DAILY CATHOLIC     MONDAY     October 18, 1999     vol. 10, no. 198


To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE and SECTION TWO and SECTION THREE

      Pat Ludwa, a committed lay Catholic from Cleveland, has been asked to contribute, on a regular basis, a lay person's point of view on the Church today. We have been impressed with his insight and the clear logic he brings to the table from his "view from the pew." In all humility, by his own admission, he feels he has very little to offer, but we're sure you'll agree with us that his viewpoint is exactly what millions of the silent majority of Catholics believe and have been trying to say as well. Pat puts it in words that help all of us better understand and convey to others what the Church teaches and we must believe.

    Today Pat examines the abuses of the Novus Ordo Mass and exposes the flimsy arguments of Andrew Greeley who is at it again in trying to throw up smokescreens on why the reforms and the importance he placed on the concept of the Mass being a meal have not worked. Rather than saying, "mea culpa" Greeley is quick to blame everyone else from the Pope to the Bishops to the priests. Pat points out that, in some instances, he is right that some bishps have been too lax in allowing abuses, but he also reveals the underbelly of Greeley's campaign and the aberrations of the Mass that Greeley fought so hard for and which, in effect, is definitely not working. That is the gist of Pat's column today, Why we're being fed the lie that the liturgy is boring.

    If you want to send him ideas or feedback, you can reach him at KnightsCross@aol.com

Why we're being fed the lie that the liturgy is boring

        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 boring."

        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 building?

        " 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 Council II; 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. 1, #32).

        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 political ends)…..

        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

October 18, 1999       volume 10, no. 198


|    Back to Graphics Front Page     Back to Text Only Front Page     |    Archives     |    What the DAILY CATHOLIC offers     |    DAILY CATHOLIC Ship Logs    |    Ports o' Call LINKS     |    Catholic Webrings    |    Catholic & World News Ticker Headlines     |    Why we NEED YOUR HELP     |    Why the DAILY CATHOLIC is FREE     |    Our Mission     |    Who we are    |    Books offered     |    Permissions     |    Top 100 Catholics of the Century    |    Enter Porthole HomePort Page    |    Port of Entry Home Page |    E-Mail Us