Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Fact Check....

Every so often I take time to “review” articles from Today’s Liturgy, GIA Quarterly and AIM Resources. More often than not these are publications which promote a more progressive viewpoint – and more often than not I am in a position of disagreeing with their opinions. That’s fine…opinions have a place so long as they are not put forward as fact, and so long as the facts are acknowledged and one’s opposition or agreement with them is made clear. (You can read about my views on this).

And so I began reading an article in the latest edition of Today’s Liturgy with an eye to just such a review. And I may still do so when I have sufficient time. ..but first I have to address a specific part of this article that left me shaking my head. I hope that my comments may find legs and get back to the individual who wrote them: Rodica Stoicoiu. I haven’t read anything by this writer previously and so I can at least hope that some of the more glaring problems were just oversight.

The article begins:

Change is upon us. If not by the time you read this then certainly in the near future there will be numerous changes in the celebration of the liturgy. How we deal with these reforms in our role as pastoral musicians will directly affect our communities and how they receive the changes. We can be obstreperous or we can have a positive attitude. Change is always difficult, and these changes will not be easy; but the more we understand them, the better we can enact them to the benefit of our people.

First, I have to wonder if she ran this copy by Bp. Trautman… obstreperous??? And he though ineffable was obscure! Secondly, I have to wonder what she’s talking about here. What are these numerous changes that will be sweeping the liturgy by the time this article reaches the press? This is a total mystery… she just keeps talking about “these changes” and how sweeping they are and how we have to work to accept them. About ¾ of the way through the article, she brings up the new translation and cites elements from this issue as "just a few examples of possible changes that liturgical ministers will face”. So she clearly isn’t talking about the new translation specifically. By the end of the first page, the article begins to take on a sense of foreboding, as though something big and terrible is coming. But what??

Anybody who writes professionally (as it seems Ms. Stoicoiu does) knows that you present the “focal point” about 1/3 of the way into the text in a brief article (as I am doing right now!). And what does the author discuss at this point in her article? POPE BENEDICT ON THE REFORM. And so I assume that this is the point of her article…to inform the reader about Pope Benedict’s position on reform. The several paragraphs prior to this section concern criticism of the reforms of Vatican II, and she cites two prominent authors – Fr. John Baldovin and Reiner Kaczynski, to build her argument that there is a growing movement towards re-examing the reforms of that council. But as she begins her discussion of Pope Benedict’s position, she shows her hand:

One critique of the reform that has many nervous today comes from the pope himself. Some wonder if this does not presage a frontal attack on the reforms of Vatican II.

And a little further on…

Certainly the recent declarations he has made as Pope Benedict XVI regarding the use of the preconciliar liturgy (Summorum Pontificum, 2007) have led some to express deep concerns about the direction the Church is taking.

OK…now we can see what this article is about! As an aside, I find the anonymous “some” she keeps using to be disingenuous. Can’t she just say “I wonder if this does not presage a frontal attack on the reforms of Vatican II” or “…have led me to express deep concerns about the direction the Church is taking”? But I can get by that…as well as the constant barrage of progressive buzzwords. My criticism is with her presentation of Pope Benedict’s position on reform, both in general and as relates to the reforms of Vatican II in particular. It is well known that the Holy Father has expressed his views on the hermeneutic of continuity, and that he has on many occasions noted that the current interpretations of the reforms of Vatican II have tended towards a “hermeneutic of rupture” with tradition. I thought that this was fairly well known.

Similarly, in the letter accompanying Summorum Pontificum, and in numerous statements from Prefect of the CDW and even from the Pope himself since, it has been made clear that the Missal of 1962 is a gift to the Universal Church which he (the Pope) desires to gain wider use and which he intends to influence the Novus Ordo Mass. Nonetheless, Ms. Stoicoiu cites a quote from Sacramentum Caritatis:

"From the varied forms of the early centuries… up to the spread of the Roman rite; from the clear indications of the Council of Trent and the Missal of Saint Pius V to the liturgical renewal called for by the Second Vatican Council: in every age of the Church's history the eucharistic celebration, as the source and summit of her life and mission, shines forth in the liturgical rite in all its richness and variety". (SC 3).

I’m always suspicious about quotes, particularly quotes that use the “….” to expunge text. In this case, the opening of this quote actually reads:

From the varied forms of the early centuries, still resplendent in the rites of the Ancient Churches of the East, up to the spread of the Roman rite.

For some reason, it was not in keeping with her point for Benedict to note that the liturgical forms of the early centuries are “still resplendent in the rites of the Ancient Churches of the East”. This would make it seem that he actually finds these ancient rites to be acceptable if not preferable. She also obscures the context of Sacramentum Caritatis 3 in that the quote she pulled would seem to be a glowing endorsement of liturgical change coming from the Pope, particularly the changes of the Second Vatican Council. But the actual message of SC#3 is that the changes intended by the Council have not yet been realized, stated more eloquently in the passage following the quote pulled by Ms. Stoicoiu:

“The Synod of Bishops was able to evaluate the reception of the renewal in the years following the Council. There were many expressions of appreciation. The difficulties and even the occasional abuses which were noted, it was affirmed, cannot overshadow the benefits and the validity of the liturgical renewal, whose riches are yet to be fully explored. Concretely, the changes which the Council called for need to be understood within the overall unity of the historical development of the rite itself, without the introduction of artificial discontinuities. “ (SC 3)

And so, Pope Benedict is actually saying that we need to understand the reforms called for by the Council as a continuation of liturgical tradition without introducing “artificial discontinuities”. And what does Ms. Stoicoiu claim that Pope Benedict is saying here? Well, she concludes that the Pope has made a definitive response to traditionalists as she concludes this section of her article:

“The response to those who wish to bring back the past is clear. The cultural context that supported the pre-conciliar rite has changed. Some may return to it because it is comforting to them, some may go out of curiosity, but the world that gave rise to and supported that rite has passed.”

That she would claim that this is Pope Benedict’s view is irresponsible and perhaps even scandalous. Pope Benedict….saying that the 1962 Missal might be useful for those who are nostalgic or curious but that it’s time has passed? Really? Of course, her premise is flawed to begin with, introducing a straw-man of sorts in the form of “those who wish to bring back the past”. I don’t know that Pope Benedict has made any kind of response to "those who wish to bring back the past”. I think the Pope takes traditionalists more seriously than that. Certainly the Pope has acknowledged that a wholesale return to the pre-conciliar church is neither possible nor desirable. But Ms. Stoicoiu wants the reader to then jump to the conclusion that Pope Benedict endorses the "hermeneutic of rupture" for those who want it while proposing a "hermeneutic of continuity" to keep traditionalists quiet. This is a gross mischaracterization of the Holy Father’s view.

After this part of her article, she returns to the mysterious “changes that are coming”. At one point she seems to imply that there is a new Missale Romanum coming with “changes to the Order of Mass”. I had no idea… I thought it was just a new translation. It might be fun after all to take a look at this whole article, but for now I’ve said what I need to say.

No comments: