Tuesday 30 October 2012

Sacrosanctum Concilium - as seen through strange (bishop's) eyes

In the diocese of Arundel and Brighton, they are celebrating their diocesan golden jubilee.

As part of that process,  they have started local study groups in the parishes, looking at the documents of the Second Vatican Council.

I think that a great idea: the documents are the real teaching of the Council, and are sadly neglected (and often misrepresented).

On the web, you can see the resources they have produced for Study Group Leaders and for Participants .

However, I was slightly less impressed once I started to read some of the material.

Below, for example, is part of Bishop Conry’s introductory talk on the Sacred Liturgy.

I started to embolden and intalicise phrases that seem to me to speak more of Bishop Conry’s personal views (I had almost said prejudices) than of anything that the Council actually said.  However, that was clearly going to result in the whole extract being in bold and italic, so I desisted. I have, however, added a comment or two of my own in red.
Seriously, as an introduction to the changes to the liturgy suggested by Sacrosanctum Concilium this is a very poor piece of work.
What the reforms of the Council, especially in the first document on the liturgy, have tried to do, is restore what many refer to as ‘the noble simplicity of the Roman Rite.’  
This was necessary because, over the centuries, and especially after the Protestant Reformation, many of the elements of the Mass had become obscured. Much of this was a consequence of the continued use of Latin, which served to alienate and distance people from the action of the Mass. 
(This is riddled with oddities: it is not clear how Latin resulted in elements being obscured, very few changes were made after the Protestant Reformation - Trent codified existing practice. The opinion about alienation has nothing to do with anything in Sacrosanctum Concilium.  One would scarcely gather, from this or anything the good bishop said, that Sacrosanctum Concilium ordered that Latin be retained as the principal language of the liturgy in the Roman Rite.)
While the Protestant reformers wanted the scriptures and liturgy to be made accessible to the people in their own language, the Catholic Church rejected this as more or less Protestant heresy, and so the separation of priest and people grew even more marked. 
("and so"?  Again, this is the bishop’s view, nothing to do with anything to be found in Sacrosanctum Concilium.)
The priest had his back to the people and many of the prayers of the Mass were said in silence or in a whisper. The people had to be told that the moment of consecration was approaching to (sic) that they could at least see the consecrated host being elevated, and so a bell was rung. One of our great liturgical scholars, Dom Gregory Dix, refers to the change in the Mass by the Middle Ages as “declining into a mere focus for the subjective devotion of each separate worshipper in the isolation of his own mind.” Gone was any sense of a corporate, community act of worship.
(More somewhat stale opinions that have nothing to do with anything to be found in Sacrosanctum Concilium.)
When people talk of ‘traditional’ celebration of Mass, they often refer to the rites introduced in the 16th century, after the Protestant Reformation and the Council of Trent. 
(What rites are these? As I understand it, Trent codified what preceded it; it did not introduce new rites: it would have considered such an approach gravely problematic.  Only  in the wake of the Second Vatican Council was such an extraordinary thing attempted - and again it is hard to see anything in Sacrosanctum Concilium which justifies the wholesale re-writing of the Sacred Liturgy.)
What the Vatican Council has asked us to do is go back and re-discover more authentically where our liturgical traditions begin. It asks us to find again the simple beauty of gifts of bread and wine being brought to the altar from the people; of the people being asked to join in the great prayer of thanksgiving over those gifts, said by the priest, and giving their consent with the great ‘Amen’ – one of the responses that really should be sung – and it asks us to see that the bread is broken before it is shared, as Christ took the bread and broke it.
(I can’t find any of that in my copy of Sacrosanctum Concilium.  If that is a summary of the bishop’s sacramental theology of the Mass, then we are in dire straits indeed.)
It is a great shame that this worthy initiative is undermined by such poor implementation.

Pray for our bishops and for the Universal Church.


Ttony said...

I come back from another long and tiring trip and start to flick through blogs and come across this!

Quite seriously, is it not a matter for the Nuncio if one of the Bishops, the Heads of the local Churches, is so ill-informed that he cannot carry out his teaching mission?

Patricius said...

"While the Protestant reformers wanted the scriptures and liturgy to be made accessible to the people in their own language, the Catholic Church rejected this as more or less Protestant heresy..."

This is history as written by Protestants and shows a lamentable ignorance. The earlier resistance to the use of the vernacular was aimed at preventing the spread of heresy. Later there was a concern to provide accurate translations as, for example, with the Douai-Rheims translation.

Ben Trovato said...

Ttony, perhaps that is the right course of action: possibly best pursued by someone within A&B diocese?

Patricius, to be honest, I included the word revisionist in my draft, but deleted it, as I don't wish to get into judging the bishop's motives. But it does look a lot like that to me: a very ignorant and unCatholic understanding, was my impression.

Lazarus said...

Given Bishop Conry's favourable reference to the (Anglican) liturgist, Dom Gregory Dix, it would of course be quite unfair to quote Dix on another occasion: 'I really don't see why you should be surprised at the conduct of your fathers-in-God. After all the sign of a Bishop is a crook and of an Archbishop a double-cross.'

Ben Trovato said...


Yes that would be quite unfair.

That's why I have comments moderation on this blog: so that I can make these tough calls and censor anything I deem inappropriate...

Sixupman said...

I am surprised that anyone would think that +Conry would be of any other view than that given?

He and the majority, collegially, of the E&W Bishops' Conference.

Philadelphia Catholic Outsider said...

I think we're going to have a real, thorough Catholic Reformation. I hope it's soon.