Thursday, May 24, 2012

Vatican II as "Super Dogma"?

Today Fr. Z has an interesting article that raises the notion of Vatican II as a sort of "Super Dogma."

In my parish, most of those involved in education, whether in grades or in adult education, including RCIA, are gung-ho Vatican II fans. I am, as well, but I disagree with the others on nearly everything I have read in the documents of the Council.

How can this be?

I concluded years ago that most of the people in my parish education department are not fans of Vatican II, but fans of the Spirit of Vatican II. I suppose it's easy to enjoy that position, since it means, in essence, whatever you wish it to mean. According to these people, Vatican II gave us:

  • Mass in the vernacular
  • Versus populum celebration of Mass (priest facing the people)
  • Wide-open choices in music
  • Altar girls
  • Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion at every Mass
  • Tabernacle optional
  • Crucifix over altar optional
  • Mass as a community meal

Vatican II did none of those things.

The constitution on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, said:

  • Latin reaffirmed as the language of the Mass 
  • nothing about changing the orientation of the altar
  • Gregorian chant reaffirmed
  • nothing about altar girls
  • nothing about EMHCs
  • nothing about moving the tabernacle
  • nothing about removing the crucifix
  • nothing about the Eucharist as other than the body and blood of our Lord

However, there are articles in SC which have been used as loopholes through which these changes have been driven. Moreover, the language in SC is in many places open to interpretation. Michael Davies wrote extensively about these problems with the documents. And it is not only a problem in SC, but in all the documents; I focus on SC simply because I am more familiar with it than with the other documents.

If you wish to read the articles which are most troublesome, look to articles 37-40 (emphasis added):

37. Even in the Liturgy, the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not implicate the faith or the good of the whole community; rather does she respect and foster the genius and talents of the various races and peoples. Anything in these peoples' way of life which is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error she studies with sympathy and, if possible, preserves intact. Sometimes in fact she admits such things into the Liturgy itself, so long as they harmonize with its true and authentic spirit.
38. Provisions shall also be made, when revising the liturgical books, for legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, regions, and peoples, especially in mission lands, provided that the substantial unity of the Roman rite is preserved; and this should be borne in mind when drawing up the rites and devising rubrics.
39. Within the limits set by the typical editions of the liturgical books, it shall be for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to specify adaptations, especially in the case of the administration of the sacraments, the sacramentals, processions, liturgical language, sacred music, and the arts, but according to the fundamental norms laid down in this Constitution.
40. In some places and circumstances, however, an even more radical adaptation of the Liturgy is needed, and this entails greater difficulties. Wherefore:
1) The competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, must, in this matter, carefully and prudently consider which elements from the traditions and culture of individual peoples might appropriately be admitted into Divine Worship. Adaptations which are judged to be useful or necessary should when be submitted to the Apostolic See, by whose consent they may be introduced.
2) To ensure that adaptations may be made with all the circumspection which they demand, the Apostolic See will grant power to this same territorial ecclesiastical authority to permit and to direct, as the case requires, the necessary preliminary experiments over a determined period of time among certain groups suited for the purpose.
3) Because liturgical laws often involve special difficulties with respect to adaptation, particularly in mission lands, men who are experts in these matters must be employed to formulate them.

So clearly, these articles provide for changes, even as in article 40, "radical" changes. However, as the heading which appears before article 37 is:

D) Norms for adapting the Liturgy to the culture and traditions of peoples

And as the culture and traditions of Catholics in America prior to the release of SC had been framed by the Latin Mass, weekly confession, priest facing liturgical East (facing, with the people, toward our God), traditional and reverential hymns with conventional instrumentation (organ at minimum, orchestral accompaniment in extreme cases), tabernacle on the altar, and altar boys (who may discover a vocation in this special service), it is difficult in the extreme to understand whence came these wholesale changes.

Before Mass, the nave used to be a place of quiet prayer; now it is as noisy as the parish hall. We had hymns which had been in use for hundreds of years; now anything prior to 1985 is suspect.

Consider these things, and consider whether in your own parish, you find reverence before and during the Mass. And if you do, is it within yourself, or do most of the faithful exhibit a similar demeanor?

I will write more on this....

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