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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dialogue and Discussion

The current online issue of the National Catholic Reporter has an interesting article titled, “Vatican II priests still embrace council's model despite reversals.”
It previews a forthcoming (April 2012) study from Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) study called “Same Call, Different Men: The Evolution of the Priesthood since Vatican II,” which looks at the difference between priests who were born between 1943 and 1960 (i.e., roughly during the Baby Boom) and those born before or after that period.
It terms the Baby Boomers as “Vatican II” priests. Others call them Gaudium et Spes priests, after the conciliar document whose English title is “Joy and Hope” or the better known “Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.” They desire dialogue on what the Church says are closed issues (e.g., women’s ordination, clerical celibacy, contraception, etc.). They want ecumenism, but one that minimizes rather than tries to resolve sticky differences. They also want more ecclesial involvement in some modern issues that have not typically fallen under the Church’s main competency, which is to save souls.
For instance, the National Catholic Reporter characterized the perspective of one such priest from Australia as wanting the Church to focus on “global involvement in issues from social justice and technology to economics and ecumenism.”[i] Such clerics also tend to be relativistic and not much different than many social libertarians in their approach to sexuality. Perhaps most tellingly, they claim to value dialogue and discussion. As an example of this, the Reporter quotes the aforementioned Australian priest as saying, “Priestly celibacy, despite being highly contentious, was reasserted by Paul VI in 1967 without discussion.”[ii]
Look at the issue of dialogue and discussion from another perspective, however.
The conciliar records and actual documents clearly show that the desire of Council Fathers was that some vernacular be allowed into the Mass. Furthermore, Gregorian chant was to have pride of place in the liturgy. When Paul VI promulgated the revised Roman rite in 1969, what we now call the extraordinary form of the Mass—that is the form of the Mass that had more or less existed in the same form since Pope St. Gregory the Great (590-604) —was suppressed, and Latin was almost nowhere to be found on Sundays.
As for Gregorian chant, it disappeared so quickly and so ubiquitously, that Paul VI had a letter sent to every bishop in the world on his half called Jubilate Deo, which contained sheet music for congregations so they could sing the plain chant versions of prayers like the Gloria, Sanctus, Our Father, and Agnus Dei. That letter was effectively dead on arrival. It certainly didn’t have the impact the Pope desired for it. Instead, guitar music reigned unabated.
Then consider the issue of altar girls. Over the course of Church history, three popes—St. Gelasius (492-496), Innocent IV (1243-54), and Benedict XIV (1740-58)—all had condemned and forbade the practice.[iii]
Furthermore, two post-conciliar instructions,[1] Liturgicae Instaurationes (1970) and Inaestimabile Donum (1980) also declared the service of women at the altar to be illicit. Reports conflict, but some even say Bl. John Paul II had promised Bl. Mother Teresa of Kolkata he would never allow altar girls during his pontificate.
So let me ask: Where was the dialogue and discussion on any of these issues? The late Bishop Ray Lucker of New Ulm, MN (may God rest his soul), arguably the most liberal bishop the United States has ever had, considered people attached to the extraordinary form of the Mass (i.e., the traditional Latin Mass) to be dissenters. And yet all these people simply wanted was to worship in the same way as their ancestors and the saints had for centuries.
Therefore, would it be fair to ask that just as those who cry for tolerance today are often the most intolerant, are the people who shout most for dialogue and discussion those who want it least when that works to their favor?

[1] Instructions are Vatican documents that can define or clarify something (e.g., the will of Council Fathers) or provide a correction to certain errors that have begun to crop up.

[i] “Vatican II priests still embrace council's model despite reversals,” by Dan Morris-Young, National Catholic Reporter, March 12, 2012
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Respectively, the 9th Letter to the Bishops of Lucania, Brutia, and Sicily, Ch. 26; Letter to the Bishop of Tusculum; and Etsi Pastoralis, VI:21, a papal bull issued in 1742.

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