Friday, May 20, 2011

Liturical mosh pit

The latest issue of New Oxford Review features a robust give-and-take between readers, responding to Arthur C. Sippo's earlier review, in the March issue of NOR, of Fr. Nicola Giampietro's The Development of the Liturgical Reform: As Seen by Cardinal Derdinando Antonelli from 1948 to 1970, and Mr. Sippo, in turn, responding to readers of his review.

The five reader's letters to the editor, along with Mr. Sippo's response, are offered here because they represent lively defenses of positions that are live options today. Your comments are invited, but please remember to be charitable -- especially where you may find yourself easily provoked, since the language (particularly Mr. Sippo's) does get a bit heated. Also remember to read Alcuin Reid's excellent review of Fr. Giampietro's book on the above-linked Amazon site.

Letters to the Editor
Liturgical Reform & the 'Protestantization' of Catholic Liturgy

I appreciate the NOR’s habit of publishing articles that offer different perspectives on such topics as liturgical reform. In his review of The Development of the Liturgical Reform: As Seen by Cardinal Ferdinando Anto­nelli from 1948 to 1970 by Fr. Nicola Giampietro (Mar.), Arthur C. Sippo is right in his overall perspective that liturgical reform predates Vatican II. In fact, the liturgy has been evolving for almost 2,000 years. However, never before in the history of the Church was a liturgy of venerable use arrogantly dismissed, as happened in the wake of Vatican II.

Sippo writes that, according to Cardinal Antonelli’s memoirs, it’s not the case that the post-Vatican II reform was a “Protestantization” of the liturgy, as “radical traditionalists” allege. It’s interesting to note, however, that, according to Alfons Cardinal Stickler, Pope Paul VI himself wanted to “assimilate as much as possible of the new Catholic liturgy to Protestant worship.”

Sippo writes that “improved historical scholarship and the patris­tic renaissance” of recent years has “given birth to a new consciousness of the liturgy as a dynamic participation of the faithful in the prayers and rites of the Church.” I would counter that the Novus Ordo Mass has diminished historical traditional rites, has created a wholesale vacuum in terms of vocations and converts, and has almost entirely diminished the central purpose of Holy Mass, that of sacrifice. On this point, Msgr. Bru­nero Gherardini has said, “In all truth Modernism hid itself under the cloak of Vatican II’s hermeneutic…. The new rite of Holy Mass practically silenced the nature of sacrifice, making of it an occasion for gathering together the people of God.... The eucharistic gathering was given the mere sense of sharing a meal together ...” (The Ecumenical Vatican Council II: A Much Needed Discussion). Lest one think Msgr. Gherar­dini’s words are the rantings of a “radical traditionalist,” one should note that Gherardini has served as a canon of St. Peter’s Basilica, under­secretary for the Pontifical Academy of Theology, professor at the Pontifical Lateran University, and editor of Divi­nitas, a leading Roman theological journal.

Sippo concludes, “After forty years of the Pauline missal, we will be soon using a new Roman missal that will try to return the literary majesty to the Mass that the earlier reform had abandoned in favor of more colloquial and contemporary language.” This will be the equivalent of repainting a Ford Pinto: A repainting of the exterior does not the engine remake. Related to this point, Msgr. Gherardini writes, quoting Msgr. Domenico Bartolucci, master of the Sistine Chapel at the time, that the Novus Ordo “was born without music, I would even say with a poorly concealed aversion to music,” which opened the door to “amateurism, to poor taste, to superficiality…. There will soon be available a new translation of the various texts [of the Mass], certainly improved regarding some verses, but I will not marvel at all if for other passages there will be more problems than in the first edition resulting from certain exegetical or historical-theological eccentricities....”

Chris Conlee
Rock Hill, South Carolina


When I read Arthur C. Sippo’s review of The Development of the Liturgical Reform in the March issue of the NOR, I thought perhaps the National Catholic Reporter had been sent to me by mistake.

I noticed especially Sippo’s benign treatment of Archbishop Anni­bale Bugnini, chief architect of the Novus Ordo Mass. If, as Sippo states, the archbishop was “the man of the hour,” then that hour was nothing less than the time when the ancient Roman liturgy was transformed into a Protestant-Catholic hybrid Mass. “We must strip from our Catholic prayers and from the Catholic liturgy,” Bugnini once wrote, “everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren, that is, for the Protestants.” How can thoughts like this be laudable or even benign? Here we have the root cause of the liturgical abuse that would plague the Church for the next forty years.

Liturgical reform should be organic. It should not be the kind of revolution that reinvents, in an “instant oatmeal” moment, a so-called contemporary liturgy. There is little about the Novus Ordo that is praiseworthy. From the hordes of lay ministers to the bleak tables instead of high altars to bare churches and Evangelical-style hymns — and yes, and even down to the design of modern vestments — thousands of years of sacred tradition have been given a bloody punch in the face.

Thom Nickels
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


It is interesting that Arthur C. Sippo would use the adjective “radical” several times in his review of The Development of the Liturgical Reform to describe traditionalists who find error in the Novus Ordo Missae but never used the same adjective to describe the change in the form of the Mass between 1962 and 1970. More interesting is the preposterous allegation that the liturgical reforms initiated in 1948 by Pope Pius XII, most notably characterized by the abbreviation of the Holy Week liturgy, were intended to culminate in what was propagated 22 years later as the missal of Paul VI.

The Protestantization of the Catholic Mass — a fact Sippo rejects — is most certainly evident to anyone who examines how the Mass was refocused as a banquet, as opposed to an unbloody sacrifice. Most alarming is the change in the form and rubrics of the consecration to “create” a Mass acceptable to the theology of both Catholic and Protestant worship. In the Lutheran Mass, the presbyter holds up the bread at the consecration and says the words, “This is My Body.” At that point, he believes the spirit of Jesus surrounds and becomes consubstantial with the bread through the prayers and presence of the congregation. He then genuflects before the consubstantial bread. Likewise, in the Novus Ordo, the rubrics were changed so that the first genuflection is omitted, the words of the consecration are spoken aloud by the priest, and then the priest genuflects or bows to the newly consecrated host. In that way, both Catholic and false theologies are satisfied.

Martin Luther declared that the Canon “stinks of ‘oblation,’” and that word was purged from the new missal, as was the complementary term “altar,” which was changed to “table.” The altar is the instrument of consummating the oblation. If there is no oblation, no altar is needed. Tables are for meals and have replaced the altar in both fact and word.

More dramatic is the displacement of the words “the Mystery of Faith” to an acclamation after the consecration. The “Mystery of Faith” is the chalice of Christ’s blood and our singular and proper belief in transubstantiation. It is not “when we eat this bread and drink this cup….” But the latter and its variations are more acceptable to Protestants, who do not believe in transubstantiation. With respect to “eating this bread…,” consequential to a valid consecration, there remains nowhere on the altar (or table) bread or wine, except in a Protestant service. This is our perpetual Roman Catholic faith. If we are eating bread, we are not at a valid Catholic Mass.

Vincent A. Ferrelli
Syracuse, New York


Arthur C. Sippo’s review of The Development of the Liturgical Reform by Fr. Nicola Giampietro reminds us that the reform of the Mass began during the pontificate of Pius XII, who gave us the beautiful Triduum services. These changes were moderate, however, in comparison with those of the Novus Ordo. If one compares the latter with the Latin Mass, it is undeniable that it represents not merely a reform of but a wholesale change to the Mass.

Pope Benedict XVI, who has for some years been studying the causes of the unrest surrounding the New Mass, called upon Archbishop Mal­colm Ranjith to help with the investigation and with the “reform of the reform.” The New Mass is quite faulty, according to the archbishop, who wrote the Foreword to Fr. Giam­pietro’s book. He attributes the faulty changes to the actions taken by the Con­cilium group, which included Archbishop Annibale Bugnini as secretary, six Protestant ministers, and various liberal Rhine Group bishops and periti, who were working for ecumenical unity with Protestantism, unfortunately to the detriment of Catholic teachings and tradition.

Archbishop Ranjith credits Cardinal Antonelli’s insights into the complex workings of the liturgical reform prior to and following the Council, but also says that the Concilium implementers veered away from the actual intent of the Council Fathers and that therefore today’s liturgy is not a true realization of the Vatican II document Sacrosanctum Concilium. Speci­fically, Archbishop Ranjith states that basic concepts like sacrifice, redemption, mission, proclamation, conversion, salvation, and adoration as integral elements of Holy Communion are missing in the New Mass, while dialogue, inculturation, ecumenism, Eucharist as banquet, and evangelism as witness have become more important.

One last but important note: Pope Paul VI never admitted publicly that Bugnini was a Freemason, but after an article by Tito Casini, a noted Catholic writer, about Bugnini’s Masonic membership, and after private papers to the same effect were given to Paul VI, Bugnini was quickly sent to Iran in 1975 as a papal pro nuncio — an “obvious demotion,” as Sippo says. Bugnini had hoped to have local bishops initiate even more changes to the Mass, but this hope fortunately did not materialize. These factors, when viewed in their totality, as well as the severe weakening of the Church Militant, raise serious questions as to the benefits derived from the changes made to the Mass, and underscore the importance of Pope Benedict’s “reform of the reform.”

Sr. Eleanor Colgan, S.N.D.
Cincinnati, Ohio


While I appreciate Arthur C. Sippo’s review of Msgr. Giampietro’s new book and surely intend to read the book myself, I must take issue with one of Dr. Sippo’s statements. He asserts that “we did have what were called ‘Dialogue Masses,’ in which someone from the congregation would lead the people in saying some of the prayers from the missal in English, but it was always independent of what was going on at the altar….”

Either Sip­po’s memory is faulty or he experienced a total aberration of what the Dialogue Mass was — and certainly what I experienced in all three of my boyhood parishes. The Dialogue Mass meant total and real participation in the action of the Mass as it was unfolding — that is, the congregation (perhaps led by a priest who was not the celebrant or even by a layman) gave all the proper responses to the celebrant in Latin, in unison with the server. There were no responses by the congregation during the Canon because there were none to give and the whole Canon was done in silence by the celebrant.

While, in general, I support the structure of the Mass as it emerged after the Council, it is surely a caricature of reality to suggest — as some “reformers” and “liturgists” have done over the past forty years — that the congregation was composed of mute spectators engaging in private devotions in the pre-conciliar liturgy. Where that was the case, it was in violation of liturgical norms, not in har­mony with or obedience to them.

The Rev. Peter M.J. Stravinskas
Editor, The Catholic Response
Pine Beach, New Jersey



It seems that my review of The Development of the Liturgical Reform has struck a nerve among the people who are still fighting a rear-guard action against the reforms sanctioned by the last four popes and implemented over forty years ago. As I noted in my review, the changes made were intended to be practical and to assist the congregation to fully participate in the Mass and not just be remote spectators while the priest did obscure things and whispered incomprehensible prayers.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the Tridentine Mass. But I like the Paul­ine missal as well (except for the abysmal ICEL translation, which will happily be gone soon). I have been all over the world and the majority of the world’s Catholics have embraced the reform. Those who knew both the old and the new liturgical forms generally prefer the new one. They feel they are more a part of the ritual and they get more out it.

Many traditionalists cannot accept this. To them extraneous sacrificial rituals added onto the Mass to emphasize one aspect of the Eucharist are more important than creating a liturgy that is popular with the faithful. And in their zeal, they seem to forget that the real essence of the Mass is the consecration and that the words of institution alone confect the sacrament.

The charge of “Protestantiza­tion” tells me few if any of these people have ever been to a Protestant worship service. If any of them had, they would realize that such services are anemic, colorless affairs composed of the three H’s — hymns, hallelujahs, and harangues. When I was in the military, I attended some Protestant services as an observer to show support for our chaplains. When I did, I always felt like a rich man gone slumming. I find Protestant services boring and infinitely inferior to the Holy Mass.

It is true that when the Protestants originally broke with the Church they created simplified rituals in the vernacular and invited the congregation to take a more active role in worship. In dialectic response, Catholics retrenched the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist and the liturgy became more clericalized. The Mass became something the priest did alone — the presence of a congregation seemed optional. As time went on, the two sides further polarized in opposite directions. I cannot imagine that anyone in the 21st century could actually think that this was something enduring and immemorial.

The Mass is a sacrament and a sacrifice. It is the public celebration and re-presentation of the completed work of Christ for our redemption. It is meant to be liturgy: public worship. It was originally meant to be a communal meal modeled on the Passover Seder, which Jesus Himself used in instituting the Eucharist. Read any good Passover Haggadah and you will see that the Seder is a family meal with the father of the household presiding in a priestly manner. At this ritual there are songs, prayers, Scripture readings, ritual questions and answers, and the shared meal of a sacrificial lamb.

The Protestants foolishly abandoned the sacrificial meaning of the rite, but Catholics de-emphasized the communal aspects. The Pauline reforms sought a better balance. What looks “Protestant” is merely less clerical and more centered on the congregation as the People of God and the Mystical Body of Christ. In adding the new emphases, it was deemed practical to eliminate some of the overt sacrificial content not essential to sacramental validity.

The changes in the Mass to which most traditionalists object are the omission of externals — prayers and actions — that in their minds emphasized the sacrificial nature of the rite. These externals were borrowed from the rites of Temple sacrifice. But they were not part of the Last Supper, which Jesus told us to use as His anamnesis or ritual memorial. What Jesus did in the Upper Room was to offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin and to inaugurate a New Covenant in His own blood. That is what is captured in the words of institution and it is, in and of itself, sufficient to make the Mass a sacrifice.

It is obvious that traditionalists will never be convinced that the Pauline reforms were a good thing for many people. This is primarily because traditionalists wish to impose their sensibilities on the entire Church, as if theirs were the only way to be Catholic. In this sense they are no better than the liturgical fascists who suppressed the Tridentine Mass in the 1970s.

We are Catholics — the Greek word katolicos literally means “unity in diversity.” We celebrate unity but not uniformity. The Pauline missal is not for everybody. Those who prefer the Tridentine Mass should have it, and John Paul II and Benedict XVI have tried to make that possible.

By the same token, the modern liturgies are perfectly orthodox and confect the same anamnesis. They have the benefits of being in the vernacular and involving the congregation more directly in the liturgy. This is not a “Protestant” thing. It is a recapturing of some aspects of the liturgy that had become obscured over time. Elitist notions that the people who love the Pauline missal are not real Catholics are unwarranted, uncharitable, and unacceptable. There is room for both traditionalist and mainstream Catholics on the Barque of Peter. Neither should despise or try to suppress the other.

Fr. Stravinskas commented that the Dialogue Masses he knew of were not what I described. My memory is quite good, and at St. Anthony’s Parish in Union City, New Jersey, what I described in my review was common at weekday Masses. I was told that these were “Dialogue Masses.” I may have been misinformed. I never saw anything like what Fr. Stravinskas described in my youth in any of the Masses I attended or served. That just goes to show that there were different customs in different places even in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The letters to the editor and reply by Arthur C. Sippo, above, are reproduced here by kind permission of New Oxford Review, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley, CA 94706.


JM said...

"Elitist notions that the people who love the Pauline missal are not real Catholics..."

Oh good grief. Sippo decries Traddie sensationalism and then reacts with the same sin? I know of no Trad who thinks supporters of the Pauline missal are de facto not *real* Catholics by virtue of that support. I do know Trads who think the Pauline missal undercuts proper doctrinal emphases, something Sippo himself ironically implies was a problem with the older Missal!

Bottom line: He protesteth too much (what a surprise, coming form an internet apologist!). The fruit of Vatican II liturgical reforms speak for themselves. Or rather moan and scream. Since their introduction the all-round retreat from a Christian understanding of Catholicism has been breathtaking. And apparently I need to repeat that since it gets glossed over all the time: Since the introduction of Vatican II reforms the retreat from a Christian understanding of Catholicism has been breathtaking. For a quick and telling reality check on that score check out America magazine now and forty years ago!

The fact that someone who can also write a substantially glowing review of R.C. Sproul's "The Truth of the Cross" can in the same pub. now come across like a Rahner or a Congar and preen so self-righteously about the goodness of the lousy Pauline reforms shows that 1) The sins and abuses of the pre-Vatican II Church were very real and very damaging (re: his boyhood masses, sins of the Fathers, anyone?); 2) Even otherwise smart people refuse to see Vatican II for the faded 60s World's Fair-like Council that it so obviously was; and 3) Pope-worship is far too entrenched in conservatives: how dare anyone suggest that least four Popes embarked on a bad campaign ... never mind that if we follow that logic, we would have to disown *them* since in terms of inerrancy and the like they disowned the four before themselves!

Sippo comes across here are far too smart and far too battle-ready for his own good. He and Weigel notwithstanding, Fellay really seems the more stand-up character in all this. Until we can all agree that Vatican II was a beautiful mess, we are to that extent guilty of religious fantasy similar to JPIIs infatuation with the Legion of Christ. Just because we want to see something there does not make it so. Excessive ambiguity is a vice in authoritative teaching. Which would make much of Vatican II less than virtuous rhetorically-speaking.

Anonymous said...

[I]in their zeal, they seem to forget that the real essence of the Mass is the consecration and that the words of institution alone confect the sacrament.

I hear this a lot when discussing the liturgy. Traditionalists, it is asserted, are fetishizing mere externals. I always respond that a priest could just come out in his golf clothes, say the words of consecration over some bread and wine, and walk right out again. It would be illicit and sacrilegious, but still a valid sacrament. Why get bent out of shape over "mere externals?"

I think this notion that we should be satisfied with bare bones validity is itself a symptom of the post-conciliar craziness. Text has become all important, while context has become a matter of indifference. It's true that I am receiving a valid sacrament whether I am dressed in my Sunday best and kneeling at the altar rail, or whether I'm in a Hawaiian shirt, shorts and sandals, receiving in the hand to the strains of "We Are Many Parts." One setting does a better job of reinforcing a Catholic habitus than the other though.

Those who knew both the old and the new liturgical forms generally prefer the new one. They feel they are more a part of the ritual and they get more out it.

We can't know for certain how much anyone "gets out" of the Mass. We do know that less than thirty percent of American Catholics fulfill their Sunday obligation every week, and even less so in Europe. It seems most Catholics don't get much out of the New Mass after all.


Ralph Roister-Doister said...

"Don’t get me wrong: I love the Tridentine Mass. But I like the Paul­ine missal as well (except for the abysmal ICEL translation, which will happily be gone soon)."

Sippo is indeed the standard issue neo-Cath internet apologist. If the new "spiritual" translation had never been made, Sippo would say:

"Don’t get me wrong: I love the Tridentine Mass. But I like the Paul­ine missal as well."

And if the Pauline Missal had been abandoned in the sixties in a happy turn of events, Sippo would be saying:

"I love the Tridentine Mass."

In other words, Sippo is a weathervane on the roof of the nearest chancery.

When Dale Vree stepped aside, NOR became dispensible in my life. Sippo is one reason why.

Sheldon said...

Asking what anyone "gets out of mass" is the wrong question, colored by a consumerist mentality. Those who assist at mass are there to worship, regardless of what they may "get out of it." The genius of Catholicism is that grace is transmitted objectively, and doesn't depend on feelings elicited or stimulated willy nilly.

"Don’t get me wrong: I love the Tridentine Mass." Don't get ME wrong, some of my best friends are African Americans.

Sheldon said...

Sippo refers to the new mass's "benefits of being in the vernacular and involving the congregation more directly in the liturgy."

What do you think he means by being "involved ... more directly"? The fact that they offer rote vernacular responses during the Psalm? The fact that they applaud after a virtuoso performance by the pianist or praise band? In what way does Sippo think those at the TLM are "involved ... LESS directly"? The fact that their responses are often mental rather than oral? The fact that their oral responses are in Latin? Please. This is infantile.

"This is not a 'Protestant' thing. It is a recapturing of some aspects of the liturgy that had become obscured over time."

Are any of you as impressed with the confidence with which Novus Ordo Catholics declare their difinitive assessments of why the TLM is inferior to the Novus Ordo? This is stunningly impressive. What courage!

And just what "aspects of the [TLM] liturgy" does Sippo believe "had become obscured over time," of which the Novus Order has succeeded in "recapturing" aspects? Perhaps the profound sacrificial essence of the liturgy? Nope, that's clearer in the TLM. Perhaps of the Real Presence in transubstantiation? Nope. That's clearer in the TLM? So then what???