A couple weeks ago the editor of Inside the Vatican said that he was readying an interview with H.E. Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments. The text is available. Here are some of the highlights with my emphasis and comments.
ARCHBISHOP MALCOM RANJITH: … the post-conciliar reform of the liturgy has not been able to achieve the expected goals of spiritual and missionary renewal in the Church so that today we could be truly happy about it.
Undoubtedly there have been positive results too; but the negative effects seem to have been greater, causing much disorientation in our ranks.
The churches have become empty, liturgical free-wheeling has become the order of the day, and the true meaning and significance of that which is celebrated has been obscured.
One has to, then, begin wondering if the reform process had in fact been handled correctly. Thus, we need to take a good look at what had happened, pray and reflect about its causes and with the help of the Lord move on to make the necessary corrections.
VALLE: It seems as if Pope Benedict XVI will release a motu proprio to liberalize the use of the traditional or Tridentine Mass. …
RANJITH: … The Holy Father will, I am sure, take note of this and decide what is best for the Church.
With regard to the timing and nature of the motu proprio, nothing yet is known. It is the Holy Father who will decide.
VALLE: Like many Catholics today, my wife and I have found that we leave the celebration of the Novus Ordo Mass on Sunday exasperated and perplexed rather than spiritually invigorated. Why?
In the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, some place too much accent on the presidential role of the priest. But we know that the priest is really not the main agent of what happens on the altar.
It is Jesus Himself. [YES! As I have been saying for years, Christ is the true Actor in the Mass and our authentic participation must first and foremost be characterized by active receptivity.]
VALLE: Some have contended that the solution to the liturgical crisis — and at bottom the crisis of faith — afflicting the Catholic Church today would be to implement the exclusive use of the Tridentine Mass, while others maintain that all we really need is a "reform of the reform," in other words, a reform of the Novus Ordo. What do you think?
RANJITH: An "either-or" attitude would unnecessarily polarize the Church, whereas charity and pastoral concern should be the motivating factors.
If the Holy Father so desires, both could co-exist.
That would not mean that we would have to give up the Novus Ordo. But in the interaction of the two Roman traditions, it is possible that the one may influence the other eventually. [This is another point I have been hammering for years - and I got it from Joseph Ratzinger. It has long been his idea that celebrations of the older form of Mass could redirect and reroot the newer form back into the Roman liturgical Tradition. In many ways the Novus Ordo is a "break" with that Tradition. Rather than being an organic outgrowth from that liturgical tradition, it was artifically put together and composed by "experts". So, the contact of the older form with the new form could restart that organic process, out of which a tertium quid could slowly emerge.]
… Communion in the hand had not been something that was first properly studied and reflected upon before its acceptance by the Holy See. It had been haphazardly introduced in some countries of Northern Europe and later become accepted practice, eventually spreading into many other places. Now that is a situation that should have been avoided. The Second Vatican Council never advocated such an approach to liturgical reform. [AMEN!]
VALLE: What are some contemporary liturgical trends or problems that need correction?
RANJITH: One of these, as I see, is the trend to go for ecumenical liturgies in replacement of the Sunday Mass in some countries, during which Catholic lay leaders and Protestant ministers celebrate together and the latter are invited to preach the homily. ...
A second disturbing trend is the gradual replacement of the Mass celebrated by a priest with a paraliturgical service conducted by a lay person. …
… And so it is gravely abusive to relegate to the laity the sacred obligations reserved to the priest. [As I have written many times here, when priests think, even with all good will, that to help people feel "involved" or "appreciated" they must be given things to do that the priest is supposed to do, we stumble into a subtle form of condescending CLERICALISM of a particularly insidious type. What is really being said is that if lay people don't do things priests do, they aren't really members of the Church. In other words, the signal is that lay people are not good enough on their own. So, I contend that it is "gravely abusive" to lay people to "clericalize" them.]
What is unfortunate is the increasing tendency worldwide to laicize the priest and to clericalize the laity. This too is contra mentem ("against the mind" or "against the intention") of the Council.
There is also an increasing trend to shift the Sunday Mass to Saturdays almost as a "normal" practice. … [Again Archbp. Ranjith hits one dead center. Let Sunday be Sunday and let the Saturday anticipation be the exception.
And now he goes on to KNEELING!]
A final point I wish to make here concerns some practices introduced in mission territories, for example, in Asia, in the name of change, which are counter to its cultural heritage.
In some Asian countries we see a trend to introduce Communion in the hand which is received standing. This is not at all consonant with Asian culture. The Buddhists worship prostrate on the floor with their forehead touching the ground. Moslems take off their shoes and wash their feet before entering the mosque for worship. The Hindus enter the temple bare-chested as a sign of submission. When people approach the king of Thailand or the emperor of Japan, they do so on their knees as a sign of respect. But in many Asian countries the Church has introduced practices like just a simple bow to the Blessed Sacrament instead of kneeling, standing while receiving Holy Communion, and receiving Communion on the hand. And we know that these cannot be considered practices congruent with Asian culture.
Besides, the laity whose role today is being enhanced in the Church are not even consulted when such decisions are made. [YES! More condescending clericalism!! Was there in the early 60's a huge groundwell against the Prayers at the foot of the altar? The last Gospel? And yet these changes were imposed. So many things have been stripped away... many things PAID for by the hard sacrifices of lay people who were not in the least interested in changes.]
All these situations do not augur well for the Church and we need to correct these trends, if the Eucharist we celebrate is to become, as St. Ignatius of Antioch affirmed, "medicine of immortality and antidote against death" (Eph. 20).
Anthony Valle is a theologian and writer who lives in Rome.
Okay folks… go read the piece.
This is great work and Anthony Valle deserves a biretta tip!