09 January 2014

Did You See What They Did There?

.In a comment on one of Ben Trovato's posts about comments made by his father about the post-Vatican II liturgical changes, there is a link to the statement on public worship made by the Bishop's Conference of England and Wales in April 1975:

"The unity of the Church is endangered if the rules laid down by the Holy See for the celebration of Mass are not observed. Unfortunately there are some few who ignore the liturgical laws and continue to experiment in many different ways. The Holy See has declared that experimentation is no longer permissible and that the laws laid down in the new Missale Romanum must be faithfully observed. This means that the rubrics, now reduced to a minimum and inserted, as they are, to safeguard reverence, must always be followed. The right kind of living liturgy is to be achieved by the variation of choice available in the definitive text (eg, regarding penitential rites, canons and so forth) and not by making up our own liturgies. Some priests neglect to follow the rubrics, to wear sacred vestments or to recite authorised prayers. Great harm is done to souls by priests who virtually make up their own Mass. No blessing will fall on those taking part in Masses celebrated in defiance of the instructions of the Church."

There is more in the statement about the extent to which celebration of the TLM is (or rather isn't) authorised, but I am interested here in the way the New Mass was to be celebrated.  The statement by the Bishops makes clear that there has been a period of liturgical anarchy (some of us remember it well) and it is an effort by the Old Guard of the Bishops to try to re-impose order on the Church in England and Wales.

Mass has to be celebrated properly: there is no room for experimentation.  There is variation of choice available in the Missal and rubrics, and these are sufficient to permit "the right kind of living liturgy".

By 1980 - only five years later - there had been change at the top: Cardinal Heenan was dead and had been replaced by Abp Hume; Abp Beck had gone from Liverpool, to be replaced by Abp Worlock; Abp Cowderoy had been replaced by Abp Bowen etc etc etc.  The Bishops' Conference asked Abp Worlock to set up a National Pastoral Congress in Liverpool in 1980 which deliberated and reported on the mission and spirituality of the Church in England and Wales. The result was distilled into a document of the Bishops' Conference called The Easter People which would become the model for the Church in E&W.

Its section on the Mass, written just five years after the statement above is ... well, read it yourself:

59. Our persecuted forefathers in the faith recognised that it is the Mass that matters. Catholics in these islands have always preserved that devotion to the sacrifice of the Mass and to the real presence of Jesus Christ in the eucharist.  These are mysteries, however, so linked with our most intimate religious experience that many people can think of them only as occasions when they commune personally and individually with their Lord and God. Yet when the Second Vatican Council desired to explore for us the treasures of the Mass, it pointed at once to the fundamental truth that the liturgy is not private but to be shared, not the worship of individuals but the united prayer of a whole people. ‘The liturgy is the summit towards which all the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the fount from which all her power flows.  For the goal of apostolic endeavour is that all who are made sons of God through faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of his Church, to take part in the sacrifice and to eat the Lord's Supper’. (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, n. 10). It follows therefore that the Mass is the supreme expression of what the Church is and the source of all that the Church does.  Through baptism and confirmation all members of the Church, with their distinct ministries, share in the mission entrusted by Christ to his followers.  In the same way and for the same reason all members of the Church, again in accordance with their distinct ministries, share in the offering of worship to God and in offering to the Father Christ’s one eternal sacrifice of love. This in no way denies the personal and the devotional elements in our worship but emphasises that we find salvation and individual fulfilment through our baptism into the one body of Christ, into the fellowship of the worshipping Church.

60. As always, when we reflect more deeply on the themes of the Congress, we find ourselves thinking about baptism. Because of our baptism we are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to sing the praises of God’ (1 Pet 2:9). All members of the Church share in the priesthood of Christ and in the Mass they ‘offer the divine victim to God and themselves along with it’ (Lumen gentium, n. 11). Whilst this is a shared offering, there is still within the same action a distinction of ministries: priest and people are united but fulfil different functions (cf. Lumen gentium n. 10).   There can never be, however, any justification for relegating the laity to the role of spectators, required passively to observe all that the ordained minister carries out on their behalf.  Just as we seek from men and women the most active participation possible in the saving and sanctifying mission of the Church, so we must aim at achieving the most active participation possible of both men and women in the preparation and the celebration of the liturgy.

61. In the International Synod of 1971, the bishops explained: ‘The eucharist forms the community and places it at the service of men’. Through the eucharist we become more profoundly the church and we are sent as a Church to fulfil our mission in and for the world. In our efforts to achieve renewal we have not been conspicuously successful in establishing this truth. We need to discover the link between Mass and mission, between worship and a way of life. We have to implement to the full a liturgy which is flexible and sensitive to local needs and which draws on the often untapped wealth of alternatives already offered in the official norms of the Church. We have to become aware of the existing possibilities in the Iiturgy for evangelising ourselves and others and for communicating the gospel message in all its richness.

62. This heightened understanding of the liturgy is nor achieved spontaneously. There is need for a sustained programme of liturgical education and formation. The bishop is at the heart of the local church's prayer and offering and has responsibility for every aspect of public worship in the diocese. Priests are co-operators and sharers in the bishop's office and it is on them that he depends for the continuing liturgical formation and education of his people. Normally he will seek advice and co-operation from a diocesan liturgical commission which adequately represents clergy, religious and laity.  Such a commission can be invaluable in promoting education in the liturgy and the necessary formation of people and priests. It can give service to the parishes of the diocese and perhaps maintain contact with representative groups established at deanery level. There is much experience to be shared between parishes and it is often within the parish that an effective sharing of experience and ideas can be carried out. A parish liturgy group, working with the priest, can help greatly to ensure the development of full participation by all members of the community in parish worship. In this way also much can be done to relate the real concern and spirit of the people to the celebration of the parish Mass.

There is more - there really is LOTS more - but that gives enough of a flavour.  (The capitalisation is that of the original, by the way.)

A wonderful conjuring trick has taken place.  The worthiness of the celebration of the Mass in the 1975 statement derives from the priest's adherence to the rubrics.  He is to say the right prayers, read the right readings, wear the right vestments, use appropriate vessels.  He has enough choice in the Missal and its rubrics to be able to say Mass worthily, in a manner appropriate to the occasion of its celebration.

Five years later, however, the manner of celebration of Mass is no longer just a concern of the priests.  Lay people have an equal (if separate) role with the priest in "implementing ... a liturgy which is flexible and sensitive to local needs" and should play their part in diocesan liturgical commissions which in turn will have a part in "the necessary formation of people and priests".

As Joseph Shaw pointed out, first here, then here, what was happening is the disenfranchisement of the largest group of Catholics from their Mass: first, as condemned in 1975, by priests who treat it as their personal property; second in 1980, by a hierarchy which opted to share ownership with a self-selecting group of activists.  The sociological study cited is of its day describes this in terms of the Old Mass and the New Mass, of disenfranchisement of working class Catholics by middle class Catholics, but the Church in E&W has been reinforcing failure for another generation now, and the problems are much deeper.  Imagine that we have come to a point where Catholics will share with each other information about parishes where Mass is always said reverently.

There is a lot to be said about the liturgical reforms of the twentieth century (and I will happily say my bit), but the discussion often hides the ecclesiological and sociological changes which were imposed, and which survive in a sort of English and Welsh approach to Catholic Mission, developed on our behalf by people who don't know what we think or what we want.

I asked if I could join my parish's liturgy group and was told I could, as long as I did an approved course first which would teach me how parish liturgies should be celebrated.  I asked whether in that case the priest couldn't just look up the rubrics in the GIRM. I was told that there probably wasn't going to be another course for a while.  I got the message.


Unknown said...

"The Bishops' Conference asked Abp Worlock to set up a National Pastoral Congress in Liverpool in 1980 which deliberated and reported on the mission and spirituality of the Church in England and Wales. The result was distilled into a document of the Bishops' Conference called The Easter People which would become the model for the Church in E&W."

Hah! The "findings" were published within a couple of days of the conference. The whole thing was a set up from beginning to end. I remember it only too well.


Left-footer said...

Tony, you last paragraph says so much about the in-groups who have taken over in some parishes, the catechists, the smirking bustlers, the knuckle-grinding greeters and peace-sharers.

God bless!