CUA: Lecture on liturgy – Thursday 12 Feb

WHAT:    CUA Lecture: "Which Liturgy Is the Church’s Liturgy"?

WHEN:    4:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 12
WHERE:    The Catholic University of America
Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center, Great Room
620 Michigan Ave., N.E.
Washington, D.C.

DETAILS:    Monsignor Kevin W. Irwin, dean and Walter J. Schmitz Chair of Liturgical Studies at Catholic University’s School of Theology and Religious Studies, will give a lecture addressing some of the issues surrounding Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio on the Tridentine (or Latin) Mass. (A motu proprio is a document issued by the Pope on his own initiative and personally signed by him.) Monsignor Irwin also will discuss several adjustments in liturgies celebrated by the Holy Father and possible changes in the Order of Mass, such as the dismissal rite and the point in the Mass at which the sign of peace is exchanged.
In his talk — "Which Liturgy Is the Church’s Liturgy"? — Monsignor Irwin will offer historical background, a theological assessment and some pastoral applications about these liturgical adjustments in light of the ongoing reform and renewal of Catholic liturgy today.
Appointed dean of CUA’s theology and religious studies school in 2005, Monsignor Irwin is the author of numerous books, book chapters and articles on worship, liturgy and the sacraments. He is also a member of the North American Academy of Liturgy, the Catholic Theological Society of America and the Society for Catholic Liturgy. In addition, he is a frequent speaker at professional conferences and a regular commentator for the media.
For more information about the lecture, call 202-319-5683.

SPONSOR:    School of Theology and Religious Studies

MEDIA:    To cover the lecture, reporters should call Katie Lee or Mary McCarthy in the Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-5600.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Marc says:

    Are we to take this as a recommendation? I should be able to go but if Mons I. (with whose reputation alas I am entirely unfamiliar) is a McBrien/Reese/Kung, pft, probably I have better things to do: I gave up years ago trying to keep up with the enemy’s (so to say) tricks. One can of course Google etc but commenters here are certainly as well informed as the inhuman Google.

  2. cuaguy says:

    I plan on going if I can, it all depends on what time I get back on campus tomorrow afternoon.

  3. Frank H. says:

    If by any chance this gets recorded and posted somewhere, I hope someone lets us know!

  4. Charles Ryder says:

    I was able to study under Msgr. Irwin during my time at CUA. He is the author of a book entitled ‘Models of the Eucharist’. To give you an idea of where he stands on this issue… (I do not have the book in front of me now) He spoke, in the preface of his book, of the ‘Tridentine Mass’. He identified 2 groups attached to this sort of worship (1) those who have been unable to “move on” and (2) those who are misguided and live outside the heart of the Church. He noted, in class, that his publisher had asked him to tone this section down a bit as it was a touch too controversial. His publisher was Paulist Press. Gives you an idea where the good Msgr. stands!

  5. jo says:

    Then I ain’t a-goin’.

  6. jo says:

    And I guess I can “move on” to something more interesting.

  7. Marc says:

    Hmm. I suppose it is possible that Mons I. has had a change of heart?

    On the other hand, it might be amusing to hear him attempt to twist Summorum Pontificum into meaning that those who worship at the traditional Mass are ‘outsiders’ or ‘unable to accept change’.

    And I wonder if he will find it necessary to comment on ‘Mons Williamson’. I think I may go, after all.

  8. Bruce T. says:

    Msgr. Irwin is a priest of the archdiocese of New York ordained in 1971. However, I believe he studied in Rome. I don’t know when is the last time he had an assignment in his diocese.
    He is certainly not friendly to the TLM. I believe he (bizarrely since he overlooks the East) questions how the Church can have 2 rites.
    To those in the area, especially those well read in the Liturgy, I would hope you are going and going to ask thought provoking but respectful questions of Msgr. To those not as well read, perhaps we can give moral support to those who are.

  9. JoyfulMom7 says:

    Father, I glanced at the headline and, at first, thought that cuaguy was giving the lecture!!!

  10. Rellis says:

    I plan on going. I will most certainly be there to show the flag. As a CUA alum, I will express my profound disappointment that Campus Ministry has seen fit to block a TLM on campus. This is no doubt due to the endemic hostility exemplified by this lecture.

    The reform of the reform–and this time, it’s personal.

  11. cuaguy says:


    Not yet :)

  12. Athelstane says:

    Show the flag.

    I’ll try to attend.

  13. David says:

    Msgr. Irwin is a consultant of the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship.

  14. TomG says:

    Charles Ryder: Several years ago I knew a seminarian (at Theological College next to CUA) who gave me an “Origins” article in which Msgr Irwin was pushing “transignification” as a more “helpful” way to “understand” transubstantiation. This is our American Catholic Church at work. There are never any consequences for these guys.

    Personal Apostolic Administration, anyone?

  15. Marc says:

    (I would not introduce the off topic except that it seems to have been a couple of hours since the last comment, and, well, TomG mentioned personal apostolic administrations.

    What are the differences between a personal apostolic administration and a personal prelature? is there some reason why Campos is the former rather than the latter?)

  16. gedsmk says:

    Mgr Irwin is a) a careful scholar b) very charitable c) a brilliant writer d) excellent entertainment e) not sarcastic

  17. TA1275 says:

    I would ask that any reader of this blog who is the DC area to attend this event. We need good people to come and represent the “reform of the reform” and the traditional Catholic view point in an intelligent manner. I do not agree with Msgr. Irwin on everything he does, but he is a scholar and not an ideologue. He would probably encourage well thought out criticisms of his position.

    We will never get any where if we do not publicly defend our views in such a forum as this.

  18. Mike Ortiz says:

    I h ad Fr.Irwin many years ago when he taught briefly at a Benedictine College–his course was entitled “Eucharist”–mainly liturgy, little theology, though some fine Augustinian points raised…he’s charitable…not really a Thomist/philosopher type, though a fine writer…

  19. tradition says:

    It is worth attending his lecture. I wish I could go.

    I know Msgr. Irwin and he is an extremely bright and knowledgeble man. You will learn something from his lecture. I am not saying that everything he says or writes is kosher but he is not a crazy hack like Kung or McBrien.

  20. Salva reverentia, Pater Iwin.

    tHE journal (magazine?) he edits, although sent copies by Penn State Press, never reviewed my _Cities of God: The Religion of the Italian Communes, 1125-1325_. This even though it was mostly about liturgy and won the Howard R. Marraro Prize for the best book in Italian religious history published in 2005. Funny, isn’t it?

    Perhaps the reason is, as a “liturgist” commented to me: “You say what we say about liturgy in the middle ages is false.” My reply: “Yes.”

    If you want to read a prize-winning book that Iwin’s journal seems to have refused review go to:

  21. Boko says:

    Was that a parody of the good Fr. Thompson, OP? Classic! It’s been nine years since I heard that joke.

    I was gonna cut out of work to go to the lecture, but now I don’t think I’ll bother. I know some others who won’t be going now, and a few who will. Please pray for a couple priests I know who’ll be attending. I’ve already given Pere I the heads-up so he’ll be able to explain away any silliness that his guest, Pere II, hears.

  22. jo says:

    I hope whoever goes with the flag will report back to headquarters.

  23. Frank H. says:

    I checked with CUA on the possibility that this lecture might be recorded, and received this reply…

    “The lecture will not be recorded, however, the text of the lecture will be posted to the Web site of the School of Theology and Religious Studies (the link is below). The text should be posted by noon tomorrow.”

  24. Athelstane says:

    I came. I saw. I showed the flag. I’m not sure who saw it.

    The gist of the talk – of which the discussion of the traditional mass was only peripheral – was that there is insufficient appreciation for ecclesiology in the nature and development of the liturgy, and particularly just how much and how frequently it has changed it. Frequent change and pluriformity are simply facts of life in liturgical life. The changes after Vatican II should be seen in this light – although he conceded that, in the haste to reform the mass, “mistakes were made,” especially in the ICEL translation.

    Turnout was tremendous – a few hundred at least, SRO, with many religious present. He took a few question: a fully habited nun asked: Would we see a return to ad orientem? Well, he replied, the conference has established that versus popularum is the standard, and left it at that. In reply to a question which suggested that something of the common life of the Church across linguistic and cultural boundaries was lost with the move from Latin to the vernacular – that you could experience the same mass, with comprehension, whether you were in Manila or Munich – Msgr. Irwin suggested that this might be so, but that it happened in 1965-1970 simply in response to popular clamoring for it from the laity.

    While the overall tone was not as problematic as I expected, I was greatly frustrated by his representation of the broad sweep of liturgical development over history, not only in the materialist (and therefore arbitrary) causality of development, but in the suggestion that the post-conciliar changes are of a piece with the two millennia history of liturgical development, when in fact it produced profoundly radical change unprecedented in scope and nature.

    Perhaps this could have been teased out in further questioning, but Msgr. Irwin cut it short. A colleague of mine suggested he may have sensed “all the rifles cocking in the room.” Or perhaps he was eager to make it to vespers.

  25. Bruce T. says:

    Yes, the question period was exceedingly short (c. 15 min I think) as were Msgr. Irwin’s answers.
    1. A priest asked about the Semi-Pelagian translations by ICEL.
    2. A man asked about the loss of universality with the downplaying of Latin.
    3. A student known to Msgr. Irwin asked something but I forget what.
    4. A priest asked about the coordination of the calendars and lectionaries between the ordinary and extraordinary forms.
    5. A man asked about prospects of change in the way Holy Communion is received when Churches have been renovated so that Communion cannot be received at an altar rail.
    6. A nun asked about ad orientem. Msgr. Irwin seemed to say that the most recent legislation expects ad populum.

  26. cuaguy says:

    @ BruceT or Athelstane, I couldn’t make it, but what time did he end, because he may have and to cut it short in order to get to mass. Unless he changed it, he has the 5:15 mass in the crypt on Tuesday and Thursday

  27. Anne Mansfield says:

    Just to second the remarks of Athelstane and Bruce T. A very disappointing talk — smug and playing with bits of history. Perhaps the Msgr did cut the questions short because he sensed “the rifles cocking in the room”. Not all of them, however. I spoke with two or three academics — and a very rude man, dressed in open necked fatigues, who said he was a priest. Benedict XVI lovers they were not.

    When I asked about ad orientem and the post VII reordering of so many churches and kneeling to receive Holy Communion, they gave evasive to hostile answers. To wit: there were not always kneelers in churches so why now? Anyway, the profs said the church is now largely non western. What about Cardinal Arinze?, said I. The responses were tirades against incense and so forth, plaudits for Cardinal Romero, etc., etc.

    Are ALL the profs at Catholic University foaming moral relativists?

    PS when referring to ad orientem, Msgr.Irwin was as far as I could tell dismissive although he did allow that he had recently been at the Brompton Oratory.

    No, I don’t think he was off to vespers. He was chatting to individuals.

    I am quite an old woman who went to the talk because I read about it on this blog.

  28. Antiquarian says:

    I suppose Rashomon is always a useful analogy in these things.

    Anyone who thought the talk was smug is probably not familiar with the tone of most academic discourse. While I doubt he and I share many sympathies, I found the talk to be serious and edifying. And I thought he made his case well, even if I disagree in parts. I also sensed no attempt to cut things short– it was clear that the scheduled time was up.

  29. Rellis says:

    I forwarded over the details, so I’m glad that this got so viral.

    This was a huge victory for the good guys. The “organics” showed up in force. We asked all the questions. Irwin’s relativist treatment of liturgical development and attempts to sweep ICEL’s crimes under the rug were fought back. He retreated in a total act of…I don’t know what. It was like I was running the CUA College Republicans again. I felt alive, people!

    We won. Keep the boot on the throat. Brick by brick. No surrender, no mercy!

    His email is for anyone that wants to take him up on his offer to ask “individual” questions.

  30. Antiquarian says:

    Rellis– you don’t seem to have been at the same lecture I was at. The one I heard definitely included some tough questions, but no one “won” or “lost” or “retreated.”

  31. Ken says:

    A few hundred people showed? That speaks volumes.

    For those who attended who don’t regularly hear the traditional Latin Mass, this Sunday hop on North Capitol Street southbound from CUA, make a right onto H Street and there will a High Mass (Missa Cantata) at Saint Mary’s at 5th and H streets, NW at 9 am. (Also near Gallery Place Metro)

    Gregorian chant will be sung by a schola of men and the scheduled celebrant (a CUA grad student) always delivers a fantastic homily. Free coffee and donuts follow in the church basement.

  32. Margo M. says:

    I felt compelled to respond to this, as Msgr. Irwin often presides over Mass at our local parish church. I live in the Richmond,VA diocese. My husband and I go to Mass there very infrequently, and it is usually because his mother likes us to join her there every now and then. We have attended the local Tridentine rite parish (established by the ret. Bishop, Sullivan)for the last 14 years. Just after Christmas Msgr. Irwin was giving his homily, and basically said that the Latin Mass is for those who have a hard time accepting change. Very much along the lines of what Charles Ryder in the above comments pointed out. My husband and I were flabberghasted. We were going to let him know that we regulary attend the EF Mass and that we tried to be as open as possible to the Novus Ordo, even though that Mass is never as edifying and reverent (at least here). He disappeared before we could seek him out. Having had some small conversations with him in the past, we found him to be a nice fellow, but we had never really discussed his views on anything besides the mundane things of ordinary conversation.

  33. Bruce T. says:

    Ken, it’s funny you mention St. Mary’s. I was interested to learn that Msgr. Irwin used to offer Mass there sometime in the 1990’s. But I’m not sure if the TLM was being offered at the time. Do you know? And was Msgr. involved? Did he have a bad experience?

  34. Athelstane says:

    “Are ALL the profs at Catholic University foaming moral relativists?”

    As someone attending CUA, with friends studying in Theology, I would say: It’s getting better, slowly, with some of the new young hires. With the older profs, esp. religious ones…you have to expect that sort of thing. It could be worse (it used to *be* worse – cf. Charles Curran). It could certainly be a lot better.

    Liturgy definitely remains a blind spot with most in that age bracket, and I think Msgr. Irwin is no exception. My theory is that they invested their lives and careers in the reforms, and it’s hard to disavow a life’s work this late in the game. Which is why he quoted Sacrosanctum Concilium Sec. 37-40, but managed to not mention 36.

    I do agree that, my comment about cocked rifles notwithstanding, that questioning was pretty tepid. Despite the turnout, people were not exactly firing right out of the gate, and the questions were rather mild (if generally coming from more conservative perspectives).

    One other thing discussed was this issue of the moving of the sign of peace – something I would rather not see done. Msgr Irwin seemed open to it, and, alas, seemed to make use of it as one more example of how protean the liturgy can be. But as I think we all agree, the problem with the Sign isn’t so much where it is, but rather the glad-handing disruption it’s transformed into. You can take the monster out of the kitchen and stick him on the veranda, but he’s still a monster and he’s still on your property. Which, now that I think about it, probably is not quite fair to monsters.

  35. Ken says:

    Bruce T — I remember him in-residence at Saint Mary’s during the “indult,” but cannot recall him even distributing communion at the traditional Latin Mass, let alone offering it.

    Thankfully we have traditionally-minded priests in-residence now.

  36. Hypatia says:

    “Which is why he quoted Sacrosanctum Concilium Sec. 37-40, but managed to not mention 36.”

    Though Msgr. Irwin did not quote SC 36, he most certainly referrenced it when he spoke of the formation of ICEL (SC 36 3-4) and later answering the question regarding the vernacular (SC 36,2) at which time Msgr. Irwin pointed out that the
    vernacular in the liturgy started incrementally and then was fully introduced by popular demand.

  37. RBrown says:

    Though Msgr. Irwin did not quote SC 36, he most certainly referrenced it when he spoke of the formation of ICEL (SC 36 3-4) and later answering the question regarding the vernacular (SC 36,2) at which time Msgr. Irwin pointed out that the vernacular in the liturgy started incrementally and then was fully introduced by popular demand.
    Comment by Hypatia

    I think it can be disputed that it was popular demand that produced the complete vernacularization of the liturgy.

    If, however, we accept that what the Msgr says is true, it also has to be mentioned that the popular demand wasn’t limited to liturgy–it also included practicing contraception.

  38. RBrown says:

    Also: I think it’s possible to dig out texts from SC that would support every liturgical position, from that of the SSPX to balloons on the altar and celebrants in clown suits.

  39. Hypatia says:

    “I think it can be disputed that it was popular demand that produced the complete vernacularization of the liturgy.”
    Comment by RBrown

    The U.S. Vernacular Society had a very robust membership throughout the 30’s and 40’s and by 1950 even included some bishops (cf. UND archives, Vernacular Society Records). Also, my British, French and German colleagues inform me that a similar movement was underfoot in their part of the world. From what I have heard, the French bishops were enthusiastically pursuing more vernacular in the liturgy so that they hit the ground running while the Consilium was still working on reforming the liturgy.

    “If, however, we accept that what the Msgr says is true, it also has to be mentioned that the popular demand wasn’t limited to liturgy—it also included practicing contraception.”
    Comment by RBrown

    But practicing contraception has not garner episcopal support, has it?

  40. Antiquarian says:

    I think a case can be made for the proposition that enthusiasm for the initial introduction of some vernacular was widespread; I certainly remember it being so. (Now, this was not the Novus Ordo, it was the Missal of 1965 (?), and I don’t think the translations were the ICEL ones we now know.) Perhaps that did lead to a recklessness in embracing more, and eventually to a de facto abandonment of Latin in most parishes.

    Sometimes it’s claimed that the reforms were “forced down our throats” but that is not at all how I experienced it. That the laity played a role in the hermeneutic of rupture by encouraging the progressivists is a fascinating argument, and one that has some merit. Msgr. Irwin only touched on this in response to a question, it was not the topic of his lecture, but it seems like fertile ground for more research.

  41. Bruce T. says:

    The popular demand for the vernacular argument is very feeble. How does one determine such popular demand?

    I noticed Msgr. Irwin, when talking about the 1984 indult, clearly stated that the indult was for “older people.” He even said “older people” after saying “those attached to” the previous Missal.
    Well, then, since in 1969 most of the people only knew the older Missal, can we say that there was popular demand for it rather than the new Missal?

    In any case, popular demand is not the way things work in the Church, even if small vocal groups like to present their agenda as popular. (We need only look at the history of Communion in the hand, ad populum Masses, or altar girls.)

    I’m sure there was much enthusiasm for the vernacular in the 1960’s. I’m sure it was exciting when it was first introduced. But, was it popular demand which totally removed it from the liturgy in practice and then gave the impression that Latin was forbidden? No. It was progressivist clerics in parishes and in chanceries. The more traditional clergy went along with their superiors out of trusting obedience. Even the faithful who disliked the changes and loss of Latin often remained meekly quiet out of trusting fidelity.

    Moreover, using the popular demand argument makes us wonder about the bizarre changes in the Roman calendar. Why change feasts that had been celebrated by the populace on certain dates for centuries. (For example, Feb. 14 – How many people say Happy Sts. Cyril and Methodius day? St. Valentine isn’t even an option!!!)

    The liturgists of the 1960’s were not very attentive to popular demand – except (and according to their secret files by which they claim there was demand) in the matter of the vernacular!!! Everything else they seem to have done went contrary to popular demand and the good of the people. [Frankly, what percentage of TLM Mass goers actually love the Mass compared to Novus Ordo Mass goers?]

    Finally, I was happy that Msgr. Irwin admitted that the reform was too fast. It is actually a stunning admission because it should lead us to closely exam and question many of the decisions of the hasty liturgical reform which was unprecedented in the history of the Catholic Church and has helped dilute Catholic identity.

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