ATHOLICS ARE THRICE REMOVED from Vatican II. Firstly, the reform of the Liturgy was not done according to the Council’s prescriptions. Secondly, reprehensible techniques were used to undermine ecclesiastical decrees. 1 Thirdly, many clerics simply ignored the Council’s documents. But I shall not speak of such things today, because I promised to mention some good fruits of the conciliar liturgical reforms.
THE COUNCIL ENCOURAGED THE LAITY to closely follow the liturgical ceremonies, and I believe this goal to be noble and fully appropriate. Because of notorious distortions 2 by certain parties, it’s easy to overlook the importance of this encouragement, and the same thing could be said about the Council’s promotion of congregational singing.
Perhaps a story will help convey what I’m getting at. Years ago, my wife and I attended Mass in Europe and the priest used the 1962 Missal. As shown by this illustration, the Altar was placed at the front. The nave was further separated by a massive space that (perhaps?) was once used for choir stalls. However, the sparse congregation was mainly situated at the very back of the Church. Believe it or not, about 25% were standing behind the nave, underneath the choir loft.
In essence, the ceremonies were separated from the people by the length of a football field — at least it felt that way! While I’m definitely NOT a person who advocates lay people flippantly entering the Sanctuary, in this instance, I wondered why the people weren’t invited to sit where the old choir stalls used to be. I suppose even suggesting this makes me sound like a “progressive.” On the other hand, I agree that parents with small children should be free to go sit in the back of Church — but that’s a whole different subject!
Consider another example. Before the Council, the celebrant, deacon, and subdeacon would often pray their breviary as the choir was singing the Gloria and Creed. Or, take another example: a few weeks ago, I attended a celebration of the Extraordinary Form and not a single member of the large congregation followed a Missal or booklet. This was doubly frustrating to me, since we have produced an affordable congregational book for the Extraordinary Form.
VATICAN II REMINDED US THAT SUCH SITUATIONS are not the ideal, and it would be difficult to contest this. The odd thing is, in some respects, Vatican II didn’t go as far as Pius XII had in 1958 regarding active participation of the faithful. Many people still don’t realize that, in addition to the “dialogue Mass,” Pius XII allowed the congregation to recite the Propers at Mass:
In fact, Pope Pius XII was very ill when this bizarre permission was promulgated. I say “bizarre” because the Propers have never belonged to the congregation. (To understand why, see the series by László Dobszay.) The Second Vatican Council backpedaled from this position, as Msgr. Schmitt explained in 1964:
ONCERNING “PEOPLE’S PARTS”: Following the language of American commentators of the popular liturgical school, the bishops had lumped all of the ordinary and proper parts of the Mass together under the “quod pertinet ad populum“ banner. This, of, course, is not the language of the Constitution, which uses the “quod pertinet“ phrase only in reference to the ordinary; and, even there, in the original draft, a foot-note explained that, along with the acclamations, the Sanctus and Creed were the two essential and traditional parts quod pertinet ad populum. The foot-note was dropped, not because it did not hold water, but because, in the questionable interests of brevity, all foot-notes were dropped. Anyway, the post-conciliar commission again pulled things back into the context of the Constitution by dropping the “quod pertinet“ phrase altogether, and Cardinal Lercaro’s commission could hardly be classified as conservative.
You can read more about this subject on pages 19-20 here.
OVER THE YEARS, WE HAVE BEEN CRITICAL of folks who disregard the clear provisions of Vatican II, and we will continue to do so. If we don’t, how will these errors ever be corrected? Those who doubt the power of thoughtful, respectful, persistent criticism should read Number 4. One thing in particular we will continue to comment on is the “War on Thee, Thou, & Thine.” We touched on this subject briefly here, but much more needs to be discussed.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 Examples of this second type abound. For instance, Bugnini discarded the provision in Inter Oecumenici requiring all Missals to include the full Latin alongside the vernacular claiming “Asian printers” aren’t smart enough to print Latin characters.
2 Sadly, this principle was frequently taken to extremes, as hundreds of authors have chronicled. This principle can never mean that every person will participate at Mass in exactly the same way. Cardinal Ratzinger reminded us that sometimes the best way an individual of limited education (e.g. the illiterate) can participate at Mass is praying the Rosary. Msgr. Schmitt agrees, and says forcing all to participate in exactly the same way would be “recruiting candidates for the lunatic asylums” (cf. concluding paragraph here). Furthermore, suitable time must be allotted for meditation and contemplation.
UPDATE (17 September 2014) :
I might be wrong about the Ratzinger quote (see comments below). And here are some nice paragraphs by Pius XII, courtesy of Fr. Kevin Vogel:
Thank you for the clarification. The distinction between the levels/forms of participation reminds me of what Piux XII said in Mediator Dei. Paragraph 105 seems to express more the ideal, while 108 affirms one can still participate in other ways:
105. Therefore, they are to be praised who, with the idea of getting the Christian people to take part more easily and more fruitfully in the Mass, strive to make them familiar with the “Roman Missal,” so that the faithful, united with the priest, may pray together in the very words and sentiments of the Church. They also are to be commended who strive to make the liturgy even in an external way a sacred act in which all who are present may share. This can be done in more than one way, when, for instance, the whole congregation, in accordance with the rules of the liturgy, either answer the priest in an orderly and fitting manner, or sing hymns suitable to the different parts of the Mass, or do both, or finally in high Masses when they answer the prayers of the minister of Jesus Christ and also sing the liturgical chant.
108. Many of the faithful are unable to use the Roman missal even though it is written in the vernacular; nor are all capable of understanding correctly the liturgical rites and formulas. So varied and diverse are men’s talents and characters that it is impossible for all to be moved and attracted to the same extent by community prayers, hymns and liturgical services. Moreover, the needs and inclinations of all are not the same, nor are they always constant in the same individual. Who, then, would say, on account of such a prejudice, that all these Christians cannot participate in the Mass nor share its fruits? On the contrary, they can adopt some other method which proves easier for certain people; for instance, they can lovingly meditate on the mysteries of Jesus Christ or perform other exercises of piety or recite prayers which, though they differ from the sacred rites, are still essentially in harmony with them.