There has been a lot said about the liturgy. Those who follow the
notion that Vatican II is an invalid Council of the Church want a return to
the pre-Vatican II Tridentine Mass. Those who follow the notion of the
'spirit' of Vatican II want a re-invention of the Mass, while those who
follow Vatican II generally just wonder happened to the Mass?
Now Fr. Andrew Greeley seems to have entered the fray. (I'm not
surprised.) In an article which went out over the Religion News Service, Fr.
Greeley bemoans the fact that attendance at Mass is down. He points out,
however, that the numbers put out by parishes is lower than those put out by
sociologists. (Greeley is himself a sociologist) He writes: "Some of them
(parish priests) seem almost happy about the findings: See how bad the laity
are, see how few of them go to Mass, see how materialism and consumerism and
capitalism, etc. have destroyed the faith of the people."
No doubt these factors have contributed to some losing their faith, but I
never heard anyone actually claim that that was the only reason. Fr. Greeley
then appears to launch into blaming the priests (and the Pope) for this lack
of faith. "From the pope to the parish priest, the assumption is that if the
laity do not go to church, it is the fault of the laity or the "culture".
The clergy seem quite incapable of asking whether it might be their fault."
Obviously, Fr. Greeley seems incapable of asking whether it might be
'his' fault. His and others who follow his lead. He falls into his own
trap. "But by definition, you see, nothing is their fault. Perish the
thought. Don't try to find out why. Don't even dare think that many people
stay away from church on weekends because the Eucharist in their parishes is
Giving praise to God as a community is boring? Fr. Greeley does
correctly point out many problems in the Mass. A moderator telling everyone
what they're going to pray for today, what the Mass is focused on today. A
mundane, even unknown, hymn is sung, Which many might well find difficult to
sing, even if they knew it. Readings done poorly, etc. But what Fr. Greeley
seems to forget is that is the Mass he, through his friends, advocated and
fought tooth and nail for!
I recall speaking to Protestant friends who really thought Catholic hymns
were wonderful. They were rich and gave one the sense of the sacred, the
miraculous. Today, we hear hymns more in line with Broadway shows or
campfire songs, often expounding questionable theology. I always felt hymn's
like "Let us build the City of God" would sound better round a campfire than
church. Not to mention that God has already built the City of God, we have no
need to (ref. St. Augustine). So what kind of 'city' are they really
" The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the
Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride
of place in liturgical services. But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means
excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit
of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30. (30. To promote active
participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of
acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by
actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should
observe a reverent silence. [Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy; Vatican
SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM; Norms Drawn From the Hierarchic and Communal Nature
of the Liturgy] (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Vatican Council II;
SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM Chapter VI; Sacred Music; #116).
Greeley then accuses those who read the Scripture readings poorly as
semiliterate? But this falls into the cult of the personality. The Mass as
entertainment. With the priest facing the people, it's natural for him to be
the focus, so...if something goes wrong, it's on him.
This isn't a slam at Fr. Greeley. He did touch on some real problems.
Priests who recite the Eucharistic prayer with no emotion, no reverence.
Adding their own little quirks to it, to 'liven it up'. People running
around hugging each other with the sign of peace, breaking up the flow of the
Mass. But even when one has a good choir, the Mass is well done, Greeley
says it's boring.
Fr. Greeley wrote: "Cardinal Ratzinger has recently complained that the
liturgy reform of Paul VI went too far (you can criticize a Pope if you're a
cardinal, but only after the Pope is dead) [Fr. Greeley's side comment] My
feeling is just the opposite. The present liturgy doesn't go far enough."
Not far enough? Here is were Fr. Greeley seems to have lost the point
of the Mass. Is Cardinal Ratzinger attacking the New Order of the Mass, or
rather, what others have done to it in the name of Paul VI and the 'spirit'
of Vatican II?
"The Mass is a celebratory family meal."
No it isn't, that's that 'spirit of Vatican II' talking. "In the earthly
liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that Heavenly liturgy which is
celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims,
where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies
and of the true tabernacle; we sing a hymn to the Lord's glory with all the
warriors of the Heavenly army; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope
for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Savior, Our
Lord Jesus Christ, until He, our life, shall appear and we too will appear
with Him in glory." (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy; Vatican Council II;
SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM; Chap. 1 #8).
In short, the Mass is, first and foremost, the worship of God. Truly
present at the Mass, but especially in the Blessed Sacrament. The notion
that it's a celebratory family meal serves only to make it more convenient
NOT to go to Mass.
"Before men can come to the liturgy they must be called to faith and to
conversion:" "How then are they to call upon Him in whom they have not yet
believed? But how are they to believe Him Whom they have not heard? And how
are they to hear if no one preaches? And how are men to preach unless they
be sent?" (Rom. 10:14-15)." (Ibid; #9) How can one go to worship God if they
think it's only a communal celebration?
If the Mass is merely a family celebration, a 'worship' of community, then
why go? "The priest is boring", "He doesn't say what I like." "He's too
conservative (or too liberal)", etc. Not to mention the all encompassing, "I
believe in God and don't need to go to church in order to worship Him."
Am I blaming the laity as Fr. Greeley says? No, I'm indirectly blaming
Fr. Greeley. (Along with Curran, Kung, McBrien, Rhuether, etc.) The laity
are only following what they were taught, by them.
He wrote that the Mass is a celebratory meal. But as we see Vatican II
didn't teach that. It did teach that there was a celebratory nature to the
Mass. Celebrating and thanking God for His sacrifice. But this 'implied'
teaching is found it's roots in imposing abuses and distortions to the Mass.
For example, Vatican II teaches: "Holy Communion, considered as a sign, has
a fuller form when it is received under both kinds. For under this form
(leaving intact the principles of the Council of Trent, by which under either
species or kind there is received the true sacrament and Christ whole and
entire) the sign of the eucharistic banquet appears more perfectly."
(Instruction on the worship of the Eucharistic Mystery; 25 May, 1967; Chap.
Yet we hear many being taught, and believing, that one receives His blood
from the cup only, and His body from the bread alone. Clearly, not in
accordance with what the Church taught.
But this notion of the 'celebratory' nature of the Mass is pushed because
Vatican II and Church teaching isn't followed. The Church, for example,
gives only fourteen instances when, with the local bishop's approval, some in
the Church can receive under both species. Newly baptized and/or confirmed
adults at their baptism/confirmation Mass; Newlyweds at their Nuptial Mass,
etc. (Ibid.; Chap. IV, #242) Yet, we see communion given under both kinds
regularly because it's a 'celebratory' meal.
The fault doesn't lie with the laity, but rather with the priests,
liturgists, theologians, etc, who distort Vatican II and Church teaching for
their own purpose.
"… encouraging and positive aspects cannot suppress concern at the varied
and frequent abuses being reported from different parts of the Catholic
world: the confusion of roles, especially regarding the priestly ministry and
the role of the laity (indiscriminate shared recitation of the Eucharistic
Prayer, homilies given by lay people, lay people distributing Communion while
the priests refrain from doing so); an increasing loss of the sense of the
sacred (abandonment of liturgical vestments, the Eucharist celebrated
outside church without real need, lack of reverence and respect for the
Blessed Sacrament, etc.); misunderstanding of the ecclesial character of the
Liturgy (the use of private texts, the proliferation of unapproved
Eucharistic Prayers, the manipulation of the liturgical texts for social and
None of these things can bring good results. The consequences are - and
cannot fail to be - the impairing of the unity of Faith and worship in the
Church, doctrinal uncertainty, scandal and bewilderment among the People of
God, and the near inevitability of violent reactions.
The faithful have a right to a true Liturgy, which means the Liturgy
desired and laid down by the Church, which has in fact indicated where
adaptations may be made as called for by pastoral requirements in different
places or by different groups of people. Undue experimentation, changes and
creativity bewilder the faithful. The use of unauthorized texts means a loss
of the necessary connection between the lex orandi and the lex credendi. The
Second Vatican Council's admonition in this regard must be remembered: "No
person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove or change anything in the
Liturgy on his own authority." (SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM; Chap. 1; 22, #3 )
And Paul VI of venerable memory stated that: "Anyone who takes advantage of
the reform to indulge in arbitrary experiments is wasting energy and
offending the ecclesial sense."
Yet Fr. Greeley seems to be advocating more experimentation. A Church
where we are to entertain (like a family celebration), rather than the
worship of God. Or has he done worse?
"I don't know how the Mass can be made to look like what it really is.
However, it's time someone begins to think seriously about the problem."
Either Fr. Greeley is acting like some sort of nihilist, who feels that we
should tear everything down even if we have no idea what to replace it with.
Or he has couched his words so he can blame the Church for this 'crisis'
without appearing to blame the Church.
"From the pope to the parish priest, the assumption is that if the laity
do not go to church, it is the fault of the laity or the "culture". The
clergy seem quite incapable of asking whether it might be their fault."
Isn't he blaming the Church here?
"Cardinal Ratzinger has recently complained that the liturgy reform of
Paul VI went too far (you can criticize a pope if you're a cardinal, but only
after the pope is dead) My feeling is just the opposite. The present
liturgy doesn't go far enough."
Sounds like he's saying he knows how to make it look what he thinks it
really is. More fads, more experiments. Could it be that Fr. Greeley is
wrong? Perish the thought!!!
Pax Christi, Pat