The seeds of bad liturgy

The seeds of bad liturgy

Here’s a fascinating look at how we ended up with the post-Vatican II Mass in the mess it is now. This is an interview with Archbishop Paul Hallinan in the Archdiocese of Atlanta’s newspaper, The Georgia Bulletin.

Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan says there is good reason to hope for more “local flexibility” in the liturgy in America. In addition, he said three new Mass canons authorized by the Synod of Bishops should be released soon.

The archbishop, chairman of the United States Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, made his comments in an interview with The Georgia Bulletin.

In addition he cited three significant signs for hope in the United States. They were:

  1. The appointment of one of America’s top liturgists and musicians, the Rt. Rev. Abbot Primate Rembert Weakland, O.S.B., to the Consilium. “This is a great step forward. It means that a new American voice will be heard at all meetings in Rome. He has served as chairman of the United States Music Advisory Board prior to his election as primate abbot of the Benedictines.”

  2. A scientific survey on popular responses to liturgical change in the United States has been requested by the Consilium. “It shows that two-thirds of American Catholics favor the reform in worship. In the light of the sweeping changes since 1963, the 13 per cent opposed and the 20 per cent who are unaware or uncertain are to be expected.”

  3. “The National Liturgical Conference has accepted our invitation to make concrete proposals to the bishops. Father Aidan Kavanaugh, O.S.B., now director of liturgical studies at Notre Dame, has been asked by the conference to chair an ad hoc committee to draw up these proposals.”

Very interesting, isn’t it? Notice who the top figure is in the first paragraph, someone we would come to later see as the locus of dissent in America. Back then, he was a leading light in the liturgy’s changes. In the archbishop’s continuing remarks we also see the roots of the liturgical experimentation and deviation from the Mass’s norms and the veering in illicit and invalid sacraments.

“Recently the demand, at the grass roots’ level for more flexible and spontaneous experimentation has increased. Most of this is from American Catholics seriously concerned about the lack of locally initiated adaptation. On the other hand, some of the criticism is from those who fail to grasp the ongoing historical liturgical tradition coming down from Christ and the apostles.”

“Liturgy must always meet contemporary needs and resources, but it must not lose two essential elements: the strength of this continuity and its public character. Worship is not for the elite; it is for the People of God.” [Emphasis added]

The archbishop is right in one respect: the liturgy should not lose its continuity with the 2,000-year-old liturgical tradition. But by allowing local adaptations and experimentation, without a demand for adherence to the rubrics, that’s what has happened. Local adaptations are not for the individual priest to decide upon. That is beyond those who are much higher up on “the food chain” than he is.