Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Ordinariness of the Ordinary Form: the sins of the people

There is an interesting debate swirling around blogdom about the problems of the Ordinary Form at the moment sparked by a talk by a keynote to the US Church Music Association by Msgr Andrew Wadsworth, Executive Director of ICEL.

Liturgical abuses in the Ordinary Form

At one level there is nothing new about what he is saying: it is pretty much an apologia for the reform of the reform agenda.

What is unusual, even controversial though, is his acknowledgment of the widespread presence of abuses in the celebration of the OF. 

Indeed, as Fr Tim Finigan's entertaining commentary on the talk points out, he is criticising is the Ordinary Form as it is typically celebrated, even at major events like the recent Dublin Eucharistic Congress.  Indeed, he provides a detailed list of liturgical abuses that took place in the closing mass of the Congress!

In particular, Mgr Wadsworth calls for the enforcement of the actual General Instructions on the Roman Missal:

"I think we have to ask such questions and indeed to surmise that the influence of former barons of the liturgical establishment has found a new and conspicuous arena of activity in which to model their example of poor liturgy. There can be no talk of the reform of the Roman Rite until the GIRM is enforced as the minimum requirement. If it remains a largely fantasy text at the beginning of our altar missals then 'the rebuilding of the broken down city' will take a very long time."

OF vs EF

Some would argue that the difficulties in conveying a sense of God-centred worship, of transcendence, as opposed to self-worship, are inherent in the Ordinary Form, the result of deliberate attempts to destroy the faith. 

That may be so, but we should, in my view, put the motivations of the liturgical revolutionaries to one side: in the God's protection of the Church must protect her liturgy from error, and that protection surely extends beyond the mere validity of the sacrament.  Indeed, one only has to attend a well-celebrated OF Mass somewhere like the Brompton Oratory to know that it is possible to celebrate it in a manner in keeping with the tradition of the Church.

Unsurprisingly though, those of a certain generation don't much like even the mildest attempts to make the mass more reverent,  as a A Priest Downunder has found.
The abuses of the people
Indeed, one of the curious things about the typical OF Mass is that many of the liturgical abuses are actually effected by the congregation not the priest (albeit typically either actively encouraged or at the very least uncorrected by him).
Last week I started a series on common liturgical abuses, so here is today's list, focusing on one's on the part of the congregation that I encounter pretty regularly...
1.  Wrong words for the responses
Yep, there is always someone who insists on continuing to use the old version of the Missal rather than the currently approved one.  The odd mistake is one thing; refusal to learn or use the new ones is an abuse. 
2.  Rushing around the Church at the sign of peace.
Now I admit that the sign of peace is one of my pet hates at the best of time, as it completely disrupts the most solemn part of the Mass.  It is optional, and I wish more priests would take the option of not including it, especially at weekday masses!
But what is absolutely an abuse is the meandering around the Church and chatting that so often occurs at this point of the Mass.  Redemptionis Sacramentum instructs:
"It is appropriate “that each one give the sign of peace only to those who are nearest and in a sober manner”."
3.  Use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion
  All of the legislation on the use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion make it clear that they are only to be used in unusual circumstances.  If there are other priests, deacons or instituted acolytes present, they should distribute communion, not EMs.  A prolongation of the Mass is not in itself enough to justify their use: only a really long delay.
Yet these days it is hard to find a mass at which there are not several, even at poorly attended weekday masses!
One of the most common reasons for the use of EMs seems to be to provide communion under both kinds.  Yet that seems insufficient to justify it: communion under both kinds is supposed to be restricted to Sundays and major feasts according to GIRM, and while bishops can in Australia give permission for a wider use,  it is not obvious that the desire to provide communion under both kinds justifies the use of EMs. 
Indeed the Instruction Redemptionis Sacrmentum states that:
"Only out of true necessity is there to be recourse to the assistance of extraordinary ministers in the celebration of the Liturgy. Such recourse is not intended for the sake of a fuller participation of the laity but rather, by its very nature, is supplementary and provisional...Indeed, the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may administer Communion only when the Priest and Deacon are lacking, when the Priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason, or when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged. This, however, is to be understood in such a way that a brief prolongation, considering the circumstances and culture of the place, is not at all a sufficient reason." (151, 158)
4.  Self-intinction and related abuses
Self-intinction is a very serious abuse indeed, such that Sacramentum Redemptionis instructs that if there is any risk of it occurring, communion under both kinds should not be offered at all.
Yet for a while I saw it happening at virtually every mass in my parish.  And it was dealt with, not by discontinuing Communion in both kinds, but by inserting an instruction in the parish bulletin on how to receive Holy Communion (together with a quite erroneous assertion as to the virtues of communion in the hand).
5. Disregard of the conditions for reception of Holy Communion
One only assume that most modern congregations are composed entirely of saints given the short duration of confession times at most churches.
6.  Use of canned music
This was banned long ago (with only a very limited exception for children's masses), and there is no reason to think that the older legislation on this subject has been overturned.  Yet one of the evening masses in my parish has a ministry of the sacred cd button pusher...


Rob Stove said...

I loved, in particular, your remark about modern congregations presumably consisting of none but saints.

There's a rather cruel anecdote from post-Reconquista Spain about a priest saying to one layman who, while happy enough to avail himself of communion, avoided the confessional at all costs: "Since you have never sinned, I should like to have a piece of your garment for a relic to hear the sick". (The reason the layman eschewed the sacrament of penance was, according to the anecdote, that he was in fact practising Jewish rites at home when the government was terrified of a fifth column within the post-1492 church. But this obviously isn't the case with the Kim Kardashian school of theology which dominates among the Australian faithful. I have seen at least one Melbourne communicant approach the altar with bare feet.)

A Canberra Observer said...

A good post.

But I doubt this will change in Australia for a very long time. None of the gravitational or driving forces seem to exist to effect a change. As you note, the great bulk of the clergy, irrespective of their orthodoxy or otherwise, are willing participants in the Aussie Ordinary Form praxis - one day cricket or backyard barbie, everyone gets a bat.

The reformers (wreckers) did their job very well here.

Anonymous said...

The reality is that the wreckers - both protestant and catholic - did their work very well in the 16th - 19th centuries. Most Australian churches were never designed for the proper celebration even of the old liturgy.

Despite their many good points, the Jesuits, and through them, the counter-reformation can be thanked for that.

Pugin was a prophet.

+ Wolsey

Innocent III said...

I agree with your assessment. I am an acolyte at mt parish. Our priest is personally quite orthodox (apart from his obsessive ecuminism) but the congregation simply follows its own rules. In some of the country churches I have succeeded in restricting the ablutions to the priest and/or acolyte but in the parish churh EMs regard themselves as surrogate priests, washing their hands (though they don't handle the host), cleansing the chalices and before I came, fetching the reserved sacrament from the tabernacle. They see themselves as Ordinary rather than Extraordinary Ministers. Self intinction is rife throughout the parish as well. Should the priest make a stand there would be an outcry among these parishioners. Change will sadly be slow in coming.

Matthias said...

"Rushing around the Church at the sign of peace" I think that this is more pertinent in Anglican than Catholic churches

PM said...

And with the butchering of the Canberra School of Music, the CD button pressers won't have any competition from ractionary airy-fairy arty elitists. Who needs chant or Palestrina when you have karaoke Come As You Are.

Maureen said...

Not so, Matthias; I have had the rather confronting experience of being grabbed by the shoulder and swung around to face a hearty and loud parishioner, bent on shaking my hand come what may......
It's what keeps me away from the local church.I simply cannot cope with it.

Rob Stove said...

PM refers to the "butchering of the Canberra School of Music".

Hmmmmm. Pace PM, I increasingly wonder - and I speak as one who signed a pro-School-of-Music online petition when the kerfuffle began - if that punitive action is really relevant, either to sacred music in this country more generally, or to the specific ACT situation (where I'm an outsider). Overall, Australian music - in terms of both performers and composers – had done at least as well before the School of Music's existence as it has done since.

But of course in the standard tabloid narrative, the institution counts for everything and the individual musician counts for nothing. If this narrative (which I suppose is Frankfurt-School-Marxist in its origins, like most of today’s cognitive junk) were to be believed when it came to European music, Berlioz and Debussy and Franck and Fauré and Ravel and Roussel and Widor and Messiaen would never have existed without the Paris Conservatoire. Yeah, riiiiiiiiight.

I cannot claim myself to have experienced anything as untoward during the Sign of Peace as Maureen unfortunately did. For me it is the compulsory ritual itself which is irksome, rather than particular yahoo variations upon it.

A Canberra Observer said...

The comments about the Canberra School of Music make me think of something else. (I too doubt the CSM existence or not has any bearing on church music - if it did chances are it would be atonal modern composition not something from the the treasury).

There is no widespread appreciation of the history, repertoire or role of music in the liturgy, and that it shoul be a unit not a pastiche. I think this is particularly true of the clergy, as they should know better. The modern phenomenon of music ministries and liturgical consultants are I conclude uneducated and captive to modern music publishing houses and protestant ideas.

This country, outside of a few of the catedrals has nothing. Noone suggests that there is some perfection to strive for - that would also run into the anti-intellectual 'feelings' approach of most Australian Catholics. And what of the TLMs - there are too few and the general catachesis of the OF adherents also seems very hit and miss on music. My observation is that some of the TLMs exert a gravitational pull/influence around them while others do not.

As to the sign of peace, I too find it galling - the fact that everyone expects and INSISTS that you shake their hand is infuriating. It doesn't need to be physically accosting to be very distressing.

I have remarked before that the praxis surrounding extraordinary ministers in so many ordinary parishes actualy serves to considerably lengthen the distribution of communion. The Ecce Agnus Dei also becomes something of a spectacle as the sanctuary is first invaded (in an ad hoc way) then the altar surrounded by the platoon of EMs staring on in various poses, and in not infrequently a kaleidescope of dress styles (some inappropriate). The communions of the EMs, always under both species, takes an age.
And the postcommunion ablutions phase IS almost always a spectacle.

It doesn't help one keep the faith that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, the sign of peace - if we it is necessary - could be just a nod to the ones on your left and your right.

Catherine said...

It was my impression that the introduction of the option of the Apostles Creed was to be used once in a while. Some priests seem to be using the Apostles Creed exclusively and not using the Nicene Creed at all. Given that so many holy men and women suffered for the truth so that the Nicene Creed could be formed, it really bothers me that it is being neglected to this extent.