Alternative Facts on Vatican II

by Björn Odendahl

V2 aula

If one looks at church attendance trends in past decades, there remains no doubt: after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), things went downhill for the Catholic Church in Germany. In 1965 the proportion of Catholics who regularly attended Mass was still ca. 45%, but already by 1970 it was only 37%. In 1990 it was only one in five, and today only about one in ten of the faithful still goes to Sunday worship.

The Pius X Society and the Council

But is there really a causal connection? Those who have difficulties with the Council and the reforms connected to it consistently maintain that there is. This is their thesis: the pastoral, liturgical, and ecumenical renewal from the middle of the 1960s weakened the identity of the Catholic Church for the sake of an accommodation to the zeitgeist (which is mostly not defined further). But because a liberal church offers no program of contrast to the rest of society, it loses its purpose and its ability to convince others. The loss of faith is pre-programmed. Among the most well-known proponents of this thesis is the conservative Society of St. Pius X, which distanced itself from the decisions of the Council shortly after its close, and since 1975 is no longer part of the Roman Catholic Church. [PTB note: Whether the Society is part of the Catholic Church is disputed, with many affirming that it is.]

But even in the here and now there are Catholics – from high-ranking bishops to simple faithful – who long for a return to the preconciliar Church. Cardinals Raymond Burke and Robert Sarah, for example, in the presentation of Burke’s book Divine Love in the Fleshcriticized a “lack of reverence” for the Eucharist, for which they make the liturgical reform, among other things, responsible. Similar statements are made about sexual morality, teachings on marriage, or ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, which are readily joined to phrases like “loss of self.”

Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, left, talks with Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, as he arrives for the presentation of his book Divine Love Made Flesh, in Rome, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Cardinals Raymond Leo Burke and Robert Sarah are considered proponents of conservative Catholicism and frequently critique “accommodation to the zeitgeist.”

In order to substantiate their own position further, successful movements and institutions are cited in which the “spirit of the Council” has supposedly not come in. The relatively well-attended Tridentine Mass, which is celebrated ad orientem and in Latin, is cited as a marker of what people today allegedly long for: permanence and clear rules.

In a time of online social networks, self-selecting bubbles, and their claims that frequently go without contradiction, the number of “critics of the Council” even seems to be growing. But things are not quite so simple. Already in 2012, the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Council, church historian Wilhelm Damberg of Bochum that church attendance numbers indeed have declined since the Council.

But it is also true that church attendance numbers going back to the 1920s reached their high point in 1935.

In the years after the war there was only a short, temporary high. Official statistics of the German bishops’ conference prove this. Already between 1950 and 1965 the proportion of church attendees among all Catholics sank from 50 percent to 45.

Historian: The Religious Springtime Did Not Last

Historian Thomas Großbölting of Munster has come to a similar evaluation. The religious springtime of the 1950s had little staying power, Großbölting said to In his book Der verlorene Himmel (“Heaven Lost”), he investigates the life of faith in Germany after 1945. He writes of the post-war era and the 1950s:

The perception of a comprehensive ‘rechristianization’ showed itself to be, in retrospect, a chimera.”

On the one hand, even in this era it had become ever more difficult to maintain a certain cohesion in the ecclesial milieu – among other things, because of

expansion of the individual horizon and worldview.

On the other hand, church leaders after 1945, with their recourse to traditional forms of pastoral practice and devotional life, set the stage for a further distancing from the faithful.

Behind the façade of a superficial religiosity, elements of its dissolution were already apparent,

according to Großbölting’s sober analysis.

In this connection, Großbölting makes reference to the manner in which, already shortly after World War II, the Church’s moral vision was handled: the family was still the Church in miniature and the basic cell of society, such that sex outside of marriage and non-heterosexual contact were frowned upon. But in day to day life, attachment to these moral demands had already weakened markedly.

Neither the Church’s moral vision, nor its assigned roles for adolescent boys and girls and for men and women, maintained its power to shape people,

Großbölting writes. The opposite was much more the case.

Vorstellung der Ergebnisse des Forschungsprojektes Ÿber die konfessionelle Heimerziehung in der frŸhen Bundesrepublik Deutschland (1949-1972) am 24. Mai 2011 an der Ruhr UniversitŠt Bochum (RUB). Bild: Wilhelm Damberg, Professor fŸr Katholische Theologie, RUB.
Wilhelm Damberg (b. 1954) is professor of church history of the Middle Ages and modern times at the University of Bochum.

A similar romantic nostalgia is found with respect to the preconciliar liturgy.

A survey of 9,000 youth in 1960 revealed that attending Mass had hardly any emotional impact,

church historian Damberg states. Thus it is a recollection contrary to the facts

if one thinks that people back then spent hours at Mass devoutly listening to Latin prayers and chants.

The reality of Sunday liturgy looked quite different than this in many places: the faithful came to Mass late or went outside the church during Mass – for example, to smoke. Others came just in time for the consecration, or left right after it, because according to their own conception they had thereby fulfilled their Sunday obligation. Parallel to the Mass “read” by the priest, the rosary or other pious devotions were prayed. The people were far removed from active particiation (Latin: participatio actuosa) in the liturgy, as called for by the Second Vatican Council in the liturgy constitution, Sacrosanctum Concilium. All this, even though Pope Pius X had deplored such a deplorable state of affairs already in 1903.

What Does Secularization Theory Say?

But even if we are able to demystify the preconciliar era in many respects, this still does not explain why the trend of nonparticipation at worship deepened further after the Council. Already in the beginning of the 1970s, the sociologist of religion Gerhard Schmidtchen, commissioned by the German bishops’ conference to study the causalities, came to this conclusion: the structures of Church and those of society are experienced to be discrepant. It is not the Church, but rather society that provides core values and models of self concept. The Church and the Christian heritage are thus perceived by many as no longer influential upon these values.

Today, so-called secularization theory is one of the main means of clarifying the “dechurching” of society. The thesis runs thus: between modernity and religion there exists a relationship of tension, which leads long-term to a loss of social importance for religion.

Secularization leads to state of affairs in which particular realms of society can no longer readily be religiously permeated,

he said in conversation with The plausibility of a comprehensive, religious worldview decreases continually. Thus, different rules apply in politics than in the econony or art or even the Church. The Church does not answer even moral questions alone anymore. Sociology calls this “functional differentiation.”


Detlef Pollack is sociologist of religion at the University of Munster.

Furthermore, the offering of leisure activies increases in modern societies, as does the possibility of self-actualization in one’s job, said Pollack.

Hence, the Church comes under the pressure of competition with its offerings.

For example, in the realms of education or pastoral care. And all this is reinforced through the trend toward individualization.

People value more and more being able to structure their own lives,

the sociologist said. When the Church is perceived as authoritarian and dogmatic, as sclerotic and archaic, and even as overbearing, this is a further reason for distancing. In view of these insights, the sociologist considers it very unlikely that a “liberalization” of the Church could have led to a decrease in church attendance.

Pollack: Only a Minority is Attracted

That conservative counter-movements can be successful, such as e.g.Heiligenkreuz Abbey, which is experiencing growth like never before in its history with ca. 100 monks, is a different matter.

“Social processes are oftentimes marked by a certain ambivalence,

Pollack said. This means that there are people who – perhaps especially in an individualized and globalized world – long for clear rules and authority.

This can bind a minority more closely to the Church. But the vast majority are scared off by a conservative course,

the sociologist is certain. Furthermore, conservative proposals seldom lead to growth in the church as a whole. And even the conservative followers come mostly from an ecclesially socialized milieu.

It leads only to intensification and transfer. While the one approach grows, the others die out,

Pollack concludes.

The experts assess completely differently what this means precisely for the future of the Catholic Church in Germany. Do we need big events and offerings, or small testimonies of faith in daily life? Do we need greater presence in the modern media, or rather places of quiet and reflection? Probably a little of all of this. But this is clear: the era of the church having a hold on most of society is over. And for this, the Second Vatican Council is not to blame.


© Internetportal Translated and reprinted with permission. Translation: awr.


  1. The answer to the almost-immediate post-Vatican II decline is very simple: Humanae Vitae. I was surprised that the author did not mention it. The 16% drop in Germany was mirrored in most other countries.

    I am always interested by statistics that places like Heiligenkreuz are blooming, but they are a very small number in comparison to everything else. People point to traditionalist enclaves being very healthy, but when you only have a tiny number it’s very easy to “pack” them because there is nowhere else to go.

    1. @Paul Inwood:
      HV: the single biggest reason. Here in the US, a mid-70s University of Chicago study found that about 1/4 left because of it. But the survey also looked into many factors American Catholics stayed or left. The researchers’ conclusion included liturgy. If liturgy had gone unreformed, the exodus would have been much larger.

      Another friend of mine with European connections mused that the turning point in Europe was building over the Church’s public impotence during the world wars. He seemed to suggest it went beyond Pius XII’s “hidden” work with saving Jews. The Church was ineffective in keeping or making peace in Europe, and a positive reaction to modern trends was too slow. I wonder if Vatican II had been accomplished in the 1860s …

      As for places of “blooming,” the key isn’t traditionalist alignments, but rather an intentionality in the community, and a resulting high demand upon the baptized.

      I was part of a very liberal, very social justice-oriented parish in the 80s. It attracted a wide swath of Catholics and non-Catholics not only because of the social gospel, but I believe because it set high goals and was unafraid of reaching for them, or of asking serious discipleship of its people. It had it faults, to be sure. But I’m convinced the Church’s post-conciliar problem is mostly due to a narrow vision, a willingness to settle for less, and alas, cowardice.

  2. There was an aspect of change to Catholic praxis in the 1960s that underscored the arbitrariness and brittleness of some traditional practice – and some reformed practice. The lifting of preceptual obligation regarding fasting and abstinence, for example, evoked a spectrum of reaction. For me and a number of my peers, a signal experience was having to relearn the same prayers/exercises with new words for Confirmation that we had learned for First Communion – this tracked having to shift out of the “1965 Missal” to the “1970 Missal”. And this occurred in a time of tremendous upheaval (I deeply felt the confusion, anger and doubt of adults and older children around me as 1968 unfolded). HV was certainly a nuclear event, which occurred in the context of a “revolution of rising expectations” because confessional practice had already migrated years in advance, something that my mother (as a non-contracepting mother of 6 who had originally planned for 8 children until a special needs child came in the middle of things) had the last of her children that year in her mid-40s (eldest child graduated high school while mother was in labor) could discuss at some length. HV was certainly received by many as an arbitrary decision of an entirely different order.

    Perhaps best thing that ever happened to the TLM was ceasing to be the default ritual for parochial Masses. That has allowed it to be chosen affirmatively and offered with greater care by those who actively seek out communities that offer it. Which sifts out a lot of pragmatism that has ruddered Catholic parochial liturgical praxis for centuries.

  3. I am not an expert on secularism nor in sociology, but I have vivid memories of the church in greater Boston dating back to the 40’s and 50’s. in those days, the church was the building where we attended Mass on Sundays and Holydays under serious oblgation. It was the place we went on Saturdays to make our confession on the rare occasions we were planning to receive communion. It was the place where the aging Monsignor and his younger curates told us what we had to do to get to heaven. They, and the “good sisters” who were responsible for catechism classes, taught us that we should be proud to belong to The One True Church because all who didnt belong to her were likely doomed to hell. They also taught us that our goal should be purgatory where after eons of punishment we could hope to see the face of God. The Catholic Church in those days was a monolithic institution which sought to rule over every aspect of our lives. We went to or heard Mass, though there was not much to hear. We were taught to say our prayers, support the parish, and obey all authorities in the church. No one told us that we became part of a royal priesthood in Baptism, nor that there were spiritual gifts and ministries available to us from the Holy Spirit. Then came Pope John and The Council. It’s teachings on the role of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and the nature of the church and its leaders brought with the notions of critical thinking, full participation in worship, a new respect for other Christian churches, and, most importantly the call to holiness. Most Catholics received those changes with enthusiasm or acceptance. I submit that the declining Mass attendance resulted from many factors (including HV) but was mostly due to increasing numbers of people unwilling or unable or fearful about the prospect of becoming more devout and intentional disciples of Christ. . If Catholics were content to observe a few obligations from time to, hearing the teachings of God’s word each week proved too great a burden.

  4. Blaming HV is as ideological and wrong headed as blaming VII. The comparative analysis with mainline Protestant communities shows that most clearly.

    The brutal truth is nothing which has been tried worked. VII didn’t cause it, but equally it failed to stop it.

    Trying to recreate the world of Trent, or VII, isn’t going to change that. Both of those worlds have past.

    New ideas are needed. And neither theological faction in the Church are yet providing any.

    1. @Mariko Ralph:
      I would agree that blaming *only* HV is wrong-headed, but in the States, at least one respected sociological study showed it was the biggest single factor. That is inescapable. Pre-conciliar Catholic leaders would cringe at the thought we Catholics were as feckless as heretics. The world of Trent and Vatican II also didn’t include the perception among many laity that the sex abuse cover-up has relayed a reality that the clergy have left them and that it is less the other way around. This is a very hard reality for the Church, particularly its institution, to accept. It’s at least on a par with a frequently-cited loss of a sense of sin. If not the same thing.

      As for Mr Wayne’s deck-chair theory, in places that implemented well, it was more than that. There was a spirit in my early 70s parish that faded as that decade went by. An earlier sense that anything good was possible was quashed by other events. My sense of what in the liturgy people liked: the vernacular, better music and preaching (in parishes that had it), and a straight-up intelligibility about the Mass.

      I would agree that new ideas are needed. But there are more than two factions in the Church. Far more. I suspect that most have part of the answer, but we lack an effective unity to accomplish what we would seek. Underscoring that lack of unity is a poverty of trust. Trust in the other, including God. Where to go from there?

      1. @Todd Flowerday:

        As I mentioned, comparisons with mainline Protestant communities show the idea of a strangled progressive implementation of VII leading to the exodus just don’t hold water. The idea is just as ideological, and just as removed from reality, as Traditionalist talking points.

        No option considered in 1960 could have stopped what happened, and no option considered in 1960 is going to reverse it.

        And if we want to move forward, we have to transcend these ideological dead ends. Not least to create the unity the mission of the Church needs, as retreating into the safety of what are now ancient ideological battles is entirely corrosive to that unity.

      2. @Mariko Ralph:
        Are you trying to argue HV as a point of ideology? I wonder if it’s less that and more part of a larger stage of dispiritedness in the Church. The sex abuse cover-up, at its root, had nothing to do with ideology. Scandal is just scandal. If we want to move forward, we have to address matters like that. Not dismiss them as “Other people did that. You can trust us now.”

        Mainline Protestants may have been just as scared as their Catholic sisters and brothers. One area that didn’t follow that vector were our evangelical Christian friends. Why? They emphasized preaching, music, and welcome–three more factors that study after study says matter to American Christians. We Catholics–as well as most mainline Protestants–struggle with all of them to one degree or another.

        I’ve said this often on this site. Compared to the effort of an intentional religiosity, traditional and progressive issues seem to matter very little. It’s all about the spirit behind them.

      3. Todd Flowerday: “My sense of what in the liturgy people liked: the vernacular, better music and preaching (in parishes that had it), and a straight-up intelligibility about the Mass.”

        I’ve actually heard this from older traditionalists, though for them that enthusiasm faded when the Novus Ordo came along. They took comfort that it was “still the same Mass.” I sometimes wonder what the happy medium might have been – enough reform to inspire the spirit you describe your early 70s parish as having, but not so much to have driven others to the SSPX.

        I respect the feelings about the reform you and others like Jack Feehily hold, though its hard for me to view the old and new Mass through the same lens since I was a child of the 80s and 90s – I came along a decade after the spirit you describe had faded away, nor was I ever taught anything about a royal priesthood – for me that came along more with a “rediscovery” of Catholicism (and discovery of traditional liturgy) that I had in my early 20s. I’ll be honest and say that for a while I came to associate the reformed liturgy with clericalism and keeping the people ignorant, and have found a similar sentiment amongst others in my age group.

        I’ll agree its more the spirit behind a movement that matters.

      4. @Jack Wayne:
        I wonder about the importance of this: “They took comfort that it was ‘still the same Mass.'”

        Why is that more important than other more core values, like the presence of Christ? To me it belies poor pre-conciliar catechesis. I wouldn’t, however, chalk it up to ignorance.

        I appreciate the perspective of the 80s. Mine was the 70s, not the 60s. I certainly saw hamfisted implementation. That’s been a part of every reform movement, even the reform-of-the. But it wasn’t universal. The key is to allow oneself to be guided by personal experiences, and plug them into a larger discernment. Not be ruled and blinded by them.

      5. @Todd Flowerday:
        The “still the same Mass” comment refers to how the first wave of reforms largely kept the prayers, format, and calendar of the 1962 Missal intact. A lot of people who became traditionalists after the reform were typically the ones to really follow, pray, and participate in the Mass before Vatican II, and the prayers – even the inaudible ones they prayed to themselves week after week – had a lot of meaning. The old words that began the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar are a good example of this: “I will go unto the altar of God/to God who giveth joy to my youth(etc).” I have often seen them cited as poetic and beautiful compared to any of the penitential rites that replaced it.

        Having attended the EF as my primary form of worship for the better part of the last decade I would have to express the same sentiment. The EF is a lot more than the sum of its parts, and much more than just the aesthetics often attached to it. It flows better than the OF and seems more cohesive. An EF Mass celebrated in English facing the people would actually be quite different from an OF Mass. I should mention when making that observation that I’ve been to some pretty mediocre EF Masses, as well as some truly moving and wonderful OF Masses.

        I’d probably say I’m more of a 90s kid than an 80s kid. I lived my early childhood in the 80s, but got most of my CCD instruction in the 90s. There were some very good experiences along with the negative ones, and I really liked attending Mass.

      6. @Jack Wayne:
        I find arguments in favor of Psalm 43 or the old Offertory prayers to lack persuasion. They are a piece with undeniable attraction–in some quarters. But what’s the point? The same argument might be said for importing a Michelangelo copy into every church. Or designing every worship space along the lines of Hagia Sophia.

        As for the prayer at the foot of the altar, what’s the point there? There’s already an entrance antiphon. Who’s to say that Psalm 95 or Psalm 100 isn’t a better call?

        The point of liturgical reform wasn’t to excise elements from the Mass because they were beautiful, but because they served little or no purpose. Or worse, they served to draw attention from what is really important. I think we can say that the priest approaching the altar at the beginning of Mass pales in comparison to his service in preaching or presidency. His prayers before the anaphora compared to during.

        In a way, many of the post-conciliar excesses betray a congruence to this. Songs of the week. Theme liturgies. Home Masses. Banners to communicate slogans. In each case, a good idea, and even a good product sometimes, draws focus away from Christ. New music is great, especially if it’s good; but not four times every Sunday. Theme liturgies are great, but within the context of votive Masses. Even slogans, but in the hands of a good preacher.

      7. @Todd Flowerday:
        Couldn’t one ask the same question about many of the changes? What’s the point of multiple penitential rites – or even of such a rite at all since there historically wasn’t one in the Latin Rite. Multiple EPs – again, what’s the point?

        Didn’t Vatican II say that changes shouldn’t be made unless truly necessary – the better question to ask is what necessity demanded each change. Pretty much every prayer and aspect of a liturgical rite could arguably change for good reasons.

        I think a lot of the “post-conciliar excesses” stem from a need for people to make up for the reformed liturgy’s mid 20th century utilitarianism and blandness (or “banality” as some like to say).

      8. @Jack Wayne:
        The point of multiple penitential rites, multiple EPs, and on and on, has been explained by the reformers, documented, and laid out in various books and articles many, many times. It makes sense to people who read all of SC and not just the handful of passages that, taken out of context, are the basis of the Reform of the Reform.

        We’ve said all this before, guys. Time to close comments on this post.

  5. While I find articles like this interesting and enlightening in some ways, they really don’t speak in favor of the reform. The conclusion seems to be that the reform was a multi-billion dollar deck chair rearrangement on a sinking ship. Perhaps some can speculate, based on polls done after the reform, that the exodus would have been worse had the liturgy not been changed – but how can one be so sure those same people would have left had they been in a control group never exposed to even the idea of liturgical reform? What if the reform had been much milder? I bet those polled were mostly talking about vernacular when asked about the reform, and maybe versus populum and contemporary music.

    My personal opinion is that reform was needed, but that they did a lot of completely unnecessary things that needlessly caused division. How many people truly stayed in the Church because the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar had been replaced by four new penitential rites? Did anyone cite the new offertory prayers as a major deciding factor for staying? How about the new prayer after of the Our Father or the new Eucharistic Prayers? Would more people have left had their side altars, communion railings, and reredos not been secretly ripped out of their parish church? Did anyone say they were on the brink of leaving the Church, but had a change of heart when the final blessing was moved to before the dismissal?

  6. In Europe this decline in membership has hit all mainline churches. It has also hit political parties and many other organisations. It might just be that we have become more individualistic as a society and less likely to join big organisations. Is the attraction of small communities of TLR adherents also part of this groundswell? Interestingly political activism here has become more focussed on single issue groupings at the expense of major parties, among the young at least. TLR again?
    Apart from that I wouldn’t underestimate the effects of the continuing scandals surrounding the sexual exploitation of minors by clergy and the cover ups that followed. For many this is a major issue that speaks of untrustworthiness and hypocrisy.
    Yes, HV had a effect, but that is just a part of what has seemed the Church’s unhealthy preoccupation with the bedroom activities of the laity as a whole. Happily Pope Francis seems to be trying to get the church to focus on other issues.

  7. I wish more people would address the issue I raised regarding the difficulty of being an intentional and effective as a principal factor in the decline of “attendance” at Mass. There weren’t a lot of people in the days of Jesus and his apostles interested in moving beyond being members of the crowd, and there aren’t that many now. When Mass is celebrated well by priests, ministers, and priestly people God is offered worship in spirit and truth, hearts are changed, and people can love one another because they have taken in Christ’s word and Eucharistic presence.

  8. Certainly the pressures against the Catholic faith have been increasing in modern times. But it seems to me that the source of the problems raised above are related to the liturgy. The liturgy, as Sacrosanctum Concilium pointed out, is the source and summit of one’s Catholic life and therefore faith. Yet very few clergy and faithful knew of the great spiritual treasures in the liturgy before V2. These were not discussed except to a limited extent in scholastic technical terms at the seminaries. Indeed, through the renewed interest in the TLM, thanks to its having been suppressed after the Council, we have discovered that it would take a lifetime to assimilate its rich spiritual treasures. The early Liturgical Movement had it right. The faithful, including the clergy, needed to be made aware of this treasure, to lead them to comprehend the spiritual language of the liturgy which, as symbol and allegory, is beyond mere words as is the ineffable God for whom we have this act of worship. These spiritual treasures “speak” to the heart, not the intellect. Unfortunately this was not done, so that by 1960 the liturgy meant little to many people, because neither the people or clergy comprehended the mystical language of the liturgy. But even greater damage was done by the later Liturgical Movement which, instead of trying to raise the people’s spiritual dispositions to the level of the liturgy, condescendingly wanted to dumb down the liturgy to the lowest common denominator in the pew. The Novus Ordo is the result of that influence, where, under the pretext of some contrived ressourcement, innumerable liturgical spiritual treasures vanished as did the people in the pews who were essentially hungry for them. In other words, the issue was and still is a crisis of faith brought on by a bad lex orandi. Going by Bugnini’s writings, I wonder if those ivory tower experts involved in the post V2 reform of the liturgy were even aware of the mystical language of the liturgy that speaks directly to each heart.

  9. I find it fascinating the lengths to which traditionalists will go to exaggerate or just misstate how the novus ordo was implemented. We have to bear in mind that most of the bishops and priests who oversaw the implementation had a formation in liturgy that was principally about personal piety and the observation of rubrics. Since the new Mass in some important ways departed from traditional rubrics, not every priest prayed the liturgy in a way that elicited an interior as well as exterior participation. But many of us were schooled in liturgy by those who were aware of what was coming and who showed us the way in seminary liturgies. The ones I experienced at St. Meinrad were inspiring and edifying and carried over into my own teaching and celebration of the sacred mysteries.
    Traditionalists also tend to think that Jesus must not have had a distinctive personality and so rail against priests who lead worship with the personality that they have all the time. They seem to think that interior participation trumps all other forms and assume that the priest who reads or says the Mass should simply read the black and do the red. This form of Mass was inarguably reformed by an ecumenical council, confirmed by two popes, updated by many of the same bishops as the reform unfolded, and affirmed by bishops and popes every since.
    I just came from a liturgy which we began with the Kyrie Eleison, acclaimed Christ’s presence in the Gospel with Laudate Dominum, and sang Agnus Dei while the Bread was broken and prepared for distribution. I don’t think our parish in unique in that regard. I am sorry that some of you grew up in parishes where the reformed liturgy might have been better celebrated, but poor liturgy was not the rule.

    1. @Fr. Jack Feehily:

      Experience shapes perception. It’s why I am, anymore, a “live and let live” sort of fellow who would rather see both uses done well than the rug yanked out from under people who are happy with either valid form of the Rite. I’ve been to several Latin Masses–even Low Masses– where the congregation was clearly actively engaged. They had to be to know which exterior acts came at which points of the Mass. And I’ve been to several Novus Ordo Masses where the congregation mostly stared silently and muttered responses, despite exuberant pleading from the cantor. (And I’ve seen the good and the bad reversed.) Why can’t the good in both co-exist?

  10. Jack Feehily : I wish more people would address the issue I raised regarding the difficulty of being an intentional and effective as a principal factor in the decline of “attendance” at Mass. There weren’t a lot of people in the days of Jesus and his apostles interested in moving beyond being members of the crowd, and there aren’t that many now. When Mass is celebrated well by priests, ministers, and priestly people God is offered worship in spirit and truth, hearts are changed, and people can love one another because they have taken in Christ’s word and Eucharistic presence.

    And a vibrant and open parish community is formed. That in itself can attract members and overcome prejudices.

  11. Would the Church be in a better state today if the Second Vatican Council had never taken place? I doubt it, but we’ll never know for sure. To use the biblical metaphor, we cannot go back to Egypt.

    Any return to the Church of 1958 (which I can still remember) would be an artificial and highly selective reconstruction.

  12. Interesting discussion. About two weeks ago on another blog (which has suddenly disappeared) there were not-dissimilar observations from old-timers: liturgy before V2 was often mediocre, involvement in the mass was superficial. I remember one priest in my parish who barreled through his services in 25 minutes, including homily. But folk masses made my skin crawl, and the TLM looks good if compared with that, which is fortunate for its partisans.

  13. From NCR – here is what John XXIII began – the movement from a dogmatic, childlike Church to an *adult* Church:

    “Neither scepticism nor dogmatism are sufficient for the kind of mature engagement with Church doctrine that adult discipleship demands. Pope Francis seems like a revolutionary in the minds of many because, even more than his predecessors, he is committed to the council’s call to adult, Christian discipleship; it is a theme central to his pontificate.

    “Adult.” It is a word one hears again and again from people who have found themselves challenged and encouraged by Pope Francis. And only adults can appropriate the insights about conscience that Keenan sets forth and which Gaillardetz places in a yet larger context, the context of the Church.”

    Also, most of this discussion completely ignores the reality of the Church in the southern hemisphere.

    Keenan from America:

    Suggest that some of this liturgical angst is rooted in the above – avoiding becoming an adult.

    1. @william dehaas:
      I’m concerned with the suggestion of the child-adult axis. I would agree that Vatican II was an impulse to be a more mature Church. But adults strike me as being just as afraid of change as children.

      Let’s admit it: we find change difficult–almost all of us. There is a lot to lose, and though Genesis glosses over the personal aspect, Abram likely thought so too. Great saints have not been afraid of change, so why not the rest of us? Maybe change goes down better knowing we have companions to help.

    2. @william dehaas:
      Excuse me but accusing those who disagree with you are “avoiding becoming an adult” is not an adult argument. There are honest disagreements in the Church and these should be addressed directly. There is no place for ad hominem attacks.

  14. Simply because the pre-Vatican II Church offered a ‘counter culture’ is not to deny that the post Vatican II Chirch has succeeded in offering a counter-culture understandable by non Christians. Has the so called ‘secular society’ not embraced more fully Christian values in recent years? Was Germany not a welcoming country to innumerable immigrants? Has British society not become more involved in Fair Trade and Tradecraft support endeavors? Has America turned its back on huulatmanitarian needs? I think Gospel values have become much prevalent in these intervening decades, while the Church even in (or especially because of) reduced numbers is having a direct, more powerful influence in society. Did not the OT endorse the concept of the Sacred Remnant?

    On the liturgical argument, I agree that if the Church’s ministers (clergy and lay folk) were more tuned in to the power of positive liturgical planning rather than going with the insipid flow of common denominatorism, we’d have a more powerful impact not only on our parishioners but on our responsibility to engage in social justice issues and seriously joining the Spirit in renewing the face of the earth. Yes, we’ve become much more pro-active and doing better at this this since Vatican II. And we’re becoming a better, truer Church because of it.

  15. I lived through V II as a child in Catholic school, and watched it come of age as a teen in a suburban Midwestern parish in the 60’s. I loved the altar being pulled away from the wall, the vestments that were more “comforting” (I speak of the fuller chasubles in softer colors) and the priest actually preaching and celebrating the Mass. It affected me more deeply than I realized at the time. I didn’t care for the electric guitars and drums up in the chancel, though. I entered the military in 1971. Looking back, it was a tumultuous time in America. Vietnam War, sexual revolution, drugs…we left the Church for many reasons… It was a Catholic Chaplain in the Air Force in 1972 that advised me not to go to seminary when I got out because things were “really weird” there now….I filed that in my memory. Fast forward to meeting a girl who didn’t want to be Catholic but also didn’t know why…I become Lutheran seeing that the Mass was almost exactly the same there. She leaves me, I enter the ministry and am ordained after and during a career in teaching college. I preside in exactly the same way my young priest did in 1971 in my home church when I enlisted. It influenced me to this day as a retired pastor, being asked in one service to vest and preside as I always did, in the next service to preside in street clothes, not even a clerical collar. Now THAT is seriously mixed up. Count your blessings!

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