Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth on the Future of the Liturgy

Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth, executive director of ICEL, recently spoke at St. Mary Magdalen’s in Brighton, East Sussex, England, as part of a parish 150th anniversary celebration. His topic was “The Future of the Liturgy.” Wadsworth stressed at several points that he spoke not as the executive director of ICEL, but in his own name.

A vernacular liturgy has not always led to a deeper understanding of the liturgy itself,

Msgr. Wadsworth observed. He listed both positive and negative developments of the liturgical reform. He noted that another commentator might well consider his positives as negatives and vice versa.

In the category of positive developments, Wadsworth cites the primacy of the Triduum celebration, the wider practice of the Liturgy of the Hours, a wider selection of Scripture readings, the revised rites of Christian Initiation, and renewals in individual confession and worship of the Blessed Sacrament outside Mass.

Msgr. Wadsworth also sees negative developments:

…a sense of the communion of the church has become limited to local communities that are in many ways self-selecting. Many Catholics have a poor understanding of what it means to belong to the universal church, but a very highly-developed understanding of what it means to belong to a parish of people like their selves.

Any notion of the shape of the liturgical year has been greatly lessened by an ironing-out of those features which characterize the distinctive seasons of the year.

The transference of Solemnities, which are Holy Days of Obligation, to Sundays destroys the internal dynamics of the liturgical cycle, particularly with the great feasts of the Epiphany and the Ascension.

The frequent tendency to gloss or paraphrase the liturgical text, supplying continuous commentary, has contributed to an improvised or spontaneous character in much liturgical celebration.

The multiplication of liturgical ministries has led to a considerable confusion, and indeed, error, concerning the relationship between the ministerial priesthood and the common priesthood of all the baptized.

The liturgy in some places seems to have the quality of a performance, with the priest and liturgical ministers cast in the role of performers, and behaving accordingly. Consequently, congregations are often expecting to be entertained, rather as spectators might be at the theater.

The manner of the distribution and reception of Holy Communion, including the appropriateness of one’s reception of Communion at any particular Mass, has led to a casual disregard of this great Sacrament.

The proliferation of Communion Services presided over by lay people has resulted in a lessening of the sense of the importance of the Eucharistic sacrifice.

The appalling banality of much liturgical music, and the lack of any true liturgical spirit in the use of music in the liturgy, has been a primary generating force in an anti-liturgical culture.”

What are the desirable characteristics of the liturgy of the future? Again Msgr. Wadsworth:

Firstly, a sense of reverence to the text. The unity of the Roman rite is now essentially a textual unity. The Church permits a certain latitude to the interpretation of the liturgical norms that govern the celebration of the liturgy, and hence our unity is essentially textual. We use the same prayers; we meditate on the same Scriptures. This is more clearly evident now with a single English text in universal use.

Secondly, a greater willingness to heed Sacrosanctum Concilium rather than the continual recourse to the rather nebulous concept of “the Spirit of the Council” which generally attempts to legitimize liturgical abuses rather than correct them. Currently, the teachings of Sacrosanctum Concilium are rather more likely to be evidenced in a well-prepared presentation of the Extraordinary Form than in most Ordinary Form celebrations. That’s a great irony.

A re-reading of the encyclical Mediator Dei of Pope Pius XII, in conjunction with more recent magisterial documents. In this way, the light of tradition might be perceived to shine on all of our liturgical celebrations.

The widespread cultivation of a dignified and reverent liturgy that evidences careful preparation and respect for its constituent elements in accordance with the liturgical norms. The reintroduction of ad orientem celebration [and] kneeling for the reception of Holy Communion would be two things that could certainly assist in this regard.

An abandonment of the unofficial notion of the primacy of the ferial lectionary, which would result in Masses for the feast day of a saint in which the readings harmonize with the texts of the proper for Mass.

A recovery of the Latin tradition of the Roman rite that enables us to continue to present elements of our liturgical patrimony from the earliest centuries with understanding. This necessarily requires a far more enthusiastic and widespread commitment to the teaching and learning of Latin, in order that the linguistic culture required for interpreting our texts and chants may be more widely experienced, and that our patrimony enjoy a wider constituency. (What would you expect from a former Latin teacher?) But this point, on which I feel very, very strongly, is essential, regardless of the language of our liturgical celebration. It’s still true, even if we have vernacular celebrations. We will still continue to need insight into a tradition which is essentially coming to us in Latin texts and chants, even if they are being presented to us in vernacular languages.

I would hope to see the exclusion from the liturgy of music which only expresses secular culture, and which is ill-suited to the demands of the liturgy.

A renaissance of interest in and use of chant in both Latin and English, as recognition that this form of music should enjoy first place in our liturgy, and all other musical forms are suitable for liturgical use to the extent that they share the characteristics of chant.

A commitment to the celebration and teaching of the ars celebrandi, the art of celebration, of both forms of the one Roman rite, so that all our priests can perceive more readily how the light of tradition shines on our liturgical life, and how this might be communicated more effectively to all our people.

And lastly, a clearer distinction between devotions – non-liturgical forms of prayer – and the sacred liturgy. A lack of any proper liturgical sense has led to proliferation of devotions as an alternative vehicle to popular fervor. This was a widespread criticism of the liturgy before the Second Vatican Council, and we now have to ask ourselves why the same lacuna has been identified in the newer liturgical forms.

Wadsworth thinks the time for change is ripe:

Having travelled the English-speaking world very widely… and having experienced the sacred liturgy in a wide variety of circumstances and styles, I would conclude that I have generally encountered a very great desire for change – although I would also have to admit that this has not always been among those who are directly responsible for the liturgy.

Watch the video below.

Wadsworth begins dramatically with the dystopia portrayed in the 1907 novel of Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson, Lord of the World. Benson imagined a socialist and humanist world a century later where religion has been either suppressed or ignored. There is a “one-world” government that uses Esperanto for its language and ultimately becomes a servant of the anti-Christ. The Catholic Church has been suppressed by the rest of the world, which has turned to a form of “self religion.”

Why do you suppose Msgr. Wadsworth begins there??



70 responses to “Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth on the Future of the Liturgy”

  1. Jack Feehily Avatar
    Jack Feehily

    I’m sorry, but I am unable to identify with a great many of the monsignor’s observations and insights. I do respect that they reflect his understanding and experience of the sacred liturgy. There are things that I am willing to ponder further, but he just doesn’t seem to realize that the newer forms and expressions are efforts to move away from the rigid formality of the past. Saying all the appropriate words with all the most appropriate music in liturgies led by alter Christi clad in brocade garments and looking as stiff as a board is simply not the only way to understand or experience the sacred liturgy. IMHO.

  2. Shane Maher Avatar
    Shane Maher

    “Currently, the teachings of Sacrosanctum Concilium are rather more likely to be evidenced in a well-prepared presentation of the Extraordinary Form than in most Ordinary Form celebrations. That’s a great irony.”
    A difficult consideration for many involved in liturgical work today. I can see the monsignor’s point.

    1. Jimmy Mac Avatar
      Jimmy Mac

      From The Tablet, 26 May:

      Few would not desire a reverent liturgy. And one hopes that that wish was indeed the principal thrust of Mgr Andrew Wadsworth’s address in Brighton (News from Britain and Ireland, 12 May). But other comments of his, if correctly reported, are disturbing. To imply that the celebration of the Ordinary Form of the Mass, either predominantly or even exclusively in the vernacular, is in some way an extreme position is quite preposterous. If a charge of extremism is to be made, it is surely to be levelled at those who devote themselves to the Extraordinary Form, which is in essence a refusal to accept renewal and reform. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council did not intend liturgical renewal to be optional; it was the direction in which the overwhelming majority of them wanted the whole Church to move. Those who are following that path are most certainly not the extremists.

      (Mgr) Anthony B. Boylan
      Settle, North Yorkshire

      1. Shane Maher Avatar
        Shane Maher

        Are we to infer that the same council fathers who inserted into SC unambiguous directives maintaining Latin in the Mass as somehow advocating a renewal that would eliminate that which they directed be retained? Of course not, suggesting that an all-vernacular all the time liturgical practice is problematic from the standpoint of the renwal springing from Vatican II’s SC.
        The most interesting observation from Msgr. W.’s talk to me was his assertion that a contemporary celebration of the EF Mass can be seen to express the liturgical renewal expressed in SC better than many celebrations of the OF. That is a compelling thought!

      2. Jeffrey Pinyan Avatar

        Perhaps Mgr Boylan isn’t seeing the word “extreme” used in a non-inflammatory way. That some thing is an extreme needn’t imply “extremism”. Two extremes of liturgical celebration, language-wise, are a) all-Latin, and b) all-vernacular.

      3. Shane Maher Avatar
        Shane Maher

        Msgr. Boylan: “The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council did not intend liturgical renewal to be optional; it was the direction in which the overwhelming majority of them wanted the whole Church to move.”

        This claim seems too broad to me because the “whole Church” certainly includes the non-Roman rite Churches and most of them have retained liturgies unchanged from that time. In fact, the liturgical constitution goes to some trouble to indicate the council’s respect for these unreformed liturgical rites. It seems to me that EF parishes & monasteries have generally implemented most of the reforms stipulated in SC bringing us back to Msgr. Wadsworth’s point above.

      4. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
        Anthony Ruff, OSB

        Some misinformation here – non-Roman rites such as Ambrosian have in fact been reformed since Vatican II.

        It’s hard to fathom how any EF Mass implements “most of the reforms stipulated in SC” since so many of those reforms are structural and textual and obviously haven’t been made in the pre-Vatican Mass. Reform of the lectionary with a wider selection of readings, or the restoration of the Prayers of the Faithful, to name just two examples.

        A quotation from SC such as the following shows that the Council fathers foresaw that the rites and texts would be revised – which of course hasn’t happened to the pre-Vatican II Mass.

        “…[B]oth texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify.” (SC 21)


      5. Bill deHaas Avatar

        Which leaves me with some questions about Msgr.’s talk and his non-responses to many questions on this post.

        He states in one comment box that he is most comfortable explaining the EF – fine and he has the right to decline to participate in terms of questions, etc. Yet, it is interesting or, at minimum, a confusing stance for someone chosen to direct and lead the MR3 project and those who express the reform of the reform which, at one level, seems to posit that SC didn’t reform that much – they instead choose to focus on “continuity”.

        Since any translation effort will dramatically impact our liturgy, it seem strange that a more objective or balanced group for ICEL would not have been chosen?

      6. Shane Maher Avatar
        Shane Maher

        The requirements of SC 21 are broad enough to have been met in contemporary expressions of the EF especially as its application is governed by #23 which quickly follows: “…any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.”
        Also, please note that in my original post I did not say that no non-Roman rites were reformed following SC but that most have not. The Maronites too have implemented some reforms since that time.

  3. Msgr Andrew Wadsworth Avatar
    Msgr Andrew Wadsworth

    In preparing these rather personal thoughts, I was careful to state that someone else could validly and legitimately arrive at quite a different assessment of the situation. I certainly do not advocate the minimalist or simplistic ‘fix’ that you seem to attribute to me. My main concern is that 50 years after the Council would seem to be a good moment for us to assess our experience of the liturgy in the light of Sacrosanctum concilium and the GIRM and to ask ourselves whether we might do things differently.

  4. Brendan Kelleher svd Avatar
    Brendan Kelleher svd

    Looked at this earlier in the day and came away depressed. Thankfully at hand I had a DVD presentation by N T Wright based on his book, “Surprised by Hope”, and that has lifted my spirits.
    Will somebody please tell me why Mgr. Wadsworth was considered the go to man to run ICEL, following the heavy-handed Vatican reorganization of the same. His reading of history, his thelogy of liturgy, his understanding of language and culture come from a totally different place compared to where I am. His reading of what Vat. II sought to do by calling for even more liturgical reform just doesn’t ring true with any of what I have come to understand as its intentions. His comments on leaders of the reform such as Jungmann and Bugnini were particularly inappropriate. The Bishops who acquiesed to his appointment bear a heavy burden of responsibility.
    Might I just note that the ordering of the altar behind him, which can be glimpsed on a couple of occasions, seems to hint that this is a parish where the Mass in the Extraordinary Form is a regular occurence. He had a sympathetic audience in there that night – note their median age, and no noticeable presence of people from the ethnic minorities in sight – a very properly “English”parish.
    Also, working as I do with a very multi-cultural community here in Japan, his remarks on a common text, a common English translation, in a world where we now speak of a variety of “Englishes” just doesn’t pass muster. He mentions that there are 5 different translations of the Roman Missal currently available in Spanish. Is obliging them to use a common translation also on Rome’s agenda? If so, then I hope the respective hierachies in the Spanish speaking world put up strong resistance and don’t follow the path taken by the English speaking Bishops and ICEL.

  5. Msgr Andrew Wadsworth Avatar
    Msgr Andrew Wadsworth

    In any reasoned discussion of these things, personal opinions matter considerably less than the principles which the Church has established to govern and guide our liturgical life. It is with these principles, not our personal view, that we must ultimately contend.

    1. Bill deHaas Avatar
      Bill deHaas

      Msgr Wadsworth – you state: “…..It is with these principles, not our personal view, that we must ultimately contend.”

      Not sure that “principles” were identified in your talk? In my liturgical and theological education, was taught that Vatican II documents had an internal structure and hierarchy of values. Thus, SC clearly stated a number of “universal” liturgical principles. From these “principles” (highest level) SC drilled down providing directives and suggestions. (lower levels) And SC was supported by the ecclesiology developed and articulated in VII. Without that ecclesiological foundation, liturgical praxis seems to be all over the place.

      Examples of the lower level directives would be the oft quoted paragraphs that encouraged the use of Gregorian chant, the use of latin, etc. Yet, these were directives, choices, decisions that prescended from the principles (they were not black and white regulations).

      You cite some examples:
      – “The reintroduction of ad orientem celebration [and] kneeling for the reception of Holy Communion would be two things that could certainly assist in this regard.”
      Technically, SC allowed these; but experience and conferences of bishops moved away from these practices.
      – “A recovery of the Latin tradition of the Roman rite that enables us to continue to present elements of our liturgical patrimony from the earliest centuries with understanding.”
      This seems to open up endless discussions around “original latin”; first century liturgies vs. Tridentine; and, without careful expertise, leads to results such as the “new” translation
      – “A commitment to the celebration and teaching of the ars celebrandi, the art of celebration, of both forms of the one Roman rite, so that all our priests can perceive more readily how the light of tradition shines on our liturgical life, and how this might be communicated more effectively to all our people.”
      This continues the “temporary” indult and a “rupture” in which currently we have two forms of one Western Rite. Most conferences of bishops strongly encouraged that this not be done. And this has given rise to what appears to be “experimentation” (refer to Fr. Allan’s post about his “mutual enrichment” liturgical choices. Based upon what – principles, opinions, what feels good or gimmicky? Appears to give rise to liturgical behaviors that we note in valid criticism of the 1970’s abuses (as you say – “the spirit of VII – let’s be honest that these were a minority)

      Help me understand your examples and how they articulate liturgical “principles”.

      Sorry, but it appears that the difficult work of liturgical experts in the 20th century, the decisions of Pius XII, and the work of VII is being “re-hashed” by a small minority? And this minority doesn’t seem to have a careful, comprehensive approach to liturgy – rather, it seems to want to “save” certain Tridentine rubrics. It is like Monday morning quarterbacking and re-debating VII. Why?

      And then I try to place your talk within the larger church – 2/3rds in the southern hemisphere struggling to offer the sacraments with few priests; poor economic conditions; illiteracy (learn latin?); poor health, etc. How does your talk address this catholic world? Where does ad orientem, kneeling address the preferential option for the poor?

      Just some random thoughts and questions, Msgr.

      1. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

        Bill, I don’t mean this in a sarcastic way, but you nailed it, I am very much a priest of the 70’s in terms of experimentation and in one period of my life very much 70’s and today very much “reform of the reform.” I’m quite eclectic when it comes to the liturgy and personal tastes and practices but would prefer a more traditional structure today and more classical chant approach than the popular idioms we’ve grown tiresomely accustomed.

      2. Shane Maher Avatar
        Shane Maher

        Your premise re. the presumed hierarchy of values contained in SC underscores your entire argument but is evidently one not shared by those who read SC differently than you do. For example, it seems the “principles” you place on the highest level are extremely broad and open to a variety of interpretations. In contrast, it is those “directives” in SC that are highly specific and clear to any reader but remain unpopular in some quarters of the Church that have been placed at the lowest level in your referenced hierarchy (Latin). Evidently this approach which has informed your own liturgical education seems to have left others unpersuaded including the Cardinal Archbishop of Columbo, himself a leader of one of those developing world dioceses you reference toward the end of your post.

  6. Jeffrey Pinyan Avatar

    When I pointed this video out to AWR two weeks ago, I brought one thing in particular to his attention:

    Msgr. Wadsworth, around the 43:00 mark, you say:

    “The Holy Father wrote to the German bishops to remind them that six years ago he respectfully suggested that the German translation of the words of consecration needed to be corrected so that they reflected what we now have in the English text… for the many rather than for all.”

    I assume it was just a slip of the tongue… or are priests using “for the many” more than “for many” in the UK? (I don’t ask this as a member of the “temple police”.) I think it is somewhat significant that you said “for the many”, even if subconsciously. It appears its use liturgically would be quite a relief for a great number of Catholics to whom “for many” implies some sort of inward retreat (“fortress Catholicism”).

  7. Brigid Rauch Avatar
    Brigid Rauch

    ;The appalling banality of much liturgical music,

    This phrase caught my eye because I see it so often on traditionalist blogs. I looked it up to make sure I understand the term.

    So lacking in originality as to be obvious and boring.
    trite – commonplace – hackneyed – trivial – platitudinous

    If I were head of ICEL, I wouldn’t want people to be reminded of the word “banal”!

    1. Fr. Jim Blue Avatar
      Fr. Jim Blue

      O, we pray that isn’t so.

  8. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

    Msgr. Wadsworth,I thoroughly enjoyed your well reasoned lecture which I was able to post on my much beloved blog a couple of days after you gave it. My own contention after 32 years of priestly ministry is that we do need to recover some things but not all things that the Original Ordo (OO) had that the Novus Ordo (NO) seems to have lost, but was lost not from anything intrinsic in the new missal but suggested later by liturgical theologians. Of the the two things you suggest should return, ad orientem and Holy Communion kneeling, my opinion, and it is precisely that and from anecdotal observation, is that standing for Holy Communion and receiving in the hand as Romans do it, not as Episcopalians do it, has caused considerable damage to the “sense of the Sacred.” For example, we taught our first communion children how to receive both ways and at their First Communion Mass, they received kneeling and on the tongue by way of intinction. The following Wednesday at our school Mass, the majority received in the hand but did so as quickly and on the run as their older classmates do not through any willful disrespect but simply being children. I haven’t had a chance to ask the kids how it felt to receive Holy Communion in the fashion they did at their First Communion Mass and at their school Masses. But I will. I have mixed feelings about facing the congregation or ad orientem, but see how facing the congregation changes the dynamic of prayer and worship in terms of the priestly function in ways that are not always beneficial. And certainly in the EF Sung Mass, we actually sing the Mass including the Introit, Offertory Antiphon and Communion Antiphons, and all else that is prescribed following not personal opinion or whimsy about this, but what is prescribed. The EF mentality in those terms should definitely be recovered in the OF Mass. I like Latin, but for me a little goes a long way, but I wouldn’t mind (in my opinion) the Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei to be prescribed in Latin.

  9. Jonathan Sorensen Avatar
    Jonathan Sorensen

    As to his observation of ‘a very great desire for change,’ I can attest to having experienced it in many persons and places in my own ministry. The Lord asked us to watch ‘the signs of the times’ and the times have indeed changed. How, then, do we stay within the tradition–both before the council and after–and meet the needs of today? This is a good time for reflection.

    1. John Molnar Avatar
      John Molnar

      The sign of the times tells me that we went very wrong in the construction of the NO. The sign of the times also says, as Fr. Wadsworth states, it is time to recover the sacred.

  10. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    What we should be assessing on the 50th anniversary of SC is the following:

    1. In the Vibrant Parish Life Study of more than a hundred parishes with more than 40,000 respondents, the people clearly expressed their opinion that the Liturgy was the most important priority and Community was the second most important priority among 39 items. They also said clearly that both of these items were half-way down the list of 39 items in being well done.

    2. In the USA we find that Evangelical congregations are maintaining their membership and church attendance much better than Mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic congregations. They emphasize church attendance with a high quality service each Weekend. They also emphasize community. Their large congregations have many small groups. People express concern for members who are absent. In other words they seem to be providing the high quality liturgy and community which Roman Catholics report lacking in our parishes.

    3. The Evangelicals provide high quality Liturgies without much of our liturgical apparatus, such as an emphasis upon the liturgical year. Indeed research suggests that, for at least Protestant Churches, emphasis upon the liturgical year lowers average yearly attendance, probably because of programming for low attendance, no choir in the summer.

    Until we begin to understand what is going on here (and even more importantly begin to make experiments at the parish and diocesan level that prove we know what is going on by increasing participation and community satisfaction) all these speculations are talk about theoretical physics when we need to fix our house.

  11. Msgr Andrew Wadsworth Avatar
    Msgr Andrew Wadsworth

    So often, any consideration of the liturgy in a Catholic context implies aspects of ecclesiology and reasonably so, given that one of our most persuasive understandings of liturgy is of the ‘Church at prayer’.

    Perhaps at this particular juncture, we face the considerable challenge of balancing universal characteristics and elements with those which are most appropriately local and particular. The norms which govern our celebration of the liturgy admit a wide spectrum of possible interpretations and allow for those responsible for the liturgy (at various levels) to make wise decisions in accordance with what is appropriate in a particular place or on a particular occasion.

    The challenge arises from doing this and maintaining some real sense of common identity as Catholics of the Roman Rite. Perhaps in our own time, this sense largely resides in the fact that the unity of the Roman Rite has essentially become a textual unity rather than a liturgical uniformity – we use the same prayers in our celebration of the liturgy and we meditate on the same scriptures.

  12. John Swencki Avatar
    John Swencki

    FYI…. “Lord of the World” by Benson is available in print and in ebook form via Amazon. Varying price ranges (ebook) from free to $9.00.
    The “gist” of the story somewhat reminds me of the apocalyptic scene from another Catholic classic– “Mr. Blue” by Myless Connolly.

  13. Todd Flowerday Avatar

    I think it lacks scholarly depth, and while I think personal subjective experience can helpfully inform pastoral practice or even theology, many of his nine “negative developments” I see as misdiagnosed, or perhaps limited to his corner of the world.

    Like many reform2 commentators, he assumes an ideal pre-conciliar liturgical praxis, and suggests the question is, “Why on earth did we screw it up?”

    It’s quite likely that post-conciliar Catholics have a stronger sense of a universal church, given modern media and the accessibility of travel. It might just be that they look with more disapproval on the institution, or that (unfortunately) they prefer their own wayof doing things.

    I can’t agree with the comment on the awareness of the liturgical year.

    I’m sympathetic to his statement on the transfer of solemnities, but this is a problem that touches more deeply on Catholic culture as well as the hyper-driven state of work for most people in the world.

    I would also share his concerns about the ill-considered use of improvisation, but really: ICEL has yet to give us a clearly superior alternative. After waiting since the early 80’s for a new “Sacramentary,” we retained tired old texts in tattered books, and sure, too many clergy run the Mass on autopilot. Some guys do the same with other aspects of ministry. Is this less a liturgical problem and more one of an attitude of having graduated from seminary and nobody can tell these guys how to do their thing? Bad presidential skills are a symptom of a larger problem.

    Number 5 is just silly. I’ve never been to a Mass in which a priest’s distinctive dress and role has blurred the role of the ministerial priesthood. A sample situation of thirty lay people doing thirty small tasks at Mass is a cause for rejoicing, not clerical embitterment.

    More to come on this …

  14. Todd Flowerday Avatar

    The only error I see is a lack of accountability on the part of some bishops and clergy. I’ve known concelebrants who’ve shown up for Mass late. I have no problem adjusting a roster of lay Communion ministers if I get a phone call in advance, or even an aside ten minutes before Mass. Bad manners is more a widespread problem–indicating a lack of reverence for the good order of the liturgy. As I wrote before, it’s a problem of priest formation, not liturgy. Certainly not lay ministry.

    Number 6 is something of a howler. I never feel so entertained as when I see the pretty rear of a vestment and hear nice choral music floating down from the loft. You need look no further than any traditionalist liturgy web site to see the emphasis on vesture, beautifully performed choral music, and sanctuary architecture.

    I can go on, but I think I’ve made my point.

    The current liturgical ascendancy has given us its medicine and seems to have fabricated problems and diagnosis to suit a rather narrow set of personal preferences.

    Fifty years after the Council is indeed a good time to look at SC, as well as the important documents that implemented the Council mandates. Let’s also remember that Catholic bishops, not some vague “spirit,” took the Council seriously, not as a snapshot in time, but as a living and vital ministry of reform within the Church.

    We can and should assess conciliar reform, but also open for discussion would be recent attempts by an emittered minority to impose their style and supercede the good work many, many others have done.

    It’s not likely that somebody is going to start a new WDTPRS web site with MR3’s English catastrophe. But I think all the work of the past fifty years should be part of a very wide discernment on where to go from here, and how to pray something much more godly than what has gone before, and yes, what we are doing now.

    1. Jim McKay Avatar
      Jim McKay

      Has Fr Z stopped explaining what the prayers really say? It seems like it is more needed than ever. Before he explained the Latin text for those who could only understand the English; now we have an often incomprehensible English that could be explained alongside the Latin for people who can’t understand either.

  15. Msgr Andrew Wadsworth Avatar
    Msgr Andrew Wadsworth

    I certainly do not propose any notion of “an ideal pre-conciliar liturgical praxis” and I can probably offer a more informed critique of the EF than most people who comment on this subject. In a talk which was to a parish group without any suggestion of a scholarly or exhaustive treatment of a very complex series of issues, I simply wished to animate some lively discussion of the implications of certain common aspects of our liturgical experience. The discussion that night in Brighton (which continued far beyond the video recording) and comment on this blog and elsewhere, suggest to me that the discussion is underway!

  16. Graham Wilson Avatar
    Graham Wilson

    This [textual unity of the Roman Rite] is more clearly evident now with a single English text in universal use.

    Only on paper, not in praxis, certainly not in our little corner of the world, which one will discover if one visits as many parishes as I do, “incognito”. In my experience, presiders are extemporizing and modifying the text much more than they used to with the “modern” English style of the ICEL 1973 version.

    The Nicene Creed has all but disappeared in many parishes. The propers, particularly the opening prayers are being reworded. “Cup” and “for all” remain in the Institution Narrative. The introduction to the Our Father is multiform. Not everywhere, but in significantly more parishes than ever there was before the change to the “antique” style.

    1. Dunstan Harding Avatar
      Dunstan Harding

      I can attest from my own “incognito” ventures to parishes in the greater New York area, even in some of the most conservative and suburban locations, there is widespread experimentation and modification of the texts going on. Even the use of “cup” substituted for “chalice”.

      I’m delighted to see this and it is more than I ever anticipated would be happening so soon after the missal was implemented. Now my own pastor’s actions don’t seem quite as radical as they appeared after Advent I last year.

  17. Msgr Andrew Wadsworth Avatar
    Msgr Andrew Wadsworth

    Taking the larger view (i.e. beyond the US) – a single Missal text is now in use throughout the greater part of the world wherever the liturgy is celebrated in English. This was not true previously. Reports from 11 conferences would suggest that the Nicene Creed is still used in the overwhelming majority of parishes. Personal amendment of the text seems to be less evident than was previously the case and less widespread than many people anticipated.

    1. Bill deHaas Avatar
      Bill deHaas

      “taking the larger view” – okay, is a “single Missal text” one of SC’s liturgical principles? Thought that SC developed enculturation and left these types of decisions to conferences of bishops”

      Thought one principle was that unity was being promoted rather than uniformity?

      Can you explain?

  18. Todd Flowerday Avatar

    Yes, I also wonder about that “single Missal text.” Not yesterday. Not this Sunday. Or is it enough that we English-speakers share a grammatically and artistically poor text, despite the fact that on any given Sunday select parishes may employ the Rite of Acceptance or not, any of a handful of Eucharistic Prayers, widely varied music and homilies and even more variety of skill therein?

    I’d have to agree with Bill: a single Missal text is more a product of some vague spirit of continuity, to borrow anoft-used expression.

    1. Paul Waddington Avatar
      Paul Waddington

      It ill behoves Todd Flowerday, presumably an American, to describe the ICEL text as “grammatically and artistically poor”. Mgr Wadsworth is exceptionally well educated in languages, both ancient and modern. I would venture to say that his understanding of the English language both in terms of grammar and syntax is of a level rarely found in the United States.

      Americans must surely defer to the English when it comes to use of the English language.

      1. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar

        I think you forgot to include the [irony] tag on your post.

      2. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
        Jordan Zarembo

        re: Paul Waddington on May 21, 2012 – 11:59 am

        I find your closing statement somewhat condescending. Would you say that the great American authors and orators wrote in an inherently inferior dialect? If so, I must respectfully say that you are neglecting some of the finest “English” literature. American literature certainly does not need to defer to any other language but its own.

        Your comment highlights the long overdue need for a uniquely American translation of the 2002 Missale Romanum. Many participants on PTB have expressed similar sentiments. I hope that an American translation would strike a balance between a formal idiom and a colloquial idiom. This translation should also recognize American English’s simpler grammar and preference for more concise sentences. Who knows? Perhaps an American translation might clarify some of the rather obtuse sentences in the current translation.

  19. Msgr Andrew Wadsworth Avatar
    Msgr Andrew Wadsworth

    ICEL was established as a response to SC and as a collaboration of at first 10 and then later 11 English-speaking episcopal conferences. This was to avoid the duplication of effort in supplying English translations. The initiative came from the conferences themselves.

    Matters of inculturation are properly the responsibility of individual conferences who (in dialogue with the Holy See) establish adaptations and particular elements proper to the liturgy in their own territory and particular situations. This includes national calendars, local celebrations and adaptations of the norms of the GIRM, it would also include any musical considerations.

    In recent times, variations and adaptations of common liturgical texts within a single language group have tended towards a greater degree of unity (where possible) across national and international borders.

    1. Bill deHaas Avatar

      Thanks but coupled with Todd’s f/u concern – not sure you really answered the question.

      Work for a large international cooperation and have customers with employees across the world including nations in the 11 english speaking conferences. Spend a great deal of time working with nations, regions, and even specific areas within nations because their own employees do not want a “simplified” US language policy, protocol, etc. For those employees, it feels like they are “second class” citizens because the US dominates even what the internally read, do, etc. They want their own culture, english language (yes, it changes and in some cases dramatically so (think Japan, Indonesia, India) much less spelling and linguistic expressions between Australia/NZ; UK, Ireland, Canada, South Africa, etc.)

      Was also thinking of another issue (these are actual SC directives linked to SC liturgical principles) – your talk highlighted a number of liturgical practices that would ordinarily be seen as continuity from the Tridentine rubrics in nature and practice (again, these technically can be done but they quickly became “lesser” in the hierarchy of liturgical principles and conferences’ practices). You make a case for a “re-look” and Tridentine rubrics. Just a thought but have noticed that there are significant liturgical areas from VII that have never really been implemented well – think:
      – refocus and reorient on baptism – have most churchs (beyond RCIA) done something liturgically or architecturally with their baptismal font? This is one of the highest principles directly supported by other VII documents.
      – scripture – how many have invested in adequate to good sound systems so readings can be heard (rather than having folks follow along in missalettes?)
      – homilies (as Jack references above – biggest complaint from participating catholics). This is part of “ars celebrandi” that goes well beyond “latin”. Have we really invested in homily preparation; feedback; ongoing education?
      – ecumenical outreach; theological/liturgical partnership talks; shared scripture beyond your “uniform missal” Appears that this guiding principle of VII which was at the highest level of hierarchy has now been downgraded; ignored; etc.

      Any way, just some random thoughts.

  20. Jeffrey Pinyan Avatar

    I, for one, find it helpful that the person speaking in the video is here to participate in the conversation. I don’t know how much of his day Msgr. Harbert spends reading and commenting on blogs, but I’m grateful that he’s spending some time now.

    1. Graham Wilson Avatar
      Graham Wilson


    2. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

      Did I miss something?

      1. Bill deHaas Avatar

        Vatican II Council?

    3. Mgr Bruce Harbert Avatar
      Mgr Bruce Harbert

      did you mean Wadsworth?

      1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
        Anthony Ruff, OSB

        I’m sure he did. I’ll leave this comment for a while until you both see it – and then I’ll change Jeffrey’s post and delete the two comments which will then be superfluous.

      2. Jeffrey Pinyan Avatar

        If you’re replying to “I don’t know how much of his day Msgr. Harbert spends” (from May 18, 2012 – 2:09 pm), yes, it was a typo.

  21. Alan Smith Avatar
    Alan Smith

    Graham Wilson :

    This [textual unity of the Roman Rite] is more clearly evident now with a single English text in universal use.
    Only on paper, not in praxis, certainly not in our little corner of the world, which one will discover if one visits as many parishes as I do, “incognito”. In my experience, presiders are extemporizing and modifying the text much more than they used to with the “modern” English style of the ICEL 1973 version.
    The Nicene Creed has all but disappeared in many parishes. The propers, particularly the opening prayers are being reworded. “Cup” and “for all” remain in the Institution Narrative. The introduction to the Our Father is multiform. Not everywhere, but in significantly more parishes than ever there was before the change to the “antique” style.

    The Nicene Creed has certainly disappeared in my (UK) parish. It might not have done if the Apostles’ Creed had not been so conveniently printed alongside it on our new Mass cards.

  22. Msgr Andrew Wadsworth Avatar
    Msgr Andrew Wadsworth

    Mgr Harbert would have certainly made interesting reading but I’m afraid it’s me…
    Thank you for some very intersting discussion.

    1. Jeffrey Pinyan Avatar

      Sorry, typo, I meant Wadsworth. (In the post below, “May 18, 2012 – 2:09 pm”.)

  23. Jeffrey Pinyan Avatar

    Well, judging from all the deleted comments this post has garnered, I’m going to drink a toast to civil, reasoned dialogue between Christians!

  24. Georgina Gerraghty Avatar
    Georgina Gerraghty

    Msgr Wadsworth’s talk is pure pop psychology, with nothing to substantiate it other than highly biased opinion and speculation. I find it very worrying that someone of such clibre has been appointed as head liturgist in the UK.

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      Huh? One may agree or disagree with Wadsworth’s position, but he offers a theological argument, I believe.
      If you see aspects of his view that seem based on nostalgia or romantic attachment or some such, it would be fair to point to them. But that doesn’t quite make the whole thing “pure pop psychology.”

    2. Fr Peter Jones Avatar
      Fr Peter Jones

      The “head liturgist” – if there is such a position – in
      England and Wales is Fr Paul Gunter OSB. He has contributed to
      ZENIT recently, if anyone would care to read him.

      Please note that there are separate Episcopal Conferences for
      England and Wales; Scotland; Ireland (the latter including both
      the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland). There’s no such
      entity as “the UK” in regard to episcopal oversight.

  25. Msgr Andrew Wadsworth Avatar
    Msgr Andrew Wadsworth

    Just to be clear, I have no responsibility for liturgy in England & Wales or any other ICEL conference. I direct the work of ICEL’s Secretariat which is based in Washington DC. ICEL is a Commission of 11 bishops representing 11 English-speaking conferences. It exists to assist bishops in meeting their responsibility of providing liturgical texts in English for their territories.

  26. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

    Actually I think something is out of whack with the order of things as I was replying directly to Jeffry’s

    Jeffrey Pinyan :

    Well, judging from all the deleted comments this post has garnered, I’m going to drink a toast to civil, reasoned dialogue between Christians!

    But it didn’t end up under his comment but much further down. So it wasn’t Vatican II I missed, although some people think I’ve had my fill of it which wouldn’t be quite fair or true (Bill).

  27. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

    Actually I think something’s out of whack with the order of things as I was replying directly to Jeffry’s

    Jeffrey Pinyan :

    Well, judging from all the deleted comments this post has garnered, I’m going to drink a toast to civil, reasoned dialogue between Christians!

  28. Brendan Kelleher svd Avatar
    Brendan Kelleher svd

    A footnote. Msgr Wadsworth had a captive audience that night. The parish of St. Mary Magdalen, Brighton regularly hosts a Latin Mass for the Latin Mass Society. And while there was a comment from the Rev Msgr right after my previous comment, neither he or any others have taken up the point that now we have a whole variety of Englishes. In my homily today I also used the Propers, glossing the texts extensively, to receive some very positive feed back from some in the congregation who find the language of the much vaunted “Sacred Vernacular”, well outside their language range. And they were all from people for whom English is either there first or second language.

  29. Mike Burns Avatar
    Mike Burns

    Msgr. Wadsworth,
    I am sure that as the chair of ICEL you are aware that there are some glaring translation issues, both theological and linguistic, that present themselves in the english translation of the Roman Missal. I wonder if these unresolved issues will cause more textual disunity than textual unity. If a translation rests on this idea of liturgy as textual unity, one would not expect to find some of the glaring problems we now face. I think there should have been more care to insure a greater level of textual unity, so that a more clear ritual unity would follow. Thank you for your work and for your love of the Liturgy.

    1. Graham Wilson Avatar
      Graham Wilson

      I think one has to have a dollop of pity for ICEL.

      After all, who wants to put in years of effort only to have the Vox Clara “editors” mangle and degrade your work?

  30. Joe OLeary Avatar
    Joe OLeary

    Still no apologies from the Monsignor fro the catastrophe that is the new translation.

  31. Fr. JP Erickson Avatar
    Fr. JP Erickson

    Has the text of this talk been published? I would very much like a copy if it has.

  32. Paul Waddington Avatar
    Paul Waddington

    My overall reaction to the video is to say: What a scholar Mgr Wadsworth is. It is a pity we do not have many more like him.

  33. Michael Wilkinson Avatar
    Michael Wilkinson

    Brendan Kelleher is correct to notice the extraordinary (in both sentences) layout of the altar at St Mary Magdalen. It is with much sadness that I must report that liturgical error is not the preserve of enthusiasts for the Extraordinary Form. Certainly at St Mary Magdalen, the Church I have attended for 60 years, and which I think I must soon leave, abuse has crept in in the name of ‘tradition’. ‘Ordinary form’ masses are increasingly hybrid. All masses except two per week are ad orientem, and even in those, the priest’s lectern faces the altar for the Liturgy of the Word. Contrary to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the sacred vessels are on the altar throughout, old style, there is no Offertory procession, the priest’s gestures are largely extraordinary form, etc. For myself, I am more worried about the sacramental theology preached in the church, which is wrong by the most conservative pre-Vatican II norms (on Palm Sunday we were told that the worst sins we commit were those of which we are unaware – what happened to full knowledge and full consent?) and last year there were sermons against frequent communion by the laity, contrary to the specific statements in the Code of Canon Law. Liturgy and the parish church should be a sign of unity, not the angry dissent which has become, to the grief of some of us, too much a feature of the search for authentic tradition.

    1. Dunstan Harding Avatar
      Dunstan Harding

      This liturgical anarchy, or a full-scale revolt by priests on both sides of the liturgical fence seems to be spreading. I too sense the “errors” if one wants to call them that. In some cases, they’re welcome developments.

      For example, ending the muttered Latin and a sung canon in Latin used instead. I’ve seen three lessons rather than two at an EF mass, and holy communion under both forms. Didn’t the pope say one form should be enriching the other?

    2. William Pregis Avatar
      William Pregis

      Michael Wilkinson,

      What does the Parish Priest say when you discuss this with him?

      I too worship at SMM and cannot recall theological error, on the contrary, that is why I attend. Perhaps you misunderstood what was being said. I do recall a homily on the formation of conscience and the danger that an ill formed conscience may lead us even to kill the unborn.
      There are occasional mentions of the need to prepare for Holy Communion.
      Michael, I think your are using this forum to detract from the character of fine, hard working priest.

      Shame on you!

  34. Michael Wilkinson Avatar
    Michael Wilkinson

    To number 49. You may have heard different sermons from the ones I have heard. I do not doubt and certainly would speak up for the hard work of Father Blake and indeed wish that many priests even began to work as hard for the poor and the exiles as he does. I know also that he is a wonderful confessor, and that is why many travel far to confess to him. But good men can fall into error. I do not however recognise the ‘tradition’ he claims for his endless liturgical experiments and I worry very much about the distinction he makes between the teaching of the Magisterium and that of the Councils. That is a misunderstanding perpetrated by the Society of Pius X and not found in the Catholic tradition. On Communion, I quote his own words, from a piece ‘Frequent Communion a Rupture’:

    ‘… I am an old trad and therefore favour most things from the first millenium. I certainly see the move made by St Pius as being an act of rupture and quite a serious one which prepared the way for even more ruptures in the rest of the 20th Century….The main reason the Sainted Pope Pius broke with the ancient tradition was because of his own Eucharistic piety: simply put he wanted to start a habit of not only regular but frequent reception of Holy Communion. The assumption today is that this is always a good thing but it strikes me that from St Paul onwards the Church discouraged frequent Communion thinking it lead (sic) to laxity.’

    The full article may be found on Father Blake’s blog. There was also a piece which suggested that Communion received from the hands of an Extraordinary Minister might not be valid, as the truest Communion was received at the hands of the Pope, next truest from a bishop and so on, a view which is not orthodox.

    Discussion is difficult in a climate in which, for so many neo-traditionalists, disagreement is treated as disloyalty or dissent, or just labelled as liberal relativism. I am very seriously concerned when the church tears itself apart this…

    1. William Pregis Avatar
      William Pregis

      Michael Wilkinson,
      What is quoted by you here seems reasonable, isn’t it possible to be critical, even of St Pius X? The comments from Orthodox Christians on Fr Blake’s blog on this subject would seem to suggest such a criticism is entirely valid.

      Ex opere operantis, we always receive Christ, whole and entire.
      The principle of “ex opere operantis” might suggest that reception of communion from the Pope might signify a deeper sense of oneness with the Church than reception from one’s parish priest. Personally that is why I like receiving Communion from the Bishop.

      From your concluding paragraph it seems as if you resort to the web to blacken the name of your Pastor before you discuss things with him – not nice, darn right un-Christian! I feel for him.

  35. Michael Wilkinson Avatar
    Michael Wilkinson


    Three small points in reply to William Pregis and an important apology.

    1. You will notice the dots at the end of my piece, where I ran out of characters but didn’t realise. As it stands, my final paragraph is seriously misleading and looks like a personal attack. It should not be read as referring to Father Blake, as it certainly appears to do in its truncated form. Rather it was aimed at the ad hominem character of so much debate around neo-traditionalist versus alleged liberals/relativists. If you look at too many contributions to discussion, they are horrid. I apologise unreservedly to Father Blake for any suggestion that the paragraph referred personally to him: that was not my intent or motivation.

    2. I do maintain my position on the facts of the Ordinary Form as celebrated at St Mary Magdalen. I would note that visitors to the Church are struck by how very different Mass is from elsewhere. It divides opinion – some like it and others very much do not. There is an argument over the extent to which it differs from liturgical norms: parts are certainly contrary to the letter of the General Instruction.

    3. My other comments are entirely based on published statements. I think that some views expressed there are mistaken and unorthodox – and when things are published, they are open to comment, discussion and disagreement, and one can disagree absolutely with someone without that being a personal attack. Father Blake’s views are controversial – some are remarkably wise, some not well-expressed, some wrong. I’m not sure we all manage the first, but it is part of the human condition to fall into the others.

    1. William Pregis Avatar
      William Pregis

      Michael Wilkinson,
      You say, “I apologise unreservedly to Father Blake for any suggestion that the paragraph referred personally to him.” Well you might apologise to him brcause everything you have written is a nasty ad hominen attack on him. Whenever you quote him you distort and twist what he has said or written.

      You say of his writings, “I think that some views expressed there are mistaken and unorthodox – and when things are published, they are open to comment, discussion and disagreement, and one can disagree absolutely with someone without that being a personal attack.” I have looked over his blog you don’t seem to apear there either questioning or asking for clarification. He certainly makes interesting speculations but if you set his remarks in context, rather than quoting him out of context, as you consistently have done, I can see little that is unorthodox.

      I think you ought to state quite clearly here whether you have ever raised your concerns with him directly before resorting to green ink on this blog. I do notice an unpleasant undercurrent among many of our older parishioners that is happier to destroy and criticise than to help build anything. I repeat it is un-Christian.

      I do not think that his interpretation of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, including ad orientem, is in any way contrary to the mind of the Congregation for Divine Worship. As numbers have increased dramatically at the 10.30 Sunday Mass, the only Ordinary Form Sunday Mass celebrated ad orientem, I think even you, with your obvious bitterness and antagonism, must concede this experiment to be a success. Yes, it is quite different from the style of Masses in the rest of Brighton where every misinterpretation of the GIRM can be found, including particular oddities at the University Chaplaincy, which might account for the number of students and faculty members at the Sunday evening Mass, including the two students who serve Mass who are going to join…

      1. William Pregis Avatar
        William Pregis

        …religious communities in the summer. SMM is the only parish, I know, outside of London where the various instructions on music are followed, even if the choir could do with help from time to time. If there are oddities there are far less than at other parish.

      2. Jeffrey Pinyan Avatar

        I do not think that his interpretation of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, including ad orientem, is in any way contrary to the mind of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

        That is a tricky position to take, because it involves two layers of knowledge of interpretation: one, knowing how Fr. Blake interprets the GIRM, and two, knowing how the CDWDS interprets the GIRM.

        The GIRM says that a procession of the offerings by the faithful is praiseworthy. Not required, but worthy of praise. (GIRM 73) If Fr. Blake makes use of a chalice veil, that too is a “praiseworthy” practice — if one, why not the other?

        The GIRM does not list the chalice (etc.) among the articles that may be on the altar from the beginning of the Mass, but says they are to be on the credence table. (GIRM 118)

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