Ever notice how many NCReporter letters to the editor are markedly more radical than the editorial line of the paper itself? Or how many letters to Catholic Replies at the The Wanderer are more traditionalist than that paper’s editorial line? Wanderer readers probably don’t give many compliments to the NCR, and vice versa. But one could view the NCR as a moderating force serving to bring the most radical folks closer to center. Same with the Wanderer. Each paper moderates some of its most extremist followers.
These observations occurred to me as I read the very fine article by David G. Bonagura, Jr. in the current issue of Antiphon, “The Future of the Roman Rite: Reading Benedict in the Light of Ratzinger.” The thought of Pope Benedict about liturgical reform is, compared to many of the “Reform of the Reform” folks, rather moderate. The more zealous ones in the RotR camp speak of rebuilding “brick by brick.” One gets the impression that the goal is a complete reconstitution of the status quo ante – the 1950s, or 1920s, or something like that.
Pope Benedict is on another planet. He supported the goals of the preconciliar liturgical movement. He fundamentally supports the idea of structural liturgical reform, however much he regrets the way it was carried out after V2. His goal is not a widespread a return to the TLM. He approves of the offertory prayers in the missal of Paul VI, and also the multiple eucharistic prayers. And so forth.
On matters such as these, including creative proposals for a future reform of the missal of Paul VI, there is wide room for a variety of opinions. (Unless if you think the missal of Paul of Paul VI will be used from now until the parousia, which I rather doubt.) When German liturgists expressed concern about Ratzinger’s The Spirit of the Liturgy, he willingly met with them for a scholarly discussion of their disagreements. And yet, within this wide room for opinion, one may hope that Ratzinger’s writings will, like the NCR and the Wanderer, moderate some of the overly zealous would-be followers. Toward this end, articles such as Bonogura’s are most helpful. My favorite part is his speculation about what the Pope might do next with the liturgy! (Not that much, most likely.)
If you’re tracking the discusson of RC liturgical renewal, you really should be reading Antiphon, of course along with many other publications. Thanks to Fr. Thomas Kocik for graciously granting us permission to reprint this article.