N MONDAY, a father tell his kids that jumping on the trampoline is forbidden. On Tuesday, he allows it under certain circumstances. On Wednesday, he allows it without any restrictions. On Thursday, he forbids it again. On Friday, he says they can jump on the trampoline if necessary. Leave aside for a moment whether jumping on the trampoline is good or bad. What kind of parenting skills are displayed here? What kind of men and women will those children become when they’re grown? I would suggest they’ll turn out pretty confused, with a disdain for “meaningless rules that change on a whim.”
Several seminarians have said to me:
“Don’t try to talk with older priests about Liturgy. They place it in the same category as Canon Law: boring, pointless, and impossible to comprehend.”
For years, I rejected their advice. How could any priest not like liturgy? However, consider what happened a few months ago. A visiting priest came and chose the Sprinkling Rite … without telling the music director! How awkward and uncomfortable it is when the priest walks up and down the aisle sprinkling the congregation accompanied by complete silence. This type of thing happens all the time, yet could easily be avoided with a 9-second conversation. What possible reason could there be for the priest not to let the musicians know in advance he’s going to choose the Sprinkling Rite? So, maybe the seminarians are right.
SHARING THE STORY about the trampoline (above) is my way of emphasizing that liturgical law has been changed far too often. A renowned Canonist, Fr. Georg May, has made this point better than I ever could:
If you don’t believe me, feast your eyes on the size of the book in the image on the upper right! It’s 1,500 pages long, and that only covers legislation from 1963-1979. And they used to say the Tridentine Rite was complicated … sheesh!
One could go down a whole list of things that have been changed in a confusing way. Obviously, I’m not going to do that right now. But, take just one example. Read what Pope John XXIII wrote about Latin — “We are fully determined to restore Latin to its position of honor” etc. Then, take a look at what Pope Paul VI said about Latin:
You will see that Pope Paul VI contradicts his immediate predecessor, yet believes abolishing Latin will lead to a “new and resplendent awakening” of Latin! This crazy logic reminds me of certain piccoluomini today who label mass apostasy, open heresy, and empty seminaries “renewal.” That, folks, is not true renewal.
(By the way, notice what Paul VI says about the required language for private celebrations in light of the observations made by Fr. Georg May.)
THE SACRED CONGREGATION OF RITES, to a great degree, saw the dangers and excesses of Bugnini’s Reform. Incidentally, Pope Paul VI saw them too late, but when he finally did, he dismissed Bugnini and banished him. Listen to what the Sacred Congregation said on 23 July 1964 (pointing out that the Second Vatican Council never said Latin should be gotten rid of):
These observations [by the Congregation] are dictated by a sincere desire to cooperate, in the best possible manner, for a full, happy, and fruitful application of the Constitution. We wish also to say that the Instruction is undoubtedly the result of much work; this is however a complex subject with many delicate points. Even one incautious word could have unpleasant consequences. Therefore, much caution must be taken, because of the matter in itself, and also to avoid a repetition of the case of bitter, unpleasant controversy, which arose over certain points in the Motu Proprio of January 25, 1964. […] Number 59 oversteps the spirit and letter of the Constitution, which in the mentioned article 63 foresees, in the Sacraments and Sacramentals, not a total change to the vernacular, but rather “amplior locus” given to the vernacular.
Finally, let me once more emphasize that the Pope does have the authority to make the changes he made. Similarly, the father does possess the authority to keep changing the trampoline rules. However, there is no divine guarantee assuring us the Pope will always act prudently regarding disciplinary laws.