April 18, 2001
volume 12, no. 108

The Germs of GIRM

Part Three: Revisionist History Writ Large

    The practice of "spinning" reality into something it is not has become very widespread in our contemporary world. Leftists spun for former President Bill Clinton. Reflexive conservatives are spinning now for President George W. Bush. Corporate America spins all the time. Politicians spin for themselves and each other. And, sadly, many in the Church's hierarchy have become pretty adept at spinning. Spokesmen for one bishop after another have spun in efforts to do what is called "damage control" in the wake of allegations concerning pedophile priests.

    A reigning cardinal spun for one of his brother bishops, a man who the cardinal knew was guilty of having molested his own priests and of consorting with male prostitutes. The wreckovation of our churches is spun regularly as being consonant with Vatican directives. Indeed, the phenomenon of spinning is so pronounced that there ought to be a convention for spinners featuring the grand masters of this art of lying. Experts from the civil and ecclesiastical order, obviously, both would be featured.

    Unfortunately, it is the case that the Holy See does a good deal of spinning these days. The General Instruction to the Roman Missal (hereinafter referred to as GIRM) is full of spinning. Its overall Introduction contains statements that are efforts to revise and distort history so as to conform an unprecedented act (the synthetic creation of a liturgy by a committee) with the living liturgical tradition of Holy Mother Church. The GIRM makes gratuitous statements which are unsupported by a true reading of history and a true understanding of the nature of the Mass. It is vital to review those statements in order to understand the creation of novel liturgy-one which admits of an almost endless array of legitimate adaptations-is not certainly what its apologists contend: namely, "a witness to unbroken tradition."

    Paragraph 6 of GIRM reads as follows:

        "In setting forth its decrees for the revision of the Order of Mass, the Second Vatican Council directed, among other things, that some rites be restored 'to the vigor they had in the tradition of the Fathers;' this is a quotation from the Apostolic Constitution Quo primum of 1570, by which Saint Pius V promulgated the Tridentine Missal. The fact that the same words are used in reference to both Roman Missals indicates how both of them, although separated by four centuries, embrace one and the same tradition. And when the more profound elements of this tradition are considered, it becomes clear how remarkably and harmoniously this new Roman Missal improves on the older one."
    Comment and Analysis:

    Oh, yeah? The mere fact that the same words are used in Quo primum and Sacrosanctum Concilium (The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the first document issued by the Second Vatican Council in December of 1963) means absolutely nothing. Nothing. A gratuitous assertion unsupported by any evidence - and, indeed, contradicted by the very nature of the new Mass and the manner of its ever-evolving implementation - does not prove a blessed thing. Michael Davies and the late Monsignor Klaus Gamber are only two scholars who have done seminal work in demonstrating concretely that the Novus Ordo Missae was and remains a dramatic and radical departure from the Church's genuine liturgical tradition. If the new Mass "improves on the older one" then why has it been necessary for the Holy See to issue one edict after another to correct abuses in its implementation? Why did Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, a Vatican II father, state in the 1990s that the new Mass less completely communicates the fullness of the mysteries of our salvation?

    Indeed, the evidence attesting to the fruitlessness of the new Mass is astounding. While there are priests who celebrate it with reverence and solemnity, the lion's share of Catholics around the world are subjected either to approved adaptations or unapproved (and never corrected) improvisations. The Mass texts themselves have changed the necessity of man as a creature in need of making satisfaction for his sins, which is a complete and total break with all of the Church's actual liturgical tradition in all of her rites up to 1965 and 1969.

    It is almost as though the Enlightenment's spirit of optimism about the human spirit and the Protestant Revolt's assurance of salvation through faith alone have been merged to create Mass texts and symbols which no longer focus on our need to worship the Triune God as sinful creatures but on our desire to celebrate our own participation in the sharing of the Eucharistic liturgy.

Tomorrow: Part Four - Quo vadis Quo Primum?

Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.

For past columns in The DAILY CATHOLIC by Dr. Droleskey, see Archives

April 18, 2001
volume 12, no. 108
CHRIST or chaos
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