Friday, April 18, 2008

Is the Pope performing litmus tests?

Well, did not watch the papal liturgy yesterday at Nationals Stadium, precisely because I figured it would be pretty bad musically. However, even I am surprised at how bad and embarrassing it apparently was. I mean, when Jeffery Tucker at the NLM says,
Indeed, when Marty Haugen's Mass of Creation finally came on at the Sanctus, it was a moment of dignity—so much so that I want to take back all my negative comments back when I thought that this Mass setting was unsuitable for a Papal Mass. I don't think anyone knew before this what the phrase "unsuitable" could really mean.

I think America is reaching rock bottom, liturgically.

But it's had me thinking about some things and possibly the Pope's modus operandi. With the things he's done recently, he's been able to perform a ton of litmus tests. Basically, the Pope is seeing exactly which leaders of the Church are "in union" with the Pope and which ones aren't. What is amazing is how successful these tests have been.

Take Summorum Pontificum. Look at how many bishops have not only just ignored the document, but have openly defied it. It's not a complicated document and there really isn't much to read into it regarding its implementation. Yet, it has been astonishing at how foolish many bishops' responses to the motu proprio have been.

I think the same thing happened with the Pope's former Master of Ceremonies, Piero Marini. Marini knew Pope Benedict's thoughts on liturgy, yet Marini continued with his status quo. I think it's pretty clear that Pope Benedict gave Marini a chance to "come around" yet Marini openly defied His Holiness' liturgical principles. And now, Marini has been replaced with someone a bit more cooperative, shall we say. And in the end, Marini can't say he wasn't given a chance to continue to be Master of Ceremonies. He had over a year to improve things, yet even in that time we had the sad spectacle of the vestments in Austria.

And now, the United States has just stepped in it's own doings. There has been a pretty universal embarassment in the Catholic blogosphere over the choice of music at yesterday's Mass. The one positive I see in this is that now the Pope has seen for himself, firsthand the horrid state of liturgical music in the United States. And sadly, the average parish in the United States is barely better. Having the opportunity to see various parishes around me, it is always distressing to see how liturgy just isn't done by the books. Every place does it's own thing. We the laity are forced to choose Masses based on the the whims and preferences of the priest, not on whether the priest follows the liturgical will of the Church as given through the liturgical documents, instructions, and even rubrics.

I know that there is great freedom in just doing the Mass "by the books" rather than trying to impress people or even ourselves. So much energy and time and attention are given to the most unimportant things -- to "the show" as it were - rather than to just doing the Mass the way the Church says to do it.

How does this relate to the Pope? Well, as he said in his accompanying letter to Summorum Pontificum

The celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage. The most sure guarantee that the Missal of Paul VI can unite parish communities and be loved by them consists in its being celebrated with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives. This will bring out the spiritual richness and the theological depth of this Missal." [emphasis added]

I would say that this litmus test was successful in that I believe the Pope got a read on some of the liturgical problems in this country. I just pray that the Holy Spirit will guide him to a solution for it.

[RS steps off soapbox]


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