“Get on with the work we ourselves have to do”!

At Vatican Insider there is a piece that concerns the conference I want to go to in Rome (click the flag).  The interview with a mover and shaker for the conference, Bishop Dominque Rey of Fréjus-Toulon is worth your time.

One paragraph in particular caught my eye. As I have been saying all along…

“Yet, the Bishop of Fréjus-Toulon, Dominique Rey, wants to reassure those Catholics who think that the moment for “liturgical renewal” – a shorthand definition for a return to a more solemn style of celebration hopefully ushered in by Benedict’s legalization of the pre-Second Vatican Council Latin Mass – is now over.

“Instead of anxiously wondering what Pope Francis personally thinks about every liturgical detail, we would do better to get on with the work we ourselves have to do,” he said in a recent interview with Vatican Insider.”

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I note that Monsignor Guido Marini (Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations) is in Rio preparing the liturgies for World Youth Day. It will be interesting to see what develops.

  2. anilwang says:

    While it is true that we shouldn’t be microscrutinizing Pope Francis’ liturgy and it is true that liturgy is not his main concern, this does not mean he will not make changes.

    He seems to at least tolerate TLM and he also seems keep on continuing Pope Benedict XVI’s legacy, including allowing him to finish his last encyclical. There is hope here. One of the last things that was announced in Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy was a catechetical pamphlet that was to be given to priests and laity on how masses should be celebrated. It was non-binding but seemed to have called for ad orientem or Benedictine arrangement masses. I’ve yet to see if this work is allowed to continue, but if it is, we may yet see more “liturgical renewal”.

  3. Matt R says:

    Take the training wheels off, and ride the damn bike.

  4. SimonDodd says:

    I would be more sympathetic to that argument if our situation was caused only by a want of attention and work at the local level. For example, in a parish where Father would love to have chant and polyphony but for the want of a schola, and add a TLM but for the want of a server, it might be true that what is needed is volunteer time and work. But I don’t see that as the primary stumbling block in most parishes. I think that real progress will require liturgical legislation, and that’s why people look to the Holy See—not because they care what Jorge Bergoglio “personally thinks about every liturgical detail” but because they care what Pope Francis will do. In a great number of parishes, I suspect, “the work we ourselves have to do” is a dead letter without active support from either the local clergy or the upper echelons of the Church. Pope Benedict understood that legislation isn’t enough, that you have to supply examples and change minds, and that’s true; he seems not to have understood that some minds won’t be changed and examples aren’t enough, and that you have to supply legislation. None of this is “the work we ourselves have to do” if the “we” comprises laymen. The same people who now say that we should follow Francis’ example of simplicity have speant years saying that we can ignore Benedict’s example of tradition; these are not minds that will be changed. These are not obstacles that can be removed by “the work we ourselves have to do.”

  5. Robbie says:

    I admire Bishop Rey’s call to continue the work ourselves, but if we’re swimming up stream , it can be very difficult to accomplish much in this area. If Francis decides to go in a different direction, it can swamp the good intentions of those looking for solemn liturgical renewal.

  6. Phil_NL says:


    Formal legislation isn’t going to make one bit of difference, given the general tendency to ignore unwelcome rules. Rome will only weed out the most egregrious violations, and frankly, cannot do much more unless the style of Church governance is dramatically changed. I daresay that any legislation from BXVI was much more effective as a signal than as legislation.

    But the only thing that does make a big difference is the type of guys that are ordained priests and elevated to bishop. While most new priests and bishops won’t dramatically change things, we have seen quite a substantial shift over the years. Small things add up, and the loons are slowly but surely retired.
    The work that needs to be done now is lay people recognizing this and taking advantage of it whenever possible (or, more politely put, supporting their clergy; both can be summarized by Fr. Z.’s “ride the bike” slogan), and for Rome to continue keeping a close eye on who should become new bishops (and by extention, the seminaries, since the type of people you promote to bishop heavily influences the type of priest that will be ordained in that diocese). That is far more relevant than any legislation or liturgy coming from Rome.

  7. Choirmaster says:

    I agree with SimonDodd. The “ride the damn bike” argument gets very little sympathy from me. I’ve been on the big-boy bike for years, and the effort to increase the TLM locally and worldwide has not suffered from lack of time, talent, and/or treasure from me, and I am by far it’s largest benefactor. Even throughout the last decade the Novus Ordo has received more than a fair share of the same from me for its renewal. The movement in support of the TLM does not suffer from lack of zeal, but this work will prove fruitless until it receives the blessing of the local bishop and, ultimately, the Bishop of Rome.

    From my experience, the largest obstacles to advancement have been, in this order, (1) legislation and “guidelines” from Rome and bishops’ conferences, (2) the local Bishop, and sometimes (3) the local Parish Priest. To be fair, in my experience, the local priest is only an obstacle where his flock bleats modernism and the bishop is sympathetic, putting the priest in an impossible situation.

    Never have we laymen and women been an obstacle, since we’re rather powerless without the local bishop’s cooperation, and among us you can find the full range of sympathies with the bleating to match. The forces against the generous application of the TLM, and for the continuing silliness in mainstream NO applications, come squarely from the Episcopate. I can ride the damn bike all I want, but I can’t ride it in Church without the bishops’ blessing, and the blessing of the Bishop of Rome!

    It is exceedingly important, nearly fundamental and integral, not only what the Pope does concerning liturgy, but what he thinks and says. I refuse to concede that what Pope Francis “thinks” about the liturgy is any less important or has any less impact on reality than what Paul VI or Benedict XVI thought or did. The damning with faint praise that seems to be coming from the Pope will be far more destructive to the traditional movements than any lack of funds or letters-to-the-bishop from the laity could ever be.

    That’s why we should and do care what the Pope thinks about every little detail. What he thinks doesn’t excuse us from our responsibilities, but let’s stop blaming us little guys for not working hard enough against a power we cannot change.

  8. Choirmaster says:

    Serious correction to above: “I am by far not [the TLM’s] largest benefactor.”

  9. BLB Oregon says:

    I think it would be a great help to the Holy Father to continue the work progressing when he was elected, and to work hard at it until there is some reason to believe that obedience requires it to desist. I haven’t seen any reason to believe that Pope Francis will ask that. He is not wearing the most sumptuous chasubles in his papal closet, but he is also not taking them out into St. Peter’s Square to be burned. I think, rather, that he would want every piece of sacred art and every sacred ritual to be linked to the meeting of sacred need in the person of the least ones, to the elevation of both means of recognizing the person of Christ. There is, after all, nothing more egalitarian than a beautiful sacred ritual that is open to all and that truly knits all into One Body, so there is no inherent conflict between his solicitude towards the poor and solicitude for excellence in liturgy. The two work together as the left hand and the right; one was never meant to act in this world without the other working in perfect concert, nor either without the headship of Christ.

  10. anilwang says:

    WRT to rules are pointless since they won’t be followed, there is a certain truth to that. The majority of priests *want* to be faithful but they also want to be liked, and going against people’s expectations and saying to their face “I can’t make exceptions” is hard. Just witness the number of times all the EMHCs are used even if they are not needed. A concession here and a concession there and you end up with a liturgy that the priest self-justifies as being “pastoral” when in fact it is sugar covered poison.

    The GIRM already has ad orientem as the norm (since it says when priest must turn to face the people….they can’t turn if they’re already facing the people), it needs to be more explicit. Unfortunately, priest have gotten so soft that it needs to re-enforced with a GIRM addition at the start of the mass that requires the priest to say something to the effect “You have entrusted the precious gift of the liturgy to the Church. Please grant me the strength not to fall into mortal sin by altering your perfect gift in any way”. Such a regular prayer, along with a mandate for bishops to occasionally visit the parishes in their diocese to help sloppy but faithful priests reform should handle the bulk of cases. As for the willful liturgical abusers, dealing with them will be a lot easier when there is a clear difference between faithful (but timid) priests and faithless but assertive priests.

  11. rcg says:

    Why not treat it just like hockey? I skate my game and let the ref call. If I am smart I don’t do anything to intentionally get me in trouble, but I don’t hold back if I have goals.

  12. SimonDodd says:

    Phil, with respect, I disagree.

    Legislation will not solve the problem, but it will certainly make a difference. Of course people will do what they want, absent unwelcome rules, which is why the reform of the reform is a dead letter in some parishes, notwithstanding some fabulous examples and arguments of what should be done and why.

    Of course some people will continue to do what they want even in the face of unwelcome rules. But consider a parish in which Father consecrates a flagon of wine and then, after the fraction, pours it into separate chalices. You are horrified, naturally, and meet with him to explain why this is inappropriate. Don’t you think that you have a much better chance of putting a stop to this now, when you can specifically cite Redemptionis Sacramentum 106, than you would have had before that document was issued? The priest may be genuinely unaware of it, in which case he will stop immediately; he may be fully aware of it and yet willing continue to do what he wants despite the unwelcome rule, in which case he will be stopped after a quick visit to the archdiocese (Rome if you’re unlucky), but either way, I think your chances of putting a stop to that abuse were much better on March 26, 2004 than they were on March 24, 2004.

    Or suppose that you hear through the grapevine that your parish plans to have a liturgical dance incident. You are horrified, naturally—but what can you do? The most official statement that you can cite—that I found, at least, for this isn’t a hypothetical—is a 1975 remark by the CDW in Notitiae; its authority is unclear, and it isn’t available on the Vatican’s website, period, let alone in English. If the parish had been determined to press ahead, and if the archdiocese had been unwilling to intervene, what leg did I have to stand on? But if I had been able to say “Redemptionis Sacramentum, the current gold standard for liturgical questions, specifically says ‘[dance] cannot be introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever,’” it would take a very determined parish and a very indifferent bishop for the event to happen.

    Or consider rock music in the Mass. You are horrified, naturally—but what can you do? The guidance from Rome is ambiguous at best. The guidance from USCCB is ambiguous by design. In effect, it’s your opinion versus that of the parish’s liturgy staff. Even if Father agrees with you, it’s quite possibly your opinion versus that of the parish’s liturgy staff, because priests are busy men, and picking a fight in an area that lacks clear rules and will infuriate a number of parishioners on whom he relies is a mug’s game. If the Pope issued a motu proprio that said “rock music is never appropriate to the Mass, and electric guitars and acoustic or electric drums are therefore absolutely forbidden at any Mass at any time in any place for any reason,” I truly believe that there are parishes that would still continue to do what they want, regardless of this unwelcome rule. But I think that the number of parishes willing to defy Rome’s explicit command is small, and of those that hold out, I think that the chances of calling them to heel is much better when there is an explicit rule (or even just a clear standard) at which one may point.

    Formal legislation can’t do everything, but it won’t do nothing.

  13. SimonDodd says:

    Anilwang, the GIRM does not make ad orientem the norm. The rubrics imply it, arguably, and I’ve made the very argument that you just did, but we have to distinguish between what is on the page and what we are wringing out of the page with interpretation. One may argue that rubrics like “and then, turning to face the people” (or whatever it is, I don’t have the missal in front of me) presuppose the orientation of the celebrant, but that’s just that: An argument. It’s an interpretation supported by reasons, nothing more. To be sure, if the GIRM explicitly stated that Mass shall be celebrated ad orientem, there are those who would say “well, the apse in my parish faces west, so I’m going to obey the rubric and face east, and by coincidence that’s also versus populum.” But how many people are game for this kind of outright defiance? If a new edition of the GIRM explicitly stated that Mass shall be celebrated ad orientem, the vast majority of priests and parishes would obey.

  14. Imrahil says:

    Oone of the reasons of liturgical law is that with it, you can pursue a certain liturgical agenda (yes that can be legitimate) which otherwise would be impossible due to, perhaps just, of acceptability-in-itself.

    The dear @SimonDodd is “naturally” horrified by electric guitars and by drums, which is the easily definable part, and by “rock music”, which at least in some expressions is not very far from some sort of generally accepted Church hymns. I accept that, there are reasons for that (including the general “we never did it that way, then anyone would be able to claim something, and after all just think of it!”, which, yes, is a reason), and certainly some excesses are possible which I also hold to be such. I happen to disagree to the general statement, but let that pass.

    Now what I do say is that it I cannot perceive something intrinsically wrong with it, in the Church outside Mass if it is in some sort acceptable with morality (and just think that the Abbot Primate found a justifiable sense in Highway to Hell), in Mass if it is not exceptionally large to dwarf the Mass itself (i. e., takes the place everyone allows for hymns).

    So if you don’t want that, you’ll have to get a positive law to forbid it.

  15. Imrahil says:

    (I do recognize the danger that wrong agendas may get quite some way under the disguise of acceptability-in-itself. Which was what I wanted to express in my first paragraph.)

  16. SimonDodd says:

    Imrahil, I think that Alex Lifeson’s comments at the R&RHoF about liturgical music are apt: “Blah blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah. Blah! Blah blah blah…” etc. I mean, I could go on at some length about why rock music is horribly inappropriate to the Mass, and I’m sure that you could ably defend it, but that argument would be beside the point; the point relevant to the issue at hand is that no matter how good (or bad) my arguments or yours, no one’s mind would be changed. The issue will not be settled by debate. I can’t “win” that debate and you can’t “lose” it. One either understands the fundamental unsuitability of rock music to Mass or one does not. No one’s mind will be changed, no matter how much work we laity ourselves do. There are some things that are a matter of authority, not reason; a new priest arrives in his parish and puts down his foot; the Holy See intervenes in legislation. To banish rock music from the Mass will require authority not discussion—and that is not work we can do, still less “the work we ourselves have to do.”

  17. Phil_NL says:


    You’re partly right, and partly wrong. You’re right insofar that legislative texts do make a difference if the other party is truely ignorant (or sufficiently worried about possible repercussions). But you’re wrong about what happens – at least in most cases – where such good will or desire to steer clear of nasty consequences, is absent. In those cases, you need to take it up with the bishop. And if it doesn’t figure too highly on his priority list, then the law might as well not have existed. And yes, in grevious cases you might take it to Rome, but the threshold for that is quite high. Abuse regarding the Sacred Spieces, probably yes. Liturgical Dance? Rock Music? They have more important things on their plate, and frankly, I can’t even blame them for that.

    In the vast majority of cases, it’s the bishop, and the bishop alone (one hopes at least it won’t be delegated to some chancery figure, which would likely lead to even worse results) on whose shoulders it will rest. Being right is one thing, actually changing things is very much another. I therefore maintain that it is far more important what kind of bishops are named than which texts are issued. Of course, if nothing better is on offer, legislation is better than nothing. But a good bishop is, at least where the local rubber meets the local road, much better than any legislation (or example) coming out of the Vatican.

  18. Imrahil says:

    Dear @SimonDodd,

    thank you for your kind answer… And what you said was actually my point.

    (Though I think I’m right as far as intrinsical inaptitude goes, or rather the lack of it, goes… or I wouldn’t have said what I said in the first place.)

  19. SimonDodd says:

    Phil, I think that’s another example of how “legislation”—and of course I’m using that term very broadly, perhaps too broadly—can help. Before Redemptionis Sacramentum, one might well be stymied if one’s parish is doing something awful and one’s bishop won’t act. “Can I ask Rome to intervene? I mean, is this the kind of thing that they even care about? Surely they are concerned only with grievous cases, for which the threshold is quite high, and they must have more important things on their plate.” But now we don’t have to face that kind of anxiety. The Holy See has told us explicitly that they are always open for business as a court of last resort: One’s diocese having been given the chance to act, and having failed to act, “[a]ny Catholic, whether Priest or Deacon or lay member of Christ’s faithful, has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse … [with] the ApostolicSee on account of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff.” RS184. Even before that, I’m sure that people knew that they could involve Rome, and I’m sure that they did—but for the reasons you mention, I’m sure that people were more hesitant to do so. Action by the Holy See can grease the wheels.

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