In what could be the dying throes of a brief regime,
Enough of the creative Mass, [what we want is] more silence and prayer in church
is the title of an interview given by Cardinal Antonio Cañizares de Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, to Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli, released on December 24.
The prefect of divine worship, Cañizares, explains the renewal desired by the Pope. “We need more space for adoration and decent music in the liturgy” he says. “The reform of Vatican II was done in too much of a hurry.” So runs the subtitle to the interview.
“Catholic liturgy is living through ‘a certain crisis’ and Benedict XVI would like to give birth to a new liturgical movement, which would include more sacredness and silence in the Mass, and greater attention to beauty in singing, instrumental music and sacred art,” the article begins.
Llovera states that the Pope thinks the liturgical reform was realized in great haste. It was with the best of intentions and a desire to implement Vatican II, but it was rushed. Not enough time and space was given to welcoming and interiorising the teachings of the Council, and the manner of celebrating was changed at a stroke. The prevailing mentality was one of needing to change, of creating something new. Received tradition was perceived as an obstacle, and the liturgical renewal was seen as a laboratory for research, fruit of the imagination and of creativity, the equivalent of the magic spells of yesteryear.
He continues in a similar vein, saying that recent changes in the style of papal celebrations have benefited the Church, and that the “arbitrary deformities” introduced previously had brought secularisation into the Church, making the liturgy man-centred rather than God-centred, typified by the increased role given to the assembly [sic]. He laments a loss of a sense of the sacred. The Church is in a state of crisis, he says, singling out the poverty and banality of sacred music, both vocal and instrumental.
When asked what the Congregation is going to do about this, he says we must consider the liturgical renewal through the lens of the hermeneutic of continuity which, he says, Benedict XVI has given us for interpreting the mind of the Council. He is worried that the postconciliar reforms are starting to “gel”, and calls for a new initiative in formation for priests, seminarians, religious and laypeople, so that all may know what the liturgy of the Church really signifies. In particular, he states that the Congregation is going to revise and update the introductory texts (praenotanda) of the various liturgical books, and notes that this new formation initiative cannot take place without a “renewal” in the rites of Christian Initiation of Adults.
The new liturgical movement needs to ensure that the beauty of the liturgy is apparent. “Therefore I am going to instigate a new department in our Congregation dedicated to ‘sacred music and art’ at the service of the liturgy. Accordingly this will offer as soon as possible criteria and guidelines for sacred art and sacred music, both vocal and instrumental. We are also thinking of offering as soon as possible criteria and guidelines for preaching,” he says.
He wants the Church’s vigilance over the liturgy not to be perceived as inquisitorial or oppressive but as an act of service. Interestingly he also warns of the danger of turning aesthetics into a god, and states clearly that the salvation of the liturgy does not lie solely in beauty but in a true liturgical aesthetic. He warns of the risk, on the one hand, of thinking that a return to the past is the salvation of the liturgy, and on the other hand of banalizing the rite. Good catechesis based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church is the answer, he says. When asked what changes this would bring to the liturgy, he mentions eucharistic adoration, renewing and improving liturgical song, cultivating silence, and giving more space for meditation.
A useful backdrop to all this is given by Vatican observers. The word on the street is that the Cardinal is proving to be something of a disaster — so much so that even the Pope now realizes it. It is suggested that the Cardinal might soon be posted to Madrid, where the current incumbent is ready to retire. Apparently even the Cardinal himself would welcome this; it seems he has not enjoyed his time in Rome.
One informant says that on the day before the Consistory last month, his talk to the assembled cardinals was so anti-Vatican II that they were apparently furious, and the Pope had to grab the microphone, calm them down, and try to redress the balance. This, it seems, is when the Pope finally realized that this appointment isn’t working. Given this, one could be justified in wondering how much of what Llovera says is the Pope’s thinking is actually Llovera’s thinking.
Are the future actions mentioned in Llovera’s interview with Tornielli just the final convulsions of an unhappy reign, or might they actually come to pass?