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all your backlash are belong to us

By Diogenes (articles ) | Feb 03, 2008

Fr. Richard McBrien shares some thoughts on Archbishop Piero Marini's recent book on the liturgy, originally titled As Legs That Are Shaven. We have to stop short of calling McBrien's column a "review," as he does not claim to have read Marini and it's not clear that he's done so. In any event, McBrien is more interested in the ecclesiastical politics that produced the book than in any theology it may contain. Brace yourselves for a good yawn:

There is a small but powerful and determined group within the Vatican who have never accepted the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council and Pope Paul VI. Their resistance is at root ecclesiological in nature.

What they oppose is the de-clericalization of the liturgy. In their minds, the Church is identical with the hierarchy and the priests who serve under the bishops. The laity, on the other hand, are simply the beneficiaries of the sacramental ministrations of the clergy, in a process ultimately controlled by the Vatican.

The problem for the resisters is not so much that the Mass was put into the vernacular, but that the laity could now fully understand it and actively participate in it.

McBrien is here presenting us with an ecclesiastical version of Susan Faludi's 1991 screed Backlash, which tried to explain the waning interest in radical feminism as an "undeclared war" against high-achieving women by sinister factions threatened by social upheaval. McBrien would have us believe that a "small but powerful" group (sound familiar?) is out to undermine the work of the Second Vatican Council, never deigning to notice that, far from championing the Mass given us by the Council, his fellow progressivist clergy could never get excited enough about it to do it right themselves. Nor does he account for the fact that, worldwide, the pews are emptiest precisely where the Marinis and McBriens have had the greatest liturgical clout.

Perhaps his professorial duties do not permit Fr. McBrien the opportunity to look inside a church very often. Even so, a tour of Catholic blogdom would convince him that his ecclesiological wristwatch must have stopped around 1971. Contrary to what he'd have us believe, it's the not the bishops who are leading the "reform of the reform," but those lay faithful who hunger for the God the liturgists have shouldered out of the Mass. Whence Marini/McBrien deserve the same response as Faludi: What's there to be frightened of? It's not that we think you're scary, it's that we think you're goofy.

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Show 7 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Feb. 06, 2008 6:39 AM ET USA

    "Terribilis est locus iste: hic domus Dei est et porta caeli: et vocabitur aula Dei." "Terrible is this place: it is the house of God and the gate of heaven; and it shall be called the Court of God." Thus begins the Mass for the Dedication of a Church in the 1962 Missal. The traditional rite of Mass is replete with these forms. Look at the prayers at the foot of the altar at the beginning of Mass. These prayers engender piety and reverence and humility of heart ... horrors to Marini et al.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 04, 2008 8:35 PM ET USA

    I go to a Latin Mass and it is jammed every Sunday. There are now 5 in the diocese and the same thing happens; all are crowded. There are as many young people in attendance as older folks. It is kind of sad to hear people demeaning the Latin Mass; could it be that they are jealous of the crowds?

  • Posted by: - Feb. 04, 2008 8:22 PM ET USA

    As usual a liberal misrepresents what is really objected. Not the participation of the laity, nor the understanding (and he probably knows this), but the complete banality of music, vacuous touchy feely “performances”, desacralization of the worship, the smarmy sermons, the utter lack of respect for the Body of Christ, the barn stampede of “lay ministries”.The New Mass lacks the transcendence, beauty and deep respect of the old rite. At its best the New Mass is mediocre, at its worse travesty.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 04, 2008 5:30 PM ET USA

    I would like to see proof that liberal Catholic parishes are the least popular. I wouldn't go to one, but a great many in this area (Milwaukee) do. The mega-churches are likewise booming, here and elsewhere. Is there a drum set on the stage? To many, Catholics and Protestants, this is highly desirous. No one knows or cares about Latin anymore. Alas, but that's reality.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 04, 2008 8:25 AM ET USA

    And in the same vein, would you look to the newspaper of Los Angeles for examples of orthodoxy and rationality? Unfortunately, I'm a member of this mega-mart archdiocese, where you can find almost anything you want in a liturgy (thankfully, even good and faithful ones).

  • Posted by: - Feb. 03, 2008 3:36 PM ET USA

    No disrespect to his priesthood, but does the name Fr. Richard McBrien come to mind when one thinks of world renowned liturgical scholars? I didn't think so. What if you ask the same question about Pope Benedict XVI? World class. Yes.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 03, 2008 4:43 AM ET USA

    Probably not the intended understanding of this photo, but it certainly looks like God might be causing these poor "liturgical dancers" some intestinal distress, followed by unconsciousness. This will probably help those in the congregation who have been reacting to their antics with the same symptoms. Can you say "smite"? I knew you could!

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