20 May 2011

"A Nearly 50-Year Trend of Self-Centered Liturgy"

That is the description given by His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke to the process of liturgical destruction witnessed in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council.  From EWTN News:

Cardinal Burke says liturgy must shift focus away from self and back to God

By Conor Gilliland

Cardinal Raymond L. Burke delivered a lecture on what he calls a nearly 50-year trend of self-centered liturgy last week at the Thomistic Institute in Washington, D.C.

“In the time since the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, but certainly not because of the teaching of the council, there has been exaggerated attention on the human aspect of the sacred liturgy,” said the high ranking Vatican official in his May 11 address.

Cardinal Burke acknowledged upfront that the topic could seem redundant because the liturgy is, by its very essence, God-given and God-directed.

“Is not the Church by its very nature divine? That is, called into being and sustained in being by God, and therefore centered in God. Are not the Church herself and her worship by definition directed toward God?” he asked.

But, the American cardinal said, in the last 50 years undue attention has been given to the “human aspect of the sacred liturgy, which has overlooked the essence of the sacred liturgy as the encounter of God with us by means of sacramental signs. That is, as the direct action of the glorious Christ in the Church, to give to us the grace of the Holy Spirit.”

The over-emphasis on the human dimension, said Cardinal Burke, has raised the need to discuss this important topic.

Cardinal Burke drew on Old and New Testament scripture passages to demonstrate that God is the first and last object of worship in liturgy.

“He founded the covenant of faithful and enduring love between himself and his people on the Decalogue – the Ten Commandments.”

The Vatican-based cardinal said that the first three of the Ten Commandments establish the jus divinum – or “the divine right of God to be worshiped by us, in the manner in which he wishes to be worshiped.”

Cardinal Burke continued, saying that the first three commandments establish God as the only rightful recipient of worship. Following these first three commandments are the regulations about making sacrifices at the altar. About these regulations, Cardinal Burke reiterated that they were not man-made, but rather “the gift of God to man, in which God makes it possible for man to offer the sacrifice of communion with him.”

He went on to draw several parallels between Old Testament worship and the New Testament, where God's unique right to be worshiped finds its ultimate fulfillment.

“In the Sermon on the Mount, in which our Lord Jesus communicates the law of the New Covenant – the fulfillment of the covenant on Mt. Sinai – the first beatitude is poverty of spirit, which recognizes the Lord as the source of our being itself and of every good.”

In Jesus' affirmation that he came to fulfill the Old Testament law, rather than abolish it, Cardinal Burke said, “The words of the Lord confirm the fundamental service of the law, which is to honor and to safe-guard the jus divinum, the divine right, and thereby to honor and safeguard the order written by God in his creation.”

The cardinal argued that the Old Testament sacrificial code commanded by God is fulfilled in Christ's commandment at the Last Supper - “Do this in remembrance of me.” This command, he said, brings the rightful worship of God full circle in the Eucharist we celebrate today.

He also asserted that it is clear from Jesus' teaching that “faith in him as messiah, as God the son … is expressed first of all, and most perfectly, in the worship owed to God.”

Cardinal Burke summarized his talk by saying: “All of the norms of the Law are directed to the just relationship between God and his people upon which depends the salvation of the world. And thus they must be respected as the commandment of God and not the invention of man.”


Phil said...

Thank you for posting this.

Anonymous said...

Did the Cardinal provide examples where "there has been exaggerated attention on the human aspect of the sacred liturgy.”

What practices, specifically, did he have in mind?

thetimman said...

He didn't say, but I could start a list of 50...

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:54, perhaps it helps to remember what Pope Benedict XVI. wrote in his book the “Spirit of the Liturgy” about an "unprecedented Clericalism and the Self-Enclosed Circle":
"Admittedly, these connections [i.e. Eastern direction of celebration] were obscured or fell into total oblivion in the church buildings and liturgical practice of the modern age. This is the only explanation for the fact that the common direction of prayer of priest and people got labeled as ‘celebrating towards the wall’ or ‘turning your back on the people’ and came to seem absurd and totally unacceptable. And this alone explains why the meal – even in modern pictures – became the normative idea of liturgical celebration for Christians. In reality what happened was that an unprecedented clericalization came on the scene. Now the priest – the ‘presider,’ as they now prefer to call him – becomes the real point of reference for the whole liturgy. Everything depends on him. We have to see him, to respond to him, to be involved in what he is doing. His creativity sustains the whole thing.”

Anonymous said...

All the problems Card. Burke speaks of are with what the pope has designated as "ordinary form", and all the answers are found in what the pope has designated as "extraordinary form".

At some point, maybe after the warm fuzzies over the Second Vatican Council have died with the last periti, good prelates will speak more plainly. Are we there yet? No. We know what he means, but for now, a great friend of Tradition still has to speak in code. In 2011, nearly 50 years after the justification of the new liturgy, Card. Burke can't openly say that 100% of the self-centeredness in the liturgy lies with the "Ordinary Form" and 0% with the Traditional Latin Mass.

Who that goes to the Old Mass is personally confronted with such junk as Card. Burke correctly deplores?



Anonymous said...

It pains me, though, that Cardinal Burke makes the statement: "In the time since the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, but certainly not because of the teaching of the council, ..."

Who implemented the Council? Wasn't it the popes and the bishops? Did they get the "teaching of the council" wrong?

If not, who are these sly, stealthy individuals who came in by night and hijacked the "teaching of the council" out from under the noses of the popes and bishops, who were charged with implementing it? Shouldn't we name names?

Anonymous said...

To thetimman:

Your list would be appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Cardinal Burke affirms that, "In the time since the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, but certainly not because of the teaching of the council, there has been exaggerated attention on the human aspect of the sacred liturgy."

I fear I can find humanistic poison in the Council and it can be found in virtually every document including that on the Liturgy. It starts with having a subheading titled: "Norms for Adapting the Liturgy to the Temperament and Traditions of Peoples".

The humanism continues with assurances to those who despised a transcendent liturgy that spoke to the spiritual needs of every human soul: "Even in the liturgy the Church does not wish to impose rigid uniformity..." Oh really? Why not? What is different about the souls of people in missionary countries and tribal cultures that they couldn't be expected to be spiritually responsive to the Mass that the missionary had always known?

That question is not answered. Rather than St. Francis Xavier taking the Catholic Mass to Asia and making Catholic Asians who conform to it, the post-Vatican II missionary is called to take the Catholic Mass to primitive societies and conform the liturgy to the culture that is found with almost no exceptions:

"Rather does she (the Church) foster the qualities and talents of the various races and nations. ANYTHING (emphasis mine) in these people's way of life which is not indissolubly bound up in superstition and error she studies with sympathy, and, if possible, preserves intact. She sometimes even admits such things into the liturgy itself, provided they harmonize with its true and authentic spirit."

In the very Council document on the liturgy we don't see a zeal for conforming converted peoples to the Catholic faith, but a foolhardy zeal for absorbing the cultural peculiarities of people into the liturgy.

We have seen the folly that results from taking this imprudent principle and making a liturgy that is adaptable to all races, cultures, and native genius. How, when we see in the Council documents the clear demand that the liturgy conform to man in this way, can we be as certain as Card. Burke that it isn't the teaching of the Council that has caused the humanistic orientation of the new liturgy?

It is encouraging that we have advanced to the point where brave men like Card. Burke can publicly admit that there are symptoms of spiritual disease in the Church. How long until we can talk about Vatican II as being a possible cause? The promulgating popes and our current Holy Father have all made the same distinction about Vatican II. This Council was different than others. If this is so, is it truly warranted that we must approach it in the exact same way as we would the Council of Trent? Is it to be an unfaithful Catholic to wonder if perhaps it is permitted to believe that something in the Council was imprudent, or if it is discovered that the popes deny infallibility to the Council, erroneous in its teaching?

It seems to me that only those who make this unwarranted assumption, that Vatican II is like every valid ecumenical council before it, could agree with Cardinal Burke, that the source of humanism in the liturgy, wherever it may be found, cannot be in the documents of Vatican II. As much as I admire Cardinal Burke, I don't understand how he could reach his conclusion any other way. Some day, hopefully soon, the time will come when good Catholics can dispassionately discuss this topic openly, but not yet I think.


The quotes from above came from Sacrosanctum Concilium, Ch.1, par. 37.

Anonymous said...

Many of us who were around in the 1960s recall that countless so-called professional theological experts emerged almost out of nowhere and began directing the parish and diocesan level (and convent level!!!!!) course of renewal. It was in this era, before most of us even thought about reading the documents ourselves, that the expression "the spirit of the Council" was born, during which time we were ushered into the various, chaotic and certainly unorthodox directions to which His Grace was undoubtedly referring.

Anonymous said...

The liturgical experts did not arise out of nowhere, they arose out of paragraph 44 of the document on the Sacred Liturgy: "It is desirable that the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Article 22:2 ("various kinds of bishop's conferences") set up a liturgical commission to be assisted by experts in liturgical science, sacred music, art, and pastoral practice. As far as possible the commission should be aided by some kind of Institue for Pastoral Liturgy, consisting of people who are eminent in these matters not excluding laymen...to promote studies and NECESSARY EXPERIMENTS WHENEVER(my emphasis) there is a question of adaptations to be proposed to the Holy See."

It doesn't seem to quite right when those who deplore the liturgical revolution that followed the Council insist that it is the Spirit of the Council which is solely to blame. It was the words of the Council which gave life to the Spirit of the Council as we can see above.

Perhaps the "Spirit" took things farther than the Council Fathers might have expected. However, it was the foolish desire, borne out of a modern, democratic, anti-hierarchical, anti-clerical mindset clearly discovered in the directives of the Council, conceding the pastoral authority of the Church into the hands of the even the laity that laid the groundwork for the inevitable revolt.

I suggest that the result is that the legitimate hierarchical authority of the Church is now so despised by its own "faithful", that the pope and good prelates like Cardinal Burke still cannot do as they would wish liturgically or even speak candidly about it, because they fear they would lose the modern majority in the Church. Instead, when a pope is sympathetic to the claims of Tradition, he has to send signals quietly to give us hope, while publicly maintaining that the ecclesiastical vision of the Modernists that were raised by the words of Vatican II are as alive and well as ever.


thetimman said...

Rory said,

"It doesn't seem to quite right when those who deplore the liturgical revolution that followed the Council insist that it is the Spirit of the Council which is solely to blame. It was the words of the Council which gave life to the Spirit of the Council as we can see above.

Perhaps the "Spirit" took things farther than the Council Fathers might have expected. However, it was the foolish desire, borne out of a modern, democratic, anti-hierarchical, anti-clerical mindset clearly discovered in the directives of the Council, conceding the pastoral authority of the Church into the hands of the even the laity that laid the groundwork for the inevitable revolt."

I can't disagree with that.

Anonymous said...

Here is an interesting word count just in this post alone about Archbishop Burke:
Law - 3 Xs
Commandments - 6 Xs
Regulations - 2 Xs
Command/ed - 2Xs
Order - 1X
Norms - 1X

Love - 1X
Compassion, Mercy, Forgiveness, Caritas, Charity, etc. - 0

Hmmm, law trumps love 12 to 1?

This, my friends, is NOT a spirituality I want to follow!!!


thetimman said...

OK, for a list requested by the previous commenter-- some of these are "approved" novelties, and some are "abuses", sometimes deplored, sometimes ignored. I will limit myself to things that I have personally witnessed. Most all of these have as an end the gratification of some one, few or many of the congregation, or a debasing of the role of the sacrificial priesthood. To keep it manageable, I will start with only 20, in no particular order:

1. Communion in the hand
2. Altar girls
3. Lay lectors
4. Armies of Eucharistic Ministers
5. Priest and faithful facing each other in a closed circle
6. Optional parts of the ordinary that encourage a feeling of arbitrariness of texts, and preclude a sense that the official text is ever a settled thing.
7. Pop music for the sacred rites, and bad pop music at that
8. Elimination of the altar rail
9. Parish liturgy committees and the notion of "planning" liturgies
10. Constant verbal responses that destroy the ability to meditate
11. Destruction of the ancient calendar and yearly cycle
12. Liturgical "dance"
13. Replacing the prescribed psalm texts with more pop ditties
14. Vernacular language
15. Self-communication
16. Communion under both species
17. Homilies delivered by persons who are not priests
18. Lowest common denominator, treacly homilies
19. Elimination of the absolution after the confiteor
20. Broadway wannabe cantors and "music ministers"

Anonymous said...

Dear nammiT,

You mistakenly propose law and love as opposites. God's law, however, is based on love. Unlike human laws, which can be unjust and even hateful at times, God's laws are in perfect union with his loving will. In God, there is no contradiction between law and love. I believe Cardinal Burke would emphasize this same point. After all, he has a great devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in which one contemplates God's love and mercy. Your observation, therefore, lacks proper perspective.


Anonymous said...

I attend the Ordinary Form of the Mass frequently, mostly in one fairly conservative parish, but I also attend several others regularly in my diocese. These are some common practices I thought of when I read “exaggerated attention on the human aspect of the sacred liturgy”:

1) pronouncing words of consecration with various degree of “feeling”
2) the priest making comments to the congregation during holy Mass, usually jokes, but sometimes comments of condolence or compassion. These comments are undoubtedly appropriate outside of Mass, but are often incorporated inappropriately in the celebration of Mass.
3) the priest commenting on the meaning of various parts of the liturgy during Mass. He means to instruct the faithful, but these instructions are out of place during the celebration of the liturgy.
4) extended period of sharing peace, with people going up and down the aisle shaking hands and waving to one another.
5) the priest stepping out of the sanctuary and walking up and down the aisle to give his homily.
6) non-standardized practices, and personality-dependent celebration of holy Mass. You get to know pretty quickly the individual style of the priest celebrating Mass.
7) parade of lectors (who’s who of the parish)
8) theatrical tones used in reading scripture and/or prayers of the faithful
9) prayers of the faithful read aloud – often drafted by a committee, and may reflect the pet projects of some groups within the parish
10) special blessings given during holy Mass for various purposes, including anointing of the sick.
11) sermon given by a lay person, often for a worthy community project, but replacing the priest nonetheless.

These are the first to come to mind.


thetimman said...

RJS, charitably said. Joy, as good a start on a list as any.

And, to boil down one thing implicit in Rory's comments, I have been thinking for some time about a post on one necessary but overlooked point about the "Spirit" of Vatican II.

You can't have a Spirit of Vatican II without Vatican II. Stated otherwise, there is enough mischief in the ambiguities of the documents that a "Spirit of Vatican II" was made possible.

Can you imagine a "Spirit of Vatican I", as though it meant something else than was written? Or a "Spirit of Trent"? Those documents were crystal clear.

Anonymous said...

Here's another significant example of self-centered liturgy:

In the ordinary form the host is elevated immediately after the words of consecration have been pronounced. The act of veneration performed by the celebrant takes place only after the consecrated host has been presented to the congregation.

It is as though the Real Presence of Our Lord would depend on the approval or acknowledgment of the faithful. Is this Protestant? Is it an anthropocentric turn of the liturgy?

If not, what else would it show?

Anonymous said...

On what or whom is the liturgy centred? I propose a simple thought experiment. Consider two hypothetical scenarios:

Case I – a sung Mass in the Extraordinary Form, with a celebrant, servers, a choir in the loft, and no one else sitting in the pews.

Case II – a regular Sunday Mass in the Ordinary Form, with one celebrant (or more concelebrants), servers, and a nice choir with or without instrumental accompaniment, and also no one else sitting in the pews.

When there is no congregation present, (i.e. no audience, as some might call it,) Case I would still seem to be complete, but Case II? To someone who is accustomed to attending the Ordinary Form, it would seem really weird that the celebrant has nobody to talk to.

I’m not contrasting the efficaciousness of two equally valid Masses, only our perception. Haven’t we become so accustomed to the communal feeling in the Ordinary Form that having nobody in the pews to face the priest makes the Mass seem incomplete somehow?


thetimman said...

mc, a nice insight. Thanks.