Saturday, October 13, 2007

NLM Guest Piece: Lest We Forget; The Problem of 'Alternative' Liturgical Movements

[Recently I made a "call for papers" from the NLM readership. I am pleased to report that a few people have made some submissions and others are working on submissions. What follows is a submission that one of our NLM readers submitted.]

Written by Carlos Antonio Palad.

In the light of the many positive liturgical developments of recent years, of which we can rejoice, the new liturgical movement [the author of the piece is referring to the movement generally, not simply this blog - NLM] is facing a temptation it must resist; that of feeling the task of restoring the state of the liturgy is now substantially completed; for others, the temptation to isolating themselves; finally, of possibily failing to consider that while progress is being made, much of the Catholic world continues to wallow in liturgical rupture.

Permit me to point out three aspects of the liturgical state of the Church universal that are often neglected and that I propose we need to be conscientious of, and alert to, lest we let our guard down or fail to address these issues.

I. Counter-Forces to the New Liturgical Movement

The first aspect is the existence of liturgical "counter-movements" within the Church. These movements may have no “NLM” like blogs to publicize or report on them, but they are powerful and widespread. One often hears comments to the effect that "the liturgical craziness is ending." The growth we see following Summorum Pontificum, while good, has some people shouting victory. Not only is all of this quite premature, it also seems to ignore the very real problems and challenges that yet await the Catholic liturgy in the next few years or decades. Let's consider that for every parish that embraces the “Reform of the Reform” or the Traditional Latin Mass, there are others that adopt, or are poised to adopt, the excesses of many of these counter-movements.

The Liturgical Approach of the Charismatic Movement

Consider that while the new liturgical movement is growing, the charismatic movement is also growing, with statistics showing that about half of all Latino Catholics in the USA alone identify themselves as charismatics. With Latinos being the fastest-growing sector of the Catholic Church in the USA, it is reasonable to expect more charismatically inclined Catholics in the United States in the future. Furthermore, the Catholic Church in the Philippines is perhaps the most intensely “charismatic” church in the whole world, and the rapidly growing Filipino diaspora – in the North Americas as elsewhere – is introducing or reinforcing this culture in a growing number of Western parishes.

The rumblings at Ave Maria University have already shown that where the New Liturgical Movement and the Charismatic Movement meet, there is potential for open conflict.

The Liturgies of the Neo-catechumenal Way

In addition to the charismatic movement, there is the Neo-Catechumenal Way (NCW) with its distinctive liturgy, which can be charitably described as a “complete break with Catholic tradition.” The Neo-Catechumenate -- with its international network of 67 Mater Redemptoris seminaries, of 3,000 member or affiliated priests (1,200 of these having been educated at the aforesaid “Mater Redemptoris” seminaries) and 5,000 similarly-affiliated religious and some 20,000 communities present in 6,000 parishes is a significant force. While it is true that Pope Benedict XVI has been applying some pressure on its leadership, so far this hasn't materialized in any significant way to the rank-and-file of the Neo-Catechumenate. If this situation continues while the NCW continues to grow, there is a danger that its liturgy will too come to seem more “normal” and “normative” for an increasing number of Latin-rite faithful -- which poses yet another significant pastoral problem.

Neo-Latinizations within Eastern Liturgical Rites

Even the Eastern Catholic liturgical rites are not unscathed by this problem. There has been a kind of “neo-Latinization” that has occurred within sectors of it. Vatican II was supposed to have gotten rid of the Latinizations that had crept into the Eastern Catholic rites, thereby helping them to reclaim their own distinctive liturgical expressions and spirituality. While the Eastern Catholics did get rid of the “Tridentine” sort of Latinizations that had become characteristic in many of their churches in the pre-conciliar era, a number of them in turn accepted many of the more imprudent elements of and ideas behind the Latin rite post-conciliar liturgical reforms -- such as celebrating Mass “ad populum” (among the Maronites, Malabars and Ethiopian Catholics) and the drastic curtailing and simplification of rites (among the Malabars and, more recently, the Chaldeans). Of course, these were not presented as “Latinizations”, but as recovery of the authentic praxis of the heritage of early Christian worship common to all rites! (A highly recognizable theme for many Latin rite Catholics of course.)

Recently there has been turmoil in the Byzantine-rite Ruthenian Metropolia of the USA over a new official translation of the Divine Liturgy that is alleged to contain inclusive language and truncations of the Divine Liturgy itself. Not a few Ruthenian Catholics in America have converted to Orthodoxy because of the controversy. Some Byzantine-rite Catholics are also experimenting with ad populum Divine Liturgies and even altar girls.

II. The Need to Spread the Presence of the Reform of the Reform and Usus Antiquior : Much Work Ahead of Us

In the largest and most populous regions of cultural Catholicism – Iberia, Latin America, the Philippines – there yet too little activity in the vein of liturgical continuity and tradition. There are currently nascent Traditional Mass movements in these areas but at this point they are still small compared to the aforementioned movements. [NLM note: it is worth noting that these movements have many more decades of being uninhibited and unfettered; only now are we seeing them being challenged to some degree, as well as the infancy of a similar freedom as regards the liturgical tradition; it will take time to correct as well as to build and make inroads. There are decades of both biases and formation to counter.]

Some regions are of course fortunate, such as Eastern European where the modern liturgy in those areas has remained comparatively traditional and reverent, especially in Estonia where, thanks to Janis Cardinal Pujats, the ad orientem remains the rule rather than the exception.

However, in Latin America and the Philippines, the situation is quite different. The modern liturgy is routinely celebrated with numerous liturgical abuses, so much so that the abuse has become the norm in too many aspects of the liturgy. [This would also be the case in North America to greater or lesser degrees.] Many priests in these regions, even those who profess strict doctrinal and moral orthodoxy, do not seem to care for liturgical rules at all.

The tragic thing about this culture of liturgical abuse and carelessness is that the faithful have come to think of these as quite normal; they simply don’t know anything else. In the Catholic West, there was at least a body of faithful who, from the beginning, knew that something was amiss in the fast-predominating liturgical culture. However, in the Philippines – and in Latin America and in parts of the Mediterranean Catholic world – the liturgical movement never really took root prior to the 1960’s. As long as the Rosary and traditional Marian devotions continued to be said and as long as Benedictions and Eucharistic Adoration took place, the majority of churchgoers could not care any less for the state of the liturgy, before or after the Council.

Reclaiming the Fullness of the Litugical Life

The last aspect that I see, is the loss of a significant portion of traditional Catholic spirituality and devotional life even in "conservative" Catholic circles. This aspect deserves thorough examination -- which is beyond the scope of this piece. However, I believe it can be stated that, to a great extent, the traditional liturgical life was buttressed and supported by rhythms of time and devotion that pervaded the life of the pious and not-so-pious alike.

One thinks, for example, of the yearly cycle of blessings that used to accompany the whole liturgical year: the blessing of waters during Epiphany, the blessing of houses in Easter, the blessing of grapes during Transfiguration, of fruits during Assumption, herbs for September 8, etc.

Then there was the rich and variegated diet of devotions, much of it dependent upon and in many ways leading to the liturgy; one thinks of the various "Little Offices" and monthly devotions. At the apex of these was the immemorial practice of the public celebration of the Divine Office, to some greater or lesser frequency. At present, even in many 'conservative" or "traditional" Catholic circles, traditional "piety" of this sort is gone, forgotten and unheard of. Oftentimes, traditional piety has been reduced to the Rosary, some novenas and chaplets and Eucharistic Adoration. Now, these practices are of course good, but to limit the devotional life of the Church to these signifies a terrible spiritual impoverishment that complicates any attempt to revive the liturgical life of the Latin rite.

[NLM Summary and Comment: What our author is of course is speaking to is that we shouldn't rest on our laurels as the saying goes. While significant strides and inroads are being made for the liturgical tradition of the church, there are also significant counter-forces yet remaining which we need to both acknowledge and address -- particularly in certain regions of the world. We therefore sit only at the beginning of the task, rather than at a time where we can now rest easy. This is well put of course. I had, myself, similarly commented after the release of the motu proprio that while we should take time to celebrate, the real task now lay ahead of us; the task of building. This is inclusive of the reform of the reform of course, for as I've said, I clearly see these as joined initiatives.

Of course, as I had commented above, we must also be clear and realistic alike about the movement toward liturgical continuity. Only now is that movement becoming more mainstream and thereby growing in a more significant way. We can reasonably expect that such growth will continue and possibly even be exponential as time moves forward and the liturgical tradition is no longer seen as questionable. We should likewise bear in mind what led us to this situation; liturgical progressivism too started in pockets of parishes and Masses here and there and with textual commentaries, proposals and conferences of academics. There is a similarity to be found here, for while their project might have seemed limited, even improbable, we yet know the history of that for we still live with it in our own day. At that time, it had seeming intellectual force behind it [of course, it's also worth noting that it did have some things right of course, but my focus here is upon its more spurious principles and proposals], even while much of popular piety and liturgical expression was divorced from it; today the situations are reversed, and there is the further benefit of strong voices in Rome for liturgical continuity and reform.

In recent decades, the counter-movements have had greater opportunities to establish themselves, growing rather freely and without hindrance. They are only now starting to see a critical eye from the Holy See, just as only now is there a more significant nod from the Holy See as regards liturgical continuity and a realistic assessment of the liturgical state of things (cf. Ranjith, Redemptionis Sacramentum, Liturgiam Authenticum, Vox Clara, the new ICEL, Summorum Pontificum, Sacramentum Caritatis, the new powers of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, etc.)

What we must be clear about is that re-establishing a hermeneutic of continuity is a long-term project. It will take time.

The first step to helping that though is that we need to establish the greater presence of liturgical options that are consonant with our liturgical tradition. Precisely because this has been hindered to date, it is not a great surprise that inroads haven't been as great, even though there have been inroads. But with roadblocks finally beginning to fall aside, and with powerful members of the Church hierarchy who are far more friendly to this project, the future looks very bright, even if the problem is yet great -- which it indeed is.

None of this is to contradict what our guest author has written, but simply to complement it. Our guest author raises some important points which are worth bearing in mind, discussing and actively approaching and I am thankful for this submission. ]

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