Friday, November 09, 2007

What is Bishop Trautman thinking?

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.


Mayra said...

Thank God your blog exists, it really helps me, I've been reading your entries, God bless you. =)

Anonymous said...

Wow! I could not agree with you more but be careful. Bishop Trautman has been one of your boss' biggest allies at the USCCB for years and vice versa. Many years together on the BCL, marching lockstep when your boss was the head of ICEL etc.

Anonymous said...

I believe you have it exactly right, Father. The differences here are not about language, but about doctrine. Not between those who prefer Latin and those who prefer English (whether dumbed down or not), but between those who emphasize the Real Presence and the Mass as Sacrifice and those who don't.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to be honest here... I really do think that Bishop Trautman might think that most people in our age simply can't "fully, consciously and actively participate" in more traditional forms of worship like the Extraordinary Form and the amended English translation of the Ordinary Form. I think that perspective is the reason for his opposition to the EF (per his diocesan directives) and the new translation. That said... I still think (and I've been chastised elsewhere for saying it) that he genuinely belives this is the best pastoral approach to take.

I have had several opportunities to assist at Masses that Bishop Trautman has celebrated. By and large, I can say they are neither the most traditional nor the least traditional Masses I have attended. He is a brilliant man, and a caring pastor, and it shows especially in his homilies (even if one does not always agree with what he says and/or how he says it).

It seems to me, though I am of little knowledge, that Bishop Trautman is as much a victim as a perpetrator of the "hermenutic of rupture."

Even though I don't always agree with his perspective, I'll keep praying for him, and hope that everyone else will too.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, this again proves that there are in fact parallel Churches existing under the label of Catholicism - one false and one true. This point is very evident when I read many Catholic school "religion" text books which to a formed traditional Catholic sensibility are unrecognizable and foreign as representing our Faith of continuity.


Anonymous said...

The full, conscious and active participation of all the people is the goal in the reform and promotion of the liturgy.

Father Fox,
Excellent points, especially about sacred music. Sacrosanctum Concilium states:
[QUOTE]116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.

But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30.[/QUOTE]

In my parish, if you ask for Gregorian chant or Sacred Polyphony,you'll get the "oh, you just don't accept Vatican II", or be accused of "backsliding".

I wonder how many people truly realize that the use of Latin and chant is fulfilling the reforms of Vatican II?

Anonymous said...

Anon Debora:

Your point about parallel Churches is right on. John Calvin said Mass for a while after concluding that the Mass was a sham worship perpetrated on the faithful by the Pope and his clergy. Those Catholics did not know that Father Calvin was not the genuine article. How many John Calvins put on a chasuble today but their heart is somewhere else?


Anonymous said...

Could you get a transfer to the Cleveland diocese? We need priests like you up here! Really!

Anonymous said...

trad Tom, you'll have to fight the Valleyfield (Quebec)diocese for Fr. Fox, LOL! Piqua is fortunate indeed to have its fine pastor!

Patricia Gonzalez

Diane Korzeniewski said...

Thanks, Father. Good posting!

Anonymous said...

The Mass is a mystery that requires more than a lifetime to penetrate. When we unveil the mystery and surround it with a kind of squishy, sentimental piety we veil the fact that a mystery exists to be penetrated. This is a kind of anti-erotic liturgical nudism.

The people who read the bulletin or said the rosary during mass in pre-conciliar times honored the fact of the mystery even if they felt unable or were unwilling to penetrate it deeply in this life.

What passes for active participation today is a kind of communal distraction from the reality of what our Lord is doing for us in the Mass.

Anonymous said...

"The people who read the bulletin or said the rosary during mass in pre-conciliar times honored the fact of the mystery even if they felt unable or were unwilling to penetrate it deeply in this life."

I say the Eucharistic Rosary during Mass because it is liturgical and is indeed participation. It is a beautiful way of tuning out the banal and fruitless shenanigans going on with the "celebration of the community"
I prefer to keep my soul's attention front and center on Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
It also has the benefit of keeping my hands away from the "hand grasping" gestapo.

Barbara of Kentucky
*I do wear shoes*

Brian Michael Page said...

There's a bright side to all this, Father - Bp. Serratelli will be the one replacing Bp. Trautman at the BCL chair. :-D

Vitae Scrutator said...

Excellent post, Father, I agree completely!