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The liturgy war

By Matt C. Abbott

I doubt this will come as a shock to my readers, but, aside from John Allen’s column and the occasional article, I don’t much care for the National Catholic Reporter. Its editors and writers almost always espouse heterodoxy and criticize orthodoxy.

A recent example is an editorial in the Dec. 28, 2007 issue, titled “Liturgy reform: No going back.”

An excerpt from said editorial:

‘…If liturgy has characteristically been below the radar for most Catholics, opponents of Vatican II knew from the outset that the one way to preserve Trent was to halt liturgical reform. To look back over the 42 years since the close of the council is to see that progress in the reform has been real but slow, and to admit that any awakening of Catholic laity to their full baptismal identity is still in the future. At the same time, those devoted at many levels to a pre-Vatican II model of the church have worked hard to bring down many aspects of liturgical reform. Frustrating the process of vernacular translations, crimping the rubrics for Mass to accentuate the ordained and, most recently, restoring the Tridentine rite, are among the more visible signs of successful retrenchment….

‘What they have always known in Rome is important for all of us to know: Liturgy is the visible expression of the arrangement of power. The 2,500 bishops of Vatican II, perhaps surprising themselves, began the process of opening up the [C]hurch to its own members and to the world. We all have a say in the kind of [C]hurch we are. The reform of the church was a struggle worth undertaking more than 40 years ago, and it is a challenge each of us, in our own way and in our own faith communities, should prize and not lose sight of today.’

I thought I’d ask a few of my favorite “in the know” friends to respond to the NCR editorial.

Father Richard Perozich, of the San Diego Catholic diocese, and Father J. Patrick Serna, of the Corpus Christi, Tex., Catholic diocese, were happy to oblige.

Father Richard Perozich’s response:

‘One aspect of the ecclesiology of the Church is about empowering the laity to full, active participation in proclaiming the full Gospel in word and deed over the whole world in the long Tradition of the Catholic Church, under the guidance of the clergy who teach, guide, and sanctify the faithful for their task. The liturgy is a prime source for empowerment if people engage in Mass according to the texts of the Second Vatican Council.

‘The liturgy is the celebration of the sacred mysteries of our redemption, the passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, a perfect prayer to God the Father through Jesus the Son in communion of the Holy Spirit. Full, active participation in the liturgy involves choral prayer, the priest calling to the assembly to praise God, the assembly's response to that call, regardless of the language of celebration, and finally, when the priest announces, ‘Go, the Mass is’ (Ite, misa est), all depart to engage in the mission of announcing the Gospel by living lives with Christ now in them in word and Eucharist.

‘Emotionally charged language such as monarchical, separation, vertical, and the like reflect a lack of understanding of the organic development of the liturgy in the Latin Rite and does not take into account the liturgy of the other rites of the Catholic Church in their solemn forms of celebration of entering into the divine encounter with God, or solemn the biblical expressions of the divine encounters. The author has taken one phrase but neglected other important teachings of Sacrosanctum Concilium, which encourages the use of Latin, the rich tradition of chant, the organ, theology of hymn-writing, among others.

‘Pope Benedict XVI, present at the Second Vatican Council, knows the intent of the council. Adaptations to liturgy, ecclesiology, theology, doctrine and other Church life since that time do not always reflect the council that is often invoked to justify whatever anyone wants to claim that it justifies. Benedict recently called us to the texts of Vatican Council II, rather than the false idea of a spirit of the council to justify whatever it is that we wish to do. In liturgical law, the legislator is also the interpreter.

‘In our Holy Catholic Church, the pope is the legislator and the interpreter. In obedience to him who is divinely appointed by God through the spirit of the cardinals, we will see what unfolds in the liturgy and ecclesiology of the Church in this century to fulfill what Vatican II taught. Pope Benedict recently addressed this trend from his perspective of having been at the Second Vatican Council to know its ends, and from his position as head of the [Congregation for the] Doctrine for the Faith dealing with opinions counter to Church teaching.

‘The first cultural upheaval ...

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