Monday, October 08, 2007

SCL 2007 Conference Report

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the annual Society for Catholic Liturgy (SCL) conference in Columbus, Ohio, at the Josephinum.

The Venue

The venue provided a lovely conference setting, from the sprawling grounds that allowed for oppurtunities for quiet conversations, and some time for personal solitude, to the Josephinum itself, with its pattern tiled floors, and inlaid wood panelled walls.

The conference itself took place in the former library of the Josephinum, which has in recent years been turned into a state of the art conference facility, sitting in a building separate from the main building itself.

Conference participants were made to feel quite at home by a number of the seminarians of the Josephinum who made sure all felt welcome -- indeed, going well above and beyond the call of duty in their demonstration of Christian charity.

The conference itself was well attended. I should guess there were more than 100 people in attendance. As was recently noted by our own Fr. Thomas Kocik, there was an opportunity, as is the case at so many of these conferences anymore, for people to intermingle who work within the context of either the reform of the reform or classical liturgical movement. This of course allows for the exchange of ideas and the building up of working relationships.

Aside from the speakers, who I shall speak upon more momentarily, Duncan Stroik was in attendance for a portion of the conference. Fr. Richard Cipolla who operates closely with the St. Gregory Society in New Haven, Ct. and the recently founded (and very promising) Society of St. Hugh of Cluny was also present. Evidently Fr. Thomas Kocik of the NLM and author of Reform of the Reform? A Liturgical Debate and Msgr. James Moroney, Executive Director of the USCCB Secretariat for the Liturgy were also in attendance. Further to that, The Liturgical Institute of Mundelein was well represented, with the Director (Fr. Douglas Martis), Assistant Director (Dr. Denis McNarama) and their publishing division (Kevin Thorton) also present.

I was pleased to also meet fellow Catholic blogger Fr. Rob Johansen, as well as a number of readers of this site.

The Papers: I. The Keynote Address

This year, the SCL introduced a new feature into their conference, which allowed for two tracks of presentations. One track was academic, the other pastoral. Pleasantly, attendees were allowed to choose from either track, choosing which particular paper they wished to partake of.

With so many papers being delivered over the course of just a few days (twenty six papers in all), there was certainly not a lack of themes

The paramount paper was, of course, the keynote address, given by Dr. Alcuin Reid. Dr. Reid has the gift of being able to deliver an address in a way that incorporates scholarship and research, with wit, humour and in a way accessible to a broad range of people -- something many people I visited with after the address commented upon.

The address came under the title of "The Liturgical Reform of Pope Benedict XVI" and began with a quite humourous quotation of a progressivist who publically complained that "the Pope is not a trained liturgist" -- a comment that drew quite a bit of amusement from the gathered audience. Dr. Reid pointed out just how significant it is that, only three years into the pontificate of Benedict XVI, we can already speak of "the liturgical reform of Benedict XVI". (A fact that is quite true, and one is reminded that prior to Summorum Pontificum, there were those who complained --or rejoiced as the case may be -- of Benedict XVI taking a laissez faire approach to questions they felt he would have acted upon. What should hopefully now be evident is that Benedict is not passive, but he has adopted his own strategy for implementing this liturgical reform. He gently nudges forth documents affirming the platform of the reform of the reform, while also de-marginalizing the usus antiquior; he did not aggressively push aside Archbishop Piero Marini as Papal master of ceremonies, but after so long in the post, rather than renewing this post, we now have a new papal Master of Ceremonies. A scholarly and gentleman pope indeed.)

Dr. Reid commented upon a very pertinent theme in his address: the fact that it is sometimes said that the writings of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger cannot be a judge of Pope Benedict XVI's liturgical thought, but as he set out to show, there is indeed a strong co-relation. It was this theme that drove much of the address, including an impressive series of comparisons by quotation with the thought of Cardinal Ratzinger to that of Benedict XVI.

The young Ratzinger was one of the earliest "post-Vatican II realists" said Dr. Reid, complaining as early as 1966 of the liturgical reform being infected with archaisms, noting that the way things were done in one early period does not mean that such should be taken up now, and that other things from other periods were good developments as well. No one period should be absolutized.

One of the most strongly worded critiques of Ratzinger was found in the preface of German liturgist Msgr. Klaus Gamber's book, The Reform of the Roman Liturgy, where Ratzinger spoke of the creation of the new missal as having been a fabricated process unknown to the liturgical tradition of the Church. As Dr. Reid pointed out, this was not simply the case of an isolated indiscretion, for as recently as 2004, Ratzinger had spoken of "ruins" in the face of what the liturgical movement had, historically, sought after.

Ratzinger as well has called for a new liturgical movement which includes the faithful celebration of the Pauline missal, the free use of the usus antiquior and the pursuit of a reform of the reform to help recover those treasures lost, for "the true celebration of the sacred liturgy is the centre of any renewal of the Church whatever..."

Dr. Reid noted that when Ratzinger celebrated the papal funeral Mass, despite having the world as his stage with millions upon millions of viewers, and faced with countless media outlets, he celebrated the sacred liturgical rites with a somber dignity; as that of a priest of Christ and servant of the liturgy, rather than approaching the liturgy as his stage to present a personal show for the world to see. In that regard, he provided a fine example of the liturgical celebrant who is subsumed by the liturgy, acting in persona Christi.

Then what of Benedict XVI? Dr. Reid noted that the papal decision about the liturgies of the neo-catechumenal way was the first such papal liturgical intervention in some time. Pope Benedict XVI also brought to bear the issue of the proper translation of "pro multis". Further, both Sacramentum Caritatis and Summorum Pontificum build upon this Pope's liturgical "activism" (my word) in a way very much consonant with the thought of Ratzinger.

Dr. Reid noted a point which is important: the modern liturgy is here to stay, and therefore (far from disregarding it) we need to reconnect it with our liturgical tradition. As regards the usus antiquior the Pope has imposed nothing, but merely held forth an option, leaving all the rest to Divine Providence.

In summary then, Dr. Reid's talk took us through the personal liturgical history and thought of the younger Ratzinger, a peritus of the Council, through to its greater maturation as Cardinal prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and into the statements and actions of Pope Benedict XVI, demonstrating a clear co-relation and consistency through this period.

Speaking personally, the compilation of the different quoted statements of Ratzinger and Benedict was a very powerful exercise that showed forth the potency of Benedict's liturgical thought and set's forth why we do now indeed speak of the liturgical reform of Benedict XVI.

The Papers: II

As noted, there were twenty six papers, including the keynote address, which are therefore too many to summarize, however, an overview of a few of them.

The papers covered a variety of topics, from the Mass as a sacrifice, inculturation, ad orientem, sacred architecture, sacred music, actuosa participatio, and the kiss of peace in the Roman rite, to name a few.

Dr. Daniel van Slyke gave a very interesting paper, "Active Participation from Pius X to Benedict XVI", which examined "active participation" as it was expressed from St. Pius X through Benedict XVI. Picking up on that theme, Dr. Van Slyke expounded upon the true nature of such participation, noting as well that "actual participation" is not only a more accurate translation of actuosa participatio but is also a more accurate reflection of the meaning of the concept, as seen through the teachings of the 20th and 21st century popes; a meaning which is not limited to external forms of activity, but particularly relates to interior participation within the liturgy. In fact, the documents of the magisterium, which his paper focused upon, Dr. Van Slyke noted that they never speak of active participation.

Another paper I found personally interesting was that Sister Madeline Grace, "Facing East: Is It a Liturgical Practice that Must Be Revisited Today?". Sr. Madeline presented a patristic overview of the tradition of the Eastward direction of liturgical prayer. Her paper discussed details such as the fact that in the early Church people turned to the West to denounce Satan and then turned to the East. She pointed out as well that this tradtion of Eastward liturgical prayer finds reference in the medieval period through the likes of St. Thomas Aquinas. Sr. Madeline suggested that in Christian antiquity there would have been no logic in the priest facing toward the people and in our own day, it has resulted in the "self-enclosed circle" that Benedict XVI has referred to, making the priest the centre of the liturgy. Ironically, as she noted, to combat this centredness on the priest created by versus populum all manner of lay roles within the liturgy have been invented.

Thomas Gordon Smith presented an overview of sacred architecture in relation to his recent project, Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary -- the new seminary of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP). His presentation included an overview of the development of the classical style and the new popularity of the Romanesque style, detailing specific elements of the FSSP seminary project.

Further on the theme of sacred architecture, the NLM's own Matthew Alderman gave a paper, "Manifesting Heaven: Architectural Solutions for the The Spirit of the Liturgy", but I shall suffice it to allow him to speak about his own paper, which he has agreed to do. Suffice it to say that it included a number of interesting illustrations and comments upon the relation between the liturgy and the architecture that encompasses it.

A final word goes to Dr. Helen Harrison of Australia, whose paper, "Ad cenam Agni providi with Plainsong and Polyphony" piqued my interest, discussing the role of chant and polyphony in the liturgy. Her discussion included points about improper forms of music for the liturgy and touched upon the philosophical aspects of the nature of beauty as something through which God acts upon the viewer, inspires them, and which in turn lifts them back up to God.

There are many more worthwhile papers that could be spoken of, however, those interested in the work will be pleased to know that many of these will appear in written form in an upcoming issue of Antiphon: A Journal for Liturgical Renewal, the journal of the Society for Catholic Liturgy.


Overall the experience was a very fruitful one and I am very glad to have made it to this conference, not only for the papers presented, but also for the opportunity to visit, to network and to build new relationships with other individuals and organizations.

All of these things can only help in the cause of a true liturgical reform in continuity and deference to the Magisterium and our liturgical tradition.

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