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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Liturgical and Musical Reforms: An Honest Assessment

My mentor, Mons. Richard J. Schuler wrote the following article for Sacred Music Magazine in the winter of 1990.  It can be found in vol. 117 no. 4.  He addresses the reforms which came out of Vatican Council II.  I think that they are as salient today as they were when he wrote the article.  Mons. Schuler was one of the preeminent musicologists of the 20th century and lived in St. Paul, MN.

Read on:

In all honesty one must make a judgement at various times in life when reviewing a project or development. The building inspector must judge whether the plans of the architect have been carefully and rightly carried out; the music critic must judge if the performers have artistically reproduced the intentions of the composer; the dressmaker, the cook, the barber and the teacher must all judge if their products are in conformity with the pattern or recipe or prospectus or order that was the model for working. The judgement must be honest, or else we are like the emperor who had no clothes. One cannot fool all the people all the time. The truth must be acknowledged. The blueprint, the pattern, the plan and the directions remain and the product must be compared to them. Humility, which is truth, must admit to conformity or lack of it. For twenty-five years, we have had a pattern, a set of directions for reforming the liturgy and its music. The Second Vatican Council, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and with the full authority of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, has clearly indicated its will, and the Holy See has given the world the authentic manner in which these decrees are to be implemented. The pattern is certain and clear. How well does the product measure up? Can the inspector approve of the results? Are we fooling ourselves when we proclaim the reform to be a great success? Evidence continually is making it clear that the decrees of the Vatican Council have not been successfully implemented in the United States, and this failure has, in fact, led to many unfortunate results harmful to religion and Catholic life. Studies of Mass attendance reveal a drastic drop in attendance at Sunday worship; decrease in vocations to the priesthood and religious life continues; school children know less about their faith than ever before; knowledge of right and wrong, no longer learned through sermons at Sunday Mass, has become confused; the artistic quality of liturgy and music has fallen to an incredible level in the majority of churches, even those which before the council had fitting worship; ignorance of liturgy in its history or in the demands of the present reform, even in so-called professional liturgists, musicians and composers, exceeds all bounds. How can the Church in our country extracate itself from the mire into which its liturgy has fallen? Who can clean the Agean stables? Roman decrees will not accomplish it, since we have had decrees for twenty-five years which have been ignored and deliberately disobeyed. Those decrees depend on the bishops to implement. But the bishops give their obligations over to their "experts" who put into operation what they have learned in the propagandizing centers of liturgical study. The process of reversal is an educational one. It must begin with the schools. This means that bishops must demand graduate centers for true liturgical studies and seminaries where the future clergy are will be correctly instructed about the intentions of the Church given by the council and the documents that followed. Bishops must seek competent and true teachers for their institutions and seminaries. Pastors must hire only those who have been correctly and competently trained and who exhibit a willingness to "think with the Church." The unfortunate performers, the inferior compositions, the lack of reverence and open violations of liturgical law and spirit must all be removed from our churches. It will be a long path to implementation of the conciliar decrees, because we are beginning now from a position that is farther removed from the true goal than we were before the calling of the council. The last twenty-five years have witnessed an almost total collapse of the sacred liturgy, causing the problems cited above. The regulation of the liturgy on the local level is the immediate task of the bishop. Especially in the seminary and the cathedral, but also in his parishes he must see to it that the requirements of the council and the documents following the council be put into careful observance. He may be assisted by properly trained musicians and liturgists. But therein lies the cause of the present debacle. Too many occupying posts in diocesan and seminary musical and liturgical establishments are poorly trained, victims of propaganda peddled by centers of liturgical studies and some periodicals, ignorant of the regulations called for by the Church for its liturgy. Until that situation is rectified, our liturgy will continue to disintegrate and with the liturgy, the practice of the faith.

As I said, Mons. Schuler wrote this in 1990.  The same issues which plagued him then, plague us today.  We are still in a vocational crisis, both in the priesthood and religious life.  We are still faced with drastic drops in attendance at Sunday worship.  We are still trying to find new ways to educate our school children, who are becoming increasingly ignorant of their faith, as witnessed by a lack of understanding between right and wrong.  We are still subjected to sermons and homilies which have less to do with the Sacred Scriptures and more to do with Aunt Molly down the street or her dancing poodle and how that dog makes us feel.  And the quality of Sacred Music is at an all time low, including the so-called "new arrangements."  The arrangements make us feel as though we're at a Broadway musical rather than at Holy Mass.

Mons. Schuler asks quite pointedly, "How can the Church extricate herself from the mire?"  He makes the assertion, quite properly that it must fall on the bishops and priests.  But that is a bit of a misnomer, because now that we are 40 years removed, there are fewer priests.  It must fall on us, the faithful to stand up and demand that we have proper liturgical actions and proper liturgical music.  Proper liturgical action is carried out by following the rubrics.  It is plainly clear.  We must implore, ask and even sometimes demand that our priests offer Holy Mass properly.  Follow what the rubrics say.  Don't deviate, don't improvise.  Just follow the rubrics.  There are some changes which must be made in order for this to happen, but they are not out of the ordinary (as far as the 2000 year history of the Church is concerned).

1.  Offer Holy Mass with all the ceremony that can be mustered
2.  Follow the rubrics
3.  Orient the Mass, so that the rubrics can be followed, properly
4.  Sing the Mass
5.  Follow the rubrics
6.  Do the red
7.  Say the black
8.  Use the proper language for Holy Mass
9.  Follow the rubrics
10.  Do what the Church asks 

When the priests and bishops start properly celebrating the Mass, with no deviation from the rubrics, then we will start to see a renaissance.  Until then, we will be mired in mediocrity.  To be valid is not enough.  To offer the Mass both validly and licitly is what the faithful have a right to expect.

With regard to music, the Church is clear.  The organ is the proper instrument for use during Holy Mass, to support that which is most proper, the human voice.  Chant has pride of place.  It should be afforded as such in the churches we assist at.  To not avail ourselves to Gregorian chant is to NOT fulfill that which the Church asks of her parishes.

There are instruments and styles which are forbidden.  They have been documented within the last century and affirmed by Popes as recent as John Paul II and Benedict XVI.  What I cannot understand is why these Popes are being ignored.  If Pope St. Pius X states that bands (guitar, drums, bass) and pianos are forbidden and John Paul II affirms this, why do they persist?  Why wouldn't the bishops, priests, and liturgists simply comply?  What is the motivation?  I can think of only two.  First, pride.  To not follow the direction of the Holy Father, when the request is legitimate is prideful. It sets up the parish church as being "more Catholic" than the Pope.  This is an argument which liberals often times levy against conservatives, but in actuality, when one acts in defiance of the teachings of the Church who is really walking outside the lines?  Second, is ignorance.  And that is really the big problem.  If the liturgist in the parish is ignorant of the teachings of the Church on music and the liturgy, why are they there?  Are they there to forward an agenda or are they there to do what the Church asks?  If they are there for the latter, then it becomes incumbent upon them to know what the Church expects.

We as the faithful, have a right to the Mass celebrated properly.  We have a right to the Mass of Paul VI celebrated according to the rubrics and in the style and language in which it was intended.  We must ask ourselves, do we know what that is?  If we don't, why not?  If we think we do, does it line up with what the Church actually teaches?  

We also have a right to the Mass according to the 1962 Missale Romanum.  However, in today's churches, by and large we are not being afforded that right.  Priests are saying that the faithful don't want it.  I disagree.  What is the fastest growing movement in the Church today?  Traditionalism.  What Mass is being attended with a growing number every week?  The TLM, the 1962 Missale Romanum.  When parish churches are emptying in droves, the TLM is growing.  Why would we not want to cater to that?  Why wouldn't the leaders of the Church recognize that unless there was an agenda afoot?  Some argue that these priests are not able to celebrate the Mass in Latin.  I call BS.  Every one of these men have advanced degrees.  They are not unintelligent men.  They have the capacity to learn.  Every one of them.  This is a matter of agenda.  If the younger priests can learn the TLM, why can't the established priests?  This is a matter of agenda.

As Mons. Schuler points out, "...until [this] situation is rectified, our liturgy will continue to disintegrate, and with the liturgy, the practice of the faith."

He was right in 1990.  He is right today.

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