Sunday, February 19, 2012
On Purposeful Misinterpretation of Vatican II
Sometimes I just plain get angry about the state of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as it is celebrated in the parishes to which I have easy access. And then I start to get angry at the people responsible for it…past and present.
Those people responsible for it right now, in the month of February, 2012, are perhaps less culpable than some of the Council Fathers at Vatican II, but they are still culpable.
I’m talking about priests and bishops, of course, because they are the ones responsible for the liturgy at the parish and diocesan level. They are the ones who are supposed to know what the rubrics say, and what the Church teaches. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states that:
…the Priest will remember that he is the servant of the Sacred Liturgy and that he himself is not permitted, on his own initiative, to add, to remove, or to change anything in the celebration of Mass. (paragraph 24; emphasis added)
That’s servant, not master.
I often hear that we should excuse our current crop of priests and bishops to some extent because they were trained wrongly in the seminary.
Well, why were they trained wrongly? Because priests and bishops who went before them did one of two things: either they failed to stand up against the uncalled-for and illicit liturgical changes that were widespread in the wake of Vatican II, or they knowingly encouraged these changes. Ignorance bred ignorance, and arrogance bred arrogance following the Council, especially with regard to liturgical matters. And we are now reaping the fruits of both.
The ones who knew, back in the days immediately following the Council, that the changes were/are wrong have that on their heads. May God have mercy on their souls.
The ones who were ignorant…well…are they to be pardoned because they were told “this is how it is now”? Maybe, to some extent. It was a lot more difficult to get a copy of the documents back then, I suppose; nowadays, the internet makes it easy.
And what of those who currently believe they are doing what the Council mandated? Are they to be excused because they just don’t know, weren’t trained, didn’t “get it”? Perhaps. But I question their ignorance. I question their failure to recognize the truth and to fight for it, for the sake of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Here’s why:
Just a year into my life as a Catholic (which began 10 years ago this Easter), I became the secretary of the Cathedral parish (no one else would take the job, and believe me, they were eventually sorry that I did!). I was suddenly exposed to a multitude of derogatory comments about our bishop, the Most Reverend Robert F. Vasa. The most scathing criticism, of course, was that he was “pre-Vatican II”.
Being a student at heart, I became curious about what that phrase really meant. And I did the unthinkable: I actually read some of the Vatican II documents – and in the process deduced that the people making the criticisms had not. I discovered that Bishop Vasa wasn’t doing anything that was “pre-Vatican II”. I even wrote a paper about it, because that’s what a student does. I didn’t have a blog, I didn’t submit the paper for publication in any well-known journal; I just wrote a paper to consolidate my thoughts and to share with anyone who expressed concerns about the bishop being “pre-Vatican II”.
Of course, I still have the paper. Looking back at it, I find it a little amusing; I was so sure that people were just a little misled and could be convinced of the truth by simply reading the documents! I said things like this (emphases not in original):
Bishop Vasa’s recent attempts to educate us regarding minor changes in the Liturgy, in compliance with the new GIRM, seem to have caused a great deal of consternation among parishioners. I am confused by the negative attitude of many. First of all, it seems to me that the “changes” are minor, and are in most cases an attempt to bring the Church back to already-established norms that have not been followed. Second, it appears to me that in most cases, when people say “The Bishop wants it his way,” they are in error. The Bishop is clearly following norms that were established for the whole Church by whatever body wrote the GIRM, and which he, by virtue of his office, is required to uphold. He is not making up new rules for us to follow! …
I researched the role of the laity in the liturgy, too, because that was another “pre-Vatican II” complaint against Bishop Vasa: he didn’t like women, they said, and always wanted male readers and servers. He was taking away the laity’s right to their various liturgical ministries! But here is what I found:
It is important to note that there is not a single chapter or subsection in this document devoted to lay people’s right or privilege to have a role in the liturgy. In the Third Instruction on the Correct Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, one section delineates the Bishop’s right to appoint lay people to help distribute communion. However, it is also stated that, “The office of administering communion belongs first to priests, then to deacons, and in some cases, to acolytes.” Interestingly, this particular post-conciliar document of Vatican II also states that “the traditional norms of the Church prohibit women (young girls, married women, religious) from serving the priest at the altar…” So, while having female altar servers may be an outgrowth of Vatican II, it is quite clearly not something that was mandated by that council.
I wrote lots more – about 3500 words altogether. I addressed the role of the laity in the liturgy, the authority of bishops, and the laity’s place in the hierarchy of the Church (because people – a priest, even! – told me that Vatican II had “turned the hierarchy upside down”). In that first, early paper, I didn’t address things like ad orientem worship, the posture for receiving Holy Communion, or sacred music. But I did read about them, and found the current state of the liturgy in my parish sadly wanting.
Now, if I, as a new convert to Catholicism, with absolutely no knowledge of Vatican II, could read a few hundred pages and discover that turning the altar around was not mandated, dismantling altar rails was not mandated, and folk music with guitars was not mandated, then why couldn’t a priest, with all his education and training, come to the same conclusion?
As for the use of Latin, sometimes I would like to wring a few necks with their own priestly collars. You don’t have to read too many pages to find that Latin was not “abolished” by Vatican II. You don’t have to read very far to find that the laity is supposed to know the Latin ordinary of the Mass! These things are no-brainers. And yet they continue to be ignored – no, wait – not just ignored, but denigrated, down-played, and denied!
On the other hand, Anne Muggeridge, in The Desolate City, says things about the machinations of “progressives” and “radicals” during the Council that are sickening in their deceitfulness and heretical nature. For instance, she notes that ambiguous language was purposefully used in some of the documents, and at least one of the many periti at the Council said, “We are stating this in a diplomatic manner, but after the Council we shall draw the conclusions implicit in it” (p. 63). And even though Pope Paul VI took some steps to insert more authoritative and compelling language into the documents (particularly regarding the issue of “collegiality”), after the Council “it was the minority, radical and officially rejected view that became the doctrinal norm” (p. 63).
Perhaps in the end, then, it really isn’t the fault of today’s priests that they have been wrongly inculcated as to the content of the documents of Vatican II. There were apparently some very powerful forces at work. Unfortunately, they seem to be continuing their devious work today.
Maybe the “Year of Faith” will help to reverse the trend. If the Vatican II documents are actually re-read and studied by laity and clergy alike – as has been advertised – perhaps some light will be shed on the deviations we currently experience but which were not at all intended by the Council Fathers. And perhaps corrections will be made.
One can…must…always hope.