Over at the Chant Café they have the text of the address by Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth, Executive Secretary of ICEL, at the meeting of the Church Music Association of America. There are a number of interesting features (not least of which is the quotation from Pope Benedict, which I read as a pretty ringing endorsement of the official reform of the Consilium), but I wanted to focus on the list he gives after quoting Pope Benedict’s comment, “it is equally clear that there have been many misunderstandings and irregularities.” I think this is a pretty standard list of criticisms in some quarters and are worth commenting on.
So, among the “misunderstandings and irregularities Msgr. Wadsworth lists are:
A sense of the communion of the Church has become limited to local communities that are in many ways self-selecting – many Catholics have a poor understanding of what it means to belong to the Universal Church but a highly developed understanding of what it means to belong to a self-selecting parish community of people like themselves.
Smug communities of like-minded people are, in my view, a problem. It is certainly a temptation in my own parish, which draws many people from outside the parish boundaries (though given that “urban renewal” in the 70s put an interstate highway through the middle of the city and took out half the residential neighborhoods in our parish, I’m grateful for those out-of-parish folks). But I would note two things:
- At least in the US, homogeneous parishes are hardly a post-conciliar phenomenon. We have long had ethnic parishes, which could be as insular as as anything today, and were often as much a matter of Irish or Italian or German identity as they were about being a part of the wider Church.
- Has Summorum Pontificum added a new layer to the phenomenon of “identity liturgy” (the ecclesiastical equivalent of identity politics)? Would Msgr. Wadsworth agree that the “stable groups” who request the 1962 Missal, not to mention those parishes and religious orders dedicated exclusively to that liturgy, are at risk of becoming “a self-selecting parish community of people like themselves”?
Any notion of the shape of the Liturgical year has been greatly lessened by an ironing-out of those features which characterized the distinctive seasons of the year.
OK, I’ll admit I don’t know what Msgr. Wadsworth means here. As far as I know we still wear different color vestments, omit alleluias in Lent, celebrate the unique liturgies of the Triduum, etc. What has occurred that has flattened out “any notion of the shape of the liturgical year” [emphasis added]? I feel as if this statement is a coded reference to something(s) in particular, but I don’t know what. Perhaps someone could enlighten me.
The universal tendency to ignore sung propers and to substitute non-liturgical alternatives.
This is certainly an accurate assessment of what is going on — though one might question what the term “non-liturgical” means here, and also note that one of the propers, the responsorial psalm, is almost always done (at least here in Amerika). One might also ask whether the vocal participation of the people at the entrance and preparation of the gifts might not be a good that outweighs the use of the traditional propers. I personally would like to see more frequent use of the propers, but I see this more as a matter or preference than principle.
The transference of Solemnities which are holydays of obligation to Sundays destroys the internal dynamics of the liturgical cycle e.g. The Epiphany and The Ascension.
I agree we probably should have left these days where they were, though I’m not sure what he means by “the internal dynamics of the liturgical cycle,” particularly with regard to the Epiphany. Aside from the song about partridges in pear trees (which is definitely non-liturgical), what is magic about the number 12? I’ll admit that it is sometimes confusing whether or not we get to celebrate the Baptism of the Lord on Sunday or not, but this hardly “destroys” the dynamics of the liturgical cycle. I think we’ve got rhetorical overkill here.
The frequent tendency to gloss or paraphrase the liturgical texts, supplying continuous commentary, has contributed to an improvised or spontaneous character in much liturgical celebration.
On the whole, I agree. Though, as I’ve noted before
, in certain contexts discreet commentary seems pastorally wise in order to aid people’s participation in the liturgy.
The multiplication of liturgical ‘ministries’ has led to considerable confusion and error concerning the relationship between the ministerial priesthood and the common priesthood of the baptized.
This one baffles me as well. In most parishes, the only “liturgical ‘ministries'” I regularly see are the servers, lectors, sometimes a leader of the Prayer of the Faithful, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, and a cantor/choir. Which of these is he suggesting we eliminate? I suspect it is the EMHC, since it seems to be a favorite pastime in some quarters to beat up on them and they are the ones who get to do the formerly exclusively clerical task of distributing the sacred species. But are people really confused about who is a priest and who isn’t? If they are, wouldn’t they be more likely to be confused by a cadre of men and boys in clerical garb than they would be by some nice older ladies in pantsuits?
The liturgy often seems to have the quality of a performance with the priest and liturgical ministers cast in the roles of performers and behaving accordingly. Consequently, congregations are often expecting to be ‘entertained’ rather as spectators might be at a theatre.
Again, I agree in large degree, though I would ask whether what Msgr. Wadsworth sees as a desire to be “entertained” might not be more charitably identified as a desire to be engaged. I think it’s worth giving congregations the benefit of the doubt.
The manner of the distribution and reception of Holy Communion (including the appropriateness of one’s reception of Communion at a particular Mass) has led to a casual disregard for this great Sacrament.
Maybe. I am not convinced that communion standing or in the hand is a cause of such disregard. Many Anglicans who kneel to receive communion have understandings of Eucharistic presence that I suspect Msgr. Wadsworth would find inadequate. And while there certainly is casual disregard for the sacrament present in the Church today, I think among those who show up for Mass on a regular basis it is not particularly widespread. But perceptions on this may differ.
A proliferation of Communion Services presided over by lay people has resulted in a lessening of the sense of the importance of the Eucharistic sacrifice.
Are these really “proliferating,” or is this another example of rhetorical overkill? They are extremely rare in my parish. And as for seeing the Eucharist primarily in terms of “receiving communion” rather that participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice, this is a problem that was widespread prior to the Council — read any work by a liturgical progressive from the 40s or 50s and you will find this being lamented.
The appalling banality of much liturgical music and the lack of any true liturgical spirit in the use of music in the liturgy has been a primary generating force in anti-liturgical culture.
I don’t really disagree, though I wonder if matters were any better — and perhaps not significantly worse — before the Council.
There is much more in Msgr. Wadsworths address that could be discussed — particularly his remarks about “active participation.” So have at it!