Reform Coming?

When it comes to liturgy, the newly ordained associate pastor is a by-the-book kind of guy. “Be a real Catholic,” he keeps saying. “Follow the Pope, not your misguided local customs.” The pastor, an older priest, likes those local customs. “We need more flexibility,” he says, “not more uniformity.” The young guys coming out of seminary are a different breed than their elders. People talk of a generation gap between priests. The year is 1585.

Is it always this confusing after an ecumenical council?

After the Council of Trent, innovations like the printing press made it possible for the first time to have uniform liturgical books all across Europe. Other innovations followed, such as – can you imagine? – a new Vatican office to supervise the liturgy in every diocese. One of the biggest innovations of all was the seminary. Wild-eyed reformers pushed through the new-fangled idea that young men training to be priests would live in community and receive a theological education. And learn the rubrics of the newly-standardized liturgical books.

One can imagine young priests in 1585 over beer:
“You wouldn’t believe my old pastor. Every Sunday of the year he intones a sequence before the Gospel as if it’s still 1540 and then he gets everyone to join in a vernacular hymn. Has he ever studied the new 1570 missal? Doesn’t he know there are only four sequences now?”
“You wonder whether those old guys ever look at the rubrics.”
“Or whether they even know how to read Latin.”
“Yeah, it’s hard to find time for Latin rubrics when you’re busy with your wife and kids.”
“You know, that still bothers me. So many of the old guys married their mistresses when Lutheranism was spreading, so the archbishop grandfathered them in, so to speak, and said that celibacy would start with us.”
“Well, don’t worry, we’re the future. Our generation will restore holiness and good order to the priesthood and to the liturgy. Just like they taught us in seminary.”

* * *

It’s 1540, back in the days before seminaries. Two priests are talking about corruption and reform in the Church. The younger priest, 17, is in the reformist party. (His uncle is an abbot.) The older priest, 21, defends the status quo. (His father is a bishop.)

The first priest says the time will come when the entire Roman curia is reformed and new departments are established, but the other insists this will never happen.  The first predicts they will do away with the office of indulgence seller, but the other doubts it will ever come to that. The first is animated about talk of a vernacular liturgy, but the other is sure the Roman church will never countenance that. The first priest is excited. The second is defensive.

* * *

I suppose we forget how relatively calm things are in the Roman Catholic Church in 2010 compared to the 16th century. Still, some of the cries for reform are getting louder. Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna recently said that the Church needs to reconsider its position on re-married divorcees, lasting gay relationships deserve respect, Cardinal Sodano wrongly covered up sex abuse, and the Roman curia is urgently in need of reform. Joseph Bottum, Fr. Neuhaus’s successor at First Things, bluntly called for Cardinal Sodano’s removal. Today Bishop Iby in Burgenland, Austria expressed support for the elimination of mandatory celibacy and said that the ordination of women will need to be considered further in the future. On May 2nd the Austrian Pastors’ Initiative, which has 327 priests and deacons as members and supporters, called on Pope Benedict either to let an independent entity investigate his handling of sex abuse or to resign from office. Their strongly worded resolution calls for an ecumenical council and a reform of the “present absolutist structure of the Church.”

Pray Tell declines to take a position on most of these reform proposals and doesn’t necessarily support any of them. But we think it’s important to keep you informed. It seems to us that we’re in an interesting time of turmoil and ferment, and the more voices which are heard, the better. Go talk it over with your fellow Christians. But keep it friendly – maybe do it over a beer.






41 responses to “Reform Coming?”

  1. Peter Haydon Avatar
    Peter Haydon

    I am not sure that you are wise to quote The Tablet about Cardinal Schönborn. See the post on the St Mary Magdalene blogspot which links to a post by Father Joseph Fessio SJ on Reuters faithworld.
    I am sure you are right to put our current issues in the perspective of history. We will be history one day.
    When bored you might like to read “The English Pub A history” by Peter Haydon (no relation) which tells you much about beer.

  2. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
    Anthony Ruff, OSB

    Hi Peter – I agree that the Tablet in this case sensationalized his remarks, so I tried to convey his strong remarks but not the Tablet’s overinterpretation. I think Fessio’s defense is so slanted that it lacks credibility, frankly.

  3. Paul F Ford Avatar

    Bene dictum, Benedictine.

  4. Peter Haydon Avatar
    Peter Haydon

    Salve Father
    Yes, The Tablet may well have got this wrong. Not having been present at the meeting I do not know what was said and neither do those who have commented on it. We are dependent on accurate reporting.
    Secular journalists may be excused misunderstanding. One should be able to rely on a Catholic publication to get it right. I suspect that the rise of blogs reflects dissatisfaction with established publications.
    Meanwhile I believe that the Rule of St Benedict allows each monk some wine each day. At Worth a quantity of beer was substituted. As you say, a key means of keeping discussions friendly.

  5. Fr. Allan McDonald Avatar

    I’m beginning to think I am an aging dinosaur, but much of the content of Fr. Anthony’s post in terms of the calls for reform today was being heard in the 1960’s and 70’s. There’s nothing new except the context of knowing about the moral decline or bankruptcy of some in the hierarchy and in the priesthood, not to mention religious life. Today’s modern media especially the internet lets us know things instantly. I suspect in the 1500’s news was rather parochial and moved at a snail’s pace. But between 1976 to ’80, my seminary professors taught us that we’d have a structure for the liturgy, but no hard and fast prayers or rubrics, women would be ordained and maybe we could call any good “Christian” from the congregation to lead the Mass. Celibacy would be entirely optional, depending on one’s mood (just kidding, although not really!), the Church would be totally egalitarian and democratic and there would be no more Christian division but diverse unity. Last night many of my kids being confirmed responded to the bishop when he confirmed them, “Et cum spiritu tuo!” when he said, “Peace be with you!” 9th graders! Now that’s reform!!!! And you know it instantly, from Macon, GA!

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      I think I hear you saying that we can ignore the whole thing and it will go away, because you heard the same thing in the 70s and it went away that time. Do you mean to do damage control because you don’t want the reformers to be heard? That’s how it’s coming across to me.

      1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        To the extent today’s conservatives rely (however subconsciously) on a sense of providential inevitability, they will get to repeat the mistakes of those of whom they unpleasantly remember.

      2. Ioannes Andreades Avatar
        Ioannes Andreades

        Perhaps inevitability, but perhaps inevitability in the way that a pendulum swings. My hunch is that conservatism will continue to get stronger before it gets weaker, but how long will that last? Will I still be around? Will there eventually be a uniform equilibrium in the liturgy or will there always be a bell-curve of liturgical diversity?

        There is an inevitability among liberals too, however. “Progress” appears to be made on fronts such as gay marriage and reproductive rights, and many vow never to go back. In my experience, liberals (at least policical) seem to have a much more linear view of progress and conservatives a more cyclical one (or perhaps a zero-sum view): yes, we’ve made progress on civil rights but we took several steps back with abortion. Yes, there was progress on introducing the vernacular in parts of the mass, but we took a step back with ditching Latin almost altogether.

        Your caution about repeating mistakes is welcome.

    2. Fr. Allan McDonald Avatar

      Like me, the prophets of old, meaning the faculties of seminaries in the 1970’s are the aging and dying dinosaurs, although I am o so young at heart! We need to look at the havoc they wreaked upon the Church that in no small way has led to where we are today because they influenced bishops and priests for at least two decades. When I speak of optional celibacy and letting it all hang out, I mean exactly that and it is no small co-incidence that the highest rate of abuse of teen age boys by priests occurred in the 1970’s. Who do you blame, Pope Paul VI and his minions, or the minions of the seminary staffs and the so-called renewal of priesthood of this period. We’re recovering from the silly season of 30 to 50 years ago, with it devastating results only now coming to light from the media reporting on old history of that period. We don’t need to go back to that stupid stuff and way of thinking, but move forward with the faith of the Church and not some neo-Protestant concoction or wishful thinking. So bring to light what the period of the 1960’s and 70’s actually did to the identity of Catholic priests, religious and the laity and don’t sweep that under the carpet.

      1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
        Anthony Ruff, OSB

        So, there was less abuse back when the Church was still the Church? I don’t buy it. Authoritarian structures (along with other things, like sin) enable abuse, which is why it happened so much down through the centuries.
        So, if we all get over the silliness and get serious, we’ll reduce the incidence of abuse? Maybe, but the example of serious Catholics like Padre Gino Burresi and Marcial Maciel and Fr. Ryan Erickson suggests otherwise.
        So, collegiality and accountability and things like local election of bishops (which I don’t necessarily support but think worth discussing) would make us neo-Protestant? That would mean that the Catholic Church was neo-Protestant for many centuries of the first millenium.
        With all due respect, I don’t buy your way of fitting data into a broad historical scheme.

      2. Fr. Allan McDonald Avatar

        I think the statistics of the John Jay report would show there was more abuse of teenagers in the 1970’s then any other period and that there are correlations to what was happening in the Church and our culture at the time. In terms of true pedophilia which is not the major problem in the priesthood I suspect there is a constant in terms of this pathology over the course of time. Of course, the issue of “cover-up” or not being transparent complicated the hierarchy’s “management” of these problems. Now in terms of speculative theology, apart from abuse and its cover up or mismanagement by bishops and even the Vatican, I suspect we could hash out once again pastoral sensitivity to divorced and remarried Catholics, homosexuals in stable unions, married priests (I had one for 14 years as my parochial vicar, by the way) electing bishops, parishes hiring and firing their own priests, talking about gender neutering the sacraments and God, (although the word god is male, female is goddess) as well as parent, spouse and church. But where does it get us and how does it help all of us to live our everyday life in the real world and the real Church? Do we really want to be Anglican? Are they our role model today?

      3. J Thomas Avatar
        J Thomas

        The John Jay study reports an increase in abuse during the 60s and 70s following cultural trends. It also reports that the majority of abusers were trained in the seminary system of the 30’s 40’s and 50’s. What some people contend is a model of ecclesial life to be returned to. Its rather dubious to associate what you perceive as the “silly season” of seminary formation in the 60’s – 80’s with dynamics set in place decades earlier. In fact, its probably more the case that the “silly season” addressed human formation in a more realistic and human manner and thus contributed to the precipitous decline of abuse cases taking place in the 80’s 90’s 00’s.

        Not mentioned by Dom Ruff, but just as significant, is the recent speech by the Archbishop of Dublin, ,in which he addresses the immanent and dire need for institutional reform – especially the decimation of clericalism. Some of his proposals sure sound like issues being raised during “silly…

      4. Fr. Allan McDonald Avatar

        J Thomas, you are confirming my thesis about the 1960’s and 70’s, it would be those who were trained under a more disciplined approach who, when Pandora’s box was opened went wild. It would be the age group of ordination you highlight. These were the most influenced by the silly season along with those in the seminary at the point, but it was the priests not the seminarians that were out of control. But it would also have been the recently ordained of that period too. The fact is the 1970’s had the highest number of “known” abusers, of teen age boys. By known–being made known in 2004 by the John Jay study.

      5. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        Fr McDonald,

        I think you may be confusing peak years of abuse cases with the ordination years of the abusing priests. The profile of abusers in the JJR indicates that the 1950s and 1960s were the peak ordination decades of the abusers as a group. It would seem the top of the curve (for years of ordination) would be in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In Boston, for example, it was the classes of the early 1960s that became most infamous.

      6. Fr. Allan McDonald Avatar

        Karl, the question is not the class year, but when they became infamous. Not all cases of abuse are pathological cases, but cases of immorality and lack of impulse control, or a lack of maturity. I suspect that those trained in the pre-Vatican II model fit well into a more controlled, structured environment of being told what to do and when, so when all this was lifted or collapsed, they were the most immature ones to deal with new freedoms. Again, I’m not advocating a return to immature control, but authentic renewal and maturity. I’m not advocating for the Legionaries of Christ model of discipline as all!

  6. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    Yes, the inadequacies of church managers at all levels are the key new data. Management, i.e. the ability to control aspects of an organization, needs to be distinguished from leadership, the ability to influence others. The history of Catholicism suggests poor management has been abundant and a constant problem but good leaders have usually arisen to influence the Church sometimes from within management but often from outside.

    Greenleaf in Servant Leadership suggests wise followers who only follow servant leaders are as important as servant leaders themselves. A healthy skepticism about the biases and motivations of our priests, bishops, and Popes is essential to good discipleship. Like Jesus we must be willing to say to Peter “that is human thinking not godly thinking.” A healthy skepticism of managers and would be leaders could be a good outcome of the sexual abuse cover-up.

  7. Todd Flowerday Avatar

    I grow weary of the cutesy arguments that attempt to connect immorality with Church reform. If such platitudes weren’t made in ignorance they’d be sinful. The reality is that human beings are sinful, no matter what age, rite, or political persuasion they might be. So can we please get off the adolescent schtick about how immoral the 70’s were and how virtuous the self-styled orthodox are today?

    I became a Catholic in 1970, missing much of the fun of the early days of renewal. But I can thank Vatican II for inspiring a fairly open pastor who made it possible for me to be baptized on what was then a rather unorthodox route.

    My honest take is that the curia didn’t want reform and still doesn’t. Others in places to make a difference, perhaps like our last two popes, flinched at opportunities, and seemed/seem content with what is, for them, a comfortable status quo. To paraphrase: Catholic reform didn’t fail so much as was blundered and fumbled a good bit from the top down.

    We still need to complete a sound liturgical reform: texts with an eye to poetic proclamation, singing, and the good qualities of the Catholic vernaculars around the world. We need a harmonized Missal, not a Latin rump retranslated with fingers crossed.

    Benedict’s overlooked Hermeneutic of Obstruction is now ascendant. But I don’t think the Holy Spirit has abandoned us just because much of the hierarchy is fearful and seems to have neglected their God-given mission.

  8. Bill deHaas Avatar

    Need to do your homework – from the John Jay Report:
    The researchers have compiled graphs by regions of US – years are below and cases are to the left.

    Some highlights – highest number of cases were in years 11960; 1968; 1969; 1970; 1973 thru 1984 – all these years had 300+ cases.
    Keep in mind – most priest abusers from this data where ordained 5 or more years. Thus, cases before 1974 were abusers who attended college/theology seminaries in the 1960’s or earlier. So, at least 50% of abusers were trained before the 1970’s and if you study the individual cases you will see that the largest number of priest abusers (more like 70%) were trained pre-1970.

    So much for the silly 70’s & 80’s are for those trying to lay the “blame” on Vatican II.

    Keep in mind that the John Jay Report is very conservative – the older the case or year, the more we know that victims have not come…

    1. Fr. Allan McDonald Avatar

      Bill, we’re not really just talking about seminaries or seminarians at this point in time but everyone who was set free from traditional Catholic morality by the sexual revolution. Everyone in the Church was learning anew during this period, not just seminarians. Everyone was experimenting, not just seminary faculties. Sin has always been around, but even the concept of sin was forsaken in this period. Read the book, “Whatever Became of Sin” by Karl Mininger who wrote it in the late 60’s or very early 70’s. This affected all religions, not just Christianity. Finally, I’m not denigrating authentic renewal of Vatican II, just the silly experimentation that followed which in no way came from Vatican II but the spirit of the world at that time. I’m not advocating a pre-Vatican II seminary regime or priesthood, but seminaries and a priesthood that lead to maturity in all areas, theological, doctrinal, sexual, etc. The spirit of Vatican II that led to all kinds of experimentation is what I’m decrying and what some today seem to be seeking a return, what I call the same old, same old.

      1. Lynn Thomas Avatar
        Lynn Thomas

        Fr. Allan,
        How are we to validate what’s good [or not so good] about the ‘old ways’ if we don’t experiment with new, as in the 60s and 70s? OK, some of the new didn’t work out so well, but some did. Of course the earliest ventures away from the ‘traditional’ approaches were often weird – they were the first ventures away from a pretty static way of doing things and folks were often uncertain, but there’s much truth in the saying “If we knew what we were doing it wouldn’t be research!”

        Given some time, things matured. Surprise, surprise.

        As to the ‘spirit of the world at that time’ it had some good qualities, too. The civil rights movement comes to mind…

      2. Fr. Allan McDonald Avatar

        Lynn, at my age and having been there and done that, I have no nostalgia for the 1960’s or the 1970’s. I enjoyed most of it during my academic endeavors at that time. But since becoming a pastor, and in the ensuing 30 years my interests have been more in terms of providing a classic liturgy that allows my parishioners to experience God who draws us unto Himself (excuse me, God’s Self). I also would like to help my parishioners to live their Catholic faith in a land where we are very much the minority, to be witnesses to the Catholic faith at home, at work and at play. Very few of my parishioners are interested in the politics of the Church, they want to experience God, be nourished and find strength to carry the cross that has been given them. I try to tow the line in terms of the teaching of the Church and doing what I promised I’d be obedient to do. But I am pastorally rather liberal in dealing with people and their particular faith journey, but they know where I stand and where the Church stands and I tell them what the Church teaches is out in the open for all to find, they don’t need my personal opinion on anything.

  9. Todd Flowerday Avatar

    “Everyone” invokes a convenient caricature. And “silliness” was by no means an exclusive quality of the post-conciliar Church. My Protestant parents were declined as adoptive parents of a Catholic girl before I was born. The Protestant-raised kids ended up Catholic before we hit adolescence, and the Catholic girl ended up a born-again evangelical. Silly, silly priest in charge of a silly, silly 1950’s pre-conciliar Catholic Charities.

    I think we can all agree that silliness and immorality is bad. Then we move on to the reality that post-conciliar reform was luke-warm in many areas and needs to be addressed with vigor.

  10. William Henry Avatar
    William Henry

    Perhaps a too close association with Catholic clergy who do not “go by the book” has been toxic for some of us. Below a link to today’s edition of “Inside Catholic” for our edification. “Sewage Detox” by Anthony Esolen:

  11. Shawn Phillips Avatar
    Shawn Phillips

    We also need to look at the JJay study a bit carefully. Only the victims that have come forward are counted. This group of young people in the ’70’s have come forward and not until the ’90’s did those folks come forward. They came forward because society changed, first in the law. When the laws were changed in different states the statute of limitations was lifted for one year which allowed all of these folks that were abused to come forward. I think we have a group of earlier abuses in which many people did not come forward. We have current abuses going on in which young people have not been identified and may not for years. Abuse is very difficult to identify. Yes we have some transparency, better boundaries, and better ways to report and identify, but abuse still continues, in our Church, in our schools, in our society, and has little to do with liturgical reform.

  12. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    Does reform come for the center? The case has been made that new religious orders in Catholicism accomplish the renewal done by way of new sects in Protestantism. According to this theory, both sects and religious orders recast older values in ways relevant to the new situation.

    I see both sects and religious orders as peripheral reform movements that are more effective because they mobilize lukewarm and uncommitted grassroots people better than central initiatives (e.g. Trent, Vatican II) that largely change the behavior of core people.

    Peripheral movements since Vatican II have been very diverse: the parish ministry movement in the USA; a variety of extra-parish movements in Europe, the base community movement in Latin America, the growth of priests and religious in Africa, charismatic movement activity here and there around the world.

    Peripheral rather than central change movements are the likely future.

  13. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    Catholicism is a huge church in a very diverse world. One size fits all policies on liturgy, married clergy, women are unlikely to be the future, even if decided by a council rather than the pope and/or bureaucrats. The challenge is coordinating peripheral movements and policy adaptations for the whole church.

    The key is the top management structure reform: a new way of selecting the Pope, new ways of selecting bishops; term limits rather than age limits for pope and bishops, reform of the curia as the executive, and reform of bishops synods as the policy arm of the management.

    The poor management of the sexual abuse issue by bishops and Rome has placed this issue in the forefront. If top management successfully restructured itself, they, Catholicism and indeed Christianity might all come out ahead as a much needed model for corporate and governmental reform.

  14. Eric Pederson Avatar
    Eric Pederson

    If I read Mr. Rakosky correctly, he is proposing an alternate universe and reality than what exists and will exist in the future. Take a look at the younger priests and seminarians both in the U.S. and worldwide. I submit that the vast majority of them would not be in favor of the structural reforms proposed. If anything, these men will make today’s “conservative” look like a moderate in comparison. These are the men who will be bishops and popes in the future and making those decisions.

    Does anyone honestly believe that 10 years from now or even 50 years from now that there will be married priests en masse, female priests, radically new ways of choosing the Pope and bishops and so on? I think to say “yes” is to live in fantasyland.

    1. Jeffrey Herbert Avatar
      Jeffrey Herbert

      If anything, these men will make today’s “conservative” look like a moderate in comparison


      This has been my experience this past year. The new seminarians being ordained this year are so completely different from anything I’ve seen for the past 25 years.

      I am currently directing the music for the First Mass of one of our seminarians. Latin Introit, Missa De Angelis Ordinary, English language Antiphons for Offertory and Communion with two classic hymns (O God Almighty Father and Holy God We Praise Thy Name) as Processional and Recessional with “Adoro Te Devote” during communion after the Antiphon.
      May also be saying Mass ad orientem (haven’t made the final decision on that yet).

      The first “First Mass” I played for in 1985 – the big decision was whether the “music group” would stand around the altar behind the Priest, and whether we would “clap along” on C Landry’s “Come and Go With Me”. We’ve indeed come a long way.

  15. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    I think you have read my posts which were largely about organizational structures and social processes in terms of values and policy issues. My posts were largely about not confusing the two, becoming better aware of the social processes, and even tinkering with social structures to better manage the value and policy issues.

    In terms of people (clergy, religious, laity) there is simply an enormous diversity among a billion people. Both liberals and traditionalists who think any policies, or structures will eliminate or paper over that diversity are living in an unreal world. The recently “retired” bishop of Scranton tried to live in an unreal world of his own values, and didn’t succeed.

    I see a lot of young priests today regardless of their values are having a very difficult time adjusting as parochial vicars in large parishes where the women pastoral associates are more essential to the parish and the pastor. Not sure how many are going to stay the course, or how their experiences will shape their future if they stay.

    1. Fr. Christopher Costigan Avatar
      Fr. Christopher Costigan

      I know this is a sidebar and I am pretty sure this is not how you meant the last paragraph, but any parish where a pastoral associate is more “essential” than a priest probably has some theological issues. I am not putting down the work anyone does, but I am sure everyone here would agree that the liturgy is the most essential thing any parish (any Christian) can do–more important than any religious ed or adult ed, social ministry or any other worthy endeavors. If the priest is seen as “just another staff member,” perhaps the pastor and staff should rethink the issue.

      1. Jack Rakosky Avatar
        Jack Rakosky

        Yes, I am sure no one would want to lose the priest and have less opportunities for Mass, but the reality is that the person whom everybody is likely to go for all the mundane affairs that are “essential” is the pastorial associate. They also often have networks of volunteers stretching over years that the parish depends upon. Its often very difficult for a new priest to figure everything out in a large parish. Even pastors who are wonderful mentors to young priests often find it difficut to help them find their way. I think everyone is sympathetic to them and wants them to succeed; we sure don’t want to lose any more priests. But it is not easy for them to assume anything close to the pastor’s role; although I have meet a few that come very close for being so new to it, but ordination does not seem to give that charism to many.

  16. Lynn Thomas Avatar
    Lynn Thomas

    @ Currently #21 [the “REPLY” button didn’t appear?]
    Father Allan,

    I understand what you said in your response to my reply, but I cannot find therein an answer to my question, which was about the need to experiment and test new ideas, as happened roughly 40 years ago. I don’t think I suggested nostalgia for those days; I was only offering that we should be careful in our judgment of them, as what was happening was by way of experiment and trial, with the further observation that things improved as the new forms matured.

    1. Fr. Allan McDonald Avatar

      Lynn you could say that about the EF Mass as a new experimentation. I never thought in a million years that I’d be celebrating two forms of the one Roman Rite, but I’ve been experimenting with it for the last three years and so have some of my parishioners and countless others throughout the world. It’s becoming a part of us again. Is this experiment to help us with the OF Mass which is the normal Mass we celebrate? Time will tell and I would say it already is telling in the sense that I hope that most places are celebrating the Mass the best way they can, not to please a particular constituent, since that’s not what we are as the people of God, but to please God by choosing through our free will to be drawn into His love and majesty which He enables by His grace. We don’t do it, He does. We only respond.

      1. Lynn Thomas Avatar
        Lynn Thomas

        Fr. Allan,
        I share your hope that most places are celebrating Mass the best way that they can. I remain utterly unconvinced that there is one, and only one, definition of ‘best way’, but I’m not at all sure you were suggesting that anyway. My sense is that some folks do think that there is only one ‘best way’, but I should probably not worry overmuch about that just now.

        Empirical evidence is wonderful stuff. If celebrating more than one form of the Mass aids your parishoners in attending and doing their best to please God, by all means, do it! Personally, I don’t find the EF all that engaging, but I have no wish to deny it to others who do.

      2. Fr. Allan McDonald Avatar

        Lynn,the EF Mass is offered at odd times and you have to really want to go to get it in my parish; I haven’t taken over any of the OF Mass times for the EF for daily or Sunday Mass. For me at this point it is like belonging to a prayer group, I’m celebrating it because it has helped to deepen my spirituality, piety, reverence and appreciation for the Mass, now in both forms and it has influenced the way I celebrate the OF Mass now and the way I celebrate the EF Mass is influenced by some aspects of the OF way of doing things. But don’t report me! To be quite honest, it’s nice have a two varieties, I’m a child of choice! It breaks the monotony and what can become rote or routine celebrating Mass every day and sometimes more than once a day and several times on Sunday.

  17. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    One could also think of experimentation in the social science tradition of systematically varying one thing while holding every thing else constant in order to assess its impact on people. For example some people are suggesting the propers be used with either Latin or English chant. The impact of this one change would be easier to assess if every thing else were constant.

    One of the advantages (and sometimes a disadvantage) of the EF is its constancy. One of the disadvantages (but sometimes an advantage) of the OF is its flexibility. I think a key problem with the implementation of the OF in most parishes is introducing too much variety, rather than finding stable hymns, formats, etc. that produce a sense of ritual.

    The research literature on music and many other things suggests most people like slight to moderate novelty more than either no novelty or great novelty. I think the EF over the centuries actually arrived at the slight to moderate novelty that people prefer. The problem with the OF is rediscovering the right amount of novelty. I know a lot more hymns than the average Catholic, but many times Mass is more a choir practice than a worship service.

    1. Fr. Allan McDonald Avatar

      Jack, very good points. In terms of participation of the laity in the EF, it is a good thing that there aren’t a hundred options for the priest to select, then pray in Latin, but not tell anyone what he has chosen. You can do that in the vernacular, but not in Latin. So the wisdom of the limited choices of the EF is that people would only need a pew missal for the introit, collects, antiphons and readings. Most everything else stays the same.
      In terms of the OF, I am an advocate for a national hymnal or a hard back hymnal that a congregation places in the pew that isn’t changed until the thing falls apart. Then they can learn a repertoire that they can hand on to their children and children’s children. Throw away hymnals and missalettes are for the birds. But I hope we’re singing the OF Mass, meaning all its parts that are meant to be sung and not just focusing on four hymns that are superfluous or simply cover action that is done silently. It would be nice if all English speaking Catholics new the same three or four settings of the Mass sung in English plus the Latin Mass settings that Pope Paul VI proposed how many years ago for the entire Church to maintain. I think the booklet was called Jubilato Deo.

      1. Lynn Thomas Avatar
        Lynn Thomas

        “It would be nice if all English speaking Catholics new the same three or four settings of the Mass sung in English plus the Latin Mass settings that Pope Paul VI proposed how many years ago for the entire Church to maintain.”

        Nice, perhaps, but probably not feasible. English speakers are too wide-spread, and who would pick the 3 or 4? On what grounds would they choose them? Where would they come from? This is not a philosophical objection [though I’m not sure I don’t have some of them], but a practical one.

  18. Lynn Thomas Avatar
    Lynn Thomas

    Father Allan,

    I promise, I won’t rat you out. How, when, and where you offer the EF of the Mass is not any of my business, though your parishoners are interested parties. Note, I said, and I really meant, that I don’t object to it being offered. I just don’t personally find it engaging.

    Would you mind, though, if I ask that those priests who cannot sing, speak the Mass parts instead? [I confess to being in the school of thought that prefers things be done well, even if that means great simplification.] “Please Lord make him stop!” is probably not where our prayers should be going during Mass, and I’ve had to endure a couple of priests who got me to that point.

    “Lynn,the EF Mass is offered at odd times and you have to really want to go to get it in my parish; I haven’t taken over any of the OF Mass times for the EF for daily or Sunday Mass. For me at this point it is like belonging to a prayer group, I’m celebrating it because it has helped to deepen my spirituality, piety, reverence and appreciation for the Mass, now in both forms and it has influenced the way I celebrate the OF Mass now and the way I celebrate the EF Mass is influenced by some aspects of the OF way of doing things. But don’t report me! To be quite honest, it’s nice have a two varieties, I’m a child of choice! It breaks the monotony and what can become rote or routine celebrating Mass every day and sometimes more than once a day and several times on Sunday.”

    1. Fr. Allan McDonald Avatar

      Dear Lynn, I agree, if a priest can’t sing, he shouldn’t sing any parts of the Mass and neither should he try to lead the hymn singing! And if he is next to a priest who can sing, he shouldn’t sing and mess up the priest who can sing. It also goes without saying that a deacon who can’t sing, shouldn’t sing either, especially the Gospel! I let one of my deacons sing the dismissal on Easter Sunday after he told me he had rehearsed it with the music director. Big mistake and with a southern twang!

      1. Lynn Thomas Avatar
        Lynn Thomas

        Oh, dear. That does not sound like it was a good thing. Just because something has been rehearsed does not mean it’s been mastered. Yikes!

        A few years back we had a newly ordained priest who is very traditional in outlook, and insisted on singing the Mass parts. Problem is, he simply cannot sing. Can’t stay in the same key for two notes in a row cannot sing. And the pastor has a beautiful, trained voice, and is simultaneously a brilliant homilist. The contrast was painful. Sadly, he was not receptive to suggestions that he refrain from singing. Oh, well. We endured.

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