Vatican liturgical official makes new plea for 'reform of the reform'
Feb. 23, 2009 (CWNews.com) -
A key Vatican official has called for "bold and courageous" decisions to address liturgical abuses that have arisen since the reforms of Vatican II.
Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, cites a flawed understanding of Vatican II teachings and the influence of secular ideologies are reasons to conclude that-- as then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said in 1985-- "the true time of Vatican II has not yet come." Particularly in the realm of the liturgy, Archbishop Ranjith says, "The reform has to go on."
Archbishop Ranjith, who was called to the Vatican personally by Pope Benedict to serve as a papal ally in the quest to restore a sense of reverence in the liturgy, makes his comments in the Foreword to a new book based on the diaries and notes of Cardinal Fernando Antonelli, who was a key figure in the liturgical-reform movement both before and after Vatican II. (This kind of smacks of cronyism and indicates others in the Vatican are not on board with this idea of the reform of the reform.)
The writings of Cardinal Antonelli, Archbishop Ranjith says, help the reader "to understand the complex inner workings of the liturgical reform prior to an immediately following the Council." The Vatican official concludes that implementation of the Council's suggested reforms often veered away from the actual intent of the Council fathers. As a result, Archbishop Ranjith concludes, the liturgy today is not a true realization of the vision put forward in the key liturgical document of Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium (doc).
Specifically, Archbishop Ranjith writes:
Some practices which Sacrosanctum Concilium had never even contemplated were allowed into the Liturgy, like Mass versus populum, Holy Communion in the hand, altogether giving up on the Latin and Gregorian Chant in favor of the vernacular and songs and hymns without much space for God, and extension beyond any reasonable limits of the faculty to concelebrate at Holy Mass. There was also the gross misinterpretation of the principle of "active participation." (These issues are all about the proper place and influence of laity with in liturgical celebrations.)
The Sri Lankan prelate argues that it in order to carry out a "reform of the reform," it is essential to recognize how the liturgical vision of Vatican lI became distorted. He praises the book on Cardinal Antonelli for allowing the reader to gain a better understanding of "which figures or attitudes caused the present situation." This, the archbishop says, is an inquiry "which, in the name of truth, we cannot abandon." (There aren't too many bishops left alive from Vatican II to dispute his interpretation of what all those bishops were thinking.)
While acknowledging "the turbulent mood of the years that immediately followed the Council," Archbishop Ranjith reminds readers that in summoning the world's bishops to an ecumenical council, Blessed John XXIII intended "a fortification of the faith." The Council, in the eyes of Pope John, was "certainly not a call to go along with the spirit of the times."
However, he continues, the Council took place at a time of great worldwide intellectual turmoil, and in its aftermath especially, many would-be interpreters saw the event as a break from the prior traditions of the Church. As Archbishop Ranjith puts it:
Basic concepts and themes like Sacrifice and Redemption, Mission, Proclamation and Conversion, Adoration as an integral element of Communion, and the need of the Church for salvation--all were sidelined, while Dialogue, Inculturation, Ecumenism, Eucharist-as-Banquet, Evangelization-as-Witness, etc., became more important. Absolute values were disdained.
(In other words the laity were given an inflated sense of their place in the Church, no longer seeing themselves as inferior sinners in need of outside salvation.)
Even in the work of the Consilium, the Vatican agency assigned to implement liturgical changes, these influences were clearly felt, the archbishop notes:
An exaggerated sense of antiquarianism, anthopologism, confusion of roles between the ordained and the non-ordained, a limitless provision of space for experimentation-- and indeed, the tendency to look down upon some aspects of the development of the Liturgy in the second millennium-- were increasingly visible among certain liturgical schools. (When all is said and done, it's this confusion of roles between the ordained and non ordained which is the real biggy.)
Today, Archbishop Ranjith writes, the Church can look back and recognize the influences that distorted the original intent of the Council. That recognition, he says, should "help us to be courageous in improving or changing that which was erroneously introduced and which appears to be incompatible with the true dignity of the Liturgy." A much-needed "reform of the reform," he argues, should be inspired by "not merely a desire to correct past mistakes but much more the need to be true to what the Liturgy in fact is and means to us and what the Council itself defined it to be."
The march backwards, under the guise of reforming the reform, looks to be ramping up to double time. This is just one of a number of articles on the web today in which the reformers are front and center.
Spain's Cardinal Ruoco is opening up a case of canonization for a Spanish married couple who were early members of Opus Dei and had eight children. They would become the third married couple to be accorded this status. It is incredible to think that in the entire history of the Church only three married couples have merited sainthood. However, lest one think this is strictly to honor a saintly couple, consider this quote from the postulator of their cause: “The Church asks us now to show that their lives in the Prelature of Opus Dei, during so many years, were truly heroic.” Is this then really about Opus Dei?
Additionally Cardinal Ruoco and his fellow Spanish bishops received a message from Benedict thanking them for their support during the SSPX fiasco. Benedict invoked "abundant divine graces on Your Eminence and on all the Spanish bishops to encourage and sustain you in your pastoral service to the people of God." I seriously doubt the Austrian and German bishops were sent any such similar message.
In Benedict's striving to foster unity with in the Church he seems to be purposely courting just the opposite. He's pitting Spanish influenced Catholicism and it's supporters against the rest of the Church at the very time Spain itself is rejecting this type of Catholicism. Is it just me, or is there something wrong with this picture?
Virtually everything Cardinal Ranjith opposes in the liturgical reforms initiated at Vatican II can be linked back to the previously exalted position of the ordained clergy. Back to the time when the priest held absolute authority over parishes and their laity and the idea of a saintly married couple was unthinkable. So unthinkable, the other two couples were beatified in 2001 and 2008.
I guess for two thousand years there was no room in the pantheon of saints for sexually active people, in spite of all the recent brouhaha about the sanctity of marriage. The objective reality is there was no officially recognized sanctity in marriage until way after Vatican II--unless you could be canonized as a martyr like St. Thomas More.
The next pope will be forced to address the issue of the position of ordained clergy vs the laity. In a world which is becoming less and less stratified maintaining a clerical caste system and the theology which sustains it is the road to irrelevance.
There will always be a segment of any population which seeks the security of this kind of divinely ordained authority because they need to believe in it for their own sense of security. Self styled Gurus and various other cults make a good living off of this tendency. Catholic notions of salvation, received through the powers of the ordained, predispose Catholics to this mindset of personal powerlessness.
The only real difference between clerical Catholicism and a personality cult is the power is vested in a generic office and not usually in a specific individual. Fr. Maciel and a few others are the purposeful exception to this rule, but in my book, they derived a great deal of their power from the inbuilt training Catholics receive regarding the priesthood.
I wish there was more emphasis on the liturgy itself as the fundamental aspect of Catholicism and not on the 'ordained' power of the priest as reflected in a given liturgical style. Jesus instituted a Eucharistic banquet in which He said, "Take this all of you and eat. Do this in memory of me." I don't believe He is quoted as saying only some of you can do this in memory of me. It's one of those underlying assumptions which need to be really really looked at because there just aren't enough of the 'some' to go around. Catholicism can't sustain it's mission in the world on even less of the 'some'. We need more of the 'all of you'.