Monday, 11 August 2008

Out loud

There has been quite a lot of debate on the blogosphere (here for instance), and elsewhere, since the publication of Summorum Pontificum, concerning what ought to be spoken in the vernacular, and what out loud. No doubt there are many who must feel this whole topic is very strange; didn't we deal with this forty years ago? Why are we asking exactly the same questions all over again? Well, perhaps because 40 years ago people like you and me didn't have forums (other than our parish churches or the letter pages of the Catholic press) where we could discuss these matters. In the 1960s, all matters concerning the liturgy were simply dealt with at a higher level, and we were presented with the results and told to get on with it. In effect, we were told, on not taking to the revised forms of the Mass 'eat it up; it's good for you!' like a child with its greens.

Well, now the debate has opened up again, and things have changed. Now, we do have a voice, and despite the fact that my even writing on this topic will annoy many who are reading this, this is really the debate that should have been had in the 1960s.

On the topic of liturgical revision there is, of course, a whole spectrum of opinion that occupies what one might call the middle ground—I am excluding on the one hand liturgical anarchists and on the other immobilists who think that the Lord began the Last Supper with the sign of the cross and Introibo ad altare Dei and therefore that nothing can ever, ever, ever be different. Then, within the defined spectrum, broad coalitions of people can be identified who share some idea or other.

1. The Society of Paul VI brigade. Those who genuinely love the 1975 missal (while regarding it as a flexible resource rather than something unchangeable), a protracted sign of peace, communion under every possible kind, lots and lots of physical involvement (ministers, readers, cantors, meeters, greeters, beaters and heaters), probably guitars and New-Seekers style music. Some zealous priests have achieved genuine good results with this unpromising material, and it would be foolish, not to say ungracious, not to acknowledge this. Here I estimate are about 10% of our Catholic population in Britain, mostly clergy, religious, and 'involved' lay people.

2. The Leave-it-alone-and-don't-pick-at-it brigade. They wouldn't put it this way, but they see value in simple sameness. The liturgy has a rhythm, and being broken out of this rhythm they find distressing, whatever their usual liturgical diet is. The content, in the final analysis, matters little, providing it is simply left alone. Some of these people might be extraordinary ministers or readers: the vast majority simply attend Mass most Sundays. These people are capable of getting all misty-eyed at Soul of my Saviour or Lord you have come to the water, and would miss them if they didn't happen from time to time. These are the group most hurt in the 1960s and 70s; these are the ones who suffered the greatest lapsations, and these are the ones who will be most hurt right now (and who might well vote with their feet)  if we don't get it right. This group are particularly despised by group 1, who tend to see novelty as creativity and passivity as morbidity. Group 2 account for some 60-75% of our congregations, and being nearly all lay.

3. The Offerte-vobis-pacem brigade. Those who like the Novus Ordo in Latin, with English readings, bidding prayers, sign of peace, facing the people, communion in the hand &c. These are not a large group (maybe 5% tops) but they are influential, and have a sort of lawyer or ex-army mentality of 'well, it's right, which is to say, legal, and we should do what's right'. These people in the past have got very exasperated with Old Riters, even more than with, say Group 1, saying in a weary voice 'I just can't understand why you can't see that the New Mass can be celebrated beautifully in Latin, and why you have to go after this old stuff that nobody wants', blithely ignoring the fact that far more people want it than want what they want. If I'm making sense. This group tends to have a sense of permanent grievance that their cause is so self-evidently right and that so few people agree with them. Now the Traditional Mass is pukka once more, many of this group are withdrawing their opposition to it, but would far rather it would be celebrated with vernacular readings, bidding prayers, sign of peace, facing the people, communion in the hand &c.

4. The Trad-lite brigade. These people are glad that Summorum Pontificum has been signed, because they felt that an injustice had been done 40 years ago and that the motu proprio will restore some balance to things. They are rather hoping that their own parish priest will introduce a regular EF celebration soon, though they don't hold out much hope, and won't always go to it if he does. In the meantime, they will continue to attend their own parish church and join in things as they have always done; they wouldn't dream of going to another church for an EF Mass. When they do attend an EF Mass, they try to follow every word attentively in their missals or on sheets (because they think that's what you're supposed to do), and get distressed or annoyed if they lose their place, spending several minutes trying to find it again and missing out on what is going on. Some can find this off-putting and find that they actually liked the New Mass better than they thought they did. These people tend to be the more devout members of a parish, and return to the TLM like moths to a candle until they get accustomed to it. I estimate about 10-15% of the Catholic population.

5. The Rad Trads. Before Summorum Pontificum, these attended the most traditional form of the New Mass that they could find, wherever they could find it, being members of the Latin Mass Society and scanning the quarterly bulletin for traditional Masses in their locality. But as soon as a regular EF Mass appears within a reasonable distance, they pack mantillas and missals and hare off. They rarely cause trouble in parishes, simply refusing to engage with local clergy. If their own parish priest is a b.....d, he might make trouble for these people, refusing them communion if they kneel, objecting to mantillas. This merely reinforces the Rad Trads' sense of grievance and leads to the accusation of 'horrible traditionalists'. This group account for about 2-3% of the Catholic population.

Now, applying the Thatcher principle that, whatever you do you won't change the extremes on either side, it is clear that the battle is on for the middle ground, which is to say groups 2, 3 & 4. Group 1 is aggrieved because it has been in the driving seat now for thirty years or so, and hates the fact of the new challenge, characterizing all who approve, even slightly, of Summorum Pontificum as belonging to group 5. The reverse has not been true of group 5ers. The characterization of all who attend the New Mass as Group 1 types is really the province of extremists who don't fit in here because they have done their own thing for years, having felt excluded from the 'mainstream' Church. 
Group 1 feel that they really ought to be in charge, though they are now tired and have little new or energetic to contribute. They are not nearly as numerous as their impact (reinforced by official approval from the Bishops' Conference) is strong; like nuts in a box, you only need a small handful to make a loud noise. Likewise, those on the traditional end of things are comparatively few, but Summ Pont, has encouraged them to also make a loud noise, and Rome would appear to be on their side. And the crucial difference is that those on the traditional end of things have passion and the fuel of frustration at the forty years of exclusion from the debate; they are not afraid any more of giving voice (via the blogosphere and other means) to what they think.

The jury is still out on where all this will go. No doubt many of you reading will have strong opinions on what I have written, but I shall post it as it is without revision just now, as I have to go and celebrate Mass. Novus Ordo in English, that is.


Anonymous said...

Re (3), where I ruefully have to confess I recognise myself, I suggest that a large sub-group, possibly most of that group, would prefer ad orientem. The same people would probably want to see a lot more use of chant too.

Mac McLernon said...

Interesting summary... but you've left out the group who were not against the EF in the past, and thought it ought to be available for those who wanted it... and now that it is allowed have attended it more and more and realised what a beautiful and sacred thing the liturgy is...

...and are hopping mad that they've been denied it for the past 40 years, being given lousy translations and dreary hymns as a poor substitute!!


old believer said...

A most interesting analysis but I would suggest there is a least another, sixth category.

The sixth category would be the diverse group who have tired of the changes of the last half-century, tired of the arguments from other sides (particularly those from Groups 1 & 5) and have simply walked away from it all.

A small minority of these have embraced Orthodoxy, a larger sub-group have found the Established Church welcoming and more stable and, the largest sector, has adopted a mild agnosticism or indifferentism and do not attend any regular chrurch service.

In the late '40s and the 1950's there was the Vernacular Society and the latest Continental Liturgical Movement fashion of versus populum celebrations and calls for 'active participation'. Then came the excitement of the Council, Sacrosanctam Concilium, ordering the simplification of rites to make their essential meaning more clear and the New Orders of Mass of 1964, 1967 and then 1969.

Now there is clearly there is the opposite tendency: the protagonists for Latin and for pre-Conciliar praxis are the fashion of the day.

IMHO the important, and unanswered, question has to be what was, and is, wrong with Catholic liturgy? From earlier last Century writers such as Fortescue felt there should be change (c.f. preface to Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Descried), such thoughts were developed by the Liturgical Movement with the encouragement and support of a succession of popes. Changes indeed came and we appear to have now come almost full circle yet there is the, at least, implicit desire that change in the right direction (or rite) would solve the problem.

I suspect the answer is actually not about the texts and ceremonies at all but one of attitude and disposition.

gemoftheocean said...

count me in the group that wants to hear the priest all the time!!! [and in that respect I don't care what rite it is] people who don't want to hear the priest will zone out anyway. Dunno about you but when I put a record on, I use the volume. I especially want to hear the most important part of the Mass. i.e. the Canon.

In reading Mediator Dei by Pius XII it seemed pretty clear to me that although people *could* do rosaries and other things he was basing that on different people's abilities. But it seems to me, that if I am given intellect enough to follow the latin and be on the same page as the priest in order to unite with him at the same moment, *then that is the PREFERENCE.*

Mediator Dei pretty much says that outright:

"104. Let the faithful, therefore, consider to what a high dignity they are raised by the sacrament of baptism. They should not think it enough to participate in the eucharistic sacrifice with that general intention which befits members of Christ and children of the Church, but let them further, in keeping with the spirit of the sacred liturgy, be most closely united with the High Priest and His earthly minister, at the time the consecration of the divine Victim is enacted, and at that time especially when those solemn words are pronounced, "By Him and with Him and in Him is to Thee, God the Father almighty, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, all honor and glory for ever and ever";[101] to these words in fact the people answer, "Amen." Nor should Christians forget to offer themselves, their cares, their sorrows, their distress and their necessities in union with their divine Savior upon the cross."

and the "bingo" paragraph:

"105. Therefore, they are to be praised who, with the idea of getting the Christian people to take part more easily and more fruitfully in the Mass, strive to make them familiar with the "Roman Missal," so that the faithful, united with the priest, may pray together in the very words and sentiments of the Church. They also are to be commended who strive to make the liturgy even in an external way a sacred act in which all who are present may share. This can be done in more than one way, when, for instance, the whole congregation, in accordance with the rules of the liturgy, either answer the priest in an orderly and fitting manner, or sing hymns suitable to the different parts of the Mass, or do both, or finally in high Masses when they answer the prayers of the minister of Jesus Christ and also sing the liturgical chant."

Gee, somehow when the people all still did understand Latin, I have the feeling that that's how it was!

But I must say, that I was a little uncomfortable with Fr. Tim Finnegan's power point slide show that he had put up a while back (and your own comments) - it's sort of a "head pat of low expectations." Now, yes, not everyone, will be able to follow, and Mediator Dei admits as much that people have "different talents." Please remember that some of us WANT to follow. And we can't follow you if we can't HEAR you. "general in the ball park" really isn't good enough for our segment of the Catholic populace. You're asking us to be less than we can be!

For me to watch "the pretty pictures" and zone off into my private devotions would be giving less then I could. I'd prefer aiming at a higher standard of expectations.

Ttony said...

"like nuts in a box, you only need a small handful to make a loud noise" - Boom! Boom!

You make a key point when you say that Group 2 is nearly all lay, and that Group 1 includes most of the clergy.

I'd like to make two comments on this extremely thoughtful analysis, which might usefully become the foundation for some very serious research:

first, that the fact that most of the clergy are in Group 1, while most of the laity are in the other groups testifies to a complete and abject failure of leadership (whichever group God might actually like his people to be in).

Second, the Catholic Church in E&W has no mechanism for engaging with its people, nor do its constituent dioceses. The Anglicanisation of the Church since 1970 means that there are lots of committees and groups, all of which attract the bossy and articulate middle classes, who, while typical of your Group 1, are completely untypical of the Church at large.

Sussex Catholic said...

An excellent posting Father which shows your keen appreciation of the grass roots situation (unlike Eccleston Square). Speaking as an ex group 3 and nearly 20 years group 5 my only other observation is that I genuinely fear that the battle for the middle ground of group 2 may take too long in becoming a fair contest to prevent this group from simply dying out. I would tend to analyse group 2 as a mixture of the elderly (obedient to the end) and young families (keen to give their children what they themselves received). Unfortunately the elderly do not have time on their side and the young families are often only going along for the benefit of the children. Sadly even young families now are deciding that what is being presented adds little to the busy schedules they have made for themselves and are not coming forward in such numbers. The largely middle aged (with their own press ganged teenagers)group 1 is on its own road to nowhere in religious terms despite the fact that all its members have spent years collecting lay ministries like scout badges. Its average age will simply continue to grow as its members get older and the Paris riots, Vietnam and Woodstock become history rather than memory. Group 3 will simply disappear in a "puff of hermeneutic" once the Vatican's process of reconciling neo-conservatism with the Church's tradition is complete while group 4 will merge with group 5 once Masses in the EF become more widespread, regular and at more suitable times on a Sunday morning.

In short my prediction is no battle will actually have to be joined. All that is required is a level playing field and the passage of time will do the rest.

Clare said...

Really interesting but what about all those born post Vat II? Surely we're the most confused? We don't know any different (so not really qualified to join any group) but we have a sneaking suspicion we might be missing out on something but we're not sure what... Are you trying to tell us that the Clapping Gloria and the group hug sign of the peace hasn't been around since 1AD?

gemoftheocean said...

BTW, anon 1, agree with you on the chant - but when I was little, and still now, I want to see what's going on. The ad-orientem is frankly, next to the "silent canon" the biggest stumbling block for me re: TLM. It's not so bad if you can grab the front row pew, oblique left or right, then I can see just enough...but God help the person sitting there if I want it. ;-D I'd make him/her an offer they couldn't refuse. [JUST kidding. Sorta.]

Terra said...

I like this analsysis a lot, although I do think you are being a bit tough on traddies, we aren't all raving loonies (even if I did snicker at the comment on the Last Supper)!

I'd point out though that there is one big group you haven't mentioned that we should perhaps care about - namely the lapsed or very intermittent attenders who might be enticed back to the faith if we get it right.

Personally I converted (technically reverted) floating on the experience of the London Oratory - then went to Australia where there wasn't anything even vaguely like it available. I fled to the TLM to escape abuses, and only gradually became won over to the view that it is inherently superior. If I hadn't been able to find a TLM or something like, I'm not sure what I would have done...

On silence, I think it makes a big difference whether or not it is a sung mass (I'm talking about chant or polyphony, not just hymns) - if is sung, the silences make sense; they work a lot less well in a said mass.

A lot of this though seems to me to be about catechesis and moving gradually - particulalry the problem of those desperately trying to follow every word in their missal. I'm not advocating a return to rosaries, but surely meditation on what is happening and the various attitudes we should be adopting at various points of the mass is just as much conscious participation as reading every word.

Gregor said...


Mediator Dei is not encouraging the praying of the canon clara voce in any way. It encourages the faithful to give the answers orginially assigned to them by the rubrics, and to sing if possible the ordinary, and to unite themselves spiritually to the priest praying the canon. This in no way requires that the priest prays aloud; once you are a bit familiar with the ritual actions of the canon you can easily see at which point the priest is and, if you so desire (as do I) mentally recite the canon with him. Cardinal Ratzinger, in his "Spirit of the Liturgy", devotes several pages to the silent canon, which he extols and encourages even for the Ordinary Form. I recommend reading (or re-reading) this passage.

gemoftheocean said...

Gregor, we'll have to agree to disagree. I simply think the Pope was out to lunch on that one. It's like saying "Well, we priests are educated and you peons can hardly be expected to really understand so I want to keep the canon, the most sacred part of the liturgy a deep dark secret and away from the people who wouldn't really appreciate it anyway. Go say some rosaries for us while I'm doing this important act - it's all you're capable of doing."

At least that's how it comes off to me.

There's all that stuff going on and it's like the hierarchy wants to grab it all for themselves! [Hey, sparky, is it okay if we peasants can at least WATCH and HEAR what you're doing? ]

I have noted over the last year and a half or so of reading various blogs that almost always, pictures are taken of Latin Masses from either up high in the church or at an oblique angle == wow!!! how much better to show to the rest of the world what's going on rather than standing in the back and saying "they're where now?" Granted if the rubrics are followed and everyone is standing in the right place, that helps, but if they are so insistent on silence, they may as well be speaking Chinese.

Remind me, why they switched from Greek to Latin? Oh. Right. Too many people stopped understanding Greek so they went to the common vernacular! Again, I've NO PROBLEM with the self selecting who want to be able to learn enough Latin to follow along. By and large, I bet most of them do.

But having gone through the trouble, it seems to me the least the priest could do is let them know WHERE he is!

Mediator Dei does of course acknowledge different abilities in people:
"108. Many of the faithful are unable to use the Roman missal even though it is written in the vernacular; nor are all capable of understanding correctly the liturgical rites and formulas. So varied and diverse are men's talents and characters that it is impossible for all to be moved and attracted to the same extent by community prayers, hymns and liturgical services. Moreover, the needs and inclinations of all are not the same, nor are they always constant in the same individual. Who, then, would say, on account of such a prejudice, that all these Christians cannot participate in the Mass nor share its fruits? On the contrary, they can adopt some other method which proves easier for certain people; for instance, they can lovingly meditate on the mysteries of Jesus Christ or perform other exercises of piety or recite prayers which, though they differ from the sacred rites, are still essentially in harmony with them."

In other words if you're not smart enough to follow along, then go ahead off into your private devotions. Feel free to step on the "short bus." But the pope shouldn't try and shove us all on the same bus.

Not that Pius XII didn't have his moments of elitism too, as evidenced by this paragraph:

"100. These methods of participation in the Mass are to be approved and recommended when they are in complete agreement with the precepts of the Church and the rubrics of the liturgy. Their chief aim is to foster and promote the people's piety and intimate union with Christ and His visible minister and to arouse those internal sentiments and dispositions which should make our hearts become like to that of the High Priest of the New Testament. However, though they show also in an outward manner that the very nature of the sacrifice, as offered by the Mediator between God and men,[102] must be regarded as the act of the whole Mystical Body of Christ, still they are by no means necessary to constitute it a public act or to give it a social character. And besides, a "dialogue" Mass of this kind cannot replace the high Mass, which, as a matter of fact, though it should be offered with only the sacred ministers present, possesses its own special dignity due to the impressive character of its ritual and the magnificence of its ceremonies. The splendor and grandeur of a high Mass, however, are very much increased if, as the Church desires, the people are present in great numbers and with devotion."

Gee, he's letting the peasants in? That was "mighty white" of him!

Moretben said...

The only part of Mediator Dei that matters is the time-bomb of Paragraph 49, a flat-out falsehood, and the founding principle of the entire subsequent catastrophe. You can forget the rest of it.

"I am tradition!"

Anonymous said...

"[Hey, sparky, is it okay if we peasants can at least WATCH and HEAR what you're doing? ]"

Er, no. That's what rood-screens are for.

Don't tell me you don't know what a rood-screen is!!

P.S. As an Australian, one thing I've consistently noted about you Yanks is how deeply you love your 1950's-style catholicism. Thank God the tradis here down under are largely over that. It's a blind alley that won't lead to solutions for any of the church's problems.

Anonymous said...

"I simply think the Pope was out to lunch on that one."

Undoubtedly based on nothing but some deeply felt, personal hunch...

William said...

"That's what rood-screens are for."

And just in case we failed to get the point – i.e. that the consecration isn't a show to be gawped at – the Eastern liturgy employs an even more definite visual barrier, the iconostasis.

Just be thankful if, in ad orientem celebrations, the priest does the elevations high enough for the laity to catch a glimpse of the Blessed Sacrament. There's no need for them to see anything else.

gemoftheocean said...

Ahhh... "pay NO attention to that man behind the curtain."

Remind me....did Jesus Christ use a rood screen? didn't think so....

BTW, the elevation at the Mass came about *precisely* because the people demanded to see the consecrated Host.
Eucharistic adoration and benediction were good fallouts of that.

[And the bells were 1st used to indicate the most important parts of the Mass. Apparently, the simple, dumb people couldn't see/hear enough to know what was going on and it was getting awfully noisy in there while the priest did his thing!]


william said...

"Did Jesus do xyz at the Last Supper?" is always a problematical argument, as it invariably proves too much. Seeing it through to its logical conclusion, one ends up either with something utterly aliturgical, or with an attempted historical reconstruction. The Mass is not an historical re-enactment society (like our "Sealed Knot"), nor does its power derive from its fidelity to the detail of the original events.

It is the end product (if I may put it that way) of Eucharistic Consecration which is laudably presented to the people at the Elevations, at Benediction and so on, not the process of Consecration. My own belief is that concentrating on what is, ritually speaking, going on at the Consecration is (except for the priest, of course, for whom it is rather important!) a distraction from what is truly essential: to recognise in the consecrated elements the presence of Our Lord, and recognising to adore. What goes on in the process of getting to that point is really not what's important.

gemoftheocean said...

William..."concentrating on the Eucharistic prayer" is a "distraction?" me, saying the rosary or otherwise zoning out into private devotions is a distraction!

Today I attended the Byzantine Rite liturgy for the Dormition. One is struck by the frequent use of the phrase "wisdom, be attentive...."

[who stood "aright and in awe" and also heard what the priest said....]