Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Mr. Gooley on the liturgical revolution

The Rev. Anthony Gooley, a deacon of The Archdiocese of Brisbane, continued his "Bite-Size Vatican II" series in last Sunday's edition of the Sydney Catholic Weekly, in an article entitled "Going back to find the liturgical way forward". The article consisted of ten paragraphs: Two introductory ones, four in which Mr. Gooley gives us a sense of his liturgical antiquarianism, and four in which he quotes from Sacrosanctum Concilium in support of this antiquarianism. Here is the first of those two sets of four paragraphs:

Scholars wanted to understand how liturgy and theology had developed by returning to the ancient sources and by stripping away elements that had accumulated over time which may have obscured the beauty and inner nature of the liturgy. The process was not unlike the restoration of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, removing accumulations of smoke and soot to reveal the vibrant colours which were hidden underneath.

[...] In fact, the way forward was found in going back to original sources and earlier forms. The form of the Mass after Vatican II is much closer in resemblance to the liturgy celebrated in the first millennium and into the second. Hypolitus, a presbyter in the Church of Rome, provides a description of Sunday liturgy in 150AD which in its outlines is identical with the current order.

The prayers chosen from across the centuries reflect the communion of the Church in time.

The simplification of rituals, the removal of repetitions and some elements which obscured the central meaning of the liturgy were carefully decided by going back to historical sources by considering the Eucharistic theology which had been emerging and by the goal of full, conscious and active participation. In this return to the past the way forward to a faith deeply centred on active participation in the Eucharist emerged.

So for Mr. Gooley and those of his ilk, two thousand years of liturgical development was little more than the accumulation of so much "smoke and soot" requiring a purging of those elements which "may have obscured the beauty and inner nature of the liturgy". Now to say that the "inner nature" of the Traditional Latin Mass had been (though Mr Gooley says "may have" rather than coming right out and saying so) "obscured" is quite a serious charge. Teachings can be condemned by the Magisterium not merely for their import but for their expression, not merely for being false or evil, but for obscuring the truth. Now the teaching in the liturgy is the teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium, and the teaching of the liturgy of the Church of Rome is the teaching of the Papal Ordinary Magisterium, which is infallible when all (or, practically, very many) Bishops of Rome teach unanimously. Now the Bishops of Rome across some fifteen hundreds years celebrated substantially the same liturgy, so Mr. Gooley's position here is untenable. When, I wonder, during that time does he think that the "inner nature" of the Mass became "obscured" to the extent that we needed the liturgical revolution which followed Vatican II? We know that, in his learned opinion, Mr. Gooley regards the Roman liturgy of the mid-second century as acceptable, so the question can be posed as: How long after that time did the Roman liturgy begin to 'obscure' the true meaning of the Mass? (Mr. Gooley's reference to the second century calls to mind the following quotation from Evelyn Waugh which Athanasius has posted at the left-hand side of his blog:
We had looked upon them [proponents of liturgical change] as harmless cranks who were attempting to devise a charade of second-century habits. We had confidence in the abiding Romanita of our Church. Suddenly we find the cranks in authority.
And accusing the Traditional Latin Mass of 'obscuring' the "beauty" of the Mass is no trifling matter, either, since beauty is the harmonious relation of the parts to the whole, not merely some subjective, aesthetic thing.)

And I am not sure why Mr. Gooley feels the need to mention that
The prayers chosen from across the centuries reflect the communion of the Church in time.
"[C]hosen" how and by whom, though? Surely the liturgy which best "reflect[s] the communion of the Church in [across?] time" is that which is the product of organic rather than artificial development?

So what Mr. Gooley preaches is crass antiquarianism. But it is not without usefulness for those of us who long for the restoration of the Traditional Latin Mass as the liturgy of the Church of Rome. For if it is legitimate for those of archaeologising tendencies to return to the liturgies of eighteen hundred years ago, then how can they begrudge us for wanting to 'turn the clock back' a mere forty years?

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. Angela of Merici, A.D. 2010

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