Pray Tell Live – Massimo Faggioli Interview


    1. @Ellen Joyce – comment #1:
      We don’t know yet – it may be published by LitPress in a series, which would mean everyone would have to wait for that.

  1. This is a very thought-provoking little interview. The idea that experimental liturgies or liturgical abuse is a problem that now lies in the past (40 years ago) seems to me as fanciful as it is optimistic. I’m sure we all wish it were true, but clearly it isn’t. Also, the idea that Summorum Pontificum is a reaction to this is a rather simplistic analysis of a situation that is characterized by great complexity – those who look to the EF as part of their life in the Church often do so for a whole range of reasons which may lack a commonality. Where I would agree with Prof. Faggioli, an examination of the reception of the Council and the liturgical reforms that followed it would certainly need to figure in any intelligent analysis of the present situation. I greatly look forward to reading this lecture when it becomes more widely available.

    1. @Msgr Andrew Wadsworth – comment #3:
      I was fortunate to be brought into the Church in a parish that took good music and preaching seriously. Likewise when I was in college, the limit of experimentation was the utilization of unapproved Eucharistic Prayers, and when these were fazed out in the late 70’s, spoken sequences from the pews were replaced with the acclamations.

      If so-called liturgical abuse is as bad today as it was forty years ago, it might be that the tolerance for toeing outside the lines has plummeted.

      For most Catholics today, especially those reporting directly to Rome, “liturgical abuse” means “stuff I don’t like.” More people wear the “LP” armband these days, and thanks to the internet, the Church has more liturgical experts watchdogging it than ever before.

      For most faith communities today, what lacks in liturgy is optimism, boldness, and imagination. Optimism that the cultivation of silence and lay involvement do indeed work. Boldness to acquire and/or develop the proper talent to serve the needs of worship, especially in the arts. Imagination to compose better music and homilies.

      A hyper-sensitivity to what-can-go-wrong doesn’t serve the Church well. Maybe Pope Francis is right: we can risk making a mistake now and then if the intent is to pray fruitfully.

      I don’t think SP was a direct development from dissatisfaction in the liturgy. It’s a product of human nature: the resistance to change and reform. The Arians weren’t put down immediately, and likewise it will take the TLM a few generations to go gently.

      1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #4:

        On (what I hope is) a less polemical point, Todd:

        If so-called liturgical abuse is as bad today as it was forty years ago, it might be that the tolerance for toeing outside the lines has plummeted.

        Here’s one real difficulty: Msgr Wadsworth merely rejected the generalization (as he puts it) that liturgical experimentation and abuse are a thing of the past. He made no attempt to quantify its trajectory over time. It is, in fact, quite possible to hold both his position and yours: Yes, liturgical experimentation (illicit) and abuse is still significant issue in the Catholic Church (even Paul Inwood agrees – at least as regards Rome!), but its prevalence, at least in the U.S., is considerably reduced in recent years, with (as you put it) what appears to be generally increased adherence to the rubrics and text of the missal – which appears to be mainly a factor of the kind of men predominant among ordinands (and, yes, bishops) in recent years. In fact, I suspect, this is likely Msgr Wadsworth’s position.

        I likewise have made no attempt at a detailed survey, which would in any case be difficult to mount; my sense is that it’s a more severe and salient problem in, say, much of the German-speaking conferences (where you can see some quite remarkable creativity in many places) and in parts of Latin America than it is in the U.S.. now. The departure of Matthew Fox alone probably reduced the overall incidence of abuse by a few percent.

        What remains is an accepted definition of what constitutes liturgical abuse, and perhaps as a subset, unacceptable liturgical abuse. I think that may be part of the difficulty here.

    2. @Msgr Andrew Wadsworth – comment #3:

      If you want to see liturgical abuses, go to Mass in almost any church in Rome. It’s been rife there for years, right under the noses of people like Arinze who hectored everyone about abuses that weren’t even happening in their countries but which were happening in the Eternal City.

      As for experimentation, characterizing it as a “problem” is only one point of view. To give just one example, I recall many priests — and bishops — seizing joyfully upon ICEL’s splendid Eucharistic Prayer A and ICEL’s cut-down version of the EP of St Basil. For them, using these was not a problem but an enrichment.

      I think more rearward-looking folk talk about liturgical experimentation as a problem because they don’t understand that it is not such much experimentation as exploration, and that this is in fact the way that liturgy has always historically developed — by trying new things out and then discerning the value of them in the light of experience.

  2. The psychology and politics are the same. But some advocates of the TLM are certainly schismatics. It’s very likely why there was so much resistance to the TLM and even the Modern Roman Rite in Latin in many places–the association with those who rejected Roman Catholicism and wanted to continue in their own way.

    But I do think that the TLM will eventually fade like Arianism. The artistry of ritual and music can be easily integrated into good liturgy. And the fuzzy theology will eventually fade.

    1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #6:

      “The whole world groaned, and was astonished to find itself Arian”.

      How are the psychology and politics the same? If anything, from these perspectives, the TLM crowd are more like St. Athanasius.

    2. @Todd Flowerday – comment #6:

      And here we have – it pains me to say it – the perfectly engineered Tod Flowerday post on liturgy. Perfectly engineered to give as much offense as possible, while disavowing any polemical intent.

      But some advocates of the TLM are certainly schismatics.

      Yes, and some advocates of the Usus Recentior are certainly advocates of women’s ordination. Shall we cast the entire missal into outer darkness?

      Genuine schismatics are (by my impression) a minority of the SSPX, and the SSPX is certainly now a distinct minority of all traditional Catholics. This tarring with a broad brush is simply unacceptable, Todd.

      It’s very likely why there was so much resistance to the TLM and even the Modern Roman Rite in Latin in many places.

      Or just as likely it was an excuse, yes? Is it really conceivable that this was the primary motivation of many bishops and Church officials (and liturgists) to one iota of expansion of the celebration of the TLM for so many years? You can read the journals, and online commentary – including this very blog – as well as I can, Todd. Many had genuine theological objections to the Traditional Mass, and those objections have been voiced here, many times.

      Which leads me to…

      The artistry of ritual and music can be easily integrated into good liturgy. And the fuzzy theology will eventually fade.

      Except that the “artistry of ritual and music” are quite secondary to my attraction to the Traditional Mass, and I daresay the same is true of most like-minded Catholics I have met. It’s the prayers: the stronger sense of propitiatory sacrifice, the clearer theological reflection of Church teaching on the Four Last Things.

      But I do think that the TLM will eventually fade like Arianism

      And there we have it: Do you not see the problem of comparing devotees of the normative Rite of the Roman Church for 14 centuries (I would argue 16) with one of the Church’s most notorious heresies?

  3. One would have to define “experimental” liturgies as including the slightest deviation from the texts or rubrics to suggest any similarity between the present time and the free wheeling 70’s. The liturgical police, empowered by the authoritative style of JPII and Benedict, pretty much put the kibosh on experiments of nearly every kind. I liked the interview as I agree with so much of Faggioli’s analysis.

    1. @Fr. Jack Feehily – comment #8:
      Spot on.

      I don’t get to travel as much as an ICEL official, but I have lived in the US Midwest for most of the past quarter century, and I do have colleagues with whom I exchange information about our parishes, but also (admittedly) hearsay (gossip, if you will) about other places.

      I might imagine whole deaneries in Idaho and Mississippi and Hawaii (places I’ve never been and don’t know anybody) conducting clown masses with the EP for the Dutch Church while serving vanilla wafers and grape juice to kids under the age of 7. But it sure sounds more like bedtime scary stories for a traditionalist household.

      Msgr Wadsworth has admitted many times in this forum that ICEL hasn’t the resources to conduct consultation work with parishes, so I don’t know where he gets the idea that it’s half or a third as bad out there today as it was forty years ago.

      And if the diagnosis is this far off, you can be assured that the medicine we’re being fed by ICEL, Vox Clara, and the CDWDS is wholly inappropriate if not ungodly.

  4. It’s not ICEL’s task to survey opinion among parishes, priests or people – that falls to conferences within their territory. I would not aim to quantify the degree of liturgical celebration that does not fall within the generous provision of the norms, I simply stated that I believe it to be erroneous to suggest that this is a situation that is now in the past.

    1. @Msgr Andrew Wadsworth – comment #10:
      Fair enough. I think some of us have stated in turn we think your belief is better placed in Christ, and not so much on some vague sense that Catholics are still misbehaving on Sunday.

      I think lacking any inclination or ability to survey, the diagnosis is guesswork.

      That said, creativity and exploration are still needed. It’s the very nature of faith, and how God continues to surprise us in our complacency.

  5. I suspect we have many different notions of liturgical law and pastoral liturgy at play among us.

    My impression, shared by other commentators, is that there has been a massive shift in the last 20 years in the direction of greater adherence to liturgical norms and following what the book says. For the most part I welcome this, but I know that liturgy needs creativity and there has been such creativity throughout history (otherwise we never would have gotten from the relative simplicity of the Last Supper to the highly developed rituals of Tridentine pontifical high Mass).

    I also believe that it is in the “spirit of Vatican II” (to use a phrase of Pope Paul VI) to have uppermost the pastoral exigencies of a particular community, and of course to take into account the cultural context(s) of a community and what adaptations that might call for.

    When I read Msgr. Wadsworth’s comments above that liturgical abuses are not in the past but continuing today, I have to wonder whether his standard isn’t the pre-Vatican II 1962 missal (which he publicly celebrates with), and his notion of liturgy, also after Vatican II, isn’t more centralized and rubricist than other commenters. This standard, carried over into the postconciliar liturgy, would mean that one may only do what the new missal allows, and may go no further than its exact prescriptions and options. As much as I tend toward following the book, I don’t hold this narrower view of rubrics or of liturgy. Sacramenta propter homines, not the other way around.


  6. Thank you! I enjoyed this very much as I have just begun to read Faggioli’s work. I particularly liked his remarks that the strength of Vatican II is its theology, that it has aged well, and still speaks to the Church.
    I am looking forward to his coming to New York in March to speak at my Alma Mater, Fordham University.

  7. I think ‘ad hominem’ arguments are a distortion of this discussion and can be an aim to discredit a commentator without engaging in the point under discussion. The fact that we can see aspects of this discussion differently can be genuinely enriching and often educative as we all have to assess our own formulations in the light of what others have to say. I am grateful to all of you for that.

    If I have to try and decribe my own understanding of liturgical norms, I think that it has been shaped by long experience in a variety of pretty ordinary pastoral environments: parishes, schools, hospitals, colleges and universities. Although I do celebrate the extraordinary form in public, it has never been anything like the major element in my priestly ministry and I currently live and work very happily in a parish where there are no regularly scheduled public celebrations in the extraordinary form. As I write, my public celebrations of the extraordinary form over the past six month total two Masses.

    1. @Msgr Andrew Wadsworth – comment #15:
      Personally, I don’t think your affinity for the TLM is germane. It might be that you read too many conservative emails and blogs. But that’s about the extent of it.

      At least in the States, among ministry professionals, there’s very little tolerance for serious liturgical abuse (which I would count as liturgical practice that damages principles of doctrine, faith, or spirituality). Some abuse is entirely legal. And some errors simply don’t pass the sniff test. But I’ve never been to the UK. So maybe it’s all different over there. But I’m a skeptic on that.

      I do think that Catholics deserve people involved with a high profile group like ICEL to have an accurate assessment of what’s going on in the trenches. I found the “fanciful” diagnosis somewhat insulting. More so, I found it troubling. If ICEL members are getting the assessment all wrong, we certainly have reason to critique your remedies, don’t we?

  8. It may be that all generalizations are ‘fanciful’ by nature. In which case the criticism is as valid of Prof Faggioli’s assertion as it is of mine. In the interview he made a generalization, unsupported by evidence – I imagine he intended it as a personal opinion and it is only as such that I disagree with it.

    Although ICEL does not conduct research in parishes, it does hear at least twice a year a general report from all its member conferences and monthly from the bishops of its executive committee. That ensures that we hear from a wide range of situations and circumstances, including daily correspondence from ‘the trenches’. We could all be better informed but are not necessarily ill informed just because we don’t share each other’s assessment of the situation.

    1. @Msgr Andrew Wadsworth – comment #17:
      “Fanciful” implies a lack of seriousness that’s probably inappropriate in assessing the opinion of a professional. The proof of this pudding might be if you had ever used the term with a superior in the CDWDS or in the bishops’ conference of England and Wales.

      And yes, no question that the liturgical leadership in the Church could be better informed. Much better.

  9. Can a generalization be serious? It surely implies a judgment that cannot necessarily be supported by scientific data but nonetheless conveys a certain ‘impressionistic’ assesment of a situation. I don’t think anybody takes generalizations any more seriously than someone saying ‘I have a sense that the situation is like this’. As such, there is always scope for another view – an approach which I acknowledge but do not perceive in some of the comments in this thread.

  10. I would concur with Professor Faggioli’s assessment of the situation on the ground, with respect to liturgical abuse. I think this judgment is shared by most impartial observers.

    There is a bigger issue here, however, and that is one Andrea Grillo named in a recent article and which I would like to echo — namely that the persistent cry for eliminating abuse does nothing to guarantee fruitful “use” but rather assumes that by getting rid of abuse, you have solved the problem. This is not true. Engagement with the mystery that liturgy celebrates is a matter of use, not policing of abuse. And, I would add, the climate of suspicion which surrounds the abuse mentality actively suppresses what is most needed for use, which is trust, relaxation of the spirit, creative space, freedom.

    1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #20:
      That trust point is important. But it does work in both directions.

      I’ve seen priests who extemporize so much that it comes across not as confident or trusting but as a lack of confidence and lack of trust that the ritual can convey the awesomeness of the sacraments. It looks relaxed at one level – because of the informality – but underneath one senses (I am hardly the only one) discomfort – far from relaxed. There’s a busy energy that fights a sense of trust. Instead of letting the ritual help us get out of our own way, all this busy improvisation has little of the sense of jazz but more of the sense that is ultimately jarring. This is often based on some projection on the part of the celebrant about the congregation as a whole seeing the ritual as artificial and arbitrary; but for many, that improvisation if any thing amplifies the sense of those things even more! I believe people understand the need for a modicum of improvisation in certain situations, but not as a habit. The habit tends to come across as another layer of clericalism rather than genuine pastoring.

  11. Rita’s point is well-taken, and points to a better (or at minimum, an additional)vector, namely that good administration of liturgy involves active cultivation of numerous virtues, not just the elimination of vice. Good musical training, preaching workshops, commissioning good music and art.

    The immaturity of hermeneutic of subtraction is shown up once again. Creativity and imagination are best put to use not in “arbitrary improv,” but in thoughtful preparation.

    I have no problem imagining multiple views, as an alternative to the fanciful notion that liturgical abuse is as bad as ever. The Catholic hierarchy, including its committees, could address various matters of real importance. Rather than the exclusively policing of error. Pope Francis nailed the situation: the Church doesn’t have to be afraid of making mistakes.

  12. Since we’re still (!) talking about liturgical abuse, the concept itself ceases to make much sense if you take inculturation seriously. Unfortunately the Church has mostly not yet discovered that liturgy exists within a cultural context and is necessarily influenced by that context as well as influencing it.

    The corollary is that strict uniformity is an unobtainable mirage — there will be manifestations that may appear as experimental and abusive in the eyes of some but natural and normal and inculturated in the eyes of others. As Gelineau used to say, we are united in what we believe but not necessarily in the way in which we express that belief. We need to disentangle unity and uniformity.

    In the case of the Mass we have Gathering, Word (scriptural proclamation, reflection and preaching), Eucharist (Eucharistic Prayer + Communion) and Sending-Forth-for-Mission. Within that basic, traditional framework, which should always remain recognizable, many things are possible at different times and in different places.

  13. Thanks for engaging, Richard.

    “(M)y attraction to the Traditional Mass, and I daresay the same is true of most like-minded Catholics I have met. It’s the prayers: the stronger sense of propitiatory sacrifice, the clearer theological reflection of Church teaching on the Four Last Things.”

    Except that the celebration of Mass is not primarily about the Last Things, but about the Paschal Mystery–the focus on Christ’s offer of salvation, not on what happens to us at the end.

    This would be an example of the fuzziness of the 1570/1962 Rite. It’s just gone off the focus of the Eucharist.

    1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #26:

      Except that the celebration of Mass is not primarily about the Last Things, but about the Paschal Mystery–the focus on Christ’s offer of salvation, not on what happens to us at the end.

      I fear you’ve just contradicted yourself. Perhaps it was inadvertent.

      What are the Four Last Things? Death, Judgment, Heaven, and hell.

      What is Christ’s offer of salvation, if it is not an essential aspect of Judgment – and what opens heaven to us? And what spares us from the torment of hell?

      Why is the Paschal Mystery even necessary? Why is the Eucharist necessary? Because of our own sin, yes? Sin which, without the salvific mercy offered by Christ, earns us Judgment at death that sends us to hell.

      There’s a concern here that the old missal, in its language, was too focused on the negative aspects of salvation history, and it strikes me that you share this concern. But (I submit) I think it would be remarkable if the Church really could erect and sustain for nearly all of its history a normative liturgical rite (yes, even nearly all of the medieval western rites were really brothers to the Roman, certainly in this respect) that was so gravely …unbalanced. I think it would have to…call into question its very claims, if it could not even get the central act of its worship right for so long.

      In fact, I contend that the Traditional Roman Rite, back to its origins in Late Antiquity, strikes a remarkable balance between mercy and the negative consequences of sin. But hell is a real place, and people really do go there (as affirmed at 4th Lateran, Florence, Trent, and even Vatican II). That is a truth that modern man needs even more than his benighted, ignorant ancestors.

      I don’t say all this to engage in “Novus Ordo bashing.” I *do* think that the traditional rite is more balanced, a better, richer and more tested reflection of Catholic teaching. But I respect the new rite, and those who love it.

      1. @Richard Malcolm – comment #28:
        “What remains is an accepted definition of what constitutes liturgical abuse, and perhaps as a subset, unacceptable liturgical abuse. I think that may be part of the difficulty here.”

        This would be a sensible and less “fanciful” effort at engaging the discussion.

        “I fear you’ve just contradicted yourself.”

        No. And there’s a reason why. I don’t see salvation as entirely a personal thing. Salvation involves an active Church, laity included, engaged in the world and assisting in grace with the salvation of others. This would be an example of a greater deficit in the TLM: the lack of evangelical thrust. The lack of that gesture of the Blessed Mother, the gesture toward Christ.

        It’s less about the denial of hell as a real place. I’m not in charge of hell. Therefore, not my concern about who goes there, how many, and what for. The Last Judgment is on the Lord’s time and any unnecessary focus on it just distracts us from Mt 28:19-20 or Mark 16:15.

        My criticism of the TLM isn’t meant to denigrate thirty-plus centuries of salvation history. (Snark: only perhaps four.) The TLM is just inadequate. When Europe was the whole known world and everyone was a Christian, that’s one thing. We need something more today–that’s the gist of it. Museum caretaking is not part of the mission.

      2. @Todd Flowerday – comment #29:

        One person’s museum caretaking is another’s passing on that they received, which is the very core of the mission.

        In any case, the modern Church very much seems to lack evangelical thrust, and mainstream Catholic liturgists can share as much blame for that as anyone.

        As someone who came into the Church as an adult, I found many things which seem to be suggested as best practice stumbling blocks, as they are focused on the existing community rather than welcoming new comers.

        No worship aids, because everyone already knows the words. Music programs which assume you have already been there for years. Inculturation which suits cradle and church going Catholics, but not newcomers.

        As someone who has never been to an old rite mass, and likely never will, a lot on the focus on it seems like avoiding the log in our own eyes.

      3. @Scott Smith – comment #30:
        Core of the mission? Possibly. It might also be an attempt to enforce a personal uniformity on others, a sort of cultural narcissism.

        My sense is that the European Church has lacked an evangelical thrust for ten to fifteen centuries. I think Ad Gentes and Evangelii Nuntiandi gave Roman Catholicism a vector that has been largely ignored. I think a few have picked up on “New Evangelization.” I hope Pope Francis is the one to inspire widespread devotion to the mission of Christ.

        That said, there have always been exceptions: diocesan clergy like Sheen and Barron, missionary efforts like the Jesuits.

        If you are looking for people who acknowledge their personal blinders, it will be difficult to find them on blogs. The very nature of discussion here is somewhat adversarial. I know that I am brisk and challenging here in ways I would not be in real life. Conversation here is at once slow and fast in ways that does not contribute to friendship and mutual understanding, even among allies.

      4. @Todd Flowerday – comment #31:

        Well, the adversarial part is half the fun. I also find it very helpful in developing one’s thoughts – Other people are so much better than I at finding flaws in my ideas!

        In terms of your substantive comments on the new evangelization, I think there are always two issues, being the concept and the execution.

        The execution will always be less than ideal, because we are all flawed, though I do agree that Pope Francis might produce in us some extra zeal, which should help.

        The concept however is perhaps easier to improve, and that is where we need more discussion and testing of ideas. Much effort is spent on counter productive things.

        BTW – If the last 15 centuries, during which the Church spread the word to the whole world and converted a large part of it lacked evangelical thrust, I would love to see what we could have achieved with more!

        Also, in respect of the passing on of tradition, there is clearly a need to determine what is baby and what is bath water. Just some disagreement over how the task should be approached.

      5. @Scott Smith – comment #32:
        Like you, I find visiting sites with which I do not agree to be useful in developing my thoughts. The danger is always getting too sharp a sword when I should be cultivating a more discerning ear.

        I too would have liked to see more over the past fifteen centuries. Imagine what the Church could have accomplished with a bolder effort in Asia, less corruption in Latin America, and God-knows-what in the Muslim world. I suspect it would be less about missionary orders and more about a missionary laity.

        In my view, once pagan Europe was more-or-less converted, we stopped. And if Latin America was such a success story, why is it still considered mission territory, where largely-Protestant North America is not?

        Agreement that we need discussion, experimentation, and of course, discernment. We are emerging from a long winter in which the testing of ideas was strongly discouraged. God help us move ahead.

      6. @Todd Flowerday – comment #33:

        There you go, I can agree with your main points there!

        I don’t understand the reference to mission territories though – Is there some formal designation of Latin American as such?

        In truth, and I think you might agree with me here, the whole world is always and everywhere mission territory. I just don’t know how we internalise that without causing a kind of weariness – The idea the job has already been done somewhere does provide a level of mental support.

      7. @Scott Smith – comment #34:
        “I don’t understand the reference to mission territories though – Is there some formal designation of Latin American as such?”

        Many bishops in Latin America are from religious orders, not diocesan priests. That tells you the opinion of the Congregation of Bishops right there.

        And the cure for weariness? I’m finding Evangelii Gaudium to be a salve.

  14. (Cough.) Let us not forget the intrepid missionary efforts of the Church of the East in Asia, which probably accounted for at least a quarter of Christendom a millennium ago. That success was undone not so much by the original Mongol empire (except in the Near East, where Christian association with the Mongols had devastating consequences with local Islamic powers once the Mongols left) but by plague and the Timurid-era invasions of the 14th century. This just around the time the last major pagan power in Europe – Lithuania – was converted. It was relatively soon thereafter that the nascent Iberian Christian powers began their great global expansion (and there was even diplomatic exchange between them and the briefly resurgent Christian Abyssinia).

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