In this week’s National Catholic Register, the article “Bishop Slattery on Prayer, the Mass and New Vocations” has the bishop of Tulsa, Oklahoma saying this:

The bishops who were the fathers of the council from the United States came home and made changes too quickly. They shouldn’t have viewed the old liturgy, what we call the Tridentine Mass or Missal of Pope John XXIII, as something that needed to be fixed. Nothing was broken. There was an attitude that we had to implement Vatican II in a way that radically affects the liturgy.

What we lost in a short period of time was continuity. The new liturgy should be clearly identifiable as the liturgy of the pre-Vatican II Church.

Yup, he really said that nothing was broken in the “Tridentine” (pre-Vatican II) Mass and nothing needing fixing!

The “continuity” ideology is in full swing now. As we see above, its proponents do not shy away from making patently false and manifestly absurd statements.

Any respectable attempt to interpret Sacrosanctum concilium, the liturgy constitution of the Second Vatican Council, must take into account both its statements calling for continuity and preservation and its statements calling for reform and change (aka “fixing”).

For those like Bishop Slattery who want to emphasize continuity with the past, here are the most notable continuity/preservation statements of Sacrosanctum concilium [SC] to appeal to:

  • SC 23: “There must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.”
  • SC 36: “Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.”
  • SC 54: “Steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.”
  • SC 116: “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 liturgcal services.”

But unfortunately for the bishop, there are numerous statements in SC clearly calling for liturgical reform and change :

  • SC 1 lists, among several aims of the council, “to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ.” “Whatever” could in principle include liturgical adaptations making our rites more similar to those of Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, Lutheranism, and the various Protestant churches.
  • SC 14: “In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else.” This article could mean that active participation (however that is understood) is more important than preserving Latin or Gregorian chant or tradition. In principle the door is opened to ritual changes if that is thought better for achieving the highest goal of active participation.
  • SC 21: “The liturgy is made up of immutable elements divinely instituted, and of elements subject to change. These not only may but ought to be changed with the passage of time if they have suffered from the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy or have become unsuited to it.” Liturgical history shows that very little of the words and rites of the liturgy is of divine institution, and the larger part by far grew up in the course of the centuries. The council did not say that everything not divinely instituted should be changed. But in principle any of the human elements of the liturgy are candidates for change.
  • SC 21: “In this restoration, both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify; the Christian people, so far as possible, should be enabled to understand them with ease and to take part in them fully, actively, and as befits a community.” The wording suggests thorough-going change of the texts and rites – they are to be “drawn up” according to the criteria given.
  • SC 23: “As far as possible, notable differences between the rites used in adjacent regions must be carefully avoided.” This article suggests that there will at time be differences between rites in adjacent regions when it states that the differences should not be “notable.” This can only mean that the Roman rite will not necessarily be uniform in all the regions of the world.
  • SC 31: “The revision of the liturgical books must carefully attend to the provision of rubrics also for the people’s parts.” Considering that the pre-Vatican II order of Mass had not one single rubric regarding the people, it is difficult to see how the “careful provision” of such rubrics could be anything but a rupture with the past.
  • SC 34: “The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions; they should be within the people’s powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation.” The rites of the pre-Vatican II liturgy are anything short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions. It is difficult to see how SC 34 could be carried out in continuity with the preconciliar liturgy or without bringing in noticeable changes.
  • SC 38: “Provisions shall also be made, when revising the liturgical books, for legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, regions, and peoples, especially in mission lands, provided that the substantial unity of the Roman rite is preserved.” The call is for unity, not uniformity, and the door is left open to local variations.

Back in 1963, the fathers of the Second Vatican Council were clear: the church’s venerable old liturgy needed fixing.


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