Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Clear Words of Msgr Ranjith on the Flaws of the Postconciliar Liturgical Reforms and the Need for a Reform of the Reform


Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, the Secretary of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, has written a foreword to a book by Msgr. Nicola Giampietro (True Development of the Liturgy, due to be published by Roman Catholic Books in September) based on the diaries and notes of Cardinal Fernando Antonelli OFM, who was the Secretary of the Liturgical Commission of the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1964 and went on to be Archbishop Ranjith's predecessor as Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Rites from 1965 until 1969. With his unique insight, then Fr Antonelli was very critical of the modus operandi of the Consilium, the body charged with preparing the liturgical reforms, and wrote a famous Nota sulla riforma liturgica (note on the liturgical reform) in which he deplored many of the symptoms of decay which we still observe today, such as a rampant disregard for liturgical norms or a lack of love and veneration for Sacred Tradition. Based on Antonelli's observation, Archbishop Ranjith finds some very clear words about the problematic genesis and the results of the liturgical reforms after the Council. Speaking of the influences on the work of the Consilium, he writes:

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.

And regarding the result of the reforms, he observes:
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".

(...)

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.

Such an unblinkered look at the liturgical reforms can, Msgr Ranjith writes,
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.

This is nothing short of a manifesto for a true Reform of the Reform, issued by a prelate handpicked by the Holy Father for the competent Congregation, and ought to fill us with great hope. You can read the entire article about the foreword at Catholic World News here.