“Re-Catholicizing” the New Mass?

AS I NOTED in the opening pages of Work of Human Hands, one factor that led me to begin working on the book once again in November 2008 was the increasing interest that the younger generation of post-Vatican II clergy was beginning to take in traditional Catholic liturgical practices.

This enthusiasm for the old was especially evident on one internet site that I began to follow regularly, New Liturgical Movement.

NLM regularly posts spectacular photos of traditional liturgical ceremonies in the old rite, offered in accord with the provisions of Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, as well as photos of the Novus Ordo celebrated with various traditional trimmings (old-style vestments, priests with birettas, the Eucharistic Prayer “facing East,” etc.) These are accompanied by articles on traditional church architecture, sacred music, sacred art, and the liturgical year, not to mention striking ads from purveyors of old fashioned liturgical fittings.

The June 5, 2010 NLM featured an article by Fr. Thomas Kocik, The Reform of the Reform? Not Yet. The reform in question is the one discussed in Fr. Kocik’s The Reform of the Reform? A Liturgical Debate, a 2003 book that floated various suggestions for “improving” the New Mass along more traditional lines.

In his recent article, Fr. Kocik offered a two-fold distinction for these proposals, both of which, he says, aim to improve “the deficiencies of the earlier reform.”

(1) “Reform of the reform,” which advocates reformulating the Mass of Paul VI more along the lines of the 1962 Missal of John XXIII, the last version of the old Mass in force before the introduction of the post-Vatican II changes.

(2) “Re-catholicization of the reform,” which is not interested so much in rewriting the liturgical books for the Mass of Paul VI in a traditional direction, but rather

in celebrating the revised liturgy in a manner which makes it more expressive of liturgical tradition and which highlights the transcendent character and sacred ethos of Catholic worship.

The latter term I found particularly striking: “re-catholicization.” The implication, obviously, is that the Mass of Paul VI is DE-catholicized.

By this Fr. Kocik seems to mean only that the new rite lacks a certain “atmosphere” that the old rite possessed, and that for the time being, this can be regained by tweaking some of the externals of the Novus Ordo.

The atmospheric shortcomings of the New Mass that clergy like Fr. Kocik lament, however, are merely symptoms of the underlying doctrinal problem behind the new rite.

The shift to Mass facing the people, for instance, represents more than just doing away with “transcendent character and sacred ethos.” It replaced what one of the creators of the New Order of  Mass, Fr. Martin Patino, called the theocentric (God-centered) theology of the Mass with a new anthropocentric (man-centered) theological emphasis. (See Work of Human Hands, 168-9)

Such a shift was quite deliberate. And turning the theological underpinnings of a rite from God to man, of course, is bound to affect transcendence.

One hopes that younger clergy such as Fr. Kocik who are put off by so many aspects of the new rite will one day discover the true cause for their discomfort — the ecumenical and modernist theology that affected countless features of the new rite, both large and small.

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