The reform of the reform

It seems very unfair to say that any discussion about the implementation of the post-Vatican II liturgical reform would lead to its deformation.

It was Pope Benedict himself, while still Cardinal, who pointed out that "the reform of the liturgy in its concrete realisation... resulted not in reanimation but in devastation. We have a liturgy that has degenerated into a show, in which attempts are made to make religion appear interesting with the help of idiotic fashions..." (Preface in Klaus Gamber: La reforme liturgique en question, 1992.)

He himself called for a reform of the reform many times, not, as others would have us believe, that this younger generation is "nostalgic for turning back the clock".

Would the Pope accuse the younger generations of "nostalgia" or "Lefebvrian fundamentalism"? I doubt it. When asked about this in 2001, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger answered very clearly to those who wish "to make us believe that if we did not adhere to their schemas we will be nostalgically returning to the past. Such things do not go like that. It is an attitude of a past faction. It is important to reflect in an open manner and not to kill instantly all this reflection, we are accused of being partisans of St Pius V. We need to outride this way of thinking. I'm evidently for Vatican II, which has given us a lot of beautiful things. But declaring that it is impossible, and to judge unacceptable all the reflection on what we can elicit from the Church's history, for me is sectarianism which I don't accept any more."

While reflecting on the use of the 1962 Roman Missal, Pope Benedict pointed out that the fact "that young people too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them."

What a far cry from the accusation Fr Joe Inguanez levelled at the younger generations for "returning the practices and rituals that belong to another era are nothing less than a manifestation of wanderlust, of romantic utopia, symbolised in the sacred rather than the religious." (Excerpts from the '2005 Mass census report', Malta, p. 28)

In the words of the Pope, "what earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church's faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place." (July 7, 2007)

The Pope has made it clear that he is attempting even to reform the Papal liturgies according to the principles he so vociferously spoke about before his election. The first reform was the change of the master of ceremonies after which the Papal liturgies took on a different style; that of "a wise joining of the ancient with the new, to actuate in spirit and letter, as much as possible, the indications of the Second Vatican Council, and to do this in such a way that the pontifical celebrations are exemplary in all aspects."

Benedict has given us a direction to aim for; a Church which does not look for uniformity but for unity in diversity; a Church in which two forms of the same rite if celebrated well can exist together, a Church in which the Roman rite can exist together with different Eastern rites and now even with an Anglican rite. Not a Church that accuses these reformers of "Lefebvrian fundamentalism", or of trying to turn the clock back. Had this attitude of mistrust and hostility guided the Church's authorities during the centuries, no reform would have ever taken place.


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