice” mandate, thereby taking it out of their hands, but if this trial-run is any indication, we are in for a very rough road ahead in a year or two.

The solution, of course, is to have just such a strong, forceful and unequivocal mandate from the top…a sort of “offer you can’t refuse” from the Godfather himself. No option to continue using the old translation… for whatever reason. Recall all old books. Mandate that all publications of worship resources by all publishers use the new translation as of the date of implementation. Leave no choice for the Pastor, and they can offer no choice to the parishioners. The same solution would work equally well for the Latin and chant issues. Take the decision away in its entirety and leave only the desired option as the single possibility. If the Sanctus is supposed to be chanted in Latin, then prohibit the composition of vernacular settings and prohibit their publication. There will, of course be the die-hard dissenters (such as those parishes that allow liturgical dance, female homilists and the such) but by and large, the church will follow where the head leads us, even if it is kicking and screaming.

Will some people actually leave the Church? You bet. There are those who just don’t like to be told what to do, particularly if it’s something they disagree with. But that’s the price to be paid for espousing the truth with authority…it can’t be determined by survey and there will always be those who won’t accept it. Those who remain and completely submit to that authority are, and always have been, part of its domain. Those who resist it and leave never were.

So as we enter into this time of transition, we need to keep an open mind…so open in fact that we can understand clearly that "ours is not to question, but to submit".

Jesus asked his disciples “will you also leave?” and they responded “Lord, to whom shall we go?”

The church doesn’t need our opinion. Get over it.

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