I just read my recent edition of the Newsletter of the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy. It headlined an address by his Excellency, the Most Reverend Donald W. Trautman, Bishop of Erie, Pennsylvania, and chairman of the committee.
His address includes several useful items: the bishops are working on recommendations for revisions in the Lectionary we use at Mass. Perhaps you have noticed some of the readings are difficult to read aloud! He also reports on the development of a new document, from the U.S. bishops, on the place and theology of music in the liturgy--something I believe the bishops aim to adopt next week (please pray for them). He reports on progress toward Spanish-English ritual books, which interests me very much; it was only with the kind and personal assistance of our own Archbishop that I located a bilingual ritual book for care of the sick. Being able to baptize in Spanish would be very helpful as well.
He also touches on the new translation of the Mass, and the holy father's recent decision to liberate the celebration of the older form of the Roman Mass.
But then, in conclusion, the bishop says the following, and I quote exactly:
"My words to you in that address [i.e., on October 9, 1996] are still true today. I said to you then, and I say again: 'A pre-Vatican II liturgical theology and practice have no chance of speaking to a post-Vatican II world... The full, conscious and active participation of all the people is the goal in the reform and promotion of the liturgy.' Do we accept this teaching of Vatican II? If we do, we should not be calling for a retreat from the reform of the liturgy of Vatican II. There should be no backsliding" (bolding added).
Under the circumstances, I assume the bishop has had plenty of time to reflect on these words which, after all, he chooses to cite and emphasize all over again. Can he truly believe that the "full, conscious and active participation of all the people" is something new with Vatican II?
After all, he then goes on to quote "the words of the great Joseph Jungman: 'For centuries, the Liturgy actively celebrated had been the most important form of pastoral care.'" But Father Jungman wrote that before the Second Vatican Council; yet according to Bishop Trautman, this was not part of the "pre-Vatican II liturgical theology"!
Now, what I think Bishop Trautman means is that this was largely unrealized in the liturgy prior to the Council, hence the need for some change. But then what he should be referring to is not a "pre-Vatican II theology" but rather, a pre-Vatican II practice. The theology that he identifies with the Council was, of necessity, "pre-Vatican II." These ideas did not--as he himself points out--spring full-grown, Athena-like, from the collective heads of the Council Fathers.
And since he brought it up, who exactly does he accuse of proposing to "retreat" from the Council's vision? This is a dressed-up version of a polemic one hears in parishes: "oh, you just don't accept Vatican II"--directed at people who: like bells at Mass; use "old fashioned" vestments; use Latin and chant; sing the prayers; don't sing the prayers; use incense and so forth. I'm sorry to say you hear it from priests, who should know better; but then, we hear a version of it here from a bishop who ought to know better. The truth is, what's actually going on is people label as "pre Vatican II" things they don't like, aren't used to, or associate with the past. The great irony is that any number of things I've seen or heard dismissed as "pre-Vatican II" are, if anything, post-Vatican II. I will give you two examples:
(a) A priest singing the Canon of the Mass. This simply was not done, in the Roman Rite, in the years leading up to the Council. Right or wrong, the priest said it sotto voce.
(b) Using a Scripture- and Missal-based chant refrain, either Latin or English, for the opening procession in preference to a vernacular hymn. Using vernacular hymns in place of the proper chants for the entrance, offertory and communion is a practice that long predated the Second Vatican Council, displacing chant--resulting in Pius X calling for restoration of chant; it was the Council that called for restoration both of chant and of a greater use of Scripture texts in the Mass.
I really don't know what he thinks of as "retreat," either now, or in 1996, when he gave the address he quotes. Is he complaining about Holy See's efforts to tighten up on how texts are translated? We know he doesn't agree with the Holy See's approach on that. Is he complaining about wider celebration of the older form of the Mass? If so, is he saying that people cannot participate actively, fully, and consciously in the older form of the Mass? If that be the case, that is simply nonsense. Yes, it's true that there were people, in the old days, who didn't participate well. Guess what? We have people who are that way today. I would be willing to bet some of the same people. And I suspect some folks who think they didn't participate before, may think their current participation is more than it is.
What I think we see here is exactly the sort of "hermaneutic of rupture" that the holy father has identified and faulted in relation to Vatican II. Of course, Bishop Trautman may be able to explain this better and who knows, maybe he will show up here and give that explanation; but it really looks like he has this idea that Vatican II marks the beginning of "full, conscious and active" participation.
Maybe I'm misunderstanding the bishop. Comments are invited from those who might offer an explanation. Comments that treat the bishop with disrepect (different from criticism or disagreement) will be deleted. If in doubt, err in the direction of civility and respect for a successor to the Apostles.